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The Week Ahead

EPA Poised To Unveil CWA 401 Rule; Stakeholders Weigh In On Georgia Coal Ash Permits

EPA is preparing to release its controversial new rule limiting states’ Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 authority to put conditions on federal permits, as part of an effort to limit use of the power despite opposition from Democratic-led states. Meanwhile, the agency is holding a public hearing on its latest proposal to approve a state coal ash disposal permitting regime, in Georgia.

CWA Section 401

EPA is due to release its rule proposal limiting states’ authority to limit infrastructure and other projects under CWA section 401 by Aug. 8, to meet a deadline set by President Donald Trump in his April 10 executive order on the subject.

The agency has already issued a new guidance restricting 401 authority, but Democratic-led states are vowing to ignore it and say it is incompatible with the law.

Coal Ash

EPA will hold an Aug. 6 public hearing on its proposed approval of Georgia’s permit program for coal ash disposal.

The state is aiming to be a model for regulations that go beyond EPA’s own ash rules by sweeping in “legacy” disposal sites at closed power plants, and facilities that lack “composite” liners to prevent leaks -- provisions that the federal rules do not yet include, though it plans to add them under a 2018 federal court order requiring such limits.


The National Association for Environmental Management is hosting its Impact 19 conference on corporate sustainability Aug. 6-8 in Milwaukee, WI. The agenda is aimed at firms looking to deepen their focus on sustainable operations, and covers broad questions of how to set and achieve sustainability goals as well as specific issues that industry will have to consider as it moves toward those targets.


Comments are due Aug. 7 on EPA’s novel proposal for a Clean Air Act ozone-reduction plan in the Uinta Basin region of Utah that would set up an emissions trading system for ozone-forming precursor pollutants including volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides from oil and gas sources located on tribal land. Environmentalists say the plan is likely inadequate to curb ozone, but still may be reluctant to challenge it because of a deal they have reached with a local tribe not to challenge a related permit “streamlining” plan.

Congressional Review Act

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard oral argument Aug. 5 in Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), et al., v. Bernhardt, et al., environmentalists’ suit challenging the constitutional and statutory basis for the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which the GOP used early in the Trump administration to invalidate a series of Obama-era regulations.

Inside EPA will have coverage of the argument session soon. If CBD and its allies win, it could reinstate some or all of those rules, but also cut off a potential avenue for Democrats to overturn the Trump administration’s deregulatory policies should they win the 2020 elections.

Emergency Response

EPA Region 7 is set to host its Emergency Planning and Response Conference Aug. 8-10 in Omaha, NE. The agenda focuses on chemical safety and risk prevention, and bolstering the operations of local emergency planning committees.

Boat Emissions

Aug. 5 is the deadline for comments on EPA’s proposed delay of compliance deadlines for emissions limits on some marine diesel engines, which were originally set in 2008 and phased in for model years 2014-2017. The agency said the extension is due to “concerns about the limited availability of certified Tier 4 engines that are appropriate for certain vessels.”

EPA Research

EPA is hosting three webinars to highlight agency-funded research. An Aug. 6 presentation focuses on data about recycling used tire crumbs; an Aug. 7 webinar will cover a newly opened Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant for “Advancing Toxicokinetics for Efficient and Robust Chemical Evaluations Applications”; and the Aug. 8 session deals with a separate STAR grant on resiliency to natural disasters.

Energy Efficiency

The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, which are joint projects between EPA, the Department of Defense and Department of Energy, will jointly host an Aug. 8 webinar on energy and water efficiency technologies for the food-service industry.

Climate Change

The National Academy of Sciences is hosting an Aug. 8-9 “research workshop” in Boulder, CO, on sunlight-reflecting technology that would cool the Earth as a “climate intervention” strategy.


EPA’s SmartWay program, which focuses on environmental improvements in the shipping industry, will host an Aug. 8 webinar on its software tool that firms can use to “obtain an emissions profile for their clients, carriers and their own operations.”

ELAB Meeting

The Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board (ELAB), which advises EPA on its “measurement programs” and laboratory accreditations, will hold a meeting on Aug. 5 in Jacksonville, FL.