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The Week Ahead

EPA Advances New Chemical Testing Methods; Comments Due On Ozone NAAQS Review

EPA is hosting a science conference this week to advance research into new approaches to chemical safety testing as part of a broad initiative to reduce animal testing. Meanwhile, the agency is closing the public comment period on the staff policy assessment that recommended no changes to the ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) last updated in 2015.


EPA toxics chief Alexandra Dunn will speak at a Dec. 17 agency conference in Washington, D.C., focused on new methods for chemical safety testing that do not rely on animal studies, as part of a long-standing EPA initiative to move the sector away from animal testing.


Comments are due Dec. 16 on EPA staff’s draft policy assessment (PA) that recommends retaining the 2015 ozone NAAQS of 70 parts per billion (ppb). A majority of the agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee endorsed that recommendation at a Dec. 6 meeting, voting 6-1 to keep the “primary” health-based limit in place, and unanimously backing the current “secondary” standard designed to protect the environment. EPA is aiming to issue a final rule by late 2020 to either keep the current standards in place or alter them.

Water Quality Trading

Dec. 18 is the comment deadline for EPA’s request for input on several policy options for boosting the use of water quality trading among “nonpoint” sources of pollution like farms, after the agency released a new guidance on the subject this spring. The document has drawn a mixed reaction, with urban stormwater and agriculture officials praising EPA for encouraging market-based approaches, while environmentalists question its lack of enforceability.

Power Plant ELG

EPA will host a Dec. 19 online hearing to take comment on proposed revisions to its Clean Water Act effluent limitation guidelines (ELG) for coal-fired power plants. The proposal, which seeks to create a voluntary program where facilities can agree to more stringent requirements in exchange for a longer compliance timeline, would ease technology mandates for treating two forms of wastewater from the plants, but nonetheless expects better environmental outcomes compared with the 2015 ELG the agency is rewriting.


Officials with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) are expected to unveil (node/22446) a proposal for sweeping changes to implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) during a Dec. 17 conference in Washington, D.C., marking the law’s 50th anniversary, hosted by the Environmental Law Institute. CEQ Chairman Mary Neumayr is slated to give opening remarks, and CEQ General Counsel Viktoria Seale will speak on the future of NEPA.

Climate Change

Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee are planning a Dec. 17 press conference on Capitol Hill to announce “landmark” climate change legislation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from public lands “while simultaneously promoting positive climate actions so that the total net contribution of public lands to greenhouse gas emissions is zero by 2040.”

The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee’s panel on environment will hold a Dec. 19 hearing on the economic impacts of climate change and “the costs of inaction.”

Water Reuse

Comments are due Dec. 16 on EPA’s draft action plan for water reuse that proposes 46 actions the federal government could take to better coordinate policies to ensure water availability and mitigate the risks posed by droughts. The agency is planning to winnow down that list to 20 for which it will craft detailed implementation plans.


The National Academy of Sciences is hosting a Dec. 16 workshop in Washington, D.C., on “Advancing Urban Sustainability in China and the United States.” The event is a collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and will cover policies that affect sustainable development; academic research into the discipline, including data gaps and priorities for future work; and best practices “for strengthening the science-policy interface” to further both sustainability and U.S.-China collaboration.


A federal district judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California will hear oral argument Dec. 19 in a suit by environmental groups alleging that EPA has unlawfully put off both determining whether areas in Arizona are attaining the 2006 NAAQS for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and crafting a federal implementation plan (FIP) to enforce the NAAQS there. A ruling for the plaintiffs could force EPA to be more aggressive in enforcing both the PM2.5 standard and other ambient-air rules, including new deadlines to issue FIPs.

Air Toxics

Comments are due Dec. 16 on six of EPA’s proposed risk and technology reviews (RTRs) weighing whether past sector-specific air toxics standards are adequately addressing risks and whether new technologies have emerged that could control emissions hazards. Five of the proposed RTRs cover various surface coatings facilities, for cars and light-duty trucks; miscellaneous metal parts and products; plastic parts and products; large appliances; and metal furniture. The sixth governs dyeing of fabrics and other textiles. All six find no “residual” risks requiring a tightening of the regulations.

Computational Toxicology

EPA’s Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice will meet Dec. 19 on “Evolution of the Sequence Alignment to Predict Across Species Susceptibility Tool.”


Dec. 16 is the comment deadline on EPA’s draft risk assessment of the pesticide paraquat dichloride.

Water Planning

EPA will host a Dec. 17 webinar for local officials on ways to integrate planning for water quality improvements with “hazard mitigation” measures like green infrastructure that combats flooding and soil erosion.

Air Monitoring

EPA has set a Dec. 18 webinar on the use of new, less-expensive air sensors as a “complementary method” of measuring air quality alongside agency-approved units that are considered more accurate but too expensive for “citizen science” practitioners seeking to monitor air quality at the community level or near a specific facility.