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The Week Ahead

Debates Brew Over EPA's Ozone Science, Diesel Fracking Guide

Posted: August 20, 2012

EPA this week will be digging into the controversy over the stringency of ozone air quality standards as comments roll in on its latest scientific review. The agency will also be reviewing comments over its diesel hydraulic fracturing guide.

EPA's landmark vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency rule could be released as early as this week, but a round of White House meetings with industry groups is delaying final release. Regardless, the regulation is expected to be released sometime in the coming weeks -- in the midst of the presidential election campaign.

Here's more on the upcoming events at EPA, in Congress and elsewhere:

At EPA

Comments are due Aug. 20 on EPA's latest draft review of the adverse health impacts from ozone -- which rejects calls by the agency's science advisers to conclude a "likely" causal link between cardiovascular effects and ozone exposure.

A closer connection between short-term ozone effects and cardiovascular impacts could lead EPA to set a stricter national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ozone. Industry officials have pushed back on claims that short-term exposure results in harmful cardiovascular effects.

EPA holds a Sept. 11-13 meeting to discuss the Integrated Science Assessment of ozone.

Comments are also due Aug. 23 on EPA's diesel fracking guide, a document that has already prompted sharp divisions between environmental and energy regulators at the state level. EPA and some state environmental agencies believe fracking operations that use diesel should be subject to drinking water permits, a position rejected by some state energy offices.

EPA released its draft guidance May 4 and extended the comment period in July. EPA last week promulgated its landmark rules for regulating air emissions at fracking operations, though as expected, industry groups have petitioned the agency to revise some controversial provisions. Environmentalists are expected to indicate their plans for revising the rules as soon as this week.

Comments are due Aug. 20 on the consent decree EPA entered with environmentalists on new source performance standard for landfills. Observers say EPA's review of the landfill NSPS could lead to first-time standards on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

EPA officials will make presentations on the mercury and air toxics standard and other toxics rules on Aug. 21 at a workshop in Timonium, MD, sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association. The workshop runs Aug. 21-22. EPA recently announced that it was delaying implementation of aspects of its utility air toxics rule.

The administration had been slated to release its vehicle greenhouse gas rules as early as Aug. 15 but a series of meetings with industry groups and others appear to be delaying the final rollout. Still, the package could be released soon -- just as the presidential campaign heats up.

On Capitol Hill

Lawmakers are campaigning or enjoying an August break prior to the national party conventions, which begin next week with the Republican convention in Tampa.

The House Natural Resources Committee holds a field hearing Aug. 25 at Florida State University to discuss the state of U.S. fisheries, including a look at how regulations are affecting the industry.

Otherwise, the congressional agenda is quiet this week.

Also On The Agenda

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard will be in Charlotte, NC, on Aug. 23 as part of API's “Vote 4 Energy” campaign.

He will also deliver a speech to the Charlotte World Affairs Council.

Gerard announced last week that API is sending letters to the Obama and Romney campaigns urging them to make energy issues central to their debates. API is focusing on educating voters on energy issues in North Carolina and four other battleground states: Ohio, Florida, Colorado and Virginia.

Gerard said EPA rules are having a “chilling effect” on energy investments.

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