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The Week Ahead

EPA Weighs Comments On Latest Coal Ash Proposal; Agencies Present Climate Research

EPA will host a public hearing this week on its most recent proposal to overhaul the Obama-era coal ash disposal rule, which environmentalists have argued will spur a “race to the bottom” among states. Meanwhile, EPA along with the departments of defense and energy is presenting new research into modeling species’ responses to climate change.

Coal Ash

EPA has scheduled an in-person public hearing on its latest proposed revisions to the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) coal ash disposal standards for Oct. 2 in Arlington, VA. The hearing will focus on a July 30 proposal to rework how the rule treats uncontained “piles” of ash being prepared for either reuse or long-term disposal, but which environmentalists have already argued improperly bases the federal standard on the weakest active state policies and could thus kick off a “race to the bottom.”

Climate Change

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 Oct. 3 webinar highlighting new research into how genetic factors affect species’ ability to adapt to climate change. The presentation will include details on a “novel individual-based model” intended to use environmental conditions and data on individual animals “to produce realistic population-level demographic patterns” in response to changing climate conditions.


The Environmental Law Institute’s GreenTech Conference on the relationship between technological advances and new models of environmental protection runs Oct. 1-3 in Seattle, WA, with an agenda that includes current and former EPA officials along with a slate of industry figures working on the front lines of those advances. Inside EPA will have full coverage of the event through our Environment Next service.

Air Quality

EPA will host its triennial conference on air modeling Oct. 2-3 in Research Triangle Park, NC. EPA and state scientists will discuss a host of scientific issues related to air emissions modeling, both in terms of specific models like vehicle emissions and cross-cutting issues like the effects of wind speed on air pollution.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court begins its 2019-20 term on Sept. 30 with its “long conference,” where it will consider a litany of pending petitions for review before hearing the first oral arguments of the fall on Oct. 1. So far the high court is slated to hear two environmental cases in the coming months: County of Maui v. Hawai'i Wildlife Fund, et al., over Clean Water Act liability for groundwater pollution, which is set for argument Nov. 6 despite the Hawaiian county Maui government’s recent move toward settlement; and Atlantic Richfield Company v. Gregory A. Christian, et al., which tests the scope of the Superfund law’s bar on pre-enforcement judicial review and will be argued Dec. 3.

On Oct. 4, the American Bar Association will host a webinar reviewing key environmental decisions from the Supreme Court’s previous term.

Air Toxics

Comments are due Oct. 4 on EPA’s proposed risk and technology review (RTR) of existing air toxics standards for “miscellaneous” coatings manufacturers. Following a pattern set by the Trump EPA’s prior RTRs, the proposal finds no need to tighten current standards, but takes steps to eliminate waivers for startup, shutdown and malfunction events in line with an appellate court ruling that struck down such policies.

Site Characterization

EPA’s Office of Research and Development will host an Oct. 2 “virtual workshop” on site characterization.


Comments are due Sept. 30 on EPA’s proposal to set new allowances for the production and consumption of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are major contributors to degradation of the ozone layer, between 2020 and 2030.


Oct. 4 is the deadline for comments on a proposed consent decree between EPA and environmental groups that would set a timeline for the agency to approve or reject a set of long-delayed state implementation plans for compliance with the 2012 sulfur dioxide (SO2) national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS).