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The Week Ahead

White House To Unveil FY18 Proposal; EPA Weighs Updates For Air Pollutant Standards

The Trump administration is set to release its fiscal year 2018 budget request this week, but documents already released point toward massive proposed cuts for EPA. Meanwhile, the agency is taking comment on its science assessment of factors that will inform air standards on a host of pollutants, while an EPA advisory panel will also debate the pollutants during a two-day meeting.

FY18 Budget

The White House is scheduled to release its FY18 request on May 23, but state air regulators have already released a document that shows the administration sticking with the roughly 31 percent cut the administration first floated for EPA earlier this year, which would slice its budget from $8.1 billion to $5.65 billion. While EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has pledged to delegate additional responsibilities to states, many state officials have warned of devastating impacts to their environmental programs if Congress enacts the administration's requested cuts.

In Congress, both the House and Senate budget committees are planning hearings on the FY18 request. The House panel will meet on May 24, and the Senate Budget Committee has scheduled its hearing on May 25.

Finally, the House Appropriations Committee panel on energy and water will meet May 24 to begin work on its spending bill for the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation -- the first concrete steps on environmental issues in Congress' FY18 budget process.

Air Standards

EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) will meet May 24-25 in Durham, NC, to advance its review of EPA's second draft integrated science assessment (ISA) that will inform the agency as it considers whether to strengthen, maintain or weaken the “primary,” or health-based national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide, which serves as the “indicator” for other sulfur oxides, and the NAAQS for nitrogen oxides. May 24 is also the deadline for public comments on the draft ISA.

TSCA

Comments are due May 24 on the Obama EPA's proposal on how to define the “small” businesses that are exempt from, or subject to less strict, Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) records and reporting requirements. The Trump administration extended the comment deadline following requests from the Small Business Administration and industry groups to broaden the factors it is weighing for its upcoming revisions to the definition.

EPA is holding a May 24 public meeting on how it should assign “unique identifiers” to chemical identities after it approves a manufacturer's request to protect that identity from disclosure as confidential business information under TSCA.

The American Legal Institute-Continuing Legal Education program is hosting a May 23 telephone seminar on the reformed TSCA statute, with former EPA general counsel Donald Elliott and current Environmental Counsel of the State (ECOS) Executive Director Alex Dunn scheduled to present.

Environmental Symposium

EPA's Pruitt will give the keynote speech at Faegre Baker Daniels' May 24 symposium on energy and environmental policy in the Trump administration. House and Senate staffers from both parties are also scheduled to speak on their committee's priorities in the 115th Congress.

First 100 Days

The American Bar Association's (ABA) energy and environment section is hosting a May 23 webinar on “10 Things You Need to Know about the First 100 Days” of the Trump administration. ECOS' Dunn, former EPA air chief Jeff Holmstead and former Department of Justice environment head John Cruden are scheduled to speak.

NAAQS Legislation

The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee is holding a May 23 hearing on S. 263 and S. 452, both of which would reform EPA's process of setting and enforcing NAAQS, and are aimed at easing implementation of the tougher ozone standard set in 2015 while restricting the agency's authority to set similar targets in the future. However, Democrats in the Senate are vowing to filibuster the bills.

Stormwater

EPA and the Water Environment Federation are co-hosting a May 23 webinar on Washington, D.C.'s program that allows property owners to generate and trade compliance credits for installing on-site retention of stormwater in order to reduce polluted runoff. The technology has been seen as a model for similar trading programs that could help Mid-Atlantic states comply with the Clean Water Act (CWA) cleanup plan for the Chesapeake Bay.

EPA Rulemaking

The House Science Committee's panel on the environment is holding a May 23 hearing titled “Expanding the Role of States in EPA Rulemaking.” The hearing is one in a series that the science panel under Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has called to weigh restricting EPA's regulatory authority.

Judicial Deference

The District of Columbia Bar Association is hosting a May 25 program on the Supreme Court doctrine of Chevron deference, in which courts will defer to agencies' “reasonable” readings of ambiguous statutory text. Conservatives, including congressional Republicans and federal judges, have lately called for scaling back or eliminating Chevron.

Toxicology

EPA will hold the monthly meeting of its Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice on May 25 in Research Triangle Park, NC. The meeting will focus on leveraging toxicology tools to prioritize potential human health risks from chemicals.

SSM Waivers

May 26 is the deadline for EPA's response to the pending Supreme Court petition where the power industry and conservative and free-market groups are urging the Supreme Court to review the Obama EPA's ban on Clean Air Act emissions limit waivers for pollution from facilities during startup, shutdown and malfunction (SSM) periods in the agency's boiler air toxics rule. The petitioners have argued that the policy is unlawful because it sets unachievable requirements that facilities never exceed air law limits.

Cost Analysis

The EPA Scientific Advisory Board panel crafting recommendations on how the agency can model whole economy impacts from its regulations will meet on May 24 in Arlington, VA. Members of the panel have previously favored recommending use of multiple models to better assess all the costs of agency rules on society and the economy.

Water Resources

The World Environmental & Water Resources Congress is running through May 25 in Sacramento, CA. Presenters include regulators, civil engineers and academics speaking on “technical expertise and public policy in the planning, design, construction, and operation of environmentally sound and sustainable infrastructure impacting air, land and water resources.”

House Hearings

The House Oversight Committee's environment and intergovernmental affairs committees are holding a joint May 24 hearing that will be the first in a series examining “sue and settle” agreements -- referring to an approach of “friendly” groups suing EPA and other agencies to craft judicially enforceable deadlines for rulemaking. The GOP has long attacked the practice, though the Trump administration appears to be using it in some suits seeking repeal of Obama-era rules.

Meanwhile, the House Natural Resources Committee's energy and mineral resources panel is holding a May 24 hearing on a discussion draft of a bill to speed reclamation of abandoned mine sites.

Separately, the House Natural Resources Committee's oversight panel is holding a May 24 hearing on “Federal Natural Resource Laws Gone Astray,” though it is unclear which laws the panel will debate.

And the House Rules Committee is meeting May 22 to consider amendments and a floor debate schedule for H.R. 953, the latest iteration of a GOP-backed bill to eliminate CWA permit requirements for pesticide spraying. Committee approval should open the door to a vote on the bill by the end of the week.

Finally, the House Science Committee's research and oversight panels are holding a joint May 24 hearing examining the “overhead” costs of research at EPA and other agencies.

FIFRA

ABA is holding a May 24 webinar where speakers will lead a “deep dive” into the integration between the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

ECHO

EPA is hosting a May 23 webinar to assist users in navigating and operating its Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) website.

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