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The Week Ahead

SAB Seeks Nominations For Key Advisory Panels; Conference Studies Biomass Energy

Nominations are due this week for the Science Advisory Board (SAB) panels that will inform EPA’s planned overhauls of how it calculates “co-benefits” from reducing air pollution below existing regulatory limits and of cost-benefit analysis for rules. Meanwhile, a major conference will assess biomass energy, which the agency currently treats as a carbon neutral fuel source.

SAB Panels

July 3 and 5 are the deadlines for nominations to the SAB panels on economics and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) reductions, respectively. Both groups are set to review EPA’s plans for policy shifts that could underlie coming rollbacks.

A new framework on PM2.5 could help justify weakening or withdrawing Obama-era rules governing power plant emissions of mercury and greenhouse gases that relied on the “co-benefits” provided by the PM2.5 reductions, while changes to the agency’s “Guidelines for Preparing Economic Analyses” are expected to feed into planned changes to EPA’s cost-benefit methods and its risk assessment guidelines, which inform the benefit portion of regulatory assessments.

Biomass

The Biochar & Bioenergy 2019 conference runs July 1-3 in Fort Collins, CO. Speakers will address technical issues with burning wood and other biomass for energy, just as Congress is wrestling with whether to renew the long-standing funding rider that requires EPA and other agencies to treat biomass energy as carbon neutral. That rider underlies a series of pro-biomass policies from the agency that consider it to have zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Alaska SIP

Comments are due July 5 on EPA’s proposed settlement with environmentalists that gives the agency only until July 7 to make its long-overdue finding on whether Alaska has crafted a “complete” state implementation plan (SIP) to curb PM2.5 pollution in Fairbanks, AK, an area with stubbornly high air pollution levels caused by extensive use of wood-burning appliances.

Ozone Monitoring

Comments are due July 1 on EPA’s plan to retroactively extend a June 1 deadline for states to start making ozone measurements through a specialized set of monitoring stations known as Photochemical Assessment Monitoring Stations (PAMS) by two years, to June 1, 2021, “to allow states more time to purchase and become proficient with the necessary equipment.” The Obama EPA reworked PAMS requirements as part of its 2015 rule tightening the national ambient air quality standard for ozone.

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