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Daily News

May 22, 2019

A long-awaited “root cause” analysis faulting Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) maintenance and inspection activities prior to the massive 2015-16 methane leak at the utility’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility is spurring new calls from environmentalists and public safety groups for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to permanently close the site.

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May 21, 2019

EPA appears to be deciding against across-the-board changes to its cost-benefit methods but is instead moving ahead with “media-specific” changes, an approach that appears to continue its plan for more “consistency” in cost-benefit reviews but also take into account that requirements for such analysis vary across environmental statutes.

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House Democrats and Republicans are clashing over whether EPA should count the “co-benefits” of its air rules in cost-benefit analyses of the policies, a debate that will be key to the future not only of EPA’s power plant air toxics rules but also likely for the agency’s cost-benefit analysis for all future Clean Air Act rulemakings.

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A recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report proposing a clustering approach of grouping flame retardant chemicals into subclasses for risk assessment is highlighting the emerging consensus that EPA and others are considering for addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), another large group of ubiquitous chemicals that are also subject to high-profile public scrutiny.

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House appropriators are ramping up their scrutiny of some of the Trump EPA's controversial science decisions, all but barring the agency from advancing its data transparency rule until after consulting with its own science advisors and then requiring the agency to seek National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review of any final data rule.

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EPA is defending its landmark approval of Oklahoma’s coal ash disposal permit program and saying the state will have three years to revise its plan and adapt to mandatory stricter federal disposal requirements, but environmentalists say they will pursue citizen suits over site-specific cleanup plans regardless of the agency’s actions.

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May 20, 2019

State regulators are outlining ways for state and federal agencies to better manage contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in all aspects of the water cycle, spurred in part by concerns over the time it takes to develop drinking water standards and the lack of coordination among state and federal entities, as evidenced in a patchwork of standards for perfluorinated compounds.

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The renewable natural gas (RNG) industry representing gas production from landfills and agricultural operations is urging the White House to hike EPA’s pending 2020 renewable fuel standard (RFS) cellulosic biofuel production goal to account for robust growth in the sector, though the slow pace of other cellulosic biofuels growth could hinder the push.

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EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) is demanding that the agency show how it considered environmental justice (EJ) in a permit for an oil and gas operation near a low-income community in Michigan, signaling how the board will apply its recent decision faulting a similar permit for offering no proof of how equity factored into it.

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EPA in its final Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) power plant greenhouse gas rule is expected to include a controversial projection of far fewer benefits tied to reductions in particulate matter (PM), according to a news report, a decision that would significantly lower the estimated number of additional premature deaths compared to a calculation in the proposed version of the rule.

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Sierra Club in a new legal brief is rejecting EPA’s defense of “significant impact level” (SIL) screening tools used to exempt some de minimis, or minimal, facility emissions from Clean Air Act permit reviews, with the group claiming the SILs undermine the permitting process and that the agency lacks a legal justification for using them.

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May 17, 2019

A work group of EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) is asking the agency a series of questions about its controversial science transparency rule, a move that appears aimed at broadening advisors' review of the measure beyond what Administrator Andrew Wheeler proposed last month.

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EPA is considering issuing a supplemental plan for its controversial science transparency rule, a measure that is part of Administrator Andrew Wheeler's stepped up effort to complete the rule within a year -- though the effort faces widespread criticism, little regulatory justification and a massive number of of public comments to address, sources say.

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A federal appellate panel is asking EPA and environmentalists to provide additional briefing on the petitioners' standing to challenge the agency's framework rule governing how it will evaluate existing chemicals under the revised toxics law and the ripeness of their suit after recent arguments in what one of the judges called a “very difficult case.”

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California air chief Mary Nichols is reiterating warnings about the adverse impacts of the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards and its preemption of stricter state limits, saying it will force states to take a series of “dramatic” regulatory steps to offset the resulting emissions increases.

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Electric utilities are using EPA’s proposed rollback of the finding underpinning the Obama-era mercury and air toxics standards for power plants (MATS) as a vehicle for pitching weaker compliance requirements, such as eased testing mandates, urging the agency in little-noticed comments to finalize the plan then launch a new rulemaking to ease those provisions.

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Environmentalists and states supportive of EPA’s mercury and air toxics standards (MATS) for power plants are likely to oppose a utility sector push for the agency to launch a new rulemaking to ease the rule’s compliance mandates, sources say, as they fear it would further weaken the Obama-era rule beyond the agency’s planned rollback.

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May 16, 2019

Appellate judges appear to agree with EPA lawyers that environmentalists generally lack standing to challenge the agency's framework rule for evaluating risks of existing chemicals under the revised toxics law, but they left the door open to sue over officials' decision to preclude legacy uses from the scope of any evaluation.

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House Democrats are advancing a fiscal year 2020 State Department spending bill that would bar the Trump administration from using funds to withdraw from the Paris climate deal, a move that may signal a selective strategy on environmental policy riders after an initial draft EPA funding bill largely omitted them.

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House lawmakers are stepping up efforts to provide funds to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) -- including a massive proposed $2.5 billion grant program to aid drinking water systems -- funds that seek to address contamination concerns in the short term though sources say they are unlikely to deter lawmakers from advancing policy measures, sources say.

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