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The Week Ahead

In Congress, several committees are weighing climate change bills or oversight action during the “Climate Week NYC” summit of government and private groups. Meanwhile, a federal appeals court is poised to hear oral argument in challenges to EPA’s 2019 renewable fuel standard (RFS).

Climate In Congress

The House is set to vote this week on H.R. 4447, a sweeping Democratic clean energy bill that would boost federal support for building-level energy efficiency measures, mandate more use of renewables by the federal government, fund technologies that support renewables in the grid including advanced battery storage, and boost spending on nuclear power as well as a host of emissions-reductions strategies for fossil fuels.

On Sept. 22, the House Natural Resources Committee’s panel on energy will hold a hearing on the Trump administration’s “broken promises” on renewable energy.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, energy, and the environment will hold a Sept. 23 hearing on plans for a “green recovery” from the COVID-19 crisis focused on boosting renewables and sustainable industries.

The House Oversight & Reform Committee will hold a Sept. 24 hearing on climate change, focused on “Moving Towards a Sustainable Future.”

In the Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a Sept. 22 hearing on offshore energy development and “alternative fuels” for the maritime shipping sector.

RFS

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear oral argument Sept. 25 in the consolidated litigation over EPA’s 2019 RFS rulemaking, which set targets for production of alternative and renewable fuels for the 2019 compliance year.

Among the challenges are claims by oil sector groups and environmentalists that EPA set fuel blending mandates too high, from biofuels groups claiming the agency set them too low and that EPA’s exemptions for small refineries are unlawful, and from some refiners seeking to shift the RFS compliance obligation to others such as fuel blenders.

ECOS

The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), which represents many state environment commissioners, will hold its fall meeting Sept. 22-23, with an agenda that includes the environmental impacts of COVID-19 as well as longer-term priorities for states and EPA. Federal and state officials will discuss how the pandemic has affected environmental governance, strategies for blunting the effects of likely budget shortfalls, the renewable energy transition, stormwater management and potential uses of advanced data-gathering tools.

Climate Events

The United Nations and an array of industry, citizen and nonprofit groups are participating in the climate summit Climate Week NYC, with a slate of online events focused on all aspects of climate change.

The schedule includes a week-long webinar series hosted by the sustainability nonprofit Ceres, including panel discussions on several industry- and local-government climate approaches and a discussion with former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis on the Republican Party’s stance on climate change.

The New Republic will host a Sept. 22 webcast panel on the “new normal” of climate policy in the Trump administration and “what to expect from a post-Trump White House,” featuring Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) and former EPA environmental justice official and current National Wildlife Federation Vice President Mustafa Santiago Ali.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will hold a Sept. 22 webinar to discuss methods of assessing and communicating climate change scenarios to the public.

The Environmental & Energy Study Institute will host a Sept. 23 online briefing on “growing green industry and innovation” in the mass timber sector, featuring Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR).

The NAS panel studying development of fusion energy as a zero-carbon power source will meet Sept. 23.

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) will host a Sept. 24 panel discussion on climate change in the context of industry-led environmental, social, and governance (ESG) sustainability efforts.

Supreme Court

The American Bar Association will host a Sept. 25 webinar on the Supreme Court’s environmental docket from its 2019-20 term. Discussion is likely to focus in part on the effects of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, which could strengthen the court’s conservative majority when it considers the swath of pending legal challenges to Trump EPA rules and rollbacks.

Ozone

A D.C. Circuit panel will hear argument on Sept. 22 in Sierra Club, et al. v. EPA, et al., where environmentalists are asking the court to partially scrap EPA regulations dating from 2015 and 2018 allowing “interprecursor” trading to comply with limits on ozone precursors -- pollutants including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that lead to ozone formation. Environmental groups argue that trading one precursor substance for another, rather than limiting trades to reductions in identical substances, violates the air law.

Bioeconomy

The BIO Impact conference on the bioeconomy, including discussions on how bioengineering and other forms of biotechnology can affect climate change, COVID-19 recovery, agriculture, pesticides and more, runs Sept. 21-22.

SO2 NAAQS

Comments are due Sept. 21 on EPA’s final proposed designations for which areas meet or violate the 2010 sulfur dioxide (SO2) national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). The designations process has been long delayed and extensively litigated since the agency issued its national SO2 limit more than 10 years ago.

Infrastructure

White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chairwoman Mary Neumayr and Acting EPA General Counsel David Fotouhi will speak on a Sept. 24 webcast discussion on infrastructure permit streamlining hosted by the law firm Steptoe, including CEQ’s overhaul of National Environmental Policy Act implementing rules and EPA’s reforms to Clean Water Act (CWA) permit programs.

The National Municipal Stormwater Association will host a Sept. 24 webcast on the use of stormwater management ponds as “assets.”

Pesticides

ELI will host a Sept. 22 webinar on EPA’s pesticide enforcement priorities, including remarks from Michael Bellot, associate director of the agency’s waste and chemical enforcement division.

Boilers

Comments are due Sept. 23 on EPA’s proposal to tighten air emissions limits on industrial, commercial and institutional boilers. The rule would tighten EPA’s maximum achievable control technology air toxics limits for 28 types of boilers while weakening limits for six other types, relying in part on counting the “co-benefits” of the rule reducing air pollutants not directly regulated by the proposal.

Wildfires

NAS will hold a Sept. 23-25 workshop on assessing and forecasting the air quality and human health impacts of wildfires, including the role of climate change.

Risk Assessment

Sept. 23 is the deadline for public comments on EPA’s early assessment plans for the ongoing Integrated Risk Information System assessment of vanadium -- the latest step in the long-simmering process that restarted in 2019 in response to opposition from industry and the Department of Defense to the prior approach.

Oil & Gas Emissions

Comments are due Sept. 21 on EPA and environmental groups’ draft consent decree that would set deadlines for the agency to act on preliminary state plans requiring volatile organic compounds controls at oil and gas facilities -- controls that also cut the facilities’ methane emissions.

RCRA

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates will host a Sept. 24 webinar on “recent developments” in EPA’s administration of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), including its rules governing hazardous waste generators, electronic manifests for shipping hazardous waste, and the rule defining “solid waste.”

Wetlands

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s panel on water will hold a Sept. 24 hearing on efforts to restore the Florida Everglades and water management in the state more broadly.

Drinking Water

EPA is taking comment through Sept. 24 on its planned questionnaire to gather data from public water systems on their infrastructure needs through 2039. The information-gathering process follows the agency’s update of its long-standing guidance on how to assess utility customers’ ability to pay for infrastructure upgrades, operations and maintenance, which is a key element in applying CWA standards to water utilities.

The Izaak Walton League conservation group will host a Sept. 24 webinar on drinking water treatment methods and regulations.

Toxicology

EPA’s Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice will meet Sept. 24 to discuss “Informatics-Based Approaches for Managing and Curating Exposure Data.”

Citizen Science

ELI and the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement will host a Sept. 25 panel as the kick-off for a series on the state of citizen science and its potential uses in environmental enforcement, with the first session focused on “key factors driving stakeholders’ renewed interest in community science, such as an increasing social emphasis on environmental justice."

Fertilizer

EPA will host a Sept. 24 webinar on its request for research proposals into “next generation” fertilizer technologies that could “maintain or improve crop yields while reducing the impacts of fertilizers on the environment.”

PFAS

The Women’s Council on Energy & Environment will host a Sept. 24 webcast on the “latest developments” in state and federal regulation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

BOSC

The Homeland Security Subcommittee of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) will meet Sept. 24 to continue its review of EPA’s implementation of its homeland security Strategic Research Action Plan for fiscal years 2019-22.

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