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The Week Ahead

EPA Weighs Comments On High-Profile Rules; Senate EPW Eyes State CWA Certification

Public comments are due this week on several high-profile EPA rules and regulatory rollbacks, including policies to govern regulators' use of science, the the Clean Water Act (CWA), toxic substances, the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and even the rulemaking process itself. Meanwhile, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) will consider a bill to limit states' ability to block federally approved infrastructure projects like oil terminals through the CWA.

Public Comments

This week marks the close of public comment periods for at least eight major rulemaking proposals, running the gamut from sweeping changes such as reworking how the agency uses outside research and cost-benefit analysis in regulation, to sector-specific changes including repeal of the 2015 CWA jurisdiction rule, RFS blending volumes for 2019 and formulation documents for the first 10 chemical-safety reviews under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act.

The proposals were developed under former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and environmentalists are eyeing them as an early “test” of whether acting agency chief Andrew Wheeler is willing to break with his predecessor on substantive policy issues.

CWA Certification

EPW is holding an Aug. 16 hearing as the latest step in Republicans' pushback against what they say are abuses of the CWA section 401 “certification” process, under which states can impose water quality conditions on federal permits for energy and other projects. EPW Chairman Sen. John Barrasso has accused Washington and New York of using section 401 to block energy projects including oil terminals for political reasons, and introduced a bill to limit that authority, but the effort is meeting opposition from states.


EPA's Wheeler is slated to spend Aug. 13 at the Iowa State Fair with the state's Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), Rep. David Young (R) and other state-level officials -- driving speculation that he could announce new steps on RFS reform that will favor corn-producing states that benefit from the ethanol market. Those steps could include opening a rulemaking process to allow year-round sales of 15-percent ethanol fuels (E15). Such a move could ease congressional relations for Wheeler with corn-state lawmakers who support the RFS, after Pruitt's refiner-friendly RFS policies cost him support among members of Congress that back the program.


EPA is hosting its latest in a series of community engagement events on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Aug. 14 in Fayetteville, NC. The agency is continuing to weigh the potential for federal regulation of the drinking water contaminants, although wastewater utilities are urging it to narrowly tailor those policies and make sure they are based on sound research in order to avoid setting unreasonable burdens on the sector.

ACWA Meeting

The Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) is holding its annual meeting Aug. 13-15 in Portland, OR. The agenda focuses on EPA-state cooperation, and includes updates from the agency on its CWA jurisdiction policy, the section 401 certification conflict, and the Trump administration's shift toward giving states more room to assume authority over CWA section 404 dredge-and-fill permits.


EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) will meet Aug. 14-16 in Boston, MA. The meeting's agenda includes environmental justice issues specific to Boston, EPA Region 1's work on the subject in New England, and NEJAC's pending report from its workgroup on water infrastructure financing.

Supreme Court

The American Bar Association is hosting an Aug. 14 webinar reviewing the past Supreme Court term and looking ahead to the next one due to start Oct. 1, focused on discussion of Brett Kavanaugh as the nominee to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. The panel includes former special prosecutor Ken Starr, who worked with Kavanaugh on investigations of the Clinton White House in the 1990s.

Tribal Lands

The National Tribal Lands & Environment Forum runs Aug. 13-16 in Spokane, WA. The theme of the forum is water issues, but the agenda also covers hazardous sites, tribal relations with the Trump administration more generally, enforcement issues and other topics.

EPA Research

EPA is hosting a workshop on its Non-Targeted Collaborative Research Trial program Aug. 13-15 in Durham, NC.