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Environmental Policy Alert - 04/25/2018

  • FY18 Deal Funds EPA Work On Backstop Federal Coal Ash Permit Program

    The fiscal year 2018 omnibus deal contains a little-noticed provision approving funding for a new EPA Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) coal ash permitting program, with utilities and the ash reuse sector urging the agency to quickly develop the program as a backstop for states that opt against creating their own permit programs.

    1100 words

  • EPA Superfund 'Special Accounts' Guidance Aims To Incentivize Cleanups

    EPA's Superfund chief has issued new guidance to the agency's regional offices that appears to ease EPA's ability to use money from its $3.2 billion site-specific "special accounts" funds in order to provide incentives for liable parties and developers to undertake cleanups at Superfund sites.

    1497 words

  • EPA Air Chief Plans To Speed NAAQS Reviews Using 'Close Enough' Data

    ORLANDO, FL -- EPA air chief William Wehrum plans to accelerate the long-delayed national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) review process by reducing some scientific advisory input and accepting data that is “close enough” to justify a review rather than “perfect,” suggesting Supreme Court precedent would allow the changes.

    1180 words

  • Trump Orders EPA 'Actions' To Ease NAAQS Process For Economic Gain

    President Donald Trump is ordering EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to take a series of “actions” to accelerate and ease state and industry compliance with national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), with the White House saying changes to the setting and implementation of NAAQS could end “outdated” barriers to economic growth.

    1622 words

  • Compliance Costs Create Dilemma For Wehrum's Bid To Kill Utility MACT

    ORLANDO, FL -- EPA air chief William Wehrum is acknowledging that he faces a dilemma over whether to grant calls from utilities and others to scrap the regulatory justification for the Obama-era utility air toxics rule as a “satisfying” move, or retain it as even some of its staunchest industry critics have spent millions in compliance costs.

    997 words

  • EPA Floats 'Flexible' Options For States' Interstate Ozone Air Quality Plans

    EPA is soliciting comment on a menu of “flexible” approaches states could pursue in their upcoming plans for mitigating interstate air emissions that are hindering attainment of the agency's 2015 ozone standard, as the Trump administration moves away from EPA-led emissions trading programs toward a state-led approach.

    845 words

  • For Now, EPA Plans NSR Guide To Define 'Maintenance,' Despite Rule Petition

    ORLANDO, FL -- EPA is signaling that, for now, it plans to issue guidance to revise the new source review (NSR) program's definition of when facility changes are “routine maintenance” exempt from the requirements despite West Virginia's petition to adopt the change in a Clean Air Act rule -- a move that would revive a legal fight from 2006.

    698 words

  • EPA Plans To Revise HFC SNAP Rules To Respond To D.C. Circuit Vacatur

    EPA is planning to launch a new rulemaking to respond to an appellate court ruling that largely vacated Obama-era rules limiting hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants that act as potent greenhouse gases, arguing the regulations do not allow the agency to easily address the ruling.

    1020 words

  • GOP Touts High-Octane Standard In RFS Reform Package But Faces Hurdles

    Top House Republicans are expressing confidence about enacting a nationwide high-octane fuel standard as part of a broader package to “reform” or scale back the renewable fuel standard (RFS), arguing the move could satisfy a range of fuel stakeholders while also giving automakers a relatively cheap compliance option for fuel economy limits.

    1362 words

  • Trump's Support For Annual E15 Sales Spurs Ethanol Critics' Legal Threat

    President Donald Trump is signaling support for pending EPA plans to allow year-round sales of ethanol fuel blends up to 15 percent (E15), prompting a warning from ethanol critics including the petroleum sector that the agency lacks the Clean Air Act authority for such a waiver.

    1473 words

  • EPA's Ross Eyes Greater Water Policy 'Engagement,' Incremental Changes

    EPA water chief David Ross is looking for ways to replicate in other rulemakings the type of engagement the agency used with states to discuss changes to the Obama-era Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule, while stressing the need for incremental progress with water policies rather than trying to accomplish everything at once.

    1122 words

  • Faulting EPA 'Maneuvering,' Judge Orders Quick Decision On Erie Impairment

    A federal judge is giving EPA until May 15 to make a final decision on Ohio's 2016 list of impaired waters that fails to include the open waters of Lake Erie, finding that the agency's “legal maneuvering” has prevented him from ruling on environmentalists' suit that seeks to force the agency to reject the list and declare the lake's open waters impaired.

    1298 words

  • EPA Water Chief Revised CWA Rule Repeal To Bolster Its Legal Basis

    EPA water chief David Ross ordered revisions to the proposed repeal of the Obama-era Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule in order to bolster the proposal's legal basis in expected litigation, an agency staffer says, giving Ross the chance to “fix” legal flaws in the original proposal which EPA issued before he joined the agency.

    968 words

  • Top Democrats Urge EPA To Quickly Craft Enforceable SDWA Limit For PFAS

    More than two dozen Democratic senators are urging EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to quickly develop an enforceable, federal standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), though agency officials have said that development of such a standard would be a “multi-year” effort.

