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The Week Ahead

House Panel Marks Up PFAS, Asbestos Bills, Senate EPW Eyes CWA Section 401 Reforms

The House Energy & Commerce Committee is marking up separate bills requiring EPA to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and asbestos. Meanwhile, the Senate’s Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW) will hear from two GOP governors on the Trump administration’s push to limit states’ Clean Water Act (CWA) authority over federally permitted projects.

PFAS

The House Energy & Commerce Committee will mark up H.R. 535, which, among other things, would require EPA to designate PFAS chemicals as “hazardous” under the Superfund law, as part of a wide-ranging markup of 18 pending bills on Nov. 19.

During a subcommittee markup of the bills earlier this year, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers said they hoped to reach a bipartisan agreement by the time the measures were due to be considered in the full committee.

Also on PFAS, the House Oversight Committee’s environment panel will hold a Nov. 19 hearing as a “call for immediate federal action on PFAS.” Among those testifying is actor Mark Ruffalo, who plays Rob Bilott, the Ohio lawyer who successfully sued DuPont on behalf of local residents in the first class-action suit on PFAS, in a forthcoming film.

Both the markup and the hearing mark the latest step in lawmakers’ broad effort to force EPA, the Defense Department and other agencies to go beyond their current “action plan” for addressing PFAS, which critics say is lacking in concrete commitments to limit the chemicals. As of last week, the House and Senate appear to be nearing an agreement on including PFAS measures in a long-awaited defense spending bill.

Asbestos

Among the non-PFAS bills scheduled for consideration at the Energy & Commerce Committee’s Nov. 19 markup is H.R. 1603, which would immediately ban the manufacture, processing or sale of asbestos. The bill is a response to what critics say is EPA’s inadequate response to assessing and regulating asbestos under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The markup comes after two high-profile court losses for EPA’s strategy last week. On Nov. 14 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that EPA must consider legacy uses and associated disposal of existing substances under TSCA. And on Nov. 15 Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held that plaintiffs may proceed with a suit seeking asbestos reporting rules under TSCA.

CWA 401

The full Senate EPW will meet Nov. 19 for a hearing on potential CWA section 401 reforms, including but not limited to S. 1087, a bill backed by EPW Chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) that would limit states’ authority under the law in line with EPA’s proposed rule that would narrow its application of the existing statutory text. The witnesses will be Govs. Mark Gordon (R-WY) and J. Kevin Stitt (R-OK), and Laura Watson, senior assistant attorney general (AG) and division chief in the Washington state AG’s office.

EPA IG

The full Senate EPW will also meet for a Nov. 20 business meeting where senators will vote on advancing the nomination of Sean O’Donnell to be EPA’s next Inspector General (IG). At O’Donnell’s Oct. 30 confirmation hearing Democratic senators indicated they will likely support him but raised concerns over the IG office’s moves to drop some investigations into former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt after his resignation.

FIFRA SAP

EPA will convene a Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel (FIFRA SAP) meeting Nov. 19-22 in Arlington, VA, where the panelists will review EPA’s approaches for quantitative use of surface water monitoring data in pesticide drinking water reviews.

Senate Energy Panel Votes

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee will vote on a long list of pending bills and nominations during its Nov. 10 business meeting. The agenda includes votes on Dan Brouliette to be the next Secretary of Energy, James P. Danly as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; reauthorization of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program at the Department of Energy (DOE); and job training for military veterans in clean energy fields.

Decontamination Conference

EPA will host its annual Decontamination Research and Development Conference Nov. 19-21 in Norfolk, VA. The agenda covers issues from removing dangers like animal corpses from wildfire sites, to potential hazards from nanomaterials.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

The panel of EPA’s Science Advisory Board tasked with reviewing the agency’s computable general equilibrium model -- a whole economy model that agency economists are developing to assess rules' costs -- will meet Nov. 22 in Arlington, VA, to begin their review process. Development of the new model seeks to advance long-time calls from Republicans, industry and others to adopt to better account for rules' costs though agency advisors have previously warned officials to proceed cautiously.

WRDA

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s panel on water resources and the environment will hold a Nov. 19 hearing on the upcoming Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) authorizing Army Corps of Engineers water-infrastructure projects.

Climate Hearings

Four House panels have scheduled climate-focused hearings for Nov. 20. The House Appropriations Committee’s energy and water panel will consider DOE’s role in setting climate policy, with testimony from Obama-era Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz; the Energy & Commerce Committee’s environment panel will continue its series on the path to a “100% clean economy” with a hearing on challenges facing “frontline communities;” the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will discuss resiliency as a way to reduce climate risks and costs; and the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on emerging threats will consider “climate change in the era of strategic competition.”

On Nov. 22, the House Science Committee will hold a field hearing in Houston, TX, on carbon capture and sequestration technology.

Contaminated Sediment

EPA will host a Nov. 20 “virtual workshop” on long-term monitoring at contaminated sediment sites.

Air Toxics

Comments are due Nov. 20 on EPA’s proposed risk-and-technology review (RTR) of the national emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) that govern the organic liquids distributions sector. The proposal marks a rare instance of EPA using an RTR to tighten a NESHAP, as most of the Trump administration’s RTRs for other sectors have retained existing requirements. Specifically, the proposal would add monitoring and operational requirements for flares, and requests comment on whether to add requirements for pressure relief devices.

A National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee examining lead emissions from piston-powered aircraft will hold an information-gathering session Nov. 19-20 in Washington, D.C.

Nutrients

EPA will host a Nov. 20 webinar highlighting recent research into coastal nutrient pollution reductions.

Private Governance

The American Bar Association is hosting a Nov. 21 online panel discussion on voluntary corporate programs and partnerships for reducing air emissions.

Drinking Water

EPA will host a Nov. 19 webinar for small drinking water systems on “Risk Assessments, Emergency Response, and Resiliency.”

NAS will host a Nov. 21-22 drinking water workshop on potential ways to bolster drinking water utilities as infrastructure in the sector continues to age.

Floods

Politico and the Pew Charitable Trusts will host a Nov. 19 panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on recent floods and resiliency measures in coastal communities and the Midwest, featuring Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Hydraulic Fracturing

The League of Women Voters will convene its annual Shale & Public Health Conference Nov. 19 in Pittsburgh, PA, to showcase new research on the relationship between hydraulic fracturing in shale regions and human health.

International Law

The Georgetown Law Review will host a seminar on “Modernizing International Environmental Law” Nov. 19 in Washington, D.C.

Environmental Economics

EPA’s environmental economics program will host a Nov. 20 lecture from Tihitina Andarge, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of Maryland, on “The Effect of Incomplete Enforcement Information on Ambient Pollution Levels,” focused on the CWA.

Facility Safety

The law firm Conn Maciel Carey will host a Nov. 19 webinar on EPA’s risk management plan facility safety rule, as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s process safety management policies.

Climate Policy

Resources for the Future will host a Nov. 21 event in Washington, D.C., on recent global developments in carbon pricing policies.

The Environmental & Energy Study Institute will hold a Nov. 22 briefing on Capitol Hill on “legal pathways to deep decarbonization.”

Computational Toxicology

EPA’s Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice will meet Nov. 21 to discuss the agency’s CompTox chemicals dashboard software.

EPA Acquisitions

Comments are due Nov. 18 on EPA’s proposed rule to update its long-standing policies for contracting with commercial suppliers to address standard terms in those contracts “that are inconsistent with or create ambiguity with Federal Law.”

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