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Federal Facilities

High Court Weighs Standing To Target Programmatic Environmental Reviews

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could limit citizens' standing to challenge agencies' environmental impact reviews of broad, programmatic actions, just as the Senate begins to weigh a bill that would require EPA and other agencies to expand their use of such programmatic environmental impact statements (EIS).

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EPA Delays Key Drinking Water Rules Over Lingering Science Questions

EPA is delaying key drinking water policies, including its pending health goal for perchlorate and a determination whether to regulate hexavalent chromium (Cr6), until officials can resolve questions related to the contaminants' pathways and other scientific issues, according to Peter Grevatt, director of EPA's Office of Ground Water & Drinking Water.

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DOE Seeks Renewable Funds

The Department of Energy (DOE) in a new guidance is seeking to increase private investment to help fund development of renewable energy on federal facilities, stating that improving processes can allow federal workers, project developers and financiers to work “in a coordinated fashion on large-scale renewable energy projects.”

DOE says the guidance, “Developing Renewable Energy Projects Larger Than 10 MWs at Federal Facilities: A Practical Guide to Getting Large-Scale Renewable Energy Projects Financed with Private Capital,” is meant to help meet a number of goals for renewable deployment on federal facilities, including a Defense Department plan to install 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military bases by 2025.

“This Guide acts as a first step in facilitating the process of financing certain types of large-scale renewable energy projects by beginning to translate the differences in language and by mapping a process that is grounded in the foundations of commercial project development while integrating traditional Federal methodologies. An organizational framework, evaluation process, and sample tools are provided for Federal employees seeking to benefit from or gain insight into private development methodologies,” the guide says.

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SAB Prepares To Review Perchlorate Report

EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) is preparing to review the latest draft of its perchlorate panel's report on the agency's pending drinking water goal for perchlorate, paving the way for the agency to release the delayed proposal.

The board March 6 released the panel's report and has announced that it will review the report on a March 29 conference call. The essentials of the latest draft of the report, underway since last July, appear to have changed little from the last draft the panel discussed in December.

Reversing a Bush administration decision, former Administrator Lisa Jackson announced in February 2011 that EPA would regulate perchlorate in drinking water.

The determination set in motion a statutory two-year clock; under the Safe Drinking Water Act EPA had -- and missed -- its February 11, 2013 deadline to release its draft Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG). The law requires the agency to set this health goal that forms the basis, together with cost and technical feasibility analyses, for a future drinking water standard, known as a maximum contaminant level (MCLs).

EPA's most recent regulatory agenda, released in December, indicates that agency staff plan to release the proposed rule next December.

Should EPA finalize the goal to an enforceable drinking water standard, it would represent the first time the agency has added a new MCL since the SDWA was revised in 1996. Perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient that also occurs naturally in certain soils, inhibits normal human uptake of iodine which can lead to irregular thyroid function.

Before EPA can release its draft MCLG, SAB must complete its report and submit it to the agency, and a small business panel review of the proposal is required by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 1996.

The law requires EPA to notify the Small Business Administration (SBA) of a pending proposed rule that could have economic impacts on small business, and a review panel of EPA, SBA and White House representatives must gather input from small business representatives and write a report on the proposal before EPA publishes it.

Last month, a source at a federal agency said “there has been no news in months on scheduling” the small business panel review of the proposal. At press time, there was no record of a perchlorate SBREFA panel on SBA's website.

As in previous drafts, the SAB panel recommends that EPA adopt a novel approach to setting the perchlorate MCLG, one based on the use of a pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic (PBPK/PD) model rather than using EPA's traditional algebraic formula. The approach is intended to better reflect the risk that perchlorate exposure presents to fetuses' and infants' proper development, as they are most susceptible to the potential developmental effects of altered thyroid function.

The recommendation complicates the agency's path, not only because it steps away from the usual method of calculating an MCLG, but also because the SAB panel acknowledges that the model is not as complete as they would like. The report provides short-term recommendations on how best to use the model to set an MCLG with the existing model and data, and in the longer-term, how they would prefer to set the standard using ongoing extensions to the model.

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After Sequester, Congress Seeks To Bolster DOD's FUDS Cleanups In FY13

House and Senate appropriators are seeking to boost funding for the Defense Department's (DOD) formerly used defense sites (FUDS) cleanup program, which has long been criticized for having a backlog of cleanups, by $50 million above the president's fiscal year 2013 request, though the funds would be trimmed slightly to account for the sequester.

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Amidst Review, EPA Scientists Defend Finding On TCE's Heart-Defect Risks

In the midst of an EPA headquarters review, EPA and other government scientists are rallying behind the agency's recent risk finding that exposure to the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) causes cardiac birth defects, saying in a series of recent publications that the evidence of such risks is "strong" or has been "confirmed" by recent science.

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Panel Attacks EPA's TCE Assessment But Eyes Easing Its Implementation

Members of a private sector risk assessment group reviewing EPA policy related to trichloroethylene (TCE) are criticizing the study that forms the foundation of EPA's recent Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment for TCE, while at the same time working to help regulators to protect against a key risk -- cardiac birth defects -- highlighted in the study.

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Federal Facilities Brace For Cleanup Impacts Due To Budget Sequestration

The pending budget sequester is threatening to stymie cleanup work at heavily contaminated federal facilities, potentially delaying dozens of compliance milestones at the Energy Department’s (DOE) nuclear weapons complex and hampering the Defense Department’s (DOD) environmental cleanup programs, federal sources say.

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Claims Judge Sets High Bar For U.S. Stormwater Fees, Creating Court Split

A federal claims judge has set a high bar for state and local governments to retroactively recover stormwater fees from federal agencies, rejecting a Georgia county's suit against the U.S. Postal Service on the grounds that the charges at issue are an unauthorized tax on the federal government and cannot be assessed retroactively -- contrary to a district court ruling in a similar case last year.

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Defense Law Requires Action On Military Base Exposures, Uranium Mines

Under newly enacted defense legislation, the Defense Department (DOD) is required within the next six months to issue guidance establishing criteria for public health assessments addressing environmental contamination at military bases and set procedures and actions to be taken to assess past environmental exposures to military personnel and civilians on bases.

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