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The Week Ahead

House Takes Aim At PFAS After NDAA Falls Short; EPA Weighs Input On Coal Ash Rule

The House is moving forward with a bill to force strict EPA action on per- and polyfluoroakyl substances (PFAS) after similar measures failed to make the cut in the recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). EPA is holding a public hearing on its latest proposal to rework Obama-era rules for disposal of coal ash, focused on closure mandates for “unlined” disposal sites.

PFAS

The House is poised to take up ambitious PFAS legislation this week, starting with a Jan. 7 Rules Committee hearing on H.R. 535, which would require EPA to list perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) -- the two most common chemicals in the class -- as hazardous substances under the Superfund law, and set a five-year deadline for the agency to consider whether to designate all other PFAS as hazardous substances either individually or in groups. The bill also requires EPA to regulate the substances under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

However, even the bill’s Republican supporters doubt it can clear the GOP-led Senate, especially after similar provisions were cut out of the consensus NDAA, and are urging Democrats to back bipartisan PFAS language approved by the Senate environment committee instead.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Pennsylvania’s eastern district will hear argument Nov. 9 in Kristen Giovanni, et al. v. Navy. There, Pennsylvania residents are demanding that the military pay for medical monitoring to detect health issues that may develop after PFAS exposures, but the Navy says such claims are barred by the Superfund statute.

Coal Ash

EPA Jan. 7 will hold an online “virtual public hearing” on its Nov. 4 proposal to rewrite parts of the Obama-era coal ash disposal standards. The proposal would force waste sites that lack protective “composite” liners to close -- as required by a 2018 appellate court decision -- but also adds new potential deadline extensions for those facilities and any others that are shutting down in order to comply with the rule.

However, EPA is also readying a follow-up proposal that appears aimed at softening the unlined-site ban, as it would “provide a mechanism in which unlined surface impoundments meeting strict criteria would be allowed to continue to operate.”

Superfund

Comments are due Jan. 7 on EPA’s Nov. 8 proposal to add five new sites to the National Priorities List of high-priority Superfund cleanups, including groundwater plumes in Blades, DE, and Edina, MN; a scrap-metal yard in Henryetta, OK; lead-contaminated residential yards in Caney, KS; and a textiles finishing plant in Clearwater, SC.

Nonpoint Sources

The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee will hold a Jan. 7 hearing on the Clean Water Act’s state-led programs for managing pollution from “nonpoint” sources such as stormwater runoff, with testimony from Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality nonpoint source chief Jennifer Zygmunt and Maryland Department of the Environment head Ben Grumbles.

Heavy-Duty Trucks

EPA is taking its first steps to roll out the long-awaited “Cleaner Trucks Initiative” proposal this week, following a Jan. 6 event in Marshall, VA, where Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed an advance notice of proposed rulemaking seeking input on plans to limit heavy-duty trucks nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions starting with model year 2027. Industry is backing a federal NOx rule in part over concern that California will set stringent limits ahead of EPA, and that other states could then adopt the Golden State’s limits.

WRDA

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s water panel will hold a Jan. 9 hearing on proposals for the next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes Army Corps of Engineers water infrastructure projects but also usually includes substantive policy measures on federal water issues.

EFAB

Nominations to EPA’s Environmental Financial Advisory Board (EFAB) are due Jan. 6. The board offers advice to the agency on a wide range of financial and funding-related issues, such as methods of financing local water infrastructure improvements and waste cleanups. Wheeler is expected to announce the next round of appointments to EFAB in June.

Energy

The American Petroleum Institute will hold its annual “State of American Energy” event, where leaders of the industry group lay out their policy and economic outlook for the coming year, on Jan. 7 in Washington, D.C.

NCSE Meeting

The National Council for Science and the Environment is holding its annual meeting Jan. 6-9 in Washington, D.C. Topics on the agenda include a wide range of environmental-policy issues including climate change, the National Environmental Policy Act and EPA’s decision-making process.

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