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The Week Ahead

President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration will take place this week, and he plans to push an ambitious policy agenda on climate change and environmental justice. Meanwhile, EPA is closing the comment period for a risk review of the sterilizing agent ethylene oxide (EtO).

Biden’s Inauguration

Biden will take the oath of office Jan. 20, pursuing an environmental agenda that seeks a sweeping government-wide focus on climate change, with former Obama administration officials in key roles. Obama’s EPA chief Gina McCarthy is slated to become the national climate advisor and former Secretary of State John Kerry will be Biden’s international climate envoy, among others.

Environmental justice and reversing President Donald Trump’s array of deregulatory policies are also expected to be priorities on Biden’s environmental agenda. He has also named North Carolina environment secretary Michael Regan as EPA administrator, as well as former Obama EPA acting air chief Janet McCabe as his planned nominee for deputy administrator.

Among Biden’s stated policy goals is on his first day in office returning the United States to the Paris climate agreement from which President Donald Trump withdrew.


EPA will close the public comment period Jan. 19 on its Office of Pesticide Programs’ (OPP) draft risk assessment for EtO. OPP proposed to not conduct a quantitative analysis of the chemical’s cancer risk and instead said it will move to consider risk mitigation actions proposed by an industry group. The review forms the basis for EPA’s decision on whether and how to re-register EtO for antimicrobial use.

EPA Research

EPA’s Homeland Security Research Webinar Series Jan. 21 is featuring a webinar titled “COVID-19: UV-C Devices and Methods for Surface Disinfection.” It will provide information on assessments researchers are conducting on ultraviolet light (UV-C) methods and technologies on multiple materials against SARS-CoV-2 and potential surrogate viruses. This information will provide stakeholders with data on the effectiveness of these products in reducing SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces.

Climate Change

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Jan. 19 will host the first of four online workshops exploring opportunities and challenges to ocean-based carbon dioxide removal and sequestration.

In a lead-up to the upcoming Climate Adaptation Summit 2021 with world leaders, Ban Ki-moon, the 8th secretary-general of the United Nations and chair of Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), will brief the media on the upcoming summit and related announcements from GCA.

The New York Times “Climate Hub” at COP26 known as Netting Zero will hold a webinar Jan. 19 titled “Making 2021 the Year We Break Fossil Fuel Addiction,” probing such questions as how renewables can be accelerated to meet “urgent global demand” as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) is sponsoring a training course Jan. 21 on the remediation of complex contaminated sites. The course provides “a recommended holistic process for management of challenging sites, termed ‘adaptive site management,’” ITRC says.

DOD Environmental Research

The Defense Department’s (DOD) Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) -- DOD’s environmental technology demonstration and validation program -- is offering an online briefing Jan. 21, providing information to those interested in new ESTCP funding opportunities.


The Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association and Northeast Recycling Council are hosting a Jan. 20 webcast, “Depackaging & Commercial Composting -- An Integrated System for Organics Recycling.”


The Southeast Stormwater Association is hosting a webinar Jan. 21, “Re-Wilding Streams and Floodplains to Enhance Ecosystem Services.” The webinar will highlight “the process and outcomes of re-wilding urban streams and floodplains, including daylighting piped streams, stream channel realignment and floodplain reconnection, removal of barriers to aquatic organism passage, and more.”

Polystyrene Ban

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation Jan. 21 is hosting a virtual public meeting on the state’s Expanded Polystyrene Foam Container and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging Ban, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2022.