Monthly Archives: March 2011

EPA Announces Its Proposed Rule For Cooling Water Intake Structures: Do I Have To Compliment EPA Again?

Earlier this week, EPA announced its long-awaited revised proposal for a cooling water intake structure rule for existing facilities. Praise is much less interesting than criticism, and thus less conducive to entertaining blog posts, but I’m afraid EPA has left me no choice. Within the confines of what the Clean Water Act requires, EPA seems to have gotten this one pretty much right.

EPA has a useful summary of the rule here. I could certainly quarrel with aspects of the rule, but the basic structure makes sense. It applies to facilities that take at least 25% of their water from an… More

With Friends Like These, Cost Benefit Analysis Doesn’t Need Enemies: North Carolina Bars New Regulations Costing More than $500,000

I’ve spent a lot time in this space arguing for increased use of cost-benefit analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis before environmental regulations are promulgated. As difficult as it can be, there’s simply no avoiding it. If we don’t do so explicitly, we do so implicitly – and I vote for explicitness, every time.

The opposition to cost-benefit analysis usually comes from the left, based on concerns that the cost-benefit requirement will hamstring regulators and that the benefits will be understated. The right is normally seen as a fan of cost-benefit analysis.  Now, however, the notion of cost-benefit analysis is being challenged from… More

More on Guidance v. Regulation: With Friends Like This,…

The issue of guidance v. regulation has been in the news a lot recently. Recently, the anti-guidance side got what some might consider unwelcome assistance from John Graham, who reviewed regulations in the Bush White House. Graham was quoted as saying that:

The whole idea of guidance not being a rule — there has to be an arrow shot right through the heart of that. [Congress should pass legislation] to make sure that things that look like a duck and quack like a duck are a duck.

Of course, I agree with John Graham about guidance. The only problem is… More

Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Massachusetts Anymore: Exceeding a Cleanup Standard Is Not Necessarily An Imminent Hazard

In an interesting decision issued earlier this month, Judge Lewis Babcock of the District of Colorado ruled, in County of La Plata v. Brown Group Retail, that detection of contamination at levels exceeding state cleanup standards does not, by itself constitute an imminent and substantial endangerment under RCRA. I think that Judge Babcock is correct, but I can’t help but feel that the decision might be different in the blue state of Massachusetts. I was particularly taken by Judge Babcock’s description of the nature and purpose of state regulatory standards:

Regulatory screening levels, action levels, and standards do… More

Conventional Pollution Is Still Where It’s At: EPA Releases the Power Plant MACT Rule

If anyone had any doubts about the significance of the conventional pollutant regulations that EPA would be rolling out, even in the absence of a full cap-and-trade program for GHG, Wednesday’s release of EPA’s revised power plant MACT proposal should go a long way towards eliminating those doubts. As most readers know, the rule replaces the Bush-era MACT rule that would have created a trading program.

The rule poses a problem for critics of EPA. While arguments can be made about the feasibility of some of the standards and the cost to comply, they cannot credibly allege that it is a… More

What Does It Take to “Displace” Federal Common Law? The States Have Their Say

Last month, in discussing the Administration’s brief in the American Electric Power case, I praised the nuanced and persuasive approach that the Administration took in seeking reversal of the 2nd Circuit opinion allowing the states’ public nuisance climate litigation to go forward. The states seeking to prosecute the law suit have now filed their brief and it turns out that they also do nuance. I still think that the Supreme Court will reverse, however.

I’m not going to get into the standing issue. I don’t believe that the states should have standing, but… More

Cutting Through the Gordian Knot of Allocation: If You Were Bad, You Lose

In late 2009, Judge Griesbach ruled, in Appleton Papers v. George A. Whiting Paper, that parties who were significantly more “blameworthy” than others were not entitled to contribution from the less blameworthy parties. Last week, Judge Griesbach ruled on the cross-contribution motions from the defendants. 

The defendants took a simple view. If the plaintiffs are not entitled to contribution from the defendants, because the plaintiffs were almost entirely at fault, then the defendants should be able to receive 100% of their own response costs in contribution from the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs, not surprisingly, took a contrary view. Plaintiffs’ position was that the… More

While the GOP Attacks EPA, Coal Remains Under Siege

While EPA remains under attack by the GOP-majority House, that doesn’t mean that coal is off the hook. To the contrary, coal remains under attack itself. A number of recent stories demonstrate the multi-pronged effort by those who want to reduce or eliminate use of coal. For example, the Environmental Integrity Project and two Texas-based NGOs just filed suit against the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Fayette Power Project, alleging violations of NSR/PSD requirements and exceedances of particulate limits in the plant’s permit. There is no doubt that there is a concerted effort by NGOs to make life difficult for coal. Thus, even if… More

Federal Agency Adaptation Plans – A New Route for Climate Regulation?

With cap and trade legislation dead in Congress, and the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations under siege in both the legislature and the courts, the Obama Administration is doing just about the only thing left to address climate change: adapt.

Actually, the science indicates that adaptation will be necessary regardless of how aggressively we are able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s only a matter of how much adaptation. A recent report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program found that the average air temperature in the continental U.S. has already risen by more than 2ºF over the last 50 years,… More

Climate Risks & Opportunities in SEC Filings

 A year has passed since the SEC issued an interpretive release describing the kinds of climate change related disclosures that the Commission believes should be reported by all publicly traded companies, but many questions still remain regarding how to comply.  With annual 10-K filings due at the end of this month, concrete examples of best practices in disclosures could be very helpful.  Potentially useful is a new report by Ceres that examines the state of disclosures in FY 2009 SEC filings to identify specific examples of how well companies are disclosing information that is important to investors. 

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A Twofer: Indoor Air and Guidance v. Regulation

Vapor intrusion is the issue de jour at federal and state Superfund sites. On the federal side, EPA announced in January that it was considering adding vapor intrusion criteria to its calculation of hazard ranking scores. Frankly, as a concept, it’s hard to dispute. In fact, aside from when actual public water supplies are contaminated, indoor air is probably about the only risk associated with Superfund sites that we should care about. Every analysis EPA has ever done has shown that risks associated with Superfund sites are otherwise overestimated and it is not a cost-effective place to be putting environmental protection dollars. The question… More