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The Week Ahead

EPA Weighs Ozone, RFS Policy Comments

Posted: October 9, 2012

EPA is getting ready to weigh another round of comments on its forthcoming ozone air quality standards -- one of its mostly highly anticipated pending rulemakings -- and industry groups are likely to make a strong push to prevent the agency from strengthening the current standard. The agency is also preparing to accept comments on pending petitions to waive the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and a separate petition seeking RFS greenhouse gas credits for use of combined heat and power at an ethanol plant.

In litigation news, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is slated to hold arguments from the roadbuilding industry over EPA's approval of California air rules for non-road construction engines.

At EPA

Comments are due Oct. 12 on the agency's most recent draft documents that it will use to justify its upcoming national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone -- the highly anticipated rule likely to strengthen the Bush administration's 2008 standard set at 75 parts per billion (ppb). EPA's science advisors recently recommended that the agency assess limits as low as 55 ppb, though industry groups are already signaling they are likely to oppose any tightening of the standard.

EPA is evaluating a novel petition seeking credit under the agency's renewable fuel standard for a method to credit greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from installation of combined heat and power systems at a North Dakota ethanol refinery under its renewable fuel standard (RFS). Comments on the petition are due Oct. 9.

Speaking of the RFS, comments are also due Oct. 9 on several petitions urging EPA to waive the standard due to the economic harm it causes to livestock and other sectors facing high grain prices. Supporters and opponents of the waiver are already sparring over how to quantify alleged "economic harm" from the RFS -- which sources say likely previews arguments in a legal fight over whatever EPA decides.

A peer review panel is meeting in Arlington, VA, Oct. 9 to review EPA's recently issued draft human health risk assessment framework, a document that is intended as the first formal step toward implementing recommendations in a seminal 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on improving risk assessments. But environmentalists, as well as a host of industry and federal officials, are already raising concerns.

In Court

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is slated to hear oral argument Oct. 12 in the latest step in the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's (ARTBA) years-long legal fight to bar state emissions regulation of non-road engines, such as construction equipment, locomotives, and other engines not designed for on-road use.

In this case, ARTBA is appealing a district court ruling finding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear ARTBA's suit seeking to change EPA regulations.

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