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The Week Ahead

EPW To Vote On Two Top EPA Nominees; Trump To Deliver Delayed State Of The Union

The Senate environment panel will vote this week on acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler's nomination to head the agency permanently, and Peter Wright's nomination to head the agency's waste office. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver his delayed State of the Union address but it is unclear whether it will include any focus on environmental policies.

EPA Nominees

The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW) will meet Feb. 5 for votes on over a dozen pending matters including Wheeler's nomination to be the permanent EPA administrator. Despite Wheeler's strong GOP support he faces a potential obstacle to the committee vote because of widespread reports that he will avoid setting enforceable drinking water standards for two of the most common perfluorinated compounds, which has drawn bipartisan push-back.

Also on the EPW agenda for Feb. 5 is a vote on Peter Wright, the nominee to head EPA's Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM). EPW approved Wright in 2018 but the full Senate was unable to schedule a confirmation vote before the Congressional session expired.

State Of The Union

Trump will deliver the State of the Union address on Feb. 5, after the original date of Jan. 29 was postponed thanks to the government shutdown. It is unclear how much focus the speech will put on environmental or energy policy in particular, but EPA's budget is likely to be a hot-button subject since it and other agencies that were subject to the shutdown are only funded through Feb. 15, and Trump is still pushing for any long-term spending bill to include money for a border wall that Democrats oppose.

Climate Change

Two House committees are set to hold their first climate-change hearings of the year on Feb. 6, kicking off a broad push by the chamber's new Democratic leadership to focus its environmental work on climate policy and oversight.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee's environment panel will focus its hearing on “Addressing the Environmental and Economic Effects of Climate Change,” while the full Natural Resources Committee is slated to discuss “Impacts and The Need to Act.”

Environmental Law

Wheeler will deliver the keynote address at the American Legal Institute-Continuing Legal Education environmental law conference Feb. 7-8 in Washington, D.C. Other agenda items include discussions on Clean Water Act liability for groundwater pollution, EPA and state efforts to address perflourinated compounds and recent developments at the Supreme Court.

Human Testing

Comments are due Feb. 4 on EPA's proposed rule that would amend its policies governing scientific research on human subjects, in order to “harmonize” those mandates with new changes to the multi-agency “Common Rule” on human testing.

Clean Energy

The full Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee will hold a Feb. 7 hearing on the “Status and Outlook of Energy Innovation in the United States.”

On Feb. 6, Politico has scheduled a pair of panel discussions on “clean energy innovation,” with speakers including Obama-era energy secretary Ernest Moniz and Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), who chairs the House Energy & Commerce Committee's energy panel.

Neomi Rao

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a Feb. 5 hearing on White House regulatory affairs chief Neomi Rao's nomination to be a judge on the key U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, replacing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in his prior position. Rao is seen as a potential nominee to the high court if another seat opens during Trump's term in office, and environmentalists are already attacking her record as a champion of the administration's deregulatory work.