Energy & Environment

Week ahead: EPA poised to deliver major ozone, climate decisions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is poised to deliver major regulatory decisions on ozone and climate change in the coming week.

The announcements could be test cases for how EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will handle his responsibilities to regulate when he might be hesitant to impose new costs on industry.

Monday is the deadline for Pruitt to identify the areas of the country that do not meet the 2015 regulation on ground-level ozone, also known as non-attainment areas.

In his last job as Oklahoma's attorney general, Pruitt fought the 2015 rule.

Business groups say it would slow economic growth when states inevitably crack down on fossil fuel use to comply. The rule lowered the allowable ozone concentration in ambient air to 70 parts per billion, from 75 parts per billion, which the Obama administration said would improve public health.

Pruitt tried earlier this year to delay the Monday deadline by a year, sparking lawsuits from Democratic states and environmentalists. He later walked back the delay, putting Monday's deadline back in place.

Preliminary data that states submitted to the EPA in advance of Pruitt's deadline said that 214 counties do not meet the new standard, up from 177 counties under the previous rule.

The end of the week holds another important deadline for the EPA. The agency must submit to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit an update on its effort to review the Clean Power Plan, which sought to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

People familiar with the matter told The Hill this month that before the deadline hits the EPA plans to roll out a formal proposal to repeal the rule and start work on a weaker replacement regulation on carbon from power plants.

The EPA will also be in the spotlight at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

That panel is planning a Wednesday hearing to consider the nominations of four high-ranking EPA officials: Michael Dourson to lead the chemical safety office, David Ross to lead the water office, Matthew Leopold to be general counsel, and William Wehrum to lead the air and radiation office.

Democrats on the panel have indicated that they see Dourson and Wehrum as the most controversial of the nominees. Both have long histories of working for the interests of the industries that they would be responsible for regulating at the EPA.

The Environment Committee will also consider the nomination of Jeffrey Baran for a new five-year term at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where he is already a member.

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