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The Week Ahead

EPA Seeks Input On CWA Groundwater Guide; SAB To Weigh High-Profile Rulemakings

This week marks the public comment deadline for EPA’s Clean Water Act (CWA) guidance that says the law puts no limits on groundwater-borne pollution, a policy that echoes industry groups’ claims in a closely watched Supreme Court case. Meanwhile, the full Science Advisory Board (SAB) will meet to discuss several Trump administration regulatory priorities at EPA.

Groundwater Pollution

Comments are due June 7 on EPA’s April 15 guidance where it rejects any CWA liability for pollution that travels through groundwater to protected surface waters. The agency says that “the best, if not the only, reading” of the water law is that it only limits discharges directly into “waters of the United States.” The Supreme Court is poised to decide the same issue in the pending case County of Maui, HI, v. Hawai'i Wildlife Fund, et al., where EPA has argued as an amicus that the county should face no CWA penalties for underground wastewater injections that flowed into the Pacific Ocean, backing industry groups’ arguments.

SAB Meeting

The chartered SAB is slated to meet June 5-6 in Washington, D.C. The panel’s agenda includes an address from EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, discussions of major controversial rule proposals including the replacement CWA jurisdiction rule, the science transparency rule, guidelines for chemical risk assessments, the interagency “action plan” for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and other planned actions on the agency’s unified rulemaking agenda.

Chemical Assessments

The National Academy of Sciences is hosting a June 3-4 workshop on “evidence integration” in chemical risk assessments. The agenda focuses largely on “challenges” assessors face in developing and communicating conclusions on chemicals’ human-health effects.

Climate Change

The full House Science Committee will hold a June 4 hearing on global biodiversity losses, following a recent report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that warned of “unprecedented” acceleration in the rate that species are going extinct due to climate change and other human-caused factors.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit will hear oral argument June 4 in Juliana, et al., v. United States, the closely watched suit brought by a group of youth who say the federal government’s continued use and promotion of fossil fuels that cause climate change violates the Constitution’s due process clause. The 9th Circuit is hearing a rare interlocutory appeal of a district judge’s order allowing the case to go to trial, which is a step that the government has fought to avoid.

The District of Columbia Bar Association will host a June 6 panel discussion on the law and policy aspects of climate adaptation efforts, from local and national perspectives.

The Environmental Law Institute is sponsoring a June 7 panel on the future of low-carbon fuel standards in the Pacific Northwest.


The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will host a June 4 roundtable discussion on the potential for “sensibly reforming” the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program (CFATS). Those reforms have been floated as a vehicle for data-sharing and process safety requirements that the Obama administration imposed in a tightening of the Clean Air Act Risk Management Plan rule, and which the Trump EPA has proposed rolling back.

Vehicle Emissions

The House Appropriations Committee will mark up and vote on its fiscal year 2020 funding bill for the departments of transportation, housing and agriculture at a June 4 meeting, including a vote on a policy rider for the transportation budget that would block EPA’s work with the agency to weaken Obama-era vehicle efficiency standards.


EPA’s SmartWay program, which focuses on environmental controls in the shipping industry, will host a June 5 webinar on sustainability issues at airports.


The Water Environment Federation will host its Collection Systems Conference for wastewater systems and operators June 4-7 in Indianapolis, IN.

Ignitable Liquids

June 3 is the deadline for public comments on EPA’s April 2 proposal to update existing test methods and codify past guidance under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act for “ignitable” liquids that can be considered hazardous wastes subject to the law.