    1097 words

  • EPA Signals New Rulemaking Could End Limits On Wastewater 'Blending'

    EPA is signaling that a just-launched rulemaking process could end limits on wastewater “blending” technology that treatment plants use to mix partially- and fully-treated effluent during wet-weather events like storms in order to avoid a complete overflow, ending years of litigation over whether the Clean Water Act (CWA) lets regulators ban the pratice.

    741 words

  • Defendants In CWA Cases Aim To Limit Rulings On Groundwater Liability

    Defendants in Clean Water Act (CWA) suits over groundwater releases are scrambling to minimize the impact of recent appellate decisions upholding penalties for pollution that travels through groundwater, raising new arguments in pending cases against the novel findings on liability under the water law for contamination of groundwater.

    1190 words

  • EPA's TSCA Testing Methods Plan Faces Early Challenge As Groups Split

    EPA's draft strategic plan for adopting and using new, non-animal testing methods for implementing the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is facing an early challenge as environmentalists and animal welfare groups are split over how quickly the agency should implement the new methods.

    1362 words

  • NAS Praises EPA's Efforts To Improve IRIS, Underscoring Congress' Action

    The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is praising EPA's efforts to improve its influential but controversial risk analysis program, the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), and even backs supporters' efforts to keep Republicans from consolidating the program with EPA's toxics office, underscoring steps Congress took in EPA's recent budget bill.

    1168 words

  • Agencies Wrestle With Lead Exposure Goals Ahead Of Strategy's Release

    Two months before the planned release of a federal strategy for reducing children's lead exposures, EPA and other agencies are wrestling with key policy goals, including a planned schedule for eliminating exposures, whether the strategy will complement pending EPA rules and if EPA plans to account for stricter federal health standards that are slated to be adopted later this year.

    1319 words

  • EPA Sees TSCA Fee Increase If It Adopts New 'Small Business' Metric

    EPA says it might have to hike the fees it charges companies for approving new and existing chemicals under the revised toxics law if it adopts one of two employee-based size metrics it is considering for defining “small businesses” that are charged lower fees.

    843 words

  • Environmentalists Urge OMB To Retain RMP Rule In Face Of Likely Rollback

    Environmental, labor and public interest groups are urging White House officials to preserve and quickly implement the Obama-era rule bolstering EPA's facility accident prevention program, even as the Trump administration prepares to issue a plan that is widely expected to scale back the regulation.

    824 words

  • CARB's Nichols Urges Automakers To Pressure Trump On Vehicle GHG Deal

    California's top air regulator is urging automakers to pressure the Trump administration not to move forward with a “wholesale rollback” of Obama-era vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy limits, arguing it is in their interest to help find a “negotiated” solution between the state and federal officials.

    1003 words

  • Hill Republicans Quietly Prod Pruitt To Rethink 'Glider' Truck Rule Repeal

    Fearing harms to domestic manufacturing, several House and Senate Republicans have quietly urged EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to rethink his plan to repeal Obama-era rules governing “glider” trucks, an unusual move that highlights opposition to the plan not just by environmental groups but also large swaths of the trucking sector.

    975 words

  • EPA Issues Carbon-Neutral Biomass Policy, Spurning SAB Review Efforts

    EPA in a new guidance document says it will treat carbon dioxide emissions “resulting from the combustion of biomass from managed forests at stationary sources for energy production as carbon neutral,” largely spurning a Science Advisory Board (SAB) review of the issue because the agency believes it has taken too long.

    853 words

  • Pruitt Scandals Prompt Agency Staff Anger At Ethics 'Double Standard'

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's mounting ethics problems are prompting an angry reaction from many agency staff who fear they would be reprimanded, suspended or even removed for conduct similar to Pruitt's, citing in part warnings in annual ethics trainings to avoid even the appearance of improper actions and to not waste government resources.

    1140 words

  • IG 'Alert' Highlights Unclear Pruitt Role In Controversial EPA Staff Raises

    EPA's Inspector General (IG) has released an “alert” memo that appears to indicate controversial raises for several agency staff using Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) authority were authorized by agency Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson, though it remains unclear whether Administrator Scott Pruitt knew about or approved the pay hikes.

    669 words

  • EPA Backs Away From Obama NextGen Initiative But Impact Uncertain

    EPA's enforcement office has followed through with expected plans to back away from an Obama-era policy, known as Next Generation Enforcement (NextGen), that required broad consideration of innovative approaches in civil settlements, though one EPA source harbors doubts the new approach will mark a significant change in practice.

    740 words

  • States Urge EPA To Target Regions' Staffing Levels In Push For Consistency

    Faced with bipartisan opposition in Congress, top EPA officials appear to have abandoned earlier plans to consolidate agency regions and are now being urged to target some regions' staffing levels as part of their effort to ensure greater consistency in how regional offices oversee state programs.

    871 words