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The Week Ahead

EPA Weighs Input On Ozone NAAQS Plan; House GOP Readies Latest RFS Reform Push

Public comments are closing on EPA’s contentious plan for an accelerated review of its national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ozone -- a plan that has already drawn push-back from the science advisers with a formal role in the process. The House Energy & Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on the latest GOP-backed bill to reform the renewable fuel standard (RFS).

Ozone NAAQS

Comments are due Dec. 3 on EPA's Integrated Review Plan (IRP) that details the schedule and scope of the Clean Air Act-mandated review of the 2015 ozone NAAQS of 70 parts per billion. The agency is planning a streamlined review process that reduces input from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), but that panel pushed back on a Nov. 29 call, with four of the seven members voicing opposition to EPA’s timeline.

RFS

The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s environment panel is holding a Dec. 5 hearing on GOP members’ new draft bill that would phase out the RFS program by 2032 in favor of a national standard to boost the octane rating of fuel, designed to promote ethanol without an explicit blending mandate. The bill was unveiled a week before EPA issued its new rule setting RFS targets for 2019, and any effort to reform the program a potentially thorny path in the divided 116th Congress.

EPA Budget

EPA faces a potential shutdown that would start at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 8 if Congress cannot agree on legislation to set a new fiscal year 2019 budget for the agency by then, or pass another extension of current spending levels. Legislators have been able to agree on FY19 funding bills for most of the government, but the “minibus” that includes EPA has been tougher to resolve, thanks to policy riders pushed by the House GOP as well as conflict over President Donald Trump’s demands for authorization to construct a border wall.

Climate Change

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) will headline a Dec. 3 “national town hall” focused on climate change policies. Ocasio-Cortez in particular has been among the most strident supporters of a “green new deal,” putting her in conflict with some of the chamber’s more experienced lawmakers who have signaled an oversight-heavy agenda.

Also on Dec. 3, former Vice President Al Gore will host a 24-hour online presentation, “24 Hours of Reality,” that highlights causes and risks of climate change.

Finally, the board of directors for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will meet Dec. 3 in New York City, NY, to elect their 2019 executive committee and approve a budget for the coming year.

NDWAC Meeting

EPA’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council will meet Dec. 6-7 in Washington, D.C. The agenda includes a range of topics including potential changes to EPA’s State Revolving Fund loan program for water infrastructure, and its regulation of emerging contaminants.

Vehicle Emissions

The Environmental Law Institute will host a Dec. 6 webinar on the “uncertain future” that faces California’s vehicle emissions rules thanks to the Trump administration’s plan to roll back Obama-era standards and scrap the Golden State’s Clean Air Act waiver to set its own, more stringent, policies. However, the two sides seem to have resumed negotiations that could lead to preserving the state-specific rules in some form.

EPA’s environmental economics office is hosting a Dec. 4 presentation in Washington, D.C., on “Externality and Subsidy Structure in Two-Sided Markets,” using electric vehicle purchasing incentives as a case study.

Risk Analysis

The Society for Risk Analysis is holding its annual meeting Dec. 2-6 in New Orleans, LA. EPA scientists are among the scheduled presenters.

Administrative Law

The D.C. Bar will host a Dec. 5 panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on the intersection between Chevron deference, under which judges defer to EPA and other agencies’ readings of ambiguous statutes, and the non-delegation doctrine that forbids Congress from giving regulators “unbounded” rulemaking discretion. Non-delegation arguments are becoming more common in environmental debates, and could give opponents of strict regulations a better chance of winning court victories against policies they oppose.

FIFRA SAP Meeting

EPA will convene a Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel (FIFRA SAP) Dec. 4-7 in Washington, D.C. to evaluate EPA's new proposed approach for inhalation risk assessments.

Aircraft Emissions

The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative will hold its 2018 general meeting Dec. 4-8 in Washington, D.C.

Formaldehyde

Comments are due Dec. 3 on EPA’s proposed “technical amendments” to the Obama-era formaldehyde emissions standards for composite wood products.

ISCORS Meeting

The Interagency Steering Committee on Radiation Standards (ISCORS) will meet Dec. 6 in Washington, D.C.

Ecosystem Services

EPA scientists will present at the 2018 installment of A Community on Ecosystem Services, running Dec. 3-6 in Washington, D.C.

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