Category Archives: EPA

EPA Eliminates “But For” Causation From the Exceptional Events Rule: Tort Professors Everywhere Get Excited

On Monday, EPA promulgated amendments to its “Exceptional Events” Rule.  The rule is important, particularly in the Western states, and most particularly in connection with EPA’s latest iteration of the ozone NAAQS.  EPA’s most significant revision was to eliminate the requirement that state air agencies demonstrate that, “but for” the exceptional event, the state or relevant area would have complied with the applicable NAAQS.  The change is important for two reasons. … More

A Lumber Mill Biomass CoGen Need Not Consider Other Fuels In Its BACT Analysis. Other Sources Should Be So Lucky.

Ever since EPA began considering how BACT analysis would be applied to greenhouse gas emissions, there has been concern that EPA would use its BACT authority to “redefine the source” – with the particular concern that BACT for a coal plant would now be to burn natural gas instead.  In Helping Hands Tools v. EPA, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this week gave some protection to biomass plants biomassfrom such redefinition of the source. … More

A Foolish Consistency Is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds: So Said Emerson, So Says EPA

On Wednesday, EPA issued a final rule amending its “Regional Consistency Regulations.”  The new rule provides that EPA will only follow adverse judicial decisions in the areas of the country where such judicial decisions are applicable.  Emerson1859

Previously, EPA’s Clean Air Act regulations specifically required EPA to “assure fair and uniform application [of the CAA]  by all Regional Offices.” As I previously discussed,… More

Chevron Deference Lives! EPA’s Boiler Rule (Mostly) Survives Review

On Friday, the D.C. Circuit largely upheld EPA’s Boiler MACT rule.  boiler-mactThe industry challenges were a complete washout.  The environmental petitioners won one significant victory and a number of smaller ones.

The environmental petitioners’ one significant victory is important.  EPA included within relevant subcategories any source that burns a fuel containing at least 10% of the “subcategory-defining fuel.”  However, for defining MACT, EPA included only those sources that burn fuel containing at 90% of the subcategory-defining fuel for existing sources,… More

Forecast is Hazy For EPA’s Regional Haze Oversight Authority

Earlier this month, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed EPA’s disapproval of the Texas and Oklahoma regional haze state implementation plans, as well as EPA’s promulgation of its own federal implementation plan.  The opinion is a thorough rejection of EPA’s decision.  Although this was only a stay order, I would rate EPA’s likelihood of ultimately prevailing on the merits as approximately zero.  There are a number of significant take-aways from the decision:

  • EPA’s assessment of regional haze SIPs is not generally of “nationwide scope or effect” and therefore will be subject to review in the court of appeals responsible for the state at issue,…
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Three Strikes and Mingo Logan Is Out: The D.C. Circuit Affirms EPA Withdrawal of Approval of Mountaintop Removal Disposal Sites

In 2013, the D.C. Circuit affirmed EPA’s authority to withdrawal approval of mountaintop mining disposal sites, even after the Army Corps has issued a Section 404 permit.  In 2014, the District Court rejected Mingo Logan’s challenge to EPA decision on the merits, finding that EPA’s withdrawal was not arbitrary and capricious.  Finally, early this week, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the District Court,… More

The Antarctic Ozone Hole Is Healing. Full Stop.

An article published Friday in Science reports that the Antarctic ozone hole ozonemaximagereleaseis healing.  As the article notes, there was some previous evidence about global improvement in stratospheric ozone levels, but this is the first to document improvement in Antarctica.

Aside from the fact that good news is always welcome, it’s also a useful reminder that environmental regulation can work.  In the developed world,… More

BLM Has No Authority To Regulate Fracking, At Least For Now

Yesterday, Judge Scott Skavdahl of the District of Wyoming held that the Bureau of Land Management did not have authority to regulate the environmental impacts of fracking.  frackingI think Judge Skavdahl probably got it right, but I also think it’s a much closer question than the Judge acknowledged and I could imagine either the 10th Circuit or the Supreme Court reaching a different conclusion.

Judge Skavdahl first reviewed the various statutes cited by BLM as providing authority for the rule. … More

Corps Jurisdictional Determinations Are Final Agency Action: Now What?

In a decision that was not a surprise based on oral argument, the Supreme Court today ruled that Army Corps of Engineers Jurisdictional Determinations concerning “waters of the United States” Wetlandsare final agency action subject to judicial review under the APA.  As we previously noted, this continues the Court’s emphasis on the practical consequences of Corps decisions.  Indeed, Chief Justice Roberts noted that the Court’s decision:

Tracks the ‘pragmatic’ approach we have long taken to finality.… More

EPA’s Final Methane Rule: Fighting Climate Change Up to January 20, 2017 — And Beyond

Dylan Thomas dylan-thomas-chair_2891799csaid “Do not go gentle into that good night.”  Obama’s EPA is taking that advice to heart, pushing forward aggressively on its climate change agenda, even as January 2017 approaches.  On Thursday, EPA issued its final rule promulgating New Source Performance Standards for methane emissions from oil and gas facilities.  The lengthy and complex rule is too long to summarize here, but you can find the Cliff Notes version in EPA’s fact sheet.… More

Better Late Than Never: Massachusetts Moves to Obtain NPDES Delegation

Like most federal environmental programs, NPDES program authority is largely delegated to the states.  Only four states aren’t delegated:  Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Mexico.  How is it that progressive Massachusetts, always confident that it can do environmental regulation better than anyone else, never obtained delegated authority?

Like Tevye, I’ll tell you.  I don’t know.

I do know that it’s good news that Governor Baker just submitted legislation necessary for Massachusetts to assume NPDES delegation. … More

Stop the Presses! EPA Still Thinks that the MATS Rule Is a Good Idea

Last week, EPA issued its “Supplemental Finding”, confirming that it still believes that its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards matsare “appropriate and necessary.”  I don’t have much to add to our post at the time of the proposed Supplemental Finding.  In short, the Supplemental Finding isn’t going to change anyone’s mind, but it should be sufficient to withstand judicial review as long as the courts still believe in Chevron deference.… More

EPA Continues to Dismantle Clean Air Act Affirmative Defenses — Blame It On the Judge(s)

On Wednesday, EPA published certain amendments to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in the Federal Register.  EPA describes most of the changes as “technical corrections,” but there is one important substantive change.  EPA has deleted the affirmative defense for violations caused by equipment malfunctions.

The change follows EPA’s 2015 SIP call requiring states to delete affirmative defenses for violations related to startup, shutdown, or malfunction SSMevents. … More

CSAPR > BART: The Eighth Circuit Affirms Minnesota’s Regional Haze Plan

Environmental lawyers live for acronyms.  Why is CSAPR > BART?  Because EPA determined that, on net, EPA’s Transport Rule is “better than BART,” meaning that compliance with the Transport Rule yields greater progress towards attaining EPA’s regional haze goals than would application of best available retrofit technologies to those sources that would otherwise be subject to BART.  On Monday, the 8th Circuit agreed that EPA’s decision that the Transport Rule is better than BART was not arbitrary or capricious.… More

EPA’s Charles River Two-Step

charles15At least since the Standells’ Dirty Water in 1966, cleaning up the Charles River has been on the mind of Bostonians (and Cantabrigians and those farther upriver).  Notwithstanding significant recent progress, there remains work to do.  The questions are, as always, how much and who pays?  Is this largely a municipal infrastructure problem?  Is it just a matter of better implementation of some simple best management practices? … More

NSR Enforcement Staggers On: A Split Decision in Missouri

Given EPA’s recent run of defeats in its NSR enforcement initiative, it’s probably breathing a sigh of relief over last week’s decision in United States v. Ameren Missouri, regarding Ameren’s Rush Island coal-fired power plant.  Rush IslandTrue, the court denied EPA’s motions for summary judgment.  However, it also denied Ameren’s motions and on balance probably left EPA feeling better than Ameren about its prospects at trial. … More

In Cooperative Federalism, Who Gets Deference, EPA or the States? Can you say “Federal Supremacy”?

Earlier this week, the 9th Circuit denied Arizona’s challenge to EPA’s decision to reject Arizona’s SIP addressing regional haze grand canyonrequirements and instead promulgate its own federal implementation plan.  The decision has a number of interesting elements and is well worth a read, but it’s most notable for its treatment of the deference issue.

We all know that courts defer to reasonable agency decision-making. … More

Prognosticating the Ozone Standard Litigation: EPA to Win, Environmental Petitioners to Place, Murray Energy to Show

Earlier this week, the “Public Health and Environmental Petitioners” challenging EPA’s decision not to reduce the ozone Ozone_Molecule_Formulastandard below 0.070 ppm filed their “Non-Binding Statement of Issues.”  My crystal ball still tells me that the most likely outcome is that the Court of Appeals upholds EPA’s 0.070 ppm standard.

I do think that the Public Health and Environmental Petitioners have a better case than Murray Energy (which filed its Statement of Issues late last year). … More

Does the Paris Agreement Provide EPA With Authority Under the CAA To Impose Economy-Wide GHG Controls? Count Me Skeptical

In a very interesting article, Michael Burger of the Sabin Center and his co-authors suggest that, following the Paris climate agreement, § 115 of the Clean Air Act provides authority for EPA to develop economy-wide GHG emissions reduction regulations that would be more comprehensive and efficient than EPA’s current industry-specific approach.  And what, you may ask, is § 115?  Even the most dedicated “airhead” has probably never worked with it.… More

The Paris Agreement: Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive

So COP21 resulted in an agreement.  What’s a poor in-the-trenches lawyer to make of it?  I think it’s pretty clearly a major step forward and reflects much more substantive progress than might have been expected.  For a very helpful summary as to why the Paris Agreement was a success, check out Rob Stavins’s post.  As good as Rob’s summary is, Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker (subscription required) had a slightly more concise explanation why the Paris Agreement is a good thing:

It changes the presumption that carbon emissions will continue to grow to the presumption that they must soon start coming down.… More

Determining An Intent To Dispose Under CERCLA Remains a Puzzlement

Determining when a person has “arranged” for the disposal of a hazardous substance has long been difficult.  The Supreme Court brought some clarity to the issue in Burlington Northern, when it said that:

While it is true that in some instances an entity’s knowledge that its product will be leaked, spilled, dumped, or otherwise discarded may provide evidence of the entity’s intent to dispose of its hazardous wastes,… More

I’ll Go Out On A Limb; The CPP Will Not Be Stayed

I finally caught up with the brief filed by the government last week, opposing the motion to stay the EPA Clean Power Plan rule, pending full judicial review.  I just don’t see the stay being granted (of course, I did not see it coming with the WOTUS rule, either, so I’m not quite infallible).  The motion should fail on both the irreparable injury and public interest prongs of the test for issuance of a stay.… More

What Is a Water of the United States? EPA and the Corps Make It Easier To Know What They Think

While the litigation over the WOTUS rule wends its tortuous way through the courts, EPA and the Corps have not been idle.  Earlier this month, they jointly issued a memorandum on their plans for improving the permitting process.  Among other measures, they have reemphasized their commitment to transparency, by making all jurisdictional determinations available on a single web site.  The web site is now up and running and includes all JDs issued beginning in September.… More

MATS, Take Two: EPA Still Supports the Rule (And EPA Is Correct)

Late last week, EPA issued a Supplemental Finding, concluding that it is still “appropriate and necessary” to regulate hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired electric generating units.  The Supplemental Finding was necessary after the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that EPA’s original decision to regulate HAP emissions from EGUs was flawed because EPA did not consider costs in making the decision.  Is the Supplemental Finding enough to ensure that the Mercury and Air Toxics rule mercuryis upheld this time around?  … More

Coming Soon to a Project Near You: Advance Compensation

Earlier this month, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum on “Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment.”  mitigationsignIf that portentous title isn’t enough to make developers quiver in their boots, how about this first line?

We all have a moral obligation to the next generation to leave America’s natural resources in better condition than when we inherited them.… More

EPA To Rename OSWER: How About “The Office That Should Be Eliminated As Soon As Possible”?

According to the Daily Environment Report (subscription required), EPA is going to change the name of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response to the Office of Land and Emergency Management.  What a grand name; surely it is an improvement.

I don’t think that this quite rises to the level of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic titanic(though I certainly have clients who would not object if OSWER sank without a trace),… More

The Sixth Circuit Stays the Waters of the United States Rule: Just a Plain Vanilla Preliminary Injunction — Not!

Today, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a nationwide stay against implementation of the “Waters of the United States” rule.  The case is so weird, alice in wonderlandin so many ways, that I don’t even think I can count them.  Here are a few.

  • The Court stayed the case, even though, as the dissent pointed out, there is question whether it even has jurisdiction to hear the appeal.…
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Pre-enforcement Review? Not Enough. How About Pre-issuance Review?

In Sackett, the Supreme Court ruled that EPA could not issue enforcement orders under the Clean Water Act without allowing the subjects of the order the right to bring a pre-enforcement challenge to such orders under the Administrative Procedure Act.  Now, in Ron Foster v. EPA, Judge John Copenhaver of the Southern District of West Virginia has ruled that Sackett’s victory was in fact hollow,… More

EPA Updates Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards For Steam Electric Generating Facilities – It’s Only Been 33 Years

On September 30, EPA released its long-awaited (long-feared?) final rule governing wastewater discharges from steam electric generating facilities.  2000px-Coal_fired_power_plant_diagram.svgThe trade press is presenting the rule as a victory for environmentalists (The Law360 headline was “Enviros Score Major Win in Final EPA Effluent Rules”) and I think that that’s probably a fair description.

Here is the quick summary of just the more important aspects of the rule for existing sources:

  • The most stringent aspects of the rule apply to coal-fired plants with a nameplate capacity great than 50 MW (there are less stringent requirements for oil-fired facilities and smaller coal-fired facilities)
  • For fly ash transport water,…
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EPA Lowers the Ozone Standard to 70 PPB: Industry Isn’t Happy, But It Should Be

On Thursday, EPA finally released its final rule revising the ozone NAAQS to 70 ppb.  I do not spend much time peering into a crystal ball, fortune-teller with a shining crystal ballbut I will go out on a limb and say that the industry challenges to the rule will fail. Just ain’t gonna happen.

The environmental group challenges pose a more interesting question.  There’s a fair bit of evidence of health impacts below 70 ppb,… More

A Brief Rant on Cost-Effectiveness Analysis

Yesterday, I posted about the 3rd Circuit’s decision to remand EPA’s approval of Pennsylvania’s regional haze SIP.  Although I think that the decision was important and largely unobjectionable, it did get one issue wrong, and it happens to be an issue near and dear to my heart – cost-effectiveness analysis.  I am regularly surprised by the number of people who oppose its use and the number of people who just plain don’t get it. … More

Record Review Means That EPA Must Refer To the Record: The Third Circuit Remands EPA’s Approval of the Pennsylvania Regional Haze SIP

On Tuesday, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals remanded EPA’s approval of Pennsylvania’s regional haze hazeSIP.  The decision is a must-read for practitioners.  It decides some important issues and provides important reminders for EPA and the states on how to build a record and how to justify decisions – or not! – based on that record.

Although seen as a defeat for Pennsylvania and the large sources subject to the regional haze rule,… More

Can EPA Keep Winning By Losing? Another Court Remands An EPA Rule Without Vacatur

Last Wednesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals remanded EPA’s rule exempting stationary engines that operate up to 50 hours per year to supply non-emergency service to power providers from the EPA NESHAP for reciprocating internal combustion engines.  Why is that news?

Because, once more, a court has acceded to EPA’s request that it remand without vacatur, leaving the rule in place.  We’re now seeing something of a trend towards remand without vacatur. … More

Chicken Little Cannot Compare to the Opponents of the Clean Power Plan

Yesterday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the latest effort to stay EPA’s Clean Power Plan before it has even been promulgated in the Federal Register.  The Court simply stated that “petitioners have not satisfied the stringent standards that apply to petitions for extraordinary writs that seek to stay agency action.”

Really?  Tell me something I did not know.

I’m sorry.  The CPP is a far-ranging rule. … More

Perhaps EPA’s NSR Enforcement Initiative Is Now Dead? EPA Loses Another

Last year, after a string of defeats for EPA in its NSR enforcement initiative, I suggested that the initiative was in trouble, but that EPA was probably not yet ready to concede defeat.  After the latest blow, earlier this month, EPA has to be reconsidering.  I assume that EPA won’t give up completely until it has lost everywhere or the Supreme Court has weighed in, but the NSR initiative is definitely on life support at this point.… More

Two Days, Three Decisions, One Big Mess: Welcome to Judicial Review of the Waters of the United States Rule

On Wednesday, Judge Irene Keeley of the Northern District of West Virginia held that district courts do not have jurisdiction to hear challenges to EPA’s rule defining waters of the United States, because courts of appeal have original jurisdiction over “any effluent limitation or other limitation.”  Yesterday, Judge Lisa Wood of the Southern District of Georgia agreed.

Later yesterday, Judge Ralph Erickson of the District of North Dakota disagreed. … More

Is Superfund a Machine for Manufacturing Tea Party Members?

A group of PRPs received an oversight cost bill pursuant to a CERCLA consent decree.  (The following details are intentionally vague to protect both the innocent and the guilty.)  The bill was for several hundred thousand dollars.  During the year covered by the bill, the PRPs spent no money cleaning up the area of the site covered by the invoice.  They spent little or no money monitoring the area of the site covered by the invoice. … More

The D.C. Circuit Sends EPA Back to the Drawing Board to Fix Its Transport Rule Emissions Budgets

The Clean Air Act’s good neighbor national_good_neighbor_day_zps2a06b34b (1)provision prohibits upwind states from emitting air pollutants in amounts that will “contribute significantly to nonattainment” of a national ambient air quality standard in a downwind state.  On Wednesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that, while upwind states have to be good neighbors, EPA cannot force them to be extraordinarily super-special neighbors.  Just good enough will have to do.… More

EPA Hubris, July 2015 Edition

Anyone who reads this blog must have seen the explosion of reports in the trade press that EPA ignored significant criticism from the Army Corps of Engineers in promulgating its Waters of the United States rule.  I have not seen the memoranda, but, based on the press reports, it appears that EPA ignored criticism both that it was too stringent in some areas and that it was not sufficiently stringent in others.  … More

The Earth Once More Spins Calmly On Its Axis; EPA’s Updated Hex Chrome MACT Rule Is Affirmed

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s update of its hexavalent chromium Hex chromeMACT rule.  Suffice it to say that this was a little easier than review of the power plant MACT rule.

The Court rejected both industry and environmental group challenges, in what was largely a straightforward application of Chevron.  The opinion is nonetheless useful in laying out what EPA must have in the record to justify ratcheting down MACT standards.… More

Easy Cases Make Good Law: The Third Circuit Affirms EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL

On Monday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s TMDL for the Chesapeake Bay.  chesapeake-bayThis should not be news.  Although Judge Ambro comprehensively disposed of the appellants’ arguments in a thoughtful opinion, I think that the opinion probably could have been six pages rather than sixty.

The crux of the challengers’ arguments was that a TMDL must consist of a single number specifying the amount of a pollutant that a water body can accommodate without adverse impact. … More

EPA’s EJSCREEN: Making Citizen Environmental Suits Just a Little Bit Easier

I have previously noted that EPA, perhaps recognizing that an unfriendly Congress will lead to budgetary constraints on government enforcement, has been trying to facilitate citizen enforcement efforts.  EPA’s latest move on this front was the recent release of “EJSCREEN:  Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool.”  environmental-justice

Putting aside the definitional concerns that many people have concerning environmental justice, there is no doubt that tools such as EJSCREEN can provide powerful assistance to groups who think that they may have suffered disparate environmental impacts. … More

No, Virginia, You Can’t Challenge a Rule that Hasn’t Even Been Promulgated

Easy way to tell when you’ve lost your appeal?  When a pithy judge starts making fun of you in the first sentence of the opinion.  In a case that was only ever going to have one outcome, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today rejected all of the pre-promulgation challenges to EPA’s Clean Power Plan.  Judge Kavanaugh began by noting that:

Petitioners are champing at the bit to challenge EPA’s anticipated rule restricting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.… More

If Congress Wants to Limit EPA’s Discretion, Perhaps It Should Do a Better Job Legislating

Earlier this week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected both industry and environmental group petitions challenging EPA’s determination of what is a solid waste in the context of Clean Air Act standards for incinerators and other combustion units.  It wasn’t actually a difficult case, but it does provide a lesson for Congress.  When the technical nature of EPA’s decisions was layered on top of the fundamental deference given EPA’s interpretation of the statute under Chevron,… More

Startup, Shutdown, and Malfunction — No Longer Any Automatic Exemptions or Affirmative Defenses

Last week, EPA finally responded to the Sierra Club’s petition requesting that it eliminate exemptions and defenses for excess emissions resulting from startup, shutdown, or malfunction events.  SSMEPA concluded that it needed to issue a SIP call to 36 states requesting that they revise their SIPs to conform to EPA’s current understanding regarding how SSM events should be handled.

The SIP call will require affected states to eliminate three separate types of protection currently given to generators in connection with excess emissions during SSM events:

  • Automatic exemptions
  • “Director’s discretion”…
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Kansas Thumbed Its Nose at EPA’s SIP Requirements — How’d That Work Out?

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today rejected Kansas’s challenge to EPA’s disapproval of Kansas’s SIP revisions intended to comply with the Interstate Transport Rule.  The Court found that EPA was not arbitrary or capricious in rejecting Kansas’s SIP, noting that:

The discussion of interstate transport in Kansas’s SIP was only one page long and failed to provide any analysis at all of the downwind effect of its in-state emissions.… More

Half a Loaf May Not Be Too Bad: The 9th Circuit Affirms Most of EPA’s Approval of the San Joaquin Valley SIP

Earlier this week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted part of a petition challenging EPA’s approval of California’s SIP for ozone and PM 2.5 in the San Joaquin Valley.  ca_san_joaquin (1)While the trade press has been focusing on the partial reversal, I think that EPA won much more than it lost.

