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The Week Ahead

Administration Prepares To Delay GHG Rules, Key Chemical Risk Reviews Proceed

Posted: March 18, 2013

Administration officials appear to be getting ready to confirm publicly that they will likely miss their self-imposed April deadline to promulgate long-awaited greenhouse gas (GHG) rules for new power plants. EPA is hosting another meeting to gather data for its pending assessment of arsenic's risks, while separate National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panels are beginning reviews of EPA's risk assessment process, as well the risks posed by styrene and formaldehyde.

GHG Policy

White House energy and climate advisor Heather Zichal is slated to address a March 19 summit hosted by Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), a group dedicated to limiting dependence on oil, where she will almost certainly face questions over a series of recent reports, including one in Inside EPA, indicating that the administration is likely to delay EPA's pending GHG rules for new coal-fired power plants.

While the delay should not come as a surprise (Zichal has previously downplayed the rule's prospects), some sources say completion of the GHG new source performance standards for new plants could complicate a pending proposal to craft a separate NSPS for existing plants -- a top priority for environmentalists.

A recent story in the Washington Post also indicated that the agency is preparing to begin revising its proposed NSPS for new plants. The press reports come as the administration nears the one-year mark from when the proposal was first issued.

So far, administration officials have not commented on the record on the reports, though Zichal and other officials have said that EPA is continuing to review the millions of comments the agency received on its proposal.

Discussion of EPA's climate change regulation is also likely to get attention at a March 18 symposium hosted by Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), chair of the Senate environment committee's clean air panel. The symposium is intended “to review common sense policy options under the Clean Air Act to regulate power plant greenhouse gas emissions,” according to Carper's announcement. Speakers include Dirk Forrister, president and CEO of the International Emissions Trading Association, David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Kyle Danish of Van Ness Feldman.

Chemical Risk Assessments

EPA's National Center for Environmental Assessment is hosting a March 20 webinar to gather more data for use in its pending Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment of arsenic's risks. The event is one of a series of meetings that EPA is hosting as it works to revise a controversial draft assessment and to improve its process for conducting IRIS assessments.

EPA's webinar comes as several NAS panels are preparing to hold meetings to assess EPA and other agencies' risk assessments. One NAS panel is slated to hold a March 27-29 workshop to continue its review of the IRIS assessment process. The latest workshop will focus on EPA's weight-of-evidence approaches, which industry groups have long criticized.

Another NAS panel is slated to meet March 19-20 to review the National Toxicology Program's assessments of formaldehyde and styrene -- a review that will likely influence EPA's pending assessments of the chemicals.

In other chemical news, conservation groups are preparing to call on EPA to strengthen controls on the controversial neonicotinoid class of insecticides, adding pressure to the agency to more strictly regulate the chemicals amid concerns over their pollinator risks. The American Bird Conservancy is slated March 19 to issue a report that faults EPA's current method for assessing the pesticides' risks to aquatic organisms.