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The Week Ahead

EPA Officials Defend TSCA Review Policy, Vehicle Emissions Research Before NAS Panels

EPA officials are set to appear this week before two National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panels, the first reviewing the agency’s controversial guidance laying out a “systematic” approach to assembling data for Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) chemical assessments, and the second on the state of emissions reduction technology for light-duty vehicles.

TSCA

The NAS panel reviewing EPA’s “systematic” approach to gathering and evaluating scientific evidence that factors into its TSCA risk assessments will meet June 19 for a session including presentations from agency officials on how they have applied the policy.

Meanwhile, June 15 is the deadline for companies to identify any errors in or claim exclusions from EPA’s preliminary list of manufacturers, importers and other firms whose products include any of the next 20 substances designated by the agency as “high-priority” for risk assessment and are thus required to pay fees to support those assessments.

Inside EPA will have full coverage of these and other developments under the revised toxics law in our new service, Inside TSCA.

Vehicle Emissions

EPA officials will also present at an NAS meeting on emissions-reduction technology for light-duty vehicles, slated for June 16. That panel’s work will factor into the agency’s future “phase 3” vehicle emissions standards, slated to govern model years 2025-35.

Recycling

The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW) will hold a June 17 hearing on plastic waste and recycling issues, including testimony from Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) on his pending bill known as the “Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act” that would add a suite of new restrictions on plastic production while boosting support for recycling, including through novel “extended producer responsibility” principles.

On June 18, the American Bar Association (ABA) will host a webcast on plastic waste and water pollution, as part of its online environment “conference” that also includes a panel on water resource issues.

Nominations

Controversial former EPA toxics advisor Nancy Beck, whose tenure included crafting the TSCA systematic review document now under NAS scrutiny, will go before the Senate Commerce Committee at a June 16 hearing as the Trump administration’s nominee to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Also this week, the Senate is likely to hold a floor vote on the nomination of Justin Walker to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which hears challenges to most EPA rules. Walker is currently a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, and is seen as a likely opponent of most environmental regulations.

COVID-19

Both the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s panel on energy and the full Senate Energy

Committee will hold June 16 hearings on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the power sector. The House hearing will feature testimony from Obama-era energy secretary Ernest Moniz, American Council on Renewable Energy President and CEO Gregory Wetstone, and ClearPath Executive Director Rich Powell. The Senate hearing will include witnesses from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the International Energy Agency, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of State Utility Advocates.

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute, a sustainability focused non-profit, will hold three web briefings this week on issues that link the COVID-19 recovery with climate change, focused in particular on rural areas -- part of the broader push for a “green recovery” from the virus and associated economic downturn. That includes a June 16 event on energy efficiency; a June 17 presentation on the bioeconomy; and a June 18 briefing on community-level disaster response.

Clean Water Act

EPA will host a June 17 webinar on its rule limiting state reviews of federal Clean Water Act (CWA) permits under the law’s section 401. The final rule issued last week is narrower than the proposed version but still includes strict new limits on section 401 reviews that states are all but certain to challenge as unlawful.

Green Chemistry

The Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference will run online June 15-19, with an agenda that includes discussions of EPA’s Safer Choice program, its green chemistry research, state policies and an array of technical issues like finding sustainable replacements for fossil-fuel-based products.

Transportation

The full House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will meet June 17 to mark up Democrats’ proposed surface transportation bill. The $494 billion spending plan, known as the INVEST in America Act, includes several initiatives aimed at cutting greenhouse gases from vehicles -- which Republicans have seized on as reasons to oppose it, signaling a difficult path forward for the bill.

Novel Policies

The Environmental Law Institute (ELU) will host a June 18 webinar on first-of-their-kind “unicorn” solutions to novel problems like climate change and cross-media environmental degradation, such as floating infrastructure to combat the effects of sea level rise.

EPA Research

EPA will host three June 17 webinars on its research programs, including Small Business Innovation Research grants; its joint work with states under the Office of Research and Development; and Science to Achieve Results grants for research on childhood dust and soil ingestion.

Energy Cleanups

EPA and the Energy Department will co-host a June 17 webinar on the Trump administration’s requested budget cuts for the massive cleanup project at the Hanford nuclear complex in Washington state. The cuts are despite documents that indicate site managers have said they need almost $1.5 billion more than requested to fulfil their legal obligations.

Agriculture

ELI will host a June 17 webinar on sustainable agriculture, including best practices among the industry, sustainability-focused provisions in the current Farm Bill and more.

Air Pollution

William Reilly, EPA administrator for President George H. W. Bush, will speak on modern and historical efforts to reduce air pollution at the online premiere of the film Unbreathable: The Fight for Healthy Air, part of the D.C. Environmental Film Festival.

EnviroAtlas

EPA will host a June 17 webinar to showcase its EnviroAtlas, a “data-rich, web-based decision support tool” for factoring geographic and location-based data into decision-making processes.

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