What did it lose?  California’s plans for complying with the ozone and PM 2.5 NAAQS relied in part on emissions reductions to be attained as a result of California’s authority under the CAA to impose more stringent mobile source emissions standards than are applicable nationally. … More

Is There Any End to Post-Closure Care Under RCRA?

Late last month EPA issued draft guidance on adjusting post-closure periods under RCRA.  hwlf-csIt’s not good news.

Although the Guidance is technically neutral concerning shortening or lengthening post-closure periods, let’s not kid ourselves; this is all about extending post-closure care.  For how long?  How does forever sound?

Why do I think that this is all about extensions?  First, if anyone can give me any examples where EPA has ever decreased this type of monitoring/oversight period,… More

EPA Is Not an Expert in Determining Electric System Reliability

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals just reversed and remanded EPA’s rule allowing backup generators to operate for up to 100 hours per year as necessary for demand response.  demand responseIt’s an important decision that could have lessons for EPA and the regulated community across a wide range of circumstances, including eventual challenges to EPA’s proposed GHG rule.

EPA said that the rule was necessary to allow demand response programs to succeed while maintaining grid reliability.  … More

When Does a Judge Refuse an Unopposed Motion to Enter a Consent Decree?

Last week, Judge John Copenhaver refused to allow a motion by the United States to enter a consent decree that would have resolved government claims against DuPont concerning alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, CERCLA, and EPCRA at its facility in Belle, West Virginia.  DuPont Belle facilityThe motion was unopposed.

Instead, Judge Copenhaver ordered the United States to file a revised memorandum in support and he specifically directed that the memorandum address certain issues that concerned him,… More

The Stormwater Mess Continues in Massachusetts: CLF and CRWA Sue EPA

In February, we noted that the Conservation Law Foundation and the Charles River Watershed Association had threatened to sue EPA for failing to require that “commercial, industrial, institutional, and high density residential property dischargers of nutrient-polluted stormwater” obtain NPDES permits, and for failing to make a final determination on CLF’s and CRWA’s petition that EPA exercise its residual designation authority with respect to stormwater discharges in the Charles River Watershed.  … More

EPA Really Has A Lot Of Discretion In Deciding Whether to Promulgate Water Quality Standards

When a number of citizen groups petitioned EPA to determine that it is necessary under the Clean Water Act to promulgate water quality standards for nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin miss3and the Northern Gulf of Mexico, EPA did not decide to issue the standards.  It did not decide not to issue the standards.  It decided not to decide.  Litigation ensued.

Earlier this week,… More

Is Injunctive Relief Available Against Former Owners? At Least One Judge Thinks So.

As we noted in 2013, two different Courts of Appeal had ruled that injunctive relief is not available in PSD/NSR enforcement cases against former owners.  Both United States v. Midwest Generation and United States v. EME Homer Generation held that, because the former owner no longer controls the site, courts cannot impose injunctive relief against them.  As the Court stated in EME Homer Generating:

with time travel yet to be discovered,… More

RCRA Still Poses Some Interpretive Problems (To Put It Gently)

In a potentially significant opinion last week, in Little Hocking Water Association v. DuPont, Judge Algenon Marbley gave hope to citizen plaintiffs everywhere, with a remarkably expansive reading of the imminent and substantial endangerment language in RCRA’s citizen suit provision.  The decision covers a lot of ground, and is well worth reading (and, in fairness, Judge Marbley did reject some of plaintiffs’ claims).

The most significant holding was that DuPont’s emissions of perflourooctanoic acid,… More

What’s a Significant Nexus? The Answer, My Friend, Is Flowin’ Through the Ditch.

Even assuming that the “significant nexus” test from Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion in Rapanos defines waters of the United States subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction, the question remains what establishes a significant nexus.  In a decision earlier this week, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals provided some important guidance in answering this question.  The news is good for EPA and the Corps,… More

Self Righteousness Still Does Not Help the Environmentalists’ Cause

Fully five years ago, I noted that the cavalier treatment by government officials of FOIA requests made by opponents of government policy revealed a degree of self-righteousness that was both offensive and self-defeating – because it undermines support for the very policies that those officials were pursuing.

It now seems as though little has changed – except that now a federal judge has taken the time to put on record his dissatisfaction with how EPA responds to FOIA requests. … More

MassDEP — A Voice of Reason in the Stormwater Permitting Debate

EPA has been working to craft a general permit for small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems for quite some time.  The most recent draft permit, published last September, has received significant comment, most recently from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.  While emphasizing cooperation and appreciate for EPA’s efforts at collaboration, it is difficult to read MassDEP’s comments as anything other than as a sign of significant concern about overreach by EPA.… More

No Competitors In My Backyard?

In Paradise Lost, John Milton wrote that “easy is the descent into Hell, for it is paved with good intentions.”  road to hellA modern environmental lawyer might say that the road to waste, inefficiency, and obstruction is paved with good intentions.  Nowhere is that more apparent than with citizen suit provisions, as was demonstrated in the decision earlier this week in Nucor Steel-Arkansas v.… More

Déjà Vu All Over Again: CLF and CWRA Try Once More to Get EPA to Regulate Stormwater Discharges to the Charles River

In 2008, EPA made a preliminary determination to use its residual designation authority (RDA) under the Clean Water Act to designate stormwater discharges from two or more acres of impervious surfaces in the Lower Charles River charles15Watershed and released a draft general permit to cover such discharges.  However, EPA never finalized that designation.

In 2013, the Conservation Law Foundation and other groups petitioned EPA Regions 1,… More

General Permits Are Also Entitled to a Permit Shield

On Tuesday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the “permit shield” provisions of the Clean Water Act protected ICG hazard from Sierra Club claims that effluent from ICG Hazard’s Thunder Ridge mine thunderridgecoalminecaused exceedances of Kentucky water quality criteria for selenium.  Thunder Ridge is covered by a general permit, not an individual site permit, and the Sierra Club argued that the shield should not apply. … More

Coming Soon to a Settlement Near You: Next Generation Compliance

In a memorandum issued earlier this month, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement Cynthia Giles encouraged use by EPA staff of “Next Generation Compliance Tools” in civil settlements.  Some of the tools are more “next generation” than others, but they all bear watching by the regulated community.  The specific tools highlighted in the Giles memorandum include:

  • Advanced monitoring, including real-time monitoring of ambient pollution levels at the facility fence-line or in the immediate neighborhood
  • Third party compliance verification
  • Electronic reporting
  • Increased public availability of compliance data

To me,… More

It’s All Connected: EPA Finally Determines that the Science Supports an Expansive Definition of Waters of the United States

On Thursday, EPA issued its final report on Connectivity of Streams & Wetlands to Downstream Waters:  A Review & Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence.  The Connectivity report is intended to support EPA’s rule clarifying the definition of waters of the United StatesCorps_Regulatory_Jurisdiction.  I know that groups on all sides will be providing their two cents, but of this I am sure enough to abandon my usual reluctance to speculate:  This report will be more than sufficient to insulate EPA’s final rule from judicial challenge. … More

EPA Extends The Schedule For Issuing Its Power Plant Carbon Rules

As most readers know, EPA has extended its schedule for issuing its rules addressing GHG emissions from both existing, and new and modified, power plants.  EPA expects to issue the rules in the Summer of 2015.  Only time will tell whether the agency makes the new date.

For those looking for a handy summary of actions to date and EPA’s schedule going forward, EPA has provided a short Fact Sheet which sets out the relevant dates for the various rules.… More

EPA Releases FY 2014 Enforcement Results: Maybe Less Enforcement Is Good News

Last week, EPA released its report on Enforcement Annual Results in EPA Regions for Fiscal Year 2014.  As always, the report is worth reading, if only for the interactive map which shows where EPA has brought various kinds of cases.

Notwithstanding the traditional self-congratulatory tone of the report, the press coverage has almost uniformly focused on the year-to-year decrease in cases brought and dollars recovered. … More

When Is a Solid Waste Not a Solid Waste? An Eternal Question

This year, EPA has proposed a rule to regulate GHG emissions from existing sources, the legality of which turns, in significant part, on the meaning of a “source” under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.  It has also proposed a rule clarifying the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.  Having dealt with gases and liquids, EPA has turned to solids (it’s a metaphor,… More

EPA Does Not Have a Nondiscretionary Duty to Revise PSD Regulations When It Amends a NAAQS

On Monday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that EPA does not have an obligation to amend PSD regulations for a criteria pollutant within two years of revising the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for that pollutant.

WildEarth Guardians had sued EPA under section 304(a)(2) of the Clean Air Act, which authorizes suits against the Administrator for a failure “to perform any act or duty … which is not discretionary….”

What was the basis for the alleged nondiscretionary duty? … More

Superfund Rant For a New Congress

So the new Congress will be controlled by the GOP.  The House and Senate will consider various bills to rein in EPA authority.  Here’s one relatively modest suggestion for congressional consideration:  amend CERCLA to limit EPA’s authority to recover oversight costs.

How many of us in the private sector have been in meetings with EPA where EPA had more technical people in attendance than the PRPs who were performing the remedy? … More

EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Potentially New and Improved?

On Tuesday, EPA issued a Notice of Data Availability, requesting further comment on some specific issues that have been raised since it published its draft Clean Power Plan in June.  My immediate reaction?  My head hurts.

I don’t mean to trivialize the implementation issues that would likely arise if Congress enacted either a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax, but they’ve got to pale in comparison to the Rube Goldberg-like 2014-09-08-401kfeedisclosuresystem that’s going to be in place once EPA promulgates a final rule. … More

News Flash: Cap-and-Trade Remains the Most Efficient Way to Reduce Emissions

Notwithstanding Congressional gridlock on climate change legislation, cap-and-trade remains the tried and true efficient method for reducing air emissions.  Although the acid rain provisions of the Clean Air Act are the most well-known example, the CAA also provides for cap-and-trade programs to implement its regional haze regulations.  regional hazeOn Monday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the cap-and-trade program adopted by New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.… More

More Sauce For the Standing Goose: Industry Associations Cannot Challenge EPA’s E15 Rule

I have previously noted that standing is a double-edged sword.  Most commonly, the regulated community uses standing to keep citizen plaintiffs out of court.  However, as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrated yesterday, the regulated community is sometimes hoist on its own collective petard.petard

The decision in Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers v. EPA in the challenge to EPA’s E15 rule wasn’t surprising. … More

UCS Says to Add More Renewables to the Clean Power Plan; If It’s Better, Does that Make It Best?

The Union of Concerned Scientists today announced release of a report which attempts to document that the renewable energy energy-renewable-two-workers-installing-rooftop-solar-panels“building block” in EPA’s Clean Power Plan is not sufficiently aggressive. The report argues that, just relying on existing trends and compliance with renewable energy standards, renewable energy can supply 23% of electricity sales nationally by 2030, well above the 12% assumed by EPA.… More

What a Shock?! Nebraska’s Early Challenge to EPA’s Clean Power Plan Is Dismissed

Opponents of EPA’s Clean Power Plan have not been willing to wait until a final rule has been promulgated before challenging EPA’s authority. On Monday, Nebraska’s challenged was dismissed – not surprisingly – as premature.

Nebraska’s claim was simple – the Clean Power Plan relies in part on technology demonstrated with funding pursuant to the Energy Policy Act of 2005. However, that statute precludes EPA from finding that technologies have been adequately demonstrated for the purposes of § 111 of the Clean Air Act based “solely” on use of the technologies by facilities funded under the Energy Policy Act.… More

EPA Really Does Have Authority To Withdraw Specifications Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act

Last year, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that EPA has authority to withdraw its approval for the specification of sites for the disposal of fill material, even after the Army Corps has issued a permit for the discharge under section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Now, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that EPA properly exercised that authority with respect to the Spruce No.… More

The Atmosphere Is a Public Trust. So What?

The last frontier of citizen climate litigation has been state-based litigation alleging that states have a public trust obligation to mitigate climate change. As I have previously noted, I’m skeptical that these cases are viable. A decision last month by the Supreme Court of Alaska suggests that such skepticism is well-founded.  Kivalina Aerial View

In Kanuk v. Alaska, a number of minors living in Alaska brought suit,… More

CERCLA Preempts Local Cleanup Bylaws; PRPs Everywhere Breath a Sigh of Relief

In an important decision yesterday, Judge Douglas Woodlock of the District of Massachusetts confirmed that CERCLA preempts local cleanup bylaws. The case involved one aspect of the cleanup of the W.R. Grace Superfund Site in Acton, Massachusetts. In 2005, EPA issued a Record of Decision requiring operation of a groundwater pump and treat system in what is known as the Northeast Area of the Site. However, EPA recognized that the contamination in the area was limited and stated in the ROD that the treatment system might be turned off in three years if certain criteria were met.… More

The SAB Enters the “Waters of the United States” Fray: Guess Which Side the Scientists Support

The Science Advisory Board has now provided its advice to EPA and the ACOE concerning their proposed rule clarifying the definition of “waters of the United States” BM-NeedToKnow-WetlandBanking-GALunder the Clean Water Act. In a brief letter that can only worry the National Farm Bureau and embolden those who thought that the EPA/ACOE proposal did not go far enough, the SAB concluded that:

the available science supports the conclusion that the types of water bodies identified as waters of the United States in the proposed rule exert strong influence on the physical,… More

EPA Proposes to Eliminate Affirmative Defenses for Excess Emissions During Startups, Shutdowns, or Malfunctions — Get Ready for Some Citizen Suits

This past April, the D.C. Circuit struck down the part of EPA’s cement kiln rule that would have provided an affirmative defense to civil penalties for excess emissions resulting from unavoidable malfunctions. As we noted at the time, that decision clearly had implications beyond the cement kiln rule.

Those implications were made more concrete this week when EPA issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking in which it proposed to rescind its policy allowing affirmative defenses to penalties for excess emissions during startup,… More

EPA Refuses to Amend Its Backup Generator Rule: Demand Response Breathes Easier

Last Friday, EPA published notice that it would not be revising its regulations on backup generators in response to three petitions for reconsideration it had received after it promulgated its final rule in January 2013. The rule had sparked controversy, because EPA allowed backup generators to operate for up to 100 hours a year, though EPA did require use of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel beginning in January 2015.… More

You Can’t Estop the Government — Even When It Wants to Be Estopped

Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision that arguably explains everything from why the Tea Party exists to why otherwise calm and sane executives suddenly lose all their hair. Perhaps most astounding, the decision is clearly correct. Perhaps the law is an ass.

In 2008, Avenal Power submitted an application to EPA for a PSD permit to construct a new 600 MW natural gas-fired power plant in Avenal,… More

Who Gets to Review EPA Actions? The Court of Appeals? The District Court? (Hint: The Answer Is Not “Neither One”)

The general rule under the Clean Air Act is that any:

person may bring suit in district court against the EPA Administrator for an alleged failure to perform a nondiscretionary act or duty, and the district court has jurisdiction “to order the Administrator to perform such act or duty,” as well as to “compel . . . agency action unreasonably delayed.” By contrast, “judicial review of final action by the EPA Administrator rests exclusively in the appellate courts.… More

An Update On Standing — Some Specifics Really Are Required

Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s approval of Nevada’s State Implementation Plan for regional haze against a challenge by WildEarth Guardians. The decision isn’t earthshaking.  However, because it found that WildEarth Guardians did not have standing to challenge EPA’s reasonable further progress determination for measuring visibility improvements, but did have standing to challenge EPA’s determination regarding the Best Available Retrofit Technology for the Reid Gardner Generating Station in northeast Nevada,… More

EPA Wins Two Clean Water Cases in One Day: The Fourth Circuit Affirms a Narrow Construction of the Permit Shield Defense

Yesterday, I noted that the D.C. Circuit rejected challenges to EPA’s Enhanced Coordination Process and Final Guidance on Clean Water Act permitting for mining activities. It was not EPA’s only CWA victory. On the same day, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a decision narrowly construing the CWA’s permit shield defense.

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards sued A&G Coal over discharges of selenium from A&G’s Kelly Branch Surface Mine in Virginia.… More

The D.C. Circuit Rejects Challenge to EPA’s Final Guidance on CWA Coal Mining Permits: EPA Action Has to Be Really, Really, Final to Be Appealable

On Friday, the D.C. Circuit reversed Judge Reggie Walton’s decision from 2012 and affirmed EPA’s authority to adopt the “Enhanced Coordination Process” governing coordination with the Army Corps of Engineers in the processing of Clean Water Act permits. The Court also rejected challenges to its 2012 Final Guidance document regarding appropriate conditions on such permits.

The decision on the Enhanced Coordination Process seems rather obvious.… More

83% of a Loaf Is Better Than None: The Supreme Court Affirms EPA’s Authority to Regulate “Anyway Sources”, But Rejects Regulation of Otherwise Exempt Sources

The Supreme Court today affirmed EPA’s authority to subject 83% of greenhouse gas emissions to its PSD and Title V Operating Permit programs. However, EPA’s rationale for the rule did not fare so well, and EPA does not have authority to regulate GHG emissions from facilities not otherwise subject to PSD review or the Title V program.

To EPA and the court below, the main issue – EPA’s authority – was not difficult.… More

More on EPA’s GHG Rule: I Am NOT Going To Set Odds on Whether the Rule Would Survive Judicial Review

Last week, in posting about EPA’s Clean Power Plan, I noted that some potential plaintiffs might face standing obstacles in seeking to challenge the rule, assuming it is promulgated as proposed. Today, I take a (very) slightly broader look at potential legal challenges.

First, I still think that the most obvious potential plaintiffs, owners of coal-fired power plants, might indeed have standing issues in challenging a rule which maximizes the options for attaining reductions in GHG emissions.… More

When Does the Sixth Circuit Set EPA Rules for the Entire Country? When EPA Regulations Require National Uniformity

In a fascinating decision issued today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down EPA’s Summit Directive. The Summit Directive – sounds ominous – was issued in response to the 2012 decision in Summit Petroleum Corp. v. EPA, in which the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that EPA could not consider two facilities as “adjacent” for Title V and NSR permitting purposes unless they are,… More

EPA Promulgates Final Cooling Water Intake Rule: Much Ado About Not Very Much?

On Monday, EPA finally announced promulgation of its long-awaited rule governing cooling water intake structures at existing facilities. The rule is certainly important, but it’s not earthshattering and it may be more significant for what it does not do than for what it does.

What does it do?

• Facilities that withdraw at least 2MGD must reduce impingement based on a finding that use of modified traveling screens with fish returns constitutes the best technology available (BTA).… More

The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth — And the Supreme Court Says EPA Therefore Has Discretion in Regulating Wind-Borne Pollution

The Supreme Court today reversed the D.C. Circuit and affirmed EPA’s Transport Rule (known more formally as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule). Whatever the hopes and dreams of the upwind states and the industry opponents, the decision does not surprise me. EPA pretty much did what it was told when the Bush era CAIR rule was struck down. Moreover, EPA crafted a rule that seems to me fully within its discretion under the Clean Air Act and which,… More

Is the NSR Enforcement Initiative Dead Yet? Injunctive Relief Claims Dismissed Against U.S. Steel

Last Friday, EPA lost another NSR enforcement case. Not only that, but this was a case EPA had previously won. As we noted last August, Chief Judge Philip Simon of the Northern District of Indiana, had previously ruled that the United States could pursue injunctive relief claims against United States Steel with respect to allegations by EPA that US Steel had made major modifications to its plant in Gary,… More

Cement Kiln Operators Better Hope that Their Control Technology Works: D.C. Circuit Vacates EPA’s Affirmative Defense Rule

Last week was hazardous air pollutant regulation week at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. First, as we reported, the Court affirmed EPA’s mercury air toxics rule, determining that EPA need not take cost into account in promulgating rules for electric generating units (EGUs) under § 112(n) of the CAA. On Friday, the Court affirmed the substance of EPA’s revised hazardous air pollutant rules for cement kilns,… More

D.C. Circuit Affirms EPA’s Utility Air Toxics Rule: An “Appropriate” Rule Need Not Be Justified By Cost-Benefit Analysis

Yesterday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s rule setting limits for emissions of mercury and other air toxics from fossil-fuel-fired electric steam generating units.  The focus of the decision – and the issue on which Judge Kavanaugh dissented – was whether EPA was required to consider the costs that would be imposed by the rule.  EPA said no and the majority agreed.

Section 112(n) of the Clean Air Act required EPA to perform a study of the health hazards related to hazardous emissions from EGUs prior to regulating them. … More

Definitely a Victory For Regulations Over Guidance: EPA Issues Proposed Rule Defining Waters of The United States

Tthe Supreme Court issued its decision in Rapanos almost 8 years ago and EPA has been struggling ever since to figure out what “waters of the United States” are within the meaning of the Clean Water Act.  After several failed attempts at guidance, EPA finally acknowledged that this issue is too important and too contentious for guidance – and that it merits formal notice and comment regulation. … More

Coal Companies, Don’t Look Behind; EPA May Be Gaining on You

As the lawyers among our readers know, the denial of a certiorari petition does not establish precedent.  However, that doesn’t make it unimportant.  Yesterday, the Supreme Court denied cert. in Mingo Logan Coal Co. v. EPA.  The cert. denial leaves in place the decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals holding that EPA has authority retroactively to withdraw a site specification for a Clean Water Act § 404 permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers. … More

2 and 1/2 Strikes and the NGOs May Be Out: EPA Refuses to Exercise Residual Designation Authority

Stormwater regulation is a thorny issue.  There is widespread agreement that nutrient run-off can be a significant problem, but little agreement on what to do about it, since stormwater infrastructure is normally managed by cash-strapped municipalities, but the most cost-effective approach will often not be to require thousands of individual properties owners to make large separate capital expenditures (though best management practices can certainly often provide significant benefit).

The NRDC,… More

The Federal Tail Should Not Wag the Non-Federal Dog: The Sixth Circuit Concludes that the Corps’ Review of Mountaintop Removal Projects Is Limited

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled, in Kentuckians for the Commonwealth v. Army Corps of Engineers, that the scope of review by the Army Corps of Engineers of § 404 permit applications for fills related to mountaintop removal mining is limited to impacts directly related to the filling operations that require a permit, rather than the overall impacts of the mining project.

