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The Week Ahead

House Panel Debates Future Of RFS; Senate EPW To Consider EPA Waste Office Nominee

The House energy committee is holding a hearing this week on the future of advanced biofuels in the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program, just as senators who support the use of corn ethanol have blocked EPA's plans for a short-term RFS reform. Meanwhile, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) is preparing for a confirmation hearing on two EPA nominees, including President Donald Trump's controversial nominee to head the agency's waste office.

RFS

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's environment panel is holding a June 22 hearing on the “current status and future prospects” of advanced biofuels under the current RFS as well as any potential legislative reform. EPA's short-term plans to overhaul its implementation of the program have been halted thanks to opposition from corn-state senators. But oil industry critics of the program continue to argue that its renewable and alternative fuel production goals are unrealistic, and want lawmakers to reform the program or outright repeal it.

Nominees

The full EPW will meet June 20 for a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Peter Wright, the long-time in-house counsel at DowDuPont who has been tapped to head EPA's waste office, as well as that of W. Charles “Chad” McIntosh as assistant administrator of the Office of International and Tribal Affairs. Environmentalists have been trying to rally opposition to Wright, arguing that he is a bad fit given his years-long work for the chemical industry giant that created numerous toxic waste sites and helped oppose the Obama administration's revision to its facility safety rule -- changes the Trump administration is now seeking to largely undo.

Climate Change

Comments are due June 18 on EPA's draft report that estimates future demand for hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are major contributors to ozone-layer depletion, in the air conditioning, refrigeration and fire suppression sectors. The phaseout of HCFCs led to a rise in the use of hydrofluorocarbons, refrigerants that are themselves potent greenhouse gases and which EPA under the Obama administration sought to limit under the same authority it used for the original phaseout -- limits that are now under challenge.

Cross-State Pollution

EPA is holding a June 22 hearing in Washington, D.C., on its proposal to deny petitions from Delaware and Maryland seeking strict limits on air emissions at dozens of power plants in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in order to mitigate interstate transport of ozone air pollution. Two district courts recently set binding deadlines for EPA to take final action on the petitions. Delaware is asking that the hearing be moved to July 15 and relocated to Wilmington, DE, but as of press time the agency appears to be keeping to the June 22 date.

Environmental Litigation

Thomas A. Mariani, Jr., chief of the environmental enforcement office at the Department of Justice, is among the speakers at the American Legal Institute -- Continuing Legal Education environmental litigation conference that runs June 21-22 in Washington, D.C. Mariani is scheduled to address developments in Superfund law, while other items on the agenda include groundwater contaminants, judicial deference to EPA and differences between state and federal environmental enforcement, among others.

Ozone

The House Science Committee's environment panel is holding a June 21 hearing to consider “State Perspectives on Regulating Background Ozone” -- naturally occurring levels of the air pollutant that cannot be reduced by limiting emissions from human sources. Critics of the Obama administration cited background ozone as an argument against the 2015 decision to tighten the ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) down to 70 ppb, saying background ozone in some counties makes the standard unattainable.

Nutrients

The Water Environment Federation, a non-profit organization providing technical training for the wastewater industry, is hosting a conference on nutrient removal and recovery at wastewater treatment plants, through June 21 in Raleigh, NC.

Agriculture

The House Small Business Committee's agriculture subcommittee is holding a June 21 hearing on federal rules that affect small farming operations. Witnesses on the schedule include representatives of the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation -- two groups that often weigh in on EPA rules and have stridently opposed the Obama-era Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule, among other policies they say will impose a high compliance burden on farms.

TMDLs

The Association of Clean Water Administrators, which represents state water regulators, will host a workshop on water modeling for crafting and enforcing CWA waterbody cleanup plans known as total maximum daily loads. Speakers on the agenda include EPA scientists and state-level water regulators.

SmartWay

EPA will host a June 21 webinar through its SmartWay program, which is designed to make freight transportation more efficient in order to reduce its environmental impact. The webinar focuses on “key SmartWay information resources” that companies can use to assess their performance relative to other participants.

Sampling Methods

EPA is hosting a June 20 webinar on its Environmental Sampling and Analytical Methods website tool that “supports the entire environmental characterization process from collection of samples all the way to their analyses.”

ELAB Teleconference

EPA’s Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board (ELAB) will meet by teleconference on June 20. The panel’s agenda for the year covers “(1) Issues in continuing the expansion of national environmental accreditation; (2) ELAB support to the Agency on issues relating to measurement and monitoring for all programs; and (3) follow-up on some of ELAB’s past recommendations and issues.”

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