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The Week Ahead

Posted: October 27, 2014

CAAAC Weighs EPA's Air, Climate Programs; EAB To Hear Landmark TSCA Challenge

EPA's Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC) is meeting this week to discuss a host of agency air and climate programs, including EPA's efforts to curb air toxics emissions and the proposed rules to cut power plants' greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Meanwhile, the agency's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) will hear arguments in a landmark case testing when violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) are subject to a statute of limitations.

CAAAC Meeting

CAAAC will meet Oct. 28-29 in Washington, D.C., to discuss a broad array of agency air policies including compliance monitoring, the proposed GHG rules for power plants, toxics controls, the New Source Review program, environmental justice considerations, and Clean Air Act permits. Janet McCabe, the acting head of the Office of Air and Radiation, and Matt Tejada, head of the environmental justice program, are scheduled to speak.

The meeting comes as EPA has formally asked CAAAC to craft recommendations on the future of the agency's air toxics program, including which air toxics the agency should target in future regulations. The meeting is CAAAC's first in-person discussion of the issue since it received that charge, and its first opportunity to review EPA's 2014 urban air toxics report, which labeled the chemicals acetaldehyde, acrolein and naphthalene as warranting further investigation.

TSCA Reporting Rules

Oral argument is set for Oct. 30 before the EAB in Elementis Chromium's landmark appeal of an EPA enforcement order that will test the statute of limitations for TSCA reporting violations. The company -- the sole domestic manufacturer of hexavalent chromium (Cr6) -- is appealing a $2.5 million penalty for failing to notify EPA of a 2002 study showing increased lung cancer risks for workers exposed to Cr6.

EAB has said that it is “particularly interested” in Elementis' argument that the five-year statute of limitations on reporting violations had expired when EPA began enforcement proceedings in 2010, despite EPA's arguments that violations of TSCA's health safety data reporting requirements as "continuing,” meaning every day the company failed to notify officials of the study could be considered a new violation. Even if the board rules for EPA as expected, Elementis could appeal that decision to a federal appellate court, setting up a first-time appellate review of when the federal statute of limitations applies in TSCA reporting cases.

Refinery Air Rules

The public comment period on EPA's proposed rules for air toxics emissions from refineries is set to close Oct. 28, with industry expected to continue attacking the justification for the draft rule, on the argument that without a showing of increased risk from refinery emissions, the agency cannot justify a more stringent standard for the sector. Environmentalists are arguing that while they support the core provisions of the proposal, EPA should set stricter emissions limits and require continuous fenceline monitoring for several air toxics to better inform nearby communities.

EPA's pending refinery proposals, released in May, would tighten requirements in two rules setting maximum achievable control technology air toxics rules, as well as a new source performance standard for flares. The proposals include tighter emissions limits for various pieces of equipment, and ending emission limit exemptions for periods of startup, shutdown and malfunction.

Risk Management Plans

Comments are due by Oct. 29 on EPA's request for information seeking input on dozens of possible changes to strengthen its Risk Management Plan (RMP) program. The RMP, authorized by section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act, currently requires facilities to report holdings of threshold levels of certain chemicals and reduce risk of their accidental release.

In its July 24 request, the agency announced that it is considering revisions to clarify or strengthen process safety requirements, such as maintenance of critical equipment and planning for emergency responses, adding new chemicals to the RMP list, as well as new requirements related to siting of facilities and consideration of inherently safer technologies -- the use of alternate chemicals or processes advocates say reduce the likelihood or consequences of a release.

Waste Management Policy

EPA officials are set to speak at and moderate a series of panel discussions during the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials' (ASTSWMO) annual meeting Oct. 29-30 in Reston, VA. Officials will discuss tools for corrective action at contaminated sites, the agency's program for addressing underground storage tanks, and all aspects of EPA's regulatory regime, including the e-manifest system now under development for tracking shipments of hazardous wastes.