The case concerned a mountaintop removal project by Leeco in Perry County,… More

Opacity Still Matters: Court of Appeals Affirms EPA’s NSPS for Particulate Matter

Last week, in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s 2012 New Source Performance Standards for particulate matter emissions from fossil-fuel-fired steam electric generating units.  The opinion is largely a plain vanilla administrative law decision, but does provide some useful guidance on the appeal of CAA regulations.  It is also a useful reminder of the extent of deference to EPA in an ordinary case.… More

NSR Emissions Projections — Finally, An Area Where It is the Regulated Entity Which Is Entitled to Deference

Last spring, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that when power plant owners compare actual emissions to projected future actual emissions for the purpose of determining whether a project is subject to the Clean Air Act’s NSR provisions, EPA may bring an enforcement action if the operator does not “make projections according to the requirements for such projections contained in the regulations.”  At the same time, however,… More

More Than Five Years Later, the Bush Administration Is Still Losing Environmental Cases

I previously noted that the record of the Bush administration in defending its rulemaking decisions was dangerously near the Mendoza Line.  Indeed, even four years after Bush left office, it was continuing to lose decisions.  Now, we can say that the record has extended to five years.  Last week, in National Parks Conservation Association v. Jewell, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the 2008 rule issued by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement,… More

EPA May Rely — In Part — on Projects Funded Under the Energy Policy Act to Justify the Greenhouse Gas NSPS. That’s Its Story and It’s Sticking To It

As those following EPA’s efforts to promulgate NSPS for greenhouse gas emissions from new fossil fuel-fired electric generating plants know, EPA has come under fire for basing its proposal on demonstrations of feasibility at projects that have received federal funding or tax credits under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  Apparently, EPA is sufficiently concerned that they have prepared a Notice of Data Availability to be published in the Federal Register. … More

Cooperative Federalism Is Even Messier Than We Thought: 21 States Oppose the Chesapeake Bay TMDL

Last fall, the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania affirmed EPA’s TMDL for the Chesapeake Bay.  As I noted at the time, Judge Rambo pointed to the sometimes “messy and cumbersome” nature of cooperative federalism in affirming the TMDL, stating that:

It is unavoidable that states and the federal government will occasionally disagree. EPA worked with the states to ensure that the proposed allocations were sufficient to achieve water quality standards. … More

EPA Is Not a “Bogeyman” According to a Sierra Club Poll: I’m Sure That Will Comfort Nervous Senate Democrats

The Sierra Club released a poll yesterday showing substantial support for EPA’s efforts to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.  The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, whose representative, Andrew Baumann, was quoted in E&E News as saying that the poll demonstrates that EPA “is not a bogeyman.”  Indeed, the poll shows 44% of respondents with positive feelings toward EPA and only 27% negative. … More

One More Update on the GHG NSPS Rule: EPA Has Improved Its Odds of Surviving Judicial Review, But I’m Still, Still, Skeptical

When EPA’s NSPS Rule for GHGs was published in the Federal Register last week, I noted that the rule might be on shaky ground, because an EPA Science Advisory Board work group had questioned the basis for EPA’s decision that carbon capture and storage is feasible technology.  Now it turns out that EPA has provided the work group with some additional information and the work group issued a memorandum last week stating that further review by the SAB is not required. … More

EPA’s Proposed NSPS Rule for GHGs Is Finally Published in the Federal Register; I’m Still Skeptical

EPA’s Proposed New Source Performance Standards for greenhouse gas emissions from new sources was finally published in the Federal Register on Wednesday.  At least fundamentally, it seems unchanged from the proposal released last September.  It is still based on the conclusion that carbon capture and storage is feasible and represents BSER – the best system of emission reduction – for fossil fuel-fired electric steam generating units.… More

Citizens Are Not Harmed By the Concept of Pollution Trading: A Challenge to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL Is Dismissed

On December 13, the District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed plaintiffs’ challenge in Food and Water Watch v. EPA to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL’s discussion of pollution trading and offsets.  As I had previously noted, the TMDL itself already survived judicial challenge.

In this case, plaintiffs alleged that they would be harmed by trading of effluent discharge rights,… More

What Do Midwestern States Have In Common With Groucho Marx? Ask Them Whether They Want to Be Part of the Ozone Transport Region

As the Supreme Court gets ready to consider the validity of EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, some of the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states are taking another tack to address at least part of the air pollution transport issue.  They have petitioned EPA under § 176A of the Clean Air Act to add Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia to the Ozone Transport Region established under § 184 of the CAA.… More

Just a Hiccup or a Major Obstacle? EPA Science Advisory Board Work Group Recommends that the SAB Review the Science Behind EPA’s Proposed NSPS For Greenhouse Gases

I have posted numerous times in recent years on the importance of the views of EPA’s own science advisors in judicial determinations whether EPA regulatory actions are arbitrary and capricious.  With few exceptions, courts have affirmed EPA when the regulations were supported by EPA’s science advisors, and struck down the regulations when not supported by those advisors.

Now comes word that a work group of EPA’s Science Advisory Board has recommended that the SAB review the science supporting EPA’s proposed New Source Performance Standards for GHG emissions from electric generating units. … More

The Devil You Know? Which is Better, EPA Enforcement or Citizen Enforcement?

Last month, I noted that shrinking EPA budgets would lead to greater focus on citizen enforcement.  This week, an article in Law360 concerning EPA’s draft 2014-2018 strategic plan has driven that message home.  While talking about increased use of technology to monitor compliance more efficiently – all well and good and certainly for real – the strategic plan acknowledges a likely significant decrease in the number of enforcement actions to be brought by EPA. … More

Hoist on Its Own Petard: The Ninth Circuit Reverses EPA’s Approval of Nanosilver Pesticides in Textiles

Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals remanded EPA’s approval of two nanosilver pesticides for use in textiles.  The case, NRDC v. EPA, is a fascinating application of the issue of “how safe is safe” and, in particular, how much conservatism must be applied to risk estimates when there is significant uncertainty in the analysis.

EPA sets the acceptable exposure to pesticides under FIFRA by determining the risk and then addressing uncertainties. … More

EPA’s Groundwater Remedy Completion Strategy: Making Cleanups More Efficient Or Just Increasing PRP Costs?

Last week, EPA released a draft Groundwater Remedy Completion Strategy.  The strategy is intended to provide:

a recommended step-wise plan and decision making process for evaluating remedy operation, progress and attainment of [remedial action objectives] using an updated conceptual site model, performance metrics and data derived from site-specific remedy evaluations.

I like to think that I am skeptical, not cynical.  Having worked on this stuff for 25 years,… More

The Answer, My Friend, Is Not Blowin’ In The Wind: Waste From CAFO Ventilation Fans Does Not Require an NPDES Permit

Earlier this year, in her aptly named post “What the Cluck?”, Patricia Finn Braddock, noted that a state court in North Carolina had held that wastes from poultry farms, blown by ventilators from confinement houses and then washed into waters of the United States with stormwater flow, are subject to NPDES permit requirements.  Well, in a decision issued on October 23, Judge John Preston Bailey,… More

EPA’s Latest Public-Private Partnership? Enforcement

As the EPA budget continues to get squeezed by the ongoing sequester and a GOP-controlled House that is, shall we say, less than sympathetic to EPA’s mission, it is not surprising that EPA would try to shift more of the enforcement burden to citizen groups.  According to a report in Greenwire yesterday, that is precisely what EPA has in mind.

Greenwire quotes Cynthia Giles, EPA’s enforcement czar as saying that “we have far too much noncompliance,… More

More on Daubert: The 11th Circuit Allows EPA’s Experts to Testify on NSR Violations

Last spring, Robby Sanoff complained in this space about the problem resulting from appellate courts’ refusal to give appropriate discretion to district judges in performing their gatekeeping function under Daubert.  As Robby put it:

The difference between “shaky but admissible” and unreliable and inadmissible evidence would seem to be entirely in the eye of the beholder.

Robby will not be pleased by last’s week’s decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v.… More

EPA Issues Revised Draft NSPS for Carbon Emissions From New Power Plants: It’s All About Technology Forcing

Last Friday, EPA reissued its draft NSPS addressing carbon emissions from new power plants.  It’s not actually that different from the prior proposal, which would have required all new fossil-fuel plants to meet a 1,000 lbs CO2/MWh standard.  The new proposal would require new large gas plants to meet the 1,000 lbs/MWh standard, but would relax the standard to 1,100 lbs/MWh for small gas plants and for coal plants. … More

Cooperative Federalism is “Messy and Cumbersome” — EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL is Upheld

Last Friday, in American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA, Judge Sylvia Rambo upheld EPA’s Chesapeake Bay chesapeake-bayTMDL.  As Judge Rambo noted in her conclusion, while the environmental problems associated with the Chesapeake Bay are massive and the issues complicated, her review was not that difficult.

Notwithstanding the expansive administrative record, and the complexity of the numerous issues implicated herein, the court’s scope of review in this case is relatively narrow.… More

Yes, Indeed, A Victory For Regulation Over Guidance

EPA’s used its blog today to announce that it and the Army Corps of Engineers have sent to OMB a draft rule clarifying the scope of jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.  It appears that EPA has finally given up on its controversial efforts to solve the Rapanos problem through guidance.  As I noted previously, when an agency is still working on its quick and easy guidance (with regulations to follow) eight years after the court decision that made the guidance necessary,… More

Standing Matters, TMDL Version

Last week, in Conservation Law Foundation v. EPA, Judge Mark Wolf ruled that CLF did not have standing to challenge EPA’s approval of total maximum daily loads promulgated for certain waters in and around Cape Cod.  Given the increasing number of citizen suits involving TMDL promulgation, the decision is important.

CLF asserted two claims.  First, it alleged that EPA wrongly classified certain sources,… More

More on Old NSR Claims: Injunctive Relief Remains Available Against Original Owners Foolish Enough Not to Have Sold

As we noted last week and last month, the 3rd and 7th Circuits have ruled that violations of the obligation to undertake NSR review prior to implementing major modifications are not continuing, but are instead one-time violations occurring at the time the facilities undertake the modification.  These holdings meant that EPA could not pursue either former owners – because they no longer control the facilities – or current owners – because they never violated the statute and have no ongoing obligation to correct the former owner’s violation.… More

The Final Nail In the Coffin on EPA’s Enforcement Initiative Against Historic PSD Violations? The Third Circuit Agrees That PSD Violations Are Not Ongoing

Only last month, the 7th Circuit ruled that alleged violations of the Clean Air Act’s PSD requirements are not ongoing.  On Wednesday, in United States v. EME Homer Generation, the 3rd Circuit agreed.  Like the 7th Circuit, the 3rd Circuit did not really even view the question as difficult, finding the statute unambiguous and never reaching the second step of traditional Chevron analysis.… More

More on the Permit Shield Defense: A Permittee Is — Gasp — Entitled to Rely on Regulations and Permits Issued by Delegated State Agencies

Late last month, we noted that a permittee may not rely on the permit shield defense unless it has clearly informed the permitting agency of the nature of its discharge.  Now we see the flip side.  In Wisconsin Resources Protection Council v. Flambeau Mining Company, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Flambeau Mining was entitled to rely on the permit shield defense with respect to its stormwater discharges,… More

The Permit Shield Defense: No Shield Absent Full Disclosure

The Clean Water Act permit shield provision provides that compliance with an NPDES permit constitutes compliance with the CWA.  What happens when the permit does not mention a particular pollutant?  In Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards v. A&G Coal, decided late last week, the Court made clear that the permittee must fully disclose information about its discharge of the pollutant to the permitting agency in order for the shield to be available.… More

We Still Don’t Need No Stinkin Cooperative Federalism: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Holds that GHG Sources Require PSD Permits Even Absent a State Implementation Plan

Last Friday, I posted about the limits to EPA’s cooperation with states in the name of “cooperative federalism” under the Clean Air Act.  On the same day, in Texas v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals only emphasized my point, by affirming EPA’s assertion of PSD permitting jurisdiction in Texas and Wyoming in the face of those states’ failure to prepare state implementation plans to incorporate permitting programs to implement EPA’s greenhouse gas rules under the PSD program.… More

Cooperative Federalism? We Don’t Need No Stinkin Cooperative Federalism

Last Friday, the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Oklahoma v. EPA, affirmed EPA’s rejection of Oklahoma’s state implementation plan setting forth its determination of the Best Available Retrofit Technology, or BART, to address regional haze.  The Court also affirmed EPA’s promulgation of a federal implementation plan in place of the Oklahoma SIP.  While rehearsing the Clean Air Act’s “cooperative federalism” approach, the Court seemed more focused on deference to EPA’s technical assessment of the SIP than on any obligation by EPA to cooperate with states.… More

Mississippi v. EPA: Support of the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee is Not Necessary to Affirm EPA’s NAAQS

On Tuesday, in Mississippi v. EPA, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed EPA’s 2008 NAAQS for ozone of 0.075 ppm.  However, it remanded EPA’s decision to set the secondary NAAQS, for public welfare, at the same 0.075 ppm level.  With respect to the primary standard, the Court gave short shrift to industry and red-state challenges that the standard was too stringent.  This is not surprising,… More

Section 126 of the Clean Air Act and Cooperative Federalism: EPA May Cooperate with the Downwind State Rather than the Upwind State

On Friday, in GenOn REMA v. EPA, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, in response to a petition from a downwind state under § 126 of the Clean Air Act, EPA may issue a rule imposing emission limits on a source in the upwind state without waiting for the upwind state to complete its own SIP process, which would presumably result in appropriate controls to protect the downwind state. … More

One Step At A Time Is Just Too Late: The DC Circuit Strikes Down EPA’s Deferral of GHG Regulation of Biomass Emissions

On Friday, in Center For Biological Diversity v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down EPA’s rule deferring regulation of GHG emissions from “biogenic” sources.  EPA had promulgated the rule, delaying regulation of emissions from biogenic sources from July 20, 2011, to July 21, 2014, on the ground that the carbon cycle is sufficiently complex that EPA is not yet in a position to judge what the actual carbon impact of different biogenic sources might be. … More

The Seventh Circuit Cuts the Gordian Knot of NSR Interpretation: Preconstruction Review Cannot Lead to Continuing Violations

Earlier this week, in United States v. Midwest Generation, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of EPA’s NSR enforcement action against Commonwealth Edison.  Commonwealth Edison was the prior owner of the plants at issue and modified them at various times from 1994-1999 without obtaining PSD/NSR approvals before doing so.  Midwest Generation purchased the plants and continued to operate them.  In 2009, the United States sued both Commonwealth Edison and Midwest Generation. … More

The Supreme Court Agrees to Review the CSAPR Decision: Might EPA Avoid Version 3 of the Transport Rule?

The Supreme Court today granted certiorari in EPA v. EME Homer City, the challenge to EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or CSAPR.  The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia had struck down the rule, over a fairly blistering dissent from Judge Judith Rogers.

Speculation over the reasons why the Supreme Court takes a case is often pointless, but I will say this:  Consideration of the history of EPA’s rulemaking leads to the conclusion that the rule should be upheld.… More

I Believe in Environmental Regulation, But….

As readers of this blog know, I believe in governmental environmental regulation.  We have a complicated world and it is not surprising that many activities, including those generating greenhouse gases, cause negative externalities.  At the same time, however, I have spent more than 25 years representing regulated entities in negotiations with government regulators and it is impossible to do such work without obtaining an appreciation for the very significant costs that bureaucracies impose.… More

When is the Meaning of a Statute Sufficiently Plain? The D.C. Circuit Restores EPA Authority to Withdraw Approval of Section 404 Permits

In a decision on Tuesday that must have sent shivers down the spine of every coal company executive, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals restored EPA’s authority to withdraw the specification of streams for the disposal of mountaintop mining wastes spruce mine– years after the Army Corps had issued the permit containing the specification.  Indeed, Daily Environment Report quoted National Mining Association CEO Hal Quinn as saying that the decision,… More

Coming to a Steam Electric Generating Plant Near You in May 2014 — New Effluent Limitation Guidelines

Last Friday, EPA announced release of its draft proposal to revise the effluent guidelines and standards for the steam electric power generating industry, last revised in 1982.  The proposal was in conformance with a litigation settlement with environmental groups, which also calls for a final rule by May 22, 2014.

The proposed rule actually sets out four different regulatory options, and they are sufficiently complicated that EPA’s Fact Sheet on the proposal does not even attempt to summarize them. … More

EPA Proposes Revisions to the Construction and Development Effluent Guidelines: Time Again To Ask Whether EPA Will Get Any Credit For Being Flexible

Today, EPA formally proposed revisions to its effluent guidelines for stormwater discharges from construction and development point sources.  As we have previously noted, in response to concerns about the basis for EPA’s numeric turbidity standards, EPA had stayed the numeric standards.  It is now formally proposing to withdraw them.

EPA also responded to concerns that the rule contains certain exceptions where particular practices are infeasible,… More

EPA Finalizes Revisions to the Utility MACT Rule For New Plants

On Thursday, EPA finalized revisions to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS (also known as “Utility MACT”).  The most significant change was to revise the mercury emissions standard from 0.0002 pounds per gigawatt-hour to 0.003 pounds per gigawatt-hour.  The change was made in response to comments suggesting that the more stringent standard simply wasn’t attainable.  EPA notes that attainment of the 0.003 lb/GWh will still require installation of the same types of pollution control equipment.… More

EPA Loses Another Battle in the War Over Guidance: The Eighth Circuit Vacates EPA Policies on Mixing Zones and Bypasses

On Monday, EPA lost another battle in the war over guidance.  In Iowa League of Cities v. EPA, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated two letters that EPA had sent to Senator Charles Grassley concerning biological mixing zones and bypass of secondary treatment units at POTWs (also referred to as “blending”, because the POTWs blend wastewater that has not be subject to biological secondary treatment with wastewater that has,… More

Logging Road Runoff Does Not Require an NPDES Permit: The Supreme Court (For Now) Defers to EPA’s Interpretation of Its Own Regulations

Yesterday, in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, the Supreme Court ruled that runoff from logging roads does not constitute a discharge from a point source that requires an NPDES permit.  The decision upholds EPA’s interpretation of its own regulations and overturns – what a surprise! – a 9th Circuit decision which had held that permits were necessary for logging runoff.

While EPA got the result that it wanted here,… More

When Do Air Emissions Constitute a Discharge to Waters of the United States? Any Time the Emissions Reach Waters of the United States?

In a fascinating post today, my colleague from the American College of Environmental Lawyers, Patricia Finn Braddock, reported on a case at the intersection of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act that could have significant implications for any source of air emissions that can credibly be alleged to affect waters of the United States.  The case is Rose Acre Farms v.… More

What Makes One Invalid Rule More Valid Than Another? The Court of Appeals Declines to Rehear CSAPR, and Leaves CAIR In Place

Today, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia declined EPA’s petition for rehearing en banc in EME Homer City Generation v. EPA, leaving the original panel decision striking down EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule in place.  Environmental groups had hoped for a rehearing based on Judge Rodger’s emphatic dissent, but a request for en banc review is always an uphill battle.… More

EPA Loses Another PSD Case: The Clean Air Act is “Extraordinarily Rigid”

In Sierra Club v. EPA, issued today, The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected EPA’s rules governing “significant impact levels” and “significant monitoring concentrations” for determining PSD permitting requirements for new sources of PM2.5.  Both the SIL and SMC provisions provided important exemptions from the PSD permitting regime. The Court ruled that neither provision was justified given the inflexible language of the Clean Air Act.… More

EPA Splits the Baby on Backup Generators: Still Allows 100 Hours Use, But Now Requires Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel

Yesterday, EPA finalized revisions to the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for stationary reciprocating internal combustion engines, or – one of my new favorite acronyms – RICE.  The biggest dispute over the rule was the extent to which it would allow backup diesel generators to run for demand response purposes.

As we had noted previously, EPA proposed last May to allow backup generators to run for up to 100 hours for demand response purposes without being subject to emissions limits. … More

EPA Formally Withdraws Numeric Turbidity Standards from Its Stormwater Rule for Construction and Development Sites

Daily Environment Report announced yesterday that EPA notified BNA that, late last year, EPA reached a settlement with the Utility Water Act Group and the National Association of Home Builders resolving litigation over EPA’s rule imposing effluent limitations on the “Construction and Development Point Source Category” and over its Construction General Permit.

The most contentious aspect of EPA’s regulatory efforts in this area was EPA’s inclusion of numeric turbidity limits. … More

Dog Bites Man: Supreme Court Edition

In a curious, but unsurprising, decision yesterday, in Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. NRDC, the Supreme Court held that the flow of water containing pollutants from part of a river that has been culverted into a part of the river which still maintains natural banks is not a “discharge of a pollutant” within the meaning of the Clean Water Act.  The decision appears to be controlled by the Court’s prior decision in Florida Water Management District v.… More

More Than Four Years Later, the Bush EPA Is Still Losing Court Decisions

On Friday, the Court  of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected EPA’s approach to implementation of the PM2.5 NAAQS.  The fine particulate NAAQS was first published in 1997, and EPA issued implementation rules in 2007 and 2008.  Those rules specified that EPA Subpart 1 of Part D of title I of the CAA – the general implementation provisions – rather than Subpart 4, which applies specifically to PM10. … More

I Guess You Can’t Say That EPA Gives Lumps of Coal For Christmas Presents: It Does, However, Finalize Adjustments to the Boiler MACT Rule

Last Friday, just in time for the Christmas holiday, EPA finalized revisions to the Boiler MACT rule.  As it has done with other significant rules, EPA basically fine-tuned the existing rule, responding to some specific comments, adding a smidgen of flexibility here, and a dash of extra time to comply over there.  I think that EPA deserves credit for responding to the regulated community, while still imposing rules that provide significant benefits.… More

Is CERCLA More Reasonable Than the Common Law? Only in California, I Hope

In Burlington Northern, the Supreme Court made clear that, in order to impose liability on a defendant as an “arranger” under Superfund for the sale of a product, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant

must have entered into the sale of [the product] with the intention that at least a portion of the product be disposed during the transfer process.

