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The Week Ahead

States Launch Talks To Limit Cross-State Air Pollution; EPA Takes Comments On 2013 RFS

Posted: March 4, 2013

State environmental commissioners are slated to launch discussions on ways to limit cross-state air pollution following an appellate court's rejection of EPA's emissions trading program. EPA is hosting a public meeting to take comment on its proposed 2013 blending mandates for its renewable fuel standard.

In The States

State environmental commissioners are meeting in Scottsdale, AZ, March 4-6 for the annual Spring meeting of the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS).

One of the major items on the agenda is the launch of a round of talks between upwind and downwind states over how to curb interstate air pollution.

The issue has become more urgent after a federal appeals court scrapped EPA's Cross-State

Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and declined requests from EPA and others to reconsider the ruling, leaving many litigants to ponder a review petition to the Supreme Court.

Even before the court's ruling, officials in downwind states said that the reductions from CSAPR would not be sufficient to help them meet stricter EPA ozone standards, and claimed downwind states are paying an economic and environmental price for upwind states' failure to more tightly control pollution from power plants and other major sources. Connecticut's Gov. Dan Malloy (D) warned last year that "our patience has run out. The time to curb these emissions is now. If necessary, the Northeast states will press this case at the highest levels of our federal government and the highest courts in the nation."

Source says officials from dozens of state environmental agencies will try to address the various complications of the ruling vacating CSAPR when they convene for the ECOS meeting. Sources say that Collin O'Mara, secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and Bob Martineau, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, will lead the discussions at ECOS on future options for interstate air pollution planning. The talks will focus in part on the fallout of the ruling vacating CSAPR.

Other topics slated for discussion include the budget cuts EPA is facing due to the recent sequester and other upcoming budget negotiations; state efforts to ensure their greenhouse gas (GHG) rules are considered “equivalent” to any future EPA standard for existing facilities; concerns over EPA's proposed guidance documents for considering petitions filed under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act; prospects for reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and other issues.

At EPA

EPA is hosting the first of several public meetings to take comment on its recently issued proposal setting volumetric mandates for refiners to blend different biofuels feedstocks to comply with the renewable fuel standard (RFS) in 2013.

The proposal, published in the Federal Register Feb. 7, is likely to be controversial as EPA is proposing to require blending of significantly more low-carbon cellulosic fuel than what the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is anticipating will be produced .

Together with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), EPA is holding a March 5-6 summit to consider ways to limit pollinators' exposure to harmful pesticides, a long-standing issue of concern.

One issue that is not slated for discussion is EPA's approach for addressing the potential risks pesticides pose to bees and other pollinators.

Speaking of bees and other bugs, EPA, USDA and other agencies are hosting a March 5-6 meeting to discuss ways that integrated pest management can be used to limit the spread of tick-borne diseases.

On Capitol Hill

Several hearings of note are scheduled for this week:

The House energy committee's energy and power subcommittee is holding a March 5 hearing on the role of fuel diversity in providing affordable electricity. According to a committee memo on the hearing, topics of discussion include challenges to maintaining fuel diversity in the nation’s electricity generation portfolio; advanced, efficient technologies that can help maintain a diverse electricity mix; and potential impacts of reduced fuel diversity on consumers.

The committee's commerce, manufacturing and trade subcommittee is hosting a March 6 hearing on the U.S. automobile sector's growth and path forward. Topics of discussion could include various EPA rules, including GHG emissions standards and upcoming Tier III rules governing fuels and engines. According to the subcommittee's memo on the hearing, topics for discussion include: What steps can or must be taken by the Federal government to nurture the environment that enabled the industry's positive growth over the past few years and “to what extent are there opportunities for easing or simplifying regulatory burdens on the industry?”

The House science committee's environment subcommittee is hosting a March 6 hearing that seeks to place “policy-relevant” issues on climate change in context. Among those slated to testify is Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, who has long charged that the benefits of limiting GHGs as a means of mitigating climate change effects are so small that the money could be better spent on aiding development in the developing world.

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