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The Week Ahead

Lawmakers Weigh EPA’s FY21 Budget Request; Chemical Advisers Start TCE Peer Review

House appropriators will hold their first hearing this week on EPA’s fiscal year 2021 budget request, with Administrator Andrew Wheeler likely to face tough question on steep proposed cuts to the agency’s funding. Meanwhile, EPA science advisers are set to meet to discuss peer-reviewing the draft Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) assessment of the solvent trichloroethylene.

FY21

House and Senate committees have hearings this week on the Trump administration’s FY21 budget requests for EPA itself as well as clean-energy programs at the Department of Energy (DOE). The White House is seeking a 26 percent cut to EPA’s budget -- from its current funding level of $9 billion down to $6.7 billion -- but lawmakers of both parties have said the request is “dead on arrival” in the split Congress.

In the House, the appropriations committee’s panel on interior, environment and related agencies will meet March 4 to consider EPA’s request, with Wheeler as a witness.

Meanwhile, two Senate committees have set hearings to question Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette on DOE’s budget request, including its treatment of energy-efficiency and clean-energy programs as well as site cleanups. The chamber’s full energy and natural resource committee will hold its hearing on March 3, and the appropriations committee’s panel on energy and water will hold a March 4 hearing with Brouillette.

TSCA

EPA’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals will hold a March 3 virtual meeting to prepare for its upcoming peer review of the draft risk assessment for the commonly-used solvent TCE. The draft found unreasonable risks from TCE for exposed workers and consumers under TSCA, even though the agency declined to use a controversial study indicating potential for congenital heart defects that industry has long disputed.

Pebble Mine

Oral argument is set for March 2 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation et al. v. Chris Hladick, et al., the consolidated efforts to reinstate an Obama-era Clean Water Act (CWA) proposal to limit the scope of the planned Pebble Mine, a massive planned hard-rock mine that critics say would pose a major threat to salmon fisheries in nearby Bristol Bay. The plaintiffs say that EPA’s Aug. 30 withdrawal of the proposal was not supported by the record and lacked a reasonable explanation, but the agency is seeking to dismiss the case.

House Legislation

The House Science Committee will hold a March 4 legislative markup for three environment bills. H.R. 4656 would require EPA and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine to craft a report on the causes of naturally occurring “background” ozone emissions that cannot be regulated, which some states blame as the only reason they are violating federal ozone limits; H.R. 5519 would task the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with researching the potential impacts of climate geoengineering methods; and H.R, 3297 would exempt federal efforts to track harmful algal blooms from government shutdowns caused by a lapse in appropriations.

Chemical Assessments

ChemCon The Americas, an industry-led conference on chemicals laws, runs March 2-6 in Philadelphia, PA. The agenda includes discussions of TSCA, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act and EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory program, as well as other countries’ regulatory and legislative regimes.

The Federal Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, which analyzes chemicals’ toxicity and calculates recommended safe levels outside of EPA’s risk-assessment process, is taking comment through March 5 on draft toxicological profiles for seven substances: 1,2-Dichloropropane, 1,1-Dichloroethene, Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), DDT/DDE/DDD, Chlorobenzene, Hexachlorobutadiene, and 1,1,2-Trichloroethane.

Clean Energy

The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s panel on energy will hold a March 3 hearing on the role of advanced nuclear power technology in a zero-carbon energy system, as part of its ongoing series of discussions on “Building a 100 Percent Clean Economy.”

The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) will host its annual policy forum March 3-4 in Washington, D.C. Speakers on the agenda include Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Garrett Graves (R-LA), along with various industry and non-government organization figures.

Lawmakers in Illinois are set to consider a clean-energy bill based on progressives’ Green New Deal (GND) framework on March 4. If enacted, the “Clean Energy Jobs Act,” would set mandatory targets for the state to achieve zero-carbon power generation adding it to the list of states such as New York that have adopted GND principles in statute.

Resources for the Future (RFF) will host a March 4 “conversation” in Washington, D.C., with Ernest Moniz, who served as energy secretary in the second term of the Obama administration. The event will focus on “ongoing international climate negotiations, his proposal for a ‘Green Real Deal,’ and new and existing technological innovations that could help to mitigate carbon emissions and climate change.”

RFF will also host a March 5 workshop in Washington, D.C., on the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s recently released 2020 Annual Energy Outlook for 2020, focused on how the agency modeled its projections of future low-carbon power generation.

Energy Policy

The Bipartisan Policy Center will host a March 3 panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on how energy infrastructure could change “to keep up with economic growth and reduce carbon emissions,” focused on a report crafted by the National Petroleum Council that called on Congress to smooth needed infrastructure work by revising the National Environmental Protection Act permit-review process and developing a national climate change policy.

The Institute for Policy Integrity will host a March 3 conference in Washington, D.C., on the use of carbon pricing in wholesale energy markets.

Plastic Waste

The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s environment panel will hold a March 4 hearing on issues related to plastic waste, particularly recycling as a path to addressing the issue. While it is not a legislative session, the hearing sets up a chance for backers of at least two competing bills on the subject to debate how to reduce the growing levels of plastic waste in landfills and waterways.

CWA Regulations

Comments are due March 4 on EPA’s proposed consent decree with environmental groups that would give the agency 24 months to propose a new CWA rule governing responses to a “worst case discharge” of a hazardous substance. The groups sued over EPA’s failure to promulgate such a rule, which they say is mandated by the water law.

Materials Management

EPA will host a March 5 webinar as part of its Sustainable Materials Management series about “deconstruction,” rebuilding and resiliency efforts following natural disasters, focused on lessons from Hurricanes Katrin and Irene.

FERC

The Senate Energy Committee will hold a March 3 hearing to consider James Danly’s nomination as a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) member.

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