Although courts do not seem thus far to have taken to heart the Supreme Court’s allocation discussion in Burlington Northern,… More

Yawn: EPA Promulgates New Fine Particulate Standard

On Friday, EPA announced promulgation of its revised fine particulate, or PM2.5, NAAQS.  Why am I yawning?  Let me count the ways:

1.         Because, in 2009, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals rejected EPA’s prior effort to keep the PM2.5 standard at 15 ug/m3.

2.         Because, as I have previously noted, the Court of Appeals pretty much told EPA that it could not ignore the advice of its Clean Air Science Advisory Committee in setting the NAAQS.… More

Another Dispatch From the Guidance Front: Is EPA’s Vapor Intrusion Guidance Ready For Prime Time?

A story in Tuesday’s BNA Daily Environment Report notes that several representatives of industry interests are asking EPA to hold off on issuing its much-anticipated vapor intrusion guidance until it can be subject to public comment.  Apparently, the current draft was sent to regional offices – but not distributed to the public – for review.  Someone at Inside EPA leaked it to Fox Rothschild and asked for comment.  … More

EPA Notches Another NSR Settlement: Is This The Most Successful Program That Shouldn’t Exist?

Last week, EPA announced that it had reached yet one more – its 24th – settlement under as a result of its NSR enforcement initiative.  This time, it was Louisiana Generating’s Big Cajun II plant, in New Roads, Louisiana.  By now, the contours are familiar, including a penalty of $14 million and injunctive relief estimated to cost approximately $250 million.  Changes will include:

  • Installation of SNCR (not SCR) on all units to control NOx.…
  • More

Little Ado About Very Much: EPA Reinterprets Its PCB Guidance

pcb_guidanceOn Tuesday, EPA issued its “reinterpretation” of its understanding of what building wastes constitute “PCB bulk product waste” under TSCA regulations, as opposed to “PCB remediation waste.” Previously, when PCBs migrated from building products, such as caulk, the caulk would be considered PCB bulk product waste, while the underlying contaminated building material would be considered PCB remediation waste. Now the building material will also be considered PCB bulk product waste. … More

Clean Air Grab Bag

There have been so many developments recently on the air front (and I’m so far behind due to an appellate brief) that I thought I would combine a few recent items.

First, oral arguments were heard Monday on the challenges to the Bush EPA ozone NAAQS of 0.075 ppb. As I have previously noted, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has made pretty plain that EPA cannot ignore the recommendations of the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee in setting the NAAQS. … More

Climate Change and Cost Benefit Analysis: Cass Sunstein Is Talking, But Is Anyone Listening?

Sunday’s New York Times had an op-ed piece by Cass Sunstein, recently departed head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, advocating for sensible measures to address global climate change. Sunstein’s argument is that

Economists of diverse viewpoints concur that if the international community entered into a sensible agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the economic benefits would greatly outweigh the costs.

I don’t disagree with anything he says;… More

Who Knew? The National Research Council Discovers That Many Groundwater Cleanups Will Take More Than 100 Years

Daily Environment Report today noted that the National Research Council has produced a study, Alternatives for Managing the Nation’s Complex Contaminated Groundwater Sites, which assesses the scope of the groundwater contamination problem and our ability to address it. One significant takeaway from the report is that

Significant limitations with currently available remedial technologies persist that make achievement of MCLs throughout the aquifer unlikely at most complex groundwater sites in a time frame of 50-100 years.… More

Superfund Meets the Reality of Climate Change

What happens when Superfund runs headlong into Mother Nature?  Hurricane Sandy provides a vivid answer. As the New York Times reports today, Hurricane Sandy had a significant impact on the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site in Brooklyn, NY.  The Canal was completed in 1869 and for over a century was the recipient of industrial discharges from mills, tanneries, and chemical plants resulting in what EPA describes as “one of the nation’s most heavily contaminated water bodies.”  Contaminants include PCBs,… More

CASAC Weighs in on the Ozone NAAQS: Might the Clean Air Act Require a Standard Below Background?

The Daily Environment Report last week provided an update on the current status of EPA’s development of a new National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone. The current 8-hour standard of 75 ppb is going to be revised downward; EPA currently plans to issue a final rule by September 2014.

Last month, the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee weighed in on EPA’s draft policy assessment for the ozone NAAQS. … More

EPA Issues Two New Superfund Guidance Documents: Plus Ca Change, Plus C’est La Meme Chose

EPA recently released two guidance documents relevant to Superfund practitioners.  One establishes revised procedures regarding how EPA will manage negotiations with PRPs.  The second updates EPA’s guidance on how it will handle Alternative Sites. To me, both have the flavor of deck chair management on the Titanic.

The RD/RA negotiation guidance has to be seen to be believed. It’s a document that seems reasonable on its face,… More

Accidental Success? Even Without National Climate Policy, US Emissions May Fall Enough To Avoid Failure

In 2009, at the international climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, President Obama pledged that the US would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. Since then, national efforts toward comprehensive climate legislation, or even making concrete strides to intentionally reduce emissions on a national scale have been, let’s say… lackluster. But even so, a recent report by Resources for the Future predicts that the US will hit 16.3% reductions over a 2005 baseline by 2020. … More

Is EPA Considering Allowing PCB Cleanups to Proceed Under RCRA, Rather Than TSCA? I’ll Believe It When I See It (And I Hope I See It)

One headline in today’s Daily Environment Report stated that “EPA Considers PCB Regulatory Reform Amid State Regulator Criticism of Program.” Even my advanced sarcasm skills failed me on reading this. I’ll therefore settle for “about bloody time.”

The original fault certainly lies with Congress, not EPA. The notion that Congress needed a separate statutory regime to deal with one specific compound (ok, family of compounds) was always foolish.… More

Selling Water-Based Superfund Liabilities – A Toxic Brew

In a poignant moment in Godfather III, Al Pacino’s character says: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in”. EPA’s recent eye-popping announcement of a $366 million encore settlement by AVX with respect to the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site re-enacts that moment, graphically illustrating the toxic combination of EPA’s sorry history of escalating remedy costs for water-based Superfund sites and Consent Decrees that contain cost-reopening provisions.… More

Another Nail in the Public Nuisance Litigation Coffin: The 9th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of the Kivalina Claims

On Friday, in Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals may have sounded the death knell for public nuisance litigation concerning the impacts of climate change, affirming dismissal of the damage claims brought by the City of Kivalina and the Native Village of Kivalina against major greenhouse gas emitters.

kivalina(1)As most readers will know, last year,… More

EPA Wins an NSR Case: “Routine” Pretty Much Means Routine for the Unit

Last week, in United States v. Louisiana Generating, EPA won a ruling regarding what type of projects fall within the routine maintenance, repair or replacement exception from the rule that facility modifications are subject to PSD/NSR requirements. The decision is thorough in that it carefully reviews the so-called “WEPCO Factors” – the nature, extent, purpose, frequency, and cost of the work, and applied them to the work at issue in this case,… More

EPA Approves Colorado’s Regional Haze Plan: What Does Colorado Know That the Rest of the Country Hasn’t Yet Figured Out?

On Tuesday, EPA formally approved Colorado’s state implementation plan to address regional haze. According to a press release from Governor John Hickenlooper, the plan will reduce power plant emissions by more than 70,000 tons by 2018. Notably, it will include closure of coal-fired power plants. Indeed, Daily Environment Report stated that “coal-fired power generation will be gone from the Denver metro region by 2018” as a result of the plan.… More

An Example of True Judicial Restraint: Judge Robert Chambers Affirms the Highland Mining 404 Permit

After my post on judicial restraint – and the lack thereof – in Texas v. EPA, the opinion issued last week by Judge Robert Chambers, in Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, affirming the Corps’ § 404 permit for Highland Mining’s Reylas Surface Mine, seemed particularly notable. I cannot recall of similar example of a judge who was almost visibly restraining himself,… More

The Dismal History of Superfund’s Water Body Sites

An article in the New York Times earlier this week reported on EPA’s attempts under the Superfund program to address contamination in water bodies, such as rivers, lakes and harbors. Although the article acknowledges that these water body sites are technically challenging, it does not remotely capture the tortured regulatory history of these sites or the dubious remedial approach that EPA is now pursuing. It is not an exaggeration to say that some of the most notorious Superfund failures involve water body sites.… More

Judicial Activism and Judicial Restraint: The 5th Circuit Vacates EPA’s Disapproval of Texas SIP Revisions Concerning Minor Sources

On Friday, in Texas v. EPA, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated EPA’s decision rejecting Texas’s SIP revisions that would have implemented (and did implement, for 16 years) a Flexible Permit Program for minor NSR sources. While genuflecting at the altar of deference to agency decisionmaking, the Court concluded that EPA’s rejection was not based on either EPA factual determinations or on its interpretation of federal,… More

Challenging EPA NPDES Permitting Decisions Remains a Really, Really, Uphill Battle

The decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday in Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement Control District v. EPA confirms how difficult it is to challenge EPA NPDES permitting decisions. The case involves nutrient loadings in the Blackstone River and, ultimately, Narragansett Bay. As the opinion discusses, phosphorus in the Blackstone River and nitrogen in Narragansett Bay are causing severe eutrophication problems. As a result,… More

More on Back-Up Generators: NESCAUM Raises Concerns

For those of you following EPA’s proposal to allow increased use of backup generators used in demand response programs, NESCAUM has now joined the fray. In a report released yesterday and available on its website, NESCAUM stated that:

Preliminary screening analyses indicate that uncontrolled diesel backup generators operating under the exemption included in EPA’s recent proposal could by themselves create hotspots exceeding the national health-based 1-hour NO2 air standard.… More

EPA Loses Another Battle in the War Over Guidance: Judge Walton Rejects EPA’s Final Guidance on Mountaintop Removal Permits Under the CWA

Yesterday, Judge Reggie Walton issued his final decision in National Mining Association v. Jackson. The decision is another blow to EPA’s efforts to regulate through guidance rather than notice and comment rule making.

The decision is not a surprise to anyone who has been following the case. As I noted early last year, Judge Walton telegraphed his views when he stated that even EPA’s Interim Guidance “qualified as final agency action because …… More

EPA Wins Another CAA Case: No Affirmative Defense For Excess Emissions During Planned Maintenance

Score a victory for EPA in its long-running set of disputes with the State of Texas and generation facilities in Texas. Yesterday, in Luminant Generation Co. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s decision to partially approval and partially reject the Texas SIP, essentially rejecting both environmentalist and industry challenges to EPA’s determination regarding excess emissions during startup,… More

More Tea Leaves to Read: EPA Announces an Eleven-Month Delay in Its Cooling Water Intake Structure Rule

Earlier this week, I noted that EPA had announced that it was reconsidering parts of the Utility MACT rule and staying its effectiveness for three months. Yesterday, EPA announced that it was delaying for 11 months final promulgation of its cooling water intake structure rule for existing facilities under the Clean Water Act.

Reaction was predictable. Reed Super, plaintiffs’ attorney was “disappointed,” but clearly resigned.… More

How Good Are You At Reading Tea Leaves? EPA Intends To Reconsider Parts of the Mercury Rule

On Friday, EPA announced that it was reconsidering part of the Utility MACT rule. As part of the reconsideration, EPA will stay the effectiveness of the new source emission standards in the rule for three months.

EPA stated that:

We anticipate that he focus of the reconsideration rulemaking will be a review of issues that are largely technical in nature. Our expectation is that under the reconsideration rule new sources will be required to install the latest and most effective pollution controls and will be able to monitor compliance with the new standards with proven monitoring methods.… More

Two Wins in a Week for EPA on NAAQS: The DC Circuit Upholds EPA’s New SO2 Standard

On Wednesday, I discussed the DC Circuit’s decision affirming EPA’s revised NAAQS for NOx. Today, the DC Circuit upheld EPA’s revised SO2 standard. The tenor of today’s decision, written by David Sentelle, another Reagan appointee (the NOx decision was written by Douglas Ginsburg), is fairly similar to that in the NOx decision. Here’s the short version of the opinion:

EPA must establish NAAQS that protect public health with “an adequate margin of safety.” For that reason,… More

Not a Good Start for Challenges to EPA NAAQS Revisions: The District of Columbia Court of Appeals Affirms EPA’s New NOx NAAQS

Yesterday, in American Petroleum Institute v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for NOx. The revisions adopted, for the first time, an hourly NAAQS for NOx, in addition to the annual standard.

API made a number of assertions that EPA had been arbitrary and capricious in its review of the scientific evidence concerning potential short-term impacts. The most important were EPA’s reliance,… More

A Thoughtful Discussion By Policy Makers of a Difficult Issue? How Refreshing!

As I noted in May, EPA’s recent proposed rule regarding backup generators would allow additional operations by such generators when used to assist in demand response. It’s a tricky issue, because diesel generators are not clean, and the aggregated emissions from a number of small, but uncontrolled diesel generators can be significant. 

For now, based on the proposal, EPA has come down on the side of encouraging the demand response industry. Nonetheless,… More

The Tailoring Rule Requires No Alterations: EPA Leaves GHG Permitting Thresholds Unchanged

Last Friday, Lisa Jackson signed “Step 3” of the Tailoring Rule. In what was probably not a surprise to many, EPA determined

that state permitting authorities have not had sufficient time to develop necessary permitting infrastructure and to increase their GHG permitting expertise and capacity. By the same token, EPA and the state permitting authorities have not had the opportunity to develop and implement streamlining approaches.… More

What’s the Future for Multi-Day Fines in Environmental Criminal Cases? The Supreme Court Rules That Juries Must Decide the Facts Supporting the Fines

The Supreme Court ruled today, in Southern Union v. United States, that juries must decide facts supporting the imposition of criminal fines.  To this non-criminal lawyer (in more ways than one, I hope), the decision did not seem particularly difficult in light of Apprendi v. New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean that the decision won’t be significant in some environmental cases.… More

EPA Proposes Revisions to the PM 2.5 NAAQS: How Much Will It Matter?

Last Thursday, in response to a court order, EPA finally proposed revisions to the national ambient air quality standard for PM2.5. The most significant part of the rule is EPA’s proposal to lower the primary annual standard from 15 ug/m3 to a range of from 12 ug/m3 to 13 ug/m3.

At a certain level, the proposal should not really be news and should not have a significant impact. After all,… More

Do I Detect a Pattern? Congressional Inaction on TSCA Leads to Scattershot State Regulation

Yogi Berra is credited with the phrase “déjà vu all over again.” Today’s environmental law manifestation of Yogi’s phenomenon stems from the current gridlock in Congress. A story last week in the Daily Environment Report noted that, following Congressional failure to enact TSCA reform, 30 states (give or take, apparently) have either passed some kind of chemical management law or issued an executive order addressing the issue of toxics control.… More

One Small Step For Regulatory Coordination: EPA Incorporates the Transport Rule Into the Regional Haze Rule

On May 30, EPA issued a final rule as part of its regional haze program. The most significant aspect of the rule is the determination that the trading programs in EPA’s Trading Rule, now known the by inelegant acronym CSAPR,

achieve greater reasonable progress towards the national goal of achieving natural visibility conditions in Class I areas than source-specific Best Available Retrofit Technology, or BART. 

Of course,… More

EPA Issues a § 316(b) Notice of Data Availability: Even Edison Electric Is Impressed

Late last week, EPA issued a Notice of Data Availability concerning its proposed rule for cooling water intake structures at existing facilities. The NODA stated that, since it had issued the proposed CWIS rule, it had received more than 80 studies providing additional data on CWIS structures at existing facilities. Those studies have led EPA to consider potential revisions to the rule prior to promulgation.

Some of the specific revisions now under consideration include:

  • The addition of site-specific impingement mortality controls
  • Compliance with impingement mortality limitations based on defined technologies such as closed cycle recirculating systems
  • Streamlined permitting for modified traveling screens
  • Clarification of credit for existing technologies
  • Potential limited exemptions for facilities with low impingement rates

In response,… More

Mayors Request Moratorium on Stormwater Enforcement — Will EPA Listen?

E&E News reported yesterday that the U.S. Conference of Mayors has requested a “moratorium” on Clean Water Act enforcement of stormwater limitations on municipalities. The report makes clear that the Mayors avoided an attack on either the CWA or the current EPA administration. Moreover, they acknowledged that there is still “much to be done to protect our water resources.”

Why the moratorium request, then? Two words – they’re broke. One of the mayors who spoke was Michael Bissonnette of Chicopee,… More

EPA Proposes Revisions to the Back-up Generator Rule: Reasonable Flexibility or a Dirty Loophole?

Yesterday, EPA released proposed revisions to its rules governing emissions from emergency back-up generators. It’s not always the most exciting of topics, but it is important. Many facilities have back-up generators and I know from experience advising clients that, precisely because back-up generators do not run that often, operators can run into compliance issues.

The most important aspect of the proposed rule is that EPA would allow back-up generators to run for up to 100 hours without being subject to emissions limits for the following reasons:

  • Monitoring and testing
  • Demand response
  • Voltage changes of at least 5%

Moreover,… More

EPA Defends the Biomass Deferral Rule — It Feels More Like Rube Goldberg Every Day

On Tuesday, EPA filed its brief in support of its rule deferring regulation of GHG emissions from biomass facilities until 2014. I have two immediate reactions.

The first is that, as a policy matter, the deferral was absolutely the right thing to do. The science remains complex and not fully understood. Any regulations promulgated now are likely to be revised at some point. That kind of regulatory uncertainty is not any way to run an agency.… More

Cass Sunstein Is Still Pushing Regulatory Reform — Why Isn’t Everyone Happy?

Yesterday, President Obama released another Executive Order on regulatory reform. The new order expands on EO 13563, and provides three new requirements on agencies:

  • Twice yearly reporting by agencies to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs concerning the status of reform efforts,
  • Increased public participation in regulatory reform, and
  • An obligation to prioritize agency reform efforts to “produce significant quantifiable monetary savings or significant quantifiable reductions in paperwork burdens while protecting public health”

Reactions were predictable. … More

Here’s a Suprise — A Cap-and-Trade System For Nutrients Would Substantially Decrease the Cost of Nutrient Reductions in Chesapeake Bay

bayslammYesterday, the Chesapeake Bay Commission released a study showing that implementation of a nutrient trading system would dramatically reduce the cost to achieve nutrient reductions in Chesapeake Bay.
Pardon me if I seem to be posting a lot of dog bites man stories recently.

Although it should not come as a surprise that a trading system would permit nutrient reductions to be attained most cost-effectively,… More

EPA Really Doesn’t Seem Eager To Issue A Post-Construction Stormwater Rule

On Friday, E&E News reported that EPA had – for the fifth time – missed its deadline for proposing regulations governing stormwater discharge from post-construction activities. Apparently, EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which was the plaintiff in the original litigation, are negotiating a new deadline. Good luck with that.

EPA is not in a good place at the moment. There is significant congressional opposition to any rule,… More

Dog Bites Man, Greenhouse Gas NSPS Edition

Yesterday, Greenwire reported about speculation regarding what impact EPA’s proposed New Source Performance Standards for greenhouses gases would have on potential regulation of existing sources. As Greenwire noted, while EPA sought to downplay the impact of the NSPS on regulation of existing sources, both environmentalists and industry representatives think that regulation of existing sources is pretty much inevitable.

My favorite bit from the story is that OMB apparently deleted the following language from EPA’s proposal:

At a future date,… More

Wondering About the Status of EPA’s CCR Rule? So Are 11 Environmental Groups

I have had a number of clients ask me recently about the status of EPA’s efforts to regulate coal combustion residuals under RCRA. It turns out that some environmental groups have been asking themselves the same question. Being environmental groups, however, they did more than ask about it. They sued.

As most readers know, EPA published two separate proposals for regulating coal ash – one under Subtitle C and one under Subtitle D – on June 21,… More

The Subtext of Sackett v. EPA

In its unanimous decision yesterday in Sackett v. EPA, the Supreme Court’s communicates more than a little exasperation with its co-equal branches of government. Justice Alito’s concurrence is an outright broadside attacking Congress for failing over decades to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act which enabled the Executive Branch in the form of an arrogant EPA to employ what Justice Scalia in the majority opinion describes as the “strong-arming of regulated parties”.… More

EPA Loses — Unanimously — In Sackett: How Broadly Does It Sweep?

For once, speculation about oral argument proved solid. The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling today in Sackett v. EPA means that EPA must allow judicial review of enforcement orders issued pursuant to its authority under the Clean Water Act. The question now is what the true scope of the decision will be. That question really has two parts.

The first is what will happen to CWA enforcement. On that score,… More

Shocking News: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Is Not Going to Overturn Massachusetts v. EPA

Since I already violated my rule against speculating on the outcome of a case based on oral argument, I might as well do it again. I have always said that EPA’s endangerment finding would survive judicial review and that conclusion seems only more likely to prove correct following yesterday’s oral argument before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Both the Daily Environment Report and GreenWire noted in their reporting on the argument that the groups challenging the rule emphasized that EPA had not considered the policy implications of making the endangerment finding. Of course. Precisely. That’s because the Clean Air Act itself divorces the endangerment finding from its policy implications. If there were any doubt about that,… More

EPA Issues Step 3 of the Tailoring Rule: Did Anyone Hear the Tree Fall?

On Friday, EPA released “Step 3” of the GHG Tailoring Rule. The big news is no news at all. EPA left the GHG permitting thresholds unchanged, at 100,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent for new facilities and increases of 75,000 tpy of CO2e for existing facilities. In a phrase repeated in EPA’s fact sheet, keeping the thresholds unchanged is part of EPA’s “common sense … approach” to GHG permitting.… More

Obama Budget Would Cut Superfund by 6%: How About A New Approach?

