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Daily News

October 30, 2018

Democratic lawmakers from Illinois are pressing EPA to take a series of actions to limit risks of exposure to ethylene oxide (EtO), a known carcinogen, in the wake of local concerns that a Chicago-area sterilizing plant has released high levels of the substance in an area with already high cancer risks.

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EPA's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) is wrestling with the correct test for EPA to justify rolling back Clean Water Act (CWA) permit limits after it loosens the terms of a waterbody cleanup plan, with the agency claiming broad discretion for such changes unless stakeholders can show “new information” that softer permit terms would be improper.

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EPA's plan to drop its system of providing letter grades on other agencies' National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews is drawing mixed reactions, with industry saying it will promote efficiency without curbing transparency while environmentalists warn it will dampen both transparency and public participation.

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Environmentalists are urging EPA to study the health and environmental effects of wastewater “blending” in depth before moving forward with a rule expected to broadly authorize the practice, while signaling that they could support such a policy in the long run if it includes strict controls on the release of pathogens and other pollutants.

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A recent EPA Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) ruling raises the bar for environmentalists' effort to establish battery storage as best available control technology (BACT) in Clean Air Act permits for natural gas-fired power plants, an environmentalist says, because it says the technology first needs to be in proven use.

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North Carolina regulators are asking their science advisors to review a guide developed with EPA for those working to limit short-term exposures to vapor intrusion at sites contaminated with the common solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), amid ongoing controversy with EPA's 2011 assessment of TCE risks, which formed the basis for this and other such guides.

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October 29, 2018

Automakers are rejecting EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) “preferred” option to freeze vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards, but are also sending mixed messages on the level of stringency they would accept and on how hard to push back against California's authority to retain the current limits.

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Automakers are reiterating their view that preempting California from regulating vehicle greenhouse gases and zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales makes poor strategic sense, even though they are sympathizing with federal officials' legal arguments in their proposal that would scrap the state's authority.

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EPA's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) is set to hear oral argument Oct. 30 in a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit appeal that could set a new precedent on the agency's authority to loosen pollution restrictions in permits based on waterbody cleanup plans -- potentially boosting or putting new limits on its ability to roll back Obama-era permit terms.

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Public concerns from both industry and environmentalists on North Carolina's estimated risk standard for the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) chemical GenX are a likely preview to reaction EPA will receive after it releases its own draft risk analysis and estimate for the same chemical, slated for release in the coming weeks.

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A federal judge is ordering EPA to quickly find California officials have failed to meet Clean Air Act deadlines for submitting plans to attain federal fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) standards for the state's San Joaquin Valley region, the latest in a series of rulings highlighting the fallout from former Administrator Scott Pruitt's limits on settling such cases.

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October 26, 2018

Prospects for a deal between the Trump administration and California over vehicle greenhouse gas standards appear to have evaporated after officials from the two sides blamed the other for a breakdown in talks, increasing prospects that the issue is going to be resolved after a lengthy and high-profile court battle.

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General Motors' call for EPA to issue a national zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales requirement has injected a new proposal into the simmering stand-off between the White House and California over the administration's controversial plan to gut vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards.

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EPA is floating a proposal that would delay the existing deadline until mid-2019 for states to submit compliance plans for Obama-era methane rules for landfills, arguing the plan would align with its separate proposed power sector greenhouse gas rule that similarly extends state compliance deadlines.

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EPA in its latest brief defending the agency's 2018 renewable fuel standard (RFS) volumes rule against varied legal challenges is denying it has any statutory duty to adjust annual RFS biofuel blending volumes to compensate for waivers the agency will likely issue for “small” refiners, rejecting a key argument made by major biofuel groups.

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Environmentalists are trying to minimize the impact of an appellate ruling that coal ash ponds are not “point sources” subject to Clean Water Act (CWA) penalties for leaks, claiming it relied on details of Virginia’s permit programs and that it should not have any impact on leak liability suits they are pursuing in other states.

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Democratic senators are ramping up their legal attacks on EPA's proposal to preempt California's authority to enforce strong vehicle greenhouse gas rules, part of the Trump administration's plan to freeze Obama-era standards, arguing Congress over a decade ago specifically rejected proposals that would have curbed the state's power.

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October 25, 2018

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' unusual stay of a constitutional climate change case bought by a group of youth plaintiffs is an ominous sign for the complainants and a boost to the Trump administration, which is now pressing the high court to permanently halt the litigation, observers say.

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Days after President Trump enacted legislation bolstering EPA's water infrastructure programs, environmentalists are urging lawmakers to provide an “infusion of federal assistance” to prevent rate increases that make services unaffordable and lead to shutoffs, suggesting the issue is likely to re-emerge in the next Congress.

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The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has rejected a U.S.-backed proposal to phase-in implementation of a global limit on sulfur content of shipping fuel rather than its current effective date of 2020, which may ease concerns from environmentalists that any delay could mean the loss of major cuts in air pollution from ships.

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