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The Week Ahead

As New York City and the surrounding region struggles to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the storm, its fallout and potential policy impacts are taking center stage in the upcoming election and beyond.

Environmental Policy Impacts Of Hurricane Sandy

Posted: November 5, 2012

The storm is already having significant policy fallout, in part by highlighting differences between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney over climate change -- an issue that was largely absent from the election.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- who endorsed President Obama's re-election due to his support for EPA's greenhouse gas and other rules -- is slated to receive the Environmental Law Institute's (ELI) 2012 Award for Achievement in Environmental Law, Policy, and Management at the institute's annual dinner Nov. 8.

ELI officials are highlighting Bloomberg's 2007 PlanNYC, which has added greenspace, made buildings more energy efficient and taken scores of other steps to reduce the city's carbon footprint. ELI officials are suggesting Bloomberg's plan it could be a model for other urban areas seeking to reduce their environmental impact and provide a starting point for those seeking to strengthen their infrastructure to limit the impact of climate change.

“The City of New York under Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership is setting a world class example for the smart cities of the future” ELI Board Chairman Edward Srohbehn Jr, said in a press release. “While cities occupy just two percent of the world’s landmass, they have an enormous environmental footprint, consuming 75 percent of the world’s energy and contributing more than two-thirds of its greenhouse gases.

ELI is also hosting its annual Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum Nov. 8 that is titled “Sustainable Cities: Harnessing Urbanization to Achieve Social and Environmental Goals.”

The forum will focus on what will drive innovation to make cities -- what ELI calls “the proving ground for sustainable development” -- even more environmentally and energy efficient than they already are (at least compared to rural areas) and what roles' different players should take.

Speaking of climate change, the National Academy of Sciences panel developing advice on “Understanding and Monitoring Abrupt Climate Change and its Impacts,” is hosting its first meeting Nov. 5-6. Among those slated to address the panel is James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, who has long warned about the impact of GHG emissions on climate change and who has long advocated for “a gradually rising fee on carbon collected from fossil-fuel companies, with 100 percent of the money rebated to all legal residents on a per capita basis. This would stimulate innovations and create a robust clean-energy economy with millions of new jobs. It is a simple, honest and effective solution.”

The Obama administration's recent appeal of a ruling finding they failed to adequately assess the stormwater impacts of a permit for anticipated new development highlights litigation that environmentalists are likely to file as they force agencies to address potential impacts of climate change.

The storm is already having some local policy impacts. In New Jersey, state officials are planning to speed passage of rules easing stream maintenance requirements for municipalities -- though environmentalists are concerned that state officials are using the storm “as cover” to weaken stream buffer requirements under the state’s Clean Water Act antidegradation program.

In the coming days, many legal, policy and political experts are planning events to outline the impact of the election on environmental and other policy matters. Check back on InsideEPA.com for continuing coverage.

In case you missed it: our most recent Week Ahead included a rundown of some of the changes that are in store for EPA, what policies are likely to advance or be targeted for roll-back, potential candidates for top slots at the agency and how Congress is likely to react.

Policy Debates

How to create a policy and regulatory framework to deal with nanotechnology is getting some high-profile attention this week.

The National Academy of Sciences panel that is crafting an research strategy to assess environmental health and safety effects of the emerging technology is hosting its sixth meeting Nov. 7. Two top EPA officials are slated to address the panel.

And a new organization, the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization, is hosting its first meeting in Washington, DC, through Nov. 6. The group says the conference “will address the critical aspects of sustainable nanotechnology such as life cycle assessment, green synthesis, green energy, industrial partnership, environmental and biological fate, and the overall sustainability of engineered nanomaterials.”

Other items we will be watching:

EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee's ozone panel will hold a teleconference Nov. 5 to draft advice on EPA's latest efforts to assess the risks of ozone. The advisors have already suggested that EPA consider regulating the pollutant at levels as low as 55 parts per billion (ppb), well below the current level of 75 ppb.

EPA's Children's Health Advisory Committee is slated to meet Nov. 7-8 to provide advice on how agencies should address risks of lead exposure and weigh a host of policy matters, including EPA's air quality standards, pending development of EPA's perchlorate drinking water standard and other issues.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit holds oral arguments Nov. 7 in Honeywell International Inc. and E.I. Du Pont De Nemours And Company v. EPA, the latest litigation over EPA efforts to create a trading program for ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

Comment Deadlines

EPA is taking comment though Nov. 5 on its proposal to harmonize its manifest rules for transporting PCB waste with its Resource Conservation and Recovery Act manifest rules.

The agency is also taking comment through Nov. 8 on its proposal rejecting a push by advanced biofuel producers to expand the renewable fuel standard (RFS) to allow heating oil biofuels used in boilers and power production to earn credit under the RFS, a loss for industries seeking the expansion as a method to ease compliance with EPA's pending boiler air toxics rule by using the lower-emitting oil.