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The Week Ahead

EPA Weighs Input On Water Quality Trading; D.C. Circuit To Hear Suit On RFS ‘Hardship’

EPA is receiving preliminary feedback this week on its latest proposal to boost water quality trading under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Meanwhile, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear oral argument in litigation challenging the economic “hardship” criteria the agency uses in granting refiners waivers under the renewable fuel standard (RFS).

Water Quality Trading

EPA held an Oct. 21 listening session in Washington, D.C., on its plan to boost the use of water quality trading by making it easier for non-point sources of pollution to generate credits for sale. The Sept. 4 request for comment laid out a series of policy options that build on updated trading guidance the agency issued in February, as the latest action in the agency’s push to use non-regulatory approaches to meet environmental goals and an effort to expand its updated trading policy.

RFS ‘Hardship’ Criteria Suit

D.C. Circuit Judges Patricia Millet, Gregory Katsas and David Sentelle will hear oral argument Oct. 25 in Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) v. EPA, et al. AFBA is challenging EPA’s policy regarding issuance of RFS small refinery exemptions (SREs), which the agency may grant for refiners processing up to 75,000 barrels of oil per day that can demonstrate “disproportionate economic hardship.” Biofuels producers say EPA’s issuance of the waivers in much larger numbers than the Obama administration has destroyed demand for their product. ABFA in its suit claims that EPA in 2017 changed its criteria for granting the waivers, without going through necessary procedures for doing so, citing individual waivers issued as evidence.

Pebble Mine

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s panel on water will hold an Oct. 23 hearing on the environmental implications of long-planned Pebble Mine project near Bristol Bay, AK. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are still reviewing how the mine would affect the region’s waters, including a major salmon fishery, but the agency already faces a court challenge over its recent decision to withdraw an Obama-era proposal to “veto” any future permit.


EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) will meet Oct. 24-25 in Cary, NC, to peer-review career staff’s draft policy assessment that called for tightening the particulate matter (PM) national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). Their review follows a recent meeting of a “shadow” panel made up of former CASAC subcommittee members dismissed by the Trump administration, who said more-stringent NAAQS for fine and coarse PM are necessary to protect human health.

CWA Permit Certification

Comments are due Oct. 21 on EPA’s contentious proposal to limit states’ authority to rewrite or even block federally-crafted CWA permits within their borders in order to prevent harm to their waterbodies. Republicans say Democratic-led states have abused that power to block fossil-fuel infrastructure, but states and environmentalists are likely to sue if EPA finalizes the proposal.

Climate Hearings

Four congressional committees have climate-change hearings set for this week.

On Oct. 22, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will discuss “natural solutions to cutting pollution and building resilience,” and the Senate Energy Committee has a hearing on domestic and international energy-efficiency efforts.

On Oct. 23, the House Oversight Committee’s panel on civil rights has its latest hearing on charges that oil firms deliberately hid science tying fossil fuel use to climate change, and the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s environment panel will hold a hearing on “building a 100% clean economy.”


The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee will hold an Oct. 23 hearing with federal officials, including EPA water office policy chief Charlotte Bertrand, as part of the build-up to a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) authorizing Army Corps of Engineers infrastructure projects. While WRDA focuses mainly on construction, recent iterations of the bill have also featured policy provisions that affect EPA’s CWA program.

CMAS Conference

The Community Modeling and Analysis System (CMAS) Conference runs Oct. 21-23 in Chapel Hill, NC. The conference focuses on the state of research into “air quality models, modeling, and model development,” and includes presentations from EPA scientists on the agency’s Community Multiscale Air Quality Modeling System.


The Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative, a non-profit based in Research Triangle Park, NC, will host an Oct. 23-24 summit focused on a wide range of scientific and policy questions surrounding poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) including how to limit exposures and the best approaches to cleaning up contamination from the chemicals.

Earth Day

EPA Region 6 Administrator Ken McQueen is participating in an Oct. 22 “discussion” event in Dallas, TX, with the environmental non-profit EarthX as part of an event that marks six months until Earth Day 2020, which will be the holiday’s 50th anniversary.

The Earth Day Network is planning a press call on Oct. 22 to announce a series of initiatives in its own run-up to the next Earth Day.

Tribal Operations

EPA Region 9’s Regional Tribal Operations Committee will meet Oct. 21 in Maricopa, AZ.

Air Toxics

Comments are due Oct. 24 on EPA’s proposed Clean Air Act risk and technology review of existing air toxics standards for the cellulose products manufacturing sector. The agency is proposing to find no changes needed to current emissions limits, but plans to amend monitoring and reporting requirements along with removing waivers for periods of startup, shutdown and malfunction to comply with an appellate court ruling.


The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) is holding its annual awards dinner on Oct. 22, following panel discussions on the role of nuclear power in efforts to fight climate change; “obstacles and opportunities” for corporate sustainability; and implications of the “universal owner” concept for climate mitigation.

ELI has also scheduled an Oct. 25 webinar about lawyers’ pro bono work on climate change issues.

Computational Toxicology

EPA’s Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice will meet Oct. 24 to discuss the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences’ BioPlanet software, described as “an integrated platform for exploring the universe of cellular signaling pathways."

Groundwater Contamination

The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, which are joint projects between EPA, the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Energy, will jointly host an Oct. 24 webinar on managing contaminated groundwater.

AWWA Conference

The American Water Works Association (AWWA), which represents many drinking water utilities, is holding the annual conference for its California-Nevada section Oct. 21-24 in San Diego, CA.


EPA’s Office of Research & Development will host an Oct. 23 “virtual workshop” on the use of “big data” at mines and mineral processing facilities.

Urban Development

The National Academy of Sciences will host an Oct. 23 webinar on modeling techniques that support urban sustainability projects.


The Solid Waste Association of North America is hosting its annual solid waste management conference, WASTECON, Oct. 21-24 in San Diego, CA.