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The Week Ahead

House Hearing Targets Concerns Over EPA Science; Comments Due On PM NAAQS Review

House lawmakers this week will hold a hearing to review concerns over the Trump administration’s approach to science in EPA rulemakings. Meanwhile, the agency is taking comment on a staff paper that suggests a need to tighten the federal fine particulate matter (PM2.5) ambient air standard.

EPA Science

The House Science, Space & Technology Committee will hold a Nov. 13 hearing on “Strengthening Transparency or Silencing Science? The Future of Science in EPA Rulemaking,” with Democrats raising concerns about the Trump administration’s approach on the issue.

The agency is pushing ahead with a “secret science” rule launched by former Administrator Scott Pruitt that it says will improve the integrity of science used in rules, but critics warn the measure will undermine such data. Members of the agency’s independent Science Advisory Board recently filed comments on the rule that were largely critical.

Witnesses at the House hearing include EPA Science Advisor Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, who serves as the principal deputy assistant administrator for science in the agency’s Office of Research and Development; former National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Director Linda Birnbaum, several top university health officials, and Center for Open Science Co-Founder Brian Nosek.


Comments are due Nov. 12 on EPA staff’s draft policy assessment (PA) for the agency’s ongoing review of its PM2.5 and coarse particulate matter (PM10) national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). The PA suggests policy options for revising the NAAQS based on a review of the most recent scientific data on pollutants’ health impacts.

In the draft PA, staff recommends tightening the current annual primary NAAQS for PM2.5, which is designed to protect public health, from the level of 12 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) set in 2012 by the Obama EPA down to a level of between 8ug/m3 and 12ug/m3. The document further recommends that EPA should consider revising the related 24-hour primary limit of 35 ug/m3.

But the PA does not recommend tightening the NAAQS for PM10, nor a tightening of the “secondary” PM2.5 standard, current set at 15 ug/m3 annually, designed to protect the environment.

Six of the seven members of EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee during an Oct. 22 call previewed their fights over whether the newest data on PM’s health impacts justifies the PA findings, ahead of an in-person meeting to debate the document.

Fluoride Litigation

Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California will hold a Nov. 15 hearing on EPA’s bid to end environmental and public health groups’ efforts to obtain a court ruling on the merits of their petition asking EPA to ban drinking water fluoridation because of human health risks, testing a little-used section of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The agency, in an Oct. 9 motion for summary judgement, argues that plaintiffs have not provided “evidence demonstrating an unreasonable risk of injury from exposure to fluoridation chemicals used to increase water fluoride concentrations up to 0.7” milligrams per liter (mg/L) of water, the Health and Human Services Department’s existing standard for drinking water fluoridation. It also questions whether the plaintiffs have standing to pursue their claims.

TSCA NMP Meeting

EPA has scheduled a Nov. 12 preparatory virtual meeting for its TSCA Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) to discuss the review of the agency’s draft risk evaluation for N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP). The Nov. 4 draft evaluation finds that various uses of the chemical pose unreasonable risk -- a finding that would warrant risk management action if finalized -- to workers, consumers and bystanders.

Carbon Neutrality

On Nov. 13, the Center for Climate & Energy Solutions will unveil a “comprehensive outlining the policies needed over the coming decade to put the United States on the path to carbon neutrality by 2050,” based on input from major companies across U.S. economic sectors.

Speakers at the event, which is sold out but will be livestreamed, include Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Fred Upton (R-MI), Exelon Generation President and CEO Kenneth Cornew, and representatives from companies including Dow, Entergy, Intel Corp., and more.

Environmental Litigation

The American Law Institute-Continuing Legal Education is hosting a Nov. 14-15 event on environmental litigation, featuring topics including emerging contaminants; agency deference; Superfund law cases, major pending lawsuits; sampling issues; and more.

Separately, the American Bar Association will hold a Nov. 12 National Enforcement Conference to discuss EPA civil and criminal enforcement efforts, including remarks by agency enforcement chief Susan Bodine and Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Department of Justice assistant attorney general for the environment division.

EPA Recycling Fair

EPA is hosting its first-ever America Recycles Innovation Fair in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14 to commemorate America Recycles Day. The event, “in partnership with the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries, Keep America Beautiful, the Solid Waste Association of North America, and The Recycling Partnership, the Innovation Fair will feature entrepreneurs from across the recycling system showcasing their innovative products, services, outreach, and technologies,” EPA says.

NRDC Climate Briefing

On Nov. 13, the Natural Resources Defense Council will hold a briefing and panel discussion on the group’s pending report, “Transforming the U.S. Department of Energy in Response to the Climate Crisis: Legislative Authorization Principles for Clean Energy Innovation.”

The event, taking place in the Capitol Visitors Center, will include remarks from Sen. Angus King (I-ME), former Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Kathleen Hogan, and others who will talk about the report and more generally about energy innovation.

Energy Hearings

The House Science, Space & Technology Committee is holding a Nov. 14 hearing on “Water and Geothermal Power: Unearthing the Next Wave of Energy Innovation.”

In the Senate, the Environment & Public Works Committee will hold a Nov. 13 hearing on “Preserving and Expanding Clean, Reliable Nuclear Power: U.S. Commercial Nuclear Reactor Performance Trends and Safety Initiatives.”

DOE Nominee

Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, nominated by President Donald Trump to be the next top secretary of the Energy Department, will appear before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on Nov. 14 for his confirmation hearing.

Natural Disasters

On Nov. 14, Harvard University’s Center for the Environment is holding an event to examine the link between climate change and increased risks of natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. Panelists include former governors who will talk about their experiences responding to extreme weather events.

ECHO Webinar

EPA on Nov. 12 is holding its latest Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) webinar. “The focus of this webinar will be the facility and air emissions data available in ECHO for stationary sources. This webinar will explore the Air Facility Search and Air Pollutant Report through step-by-step examples,” the agency says.

Renewable Energy

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute and the Clean Energy and Technology Staff Association are co-hosting a Nov. 15 event to discuss “The Growing Role of Renewable Energy in the U.S. Energy Mix,” with representatives from the American Council on Renewable Energy, Geothermal Resources Council, and Energy Storage Association.