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The Week Ahead

House Pushes Back On EPA Science Policies; Comments Due On Interstate Ozone Petition

House Democrats are holding a pair of hearings this week targeting the Trump administration’s use of science at EPA and other agencies, including the plan to shutter as many as a third of advisory committees. Comments are arriving on the agency’s proposed denial of a petition from New York seeking strict ozone controls on upwind power plants, which is likely to lead to a fresh court challenge on the subject.

EPA Science

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee has scheduled two hearings this week targeting Trump administration plans to limit regulators’ use of scientific research and advisory panels.

A July 16 hearing, hosted jointly by the committee’s oversight and environment panels, focuses on EPA’s use of science advisory committees, just as the role of the agency’s Science Advisory Board is in doubt and a recent executive order could require it to cut a third of its advisory committees by the start of the fall.

And on July 17, the research and oversight panels will hold another joint hearing on scientific integrity at federal agencies generally. Debate there is likely to cover EPA’s controversial science transparency rule that would prevent regulators from taking action based on any scientific research where the underlying data are not publicly available -- a requirement that science groups and environmentalists say would exclude scores of reliable health studies.

Ozone Petitions

Comments are due July 15 on EPA’s proposal to reject a Clean Air Act petition from New York seeking direct federal regulation of ozone-forming air pollution from hundreds of industrial sources in upwind states. If the agency finalizes its decision as planned it will set the stage for the next in a series of lawsuits over similar petition denials over interstate ozone transport.

Citizen Science

EPA is hosting a July 16 workshop in Durham, NC, on performance targets for consumer-grade air sensors that detect carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and coarse particulate matter. The quality of data generated by such sensors has long been a barrier to greater use of citizen science in environmental enforcement, planning or regulation, and EPA’s workshop -- the second in a series -- aims to build consensus on standards at least for non-regulatory purposes.

Arsenic

A National Academy of Science (NAS) panel will meet July 16 in Washington, D.C., to review EPA’s protocol documents and other supporting material for the hotly-anticipated Integrated Risk Information System analysis of inorganic arsenic.

July 15 is the deadline for EPA to issue new Clean Water Act (CWA) human health-based water quality criteria for arsenic and small organisms in Idaho, under a 2016 court settlement with environmentalists that followed the agency’s rejection of state-crafted standards in 2010 that it deemed too lenient.

Climate Change

The House select committee on climate is holding a July 16 hearing on “cleaning up” heavy-duty vehicle emissions and “protecting communities."

Also on July 16, the House Natural Resources Committee’s panel on energy will meet for a hearing on the climate impacts of “business as usual” oil and gas development.

The CO2 Coalition, a think-tank that claims carbon dioxide emissions are beneficial to the environment, is holding a July 15 event in Washington, D.C., attacking recent proposals for a carbon tax.

Toxicology

The International Congress of Toxicology will meet July 15-18 in Honolulu, HI, with an agenda that covers in-depth scientific issues in toxicology as well as broader subjects of environmental health and the use of “big data” in assessments.

NEJAC

Nominations to EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NEJAC) are due July 15. While NEJAC is moving forward with scrutiny of the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda, it could be on the chopping block under the executive order requiring agencies to terminate many of their advisory panels, since it was created by EPA voluntarily rather than being mandated under law.

Energy

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will deliver a keynote address at the U.S. Energy Association’s Advanced Energy Technology Forum on July 17 in Washington, D.C. The agenda features other energy regulators and industry figures who will “explore technological innovation and advances in the energy sector.”

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute has scheduled a July 16 briefing in Washington, D.C., on “equitable solutions” to rural energy issues, focused in particular on assistance programs operated by the Department of Agriculture.

Battery Waste

The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee will hold a July 17 hearing on “opportunities and challenges” related to both electric battery production and waste disposal associated with the technology.

Gulf Air Quality

An NAS panel will meet July 16 in Washington, D.C., to advance its review of a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management report on air quality modeling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Drinking Water

EPA will host a July 16 meeting in Cincinnati, OH, on its “potential approaches” to crafting the upcoming fifth iteration of the Safe Drinking Water Act’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which requires drinking water systems to track contaminants not yet subject to binding federal limits in order to inform future regulation.

Air Toxics

Comments are due July 19 on EPA’s proposal that would largely retain its air toxics standards for surface coatings of metal cans and coils following a statutorily mandated risk and technology review of the policy. The proposal leaves numeric emissions limits for the sector unchanged but eliminates waivers for startup, shutdown and malfunction events in line with an appellate court ruling that struck down such waivers, and also aims to “clarify certain rule provisions.”

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