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The Week Ahead

Editor's Note: The next Week Ahead will publish on Dec. 31.

D.C. Circuit Set To Weigh Ozone NAAQS After Long Delay; Methane NSPS Comments Due

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear oral argument this week in litigation over EPA's 2015 ozone air standard, after a lengthy delay in the case. Meanwhile, comments are due on EPA's proposal to weaken Obama-era new source performance standards (NSPS) for oil and gas operations that target methane emissions from the facilities.

Ozone NAAQS

The D.C. Circuit will hear oral argument Dec. 18 in the long-delayed challenge to EPA's 2015 ozone NAAQS that tightened the standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) down to 70 ppb. The Trump administration initially pledged to reconsider the new standard, setting off a stay of the litigation. But EPA then decided to preserve the standard and focus on the Clean Air Act-mandated five-year review of that limit instead, under a newly streamlined framework. Once EPA announced its decision, the D.C. Circuit lifted its stay of the case and scheduled oral argument.

The suit, combining bids from industry and states to loosen the 70 ppb standard with environmentalists' requests for a tighter limit, will revive familiar arguments from prior rounds of litigation over EPA's NAAQS rules. Opponents of tougher regulations have never won a decision forcing EPA to loosen its standards, but the D.C. Circuit has previously remanded NAAQS rules to EPA for failure to adequately explain, based on scientific data, why it has not tightened them.

Methane NSPS

Dec. 17 is the deadline for comments on EPA's proposal to ease the 2016 oil and gas NSPS, which would soften requirements for monitoring methane leaks, loosen schedules for repairing them and create an exemption for pneumatic pumps at certain greenfield sites, among other changes to the Obama-era rule that was intended to pave the way for methane standards at existing operations.

Many of the groups set to weigh in on the proposal previewed their comments during a Nov. 15 public hearing. There, environmentalists and Democratic elected officials urged the agency to drop its proposal and retain the Obama-era standards, while industry groups said it should to go beyond the proposed rule and soften the policy even more.

Computational Toxicology

EPA's Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice will meet Dec. 20 for a presentation on ToxValDB, a database of quantitative in vivo study results from tests on “over 25,000 chemicals.”

Debris Recovery

EPA will host a Dec. 18 webinar to showcase Region 5's Disaster Debris Recovery Tool, which compiles location and contact data for more than 6,000 facilities that deal with debris through disposal, composting, storage and other means, as a resource for local authorities dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster.

ELAB Call

The Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board (ELAB), which advises EPA on monitoring and modeling issues as well as accreditation of the environmental labs that work on those duties, will meet by phone Dec. 19.

Good Neighbor Environmental Board

EPA's Good Neighbor Environmental Board, which advises the agency on environmental and security issues at the U.S.-Mexico border, will hold a Dec. 19 teleconference to finish work on its annual letter to the president, focused on energy infrastructure along the border.

Energy Policy

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute is poised to release a report on Dec. 18 titled “Infrastructure Lost: Why America Cannot Afford To ‘Keep It In the Ground,’” which aims to push back against environmentalists' campaign to discourage new fossil fuel extraction. The report will quantify the impacts from “delayed and canceled energy infrastructure projects on the U.S. economy and workforce that would enhance American consumers’ access to abundant, affordable energy and provide hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs.”

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