According to a report in yesterday’s Greenwire, President Obama’s proposed budget would reduce Superfund spending by 6%, from $565 million to $532 million. I still don’t understand why Obama, particularly with Cass Sunstein still at OMB, hasn’t turned this problem into an opportunity. I know I’ve flogged this one before, but a significant part of the explanation for the size of the Superfund budget is related to CERCLA’s status as the last bastion of command and control regulation. Everyone who practices in this area could provide endless examples of the almost unbelievable extent of micromanaging indulged in by EPA and its consultants. Even where EPA is recovering oversight costs,… More

EPA’s Risk Assessment Machinery Grinds Exceedingly Slowly, but PCE is Now a Likely Human Carcinogen

On Friday, EPA finally issued its long-awaited revised risk assessment for tetrachloroethylene, also known as perc or PCE. EPA also issued a fact sheet summarizing its current views about PCE and how the new risk assessment fits into the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and CERCLA regulatory regimes.

Because PCE is present at so many Superfund Sites, and given the number of dry cleaners – including many in residential areas – still using PCE,… More

Utility MACT and Reliability: One More Brief Post

When I last posted on the potential impact of the Utility MACT rule on electric system reliability, I swore I was done with the subject. I knew then it was probably a mistake. Yesterday, FERC announced that it has issued a White Paper on how it will respond to requests by generators to EPA for an extension of time to comply under the Utility MACT rule. Since FERC has invited comments on the White Paper,… More

Do We Need the Precautionary Principle To Protect Us From Potential Risks From Nanotechnology? The NRDC Thinks So

nanosilverIn a prior rant, I raised the concern that EPA would oppose the use of new cleanup technologies based on nanotechnologies on the basis of the precautionary principle. I may not have been exactly on the mark, but I was pretty close. On Thursday, the NRDC announced that it has filed suit challenging EPA’s decision to issue a conditional registration of a nanosilver-based
antimicrobial agent
. … More

Lisa Jackson Says Public Pressure Will Clean Up Fracking. Really.

According to E&E News, Lisa Jackson said Friday that public pressure, not EPA regulation, will clean up fracking. 

Fracking fluids will get greener, water use will get down, all because the industry, quite frankly, will do it, must do it, and will feel the public pressure — not the EPA pressure — to do this in a responsible way.

Does she really mean it? Notwithstanding current pronouncements by the GOP Presidential candidates,… More

This Just In: EPA’s Utility MACT Rule Will Not Cause the Lights to Go Out.

As readers of this blog know, the impact of EPA air rules, including in particular the Utility MACT rule, on the reliability of the nation’s electric grid has been the subject of much speculation. Last week, the Congressional Research Service weighed in, with the exciting headline: EPA’s Utility MACT: Will the Lights Go Out?” Of course, notwithstanding the sexy title, the CRS conclusion can be summarized pretty simply: the MACT rule will not cause the lights to go out. Money quote:

although the rule may lead to the retirement or derating of some facilities,… More

For Those of You Who Cannot Get Enough About Sackett

Just in case you are not sated with coverage about the Supreme Court argument in Sackett and the potential implications if EPA loses, I thought I would note that I did a brief (8 minutes) interview with LexBlog Network about the issues it presents. You can see it hereMore

Is the Bell About to Toll on EPA’s Enforcement Order Authority? The Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Sackett

I am generally loath to speculate about what the Supreme Court will do based on oral argument, but the overwhelming reaction to the oral argument in Sackett v. EPA was that EPA is going to lose. What would a loss mean? In simplest terms, EPA would no longer be able to issue enforcement orders under the Clean Water Act without those orders being subject to judicial review. Such a decision would undeniably be significant. Everyone practicing in this area knows how coercive EPA enforcement orders can be. A person who thinks that he is not liable or that the order is inappropriate,… More

Yes, Virginia, the Burden of Proof Does Matter

The decision yesterday in United States v. Minnkota Power Cooperative serves as a useful reminder regarding how important the burden of proof is in review of agency decisions. The case started in 2006, as part of DOJ’s NSR enforcement initiative, when the United States and North Dakota brought suit against Minnkota’s Milton R. Young Station. The parties settled and a consent decree was entered. Apparently,… More

EPA Promulgates The Utility MACT Rule: The World Has Not Yet Come to an End

On Wednesday, EPA promulgated the final Utility MACT rule. I doubt that anyone reading this blog isn’t already aware of the big news.

As seems frequently to be the case with EPA rules, this one, weighing in at 2.4MB and 1,117 pages, cannot easily be summarized here. In fact, the rule is so complicated – and controversial – that EPA had to generate four separate fact sheets to summarize the rule and its impacts: (1) Costs and Benefits (or,… More

EPA Further Delays Issuance of Post-Construction Stormwater Regulation Proposal; Contractors and Developers Are Distraught (Not!)

Those following stormwater issues know that EPA is overdue to promulgate a proposed rule for stormwater controls at post-construction sites. The rule has been extremely controversial, with groups such as the Associated General Contractors arguing that EPA has no authority to promulgate post-construction rules. EPA was originally scheduled to issue the proposed rule by September 30. When EPA couldn’t meet that deadline, it negotiated an extension until December 2 (while stating that the deadline for the final rule,… More

Can Coal’s Friends in Congress Save It? Goldman Sachs Isn’t So Sure

Market-watchers thinking that having friends in Congress means that coal can flourish despite EPA regulation on many fronts may have a different view to ponder. Goldman Sachs predicted last week that generators will continue to switch from coal to natural gas and downgraded the prospects of the coal industry from “attractive” to “neutral.” Specifically, Goldman predicted that 51 GW of coal electric generating capacity are on their way out and that EPA Cross State Air Pollution Rule,… More

Sauce For the Goose? Home Builders Lose a Standing Battle

Developers have cheered in recent years as the Supreme Court has tightened its standing rules. In a decision issued on Friday in National Association of Home Builders v. EPA, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia may have hoist the developers on their own petard.

After EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers issued a determination that two reaches of the Santa Cruz River constitute “traditional navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act,… More

EPA Compromises (Again) on the Boiler Rule: Will It Get Any Credit?

On Friday, EPA proposed certain revisions to its rule on air emissions from boilers and commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators (CISWI). As with other major rules under development in the past few years, EPA has taken fairly substantial steps to limit the reach of the rule to those boilers and CISWI that are of greatest concern. Without engaging in formal cost-effectiveness analysis, EPA has sought to make the rule as cost-effective as possible.… More

Reliability Concerns? NERC Says Yes; EPA Blasts Flawed Assumptions

Yesterday, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, or NERC, released its 2011 Long-Term Reliability Assessment. The NERC report identified environmental regulations as one “of the greatest risks” to reliability. Much of the focus of the concern was on EPA’s MACT rule for hazardous air pollutants and its 316(b) rule for cooling water intake structures. While expressing uncertainty about these not-yet finalized rules, the NERC report took an extremely cautious approach,… More

Will EPA’s “Train Wreck” Affect Reliability? At Least One FERC Commissioner Is Still Concerned

There has already been significant attention devoted to whether EPA’s “train wreck” of rules affecting coal-fired power plants would affect electric system reliability. The Congressional Research Service analysis looked at the coming rules more broadly, but did touch on reliability, noting that most of the coal plants likely to be retired as a result of EPA regulations are small and inefficient, and already run infrequently. As we noted last June,… More

Still Too Dirty To Fail, But Perhaps Not Quite So Thuggish

In response to yesterday’s post, I received an email from someone at GreenWire notifying me that Lisa Jackson had not called her opponents “jack-booted thugs.” Instead, she was actually complaining that her opponents were describing EPA employees as jack-booted thugs. Definitely a different level of rhetoric, though it was certainly a much more interesting story in its original version. Oh, well. More

Jack-Booted Thugs — You Know Who You Are

Two seemingly unrelated stories from last week suggest that EPA may have its limits in how far it is going to go to make nice with those who are opposing its regulatory agenda. The first story, reported by Greenwire, is pretty much all in the headline: “EPA official accuses Kan. department of lying over proposed plant.” The second story, also from GreenWire, reported that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson referred to opponents of EPA’s greenhouse gas tailoring rule as “… More

Who’s Afraid of Cost-Benefit Analysis?

Cost Benefit Analysis(1)E&E Daily reported this week that Congressional Democrats are opposing the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011. H.R. 3010 would codify a requirement for cost-benefit analysis of major regulations in the Administrative Procedures Act. According to the report, John Conyers, ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee stated that the RAA

would amend the Administrative Procedure Act in ways that would effectively halt agency rulemaking and undermine public health and safety rules.… More

EPA Loses Another One: Enhanced Mountaintop Mining Reviews Struck Down

As part of its efforts to control the impact of mountaintop removal mining, EPA has implemented a number of changes – both procedural and substantive – into how § 404 permit applications for such activities will be reviewed. None of these changes have gone through notice and comment rulemaking. As we previously noted, Judge Reggie Walton already expressed skepticism about EPA’s mountaintop removal guidance. Last week, in the latest decision in National Mining Association v.… More

EPA Loses a PSD Enforcement Case — Big Time

EPA may have had problems in court in recent years defending its regulations, but it has generally fared much better in its enforcement cases. Earlier this week, however, EPA suffered what will be, if it is affirmed, a devastating defeat in its PSD/NSR enforcement initiative. In United States v. EME Homer City Generation, Judge Terrence McVerry concluded that the government could get no relief against either the former owners of the facility or the current owners or operator. No penalties. No injunctive relief. No relief under state law. Nothing. Nada.… More

Yet More Citizen Suits on the Way? EPA Again Upgrades the ECHO Data Base

As some of our clients know all too well, I am spending much time these days defending citizen suits. As federal and state agency budgets get slashed, we’re only going to see more such suits, unless a Tea Party-controlled Congress amends the relevant statutes to cut back on citizen suit provisions. 

In a move that will facilitate citizen enforcement, EPA announced last week that it has yet again upgraded its Enforcement and Compliance History Online,… More

Inspector General’s Evaluation of EPA’s Endangerment Finding: Form over Function?

As Greenwire reported, the Inspector General of the EPA recently released a report criticizing how the agency followed (and deviated from) procedures in publishing the Technical Support Document that underpinned its December 2009 Endangerment Finding.  The IG was instructed to conduct this review at the order of Senator Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.  The review, which cost nearly $300,000,… More

EPA Issues Its Environmental Justice Plan: Words (Almost) Fail Me

Last year, I compared EPA’s Interim Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of an Action to Rube Goldberg – and that was only EJ Guidance on Rulemaking. Now EPA has issued its comprehensive Plan EJ 2014. I still find the resources devoted to this subject by EPA and the convolutions it is going through to analyze the issue to be stunning.

I also still think that my simple analysis from last year is not too simplistic. … More

One More Ozone Post: Who Will Act First, EPA or the Courts?

roseanne roseannadannaFollowing EPA’s decision last week to scrap its reconsideration of the 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard, the parties to the litigation challenging the 2008 standard are back in court. This week, EPA submitted a brief to the Court of Appeals, which was pretty much a six-page version of Roseanne Roseannadanna’s “Never mind.” After telling the Court for years that it should defer to EPA’s reconsideration process – a decision on which was always just around the corner,… More

The Wheels of EPA’s Ozone Reconsideration Have Stopped Grinding Completely: Obama Tells EPA to Stop

Yesterday, in commenting on the court battle over EPA’s reconsideration of the ozone NAAQS, I said that I would be surprised if EPA doesn’t issue the new standard within six months. Oops. My bad. Today, President Obama directed EPA to give up on the reconsideration effort. It’s difficult not to be cynical about the White House decision. As much as I admire Cass Sunstein, his letter to EPA providing the basis for the White House decision is not persuasive. Basically,… More

The Wheels of EPA’s Reconsideration of the Ozone Standard Grind Slowly — Time Will Tell How Finely

This week, EPA filed a brief with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that, notwithstanding its fourth delay in issuing a decision on its reconsideration of the NAAQS for ozone, the court cannot and should not order EPA to issue a decision. Industry shouldn’t get too excited, however. In the same brief, EPA telegraphed pretty clearly, consistent with its 2010 proposed rule, that it remains on track to significantly decrease the ozone standard from the 0.075 ppm standard promulgated by the Bush administration in 2008.… More

EPA Delays Issuance of Stormwater Rule for Construction Sites

Late last week, Greenwire reported that EPA is delaying its proposed construction general permit, or CGP, for stormwater. The delay is certainly a victory for the real estate industry, which has been fighting hard to delay the rule and, in particular, its numeric turbidity limit. The industry had complained about the data on which the standard was based, calculation errors by EPA, and what it views as a 10-fold underestimate of the compliance costs.… More

Where You Stand Depend on Where You Sit: Utility MACT Edition

As the deadline passed last week for submitting comments on EPA’s Utility MACT rule, it’s worth taking a big picture look at how the commenters line up. Big utility groups, such as the Edison Electric Institute and the American Public Power Association are looking for EPA to delay the rules. The basic argument is that it is going to take a long time to comply. EEI states that so many facilities will require extensions that the number of requests will create a backlog that will itself essentially create compliance problems.… More

Carbon Capture & Seriously Need a Price on Carbon Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule yesterday that would exempt carbon dioxide injected into underground carbon capture & storage (CCS) wells from regulation as hazardous waste, so long as the CO2 is held in wells designated for that purpose under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  In its press release announcing the program, EPA noted that the purpose of the regulation — as well as its prior rulemakings under the Clean Air Act to require emissions reporting by CCS facilities,… More

Among Cap and Trade, RES, and CES, Which Would Work Best? The One That’s Not Currently Under Consideration

After the death of Waxman-Markey, and given the current political climate, cap and trade is the Legislation Which Shall Not Be Named. Instead, there is discussion of either a renewable electricity standard (RES) or clean electricity standard (CES), and the talking points for supporters concern energy security and the growth of a clean energy economy, not climate change (also known as the Reality Which Shall Not Be Named).… More

The Battle Over Guidance Is Joined Again: EPA Finalizes Its Mountaintop Removal Guidance

mountain_topThe fight about guidance and rules is in the news again. Yesterday, EPA finalized its guidance on Clean Water Act permitting with respect to mountaintop mining. As most of our readers know, EPA issued Interim Guidance in April 2010. In January 2011, in National Mining Association v. Jackson, Judge Reggie Walton, while denying plaintiff’s preliminary injunction, signaled that he thought that EPA’s Interim Guidance probably was a legislative rule that should have gone through notice and comment rule-making.… More

EPA Finalizes the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule: Who Needs CAIR or the Transport Rule?

Yesterday, EPA finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or CSAPR, which was the Transport Rule, which had been the Clean Air Interstate Rule. (EPA must have decided that CSAPR results in a more mellifluous acronym.)

The rule is almost too big to describe, except in its broadest terms. EPA has provided a summary of costs and benefits, but even EPA’s summary does not really explain how the rule will be implemented.… More

Perhaps the Justices Just Don’t Like GE: The Supreme Court Grants Certiorari to Review EPA’s Clean Water Act Order Authority

As I noted earlier this month, the Supreme Court denied GE’s certiorari petition seeking to challenge the constitutionality of EPA’s use of unilateral administrative orders issued under section 106 of CERCLA. It thus comes as something of a surprise that the Court today accepted a certiorari petition in Sackett v. EPA. The Sackets are appealing a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals holding that pre-enforcement review is not available to challenge unilateral administrative orders issued by EPA pursuant to section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Lest anyone think that this is simply the Court reining in that liberal 9th Circuit,… More

Important Decision; No Surprise — The Supreme Court Bars Federal Climate Change Nuisance Claims

Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced its decision in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, holding that EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act displaced federal common law nuisance claims. I have always thought that the displacement argument was correct, so the decision is not really a surprise (and the 8-0 decision and crisp opinion only confirm that view). The decision is nonetheless important and,… More

This Week’s Air/Climate Smorgasbord

After a relatively quiet period, there were a number of items of interest on the air/climate front this week. First, AEP announced that upcoming pollution controls would result in shutting down 6,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity, or 25% of its coal fleet. AEP also announced that it would spend $6 billion to $8 billion in bringing the rest of its fleet into compliance.

On the flip side of this issue,… More

Can We Balance the Environmental Costs and Benefits of Potentially Hazardous Chemicals?

Only this week did I catch up to a letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius by more than 60 members of Congress asking that HHS perform further review of the National Toxicology Program’s 12th Report on Carcinogens before it is formally released. The specific concern is the conclusion in the draft RoC that styrene is “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen.” I readily confess that I don’t know enough about styrene to have a view whether the draft’s conclusion is appropriate. … More

EPA Wants to Take More Than One Year to Decide on a Clean Air Act Permit? How Absurd!

The uncertain and often lengthy time to get permitting decisions is always near the top of the list of industry complaints. Section 165 of the Clean Air Act provides some relief by requiring certain permit decisions to be made within one year. Last week, in Avenal Power Center v. EPA, District Judge Richard Leon, in what may comfortably be described as a strongly-worded opinion, held that EPA may not circumvent the one-year limit on permit decisions by carving out from the one-year period the time spent by the Environmental Appeals Board reviewing EPA’s permit decision.… More

The Proof Will Be in the Pudding: EPA Releases Its Preliminary Plan For Review of Existing Regulations

When President Obama issued Executive Order 13,563, on Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review, it was not obvious whether the Order was simply an attempt to protect the President’s right flank or whether the agencies would respond substantively. Yesterday, EPA released its Preliminary Plan for Periodic Retrospective Reviews of Existing Regulations. Initial review of the Plan suggests that EPA has taken the task seriously and has made some constructive suggestions. To me,… More

Almost-Final: Massachusetts’ Biomass Regulations

Late last week, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) filed with the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy of the state legislature proposed final amendments to the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) regulations governing the eligibility of woody biomass facilities and fuels to qualify to earn renewable energy credits (RECs).  DOER originally issued a draft of these regulations in September 2010, and made revisions after receiving written comments and holding 2 public hearings. … More

Does the Wisdom of An Idea Depend on Its Source? Senate Republicans Propose Merging EPA and DOE

E&E Daily reported today that Senate Republicans are preparing legislation to combine EPA and the Department of Energy. The list of Senators identified as supporting the proposal is a virtual who’s who of conservatives, including Jim DeMint, a favorite of the Tea Party. Accordingly to Richard Burr (R. N.C.), the measure would reduce waste by eliminating duplicative programs in EPA and DOE.

Why is this even a story? Perhaps because Democratic Governor Deval Patrick did the same thing in Massachusetts in 2007,… More

Vapor Intrusion and the National Priorities List: Why Should the Biggest Superfund Problem Not Be Regulated Under Superfund?

As I have previously mentioned, EPA is considering including criteria related to vapor intrusion (VI) in the hazard ranking system scoring used to determine which sites should be added to the National Priorities List. As I noted when this first became news, it’s pretty much an obvious step for EPA to take. These are precisely the types of sites on which EPA should be focusing. At a certain level,… More

EPA Is Still In Business: Proposes Draft Construction General Permit for Stormwater

For those of you who thought that the sky was about to fall in EPA as part of the budget battle, I’m able to report that EPA survived sufficiently intact to continue to issue new rules. Today, EPA proposed a draft revised construction general permit, or CGP, for stormwater discharges from construction sites disturbing at least one acre (or less, if the project is part of a common development plan that is greater than one acre). The revised CGP would replace the current CGP which is set to expire on June 30. EPA has proposed to extend the current CGP through January 31,… More

Biggest Thing to Happen to TVA Since the Snail Darter

Thursday afternoon, EPA and the Tennessee Valley Authority announced one of the largest pollution reduction consent decrees in US history – resulting in between $3 to $5 billion of investment in air pollution controls, and retirement of almost one-third of TVA’s coal-fired generating units within the next few years.  Over the next decade, it will reduce TVA’s total emissions of nitrogen oxides by 69% and sulfur dioxide by 67%. … More

The Battle Against Guidance Continues

I’m beginning to feel like a broken record, but the drumbeat of the anti-guidance crowd is not letting up. Earlier this week, the Waters Advocacy Coalition, which is a group of farm and industry trade groups, sent a letter to EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, requesting that EPA and the Corps withdraw their plan to issue further guidance on the interpretation of “navigable waters” post-Rapanos. It’s not surprising that this group would oppose the guidance. What is most interesting –… More

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,… 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.… 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,… 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,… More

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 of course is how to go about regulating indoor air.… More

Shooting Fish In A Barrel: EPA Management Edition

In what comes as a major shock (I almost titled this post “Dog Bites Man”), EPA’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a report concluding that EPA needs better control over its staff resources. The summary conclusion pretty much tells it all: (my emphasis)

EPA does not enforce a coherent program of position management to assure the efficient and effective use of its workforce. While some organizational elements have independently established programs to control their resources,… More

The Regulatory Process Works: EPA Promulgates Revised Boiler Rules

As almost everyone knows by now, EPA finally issued its long-awaited final rule on Boilers, Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incinerators (CISWI), and Sewage Sludge Incinerators (SSI) yesterday. The rule is too complicated even to summarize here. EPA has a useful fact sheet for that purpose.

