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The Week Ahead

EPA Toxics Chief Dunn To Testify At House Asbestos Hearing, ELI Debates CWA's Scope

EPA toxics chief Alexandra Dunn is slated to appear at a House hearing on asbestos policy, where Democrats will question her on what they see as the agency's inadequate regulation of the substance. Meanwhile, the Environmental Law Institute is hosting a panel discussion on how the ongoing fight over the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA) affects wetlands regulation.

Asbestos

Dunn will be the main witness at a May 8 hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s environment panel focused on H.R. 1603, a Democratic-backed bill that would ban asbestos. The bill is the latest manifestation of opposition to what environmentalists and some Democrats see as EPA’s failure to adequately regulate the notorious carcinogen, including in its recently finalized rule that puts new limits on industry reviving any abandoned uses of asbestos but stops shy of a total ban.

CWA Jurisdiction

ELI will host a May 7 panel discussion on the ongoing effects for wetlands regulation from the fractured 2006 Supreme Court case Rapanos, et al., et ux., v. United States. That decision, where the justices split 4-4-1 on the CWA's reach, produced two competing tests for determining when a waterbody is subject to the law and led to over a decade of confusion on which precedent to apply. The Trump administration is now proposing to enact a rule based on the narrower test, which was authored by the late Justice Antonin Scalia and which critics say would exclude most wetlands from federal protections regardless of their impacts on the environment.

RFS Litigation

A panel of U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit judges will hear argument May 7 in Producers of Renewables United for Integrity, Truth and Transparency v. EPA, where biofuels groups are challenging as unlawful EPA’s retroactive grant of RFS compliance credits, known as renewable identification numbers (RINs), for prior compliance years.

Biofuels groups say EPA cannot lawfully restore RINs that are not tied to specific gallons of biofuel produced, but EPA says the restoration of RINs is required to comply with remands by the 10th Circuit, based on rulings that the agency wrongly refused small refiner waivers to refineries operated by Sinclair and HollyFrontier, two Western refiners that sought exemptions for what they claim are high RFS compliance costs.

Methylmercury

Comments are due May 6 on EPA’s draft assessment plan for its pending human health risk assessment of methylmercury, which will update a 2001 analysis that formed the basis for a 2017 advisory on safe levels of fish consumption for pregnant women. That advisory, issued jointly with the Food & Drug Administration, drew attacks for relying on the 16-year-old document that critics claim is out of date.

Children’s Health

EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee is slated to meet May 9-10 in Washington, D.C. The meeting is its first since members of the panel raised frustrations over the administration’s failure to formally seek input from them on any policy questions, and doubted the agency’s professed commitment to children’s health after political leaders dismissed Ruth Etzel, the former children’s health office director.

Regulatory Reform

Two former directors of the White House Office of Management & Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs will testify at a May 7 Senate hearing on EPA and other agencies’ regulatory processes. The hearing will be before the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee’s panel on regulatory affairs and federal management, and focus on agencies’ early public engagement in the rulemaking process and retrospective reviews of previously enacted rules -- both areas where EPA critics have said the agency fails to engage with states and stakeholders.

Pesticides

EPA’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC) will meet May 8-9 in Washington, D.C. The agenda covers a range of topics including EPA’s implementation of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act and potential methods to “strengthen” the PPDC and its advice to the agency.

Climate Change

The National Academy of Sciences panel crafting advice on the U.S. policy for “global change,” including but not limited to climate change, will meet by teleconference May 8.

Environmental and legal groups are hosting a May 8 discussion in New York, NY, on options for law firms to use pro-bono work to aid “deep decarbonization” of the U.S. economy.

Water Infrastructure

The Water Environment Foundation and International Water Association, which are both technical groups representing water utilities and individual professionals in the sector, are hosting a pair of conferences this week in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. A wastewater-focused conference (https://www.wef.org/events/conferences/upcoming-conferences/ResidualsBio...) on biosolids and wastewater residuals runs May 7-10, while a separate symposium on stormwater and green infrastructure runs May 8-10.

Army Corps

The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee has scheduled a May 8 oversight hearing on the Army Corps of Engineers’ civil works program.

Ecosystem Restoration

EPA, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, through their joint Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, will co-host a May 9 webinar on the role of soil microbe communities in ecosystem restoration.

Landfill Waste

May 10 is the comment deadline on EPA’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking that floated a host of options for easing limits on municipal solid waste landfills in order to allow the addition of liquids to so-called wet and bioreactor landfills, which would aid in speeding waste degradation. The notice sought comment on many possible changes to the current policy including removing the general ban on the addition of bulk liquids to solid waste landfills; defining a particular class of landfills -- bioreactor landfill units -- to operate with greater moisture content; and revising criteria for landfills to address new technical considerations related to liquids management, “including waste stability, subsurface reactions, and other important safety and operational issues.”

BOSC Meeting

The chemical safety for sustainability subcommittee of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), which offers input to the agency on its research agenda, will meet by teleconference on May 10.

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