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The Week Ahead

Deadlines Loom For ‘High Priority’ TSCA Actions; SAB Weighs EPA Cost-Benefit Methods

Comments are due this week on the “scope” documents for EPA’s next round of “high-priority” risk evaluations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), just one of a series of looming deadlines for the agency’s toxics program. Meanwhile, the Science Advisory Board (SAB) will meet to consider the agency’s policies for assessing new rules’ costs and benefits.

TSCA

May 26 is the deadline for comments on EPA’s first batch of 13 “scope” documents for its next slate of 20 high-priority risk evaluations required by the reformed TSCA law. But environmentalists and at least one industry lawyer are already arguing that the drafts are inadequate. Environmental groups in early comments say that rather than actually proposing scopes for the analyses, EPA is instead declaring that “these required scope elements will be developed and provided later -- thereby denying the public an opportunity to provide comment” on their merits.

Separately, companies that manufacture or import any of the 20 chemicals EPA has designated as high-priority for risk assessment -- and thus under TSCA must pay to mitigate the cost of those assessments -- have until May 27 to report their fee responsibilities to the agency.

Finally, on May 28 the American Coatings Association will host a webinar on supply-chain issues including TSCA significant new use restriction rules.

SAB Meetings

Two SAB subcommittees tasked with reviewing EPA’s cost-benefit frameworks will meet by teleconference this week. The Economic Guidelines Review Panel will hold a May 26 call to advance its peer review of planned revisions to the agency’s “Guidelines for Preparing Economic Analyses,” which guides its cost-benefit studies of all rules.

And the Reduced-Form Tools Review Panel will meet May 28-29 to peer-review a draft report on tools for estimating air quality benefits in particular.

COVID-19

EPA will host a May 27 webinar on its research into the COVID-19 pandemic, including disinfection methods, testing for the virus in municipal wastewater and agency scientists’ contribution to development of antibody tests to detect prior infections.

Also on May 27, the National Academies’ Water Science and Technology Board will hold its online spring meeting with a focus on the pandemic. The agenda includes panel discussions on wastewater virus testing and on potential hazards in buildings’ drinking water systems as businesses reopen.

On May 28, the Academies’ Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate will host its own meeting on environmental issues amid the pandemic, focused on how exposure to air pollution affects COVID-19 sufferers, how climate and seasonal variations affect infection rates and “how agencies across the federal government are building upon existing efforts to address linkages between environmental conditions and health to understand the pandemic.”

Finally, the Environmental Law Institute will host a May 28 webinar on prospects for “deep decarbonization” after the pandemic, starting from the argument that the economic downturn spurred by COVID-19 represents a “fork in the road” for global climate policy.

Settlements

ELI has scheduled a May 27 webinar on settling environmental cases under the Department of Justice’s new ban on supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) that had long been a popular way for defendants facing enforcement settlements to offset civil penalties by funding environmental restoration work. Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ’s Environment & Natural Resources Division, wrote in a March 12 memo that SEPs “violate the spirit, if not the letter” if the Miscellaneous Receipts Act, which requires federal officials receiving funds on behalf of the United States to deposit them in the Treasury.

PM2.5

EPA will host a May 28 webinar on its research into the link between fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure and cardiovascular health impacts, including heart attacks and strokes. The presentation follows EPA’s hearing last week on its proposal to retain the current national ambient air quality standard for PM2.5, which environmentalists and public-health groups says ignores evidence of the same health links.

EPA Science

EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors Subcommittee on Chemical Safety for Sustainability/Health and Environmental Risk Assessment (HERA), which advises the agency on its scientific and research agendas, will meet May 27 to review the draft HERA strategic research action plan.

Toxicology

EPA’s toxics office has scheduled a May 27 webinar to present an update on non-animal test methods for skin sensitization, part of the agency’s broader shift away from animal testing in favor of other approaches including computational toxicology.

The agency’s Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice will meet May 28 for a presentation on the discipline’s “macro-level” issues and milestones for advancing it.

Great Lakes

The environmental group Healing Our Waters and property-owners nonprofit Great Lakes Coalition will host a joint May 27 call on their legislative priorities as lawmakers move toward spending bills for fiscal year 2021.

Fuels

EPA will hold a May 28 online hearing on its long-awaited proposal to streamline many regulatory requirements for gasoline, diesel and other fuels -- a process the agency launched under the Obama administration in 2016.

Carbon Capture

Comments are due May 29 on EPA’s proposal to give Wyoming authority to directly implement the agency’s “Class VI” permitting program for carbon capture and storage (CCS) injection wells. If finalized, the delegation would make Wyoming just the second state empowered to implement the Class VI program under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

SmartWay

EPA’s SmartWay program, which works with freight and shipping firms to minimize their environmental footprint, will host a May 27 webinar demonstrating its “multimodal tool” that calculates emissions from vehicle fleets split between trucks, rail, barges and air.

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