I’d like to focus on a few broader issues. The rule has widely been seen as the Obama administration’s first formal acknowledgment of the anti-regulation political climate currently sweeping Washington. Indeed,… More

Muddling Through: Clean Water Act Edition

Last week, I discussed EPA’s efforts to “muddle through” on climate change in the absence of comprehensive legislation. This week, I think it’s the Clean Water Act’s turn. If there were any regulatory situation which required some serious muddling through at the moment, interpretation of the Supreme Court’s Rapanos decision almost is a match for the current climate mess. As most of my readers know, Rapanos was a 4-1-4 decision which left EPA,… More

Deja Vu All Over Again: Time For Another Rant About Guidance

As readers of this blog know, the question of guidance v. regulation is one near and dear to my heart. I generally disfavor guidance, because I think it offers none of the protections of the regulatory process and almost none of the flexibility that guidance is supposed to provide. Two issues are of particular concern. First, guidance is not supposed to announce new rules – only clarifying interpretation of existing rules. However,… More

NSPS, CAMR, CATR, BACT, PSD, UGH (The Last One’s Not an Acronym)

Back in my public policy days, there was much discussion of “muddling through.” When I look at recent developments on the climate and air regulation front, I just see a muddle. First, we have Gina McCarthy, saying that EPA wants to walk before it runs, and assuring utility executives that New Source Performance Standards for GHG emissions will not have a “dramatic effect.” McCarthy further said that EPA will take a “common sense approach,”… More

Sometimes, Settlements Really Are Win-Win Propositions: An Innovative NDPES Settlement That Works For Everyone

GenOn KendallI don’t normally blog about cases in which I’m involved, but since this one made the front page of the Boston Globe, I suppose it’s sufficiently newsworthy. Yesterday, EPA announced that a settlement had been reached among EPA, MassDEP, our client GenOn Kendall, and the Charles River Watershed Association and the Conservation Law Foundation concerning the NPDES permit for Kendall Station. As a result of the settlement,… More

This Administration Does Nuance: The US Files Its Brief in the American Electric Power Case

This week, the United States filed its brief in American Electric Power v. Connecticut. The brief is a nicely nuanced and persuasive argument for dismissal of plaintiffs’ public nuisance claims against five large power generators. The brief is nuanced in that it acknowledges that plaintiffs have Article III standing – allowing the Court to avoid reaching a constitutional standing issue – and provides a vehicle for the Court to avoid reaching the political question doctrine issue.… More

Is NSR Enforcement A Subterfuge For a Carbon Policy — Or Just a Happy Coincidence?

Last month, I noted that, in the absence of comprehensive climate legislation, U.S. carbon policy would be a mish-mash of several elements – including more NSR enforcement. In fact, Phillip Brooks, director of EPA’s Air Enforcement Division, had just told an ALI/ABA forum that EPA’s NSR enforcement initiative is alive and well and he predicted more closures of old coal plants as a result of EPA’s NSR enforcement. … More

Federalism Today: Biomass Edition

Justice Brandeis famously suggested that states may “serve as a laboratory” for the rest of the country. If this is so, I think it is fair to say that U.S. EPA has not accepted the results of the biomass experiment conducted in Massachusetts. Last year, following receipt of a study regarding the GHG emission implications of various types of biomass fuels, Massachusetts decided to severely restrict the circumstances in which biomass would be considered a renewable fuel.… More

Would CES Legislation Be Like Half a Loaf of Cap-And-Trade?

With everyone in agreement that cap-and-trade legislation is dead in Congress for the near term, attention is now turning to whether Congress might be able to pass some kind of renewable or clean energy standard. In fact, even Thomas Donahue, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sworn foe of cap-and-trade legislation, is saying that the Chamber could support some kind of climate change legislation – presumably a CES including nuclear power –… More

Another Fine Mess: Another NSR Enforcement Case

Homer-City-coal-fired-plantEarlier this week, the United States brought another NSR/PSD enforcement action, this time concerning the Homer City Plant, in Pennsylvania. The suit itself isn’t big news, though it’s helpful to have periodical reminders that the NSR enforcement initiative remains active at EPA and DOJ; it is a significant part of the government’s arsenal against traditional pollutants.

It’s also important to remember that,… More

Would You Spend $1Billion To Remove PCBs From Light Ballasts in New York City Schools?

It may be an apocryphal story, but my understanding as to why so many small municipal landfills in New Hampshire ended up on the NPL is that some bright light in the Granite State thought that Superfund was a public works program and that the fund would pay for the landfill closures. The result? Small towns became PRPs, responsible for Superfund response costs which, in some cases, approximated their annual municipal budget.… More

EPA Delivers an Early Christmas Present to Electricity Generators and Refiners — New Source Performance Standards for GHGs

Today, EPA announced settlements of litigation with states and environmental groups which will require EPA to promulgate New Source Performance Standards for greenhouse gas emissions from electric generating units and refineries. EPA will thus give those of us who practice in this area an opportunity to decide which program we find more cumbersome and ill-suited to regulate GHGs, the PSD/NSR program or the NSPS program.… More

Is the Republican Party In Favor of Sulfur Emissions? Senator Graham Wants To Know

It says something about where our politics are today when Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has to ask that question. Of course, there’s reason to wonder what the answer is. It was certainly not intentional irony when, shortly after this story appeared about Senator Graham, Senator Rockefeller announced that he has given up on legislation that would delay implementation of EPA GHG rules because the bill has lost Republican support.… More

Carbon Policy When There Is No Carbon Policy

As a follow-up to last week’s post, if you want a handy-dandy rundown of what U.S. carbon policy looks like in the absence of comprehensive federal legislation, take a look at the presentation I gave last week to the Harvard Electricity Policy Group, which summarizes federal, regional, and state regulatory efforts – many of which are not explicitly directed at CO2 – that are likely to have significant impacts on U.S.… More

EPA Really Cares About Stormwater Enforcement

When EPA creates a web page solely addressing one stormwater settlement, you can safely assume that EPA thinks it is important and is trying to send a message. Thus, EPA’s announcement earlier this week of a settlement with Beazer Homes to resolve allegations that Beazer Homes violated federal stormwater requirements at construction sites in 21 – count ‘em, 21 – states should make everyone in the construction industry sit up and take notice.… More

EPA Releases Rules for Carbon Capture and Storage

One thing supporters of coal will be thankful for tomorrow is this week’s announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it has finalized two rules governing the underground sequestration of carbon dioxide.  Both rules are designed to support and facilitate the commercial development of safe, large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, perceived by many to be the best hope for the future use of coal.

The first rule creates a new "Class VI"… More

Pre-Thanksgiving Superfund Rant

As the holiday approaches, I am particularly thankful that I am not counsel to the Washington State DOT in United States v. Washington State DOT, a case that continues to make me want to take EPA, DOJ, and United States District Judge Robert Bryan by the neck and ask them what the heck are they thinking. 

In July, I posted about Judge Bryan’s decision holding that the Washington DOT “arranged”… More

No Irony Intended, I’m Sure: EPA Must Focus Systematically on Environmental Justice in Order to Encourage Economic Development

Daily Environmental Report noted earlier this week that Bob Perciasepe, EPA Depute Administrator, has told the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council that environmental justice is the “largest remaining challenge” that EPA must address systematically. This is not particularly surprising, since Lisa Jackson has made EJ a priority.

However, I was left nearly speechless by the statement in Daily Environment Report that Perciasepe indicated that

Polluted communities are also not likely to be targeted for business investment,… More

EPA Finally Issues GHG BACT Guidance: Now Everything Will Be Smooth Sailing

EPA has finally released it long-awaited PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gases, also known as the GHG BACT Guidance. E&E News quoted Gina McCarthy as saying that GHG permitting would be “business as usual” and that the transition to issuing PSD permits for GHGs would be relatively smooth.


It’s certainly true that the GHG BACT Guidance says nothing particularly new about how permitting agencies should perform BACT reviews. … More

What Are Citizen Groups Afraid Of? The Ninth Circuit Affirms Delegation of NPDES Authority to Alaska, Notwithstanding Alaska’s Fee-Shifting Provision

Almost all – 46 – states have delegated programs under the Clean Water Act. One criterion that EPA must determine has been satisfied before approving delegation is that the state has the ability to "abate violations of the permit … including civil and criminal penalties and other ways and means of enforcement."

EPA’s regulations provide that this criterion will be met if :

State law allows an opportunity for judicial review that is the same as that available to obtain judicial review in federal court of a federally-issued NPDES permit. A State will not meet this standard if it narrowly restricts the class of persons who may challenge the approval or denial of permits….… More

Post-Election Climate Wrap-Up: Anxious Days Ahead For EPA

I’ve always thought that implementation of EPA’s GHG rules for stationary sources was inevitable in the absence of climate change legislation. The Supreme Court told EPA that GHGs are a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Given the decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, EPA’s subsequent regulatory moves have been pretty much unavoidable. 

Since the statute seems to mandate GHG regulation, only Congressional action could block the rules. While a House majority seemed plausible,… More

Dog Bites Man: NEPA Reviews Are Getting More Complex

Stop the presses: According to the Daily Environment Report, EPA’s director of the Office of Federal Activities, Susan Bromm, has acknowledged that concerns about climate change and environmental justice are “contributing to the size, cost, and time-consuming nature of environmental impact statements….” Nonetheless, Ms. Bromm apparently asserted that these "analyses do not have to be overwhelming,” and she blamed, at least in part, agencies which “overreact to the fear of litigation.”… More

Think Globally, Act Locally — Or Not: More Evidence that Mercury Is a Global Problem

Is mercury a local problem or not? For years, power plant operators have claimed that mercury deposition is really a global problem. Environmentalists have pointed to studies arguing that hot spots affected by local emissions do exist. This week, according to the Cape Cod Times, John Colman, a USGS researcher – hardly likely to be a shill for the power industry – is going to report results of a study showing that mercury accumulation in both soil samples and fish tissue are comparable in Cape Cod and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. … More

New Arsenic MCL in the Works? Will I Be Dead Before Any of My Sites are Clean?

As Superfund practitioners know, federal NPL sites are generally settled on the basis that the PRPs will first attain interim cleanup levels, though final cleanup levels are not determined until EPA is actually ready to issue its certification of completion of the remedy. Moreover, EPA insists that, should any ARARs change during the course of the cleanup, whatever standards are in effect at the time of site closure will be applied.… More

For Coal, It’s Not All About Climate Change: Credit Suisse Predicts New Air Rules to Close 60 Gigawatts of Coal Capacity

Last March, I noted that Gina McCarthy’s belief that, in the near term, the biggest impact on GHG emissions would come from EPA’s traditional regulatory programs, rather than through GHG regulation. A report recently released by Credit Suisse indicates that she might be right. Looking at EPA’s upcoming promulgation of the Clean Air Transport Rule and the mercury MACT rule, Credit Suisse predicts that between 50 and 69 gigawatts of old coal plants will be retired between 2013 and 2017 as a result of implementation of the two rules. Credit Suisse also predicts that approximately 100 gigawatts of capacity will require significant additional investment to comply with the rules.… More

Nanotechnology Regulation: Still a Public-Private Hybrid

NanoparticlesAs EPA begins to regulate nanomaterials more aggressively, but as concerns remain regarding EPA regulatory efforts, private efforts to regulate nanomaterials continue. ASTM recently announced that it is forming a new subcommittee on Nano-Enabled Consumer Products. The focus of the subcommittee will be on uses of nanomaterials containing silver. In particular, ASTM noted that it would be considering the following possibilities:

Standards for measurement of silver in textiles and liquids (including atomic spectroscopy to  assess mass)

Standards for evaluating the form of silver in textiles and liquids (including: electron microscopy to evaluate size,… More

Update on NSR Litigation: Cinergy Dodges a Bullet

In a crisply written opinion by Judge Posner, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals just reversed a district court judgment against Cinergy in the NSR case involving Cinergy’s power plant in Wabash, Indiana, and directed that judgment enter for Cinergy. It is not obvious that the case will have wide applicability, but it is certainly worth noting.

The first key issue in Cinergy was whether proposed new projects would be subject to NSR review if they were expected to result in an increase in annual emissions or only if they would result in an increase in the hourly emissions rate. … More

Just in Case You Thought EPA Could Go On Its Merry Way in the Absence of Climate Legislation

Earlier this week, I posted about the dire prospects for climate change legislation following the fall elections. The alternative to legislation has always been regulation under existing Clean Air Act authority, so it’s appropriate as a follow-up to briefly examine the pressures on EPA as it moves forward with its stationary source GHG regulations. Two headlines from the trade press today brought home just what a tightrope EPA is walking.… More

Coming Soon From EPA: More Enforcement

If environmental lawyers have been wondering when they’re going to get their share of economic stimulus, it’s time to stop wondering. Last week, Cynthia Giles, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, announced that her office would be focusing on higher impact cases.  Giles also noted that, by the end of this month, EPA would have more than 200 criminal investigators.

If it weren’t for one statement by Giles,… More

EPA’s Mandatory Reporting Rule Adds New Disclosures of Corporate Ownership and Cogeneration

A recent amendment to the EPA’s Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule (40 CFR part 98) requires companies that report their emissions to also provide information on corporate ownership, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, and whether any of the emissions come from a cogeneration unit. The goal behind collecting this information is to gain a better understanding of the aggregate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from corporations and specific industry sectors,… More

Regulation of Nanomaterials Is For Real: EPA Publishes Significant New Use Regulations for Carbon Nanotubes

Technology geeks such as myself love nanotechnology. I think it’s the future of everything – including the solution to environmental problems ranging from climate change to Superfund cleanups. However, there are concerns about the toxicity of nanomaterials.

Last Friday, EPA took a significant step in the regulation of nanomaterials by publishing significant new use rules – SNURs – for both single- and multi-walled carbon nanotubes. … More

More on TMDLs, or Too Much Darn Litigation

Sometimes, the headline writes the story. EPA’s TMDL program under the Clean Water Act has been the subject of so much litigation since its inception that EPA has a web page devoted to the status of litigation on the establishment of TMDLs.

Bringing things close to home, the Conservation Law Foundation and the Coalition for Buzzards Bay filed suit late last month, challenging implementation by MassDEP and EPA of the TMDL program for certain embayments on Cape Cod and Nantucket. (Full disclosure time –… More

Has The Bell Tolled For GHG Public Nuisance Litigation? The United States Government Thinks So

I have previously expressed my distaste for public nuisance litigation to require reductions in GHG emissions. It cannot be more than a tactic in a war to the plaintiffs, because the chaos resulting from regulation of a global problem through a series of individual law suits has to be obvious to everyone. Now, apparently, that chaos is also obvious to the Obama administration, because it has filed a brief with the Supreme Court,… More

What’s Next for Carbon Capture and Storage?

In February, President Obama tasked the Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage with the ambitious goal of overcoming the barriers to widespread, cost-effective deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) within the next 10 years.  As the first bold step, the 14-agency and executive department group released its findings in a report on August 12.

The report concludes that widespread cost-effective deployment of CCS will only occur if the technology is commercially available (i.e.… More

EPA’s NSR Enforcement Initiative Marches On

EPA shows no signs of slowing down in its efforts to use the Clean Air Act’s PSD/NSR provisions as an enforcement club. The latest target in EPA’s crosshairs is the Detroit Edison Monroe Power Plant. Late last month, DOJ filed a complaint alleging violations of PSD/NSR requirements in connection with a project to replace the high temperature reheater and the economizer at Monroe Unit 2. … More

Inching Closer to Cooling Water Intake Structure Regulation of Existing Facilities

Late July saw some movement on the cooling water intake structure (CWIS) front.

On Friday, July 23, in ConocoPhillips, et al. v. EPA, the Fifth Circuit granted EPA’s motion for a voluntary remand of the existing-facilities portion of its Phase III regulation. The Phase III rule, promulgated in 2006, addressed CWIS at existing small power plants and other facilities in certain industries, including the pulp and paper,… More

Well, I Know I Feel Endangered…

The good news is that EPA is relying on good science. The bad news is that the science says things will keep getting worse.

After several months of review, on July 29, EPA denied 10 petitions to reconsider its 2009 Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. The petitions, which were filed by, among others, the attorneys general of Texas and Virginia and the US Chamber of Commerce,… More

Rube Goldberg Had Nothing on EPA: The Agency Releases Its Interim Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of an Action

EPA has just released its Interim Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of an Action. I can’t say I’m excited. The broad issue is probably too complex for a blog post, but the simple version is as follows:

  1. Congress passes environmental protection laws for EPA to implement.
  2. Those statutes generally provide for EPA to set standards with something like “an adequate margin of safety.”
  3. EPA does its job.…
  4. More

Climate Legislation Is Dead (For Now): Long Live Conventional Pollutants

Climate change legislation is dead for now. I won’t pretend it’s not depressing, even though I avoid the political channels and ignore the rhetoric. For those of us who haven’t refudiated climate change science, it’s a victory for the pessimists and evidence that Congress has a hard time addressing long-range problems, even if consequential.

With respect to regulation of GHG, it’s the worst of both worlds and no one should be happy (which is why I held out hope until the end that cooler heads would prevail). … More

The Deck is Still Stacked in the Government’s Favor — Is This A Good Thing?

Last week, in City of Pittsfield v. EPA, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed denial of a petition by the City of Pittsfield seeking review of an NPDES permit issued by EPA. The case makes no new law and, by itself, is not particularly remarkable.  Cases on NPDES permit appeals have held for some time that a permittee appealing an NPDES permit must set forth in detail in its petition basically every conceivable claim or argument that they might want to assert. Pretty much no detail is too small. The City of Pittsfield failed to do this,… More

EPA – Finally – Proposes CAIR Replacement

On July 6, 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released a proposed rule, dubbed the “Transport Rule”, which would replace the Clean Air Interstate Rule (“CAIR”). As you likely recall, in 2008 the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in North Carolina v. EPA, found that CAIR had a number of fatal flaws and remanded it to the Agency. (Due to its environmental benefits,… More

A Combined Superfund and Stormwater Rant

Sometimes, the practice of environmental law just takes my breath away. A decision issued earlier last month in United States v. Washington DOT was about as stunning as it gets. Ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, Judge Robert Bryan held that the Washington State Department of Transportation had “arranged” for the disposal of hazardous substances within the meaning of CERCLA by designing state highways with stormwater collection and drainage structures,… More

CERCLA – Still – Remains Constitutional

Last year, I analogized PRP efforts to have CERCLA’s unilateral administrative order provisions declared unconstitutional to Chevy Chase’s repeated announcements during the first year of Saturday Night Live that Francisco Franco was still dead. Eventually, that joke wore out. With yesterday’s decision by the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in General Electric v. Jackson, upholding EPA’s UAO authority, these legal challenges may be similarly about to wear out.… More

EPA Issues Its Final Set of Mandatory GHG Reporting Rules

When we blogged about the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program regulations last fall, we noted that the EPA had excluded from the final regulations emission source categories such as wastewater treatment plants and underground coal mines that were initially included in the draft rules.  No longer. Yesterday, EPA finalized regulations requiring an estimated 680 facilities in the four sectors of underground coal mines, industrial wastewater treatment systems,… More

Coal Still in the Crosshairs

Two seemingly unrelated reports last week serve as a reminder that coal remains very much under siege. First, Earthjustice, on behalf of a number of environmental organizations, filed a petition with EPA under § 111 of the Clean Air Act requesting that EPA identify coal mines as an emissions source and, consequently, establish new source performance standards for coal mine emissions of methane and several other categories of pollutants. 

Second,… More

After Murkowski, What Now For Climate Change in Congress?

A week after the Senate’s rejection of the Murkowki resolution last week, where does climate change stand in Congress? The defeat of the resolution is not the end for those who don’t want EPA to regulate under existing authority. Senator Rockefeller hopes to get to the floor a bill that would delay EPA regulation of stationary sources for at least two years, but keep in place the mobile source compromise reached last year. … More

Disapproving the Disapproval

As you might have heard, late yesterday afternoon, the Senate voted 53-47 to reject a procedural motion that would have allowed a vote on Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution: a long-winded way of saying that, for now, the EPA maintains its authority and scientific finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. 

As Seth noted a few weeks ago, the political dynamics of this vote are complex,… More

Water, Water, Everywhere: More Than a Drop to Treat

Last week, EPA released its Clean Watersheds Needs Survey 2008 Report to Congress. I have three immediate reactions to the Report. The first is that there are a lot of needs out there. The Report’s bottom line is that there is currently an expected shortfall of $298 billion over the next 20 years for clean water infrastructure. As Congress turns from short-term stimulus spending to long-term concerns about the deficit, it’s difficult to see Congress being eager to hear National Association of Clean Water Agencies Executive Director Ken Kirk say that

the federal government must become a long-term partner in developing a sustainable funding mechanism to address the growing infrastructure funding gap.… More

Just What We Need: More Community Engagement in Superfund Sites

Last week, EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response announced release of its Community Engagement Implementation Plan. Who could be against community engagement? It’s as American as apple pie. It’s environmental justice. It’s community input into decisions that affect the community. It’s transparency and open decision-making.

Call me a curmudgeon, but I’m against it. Study after study shows that, in terms of the actual risks posed by Superfund sites, we devote too many of our environmental protection dollars to Superfund sites,… More

Time to See if the Suit Fits: EPA Releases the Tailoring Rule

First Kerry-Lieberman, then the Tailoring Rule – a busy week for climate change. Senator Kerry certainly did not miss the coincidence. He called the release of the Tailoring Rule the “last call” for federal legislation. I’ve noted before the leverage that EPA regulation would provide, but this is the most explicit I’ve seen one of the sponsors on the issue.

As to the substance, there are not really any surprises at this point. EPA is certainly working to soften the blow of GHG regulation under the PSD program. Here are the basics (summarized here):

January 2,… More

Kerry Lieberman Is Here: Now What?

So, Kerry Lieberman (Graham?), also known as the American Power Act, is here. What does it mean?

My immediate reaction is that, in a big picture sense, they got it just about right. The fundamental issue, which was previously acknowledged by Senator Graham (can we start calling him “he who must not be named?”), is that we’re not going to solve the energy independence or climate change problems unless we put a price on carbon. This bill does that.… More

EPA’s Move to Regulate Stormwater Discharges from Development Gathers Steam; EPA Issues Mandatory Questionnaire For Public Comment

EPA is proceeding with its plan to establish a new program to regulate stormwater discharges from new development and redevelopment, with a target date for a final rule by November 2012. The next step: the reissuance of draft mandatory questionnaires that, once finalized, will be sent to various stakeholders, including approximately 738,000 owners and developers of residential, industrial and commercial sites. According to EPA, the “target population for the Owner/Developer Questionnaires is all development establishments in the United States,” as defined by 8 NAICS codes (see Part A.4 of EPA’s Supporting Statement for further information on whether your business would be covered).… More

To Be Hazardous or Not to Be Hazardous: EPA Floats Two Options for Regulating Coal Combustion Residuals

Environmentalists have been pushing for years to overturn the Bevill Amendment and get coal combustion residuals (CCR) regulated as a hazardous waste. The failure of an impoundment at the TVA facility in Kingston, Tennessee, in 2008 almost guaranteed that EPA would do something to regulate CCR. Like Hamlet, however, EPA seems to be having trouble making up its mind. Earlier this week, EPA announced two different potential regulatory approaches,… More

More Citizen Suits on the Horizon? EPA Continues To Make Enforcement Information More User Friendly

Last year, I noted that EPA had made its ECHO data base more user-friendly, creating a web-based map of enforcement actions. Last week, EPA took the effort a step further, at least with respect to Clean Water Act enforcement action. EPA’s Clean Water Act Annual Noncompliance Report, or ANCR, is available on the web in an interactive format that allows interested citizens to see where the noncompliance and enforcement action is taking place. … More

Another Climate Update: Are Moderates Coming Aboard?

