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The Week Ahead

EPA Weighs Public Input On Revised Utility Climate NSPS, MATS Cost Finding Rollback

Public comments are due this week on EPA’s proposal to loosen the Obama-era new source performance standards (NSPS) for power plants. Meanwhile, the agency is also holding its sole public hearing on the proposed revocation of the previous administration's finding that its power plant mercury and air toxics standards (MATS) rule is “appropriate and necessary.”

Utility NSPS

March 18 is the deadline for comments on EPA’s proposed revisions to the NSPS for power plants that would drop all the rule’s limits on natural gas utilities. It also replaces a mandate for carbon capture and sequestration technology -- which industry says was unrealistic -- with limits based on the most efficient steam-cycle system in combination with best operational practices.

The NSPS has pitted environmentalists opposed to any rollback in climate policies against the natural gas and coal sectors that are themselves at odds over the details of the rule. The industries have clashed over whether the final NSPS should facilitate switching coal plants to gas-firing -- even though no new coal plants are being planned.


March 18 is also the date of the sole public hearing on EPA’s contentious proposal to scrap the Obama EPA’s finding that it is appropriate and necessary under the Clean Air Act to regulate air toxics from power plants -- a legal prerequisite for its MATS rule. The hearing will take place at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and will feature arguments for and against the MATS rule itself, given that the proposal has raised fears among the policy’s supporters that it will provide an avenue for litigants to attempt scrapping the emission limits.


EPA will host a March 20 webinar highlighting cost-effective technologies for treating drinking water contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other emerging contaminants. The agency is pushing ahead with an “action plan” that could ultimately lead to enforceable nationwide drinking water standards for PFAS, but states dissatisfied with that approach have already started implementing their own more-stringent policies.

ACWA Meeting

The Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA), which represents state clean-water regulators, will hold its mid-year meeting March 19-20 in Alexandria, VA. EPA water chief David Ross is slated to give an opening address, and other agency officials will participate in panel discussions throughout the meeting.

Clean Water Act Jurisdiction

EPA is slated to host a listening session for small business representatives to offer comments on its proposed Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule March 19 at the agency’s headquarters. The “small entities” session follows the broader public hearing held Feb. 27-28 in Kansas City, KS, where speakers from across the ideological spectrum previewed their likely arguments supporting or opposing the Trump administration’s plan to narrow the water law’s reach.

EPA Research

Two subcommittees of the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, which advise EPA on its scientific agenda and practices, have conference calls scheduled this week. The homeland security panel will hold its call on March 19, and the air and energy panel will hold its call on March 22.

Risk Communication

EPA will host a March 19 webinar on “Environmental Health Literacy and Risk Communications,” an issue that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has touted as a key element of his agenda since taking over from former agency chief Scott Pruitt.

ELAB Meeting

EPA’s Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board, which offers input to the agency on issues related to lab accreditation, will meet by teleconference on March 20.


EPA has scheduled a March 21 webinar on its joint work with the U.S. Geological Survey into a “comprehensive approach” of remediating soil contaminated with Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax.

Climate Change

The Center for Climate & Energy Solutions (C2ES) will host its Climate Leadership Conference event March 20-22 in Baltimore, MD. Speakers on the agenda include Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) -- who chairs the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s environment panel -- and former Obama EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, the current president of C2ES.

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) will hold a March 18 panel discussion in San Francisco, CA, on how the bankruptcy of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) could affect the state’s clean-energy goals.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will host a climate change summit on March 21 focused on potential impacts from climate change on the state and its industries, especially agriculture.


The Society for Chemical Hazard Communication will host a day-long seminar on March 18 in Las Vegas, NV, on the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act’s (TSCA) process for firms to seek premanufacture notices. The new toxics law overhauled the process in order to remedy EPA’s long-standing backlog of reviewing those applications.

Worker Protections

Comments are due March 19 on EPA’s planned extension of its standing information collection request for documentation of industry’s compliance with the training, notification and recordkeeping requirements in the Obama-era update to worker protection standards for pesticide handlers -- standards that EPA now plans to roll back.


ELIU will host a March 21 panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on citizen enforcement efforts in the forestry sector, including whistleblowing.


The Bipartisan Policy Center will host a March 20 briefing on “sustainable” funding options for transportation infrastructure in the wake of the Trump administration’s fresh call for Congress to reach an infrastructure spending deal.


The American Association of Port Authorities will hold its spring meeting March 19-21 in Washington, D.C., including discussion of emissions rules and climate policies targeted at shipping.