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The Week Ahead

Stakeholders Weigh In On GHG Rules; EPA Seeks Expert Input On Ozone NAAQS Science

The comment deadline is closing on EPA's contentious Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule to govern power plants' greenhouse gas emissions, as well as two other dockets that address EPA's vehicle GHG rules. The agency is hosting three webinars this week to gather experts' comments on its review of current science that will support the next national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ozone.

Climate Change

Oct. 31 is the deadline for comments on EPA's proposed ACE rule, which is intended to replace the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. Industry, congressional Republicans and other conservatives are set to clash with environmentalists, Democrats and other supporters of strong climate regulations over the legal and scientific basis for the Trump administration's plan for a narrow set of GHG limits focused on heat-rate improvements at coal-fired power plants.

Defenses of the rule could tie in to EPA's recent focus on new data showing that GHG emissions from stationary sources continued to drop in 2017 -- which officials have said is proof that there is no need for more stringent climate rules.

Also closing Oct. 31 are comment dockets on a pair of EPA proposals that would change how it calculates compliance credits under the 2012 emissions standards for light-duty vehicles. One of the proposals is a “technical correction” that will boost the credits available for electric, hybrid, fuel-cell and natural-gas fueled vehicles, and the other affects credits for “off-cycle” emissions improvements.

The CO2 Coalition, which argues that carbon dioxide can be beneficial to humans -- directly opposing scientific findings that it is the dominant cause of climate change -- will host an Oct. 30 event in Washington, D.C., to highlight the release of a new white paper on “Climate Change and Health."

Ozone NAAQS

EPA is hosting a series of webinars on Oct 29, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 to gather input from “subject matter experts” on its integrated science assessment for the next ozone NAAQS, which is designed to synthesize new science made available since the last review of the standard. Agency air chief Bill Wehrum has called for major streamlining of the NAAQS process, but has yet to spell out how that will affect the next round of ozone rulemaking.

Administrative Law

The American Bar Association will hold its annual administrative law conference Nov. 1-2 in Washington, D.C. Speakers include Eric Hostetler, the head of the Department of Justice's environmental appeals office, and much of the agenda focuses on EPA and other agencies' struggles to craft durable deregulatory actions despite their recent court losses.

CWA Permits

EPA's Environmental Appeals Board will hear argument Oct. 30 in the case In re: City of Ruidoso Downs and Village of Ruidoso Wastewater Treatment Plant, which tests EPA's discretion to loosen Clean Water Act (CWA) permit limits based on a waterbody cleanup plan -- with the potential for a new precedent on the Trump administration's authority to issue permits that are more lenient than Obama-era versions.

NOx Standards

Nov. 29 is the deadline for comments on EPA's proposal to revise current requirements for state implementation plans for achieving nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions standards. The agency is planning to allow for alternate monitoring requirements, rather than a strict mandate for mass-based emissions reporting.

Pesticides

The EPA Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee will meet Oct. 31 in Arlington, VA. The agenda includes updates from the pesticide office on a wide range of its programs, including registrations, labeling, alternatives to animal testing, and mosquito control.

Wastewater 'Blending'

EPA's third and final public hearing on its planned CWA rule to govern wastewater “blending” and other treatment technologies meant to compensate for wet-weather flows at treatment plants is set for Oct. 30 as an online listening session. During the first hearing on Oct. 16, industry speakers said EPA should avoid regulating blending directly, offering a series of options for other methods the agency could use to limit pollution during heavy rains and other wet weather.

Air Toxics

Oct. 29 is the comment deadline for EPA's proposed risk and technology review (RTR) of air toxics rules that found no “residual risk” from emissions stemming from surface coating of large appliances, surface coating of metal furniture, and fabric and textile coatings, and thus no need to tighten the current standards. If an RTR finds “residual” risks to health, or that new, cost-effective control technology is available, or both, the agency can use that finding to justify tighter limits for a sector.

DOE Cleanups

A National Academy of Sciences panel reviewing the science and technology of the Department of Energy (DOE) contaminated-site cleanup program will meet in a closed-door session Oct. 29-30 in Irvine, CA to advance its work.

Community Restoration

EPA is hosting an Oct. 30 webinar on “Understanding communities, values, and decisions” through research on “Remediation to Restoration to Revitalization,” which covers links between remediating contaminated sediment, restoring aquatic habitats and revitalizing nearby communities.

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