As Senators Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham get ready to release their version of a climate bill, negotiations with moderate Democrats are heating up. Ten Democrats, apparently let by Sherrod Brown and Debbie Stabenow released a letter outlining what they call “key provisions for a manufacturing” package as part of an overall bill. Here are some highlights the Senators’ wish list:

Investments in clean energy manufacturing and low carbon industrial technologies.… More

EPA Keeps Up the Stormwater Drumbeat: Releases Draft Permit for Charles River Communities

EPA Region 1 continues to roll out new programs on the stormwater front, and this week’s development is particularly important for private property owners in the Charles River watershed. The agency released proposed amendments to the Residual Designation for the Charles River (“RDA”) and a Draft General Permit for Residually Designated Discharges. While the proposed permit only affects the Massachusetts communities of Milford, Bellingham, and Franklin, EPA has stated that it may expand the General Permit to include other Charles River communities in the future,… More

Patchwork or Preemption? Or Maybe Both

What will happen to state and regional energy and carbon-related regulations if (perhaps when) federal climate legislation is enacted?  If the Attorneys General of California and 6 New England and Mid-Atlantic states have anything to say about it, very little.  

As E&E reported last night, the Attorneys General of Massachusetts, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont and California sent a letter this week to Senators Kerry,… More

Not So Fast with Renewed NSR Enforcement: Power Plants Win a Routine Maintenance Case

Last week, Judge Thomas Varlan handed the power plant sector a major win in the NSR enforcement arena, ruling that economizer and superheater replacement projects in 1988 at the TVA Bull Run plant were routine maintenance not subject to NSR/PSD regulations. Judge Varlan ruled for the TVA notwithstanding that:

The projects cost millions of dollars (but less than $10M each)

They extended the life of the plant by 20 years

The costs were identified as capital,… More

Yet More Bad News for Coal (Mining): EPA Issues Guidance Imposing Numeric Criteria For Discharges From Mountaintop Mining

Last week, EPA proposed to veto a permit for the No. 1 Spruce Mine in West Virginia. Yesterday, EPA went much farther, announcing new guidanceeffective immediately – which will impose numeric water quality based effluent limits, or WQBELs, on effluent from surface mining projects. EPA has at least tentatively concluded that high conductivity resulting from discharges of mountaintop fill has adversely affected streams downstream of surface mining operations.… More

Sorry; The Gas-Powered Alarm Clock Is No Longer Available

Some stories are just to much fun to ignore. Late last week, the GAO issued a report on the joint EPA/DOE Energy Star program. The sub-head says it all: “Covert Testing Shows the Energy Star Program Certification Process Is Vulnerable to Fraud and Abuse.” GAO found that it was able to obtain Energy Star certifications for 15 out of 20 bogus products for which it had sought certification,… More

EPA Finalizes Reconsideration of Johnson Memo: Confirms No Stationary Source GHG Regulation Before January 2011

EPA has finally issued its formal reconsideration of the Johnson Memo. As EPA had telegraphed, it confirms that a pollutant is only subject to PSD permitting requirements when that pollutant is subject to “a final nationwide rule [that] requires actual control of emissions of the pollutant.”

As EPA had also already indicated, the reconsideration states that PSD permitting requirements are triggered, not when a rule is signed or even on the effective date of the rule,… More

Bad Day at Black (Coal) Rock

Last week, I noted that Gina McCarthy, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, suggested that, in the short run, the most significant pressure on inefficient energy sources would come, not from climate change legislation or from EPA GHG regulations, but instead from all of the conventional pollutant regulations that EPA expects to promulgate that will make use of coal much more expensive. While Gina was referring to a variety of air regulations,… More

Today’s Climate Change Forecast

Now that health care legislation has passed, the question is whether passage of the health care bill will unleash a cascade of other legislation, including a climate change bill, or whether Congress will be so exhausted and so polarized that nothing else will happen. I lean to the former position, but only time will tell. One positive indication was Senator Graham’s statement that, notwithstanding his views on the health care bill,… More

PSD Review is a Pre-construction Requirement Not Subject to a Continuing Violation Theory

Last week, Judge John Darrah handed the government a defeat in a PSD/NSR enforcement action, when he ruled that the requirement to obtain permits under the PSD program prior to making major modifications was solely a pre-construction obligation and did not constitute a continuing violation. 

United States v. Midwest Generation was one of the recent wave of government PSD/NSR actions, filed last summer. The problem with the government’s case was that Midwest Generation had purchased the six facilities at issue in the case from Commonwealth Edison in 1999 and all of the alleged changes but one were made prior to the purchase.… More

Traditional Pollutants Definitely Still Matter: EPA’s Draft Review Recommends More Stringent Particulate Standards

Last week, I posted about improvements in air quality since 1990. It’s a good thing air quality is improving, because, at the same time, the science keeps suggesting that ever lower pollutant levels pose risks to public health. The latest news was EPA’s draft review of the appropriate level at which to set the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for particulate matter.

EPA most recently revised the PM standard in 2006,… More

Today’s Climate Change Grab-Bag

It’s difficult to keep up with the various moves in Congress, attempting either to advance climate change legislation or to preclude EPA climate change regulation. On the advance side, E&E Daily had a very helpful summary earlier this week on the various issues affecting those senators that will need to be brought on board to reach 60 yes votes in the Senate. The identified issues include, not surprisingly: (1) coal, (2) nuclear power,… More

More pressure from Congress on EPA GHG Regulation

Late last week, Senate and House Democrats piled more pressure on EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases under existing Clean Air Act authority. Senator Rockefeller and Representatives Rahall, Boucher, and Mohollan introduced companion House and Senate bills to preclude EPA regulation of stationary source GHG emissions for two years. Unlike the resolution sponsored by Senator Murkowski, which would simply overturn the endangerment finding and thus preclude all GHG regulation,… More

Put a Price on It

Seemingly just in time to lend support to the revived idea of a carbon tax that we noted on Monday, an Obama Administration inter-agency workgroup has released a report that attempts to do the critical math necessary to put a price tag on CO2 emissions.

The report sets out four dollar figures that represent the “social cost of carbon,” or the potential damages associated with not stopping the emissions of each incremental ton of CO2. … More

An Update On EPA GHG Regulation Under Existing Authority

The uncertainty surrounding EPA regulation of GHG emissions under existing Clean Air Act authority was driven home for me last week when the same conference resulted in two diametrically opposed headlines in the trade press. Regarding a forum held by the International Emissions Trading Association, the Daily Environmental Reporter headline was “Existing Law Too Inflexible to Accommodate Market-Based Emissions Cuts, Executives Say.” Over at ClimateWire,… More

One Small Step For EPA Greenhouse Gas Regulation?

Yesterday, EPA Administrator Jackson issued a letter to Senator Jay Rockefeller responding to certain questions regarding EPA regulation of GHGs under existing Clean Air Act authority, including promulgation of the so-called “Tailoring Rule”, describing how stationary source regulation under the existing PSD program would be phased-in once GHGs are subject to regulation. Here are the highlights:

EPA still expects to promulgate the Tailoring Rule by April 2010.… More

More Suits Filed on EPA’s Endangerment Finding

The grand total is 16 separate challenges to EPA’s endangerment finding, according to Greenwire. I’m not one of those lawyers who regularly bash the legal profession. I still recall my law school professor, Henry Hansmann, stating that the role of lawyers is in fact to be transaction-cost minimizers, and I think that that is largely true. That being said, I am certainly wondering what all of this litigation is about.… More

Dog Bites Man, February 12 Edition: Law Suit Filed to Challenge Endangerment Filing

Earlier this week, the Southeastern Legal Foundation filed a petition for review of the EPA Endangerment Finding with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. It’s not really surprising that someone filed suit, but the list of plaintiffs is interesting – though more for who is not on it than who is. There is not a single Fortune 500 company on the list of plaintiffs. Whether that speaks to the larger corporations doubting the merits of the challenge or simply making a strategic decision that it is not worth it to be associated with the litigation,… More

EPA “Furious”: GHG Rules to Be Promulgated in March

Given the stories this week of continuing efforts in Congress to preclude EPA from regulating GHGs under existing Clean Air Act authority, I couldn’t resist this headline. 

The first story is that three House members, including two Democrats (House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson and Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton) have followed the lead of the Senate – where there are also Democratic sponsors –… More

More on a New Ozone NAAQS: EPA’s Clean Air Science Advisory Committee Endorses EPA’s Proposed Range

As we noted a few weeks ago, EPA has proposed lowering the NAAQS to a range of from 0.060 ppm – 0.070 ppm. Earlier this week, EPA’s Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, or CASAC, met and endorsed EPA’s proposed range. Some CASAC members did express concern about EPA’s proposed secondary seasonal standard, intended to protect crops and forests. However, overall, the CASAC seal of approval is pretty much the end of this argument.… More

Coming Soon to a 10-K Near You: Climate Risks

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued interpretive guidance yesterday which requires publicly traded companies to consider the impacts of climate change – both the physical damage it could cause, as well as the economic impacts of domestic and international greenhouse gas emissions-reduction rules – and disclose those risks to investors. As we noted when discussing the potential for this announcement in October, the disclosure requirements are likely to affect companies in a wide range of industries.… More

Will We Have Neither Climate Change Legislation Nor Regulation?

Last month, I noted with some trepidation that EPA Administrator Jackson had stated that "I don’t believe this is an either-or proposition," referring to the possibility that there could be both climate legislation and EPA regulation of GHGs under existing EPA authority. Today, it’s looking more like a neither-nor proposition.

First, with respect to the prospects for climate change legislation, Senator Gregg was quoted in ClimateWire as saying that “the chance of a global warming law passing this year was ‘zero to negative 10 percent.’" Whether Senator Gregg has the odds pegged exactly right,… More

Tailoring Rule Update: Just the Mess Everyone Expected

Last April, I noted that the one certainty associated with EPA regulation of greenhouse gases under existing Clean Air Act authority was that there would be unintended consequences. If anyone doubted that this would be so, they might want to read some of the comments submitted to EPA in connection with EPA’s proposed Tailoring Rule, which would exempt facilities emitting less than 25,000 tons per year of CO2e from the PSD provisions of the Clean Air Act after CO2e becomes a regulated pollutant under the CAA.… More

Dog Bites Man; Compliance With New NAAQS To Be Costly, Difficult

As I noted on Friday, EPA has proposed to revise the NAAQS for ozone to a range of from 0.060-0.070 ppm, a reduction from the 0.075 ppm standard promulgated in 2008 by the Bush administration.  EPA’s analysis of the available date indicates that 650 counties – out of 675 counties which have ozone monitors – would be in violation of a 0.060 ppm standard. For those counting, that’s more than 96% of all counties in nonattainment. Even if the standard were set at 0.070 ppm,… More

When Do EPA BACT Requirements “Redesign the Source”? Not When EPA Says They Don’t

Shortly before the holidays, EPA Administrator Jackson issued an Order in response to a challenge to a combined Title V / PSD permit issued by the Kentucky Division for Air Quality to an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, or IGCC, plant. The Order upheld the challenge, in part, on the ground that neither the permittee nor KDAQ had adequately justified why the BACT analysis for the facility did not include consideration of full-time use of natural gas notwithstanding that the plant is an IGCC facility. … More

EPA Continues to Target Coal-Fired Power Plants: Announces Settlement With Duke Energy

EPA announced yesterday that it had reached a settlement with Duke Energy to address allegations of New Source Review violations at Duke’s Gallagher coal-fired generating plant in New Albany, Indiana. A jury had already found Duke liable for certain NSR violations at the plant. The settlement obviates the need for a remedy trial, which had been scheduled for early 2010.

The settlement requires Duke Energy to repower Units 1 and 3 at Gallagher with natural gas or shut them down and to install emission controls at Units 2 and 4.… More

Not Quite the Excitement of a Perp Walk, But: EPA Publishes Web Map of Enforcement Actions

EPA has published its annual Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results FY 2009. It always makes interesting reading. This year, EPA has added something new: a web-based map showing the location of all enforcement actions, with links to summaries of the specific actions taken. It’s actually a little tricky to navigate. I had to find an area of interest and zoom in far enough for the dots to be replaced by flags to be able to click on particular sites and obtain the detailed information.… More

Nanotechnology: EPA Regulations on the Horizon?

Earlier this month, EPA released its semi-annual regulatory agenda. True policy wonks can review the agenda here. There are always some nuggets buried in the agenda. This agenda includes two proposed rules governing nanotechnology. They are:

A reporting rule under § 8(a) of TSCA. The rule would require persons who manufacture nanoscale materials to notify EPA of information concerning production volume; methods of manufacture and processing;… More

Another Rant Against NSR: Why the Continued Operation of Old Power Plants Is Bad News for GHG Regulation Under the Current Clean Air Act

According to a report released last week by Environment America, power plants were responsible for 42% of the CO2 emitted in the United States in 2007, substantially more than any other sector, including transportation. What’s the explanation? Largely, it’s the age of the United States power plants. The report, based on EPA data, states that 73% of power plant CO2 emissions came from plants operating since prior to 1980.

What’s the solution to this problem,… More

EPA Issues Construction Stormwater Rule — First National Standards With Numeric Limits

Yesterday, EPA released its effluent guidelines for construction sites. The guidelines establish the first national standard containing numeric limitations on stormwater discharges. The final standard imposed is 280 nephelometric turbidity units. It will apply to all construction sites greater than 20 acres in size as of 18 months following the effective date of the regulations (which will be 60 days after Federal Register promulgation) and sites larger than 10 acres 4 years after the effective date.… More

Today’s Betting Line: EPA Regulation Before Legislation is Enacted

Boston Celtics’ fans know the phrase “fiddlin’ and diddlin.” Well, the Senate continues to fiddle and diddle over climate change legislation. Those who have worked with Gina McCarthy, current EPA air chief, know that she has probably never fiddled or diddled in her life, and I certainly don’t expect her to do so with respect to GHG regulation under existing Clean Air Act authority in the absence of comprehensive legislation. … More

EPA Issues a New Policy on Superfund Negotiations: Time For Another Rant?

Late last week, Elliott Gilberg, Acting Director of EPA’s Office of Site Remediation Enforcement (OSRE) issued an Interim Policy on Managing the Duration of Remedial Design/Remedial Action Negotiations. Members of the regulated community may not be surprised by the contents of the memo, but they certainly will not be pleased. In brief, the memorandum fundamentally makes two points:

EPA wants to shorten the duration of RD/RA negotiation

EPA is going to use the heavy hammer of unilateral administrative orders,… More

GHG Regulation under the Existing CAA: Coming Soon to a [Large] Stationary Source Near You

On Thursday, EPA issued its long-awaited proposed rule describing how thresholds would be set for regulation of GHG sources under the existing Clean Air Act PSD authority. Having waded through the 416-page proposal, I’m torn between the appropriate Shakespeare quotes to describe it: “Much ado about nothing” or “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”

First, notwithstanding its length, the proposal is quite limited in scope. … More

I’m Not Dead Yet: Still Hope For a Climate Change Bill?

After a number of stories indicating that the prospects for climate change legislation were dimming for 2009, the convergence of a number of factors suggests that legislation may still be possible.

Yesterday, Senator Boxer and Senator Kerry released a draft of climate change legislation. This doesn’t mean that Senate passage is imminent. The bill has not been formally introduced and, like the early drafts of the Waxman-Markey bill,… More

EPA Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule is Final, Reporting Begins in 2010

EPA released its final version of the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule today.  The Rule (which we blogged about in its draft form here) will require large emitters of greenhouse gases to begin collecting emissions data on January 1, 2010 and file their first self-certified reports in March 2011.  The EPA will then verify the data, as in other Clean Air Act programs. The new program will cover approximately 85% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and apply to roughly 10,000 facilities,… More

Another Bullet Aimed at Coal; Another Argument For Multi-pollutant and Multi-media regulation

On Tuesday, EPA announced its intention to issue new effluent guidelines for the Steam Electric Power Generating industry by sometime in 2012. The announcement follows an EPA study in 2008 which indicated that toxic metals, particularly those collected as part of flue gas desulfurization processes, can pose a problem in facility effluent. EPA’s announcement is not particularly surprising, given the ongoing study and given that EPA has not revised the guidelines since 1982. Indeed,… More

Climate Change: An Update on Legislation v. Regulation

The silence from Congress recently concerning climate change legislation has been deafening. The continued health care debate does not bode well for early passage of the Waxman-Markey bill. Meanwhile, EPA is not sitting on its hands.

Daily Environment Report noted last week that EPA has sent to the OMB a proposal to reverse the Agency’s policy that CO2 is not a pollutant subject to the PSD provisions of the Clean Air Act. Also last week,… More

Another D’Oh Moment: EPA Advised to Clearly Link Environmental Conditions and Regulatory Programs

While many people today look to the Daily Show and the Colbert Report for political commentary, the Boston Red Sox leave me with insufficient TV time, so I rely on the Borowitz Report. Whenever the press reports as news something blindingly obvious to normal Americans, Borowitz will refer to the statement as having been authored by D’Oh Magazine.

Last week, in a story that should have been reported in D’Oh Magazine,… More

Dog Bites Man: EPA Announces Intent to Hire More Criminal Investigators

In a story from today’s Daily Environment Report, Cynthia Giles, the new Assistant Administrator for Enforcement at EPA, stated that she was looking increase the number of criminal investigators at EPA, noting that

Criminal enforcement is a very important part of our arsenal in achieving compliance and has a powerful deterrent effect. It’s important to us that we’re out there and that we pursue the criminal cases.… More

New Life in EPA’s NSR Enforcement Initiative: EPA FIles Another Law Suit

In another sign that the NSR program is alive and well under the Obama administration, the United States (together with the State of Illinois, filed suit Thursday against Midwest Generation, alleging violations of NSR requirements at six coal-fired power plants. Although the action is not too surprising, given that the Bush EPA had issued a notice of violation to Midwest Generation in 2007, it remains noteworthy. Each new prosecution serves to remind generators that failure to comply with NSR rules can lead to significant costs.… More

EPA Might Take Another Step Towards Regulating Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act

According to an article by BNA published this morning, EPA may soon act to apply the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) provisions of the Clean Air Act to facilities that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.  Presumably, EPA’s action is either an effort to exert leverage on Congress to pass pending climate change legislation or to ensure that GHG are regulated in the event that legislation doesn’t pass —… More

New Clouds on the Storm(water) Front: EPA Takes Enforcement Action Against 9 Municipalities

As we have reported, EPA and MADEP have both been taking steps over the past year to broaden the scope of their stormwater programs beyond existing regulation under the rules concerning stormwater discharges associated with industrial or construction activity. EPA has proposed using residual designation authority in Maine and Massachusetts and the MADEP proposed sweeping rules governing existing private facilities.

In the regulated community,… More

Stormwater Discharges From Construction Activity: What Next From EPA?

Construction and development companies praying for an economic recovery next year have something else to worry about: pending new EPA regulations regarding stormwater discharges from construction activities – and claims from environmental groups that EPA’s proposal isn’t stringent enough.

EPA issued a proposal on November 28, 2008. That proposal is complex, but the aspect of it that has received the most attention is the requirement that certain construction sites greater than 30 acres meet numerical turbidity limits (specifically,… More

EPA Region I Still Not Idle on the Anti-Idling Front: Yet another Six-Figure Penalty

EPA announced today that it had reached yet another six-figure penalty settlement in an anti-idling case.  This time, the penalty was $650,000. This is one of the larger penalties EPA has obtained in this area.  There appear to be several reasons for the magnitude of the penalty.  First, the defendant, Paul Revere Transportation, LLC, was apparently a recidivist.  It has been the subject of an anti-idling enforcement action in 2003.… More

Measuring the Benefits of Environmental Enforcement: Moving From Dollars To Sense

I assume that environmental agencies’ focus on the annual dollar total of enforcement fines and penalties drives my clients as crazy as it does me. After all, the correlation between such figures and any environmental outcomes is pretty limited. Indeed, less enforcement may mean more compliance rather than more undetected violations.

It thus comes as at least limited good news from Inside EPA that EPA is looking at ways to measure the impact of enforcement efforts other than by measuring the amount of fines and penalties. Instead,… More

EPA Might Require More Airborne Lead Sampling

EPA announced this week that it was granting a petition for reconsideration of the final National Ambient Air Quality Standards for lead, specifically the portion requiring monitoring of lead emissions near certain sources. The petition was brought in January by a number of environmental organizations and groups concerned about childhood lead poisoning.

The existing lead monitoring requirements were finalized in October 2008, at the same time that EPA tightened the national air quality standards for lead for the first time in 30 years.… More

Nanotechnology and Site Remediation: Is the Promise Beginning to Come to Fruition?

As a confirmed optimist and believer in technology, I’ve long thought that we can meet the challenge posed by global climate change – as long as we implement the right policies to provide incentives to develop the necessary technologies. Having the wide engineering knowledge that being a lawyer – as well as one of six political science graduates from MIT my year – provides, I have assumed that nanotechnology would play a substantial part in whatever the ultimate solution turns out to be.… More

D.C. Circuit Remands Phase 2 Ozone Rule: Another Defeat for Cap and Trade Programs

Last Friday, in NRDC v. EPA, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down parts of EPA’s Phase 2 rule for achieving compliance with the ozone NAAQS. The most important part of the ruling was the Court’s conclusion that EPA could not rely on compliance with the NOx SIP Call to satisfy the requirement that sources in an ozone nonattainment area demonstrate achievement of reasonably available control technology,… More

Is CO2 a Regulated Pollutant Under the Clean Air Act? Not Yet, At Least in Georgia

Earlier this week, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a decision of the Superior Court in Georgia that would have required Longleaf Energy Associates, developer of a coal-fired power plant, to perform a BACT analysis of CO2 emissions control technologies in order to obtain an air quality permit for construction of the plant. The case is a reprise of the Deseret Power case regarding a coal-fired plant in Utah.… More

EPA Finally Grants the California GHG Waiver

In the category of dog bites man, EPA today announced it was granting the State of California a waiver that will allow California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The granting of the waiver was expected after Obama’s election and became pretty much inevitable after the administration announced in February that it was reconsidering the waiver request.

