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The Week Ahead

House appropriators are beginning work on their fiscal year 2021 environmental spending bills, teeing up a fight over Democrats’ efforts to boost EPA’s budget that will start with subcommittee markups this week. Meanwhile, stakeholders are weighing in on the agency’s long-awaited study that found no need to mitigate environmental “backsliding” caused by the renewable fuel standard (RFS).

Appropriations

The House Appropriations Committee’s panel on interior, environment and related agencies will mark up its draft FY21 spending bill on July 7. The draft includes $9.38 billion for EPA, which amounts to a $318 million raise from its current funding -- including boosts for water infrastructure and regulatory work, with some of the extra funds targeted specifically for efforts to set enforceable water standards for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The subcommittee on energy and water, which has authority over the Army Corps of Engineers and often includes Clean Water Act (CWA) policy provisions in its bills, also will hold a markup on July 7.

RFS

Comments are due July 8 on EPA’s finding that there is no need for new measures to mitigate air quality effects from the RFS, largely because the agency’s separate Tier 3 fuels regulation achieves most of the pollution cuts needed for mitigation. The study found that one pollutant in particular, acetaldehyde, is increased by the blending of ethanol into motor fuel, and that the Tier 3 rule does not mitigate these emissions -- but that EPA has no other regulatory tools to limit its release, making further mitigation futile.

Climate Change

The Environmental Law Institute will host a July 10 webcast on state policies that could create “a just transition” to low-carbon policies that would reduce emissions while protecting communities at risk from climate change impacts as well as cuts to energy use, transportation and other greenhouse gas sources. Specifically, the discussion will focus on laws in New York, Illinois and Washington, D.C., as potential models for future action.

California will host a July 9 environmental justice (EJ) event to showcase “stories” from disadvantaged communities, as part of the state’s California Climate Investments program that uses funds from cap-and-trade auctions to further EJ and environmental initiatives more broadly.

Wood Stoves

EPA is taking comments through July 6 on its proposed extension of a sales cutoff for older, high-emitting wood heating appliances that cannot meet new emissions standards, which the agency agreed is needed due to the economic downturn sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Democrats and environmentalists are opposing the plan, and California in particular has declared it will continue enforcing the current rule, whose May 15 cutoff has already passed, until EPA finalizes the extension.

Green Infrastructure

EPA will host a July 8 webinar on green infrastructure as part of contaminated-site cleanups, using the Ferrous Site brownfields cleanup in Lawrence, MA, as a case study.

CWA Delegation

Comments are due July 6 on EPA’s potential reconsideration of its long-standing position that Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation is not necessary when states seek to assume CWA authority to issue permits for wetlands dredge-and-fill activity. The agency has held since 2010 that assumption of the water law’s section 404 permit power does not trigger ESA duties, based largely on a 2007 Supreme Court ruling. But Florida -- one of several states weighing a move to take on that power -- is arguing that the agency is wrong and consultation is mandatory.

Recycling

EPA is also taking comment through July 6 on potential updates to its long-standing guidance outlining how federal agencies should prioritize purchasing certain goods made with recycled or reused materials. The agency has given few hints of what the update might include, but expanding the comprehensive procurement guidelines could be an answer to groups that have called for the federal government to use its position as one of the largest purchasers of many products to tilt the market toward recycled materials.

Energy

The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), which are joint projects between EPA and the energy and defense departments, are hosting a July 9 webinar on securing the military’s energy infrastructure from cybersecurity threats.

EPA Research

EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) will meet July 7 to consider its draft report weighing in on the EPA research office’s human health and environmental risk assessment research program’s Strategic Research Action Plan. The meeting agenda also includes briefings from agency staff on the COVID-19 pandemic and plans for minimizing animal testing in chemical assessments.

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