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The Week Ahead

Federal, State Hearings Target PFAS In Water; House Panel Readies EPA FY20 Funding Bill

House lawmakers and New Jersey state regulators are holding hearings this week on their efforts to set new limits on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. Meanwhile, House appropriators are readying their EPA fiscal year 2020 funding bill, teeing up a likely battle with the Senate and Trump administration over Democrats’ goal of boosting the agency’s budget.

PFAS

The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s environment panel has scheduled a May 15 hearing for a series of bills aimed at forcing EPA to enact stringent limits on PFAS beyond the White House’s interagency “roadmap” for addressing the chemicals that critics say is not aggressive enough. The panel has yet to announce the full list of measures it will consider, but the hearing will include the bipartisan H.R. 2377, which would give EPA two years to set a maximum contaminant level goal and set a drinking water regulation for “total” PFAS.

Also on May 15, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing on its proposed enforceable drinking water standards for two of the most common PFAS chemicals; perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

EPA Budget

The House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies, which has jurisdiction over EPA’s budget, will mark up its FY20 spending bill on May 15. The panel’s Democratic leadership has already signaled plans to boost total allowable funding for EPA and other agencies in the bill beyond FY19 levels, creating the potential for more generous funding than the committee allocated last year. However, the GOP-led Senate and the White House will likely oppose any budget increase for the agency.

Climate Hearings

Several House and Senate committees are planning four hearings this week on climate change impacts and clean-energy technologies, including the latest in a series of bipartisan discussions on the subject at the Senate Energy Committee.

All three of the House climate hearings are set for May 15. The full Ways & Means Committee will meet to consider economic impacts of climate change; the Natural Resource Committee’s panel on parks and public lands has a hearing on how climate change will impact recreation; and the full Science Committee plans to discuss “next generation” wind and solar technology.

Finally, the full Senate Energy Committee has a May 16 hearing on the Department of Energy’s carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) programs, and to consider legislation that would bolster CCUS technology development and deployment.

Infrastructure

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will deliver a keynote address at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s May 15 panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on “EPA’s Role in Building Critical Infrastructure,” covering its funding programs for water infrastructure as well as its functions reviewing and permitting other agencies’ infrastructure work.

The Value of Water Campaign, which is organized by water and wastewater utilities, will host a May 15 panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on the future of “smart” water infrastructure.

CEQ

The full Senate Environment & Public Works Committee has set a May 15 hearing to conduct oversight of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The panel has not announced any specific topics for the hearing, nor a witness list.

Private Governance

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) is hosting a May 15 “master class” seminar in Dallas, TX, focused on best practices for industry actors dealing with environmental liability, inspections and enforcement actions. The event aims to “explore methods for becoming more effective and responsible players in the environmental field, while also maintaining optimal performance.”

Oil & Gas Drilling

The House Natural Resources Committee’s panel on energy and mineral resources will hold a May 16 hearing on the effects of water pollution from oil and gas extraction, “above and below ground."

On May 14, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will host a workshop in Midland, TX, on “environmental legacies and water considerations” from oil and gas exploration.

Gulf of Mexico

The EPA-led Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force, which is tasked with helping states shrink the massive hypoxic “dead zone” in the gulf largely attributed to nutrient pollution in the Mississippi watershed, will meet May 15-16 in Baton Rouge, LA.

Also on May 15-16, the NAS-led Gulf Research Program Advisory Board, which advises an independent research effort funded through the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement, will meet in Woods Hole, MA.

Carbon Tax

On May 15, EPA will host an environmental economics presentation on carbon tax proposals at its Washington, D.C., headquarters with Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff.

Air Toxics

May 13 is the comment deadline on EPA’s proposal to largely retain its air toxics standards for combustion turbines following a statutorily mandated risk and technology review of the policy. The proposal leaves numeric emissions limits for the sector unchanged but eliminates waivers for startup, shutdown and malfunction events in line with an appellate court ruling that struck down such waivers, and lifts a stay on the effectiveness of the rule for certain “lean premix and diffusion flame gas-fired turbines” that has been in place since 2004, pending removal of these turbines from the scope of the standard.

Methylmercury

EPA will host a May 15 webinar to “receive feedback” on the draft plan for its pending human health risk assessment of methylmercury, which will update a 2001 analysis that formed the basis for a 2017 advisory on safe levels of fish consumption for pregnant women. EPA’s advisory, issued jointly with the Food & Drug Administration, drew attacks for relying on the 16-year-old document that critics claim is out of date.

New York City Watershed

EPA Region 2 Administrator Peter Lopez is slated to address a May 13 meeting of the NAS panel reviewing New York City’s watershed protection program in Hunter, NY.

NAC/GAC Meeting

EPA’s National Advisory Committee (NAC) and Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), which jointly advise Wheeler in his capacity as a member of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation between the United States, Canada and Mexico, will meet May 15-16 in Washington, D.C.

Nuclear Power

The Environmental & Energy Study Institute will host a May 13 congressional briefing on the “critical need for congressional oversight” of the process of decommissioning closed nuclear power plants.

ELAB Meeting

The Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board (ELAB), which advises EPA on its “measurement programs” and laboratory accreditations, will hold its monthly teleconference on May 15.

Plastic Debris

The Sierra Club will host a May 16 presentation on “polluting plastic impacts” with Lisa Anne Hamilton, the director of the Climate and Energy Program for the Center for International Environmental Law. The agenda covers the effects of plastic debris on waterways as well as environmental impacts from manufacturing and distributing the material.

Compensatory Mitigation

ELI will host a May 16 webinar on the long-term impacts of stream compensatory mitigation programs.

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