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The Week Ahead

Appellate Courts Poised To Hear Three Suits Over EPA Rules, House Targets Climate Change

Federal appeals courts will hear oral arguments this week in suits over three EPA regulations, including a change in Clean Air Act permitting policy and the agency's delay on implementing a 2015 effluent rule for utilities. Meanwhile, the House is preparing for a series of climate change hearings and a floor vote on a bill to block the White House's planned exit from the Paris agreement.

Court Challenges

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear argument in two Clean Air Act cases this week. On May 1, the court hears Sierra Club v. EPA, where environmentalists are challenging EPA’s policy for reviewing state Clean Air Act Title V operating permits that bars “second-guessing” states’ regulatory decisions.

The second air law case, on May 3, is Natural Resources Defense Council, et al., v. Wheeler, et al., which targets the agency’s new guidance on an Obama-era rule governing the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that environmentalists say effectively revokes the regulation even though it was only partially vacated by an earlier D.C. Circuit decision.

Meanwhile, the 5th Circuit will hear argument May 1in Clean Water Action, et al., v. EPA, et al., where environmentalists are trying to overturn the agency’s delay of provisions in a 2015 Clean Water Act effluent rule for power plants that strengthened treatment-technology mandates for two types of wastewater. A separate 5th Circuit panel has already ruled that elements of the rule that the Obama EPA opted not to postpone were unlawfully weak, which the environmentalists hope will aid their case over the delay.

Climate Change

The House Rules Committee will meet April 29 to set the terms for floor debate on H.R. 9, which would force the United States to remain a party to the Paris climate agreement, despite President Donald Trump’s plan to exit it next year.

And three House panels have scheduled climate-related hearings on April 30, continuing the chamber’s ongoing focus on the subject. The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has a hearing on “Drawing Down Carbon and Building the American Economy”; the Natural Resources Committee’s energy and mineral resources panel will discuss “Public Lands and Our Clean Energy Future”; and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s environment panel will meet on the public health effects of climate change.

RFS

Comments are due April 29 on EPA’s proposal to simultaneously allow year-round sales of 15-percent ethanol fuel (E15) and overhaul the renewable fuel standard’s (RFS) compliance credit market. Summer sales of E15 are seen as vital by the biofuels sector, but much of the oil industry opposes the plan while refiners -- which stand to benefit from the credit reforms -- are divided.

Clean Water Act Conference

The American Bar Institute-Continuing Legal Education program’s annual conference on Clean Water Act (CWA) litigation and regulation will run May 2-3 in Washington, D.C. Topics on the agenda include the battle over CWA jurisdiction; a pending Supreme Court case over whether the law limits groundwater-borne pollution that reaches surface waters; and federal-state relationships under a “cooperative federalism” model of the CWA.

Risk Assessment

April 29 is the comment deadline on EPA’s draft protocol document for its newly resumed risk assessment on hexavalent chromium. EPA’s release of the document was its first concrete action from the Integrated Risk Information System office since Administrator Andrew Wheeler and other top officials scaled back its agenda late last year.

Federal Facility Cleanups

House and Senate committees have three hearings May 1 on cleanup issues at federal sites, including nuclear waste and defense facilities’ varied environmental challenges.

In the House, the Energy & Commerce Committee’s panel on oversight will meet to consider the Department of Energy’s “mounting” environmental cleanup costs. And the Armed Services Committee’s readiness panel has scheduled a hearing on the Defense Department’s environmental activities budget request for fiscal year 2020.

Meanwhile, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee has a May 1 hearing on a still-unreleased draft bill titled the “Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019.”

CASAC

Comments are due April 30 on EPA’s list of nine candidates to fill a vacancy on its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). The seven-member panel charged with overseeing reviews of federal air quality standards has been embroiled in controversy since the Trump EPA scrapped a subcommittee formed to help the chartered committee with its oversight of the agency’s review of NAAQS for particulate matter (PM), and also opted not to recruit a similar subpanel for its ozone NAAQS review.

NEJAC

EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NEJAC) is holding a May 1-2 meeting in Bethesda, MD, to discuss issues including the reuse and revitalization of Superfund and other contaminated sites, and an update on agency program offices' efforts to incorporate environmental justice into their programs. Ahead of the meeting, NEJAC will also hold an April 30 teleconference.

Watershed Protection

The Center for Watershed Protection, representing scientists, planners and environmental professionals, is holding its National Watershed and Stormwater Conference in Charleston, SC, from April 29 through May 2. Discussions on the agenda include green infrastructure and making stormwater management more resilient.

Modeling

EPA is hosting a May 1 online discussion of “Water Quality Modeling: Basics and Beyond” to discuss data needs for water modeling.

Chemicals

The Household & Chemical Products Association's mid-year meeting takes place May 1-3 in Washington, DC. Top EPA officials will give keynote remarks at the event, including Acting Deputy Administrator Henry Darwin and Office of Chemical Safety & Pollution Prevention Assistant Administrator Alexandra Dunn. A series of panel discussions includes a presentation from Bergeson & Campbell Managing Partner Lynn Bergeson on implementation of the updated Toxic Substances Control Act.

LGAC Meeting

EPA's Local Government Advisory Committee will hold a May 2-3 meeting at its DC headquarters “on issues pertaining to water and water infrastructure issues; Waters of the U.S., emerging contaminants; superfund and brownfields; risk communication and other issues in EPA's Strategic Plan.”

Corporate Sustainability

On April 30, the American Bar Association's Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources will host a discussion on best practices for corporate sustainability. Beveridge and Diamond lawyer Stacey Halliday will moderate the event, which features the law firm's Lauren Hopkins and representatives from the Coca-Cola Company and Monsanto Company.

Drinking Water

EPA's Office of Water and Office of Research Development will host a joint April 30 webinar for small drinking water systems on the “Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule and Simultaneous Compliance.”

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