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The Week Ahead

CASAC Advances Ozone NAAQS Review, EPA Seeks Input On Lead And Copper Rule

EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) is meeting this week to continue its work on reviewing the national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ozone. Meanwhile, the agency is seeking public input on a planned update to its lead and copper rule (LCR).

CASAC

CASAC will hold a Feb. 11-12 teleconference to discuss its draft report on EPA staff’s draft integrated science assessment (ISA) summarizing the latest research on the health and environmental impacts of ozone, as part of the panel’s review of whether to maintain or tighten the 2015 ozone NAAQS.

In January, CASAC Chairman and industry consultant Tony Cox drafted a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler -- without any apparent dissent from panel members -- that faults the draft ISA even though staff ultimately concluded that the current NAAQS is sufficient. The letter says the agency’s new process for assessing the latest “policy-relevant” science is deeply flawed, and recommends sweeping changes that would render future EPA NAAQS reviews less likely to conclude that tougher standards are required.

LCR

Feb. 12 is the deadline for public comments on EPA’s proposed update to the Safe Drinking Water Act LCR. The new rule would set a series of requirements aimed at identifying areas most impacted by lead contamination, strengthening treatment requirements, replacing lead service lines, increasing sampling reliability, improving risk communication, and stepping up targeted protection of schoolchildren. But it has already drawn criticism over its complexity and the feasibility of some allowed treatment methods.

Prior to that deadline, the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s environment panel will hold a Feb. 11 hearing on the LCR, under the title “EPA’s Lead and Copper Proposal: Failing to Protect Public Health.”

EPA Budget

The White House released its FY21 budget request on Feb. 10, seeking a 27 percent cut to EPA’s appropriations, from the current $9 billion down to about $6.6 billion -- a figure in line with the Trump administration’s past budget requests, and likely to be rejected again by Congress. House Democrats have already signaled that they plan to boost the agency’s funding in FY21 over the administration’s objections.

NEPA

The White House Council on Environmental Quality will hold a public hearing on its sweeping proposed update to implementing regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Feb. 11 in Denver, CO. Environmental groups and others have already vowed to sue over the rule change, but face an uncertain path to court because the rules apply to federal agencies, not outside parties.

Water Treatment

The American Water Works Association, which represents a variety of drinking water utilities, is hosting two “symposiums” in Atlanta, GA, this week on treatment-related issues.

The International Symposium on Potable Reuse, runs Feb. 10-11 and includes a presentation from Jeffrey Lape, EPA’s national program leader for water reuse, on the agency’s Water Reuse Action Plan.

Feb. 12-13 is the International Symposium on Biological Treatment, which will feature in-depth discussions on treatment methods from EPA, state, local, industry and academic speakers.

Plastic Waste

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) are set to unveil a sweeping bill designed to boost recycling of plastic waste at a Feb. 11 event on Capitol Hill. Their “Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act” will add to the growing list of legislation and other measures, including public-private partnerships and federal research initiatives, aimed at reducing the amount of plastic debris that ends up in either landfills or waterways.

Climate Legislation

The House Science Committee will hold a Feb. 12 markup to consider four bills aimed at reducing various sectors’ greenhouse gases: H.R. 2986, the “Better Energy Storage Technology Act;” H.R. 4230, the “Clean Industrial Technology Act of 2019;” H.R. 5374, the “Advanced Geothermal Research and Development Act of 2019;” and H.R. 5428, the “Grid Modernization Research and Development Act of 2019.” Also on the agenda is a grid security bill, H.R. 5760.

EFAB Meeting

EPA’s Environmental Financial Advisory Board (EFAB) will meet Feb. 11-13 in Washington, D.C. The agenda includes discussion of financing options for stormwater utilities, a report from EFAB’s task force on infrastructure affordability, and a panel discussion by EPA officials on resiliency in small communities.

Energy Storage

Two industry groups representing battery makers are holding policy events in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 12, in what could be their first steps toward an anticipated push to expand clean-energy tax credits to batteries that support renewable sources like solar and wind power.

Essential Energy Everyday, which represents the lead battery industry, will host a policy briefing focused on reuse, recycling and remanufacture of its products that the group says “forms a near-perfect circular economy.”

Meanwhile, the Energy Storage Association, representing the energy-storage sector more broadly, is holding a day-long policy forum with speakers including Reps. Sean Casten (D-IL) and Tom Reed (R-NY), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Richard Glick, industry officials and state and local regulators.

EtO

Feb. 10 is the deadline on EPA’s call for comments seeking suggestions on how to tighten regulations on commercial facilities that use ethylene oxide (EtO) -- a carcinogen that has been the focus of several recent emissions scares -- to sterilize medical devices and equipment. The advance notice of proposed rulemaking does not float specific EtO controls but instead requests information on options to reduce commercial sterilizing facilities’ emissions, including the costs of controls and their effectiveness, as well as input from small businesses on their specific concerns.

Climate Change

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute will host a Feb. 13 briefing on coastal resilience in the Great Lakes area, focused on “Science, Policies, and Programs Furthering Local Resilience Goals.”

Also on Feb. 13, Groundwork USA, a network of groups “devoted to transforming the natural and built environment of low-resource communities,” will host a webinar on the links between housing segregation and modern climate impacts.

Emissions Testing

Comments are due Feb. 11 on EPA’s proposal to update long-standing test methods and performance specifications for various categories of air emissions sources. The proposed rule includes “corrections to inaccurate testing provisions, updates to outdated procedures, and approved alternative procedures that provide testers enhanced flexibility.”

Tribal Policies

The winter meeting of EPA Region 9’s Regional Tribal Operations Committee runs Feb. 11-13 in Reno, NV.

SmartWay

SmartWay, a voluntary EPA program designed to help companies reduce their freight emissions, will host a Feb. 12 webinar on supply chain initiatives, using Home Depot as a case study.

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