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Coal advocate appointed to FERC; EPA watchdog to audit progress on air quality


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Coal advocate appointed to FERC; EPA watchdog to audit progress on air quality

US EPA's watchdog plans audit to assess agency progress toward air quality goals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's watchdog office will hold the agency accountable for its stated goal of significantly reducing air pollution by 2022, according to a five-year strategic plan released Oct. 4.

To meet its goals, the EPA said it intends to prioritize the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and implement stationary source regulations.

Group asks court to toss US EPA's interpretation of key Clean Air Act provision

An October 2017 order from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established an illegal interpretation of a Clean Air Act provision intended to control pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants, the Sierra Club argued to a federal appeals court Oct. 4.

The environmental advocacy group asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to vacate and remand an EPA order related to PacifiCorp's coal-fired Hunter power plant in Utah, alleging the agency issued a new rule without public comment that allows power plants to skirt requirements under the New Source Review program.

Brett Kavanaugh confirmed as Supreme Court Justice

After a bitter three-month battle that riveted the nation and highlighted the deep divisions in American politics, Brett Kavanaugh won Senate confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 6 by a party-line vote of 50-48.

Previously a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh filled the seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement earlier this year. He is expected to be a reliable conservative vote on a court that, under Chief Justice John Roberts, has moved farther to the right than it has been in decades.

Colorado approves agreement for steel mill to replace coal plant with solar

Colorado regulators approved an Evraz PLC subsidiary's unique agreement with Xcel Energy Inc. for the steel company to have a 240-MW solar plant built on its mill property in Pueblo, Colo.

Evraz is Xcel Energy's largest retail electric customer in Colorado and now receives service directly through transmission lines from the Comanche Generating Station. Xcel Energy plans to close two units of the coal power plant with a total capacity of 660 MW as part of its Colorado Energy Plan.

Experts spar over US EPA's proposed science transparency rule

The chairman of a Senate subcommittee with oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency touted the Trump administration's proposed scientific transparency rule, claiming the policy would strengthen the science behind regulations. But a former employee with more than a decade of experience inside the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation said the agency's proposed "Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science" rule is linked to recent efforts to weaken major air pollution regulations.

Members of the Senate Superfund, Waste Management, and Oversight Subcommittee heard testimony Oct. 3 from expert witnesses on both sides of the proposal, which has garnered more than half a million public comments. The rule has been panned by many scientists, academics, environmental groups and others as potentially excluding public health studies from consideration for regulatory actions. Industry advocates, however, have accused the EPA of routinely failing to disclose underlying data for studies.

Trump administration picks DOE policy director McNamee to be FERC commissioner

The White House moved to fill the fifth spot at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, announcing Oct. 3 that it intends to nominate U.S. Department of Energy official Bernard McNamee for a term that expires June 30, 2020.

If confirmed by the Senate, McNamee would fill the seat vacated by Robert Powelson, who left the commission to become president and CEO of the National Association of Water Companies after serving at the agency for only a year. As the DOE's deputy general counsel, McNamee heavily promoted Energy Secretary Rick Perry's proposal to make grid operators cover all the costs of power plants in wholesale markets that store at least 90 days of fuel on-site, a description that would have mainly applied to coal-fired and nuclear generators.