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The Week Ahead

EPA Officials Weigh Monitoring Issues; Environmentalists To Detail Coal Mine GHG Suit

Posted: August 5, 2013

Representatives from EPA's water, toxics and other offices will debate key environmental monitoring issues at a four-day conference this week. In court, environmentalists are slated to outline their initial claims in a suit challenging EPA's denial of their Clean Air Act petition asking the agency to craft a rule to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal mines.

At EPA

Officials from EPA's water, pesticides and other offices will be giving presentations at the National Environmental Monitoring Conference taking place Aug. 5-8 in San Antonio, TX.

According to the event's website, presentations from agency staff will focus on issue including maximizing the value of existing water monitoring technologies, monitoring pesticides in the environment and collaborative opportunities for analytical method development in environmental measurement processes.

With Congress in recess until Sept. 9, EPA and other Obama administration officials are expected to use this month to tour the United States in an effort to build support for the president's second-term climate agenda, including the pending new source performance standards (NSPS) to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing and future power plants.

While the Obama administration pursues a campaign to win public support for the climate rules, the consulting firm ICF International will hold an Aug. 8 webinar on “NSPS and Carbon Emissions: Getting Where We Need To Go” to assess options for the climate rules.

Dan Lashof, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate & Clean Air Program, will host the event. According to ICF International's website, the discussion will address the questions of what is the most effective way to mitigate carbon emissions in the power sector, and what can “truly be achieved in this decade” on curbing GHGs.

Meanwhile, EPA's Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee will hold an Aug. 8 teleconference. The panel provides “policy advice, information, and recommendations to the EPA Administrator on a range of environmental issues and policies that are of importance to agriculture and rural communities,” according to a Federal Register notice of the meeting.

In Court

Environmentalists are slated Aug. 9 to file their opening statement of issues in a lawsuit challenging EPA's denial of their petition asking the agency to craft a climate NSPS for coal mines.

The suit, WildEarth Guardians v. EPA, et al., pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, challenges EPA's formal denial on April 30 of a petition they and other environmentalists filed in 2010 that asked the agency to make a Clean Air Act finding that emissions of methane, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from coal mines "endanger" public health or welfare. Such a finding would automatically trigger an air law mandate to craft new source performance standards for coal mines.

Deputy EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe, in an April 30 response to the petition he wrote while serving as acting agency chief, said the denial was not based on whether mines cause or significantly contribute emissions that endanger public health or welfare, but was because EPA needed to “prioritize its regulatory actions” and said that limited resources mean the agency needs to focus GHG regulatory efforts elsewhere.

An attorney at Earthjustice, on behalf of environmentalists, on May 5 filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the "entire administrative record" that EPA used when preparing and justifying its response to the petition, along with "all records of communication" regarding the original 2010 petition and EPA's April 30 response -- data that could bolster the legal challenge.

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