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The Week Ahead

McCarthy To Tout GHG Rules In First Speech, House Panel Weighs EPA's FY14 Funding

Posted: July 29, 2013

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will give her first major speech as agency chief this week, which is expected to focus on the agency's climate policy agenda. House lawmakers will hold an appropriations committee markup of a bill that would significantly cut EPA's funding. And the Senate environment panel will hold a hearing as part of its review of toxic chemicals regulation.

At EPA

Newly confirmed EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is slated to give her first speech as agency chief when she delivers remarks July 30 at Harvard Law School, with a focus on her agenda as administrator and the agency's climate change agenda and efforts to cut carbon pollution.

The speech is seen by observers as part of a broader effort by the Obama administration and its allies to promote the president's second-term climate plan, which includes a centerpiece directive for EPA to craft first-time greenhouse gas (GHG) rules for existing and future power plants. McCarthy's speech at the college in Cambridge, MA, could touch on these and other GHG policies.

GOP senators who oppose EPA climate rules are attacking the utility GHG regulations and other climate controls, releasing a report doubting climate science and the need for EPA rules.

A panel of ICF International energy experts will hold a July 30 webinar to discuss the pending new source performance standards (NSPS) for existing and newly constructed utilities, focusing on their effect on power generation markets, implications for power prices, generating assets, their owners, and investors and other issues, according to the firm's website.

Advocates of the NSPS rules are launching a counter-effort including McCarthy's speech, plans for the president and members of the energy Cabinet in coming months to try and build public support for Obama's climate plan, and other public outreach efforts to defend the effort. The push-back comes a month after Organizing for Action -- a nonprofit political arm created to defend Obama's policies -- started a campaign to build public support for Obama's climate agenda.

Whichever side is able to win the campaign for public opinion on the rules could therefore strengthen its position ahead of expected floor debates in the House and Senate on efforts to stymie the climate policies through stand-alone legislation or amendments to bills.

Meanwhile, EPA is holding a July 30-Aug. 1 Community Involvement Training Conference in Boston, MA, to discuss bolstering community input in environmental policy.

The event includes panel discussions of topics including options for advancing environmental justice in environmental decisionmaking; an EPA employees-only discussion of the agency's new equity screening tool known as “EJ Screen,” case studies from the Department of Defense on public engagement, and other topics.

Echoing the impacts of Obama's climate action plan across all aspects of the agency, the agenda also includes a discussion on raising awareness of climate change in urban communities.

Meanwhile, EPA is hosting a webinarto discuss community input for risk management decisions at vapor intrusion sites as part of its Community Involvement Training Conference. The July 30 session is part of the agency's growing effort to better address risks from vapor intrusion, which occurs when contaminants in groundwater and soil vaporize and migrate into the lower floors of buildings potentially causing exposure. EPA is currently working to develop a guidefor mitigating vapor intrusion risks, though industry is concerned that the agency's proposal will be overly burdensome.

Following the 90-minute session, EPA officials are also expected to participate in a second webinar also taking place July 30 on vapor intrusion hosted by the Bureau of National Affairs.

EPA is expected to issue its response July 30 in a pending lawsuit that challenges the agency's approval of two neonicotinoid pesticides that environmentalists and beekeepers claim are killing pollinators. Environmentalists and beekeeping groups March 21 filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks to suspend the registrations of clothianidin and thiamethoxam, and also challenges EPA's handling of pesticides, saying the agency uses conditional registrations to rush toxic pesticides to market without adequate review.

A group of EPA advisors is preparing to review aspects of the agency's Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) related to weight of evidence, the latest in a series of meetingspeer reviewing Tier I screening in the program. EPA's Science Advirsory Panel (SAP) will meet July 30-Aug. 2in Arlington, VA, to review EPA's weight-of-evidence process for the first tier of screening. The SAP has already raised concerns about EDSP and whether the tests used in the program are sufficient.

EPA is hosting a webinar July 31 on its pending Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment for inorganic arsenic in an effort to gain more stakeholder feedback prior to the assessment's completion.The session (https://epa.connectsolutions.com/arsenic_webinar/ ) will feature a presentation on arsenic's carcinogenicity by EPA scientist Dr. Andrew Kligerman. Arsenic has long been under review by the agency.

Though a draft was released in 2010, industry and Republicans claimed it was overly stringent and would have driven costly and unattainable regulatory requirements. EPA scrapped the draft and has been working on a new assessment, which is required by Congress to be submitted for review by the National Academy of Sciences when completed.

And EPA's Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC) will meetAug. 1-2 in Washington, DC, to review a series of EPA activities that could effect children, including the agency's pending risk assessment for trichloroethylene (TCE) and its guidance for assessing environmental justice issues in regulatory analysis. In addition, the advisory group will discuss recent advice for agency science advisors to determine a maximum contaminant load level for perchlorate and finalize its recommendations on the agency's human health benchmarks for pesticides in water.

In Congress

The House Appropriations Committee is slated to hold a July 31 markup of EPA's fiscal year 2014 funding bill, a measure that in its current form would cut EPA's budget by $2.8 billion, or 33 percent from current funding levels, the bulk of which comes from EPA's state and tribal assistance, along with measures to block dozens of new or pending agency rules and policies.

The legislation would also completely eliminate funding for new brownfields grants, drastically cutting back the popular program just as EPA is touting its effectiveness and the Senate is considering a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the redevelopment grants and target them to rural communities.

The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hosting a July 31 hearing entitled “Strengthening Public Health Protections by Addressing Toxic Chemical Threats” as part of its effort to look at whether and how to reform the decades-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The hearing comes as Republicans and some Democrats are pushing for approval of a compromise bill, S. 1009, that would reform the law, but falls short of requests by advocates. Environment committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) does not support the bill and has pledged to combine it with certain provisions from an environmentalists'-backed bill, S. 696, and other measures in a chairman's markup, raising questions over whether Republicans will continue to support the legislation.

Members of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee will hold a July 30 hearing to discuss the Nuclear Waste Administration Act, a comprehensive bill that marks an attempt by senators to move beyond an impasse over permanent disposal of the country's commercial and defense nuclear waste. Without agreement on a permanent repository, spent fuel has been stored on-site at commercial reactor facilities around the country, including areas at risk for earthquakes and other natural disasters, the senators said at the time of introducing the bill.

The bill would create a new independent agency to oversee nuclear waste, removing the Energy Department's management of the program; authorize the construction of interim storage facilities; and authorize one or more permanent waste repositories, established through a consent-based process, among other measures.

Other Events

The Department of Energy is holding the first meeting of three to take comments on a draft $8 billion loan guarantee solicitation to fund advanced fossil fuel power plant technology as part of President Obama's second-term climate change agenda. The July 31 meeting in Washington, D.C., will be followed by two additional meetings on Aug. 14 and Aug. 27.

The Texas Environmental Superconference takes place Aug. 1-2 in Austin, TX, with a focus on key environmental policy areas including air, waste, water and energy regulation.

For example, the agenda for the eventincludes panels where EPA Region VI officials, environmentalists, state officials, lawyers and others will discuss the latest in case law on solid waste, air quality, and other topics.

Meanwhile, officials from California EPA will host a stakeholder workshopJuly 30 to gain input on its proposal to expand chemical warning labels under the state's controversial chemical labeling law, Proposition 65. The session is aimed at gaining input on what information should be included on a product warning label in an effort to determine how to expand the warnings, one of a slew of changes Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is proposing to make to the program.

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