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The Week Ahead

EPA’s Wheeler, Ross Set For Grilling In High-Profile House Committee Hearings

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and water chief David Ross are scheduled to appear before the House science and infrastructure committees respectively this week, where Democratic lawmakers will have tough questions ready on the agency’s deregulatory agenda.

Andrew Wheeler

Wheeler is slated to appear before the full House Science Committee at a Sept. 19 hearing on science and technology at EPA, and the panel’s Democrats are sure to focus their questions on the controversial “science transparency” rule under development, Wheeler’s recent push to limit the Science Advisory Board’s input on that and other policies, and the agency’s refusal to hand over information to lawmakers, such as on post-hurricane emissions monitoring.

David Ross

Ross is scheduled to appear at a Sept. 18 hearing of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s water and environment panel. The hearing will examine EPA’s Clean Water Act (CWA) policies broadly, including its recent repeal of the Obama-era jurisdiction rule and plans to cabin state authority over federally crafted permits within their borders.

Waste Disposal

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which represents the world’s 36 wealthiest countries, will meet Sept. 17-18 in Paris to vote on adopting new limits on international trade in waste that U.S. officials fear would hamstring plastic recycling just as EPA, lawmakers, industry and international bodies are stepping up their efforts to control marine debris largely made of plastic trash.

The House Appropriations Committee’s panel on interior, environment and related agencies will hold a Sept. 19 hearing on marine debris and how it affects ecosystems.

CSAPR Close-Out

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear argument Sept. 20 in State of New York, at al. v. EPA, et al., where states and environmentalists seeking tougher interstate controls on ozone contest EPA’s assertion that states need to do nothing beyond compliance with the existing Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) to attain national ozone standards by 2023, known as the “close-out rule."

But EPA and other defenders of the policy could face a tough bar to clear after a different D.C. Circuit panel held that EPA may not base ozone policy on a compliance date of 2023, agreeing with environmentalists and Democratic states that the Clean Air Act requires an earlier deadline.

Climate Hearings

House and Senate committees have five hearings this week on climate change and clean-energy topics.

On Sept. 16, the House Natural Resources Committee’s energy panel is holding a field hearing in Wildwood, NJ, on the Garden State’s offshore wind farms and potential “challenges” for the sector.

On Sept. 17, the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on mineral needs and clean energy technology.

On Sept. 18, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s panel on the environment has a hearing with youth climate activists, including Swedish school-strike architect Greta Thunberg and the plaintiffs in the “children’s suits” against the United States government over its role in climate change. The witnesses will also hold a press conference in Washington, D.C., on the same day.

Also on Sept. 18 are a House Energy & Commerce Committee environment panel hearing on industrial emissions and a House Science Committee energy panel hearing on sustainability in the transportation sector.

Finally, the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s energy panel will hold a Sept. 20 hearing on reducing emissions from the building sector.

Regulatory Benefits

Resources for the Future is holding a Sept. 16 workshop examining whether U.S. environmental laws and regulations are achieving their goals, including broad examinations of how retrospective regulatory reviews function as well as specific case studies of the Clean Air Act.

Antitrust Law

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s panel on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights will hold a Sept. 17 hearing on oversight of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) antitrust program. Democrats on the panel are all but certain to seek more information on DOJ’s newly announced antitrust investigation of the deal between California and four automakers on vehicle-emission standards as a potential antitrust violation. Supporters of the deal have attacked the probe as politically motivated -- including committee member Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is seeking an Inspector General review of the inquest.

Environmental Justice

The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee’s environment panel is holding a Sept. 16 field hearing in Detroit on environmental justice concerns in the state, focusing on air and water quality issues.

EPA will host a Sept. 16 webinar on methods for “bridging silos” to address environmental health and justice concerns in urban communities, featuring research from University of Rochester environmental health professor Katrina Korfmacher.

RCRA Litigation

The American Bar Association will host a Sept. 17 webinar on “emerging trends” in citizen suits under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA).

CWA Permits

The Association of Clean Water Administrators, which represents state clean-water regulators, will co-host its annual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit writers’ workshop Sept. 17-19 in Washington, D.C. The event is co-sponsored by EPA and targeted at regulators who write NPDES permits, manage permitting programs or provide support to NPDES regulators.

Climate Policy

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, with the European Union’s delegation to the United States and Third Generation Environmentalism, will co-host a Sept. 19 briefing in Washington, D.C., on “pathways” to the goal of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Speakers include Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), who chairs the select climate committee; Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), its ranking member; and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), chair of the House Science Committee.

On Sept. 17, Castor and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) will also be on hand for a BlueGreen Alliance event in Washington, D.C., highlighting the labor-environmentalist group’s “Solidarity for Climate Action” platform.

CSB Meeting

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) will meet Sept. 17 in Washington, D.C., with an agenda including the April 2 fire and explosion at the KMCO chemical plant in Crosby, TX -- part of a string of disasters that has driven renewed focus on EPA’s plans to roll back Obama-era tightening of the Risk Management Plan facility safety rule.

Environmental Economics

On Sept. 19, EPA will host an environmental economics presentation at its Washington, D.C., headquarters from Nicholas Muller, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, on the impacts from air pollution and GHG emissions on economic volatility, output and interest rates.

Air Toxics

Comments are due Sept. 16 on EPA’s proposed first-time mercury air toxics rule for integrated iron and steel manufacturing. The rule would require facility owners to certify that their scrap steel is unlikely to contain mercury switches from discarded vehicles, but its emissions limits appear weak enough to trigger potential pushback from environmentalists seeking strict standards.

Urban Air Quality

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel studying research and technology related to urban air mobility will meet Sept. 17-19 in Woods Hole, MA.

Heat Mitigation

The Environmental Law Institute will host a Sept. 17 “Cool Cities” webinar on city governments’ efforts to mitigate rising temperatures and dangerous heat waves.

MSTRS Meeting

The Clean Air Act Advisory Council's Mobile Sources Technical Review Subcommittee (MSTRS) will meet Sept. 17 in Ann Arbor, MI.

Lifecycle Analysis

The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, which are joint projects between EPA, the Department of Defense and Department of Energy, will jointly host a Sept. 19 webinar titled “Life Cycle Assessment and Developmental Environment Safety and Occupational Health Evaluation: Tools for Sustainment and Health.”

Water Infrastructure

The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee will hold a Sept. 18 hearing on “Improving American Economic Competitiveness through Water Resources Infrastructure,” featuring witnesses from the farming and transportation sectors as well as the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.

ELAB Meeting

The Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board (ELAB), which advises EPA on its “measurement programs” and laboratory accreditations, will meet by teleconference on Sept. 18.

Anti-Microbial Resistance

EPA will host a Sept. 18 webinar on geospatial tracking of antimicrobial-resistant organisms in U.S. rivers and streams.

Nanotechnology

An NAS panel reviewing the interagency National Nanotechnology Initiative, which supports nanotechnology research and risk assessments across the government including at EPA, will meet Sept. 18-19 in Woods Hole, MA.

Septic Tanks

EPA will host a Sept. 18 webinar on best practices for community involvement in septic-tank regulation.

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