Pruitt Starts Work As New EPA Administrator; Agency Officials Debate TSCA Reform
New EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made his first public address Feb. 21 after winning Senate confirmation in a mostly party-line vote last week, and is expected to quickly start rolling back several Obama-era policies. Meanwhile, current and former EPA toxics officials are set to discuss the agency's progress implementing reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
Pruitt on Feb. 21 made his first formal appearance as the country's top environment official in a speech at EPA headquarters. As agency chief, he is expected to pursue a deregulatory agenda on climate, water and other policies. President Donald Trump is reportedly preparing executive orders directing the agency to begin revising the Obama-era rules on Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction and existing power plants' greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
However, environmentalist and open-records groups are expected to step up their attacks on Pruitt, as Feb. 21 is also the court-ordered deadline for the Oklahoma state government to release thousands of emails from Pruitt's time as state attorney general. Trump opponents, including congressional Democrats, hope the emails will prove their claims that Pruitt fundamentally opposes EPA's mission and has worked to advance fossil-fuel industries' policy agenda.
Current EPA toxics office director Wendy Cleland-Hamnet and former assistant administrator for toxics Jim Jones will speak on a Feb. 22 panel in Washington, D.C., on EPA's progress implementing the changes to TSCA, co-hosted by the Environmental Law Institute and the American Bar Association's Section on Energy, Environment and Resources (SEER).
The discussion will focus on proposed rules issued in the Obama administration's final weeks to establish frameworks for evaluating chemicals, prioritizing substances for review and handling confidential business information, as well as the 10 chemicals that EPA will assess first under its new authority.
Comments are due Feb. 22 on EPA's proposed denial EPA of a petition from some companies in the fuel sector to shift the Renewable Fuel Standard's (RFS) “point of obligation” -- the point where fuel companies must show compliance with the mandate to blend gasoline with renewable fuel -- upstream to to blenders at the refinery “rack.”
Groups supporting the move, including the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, say it is necessary because some smaller refiners lack the capacity to conduct any blending but are still subject to the RFS mandate, giving them no choice but to buy compliance credits from larger operators. The same groups are also hoping to move the point of obligation in their suit against EPA over its most recent RFS targets.
The conservative Cato Institute is holding a Feb. 22 panel discussion on the Trump administration's potential moves to lighten environmental regulations on the energy sector, including withdrawing from the 2015 Paris climate agreement and weakening or withdrawing power plant GHG rules, as well as the likely consequences of each approach.
EPA's Environmental Financial Advisory Board (EFAB) is meeting Feb. 21-22 in Washington, D.C. The agenda focuses on water infrastructure financing, including programs offered by the agency's Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center, targeted funding for lead reduction, public-private partnerships and support for “failing” water systems.
The GlobalChem chemical policy conference is scheduled for Feb. 22-24 in Washington, D.C. Along with toxicology discussions, the agenda addresses a wide variety of implications from the TSCA reform law, including EPA's power to regulate new chemicals, the law's impact on small businesses, preemption of state chemicals statutes, cost analysis and more.
Comments Feb. 24 on EPA's residual risk and technology review of its air toxics standard for nutritional yeast manufacturing. The Obama administration proposed to update the sector's national emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants, eliminating regulatory exemptions for startup, shutdown and malfunction and tightening reporting and record keeping mandates, despite finding no additional public health risks from the facilities since the rule was issued in 2001.
EPA will host a Feb. 23 webinar on computational toxicology methods for assessing “secondary palate fusion and disruption,” part of the agency's overall push to advance computational screenings as an alternative to animal testing.
Comments are due Feb. 21 on EPA's proposed settlement with environmentalists that would set an Aug. 31 deadline for the agency to respond to groups' petition that sought a federal objection to Utah's Clean Air Act Title V permit for a Castle Dale, UT, power plant -- one of many deadline settlements proposed in the Obama administration's final weeks.