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The Week Ahead

House Ramps Up Climate Hearing Push; EPA Weighs Comments On Scope Of CWA Rule

Democrats in the House are ramping up their focus on climate policy this week with seven committee hearings on the subject. Meanwhile, EPA is holding its sole planned public hearing on its contentious proposal to narrow the test for Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction.

Climate Change

There are eight congressional hearings scheduled this week on climate change and clean-energy subjects, as Democrats in the House continue their push to make climate change a signature issue headed into 2020 while Senate Republicans are advancing a bipartisan carbon-capture bill.

In the House, there are four climate-related hearings slated for Feb. 26. The Appropriations Committee’s panel on commerce, justice and science will discuss “The Changing Climate System and the Role of Climate Research;” the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is slated for a hearing on climate mitigation and adaptation through infrastructure; the oversight subcommittee of the Natural Resources Committee has a hearing focused on “climate denial;” and the Science Committee’s energy panel will discuss the future of the Energy Department’s advanced energy office, Advanced Research Projects Agency--Energy (ARPA-E).

The schedule for Feb. 27 includes three climate hearings in the House and one in the Senate. In the lower chamber, the Energy & Commerce Committee’s energy panel has a hearing on clean energy infrastructure, while its environment subcommittee will discuss the leadership “void” left by rollbacks of federal climate policies. The environment panel of the Science Committee has a hearing on climate impacts in the oceans and coastal areas. Meanwhile, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee will hold a full committee hearing on S. 383, the latest iteration of a bipartisan bill aimed at bolstering carbon capture and sequestration technology.

Also in the Senate, this week could see the first up-or-down vote on the “Green New Deal” agenda floated by progressive Democrats. The vote, ahead of any hearings on the resolution, has been seen as an effort by Republicans to force Democratic senators to register the extent of their support for the plan and unify the GOP, which is under increasing fire for its climate stance.

And Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), ranking member on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW), will speak at a Feb. 25 briefing on climate impacts in the United States, hosted by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, Union of Concerned Scientists, and National Wildlife Federation.

Finally, on Feb. 28 the American Bar Association (ABA) will host a webinar on methods of integrating renewable energy technology with energy-storage methods.

CWA Jurisdiction

EPA is set to hold the only planned public hearing on its proposal with the Army Corps of Engineers to radically narrow the universe of waterbodies subject to the Clean Water Act (CWA), on Feb. 27-28 in Kansas City, KS. Comments at the hearing will preview the broad array of court challenges that the agencies will face after they finalize the rule, as well as potential defenses the administration and its allies could raise.

Also this week, the ABA will host a Feb. 26 webinar to discuss the proposed CWA rule.

Andrew Wheeler

Senate leaders are expected to call a vote this week on Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s nomination as the agency’s permanent head, although at press time no specific date had been announced for the vote. He appears virtually certain to win confirmation despite some Republican opposition to his agenda for the renewable fuel standard, especially after Carper voiced support for the agency’s plan on perfluourinated chemicals, which was among five policy demands Democrats raised in exchange for dropping procedural hurdles to a quick vote.

Appropriations

The House Appropriations Committee’s interior and environment subcommittee will hold a full-day “public witness hearing” on Feb. 26, in order to “collect testimony from experts and stakeholders to inform the priorities and direction” for its fiscal year 2020 spending bill. The agenda includes more than 20 speakers from groups affected by the panel’s budget work, including a wide array of environmental and conservation witnesses.

Enforcement

The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s oversight panel has set a Feb. 26 hearing on EPA’s enforcement activity, focused on falling enforcement metrics that Democrats say are proof that the Trump administration is stymieing environmental enforcement.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) will host a Feb. 26 panel discussion in Washington, D.C. on “Using Whistleblower Laws to Promote Environmental Enforcement.”

SO2 NAAQS

Feb. 25 is the deadline for EPA’s decision on whether to revise or retain its sulfur dioxide (SO2) national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS), under a consent decree with environmentalists who sued the agency after it missed the statutory deadline of 2015 for that action. At press time, EPA had not released any details on the final rule.

Cooperative Federalism

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) will host a Feb. 28 webinar on “Rethinking the Federal-State Relationship,” focused on what it says is the need for states and EPA to “engage in dialogue so as to align their programs and priorities to current realities,” especially in light of the Trump administration’s focus on cooperative federalism.

CFATS

The full House Homeland Security Committee has set a Feb. 27 hearing on the future of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, following lawmakers’ agreement to extend its funding by one year while they consider potential legislative changes. CFATS is tied to EPA’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) facility safety rule, including a mandate in the Obama-era update to RMP that requires broader access to the chemical information that facilities report to the program. However, the Trump administration is seeking to roll back that update.

Air Modeling

EPA will host a Feb. 27 webinar to highlight recent improvements to its Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) modeling system.

Citizen Science

Comments are due Feb. 25 on EPA’s proposed renewal of its standing information collection request used to collect citizen science and crowdsourced data.

Environmental Justice

EPA will host a Feb. 26 webinar on multi-generational impacts to indigenous communities from uranium mine waste.

Computational Toxicology

EPA’s Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice will meet Feb. 28 for a presentation on the Systematic Empirical Evaluation of Models framework for combining and weighting various predictors of exposure to produce consensus toxicology models.

TSCA

The ABA will hold a Feb. 27 webinar on the “basics” of the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act, including EPA’s rulemaking duties and new industry responsibilities under the modernized statute.

Compensatory Mitigation

ELI will host a Feb. 26 webinar on standards for stream compensatory mitigation.

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