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The Week Ahead

EPA Seeks Input On Revised Coal Ash Deadlines; NAS Eyes Emerging Microplastics Science

The public comment period closes this week on EPA’s proposed reworking of closure deadlines for coal ash disposal sites, part of a broader effort to revise Obama-era rules for the waste. Meanwhile, the Academy of Sciences (NAS) is looking at emerging technologies that could give new insight into the human health and environmental impacts from microplastics.

Coal Ash

Jan. 31 is the next comment deadline on part of EPA’s ongoing effort to rewrite the 2015 Resource Conservation & Recovery Act standards for coal ash disposal.

The November proposal at issue, one of a long list of planned rules amending the 2015 policy, would move up the first deadline for closing leaking, unlined or unsafe ash sites from Oct. 31 to Aug. 30. The draft rule also adds a host of potential extensions for facilities unable to meet that target, a plan that has already drawn legal threats from environmentalists.


NAS’ standing committee on emerging science for environmental health decisions is hosting a Jan. 27-28 workshop in Washington, D.C., on “Emerging Technologies to Advance Research and Decisions on the Environmental Health Effects of Microplastics.” Inside EPA’s Environment Next service will have coverage of the discussions as part of our reporting on the growing push to control plastic waste, and the role of new technologies in all aspects of environmental protection.


Comments are due Jan. 28 on EPA’s proposal to “correct” reporting requirements in the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program, which requires companies to report annually to the agency how much of each TRI-listed chemical they release into the environment and/or manage through recycling, energy recovery and treatment. The proposed rule would “update identifiers, formulas, and names for certain TRI-listed chemicals,” and update the list of chemicals exempt from reporting to the inventory when under a 0.1 percent concentration considered to be de minimis.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

EPA’s Science Advisory Board panel tasked with peer-reviewing the agency’s draft “computable general equilibrium” (CGE) model designed to assess regulations’ economy-wide costs will hold a Jan. 31 call to discuss and finalize its draft report. The CGE model seeks to advance long-time calls from Republicans, industry and others to adopt to better account for rules' costs, though agency advisors have warned officials to proceed cautiously.


EPA’s Environmental Financial Advisory Board (EFAB) will host a Jan. 30 webinar on financing options for Backhaul Alaska, which coordinates hauling hazardous waste out of the state’s rural communities.

Stormwater Permits

Jan. 27 is the deadline for public comments on EPA’s proposed settlements with industry, municipal and environmentalist groups that would resolve long-running court challenges to two Obama-era Clean Water Act general permits for small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Human Testing

EPA’s Human Studies Review Board, which advises the agency on research that deals with human subjects will meet by webcast on Jan. 30 to discuss research from the Agricultural Handler Exposure Task Force.


The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) will hold its next public business meeting by phone on Jan. 28. The agenda includes open CSB investigations, the status of audits by the EPA Office of Inspector General, “financial and organizational updates,” and a 2017 fatal incident at a Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) facility in Deridder, LA.

Also on Jan. 28, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to highlight “Stakeholder Perspectives on the Importance of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.”

CSB recently proposed an accidental chemical release rule that is drawing competing criticisms, with environmentalists and other advocacy groups saying it weakens reporting mandates to the point of being “useless” while industry entities claim it risks subjecting companies to “inappropriate enforcement.”

Fossil Fuels

The House Natural Resources Committee’s energy and natural resources panel will hold a Jan. 28 hearing on legislation that would force the Interior Department to disclose data on the amount and exact sources of greenhouse gas emissions from energy projects on federal lands. The bill’s sponsors say that information could help inform future plans to reduce those GHGs.

Green Infrastructure

The Environmental Law Institute and the law firm Ballard Spahr will co-host a Jan. 30 conference on green infrastructure in Philadelphia and by webcast. Topics on the agenda include the link between green infrastructure and renewable energy, alternatives to landfills for waste management and risks and returns from “proactive resilience” to climate change.


Jan. 30 is the deadline for comments on EPA’s proposed narrowing of the Obama-era worker protection standards for pesticide handlers. The agency is proposing to shrink the “application exclusion zone” where pesticide spraying is limited in order to protect bystanders.


The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s panels on energy and the environment will hold a joint Jan. 28 hearing on wildfires, focused on the disasters’ impacts on the environment and the power sector.

Drinking Water

EPA will host a Jan. 28 webinar for small drinking water systems on managing and treating contamination from the Legionella bacterium.

Climate Change

The Center for Progressive Reform will host a Jan. 31 “Climate Justice” webinar on how migration driven by sea level rise affects “labor and communities.”

On Jan. 28, the nonpartisan California-based research firm Next 10 plans to release a report on how electric vehicle (EV) adoption will affect the Golden State’s economy, after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) proposed a five-year budget that would reduce rebates for EV purchases.