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Daily News

June 11, 2020

Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) are pressing EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to explain how the agency is addressing a number of high-profile Clean Water Act (CWA) and Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) issues, including groundwater, state water quality reviews, perchlorate and perfluorinated chemicals.

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Chemical industry groups and other sectors are looking to Congress to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) chemical facility safety program before its looming July 23 expiration, although one industry source says it is unlikely that a reauthorization bill would include any proposed policy revisions to the program.

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An independent “shadow” panel of former EPA air quality advisors is renewing its attacks on EPA’s handling of science for its review of federal air standards for particulate matter (PM), after the agency proposed to retain its existing suite of PM standards despite advice of its staff and the shadow panel that called for tougher air limits.

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The Department of Energy’s (DOE) plan to categorically exempt its reviews of liquified natural gas (LNG) export projects from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is being broadly welcomed by industry groups and strongly rejected by environmentalists, according to recently filed written comments.

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June 10, 2020

Manufacturers of lawn, garden and other outdoor equipment are raising a host of initial concerns over a draft proposal by California air board officials to tighten exhaust and evaporative emission standards, as well as a requirement that beginning in 2028 companies can only make electric zero-emission models intended for sale in the state.

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California legislative analysts are suggesting lawmakers consider reprioritizing how money generated by the state’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program is spent in fiscal year 2020-21 due to a sharp decline in revenue as a result of the economic impacts of COVID-19, including potentially cutting funding for the embattled high-speed rail (HSR) project.

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A federal district court judge is canceling June 15 oral arguments for dueling summary judgment motions on industry’s claim that California’s Proposition 65 toxic chemical warning label requirements for products containing the herbicide glyphosate violate their First Amendment rights.

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Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW) members are asking EPA a host of questions on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including details on its controversial office reopening plan, how the agency will factor virus risks and impacts into rules, and the pandemic’s impact on air monitoring networks.

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California lawmakers are delaying controversial budget-related decisions on creating a new toxics department oversight board and giving the department new authority to substantially raise fees on industry, giving lawmakers, Newsom administration officials and key stakeholders several more weeks to continue negotiating the issues.

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EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is touting cleanup successes in the agency’s just-released Superfund fiscal year 2019 accomplishments report, but the report -- released annually to chronicle statistics from the previous fiscal year -- hides a poor record because it lacks data on key cleanup milestones, says a former high-level EPA official.

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A California appellate court has upheld a state committee’s listing of the widely used plasticizer chemical diisononyl phthalate (DINP) as a carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65 product warning law, raising the stakes for the chemical sector as it awaits an EPA evaluation under the revised toxics law that could help them fight the state’s decision.

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A national water utility organization is calling on EPA’s toxics office to eliminate a “de minimis” exemption the agency created for releases of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in a rule listing 172 PFAS that must now be reported to the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), arguing the exemption could result in polluted drinking water sources.

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Arizona residents are challenging EPA’s policy granting states regulatory waivers for “exceptional” air pollution events such as wildfires and windstorms, filing a federal appeals court suit that may set a precedent for what constitutes adequate proof that an event caused air standards violations in very distant locations.

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Legislation in California to speed up the legal process under the state’s toughest-in-the-nation environmental protection statute is advancing with support from Democratic lawmakers, despite strong opposition from environmental justice (EJ) and labor union groups that charge the measure will hamper efforts to challenge projects.

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EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) appears poised to recommend that the agency restore language in draft economic review guidelines that would call for explicit consideration of regulatory co-benefits and ancillary costs in regulatory cost-benefit analyses, criticizing the draft guidance for deemphasizing such analysis.

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) is expanding on its claim that California’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program link to Quebec violates the Constitution’s Foreign Affairs Doctrine, bolstering the argument that the link conflicts with President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

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June 09, 2020

Federal appeals court judges appeared at recent oral argument to be leaning toward backing the United States’ attempt to overturn a lower court’s ruling that the federal government fears will undermine EPA’s ability to reach settlements with potentially responsible parties (PRPs) at Superfund sites and ensure prompt cleanups.

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Washington state is urging the Supreme Court to reject a complaint regarding a long-running dispute over the state’s denial of a Clean Water Act (CWA) water quality certification for a planned coal export terminal, arguing the “issues raised are meritless and already being litigated in other courts, and Plaintiffs lack standing in any event.”

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Democratic state attorneys general (AGs) that are suing over EPA’s controversial COVID-19 enforcement discretion policy that critics fear will allow excess pollution and other agency rule violations are asking a federal district court to grant a preliminary injunction that would prevent entities from relying on the policy during the legal challenges.

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EPA’s air program cost-benefit proposal could create significant burdens that complicate development of new agency rules and create litigation risks, according to early reaction from former government officials and other experts who say the rule’s impacts might ultimately depend on EPA’s future implementation of the policy.

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