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The Week Ahead

Trump To Unveil 2020 Agenda At State Of The Union; EPA Weighs Adding PFAS To TRI

President Donald Trump is set to unveil his 2020 agenda at this week’s State of the Union address, which could touch on his environmental rollbacks and energy policies. Meanwhile, EPA is seeking public input on whether to require facilities to report their releases of per- and polyfluoroakyl substances (PFAS) to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

State of the Union

Trump is expected to use his Feb. 4 State of the Union speech to tee up an agenda for the remainder of the year leading up to his re-election contest in November, including finalizing a long list of high-profile environmental rules and laying groundwork for policies he could tackle in a second term. Business groups have called on the administration to highlight opportunities to address climate change through “energy innovation” and infrastructure development.

PFAS

Comments are due Feb. 3 on EPA’s proposal seeking input on which PFAS releases should be reported to TRI. Adding reporting requirements for the chemicals is one of several regulatory items on the agency’s PFAS action plan, but it is unclear which, if any, of the estimated 4,500 chemicals in that broad category EPA will eventually choose to add.

The proposal is in addition to a Jan. 16 EPA decision adding TRI reporting mandates for 160 PFAS, as required by a fiscal year 2020 defense authorization law.

Climate Litigation

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit will hear argument Feb. 5 in two climate nuisance suits brought by California cities against oil companies: City of Oakland, et al., v. BP PLC, where Oakland and San Francisco are the plaintiffs, and County of San Mateo, et al., v. Chevron Corp., et al.

In both cases, municipalities are seeking monetary damages from the oil companies for their alleged contributions to climate change that has caused rising sea levels and other damages that the cities have had to mitigate. But the industry defendants say those suits are no different from a raft of earlier actions that were dismissed after courts found them preempted by the Clean Air Act. A district judge agreed with that defense in City of Oakland, ruling that the case should be dismissed under preemption doctrine, while a different judge backed San Mateo’s arguments and ordered that suit to continue. But the two cases are being heard by a single 9th Circuit panel on appeal, guaranteeing that there will be no conflict between the final decisions on preemption.

Environmental Law

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) and American Legal Institute-Continuing Legal Education (ALI-CLE) program will hold their joint environmental law conference Feb. 6-7 in Washington, D.C. EPA General Counsel Matt Leopold, agency waste chief Peter Wright and toxics chief Alexandra Dunn are all scheduled to speak, as are Edward Boling, the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) associate director for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Solicitor Robert Solomon.

EPA Budget

The House Appropriations Committee’s panel on interior, environment and related agencies, which has jurisdiction over EPA’s budget, will hold a Feb. 6 hearing to hear from witnesses on its upcoming work to craft a fiscal year 2021 spending bill.

The subcommittee is also holding a Feb. 5 hearing on “challenges and opportunities” for strengthening community recycling programs, which have been a major target of public and private efforts to combat plastic waste. EPA’s Wright is slated to testify.

MATS

The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee’s panel on environment has set a Feb. 6 hearing on EPA’s proposal to rescind the Obama-era finding that its Clean Air Act mercury and air toxics standards (MATS) for power plants were “appropriate and necessary.” While it would leave the MATS rule in place, scrapping the cost-benefit finding is generally expected to strengthen court challenges to the standards, and has attracted criticism from bipartisan lawmakers, industry and most recently members of EPA’s independent Science Advisory Board.

NEPA

The law firm Venable LLP will host a Feb. 6 webinar on CEQ’s recent proposal to overhaul NEPA implementation. The Trump administration and its allies say the changes would make the law more efficient and speed permitting. But critics have attacked the proposal by saying it goes far beyond those goals and instead takes explicit steps to shut the public out of the process. These critics warn those steps will undermine NEPA’s goals to inform the public of government actions and transparently consider less-harmful alternatives.

Climate Hearings

On Feb. 5, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing on health risks related to climate change impacts.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s panel on the environment will hold a Feb. 6 hearing on the long-pending bill to boost federal support for carbon capture and utilization, known as the USE IT Act.

Regulatory Reform

The George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center will host a conference on “the history and future of regulation” on Feb. 4 in Washington, D.C. Speakers include Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Tom Carper (D-DE), ranking member on the environment committee.

Energy Policy

The National Association of State Energy Officials will hold its annual Energy Policy Outlook Conference and Innovation Summit Feb. 4-7 in Washington, D.C. The agenda includes discussion of state and local clean-energy and power sector climate policies, grid resilience and a keynote address from Rep. John Curtis (R-UT).

The National Academy of Sciences panel reviewing methods of modeling the future of electric generation, including how to predict the growth of renewable energy relative to fossil fuels, will hold an open workshop Feb. 3 in Irvine, CA, followed by a closed meeting Feb. 4-5.

TSCA

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals will hold a Feb. 4 virtual meeting to prepare for its peer review of the agency’s draft risk assessment for carbon tetrachloride, slated for Feb. 25-26. The draft assessment found that the once-common solvent poses no unreasonable risks to directly exposed workers or the environment, though other workers may face some risk.

Stormwater

The Association of Clean Water Administrators, which represents state clean-water regulators, will host its annual Stormwater Roundtable conference Feb. 4-6 in San Antonio, TX. EPA and state-level officials will discuss an array of topics related to stormwater regulation, infrastructure and planning.

Geoengineering

ELI will host a Feb. 4 webinar on climate geoengineering, the practice of changing Earth’s atmosphere to either reflect heat away from the planet or reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases. Many experts see geoengineering as necessary to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, but the technology is both experimental and controversial since most forms would have to be applied worldwide.

SmartWay

EPA’s SmartWay program, which aims to help freight companies reduce their fuel use and environmental impact, will host a Feb. 5 webinar on its “Truck Carrier Tool” for tracking vehicle use and emissions.

Gasoline

The Energy & Environmental Study Institute (EESI) will hold a day-long Feb. 6 livestream on the environmental hazards of, and potential alternatives to, gasoline aromatics. Aromatics are added to fuel to boost octane and vehicle performance, including fuel efficiency, but biofuels advocates and others say they are harmful and should be avoided. EESI says the upcoming vehicle efficiency rule crafted by EPA and the Department of Transportation is expected to address aromatics in some form.

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