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The Week Ahead

CARB, EPA Set To Renew Vehicle Rule Talks; Congress Returns For Lame-Duck Session

Officials from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will meet with EPA this week in a bid to restart talks on vehicle emissions rules that could avert a legal battle over the Trump administration's proposed rollbacks. Meanwhile, Congress is back on Capitol Hill following the midterm elections, with EPA's budget near the top of the agenda for their lame duck session.

Vehicle Emissions

Officials from EPA, the Department of Transportation and CARB are set to meet by video Nov. 13 in hopes of re-starting negotiations on vehicle policy in the wake of the Trump administration's proposal to freeze Obama-era standards and revoke the Golden State's Clean Air Act waiver to set its own limits that are more stringent than the federal rules. The two sides engaged in talks this summer, but without any apparent progress toward Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler's goal of having California submit a “counter-proposal” to the White House position.


Congress is returning to work this week after midterm elections where Democrats won control of the House while Republicans expanded their Senate majority -- though the exact size of each side's victory remains unclear since ballots are still being counted in several key races. The lame-duck session is slated to last until at least Dec. 5.

Extending EPA's fiscal year 2019 funding beyond its expiration date of Dec. 7 is likely to be the top environmental policy item on the lame-duck agenda, but several committees that oversee aspects of the agency's work have hearings this week.

On Nov. 13, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee's panel on federal spending oversight and emergency management will convene a field hearing in Grand Rapids, MI, under Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-MI) highlighting state, local and federal responses to water contamination from per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

On Nov. 15, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on funding needs for programs that support wildlife conservation, recovery and management.

Also on Nov. 15, the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee has set a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Department of Energy policy chief Bernard L. McNamee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In his current role, McNamee helped craft Energy Secretary Rick Perry's contentious strategy to boost revenues at coal and nuclear power plants -- including an order that FERC unanimously rejected as unlawful on Jan. 8.


EPA is hosting a Nov. 14 public hearing in Denver, CO, on its proposal to loosen the Obama-era new source performance standards for methane emissions at oil and gas operations. The agency is saying that it can rely on state programs to limit methane leaks at oil and gas operations in lieu of federal rules. But that argument has already drawn fire from environmentalists who say that EPA's analysis for its methane rule rollback proposal fails to quantify the pollution cuts -- or lack thereof -- from the state programs.

SCAS Meeting

The EPA Small Community Advisory Subcommittee, which offers input on a range of environmental issues from the small-government perspective, will meet via teleconference on Nov. 14. The agenda for the meeting includes PFAS contamination and the ongoing rulemaking process surrounding Clean Water Act jurisdiciton.


EPA enforcement chief Susan Bodine is among the featured speakers at the American Bar Association's annual “Environmental Enforcement Update” program Nov. 13 in Washington, D.C. Bodine is slated to “share her thoughts on current and future EPA initiatives and enforcement programs,” while other speakers will address industry, environmentalist and state perspectives.

Climate Change

The World Resources Institute is hosting a Nov. 14 event in Washington, D.C., on the role of “sub-national” action -- from states, local governments and non-governmental organizations -- as a driver of GHG reductions in the United States.

Air Toxics

Illinois's Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth are slated to meet with EPA's Wheeler Nov. 14 as part of their push for greater scrutiny of ethylene oxide (EtO) releases from a Chicago-area Sterigenics sterilizing plant. The lawmakers are also seeking an Inspector General investigation of whether officials “intentionally withheld” public release of data that came to light eight months ago indicating an increased cancer risk from EtO emissions in the area.

Site Cleanups

Comments are due Nov. 13 on EPA's proposal to add six new sites to the National Priorities List of high-priority Superfund sites.

EPA is hosting a Nov. 14 webinar on tools used to support site remediation decisions under its Remediation to Restoration to Revitalization (R2R2R) program.

The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), which are joint projects between EPA, the Department of Defense and Department of Energy (DOE), will host a Nov. 15 webinar on the impacts of stormwater runoff on cleanups of contaminated sediment.

Energy Efficiency

The U.S. Energy Association is holding an “Energy Efficiency & Supply Forum Nov. 15 at the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C. The day-long agenda includes policy-focused and technical panels, including discussion of how the miderm results will affect energy policies.

Coal Ash

On Nov. 13 the American Coal Ash Association will unveil its annual report on production and reuse of waste ash from coal-fired power plants. Statistics from the industry are intertwined with EPA's regulation of the waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act -- a policy that remains in flux thanks to ongoing litigation and potential revisions to 2015 disposal standards.

Water Infrastructure

EPA is holding a Nov. 13 information session for the next round of applications under the Water Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (WIFIA) program that leverages federal funds to support municipal water infrastructure projects.

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) and law firm Ballard Spahr are co-hosting their annual green infrastructure conference Nov. 13 in Philadelphia, PA.


The Society of Toxicology's FutureTox conference is set for Nov. 14 in Arlington, VA. The topic of this year's conference is “Progress to Maturity: Predictive Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology for Healthy Children.”

BOSC Meeting

The air and energy subcommittee of EPA's Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises the agency on its research agenda, will meet Nov. 13-14 in Research Triangle Park, NC.

HFC Limits

Comments are due Nov. 15 on EPA's proposal that would rescind Obama-era refrigerant management guidelines that covered “substitute” chemicals that are potent greenhouse gases such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a move in line with the agency's recent position that it cannot limit HFCs under parts of the Clean Air Act designed for ozone-depleting substances.


Members of the EPA Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel evaluating EPA's new proposed approach for inhalation risk assessments will hold a “virtual meeting” Nov. 14 to discuss their charge questions ahead of the review slated for Dec. 4-7.


EPA will host a Nov. 14 webinar webinar through its SmartWay program, which is designed to make freight transportation more efficient in order to reduce its environmental impact. The webinar focuses on a recent study of the supply chain of “a major multinational retailer” as a way to quantify the benefits of efficiency improvements.

Regulatory Costs

ELI will hold a Nov. 15 workshop in Washington, D.C., titled “Paying For Tomorrow” focused on the institute's publication of a book on the likely costs of policies needed to mitigate climate change and other environmental problems. The event was originally scheduled for Nov. 6.