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The Week Ahead

Top EPA Officials To Address ABA Law Conference; House Weighs EPA’s IRIS Program

EPA Administration Andrew Wheeler is among the top agency officials slated to speak at the American Bar Association’s (ABA) environmental law conference this week, and Inside EPA will have exclusive coverage. Meanwhile, the House Science Committee is holding its first hearing under Democratic control on EPA’s contentious Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program.

ABA Conference

Wheeler and agency toxics chief Alexandra Dunn are among the speakers slated to present at the ABA Society of Environment, Energy and Resources (SEER) spring conference March 27-29 in Denver, CO. Inside EPA will have full coverage of the conference, including presentations on enforcement, federal policy on per- and polyfluouroalkyl substances (PFAS), Clean Water Act jurisdiction and more, as well as exclusive sideline interviews.

Ahead of the spring conference, SEER will also host a water law conference in Denver March 26-27, focused mainly on water-rights issues as well as discussion of the fight over CWA permitting for groundwater-borne discharges, which the Supreme Court is slated to take up in its next term.


The House Science Committee’s panels on oversight and the environment have set a joint March 27 hearing on the state of EPA’s IRIS risk assessment program and potential “roadblocks” to its work. EPA Science Adviser Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta is slated to testify, and the hearing will likely focus on the Trump administration’s reorganization of IRIS and its continued presence on the Government Accountability Office’s list of “high-risk” issues in need of senior management oversight.


The full Senate Environment & Public Works Committee will hold a March 28 hearing on EPA’s PFAS action plan, including testimony from water chief David Ross. EPA has touted its plan to address the chemicals under hazardous-substance and drinking water laws, but states dissatisfied with the effort are moving forward with their own policies, creating a patchwork of drinking-water limits and other standards.


EPA’s chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee will hold a March 28 teleconference to advance its draft letter on the review of the agency’s integrated science assessment of the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM). The draft letter attacked EPA’s long-standing approach for determining the health effects of air pollution, in favor of a methodology championed by new CASAC Chairman Tony Cox that critics say would render it much more difficult to conclude that PM air pollution actually causes disease.

Agency Deference

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument March 27 in Kisor v. Wilkie, where a Marine Corps veteran seeking disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs is asking the justices to overturn a 1997 precedent that gives agencies deference on their “reasonable” interpretations of ambiguous regulatory text. Scrapping the so-called Auer doctrine or even preserving it with new limitations -- which the Trump administration is urging -- would limit EPA’s ability to rely on its rule interpretations and guidance documents in court.

On March 28, the D.C. Bar will host a panel discussion on the Kisor argument session.


EPA is holding its sole planned public hearing on the proposal to allow year-round sales of 15-percent ethanol fuel blends (E15) on March 29 in Ypsilanti, MI. The rule would also overhaul the RFS credit trading market, and has drawn strong opposition from major oil industry groups.

Comments are due March 25 on the proposed consent decree between EPA and the Sierra Club that would commit the agency to a March 2020 deadline for its long-overdue study to determine if the RFS has harmed the environment.

Air Toxics

EPA will hold a March 27 hearing on its proposed residual risk and technology review of its air toxics standards for the hydrochloric acid (HCl) production sector. The rule has sparked fights over whether the agency should apply a conservative Obama-era risk value for the carcinogen ethylene oxide, which is often emitted at HCl-producing facilities.

Selenium Criteria

Comments are due March 28 on EPA’s proposed selenium water criteria for California, which the agency is crafting based on a 2014 consent decree with environmentalists. The proposal follows up on a national selenium criterion EPA issued in 2016.

Environmental Law

The Environmental Law Institute will host its annual Environmental Law & Policy Review March 29 in Washington, D.C., with panel discussions on federal energy leasing, state preemption of local environmental initiatives and “selective enforcement of environmental laws” under free-trade agreements.

The American Legal Institute-Continuing Legal Education program has scheduled a March 28 webcast on recent developments in CWA law and litigation, including the Trump administration’s proposed jurisdiction rule, permit requirements for water transfers and mandates for states to develop total maximum daily load waterbody cleanup plans.

Climate Change

The Senate is slated to vote March 26 on progressive Democrats’ resolution laying out their Green New Deal climate change agenda -- although members of the party are planning to vote “present” as a bloc in protest against what they see as a stunt by the chamber’s Republican majority.

The Environmental & Energy Study Institute will host a March 28 briefing focused on “Climate Change in the American Mind” and how voters’ views on the subject are likely to shape future policies.

The Global Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) Institute has scheduled a March 28 briefing on the basics of CCS technology and how it could factor into greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Computational Toxicology

EPA’s Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice will meet March 28. The agenda focuses on EPA’s upcoming release of a new version of its CompTox Chemicals Dashboard software platform.

Air Mitigation

Trinity College and Cornell University will co-host a March 28 webinar on technologies and design elements in the “built environment” that can be used to achieve passive mitigation of air pollution.

Compensatory Mitigation

ELI will host a March 28 webinar on the use of reference sites in stream compensatory mitigation.

Disaster Preparedness

EPA scientists are among the presenters scheduled to speak at the National Association of County and City Health Officials’ annual Preparedness Summit March 26-29 in St. Louis, MO.

Water Monitoring

The National Water Monitoring Conference runs March 25-29 in Denver, CO.

Drinking Water

EPA will host a March 26 webinar for small drinking water systems on lead-management techniques.