Exposure Modeling

EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs is holding an Oct. 28 public meeting on exposure modeling in Arlington, VA, with items on the agenda including the potential for pesticides to "drift" into nearby communities and methods of modeling impacts from the chemicals on endangered species.

The meeting comes as environmentalists may be pursuing a settlement with EPA in the long-running pesticide "mega suit" that would require consultations with federal wildlife officials on the potential endangered species impacts of pesticide registrations. And the agency is considering revisions for how it considers drift as an exposure pathway, with environmentalists arguing that it requires stricter regulation while industry groups are saying that draft policies released in January ignore new advancements that can prevent drift, and urging EPA to instead rely on voluntary adoption of "Drift Reduction Technology."

On Oct. 29, the agency is hosting a workshop and webinar on a new revision of its spatial aquatic model for estimating chemical exposure, which officials say is designed to more accurately determine the magnitude and duration of chemical exposures in addition to predicting where exposures will occur.

Risk Assessment

EPA's bimonthly meeting on the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) is set for Oct. 29-30, with an open forum on Cr6 that includes a panel of mostly industry speakers; the lone exception is David Ting, chief of California EPA's Pesticide and Environmental Toxicology Branch.

The meeting comes as the National Academy of Sciences is preparing to start a new EPA-funded project selecting speakers for future meetings after environmentalists argued that past discussions of Cr6 heavily represented industry, with just two speakers in a 2012 panel not associated with industry groups.

Green Infrastructure

EPA's second annual Community Summit on Green Infrastructure is running Oct. 26-28 in Cleveland, OH, with an agenda that focuses on using stormwater volume to measure the success of a green infrastructure project, developing strategies to drive property owners and local governments to adopt green infrastructure, and maximizing climate resilience and other secondary benefits from the technologies.

The agency is urging local stormwater authorities to implement green infrastructure, which uses methods such as permeable pavement and rain gardens to reduce stormwater runoff, both through permit requirements and a voluntary “collaborative” launched over the summer to partner with federal agencies and private sector entities to provide funds for at least 25 “green” water infrastructure projects.

Clean Power Plan

EPA is hosting an Oct. 30 workshop for environmental justice (EJ) communities seeking to weigh in on the agency's controversial proposed rule limiting GHG emissions from existing power plants. The workshop is aimed at highlighting elements of the plan “that are important to communities with environmental justice concerns,” and briefing community representatives on how to take part in the public comment process.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently rejected EJ advocates' calls for the agency to assess the impacts of its proposed GHG rule for existing utilities on EJ, instead urging the advocates to embrace the proposal due to its widespread health benefits.

Design For The Environment

Comments are due Oct. 31 on EPA's proposed updates to the Design for the Environment (DfE) label program. Changes to the label, which indicates that a product indicating complies with agency requirements for safer ingredients and transparency, are intended to better communicate product safety to consumers and attract interest from product and chemical manufacturers who may want to participate in the program. The update comes after a report from EPA's Inspector General said that few participating companies had made clear that the DfE label is not an explicit endorsement of a product by EPA.

Environmental Finance

EPA's Environmental Financial Advisory Board is set to meet Oct. 28-29 in Washington, D.C., including a discussion of the agency's closely watched proposal for updates to its framework for assessing communities' ability to pay for new infrastructure upgrades needed to comply with Clean Water Act (CWA) mandates. The framework has been in development since 2013 but has come under fire after officials indicated that it will only allow limited consideration of communities' Safe Drinking Water Act obligations.

Other Events

EPA is sponsoring an Oct. 29 webcast on climate resilence that will focus on lessons from the latest National Climate Assessment report, including discussion of the agency's new Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans, designed to help communities craft vulnerability asssessments and address potential risks from climate change impacts.

EPA is hosting an Oct. 30 webinar to discuss its April report, “Moving Toward Sustainability,” which outlines recommendations for water and wastewater utilities to improve business practices while “maintain[ing] compliance with all appropriate regulatory requirements.” EPA's Jim Horne will speak on the report.