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The Week Ahead

EPA Weighs Input On TSCA New-Chemicals Policies; House Holds Latest Climate Hearings

EPA is weighing public input this week on its policies for reviewing new chemicals under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), including a proposed new rule governing confidential business information (CBI) in the reviews. The House is holding two climate-change hearings focused on the phenomenon’s national-security implications and financing for resiliency.

TSCA

EPA will hold a Dec. 10 public meeting in Washington, D.C., on the TSCA program for assessing and regulating risks from new chemicals, including the new system for protecting CBI as well as overall transparency measures.

The meeting is intended to seek public input on how the agency should update its framework for reviewing new chemicals under TSCA. The issue has long drawn concern from industry groups -- who charge the agency takes too long to review some applications for new chemicals. Environmentalists have also long charged that the reviews are not adequate and in violation of the law. Earlier this year, they threatened to sue EPA over how the agency is inadequately releasing information about new chemicals.

The meeting also comes just a day after the Dec. 9 comment deadline on EPA’s proposed revisions to the CBI rule, which the agency crafted in response to an April 26 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that held the Trump administration’s original framework for designating and protecting confidential information to be unlawful.

The revised rule would add “two additional questions that manufacturers and processors would be required to answer to substantiate certain CBI claims for specific chemical identities.” It also includes “procedures for manufacturers and processors to use in amending certain previously submitted substantiations to include responses to the additional questions.”

Climate Hearings

The House Armed Services Committee’s panel on intelligence and emerging threats and capabilities has scheduled a Dec. 11 hearing on “Climate Change in the Era of Strategic Competition,” with witnesses from the Defense department and White House national intelligence office focusing on the national-security implications of climate change impacts like water scarcity and severe heat.

Also on Dec. 11, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing as part of its series on “Creating a Climate Resilient America” focused on “Smart Finance for Strong Communities.” According to the hearing notice, it will “explore the actions Congress can take to better leverage federal funds, private capital, and insurance to increase resilience before disasters and to accelerate recovery in their aftermath.”

Power Plant ELG

The Sierra Club is organizing two Dec. 12 calls where environmentalists will present counterarguments to EPA’s recently proposed changes to the Obama-era tightening of Clean Water Act effluent limitation guidelines (ELG) for coal-fired power plants, and a “toolkit” for participants at the virtual public hearing on the proposal scheduled for Dec. 19.

The new rule would loosen requirements for treating wastewater from flue gas desulfurization units and the process of transporting some forms of waste ash from the coal-burning process, but EPA says it would achieve greater pollution reductions at a lower cost than Obama-era limits, based on the assumption that power plants will opt to voluntarily install more stringent pollution controls than required in order to win an extension of compliance deadlines.

Risk Analysis

The Society for Risk Analysis is holding its annual meeting Dec. 8-13 in Arlington, VA. The agenda ranges from discussions of advanced techniques for analyzing risk data, such as through machine learning, to policy questions like how to use risk analysis to help address climate change.

EPA Rollbacks

The Institute of International Auditors hosted a Dec. 9 members-only webinar on regulatory rollbacks at EPA under the Trump administration, including the outlook for new developments in 2020.

Vehicle Efficiency

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel devoted to assessing technology for improving the fuel economy of light-duty vehicles is meeting Dec. 9-11 in Detroit, MI, in closed session to continue its work.

Dec. 12 is the comment deadline on a Nov. 12 application to EPA from the automaker Nissan for “off-cycle” compliance credits for efficiency improvements in its models that the company claims are producing real-world results but not captured by EPA test methods.

Asbestos

The House Oversight Committee’s panel on economic and consumer policy will hold a Dec. 10 hearing on reports that asbestos has long been present in storebought talcum powder, and more general “best methods for asbestos detection.” The hearing comes as supporters of a legislative ban on asbestos are seeking to build Senate support for a compromise measure.

Brownfields

The National Brownfields Training Conference runs Dec. 11-13 in Los Angeles, CA. EPA waste chief Peter Wright will be a featured speaker.

Vessel Emissions

The Senate Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a Dec. 10 hearing on implementation of the long-planned International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules reducing the allowed sulfur levels in vessel fuels from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent worldwide. While there have been reports that some Trump administration advisers sought to buck the new IMO rules, industry groups and GOP senators have called for implementing them as planned.

Chlorinated Solvents

The Environmental Security Technology Certification Program and Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, which are joint projects of EPA, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, will hold a Dec. 12 webinar on recent advances in remediating groundwater that has been contaminated by chlorinated solvents.

Flooding

The NAS Resilient America program will hold a Dec. 10-11 online roundtable on opportunities to mitigate community-level flood risks, focused on lessons learned from four communities that have dealt with major floods: Savannah and Tybee Island, GA; Biloxi, MS; Roanoke, Salem, and Vinton, VA; and Ellicott City, MD.

Wastewater

EPA will host a “Pretreatment 101” training workshop on the national pretreatment program for wastewater Dec. 10-12 in Baltimore, MD.

Title V Permits

The American Bar Association will host a Dec. 11 webinar on the “basics” of Clean Air Act Title V emissions permitting.

Drinking Water

EPA has set a Dec. 12 webinar for drinking water authorities on opportunities to use “set-asides” in the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to protect drinking water sources.

Environmental Economics

EPA’s environmental economics office will host a Dec. 11 presentation from Resources for the Future research fellow Yusuke Kuwayama on the monetized benefits of regulating water quality to protect “environmental amenities” such as recreational waters.

Environmental Justice

The Center for Progressive Reform will hold a Dec. 12 webinar on “Achieving Social Justice Through Better Regulations.”

‘Green Cities’

The final entry in EPA’s joint webinar series with Cornell University and Trinity College Dublin on “Air Pollution Mitigation using Passive Techniques in the Built Environment” is slated for Dec. 12. The focus of the session will be on “Financing Cleaner and Greener Cities.”

Superfund

EPA will host a Dec. 11 public forum on the cleanup at the Portland Harbor Superfund site in Portland, OR.

HSRB Meeting

EPA’s Human Studies Review Board, which advises the agency on research that deals with human subjects, will meet via teleconference on Dec. 10 to advance its ongoing review of mosquito-repellant chemicals and other issues.

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