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The Week Ahead

Top EPA officials including its acting air chief are set to speak this week at the Texas Environmental Superconference, which will be online-only due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the agency has reopened public comments on its proposed nationwide coal-ash permit program for one week.

Texas Environmental Superconference

EPA Region 6 Administrator Ken McQueen and acting air chief Anne Austin are slated to address the annual Texas Environmental Superconference, which runs online Aug. 6-7. The agenda also includes presentations from state officials, attorneys and officials from industry and environmental groups on climate change, enforcement during the pandemic, ethics, ongoing litigation issues and more.

Coal Ash

EPA has reopened comments on its nationwide coal ash permitting rule through Aug. 7, after the docket closed on July 19. The proposal would shift enforcement of the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) ash standards in states that lack their own EPA-approved permit regimes from a self-implementing program with citizen suits to one led by federal regulators. However, the first round of comments showed opposition to the agency’s plan for those permits to never expire, signaling likely litigation if it enacts the rule as proposed.

Cost-Benefit Rule

Comments are due by an extended Aug. 3 deadline on EPA’s proposed rule reworking how it will balance the costs and benefits of its air policies -- a plan that industry praised as a route to transparency during a public hearing. Critics at the hearing attacked the rule as likely to result in a paralyzed rulemaking apparatus that would stymie future air policies, focusing in particular on how it would affect ozone emission limits.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler recently told the Heritage Foundation that he plans similar rulemakings for the agency’s other regulatory programs such as water, toxics and waste.

ACWA Meeting

The Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA), which represents state clean-water regulators, will hold its annual meeting online Aug. 4-5. The agenda covers lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court’s recent decision opening some groundwater pollution to Clean Water Act (CWA) limits, EPA’s new rules limiting CWA jurisdiction and state authority to restrict permits under the water law’s section 401, and more.

Energy

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will host a series of daily webcasts on “Enhancing Federal Clean Energy Innovation” all week, with topics including advanced manufacturing issues, “thinking globally,” and next steps for boosting clean energy.

The Colorado Energy Research Collaboratory will host an Aug. 4 webinar on “technology enablers and policy drivers” for fuels that could support a carbon-neutral energy system, including hydrogen, ammonia and renewable natural gas.

The full Senate Environment & Public Works Committee will hold an Aug. 5 hearing on a discussion draft of panel Chairman John Barrasso’s (R-WY) bill to bolster nuclear-power infrastructure.

Pesticides

EPA will host a virtual environmental modeling public meeting (EMPM) on Aug. 5. EMPMs are designed as “a public forum for EPA and its stakeholders to discuss current issues related to modeling pesticide fate, transport, exposure, and ecotoxicity for pesticide risk assessments in a regulatory context.”

Climate Change

The House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee plans to hold an Aug. 5 hearing on the potential health and economic impacts of climate change.

Environmental Justice

The EPA-led Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) will host an Aug. 5 webinar to examine how regulators can reach out to vulnerable communities during public-comment processes for rulemakings and other agency actions, especially the National Environmental Policy Act review process, after the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person hearings all but impossible.

Superfund

The American Law Institute-Continuing Legal Education program will host an Aug. 6 webinar on the implications of the Supreme Court’s April 20 ruling in Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) v. Gregory Christian, et al. There, the high court held that the Superfund law does not preempt state courts from overseeing damages and other claims under state tort law, but also preserved EPA’s ultimate cleanup authority by finding landowners seeking a more extensive cleanup remedy through tort claims are potentially responsible parties and must first obtain agency approval.

Toxicology

The NAS Panel on Toxicology will hold its annual meeting by webinar on Aug. 6. The meeting will focus on research toward risk assessments for replacement fluorine-free aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) mixtures.

PFAS

EPA will host an Aug. 6 webinar on treatment technology to remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from drinking water systems.

Heavy-Duty Vehicles

The Diesel Technology Forum will host an Aug. 4 webinar on the use of heavy-duty vehicles and engines in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, including “current and future regulations” that impact them, including “clean air, climate and other considerations.”

Ecology

The Ecological Society of America will hold its annual meeting as an online forum Aug. 3-6

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