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The Week Ahead

EPA Defends Air Modeling At Supreme Court, Readies Release Of Vehicle Rules

Posted: August 13, 2012

EPA is slated to file briefs to head off a Supreme Court challenge to how it implements its sulfur dioxide standards. In other litigation news, environmentalists and some industry groups are slated to file briefs in a case that could set a deadline for EPA's long-delayed coal ash rules.

As EPA prepares to release its second round of greenhouse gas and efficiency rules for passenger vehicles, some say as soon as Aug. 15, critics are making the case for new legal challenges.

Capitol Hill is quiet but a few lawmakers will be on the road discussing the impact of climate change out West, among other issues.

And EPA officials are on the road as well: The agency holds two hearings in Arizona to discuss controversial haze regulations.

Here's more on the upcoming events at EPA, in Congress and elsewhere:


EPA on Aug. 15 will file with the Supreme Court its response to an industry lawsuit seeking to overturn a lower court ruling that allows the agency to require states to curb sulfur dioxide and other air pollution based on computer modeling rather monitoring data. Industry groups say the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in the Montana Sulphur case gives the agency “unbridled power” to direct states on how they should control SO2 emissions.

Environmentalists and some industry groups are slated to file briefs Aug. 14 on EPA efforts to dismiss their suits seeking to set a deadline for the agency to issue long-delayed coal ash rules. The groups will be responding to EPA's motion seeking to dismiss the suits, where the agency charged the plaintiffs lack any claims of harm to justify the suits and that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the legal claims.

EPA could release its GHG and fuel efficiency rules for model year 2017-25 vehicles as soon as Aug. 15 and the package will have major implications for the future of natural gas-fueled vehicles, electric vehicles and more.

Unlike other EPA regulations, the Obama White House believes the vehicle rules are a political winner. The big automakers fell in line behind the proposal and it is being framed as a job-creator that boosts U.S. competitiveness in the global auto and truck markets. The standards cover vehicles produced in model years 2017 through 2025.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) issued a report last week charging that the Obama administration bullied automakers into accepting the new standards and that the requirements will raise the cost of vehicles and reduce consumer choices. The report lays out Issa's case for how the rulemaking violated Congress' intent when setting fuel efficiency standards, as well as the Administrative Procedures Act. Read the report here:

EPA and the Department of Energy are hosting a September conference in Baltimore to discuss the vehicle standards.

Visit InsideEPA.com this week for full coverage of the rollout of EPA's climate and efficiency rules for vehicles.

EPA holds a hearing Aug. 14 in Holbrook, AZ, on its proposed haze controls for Arizona, a particularly contentious issue in Western states that has also captured attention in Congress. Agency officials will discuss the proposed federal implementation plan on Aug. 15 in Benson, AZ.

EPA's international emissions inventory conference runs Aug. 13-16 in Tampa, FL. According to EPA's website, the conference will focus on: “How inventories can be used to assess the impacts of long-range transport on local NAAQS and other air quality issues; how inventories need to be adapted to support emerging climate issues (including multi-pollutant strategies for air quality vs climate benefits issues); how the NEI and other emission inventory collection efforts can benefit by looking to special studies and other active on-going research in the areas of focus for this conference; which sectors in the inventory are the most difficult to characterize in a given area facing air quality and climate issues? How can the emissions in these sectors be improved?”

The EPA Science Advisory Board holds a conference call Aug. 13 to discuss EPA's response to questions from the SAB Animal Feeding Operations Emissions Panel. The scientific panel earlier this year offered an extensive critique of how EPA estimated such emissions. But states and environmentalists are urging EPA to quickly complete the emissions estimation methods so they can begin permitting the facilities -- which have been exempted from regulation since the Bush administration.

The agency holds an environmental justice event in Atlanta Aug. 16-17. EPA last week touted a new tool to assess pollution in local communities called the “Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool,” which can be access through the EPA website.

On Capitol Hill

With Congress on recess until the week of Sept. 10, Capitol Hill is quiet and lawmakers have a light schedule for policy events back in their states.

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee has a field hearing Aug. 15 in Colorado Springs on wildfires in Colorado, and a field hearing Aug. 17 in Santa Fe, NM, on climate change and the inter-mountain West.

Other congressional environment and energy committees are dormant this week.

Also On The Agenda

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative holds a webinar Aug. 13 to discuss electricity sector modeling. The RGGI, a Northeastern- and mid-Atlantic-state effort to reduce GHG emissions, conducts its next emission allowance auction on September 5.

And EPA hold a meeting Aug. 16 to “solicit input from States, manufacturers, drinking water systems, other interested groups and consumers on the implementation of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act of 2011. The law, which was enacted in January 2011, bars the use of certain plumbing products that are not “lead free,” and makes it unlawful to introduce into commerce products that are not “lead free.”