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Daily News

November 04, 2019

Racing to meet an extended June 2020 deadline to complete 10 chemical evaluations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA has released its latest draft risk analysis -- of a widely used solvent -- though it will almost certainly draw criticisms from peer reviewers who continue to criticize the agency’s risk methods.

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EPA is proposing changes to its effluent limits for steam electric power plants that it says will achieve greater pollution reductions at a lower cost than Obama-era limits, but those calculations are based on the assumption that power plants will opt to voluntarily install more stringent pollution controls than required.

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EPA’s just-released proposed revisions to the Obama-era coal ash disposal rule include 2020 deadlines for closing some ash disposal sites previously exempt from the rule in order to address an adverse appellate ruling, but the agency is also proposing new extensions to the closure timeline that could give operators until 2028 to comply.

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The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument Nov. 6 in a case testing whether the Clean Water Act (CWA) applies to pollutants that travel through groundwater to surface water, with the outcome potentially hinging on which of two competing textual arguments the high court endorses.

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The New York Attorney General’s (AG) office appears to be struggling in a high-profile trial to persuade a state court judge that oil and gas giant ExxonMobil violated state law by defrauding investors about the risks posed by climate change.

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November 01, 2019

EPA staff in a draft policy assessment (PA) is suggesting that the agency retain its existing national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) at the 2015 level of 70 parts per billion (ppb), but is delaying EPA’s response to an appellate court decision that remanded one of the 2015 standards and could require the agency to tighten it.

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A National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel is largely backing EPA’s plan for its long-pending re-assessment of the risks of inorganic arsenic, a ubiquitous contaminant, reiterating calls for the agency to proceed with its dose-response analysis using new data that shows risks at low exposures while using controversial extrapolation techniques only at the lowest levels.

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The Trump administration’s pending final rule rolling back Obama-era vehicle greenhouse gas standards is increasingly expected to require a modest annual improvement in vehicles instead of freezing requirements, a step that could help pave the way for most of the auto manufacturing sector to ultimately support the plan.

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Even as EPA grapples with policies governing legacy cleanup of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the agency’s Office of Resource Conservation & Recovery (ORCR) is wrestling with the best methods for disposal of wastes containing PFAS in response to questions pouring in seeking advice on the issue, a top official says.

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Democratic state attorneys general and free-market legal groups, two interests that rarely agree, are urging the Supreme Court to allow Montana landowners to pursue state common law damages claims over a Superfund site, warning that EPA and industry arguments seeking to preempt such claims would disrupt the federal-state balance.

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October 31, 2019

Over a dozen senators from both parties are floating legislation that would give EPA new authorities to curb the production and use of refrigerants that act as potent greenhouse gases, signaling growing support for an effort to make progress in an area that has been stymied by court rulings and Trump administration deregulatory measures.

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The Justice Department (DOJ) is urging the Supreme Court to reject environmentalists’ petition to reverse an appellate decision limiting states’ ability to review Clean Water Act (CWA) section 401 water quality certification requests, pointing to EPA’s ongoing rulemaking on the issue and the lack of judicial disagreement.

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Environmental and public health groups are waging 11th-hour efforts to block EPA’s final rule rolling back the Obama-era utility mercury and air toxics standards (MATS), including urging the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) to kill the rule and pressing Congress to block the rollback in upcoming spending legislation.

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A key House lawmaker is floating the outlines of a new bill to establish a clean energy standard (CES) sufficient to cut power sector carbon dioxide emissions in half by 2030 and achieve “net zero” emission by 2050, possibly signaling increasing focus by House Democrats on the idea as a power sector greenhouse gas policy.

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California regulators are advancing a landmark review of several food packaging chemicals, including ortho-phthalates (OPs), bisphenol-A (BPA), perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and their alternatives, for potential bans or restrictions if they list them as priorities under their Safer Consumer Products (SCP) green chemistry program.

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The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Sierra Club are suing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over its final oil and gas drilling oversight plan for California’s central coast, alleging it violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and unwisely allows a huge expansion of fossil fuel production.

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San Diego County attorneys are accusing Sierra Club and other environmental groups of seeking to stop any growth in the region by legally challenging the county’s climate action plan (CAP) that in part relies on carbon offset projects located outside the county, according to a recent filing in state appellate court.

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October 30, 2019

A top biofuels sector official fears that EPA might ramp up issuance of renewable fuel standard (RFS) waivers for small refiners for 2019 compared to previous years, despite the Trump administration floating a proposal to boost biofuels goals for next year’s RFS -- a plan that critics say falls far short of what the fuels need.

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Key Democratic senators indicated they will likely support Sean O’Donnell, the Trump administration’s nominee to be EPA’s next Inspector General (IG), after he reassured them at his Oct. 30 confirmation hearing before the Senate environment committee that he will doggedly pursue investigations of waste, fraud and abuse.

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EPA is facing strong criticism of its proposal to rescind direct methane limits for oil and gas operations from New Mexico, the country’s third-largest oil producer that is home to part of the Permian basin, as well as two congressional Republicans including one House member who has been a die-hard supporter of President Donald Trump.

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