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The Week Ahead

EPA, Corps Poised To Unveil Narrow CWA Jurisdiction Rule; Advisers Weigh PM Science

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are poised to formally propose their new, narrower rule for determining the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Meanwhile, the agency's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Council (CASAC) is set to review a draft science assessment that marks an early step toward reviewing the current particulate matter (PM) ambient air standards.

CWA Jurisdiction

EPA and the Corps are slated to unveil their proposal for a new, narrower CWA jurisdiction standard with a Dec. 11 event at EPA headquarters. While the agencies have yet to confirm any details about the rule, leaked talking points point to a test that would blend two conflicting Supreme Court opinions on the water law's reach, but ultimately set a standard that would limit federal authority more than either one on its own.

PM NAAQS

Comments are due Dec. 11 on EPA's draft integrated science assessment (ISA) of hazards from PM pollution -- a key document that will support the agency's review of the current “primary” PM national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), and especially fine particles (PM2.5). EPA intends to complete the review of standards for PM2.5 and larger “coarse” PM by December 2020, putting the agency on a tight schedule.

The draft suggests adverse health effects from PM exposure even below the current limit, which could bolster environmentalists' calls for the agency to tighten the standard and regulate smaller ultrafine PM. Despite the ISA findings, EPA's deputy air chief Clint Woods has already said that even if scientific data show harm from PM exposure at levels as low as 5 micrograms per cubic meter, it might be technically impossible for the agency to set such a limit.

Following the close of comments, the chartered CASAC will meet Dec. 12 -13 in Arlington, VA, to conduct its public review of the ISA.

Air Monitoring

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral argument Dec. 10 in Sierra Club v. EPA, et al., where environmentalists are challenging an Obama EPA rule from 2016 that revised states' emissions monitoring requirements. Sierra Club is asking the court to force EPA to make submission of air quality monitoring plans a necessary component of state implementation plans, which are blueprints outlining how states intend to meet national ambient air quality standards. Inside EPA will have full coverage of the argument session later today.

Climate Change

The Great Plains Institute and Duke University will co-host a Dec. 13 conference on issues facing the states that are part of the electric grid overseen by PJM Interconnection -- which covers the Mid-Atlantic and parts of the Midwest -- such as the Trump EPA's proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule governing power plants' greenhouse gas emissions.

The Chesapeake Water Environment Association, which includes wastewater and stormwater authorities in the Chesapeake Bay region, will host a Dec. 13 webinar on stormwater resiliency planning in the context of climate change.

The American Bar Association (ABA) will host a Dec. 12 webinar on tribal governments' efforts to enact new climate policies.

Superfund

EPA will host a community meeting Dec. 13 for residents near the Rockwell International Wheel & Trim Superfund site in Grenada, MS -- which was one of the first sites added to the National Priorities List of high-priority cleanups due to subsurface intrusion, over industry objections that the novel step set “a concerning precedent."

Groundwater

ABA will host a Dec. 13 teleconference on the legal fight over potential CWA liability for pollution discharges that travel through groundwater to surface waters. Two petitions on the subject are now pending at the Supreme Court, which has asked the White House to weigh in by Jan. 4.

RFS Reform

The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s environment panel will meet on Dec. 11 for a hearing -- originally scheduled for Dec. 5 and then delayed -- on GOP members’ new draft bill that would phase out the RFS program by 2032 in favor of a national standard to boost the octane rating of fuel, designed to promote ethanol without an explicit blending mandate. The bill was unveiled a week before EPA issued its new rule setting RFS targets for 2019, and any effort to reform the program faces a potentially thorny path in the divided 116th Congress.

WIFIA

EPA is continuing its latest round of outreach for the Water Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (WIFIA) program that leverages federal funds to support municipal water infrastructure projects, with an in-person information session Dec. 11 in Boston, MA, and a separate webinar on Dec. 12.

Ozone NAAQS

Comments are due Dec. 14 on EPA's proposed determinations categorizing areas that were formerly in “moderate” nonattainment with the 2008 ozone NAAQS. The new rule will assign the regions to either attainment of the standard or “serious” nonattainment, depending on whether they managed to achieve pollution reductions by the NAAQS' compliance deadline.

Brownfields

EPA is hosting a Dec. 12 webinar on using green infrastructure techniques to help rehabilitate brownfields properties.

AFO Emissions

Dec. 14 is the deadline for public input on EPA's proposed rule that would exempt animal feeding operations (AFOs) from air emissions reporting requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The proposal would extend an exemption from Superfund air emissions reporting provided by Congress earlier this year, but it is likely to face a court challenge from environmentalists.

Legionella

EPA will host a Dec. 11 webinar on new research into methods of decontaminating home plumbing that hosts the Legionella pneumophila bacteria that causes Legionnaires disease.

Chemical Assessments

The National Academy of Sciences is hosting a Dec. 10-11 workshop on “Strategies and Tools for Conducting Systematic Reviews of Mechanistic Data to Support Chemical Assessments.”

Landfills

Public comments on EPA's proposal to delay until mid-2019 the deadline for states to submit plans to comply with Obama-era methane rules for landfills are due Dec. 14. The extension is designed to harmonize with the proposed ACE power plant climate rule, which in addition to setting emissions standards for utilities includes a broader revision to how EPA implements section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act that governs the landfill standards as well as ACE.

BOSC Meeting

The EPA Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) panel on homeland security will meet Dec. 12-14 in Research Triangle Park, NC. BOSC advises EPA on its scientific agenda and practices, with each subcommittee targeting a particular area of agency research.

Produced Water

Comments are due Dec. 10 on the draft white paper EPA released jointly with New Mexico that aims to facilitate the use of produced water from oil and gas drilling in the state by identifying regulatory or policy gaps. Despite that goal, the state's ability to make any changes outlined in the paper could be limited by EPA's pending decision on how to manage wastewater from onshore oil and gas extraction.

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