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The Week Ahead

House Weighs ‘Green’ COVID-19 Response; EPA Asbestos Assessment Faces Peer Review

House Democrats this week are looking at the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on environmental justice (EJ) communities and the potential for a “green recovery” from the crisis. Meanwhile, an EPA advisory panel is set to peer review the agency’s long-awaited draft risk assessment of asbestos.

COVID-19

The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s environment panel will hold a June 9 online hearing about the “disproportionate impact” of the COVID-19 pandemic on EJ communities. Witnesses on the agenda include former EPA EJ head Mustafa Santiago Ali; Jacqueline Patterson, senior director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) environment and climate justice program; and Shay Hawkins, president of the nonprofit Opportunity Funds Association.

Also on June 9, the House Natural Resources Committee will host an online forum on proposals for an environmentally friendly stimulus plan to counter the economic downturn spurred by the coronavirus. Inside EPA’s Environment Next service has covered the mounting calls for a “green recovery” focused on climate-resilient infrastructure spending and support for renewable energy.

Asbestos

EPA will convene its Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) June 8-11 to peer-review the agency’s draft risk evaluation of asbestos. The long-awaited study found that multiple evaluated uses of the substance poses “unreasonable” cancer risks via inhalation exposure to workers in several industry sectors, occupational non-users, consumers, or bystanders from consumer use, but in early comments state officials and environmentalists attacked the assessment’s scope as too narrow while industry argued that it overstates exposures and risks.

Supreme Court

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) will host a June 12 webinar on how the Supreme Court is handling environmental cases during the pandemic, including its recent decision on groundwater pollution, County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, et al., and still-pending cases expected to go before the court in its 2020-21 term.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A panel of EPA’s Science Advisory Board will meet June 9 to continue its work on the review of a proposed update to the agency’s guidelines for calculating the costs and benefits of air rules. EPA is advocating “reduced-form” modeling tools that it says would reduce burdens on air regulators, although some of the agency’s own staff appear wary of the shift.

EPA Science

EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors Subcommittee on Chemical Safety for Sustainability/Health and Environmental Risk Assessment (HERA), which advises the agency on its scientific and research agendas, will meet June 10 to finalize its report on the agency’s draft HERA strategic research action plan.

Nanotechnology

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will host a June 9 webinar to present data from its recent review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which coordinates nanotechnology-related research and development at EPA and 25 other federal agencies. That review featured discussions of how nanotechnology development has frequently outpaced regulators’ ability to assess it.

Natural Disasters

The American Bar Association will host a pair of June 11 webinars on the environmental aspects of natural disaster response and resiliency, with a focus on climate change. First, EPA attorney Catherine Garypie will speak on a panel discussing “How to Protect Communities: Facilitating and Coordinating Responses to Disasters.” That will be followed by a discussion on climate adaptation, including protection against sea-level rise, more frequent storms and climate-driven wildfires.

Superfund

EPA’s Superfund office will host a June 10 web forum on recent developments at the Portland Harbor cleanup site in Oregon. The agency recently rejected a formal request from industry parties to pare back the cleanup remedy for the massive site.

Private Sustainability

ELI will host a June 10 webinar on “Innovative Solutions to Fast Fashion Challenges,” targeting the environmental impacts of rapid shifts in the fashion industry that often lead to disposal of massive amounts of clothing and textiles.

Environmental Health

The NAS panel reviewing research on integrating aging issues into environmental health research will meet June 9-10 for a wide-ranging workshop including presentations from EPA scientists, officials from other federal agencies, and states.

Mining

ELI will host a June 11 webinar on regulatory issues surrounding deep-seabed mining, including habitat protection and its potential role in providing critical minerals for renewable energy and electrification technologies.

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