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The Week Ahead

Congress Weighs Paths To End EPA Shutdown; Attorneys Eye High Court ‘Deference’ Case

Both the House and Senate are readying legislation that would restore operations at EPA and other shuttered agencies, but Democrats and Republicans are still at an impasse on the immigration issues at the core of the fight. Attorneys are examining the upcoming Supreme Court case that could be a venue for limiting deference to executive agencies.


The House Rules Committee has scheduled a Jan. 22 meeting to set the terms for a floor vote on H.R. 648, which is Democrats’ latest proposal to restore funding to EPA and the other executive agencies that have been shuttered due to a lapse in appropriations. The shutdown, which is entering its second month, has led to delays for key EPA actions such as chemical assessments and statutorily mandated rules.

However, President Donald Trump is standing firm on his demand for any new spending bill to include $5.7 billion for a border wall, and the Senate is poised to take up a counter-proposal to the Democratic plan that also includes major new limits on asylum applications opposed by the House majority, meaning the standoff is likely to continue.

Judicial Deference

The American Bar Association (ABA) is hosting a Jan. 24 teleconference on the upcoming Supreme Court case Kisor v. Wilkie, where the justices will consider whether to overturn the so-called Auer doctrine that gives deference to agencies on their “reasonable” interpretations of ambiguous rules. The case offers a chance for the high court’s newly entrenched conservative majority to set new limits on agency deference, a long-standing goal of congressional Republicans.

EPA Events

Editor's Note: The following EPA-organized events could be postponed if the government shutdown continues, but at press time the agency's website listed them taking place as originally planned.

EPA’s Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice is scheduled to meet Jan. 24 to discuss the Systematic Empirical Evaluation of Models framework for developing consensus models for predicting chemical exposures.

EPA’s SmartWay transportation program has set a Jan. 23 webinar to highlight various designation and verification mechanisms for fuel-saving technologies in trucks.

House Oversight

The House Energy & Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over much of EPA's activity, will meet Jan. 24 for an organizational meeting where Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) will formally designate the panel's subcommittee chairs and memberships, as well as other committee leaders. While those appointments have already been announced, formalizing them is a necessary procedural step before the committee holds any hearings under the new Democratic majority.

Vehicle Efficiency

A National Academy of Sciences panel will meet Jan. 24-25 in Davis, CA to lay groundwork for an upcoming report on fuel-efficiency technologies for light-duty vehicles in the years 2025-35. Any such report will feed into the next round of efficiency standards, beyond 2026, the last year subject to Obama-era rules that the Trump administration has proposed rolling back.


The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) will host a Jan. 23 webinar on the potential to use loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program to support nutrient-reduction efforts in the upper Mississippi River.

Climate Resiliency

ABA is planning a Jan. 23 webinar on climate resiliency efforts being undertaken at the municipal or tribal levels, as well as through litigation.

Arctic Policy

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee will hold a Jan. 24 roundtable discussion on the United States’ “overall role in the Arctic,” including mineral and fossil fuel extraction as well as “environmental stewardship” issues.


ELI has set a Jan. 24 panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on drivers toward a “circular economy” model of sustainable resource use, including closed-loop recycling and materials reuse.