Substantively, it is not clear that the waiver matters that much,… More

More on Enforcement: When is a Penalty Too Big?

While some of my colleagues are laboring in the climate change vineyards (and we should have posts soon summarizing the House bill), I thought I would note another interesting enforcement decision issued this week.  United States v. Oliver is, in some respects, a run of the mill decision.  A mom-and-pop medical waste incinerator (the adjective is the court’s not mine; it does give one pause) failed for several years to comply with EPA regulations governing such facilities.… More

Burlington Northern: EPA Speaks

For those of you who cannot get enough of Superfund, I spoke at a Boston Bar Association panel on this subject yesterday about the implications of the Supreme Court’s Burlington Northern decision. Thanks to EPA Region I and Joanna Jerison, head of the Region I Superfund Legal Office, for being willing to speak on so obviously sore a subject. And thanks to Craig Campbell for participating on the panel as well.… More

Fixing CAIR; Legislative Help May Be Necessary

In Congressional testimony last month, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson apparently told Congress that amendments to the CAA may be necessary in order to ensure that any revised CAIR rule issued by EPA would be safe from legal challenge.  The testimony is not really a surprise. Anyone reading the decision striking down the original CAIR rule would understand that the Court had concluded that the cap-and-trade program promulgated under CAIR was not authorized by the CAA.… More

Injunctive Relief under the CAA; United States v. Cinergy

Last week, Judge Larry McKinney issued an order requiring to shut down three coal-fired generating units at its Wabash Station facility by no later than September 30, 2009. The decision actually struck me as a thoughtful analysis of injunctive relief issues in a situation where a violation of NSR regulations had already been proven. Although the decision has gotten most press for the order shutting down the units, it covers a number of issues important to injunctive relief situations,… More

A Mixed Verdict on NSR Enforcement?

Earlier this week, the jury reached a verdict in the Cinergy – now Duke Energy – NSR retrial. The short version is simple:

Condensor retubine – no need to go through NSR

Pulverizor replacement – requires NSR

I don’t know all of the details of the case.  For example, I don’t know if the pulverizer capacity was expanded when they were replaced.  If any readers know the details and want to share them,… More

One Step Closer to a Legislative Fix to Rapanos?

Particularly this week, one needs to make a conscious effort to remember that it is not “all climate, all the time” on the environmental front. While climate change is obviously the President’s top priority at the moment, the administration did take the time this week to send letters to congressional leaders voicing the its support for amendments to the Clean Water Act to eliminate uncertainty concerning the Act’s scope following the Supreme Court decision in Rapanos. … More

More on Guidance v. Regulation

Laura Rome of Epsilon has helpfully reminded me that the maturity of a regulatory program is also relevant to whether an agency should proceed by guidance or regulation.  With newer programs that remain in flux, the flexibility inherent in guidance – and the easier amendment process for guidance – counsels in favor of guidance rather than regulation.

Laura’s comment also reminded me that, a few years ago,… More

Regulations v. Guidance: Pick Your Poison

There are not too many areas of environmental law where practice intersects frequently with academic theory. One such area is whether agencies should use notice and comment rule-making any time they want to set forth policy or whether they should instead be permitted to use flexible guidance documents. The real issue from the practitioner’s point of view is the extent to which use of guidance permits street level bureaucracy a degree of unfettered discretion that is truly scary. … More

An Additional Note on Burlington Northern: More Litigation in Your Future?

One more note on the Burlington Northern decision.  A client of mine has already noted that one impact of the decision will be to result in more litigation over divisibility, which will be good for private lawyers (ouch!).  She’s right, as my clients always are, but she shouldn’t be.

Litigation should only increase if EPA does not adjust its settlement demands. If EPA responds appropriately, and makes demands which reflect a fair resolution of a divisible liability,… More

The Supreme Court Decision in Burlington Northern: There Are Limits to Liability Under CERCLA

Those of us who have practiced in the Superfund arena for some time know that the government, in those rare cases where it has been forced to litigate, has used the same oral argument in every case: “Good morning, your honor. My name is ______. I represent the government in this action and we win.” Today, the Supreme Court made clear that that the government now needs a new oral argument template.

In Burlington Northern v.… More

More Bush Administration Air Rules on the Way Out?

We have previously posted about EPA’s efforts to roll back regulatory changes made by the Bush Administration, particularly with respect to the NSR program. There is no question that the roll-back continues. This week, EPA announced it would review three separate NSR rules promulgated by the Bush administration. These include:

The “reasonable possibility” rule, which identified when major sources must keep records even if a contemplated change is not expected to trigger NSR review

The fugitive emissions rule,… More

More News on Three-Pollutant Legislation

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, Representative John McHugh (R-NY) has introduced legislation that would require significant reductions in emissions of SO2 and NOx, and mercury from power plants. Now, Senators Carper (D-Del.) and Alexander (R-Tenn.) have announced that they will be introducing their own three-pollutant legislation in the Senate. Since they have not yet introduced a bill, we’ll all just have to imagine the specifics for now,… More

Today’s Climate (Change Legislation) Forecast

I’ve made a conscious decision not to blog about every twist and turn in the climate change legislation debate. While a blogger can’t quite take a “wake me when it’s over” position, I think that periodic updates are going to be more than sufficient. That being said, in the wake of EPA’s issuance of its endangerment finding last week, a brief update seems appropriate.

What’s clear at this point is that at least everyone in the political center favors a legislative approach and hopes that the endangerment finding will ultimately have no practical impact,… More

Today’s the Day: EPA Releases Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act

This morning, EPA issued a proposed finding that greenhouse gasses contribute to air pollution and may endanger public health or welfare. The proposed finding comes almost exactly two years after the Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA, ordered the agency to examine whether emissions linked to climate change should be curbed under the Clean Air Act, and marks a major shift in the federal government’s approach to global warming.… More

A Dose of Reality for the Climate Change Legislation Debate?

Now that the initial euphoria following the introduction of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill  has passed, this past week may have reminded supporters of climate change legislation just how difficult it will be and what sort of compromises may be necessary to get it done. First, Greenwire reported again on the difficulty that senators and representatives from coal states will have supporting climate legislation that would increase electricity rates.… More

A Rant Against Superfund

As some of my clients know all too well, I’ve been spending a lot of time on some Superfund matters recently. Although I can’t remember a period when I didn’t have at least one moderately active Superfund case, significant immersion in complex remedial decision-making and negotiations provides an unwelcome reminder just how flawed CERCLA is. Almost 20 years after the acid rain provisions of the Clean Air Act ushered in wide-spread acceptance of the use of market mechanisms to achieve environmental protection goals and the state of Massachusetts successfully privatized its state Superfund program,… More

Be Careful What the EPA Administrator Wishes For: Is a Legislative Fix to Rapanos on the Horizon?

In an statement this week likely to send chills down the spine of developers, EPA Administrator Jackson called on Congress to provide a clearer definition of wetlands subject to permitting authority under the Clean Water Act. As most readers know, the 2006 Supreme Court decision in Rapanos v. United States narrowed the scope of regulatory jurisdiction over wetlands. Unfortunately, the absence of a majority decision in Rapanos means that,… More

Multiple Pollutant Legislation Makes a Reappearance

Harking back to legislative efforts of a few years ago, Representative John McHugh (R-NY) yesterday introduced legislation that would require significant reductions in emissions of SO2 and NOx, and mercury from power plants. The highlights of the bill include the following:

  • No later than two years from enactment, EPA must promulgate regulations requiring that powerplants:
    • reduce SO2 emissions by 75% over the Phase II levels contained in the current CAA acid rain program
    • reduce NOx emissions by 75% over 1997 levels
  • Even aside from the above-described reductions,…
  • More

Waxman and Markey Release House Climate Bill: Some Details, But a Long Way From the Finish Line

I finally found time to review the 648-page “discussion draft” of the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” released by Representatives Waxman and Markey this week. It is fair to way that, though release of the draft may be an important way-station on the road to a climate change bill, there remains a lot of work to do. While the draft includes some important markers that are likely to set boundaries on what might be included in the final bill,… More

Justice Triumphs: The Supreme Court Upholds EPA’s Authority to Consider Costs Under Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act

As many readers of this blog will have already learned, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Entergy v. Riverkeeper yesterday. The Court reversed the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and held that EPA was within its authority to consider cost-benefit analysis in setting standards for cooling water intake structures under § 316(b) of the Clean Water Act.

I’m definitely getting on my soapbox here,… More

SO2 Allowance Prices Drop: Is There a Lesson Here?

The results of EPA’s annual auction of sulfur dioxide (SO2) allowances under the acid rain program provide empirical support for a proposition that the regulated community repeatedly advances – certainty is critical to the success of complex regulatory regimes. Prices for 2009 allowances fell from last year’s average of $380/ton to $70/ton, or more than 80%. Prices in the 7 year advance auction fell even more dramatically, from $136/ton in 2008 to $6.65/ton,… More

More News From the Coal Front: Mountaintop Mining Takes One Hit — and May Face Another

This week, the practice of mountaintop removal – chopping the tops off mountains in order extract the coal – received two blows: one from EPA and one from Congress. First, EPA offices Region 3 and Region 4 announced that they plans to assess the Central Appalachia Mining’s Big Branch project in Pike County, Ky., and the Highland Mining Company’s Reylas mine in Logan County, W.Va., before permits are issued for those projects.… More

The Current Score on Regulatory Reform in the Obama Administration? Zealots 1, Reform 0

In connection with the nomination of Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB, I noted my hope that the Obama administration would be a Nixon in China moment for regulatory reform. Given the administration’s aggressive early steps to combat global warming and to roll back some of the more extreme moves by the Bush EPA, the new administration could, if it chooses,… More

Greenhouse Gas Endangerment Finding Out Soon: Will Regulations Be Far Behind?

Greenwire reported yesterday that EPA plans to issue its endangerment finding on emissions of greenhouses gases, in response to Massachusetts v. EPA, by the end of April. Greenwire also released EPA’s internal presentation regarding its recommendation to the Administrator.

Although EPA’s anticipated decision is not a surprise, it is still noteworthy. Among the highlights:

  • The finding will conclude that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health (the proposed endangerment finding that the Bush administration EPA had prepared,…
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EPA Unveils Nationwide Greenhouse Gas Reporting Regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed regulations which create the first nationwide system for reporting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted by major sources in the US.  The proposed regulations are promulgated pursuant to the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act  which was signed into law in December 2007, and instructs the EPA to require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors of the economy.… More

Regulation of Coal Ash: The Ball’s In EPA’s Court For Now

Although it appeared initially as though Congress might be the first to move towards greater regulation of coal ash following the TVA spill, EPA has seized the initiative. Yesterday, Administrator Jackson announced a two-pronged initiative. First, EPA has issued information requests to facilities maintaining coal ash impoundments in order to gather information necessary to support new regulations. Second, she confirmed that EPA will indeed then promulgate regulations designed to prevent future spills.… More

Another Loss For the Bush EPA; The D.C. Court of Appeals Remands the Fine Particulate Standard

The batting average of the Bush administration EPA in appeals of its regulatory proposals may now have dropped below the proverbial Mendoza line. This week, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia remanded a substantial part of EPA’s particulate rule. That the Bush administration could achieve results where the Mendoza line is even a close metaphor is a testament to just how low its stock has fallen in the courts.… More

EPA’s Roll-back of Bush-Era Rules Rolls On

The next Bush-era rule to be tossed overboard may be a big one, namely EPA’s hands-off stance on regulation of CO2 for PSD purposes.   EPA  Administrator Lisa Jackson said today in a letter to the Sierra Club that the agency would grant the group’s petition seeking reconsideration of former Administrator Johnson’s December 18th memo which described why EPA should not regulate CO2 emissions from new coal-fired plants.  Although EPA did not stay the effectiveness of the Johnson memo,… More

EPA’s Roll-Back of Bush-Era Rules Appears to Begin in Earnest

While a lot of attention has been paid to whether EPA would reverse the Bush EPA decision denying California’s petition to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources,  it is now clear even outside the climate change arena that life at EPA is going to be substantially different under the current administration.  As if evidence were really needed for that proposition, EPA announced this week that it was putting on hold the NSR aggregation rule that EPA had promulgated on January 15,… More

We Said There Was Life in EPA’s NSR Enforcement Initiative: We Didn’t Know How Right We Were

In addition to our post yesterday and the items highlighted in the New York Times Green.Inc blog on the difficulties facing new and existing coal-fired power plants this week, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice have launched what they call a new national crackdown targeting coal-fired plants that violate the Clean Air Act.

As the first piece of this campaign, the agencies filed suit on Wednesday … More

EPA and DOJ Keep Moving on NSR Enforcement: $135 Million and Strictest NOx Standards Yet

The EPA and DOJ announced yesterday that Kentucky Utilities (KU), a coal-fired electric utility, has agreed to spend approximately $135 million on pollution controls to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act New Source Review program.  KU will also pay a $1.4 million civil penalty plus $3 million in implementing supplemental environmental projects, or SEPs.  Finally, KU will also surrender over 50,000 SO2 allowances shortly after entry of the consent decree, and annually surrender any excess NOx allowances resulting from the installation of pollution control equipment.   … More

After All These Years, CERCLA Remains Constitutional

Readers of a certain age will recall Chevy Chase’s Weekend Update segment during the first year of Saturday Night Live, when, for a number of shows, he would report that Francisco Franco was still dead. (And isn’t it great that there is actually a Wikipedia article on the subject of Franco still being dead!).

This segment was brought to mind by the report of this week’s decision out of the District Court for the District of Columbia,… More

Getting Out Ahead of the Curve on the Green Building Front: EPA Announces Voluntary Agreement With Cushman & Wakefield

We have previously noted that efforts to achieve economy-wide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will necessarily go beyond the electricity generating sector. One obvious target will have to be greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, which EPA estimates account for 17 percent of U.S. carbon emissions.

Although there have been efforts, particularly in California and Massachusetts, to use state NEPA analogues to control carbon emissions from new projects going forward,… More

Regulatory Fallout from the TVA Coal Ash Release

The magnitude of the recent release of coal ash from the TVA dam is hard to fathom, though the pictures certainly give some sense of its magnitude. Now, as regulators and Congress attempt to get their collective arms around the import of the release, some of the regulatory implications of the release are starting to emerge. According to a report in yesterday’s Greenwire, Congressional hearings this week may include a discussion regarding whether coal ash should continue to be exempt from regulation as a hazardous waste under RCRA

The exemption of coal ash is critical to coal-fired power plants. … More

What Risk of Deflation? EPA Increases Civil Penalty Amounts To Adjust For Inflation

While many economists are worried about the possibility of deflation in the current economic crisis, EPA still is concerned about inflation – specifically inflation in the amount of statutory civil penalties under statutes enforced by EPA. In a Federal Register notice dated December 11, 2008, EPA announced increases in its civil penalties. 

Some of the increases are not trivial. It is of course true that EPA rarely obtains,… More

Yet One More Judicial Defeat for the Bush EPA; The D.C. Circuit Vacates Another Clean Air Act Rule

As the sun sets on the Bush administration, it is at least maintaining its seemingly unmatched record for turning the notion of judicial deference to administrative action on its head, as the D.C. Circuit has rejected yet one more EPA Clean Air Act rule. This time, the Court struck down EPA’s rule exempting startups, shutdowns, and malfunctions (SSM) from emissions standards under § 112 of the CAA.

As with some of EPA’s other judicial defeats,… More

CAIR: Still Breathing, But Still on Life Support; The D.C. Circuit Temporarily Reinstates the Rule

Following briefing from the parties, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today withdrew its vacatur of EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule. While the decision striking down the rule stands, the Court determined that keeping CAIR in effect while EPA prepares a replacement rule “would at least temporarily preserve the environmental values covered by CAIR.”

EPA rejected a request by the industry plaintiffs to impose a deadline on EPA for issuing the replacement rule,… More

EPA Is Looking For A Few Bad Men

Hopefully, since I like to think the readers of this blog are largely law-abiding, this post will not be relevant to very many of you, but it seemed newsworthy nonetheless. On December 10, EPA announced a new web site dedicated to helping to locate and bring to justice fugitives from environmental crimes. The new web site includes profiles of 25 men wanted for a variety of environmental claims.… More

The Sky is Falling. No, It’s Not. Regulation of Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act

As we have noted, there have been a number of arguments regarding the implications of a decision by EPA to utilize current Clean Air Act authority to regulate greenhouse gases. The Chamber of Commerce has been in the “sky is falling” camp. Nonetheless, environmentalists are already pressing President-elect Obama to regulate greenhouse gases under the CAA, without waiting for what could be a lengthy legislative process.

According to a story in the Daily Environment Report,… More

EPA and Maine DEP Announce New Stormwater Controls

Demonstrating that the recent announcement of new stormwater controls for the Charles River in Massachusetts were not an aberration, EPA, joining with the Maine DEP, announced last Friday that it will be imposing new stormwater regulations for discharges into Long Creek, which ultimately flows into Casco Bay.

Responding to petitions from the Conservation Law Foundation, EPA has exercised its Residual Designation Authority under its NPDES permitting regulations.… More

EPA Looks to Make Life Under RCRA Easier For Educational Institutions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to publish a Final Rule creating an optional, alternative set of generator requirements for hazardous waste generated or accumulated in laboratories at “eligible academic entities”: (1) colleges and universities; (2) non-profit research institutes owned or affiliated with a college or university; or (3) teaching hospitals owned or affiliated with a college or university. 

The Rule will append a new subpart,… More

Is CO2 “Subject to Regulation” under the Clean Air Act? Time Will Tell (We Think).

In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court concluded that greenhouse gases, including CO2, are “air pollutants,” the it left (barely) open the question whether CO2 is “subject to regulation” under the Clean Air Act (“CAA”). 

Following Massachusetts v. EPA, there have been a number of cases in which advocates of climate change regulation have sought to require EPA to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. One of those cases,… More

Can New Source Review Require Mitigation of Past Harm?

Can a party found liable of violating the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review provisions be required to reduce future pollution more to mitigate emissions caused by past violations?  According to a recent U.S. District Court decision, maybe.

In U.S. v. Cinergy Corp., S.D. Ind., No. 99-1693, decided October 14, 2008, the first court to rule on whether retroactive, as opposed to prospective relief, is available under Section 113 of the Clean Air Act found that the court does have the authority to grant such relief.  Although the court stopped short of ordering this relief (procedurally,… More

Common Law Wins Another Round Over CERCLA Liability

As those of us who have practiced in the Superfund arena for some time know, in the early years of Superfund litigation, such litigation was, from the defendant’s perspective, brutish and short, if not nasty and mean. The DOJ attorney would, in essence, march into court, state “I am from the government; I win,” and the case would be over.

In recent years, that approach has not proven quite so uniformly successful.… More

EPA Issues New Industrial Stormwater Permit

On September 22, EPA issued a new Stormwater Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) to cover 4,100 facilities with discharges associated with an industrial activity. The permit replaces the MSGP that was issued in 2000 and expired in October 2005. The expired permit continued to be valid for facilities that were covered by the permit at the time it expired.

The new permit applies to states not authorized to implement EPA’s NPDES program,… More

Still No Quick Fix to the CAIR Rule

Since the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule in its entirety, EPA and Congress have been working on a variety of fixes. As we recently noted, Congressional Democrats recently put together a plan to enact CAIR’s Phase I SO2 and NOx limits. Enacting those limits would result in emissions reductions of approximately 45% of SO2 and 50% for NOx.… More

EPA’s NSR Reforms: The Final Nail in the Coffin?

There was a time when EPA was almost uniformly successful in defending its regulations in the courts. EPA would note the deference provided to agency decision-making under Chevron U.S.A. v. NRDC, remind the court of its expertise in interpreting some very complicated statutes, and the case would essentially be over. Not any more.

In recent years, as the Bush administration has embarked on some quite ambitious regulatory reform efforts,… More

EPA NSR Enforcement; I’m Not Dead, Yet.

EPA’s enforcement efforts under the New Source Review, or NSR, program have had more twists and turns during the past ten years than it is possible to catalogue, at least in a blog post short enough to avoid crashing the server. In brief, EPA began under the Clinton administration an ambitious effort to bring NSR cases against numerous power plants. Those efforts have had substantial, though not perfect, success in court.… More

Is CO2 a Pollutant? What Does EPA Really Think?

EPA has publicly taken the position that the current Clean Air Act is ill-suited to regulation of CO2 as a pollutant. In an advance notice of proposed rulemaking. EPA stated that regulation of greenhouse gases “could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land.” (Of course, proponents of regulation of greenhouse gases under the CAA might say that that is precisely what is needed to address the problem of global climate change.)

Given EPA’s stated reluctance to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases under the CAA,… More

Regulating CO2: How Big An Impact?

Since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, Congress, EPA, state regulators, environmentalists, and industry groups have been trying to determine what it would mean to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act. While both presidential candidates are on record as supporting some kind of climate change legislation, the currently proposed legislation is extraordinarily complex and there are certainly no guarantees that legislation will in fact be enacted any time soon.… More

Is CAIR Beyond Repair?

In the days following the decision by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to vacate EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule – CAIR – regulators, industry, and environmentalists have been attempting to answer one fairly basic – and quite critical – question. What now? Although a variety of parties had challenged various aspects of CAIR, it seems that no one was quite prepared for the decision by the Court of appeals that the entire rule had to be vacated,… More