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The Week Ahead

Senate EPW Debates Water Infrastructure; House Energy Panel Weighs Superfund Reform

The full Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) is holding its second water infrastructure hearing of the month as legislators prepare for the Trump administration to release its infrastructure spending plan. Meanwhile, the House energy committee is examining potential reforms to the Superfund cleanup program -- a top priority for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Water Infrastructure

EPW is holding a second hearing on water infrastructure needs Jan. 17 as part of the run-up to a White House infrastructure plan expected to be released later this month. The committee's first hearing on the subject on Jan. 10 produced calls for streamlined Clean Water Act section 404 dredge-and-fill permitting for wetlands restoration and other activities, which could be part of this year's Water Resources Development Act authorization bill. The hearing will feature a panel of federal witnesses to be announced later.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Jan. 18 summit to emphasize industry support for infrastructure spending, including roads, energy and water. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue said at the group's Jan. 10 “State of American Business” address that he would unveil funding recommendations for an infrastructure agenda during the Jan. 18 event.

EPA is hosting a Jan. 17 information session for its implementation of the 2014 Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act program that leverages federal funds to aid state and local borrowing for water projects.

Superfund Reform

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's environment panel is holding a Jan. 19 hearing on “Modernizing the Superfund Cleanup Program.” The discussion could set an early marker for potential Superfund reform legislation that would follow Pruitt's agenda of speeding cleanups, but could also deal with his move to designate a “Top 21” list of high-priority Superfund sites, which has already drawn criticism from top Republicans on the committee.

Water Transfers

EPA is due to respond on Jan. 19 to states and environmentalists' Supreme Court petition asking the justices to overturn a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit decision that upheld EPA's 2008 rule that says permits are not needed to transfer water from one jurisdictional waterbody, such as a river or lake, to another.

Regulatory Reform

The House Rules Committee is holding a two-day hearing from Jan. 18-19 on Congress' oversight powers and the “power of the purse” to withhold funding for executive policies that legislators oppose -- a topic that will be under scrutiny for EPA and other agencies as legislators work on fiscal year 2018 spending bills. The first session of the hearing is a “Members' Day” event that will feature testimony from members of Congress.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is hosting a Jan. 17-18 workshop in Silver Spring, MD, on ecosystem-level climate resilience.

IBM's Analytics Solution Center is hosting a Jan. 18 conference in Washington, D.C., on using “smart” water infrastructure to build resiliency against climate change. Speakers at the event will include Ted Okada, the chief technology officer at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


The U.S. Energy Association will host its 14th State of the Energy Industry Forum Jan. 18 in Washington, D.C. Speakers include top officials from industry groups and individual energy companies representing power plants, coal firms, renewables, natural gas, refiners and others.

Green Challenge

The Government Services Administration is hosting a Jan. 17 webinar on the Federal Green Challenge, which aims to make it easier for federal agencies and programs to buy environmentally friendly products and services.

Soil Contamination

EPA is hosting a Jan. 17 webinar on methods for developing an assessment of the sources of soil contamination across a city or urban area.

Energy Sites

The Senate Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a Jan. 18 confirmation hearing on the nomination of Anne Marie White to be assistant secretary of energy for environmental management -- a post that would put her in charge of cleanup operations for a host of former nuclear sites maintained by the Department of Energy.


EPA is hosting a Jan. 17 webinar through its SmartWay program to showcase best practices employed by firms that have received awards from SmartWay. The program is designed to make freight transportation more efficient in order to reduce its environmental impact.


Jan. 19 is the deadline for plaintiffs in Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA) v. Department of Commerce, et al., which seeks to strengthen Washington state's program to control pollution from stormwater runoff, to file new pleadings that would expand the scope of their suit. A federal district judge has already rejected the government's motion to dismiss the suit in full, and if NWEA prevails on the merits it could set a precedent strengthening environmentalists' ability to enforce statutory requirements for the agencies to withhold state grant money if states' nonpoint control programs are not adequate.