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The Week Ahead

ECOS Holds Fall Meeting, EPA Weighs Comments On Repealing ‘Once In’ Emissions Policy

The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), representing many state environment commissioners, is holding its fall meeting this week in Seattle, and Inside EPA will have comprehensive coverage of the discussions. Meanwhile, comments are due on EPA’s proposal to formally repeal its long-standing “once in, always in” air toxics policy.

ECOS Meeting

ECOS’ fall meeting runs Sept. 25-27 in Seattle, WA, and features top state and EPA officials including acting air chief Anne Idsal, who will speak on the contentious Affordable Clean Energy climate rule for power plants, and Assistant Deputy Administrator Henry Darwin, architect of the agency’s shift to “Lean” management. Inside EPA will be reporting from the conference with coverage of the discussions and sideline interviews.

Air Permits

Sept. 24 is the deadline for comments on EPA’s proposed rule expanding and codifying a guidance that scrapped the “once in, always in” policy locking “major” air pollution sources into strict emissions controls throughout their operating lives, even if they cut emissions to below the threshold for less-stringent “area source” limits. The proposal argues that the Clean Air Act unambiguously prohibits the policy, which has been seen as a risky legal approach but would prevent future administrations from undoing the repeal if judges agree with EPA’s claim.

Private Initiatives

The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee’s panel on air and radiation will hold a Sept. 25 hearing on industry-led initiatives for air pollution reduction. Our Environment Next service, focused on the future of environmental protection, tracks such efforts including private governance measures.


EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will address a Sept. 26 “policy symposium” on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) hosted by the law firm K&L Gates in Washington, D.C. Wheeler and other speakers at the event will speak on the ongoing legislative fight over PFAS provisions in the pending defense authorization bill, the EPA-led interagency project to address the chemicals, and industry’s response to widespread drinking water contamination.

On the same day, the National Academy of Sciences’ Environmental Health Matters Initiative, which explores “innovative solutions to protect human health,” will begin a two-day workshop in Washington, D.C., on human exposure to PFAS and new or creative options for preventing them.

EPA Budget

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s panel on interior, environment and other agencies is scheduled to mark up its draft bill to fund EPA and the other agencies under its jurisdiction for fiscal year 2020 at a Sept. 24 meeting. The Senate has been slow to take up any FY20 bills, but lawmakers are moving a continuing resolution that funds the government through Nov. 21, giving them more time to craft a potential deal, after the House passed a $9.52 billion budget for EPA that includes major limits on the Trump administration’s policies.

Supreme Court

Major legal and environmental groups are previewing the Supreme Court’s upcoming 2019-20 term ahead of its Oct. 1 start date. The D.C. Bar Association has an event Sept. 25 in Washington, D.C.; the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) and Harvard Law School will host a joint event on Sept. 26 in Cambridge, MA; and the American Bar Association (ABA) has a webinar on the new term set for Sept. 27. The justices are already scheduled to hear one high-profile environment case this year -- County of Maui v. Hawai'i Wildlife Fund, et al., scheduled for argument Nov. 6, which tests whether the Clean Water Act (CWA) limits groundwater pollution that contaminates surface waters.

Environmental Regulation

The Practicing Law Institute will hold its annual seminar on environmental regulation Sept. 27 in New York City and by webinar. Items on the agenda includes EPA’s risk assessment programs; PFAS rules and legislation; cost-benefit assessments under the Clean Air Act; and “emerging” CWA and pesticide issues.

Climate Hearings

Four House committees have scheduled climate hearings this week. On Sept. 24, the House Natural Resources Committee’s panel on energy will hold a hearing on fossil fuels titled “Protecting Taxpayers and Eliminating Industry Giveaways,” and the House Rules Committee panel on the legislative and budget processes has a hearing on “building resilient communities.”

On Sept. 26, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing on industrial emissions, and a subcommittee of the House Science Committee has a hearing on “Understanding, Forecasting, and Communicating Extreme Weather in a Changing Climate.”

PM2.5 Review Nominations

Sept. 24 is the deadline for comments on the nominees for the proposed panel that will peer review EPA’s draft document that details potential approaches for calculating the benefits of reducing fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from already-low levels. The project is part of the agency’s work to revise how it considers rules’ costs and benefits, in particular “co-benefits” of pollution reductions secondary to the main purpose of a rule that industry has long argued are over-estimated.

Drinking Water

EPA’s annual Drinking Water Workshop runs Sept. 24-26 in Cincinnati, OH. The agenda includes technical and policy discussions of PFAS, nutrients, lead in drinking water and disinfection byproduct management, among other issues.


Comments are due Sept. 27 on EPA’s proposed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) rule governing persistent and bioaccumulative toxics (PBT). The revised law requires the agency to designate chemicals PBT, and then to perform an exposure analysis to be the basis for a risk management rule -- a streamlined process over traditional risk assessment.

The law firm Wiley Rein will host a Sept. 25 webinar on EPA’s approach to reviewing pre-manufacture notices for new products subject to TSCA. Industry has argued that the agency needs to streamline the review process to meet the law’s 90-180-day timeline, while environmentalists say efforts to speed the process are already neglecting health and safety concerns.

Climate Policy

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute will hold its Climate and National Security Forum Sept. 24 in Washington, D.C., focused on how climate change affects U.S. security concerns and potential approaches to mitigating those vulnerabilities.

The council on Foreign Relations will host a panel discussion on global approaches to climate adaptation Sept. 24 in New York City.

Oil & Gas Enforcement

The ABA will host a Sept. 25 teleconference on state and federal enforcement in the oil and gas sector.


Sept. 23 is the deadline for public comments on EPA’s proposal to revise its designations of nonattainment areas for the 2010 national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide (SO2) in order to shift three Texas regions from “nonattainment” to “unclassifiable,” based on a finding that officials “erred in not giving greater weight to Texas' preference to characterize air quality through monitoring.”

ELI Events

ELI is hosting a series of panel discussions on environmental law and policy issues this week. On Sept. 24, the group will host an event on enforcement of marine protected areas, which are regions where human activities are more strictly regulated than the surrounding waters. A Sept. 25 event on industry sustainability programs and their effect on finance, including corporate mergers and acquisitions. And on Sept. 27, the group has scheduled a panel on cybersecurity for the energy and environment sectors in Boston, MA.


Comments are due Sept. 23 on EPA’s June 24 announcement that it plans to review the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program under Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires agencies to review any rule “that has or will have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities” on a 10-year cycle.

Computational Toxicology

EPA’s Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice will meet Sept. 26 on “accelerating the pace of chemical risk assessment through international collaborative case studies.”

Financial Assurance Rule

Sept. 27 is the deadline for comments on EPA’s decision not to craft a financial assurance rule for the power sector under the Superfund law. The agency found in its proposal that existing regulation of coal combustion residuals, the financial stability of the sector and other factors suggest a low level of risk undercutting any need for a new rule, but environmentalists are likely to sue once the decision is finalized.