On September 21, 2023, the Biden administration outlined plans to expand federal agencies’ consideration of the social cost of carbon—a metric for the economic cost of each additional ton of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere. This announcement tilts the balance of cost-benefit analyses in favor of activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it could have widespread effects for entities that receive federal funding or are subject to federal regulation.… More
Category Archives: EPA
Last week, Inside EPA (subscription required) reported that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has basically informed EPA that EPA may not promulgate guidance on cumulative risk assessments because of questions about its legal authority to require CRAs.
If EPA plans to interpret such environmental regulations as providing EPA with the authority to require that states consider CRAs in its decision making, including CRAs that may include nonchemical stressors,… More
EPA Must Consult With Other Agencies Before Issuing Water Quality Criteria: Is This an Example of Congressional Use of Behavioral Economics?
Last month, Judge John Hunderaker held that the Endangered Species Act requires EPA to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service before issuing recommended water quality criteria. He also vacated EPA’s 2016 chronic freshwater criterion for cadmium. The case is potentially important for a number of reasons.
First, it’s a thorough analysis of standing in cases where the plaintiffs claim a procedural injury – here,… More
Earlier this week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated EPA’s disapproval of Wyoming’s regional haze plan for the PacifiCorp’s Wyodak power plant. The basis for the disapproval was an issue near and dear to my heart. In rejecting Wyoming’s SIP, EPA repeatedly pointed to Wyoming’s failure to comply with EPA’s guidelines for determining Best Available Retrofit Technology, even though the guidelines were not enforceable regulations. … More
Earlier this week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s NPDES permit issued to San Francisco’s Oceanside sewer system. San Francisco had challenged the permit on the ground that EPA does not have authority to impose narrative prohibitions related to compliance with water quality criteria. Here is the primary section subject to challenge:
Discharge shall not cause or contribute to a violation of any applicable water quality standard for receiving waters adopted by the Regional Water Board,… More
The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council recently weighed in on EPA’s decision whether to lower the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM2.5 and ozone.
Specifically, with respect to PM2.5, WHEJAC recommended that the annual primary standard be lowered to 8.0 ug/m3 and the annual daily standard be lowered to 25.0 ug/m3. Both recommendations are lower than what EPA has proposed.
With respect to the ozone NAAQS,… More
The Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases Is Increasing — But Is Uncertainty Over the Measurement of Climate Impacts Artificially Depressing the Number?
Yesterday, Climatewire (subscription required) released a peer review letter on EPA’s Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (SC-GHG), which got a fair bit of press last year, because EPA’s metric was $190/ton, even though the Biden administration was using the $51/ton figure originally developed by the Obama administration. The peer reviewers’ views can be distilled down to two major points:
- It’s a really solid piece of work that provide a solid technical foundation for the SC-GHG.…
Last week, the EPA Clean Air Science Advisory Committee provided EPA its review of EPA’s Policy Assessment for the Reconsideration of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone. As expected, CASAC has disagreed with the recommendation of EPA technical staff to retain the current 70 ppb standard. Instead, CASAC recommends a significantly lower ozone NAAQS of 55-60 ppb.
This seems to be coming down to a fight between EPA’s reliance on controlled human exposure (CHE) studies and CASAC’s position that EPA is giving too little weight to epidemiological studies,… More
Supreme Court Curtails Federal Wetlands Protections; Developers Still Must Consider State and Local Wetlands Laws
On May 25, 2023, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, which significantly narrowed the Clean Water Act’s (“CWA”) test for determining whether wetlands are protected “waters of the United States” and the federal permitting requirements for development projects in covered wetlands areas.
The Court’s Ruling
The Supreme Court’s ruling has two basic parts:
- It adopts Justice Scalia’s plurality opinion in Rapanos v.…
EPA Proposes New Power Plant Rule That Promises Major Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions in the Coming Years
After weeks of hints and leaks, yesterday morning (May 11, 2023), EPA proposed a new rule regulating emissions from power plants. The proposed rule would apply to new and existing gas plants and existing coal plants—new coal plants are separately regulated—and promises to significantly cut carbon and other harmful air pollutant emissions from fossil plants over the next two decades and beyond.
EPA’s accompanying Fact Sheet spells out the proposed rule’s emissions reductions estimates:
EPA has evaluated the emissions reductions,… More
Last week, Inside EPA (subscription required) reported that the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee has pretty much agreed that the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone must be made more stringent. Apparently, the panel is looking at recommending that the primary standard be reduced from 70 ppb to a range of 55-60 ppb. CASAC is also recommending a reduction in the secondary standard.
Discretion is the Better Part of Valor; Court Dismisses Clean Water Act Citizen Suit Challenging POTW’s Enforcement Discretion
The scope of suits available to private citizens under the Clean Water Act is not unlimited. A Federal District Court in Massachusetts recently made that clear in dismissing a citizen suit filed by the Conservation Law Foundation against the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, which operates Boston’s Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant, the second largest treatment plant in the country. (Full disclosure: I represented the MWRA in that suit.) The Court rejected CLF’s claims that the MWRA was required to take enforcement action against every industrial user that discharged to the MWRA’s sewer system in violation of pretreatment regulations.… More
EPA Proposes Safe Drinking Water Act Standards for PFAS: Forever Chemicals Will Lead to Forever Superfund Sites
Yesterday, EPA proposed to regulate certain PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA proposed Maximum Contaminant Level Goals for PFOA and PFOS of zero. It proposed Maximum Contaminant Levels for PFOA and PFOS of 4.0 parts per trillion.
EPA also proposed MCLGs and MCLs for PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and HFPO-DA (“GenX Chemicals”) based on a novel hazard index approach to these compounds as a group. … More
It’s More Important for EPA to Ensure that States Are Good Neighbors Than That They are Perfect Neighbors
Last week, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected challenges to EPA’s “Revised Cross-State Air Pollution Update Rule”. The Court found that the Rule was “an appropriate exercise of EPA’s statutory authority”.
EPA has finally proposed revisions to the national ambient air quality standard for PM2.5. The Administrator is proposing to lower the standard from 12.0 ug/m3 to a range of 9.0 to 10.0 ug/m3.
Readers of this space will recall that the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee recommended that EPA lower the PM2.5 NAAQS to between 8.0 and 10.0 ug/m3. Environmentalists aren’t going to be happy with any standard above 8.0 ug/m3 and it’s likely that conservatives aren’t going to be happy with any decrease from the current standard.… More
EPA and the Corps Promulgate a “Durable” WOTUS Rule — Proving Only That There Is a Difference Between Hope and Expectation
Last week, EPA and the Army Corps finally published their long-awaited rule defining “Waters of the United States.” Will the WOTUS rule finally provide the clarity for which we have been waiting, allowing the rule to be as “durable” as the agencies claim, or will it instead be dead on arrival, made irrelevant by the upcoming Supreme Court decision in Sackett, which many observers expect will significantly narrow the scope of jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act? … More
Last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a writ of mandamus to the Center for Biological Diversity, imposing a deadline on EPA to issue an “effects determination” concerning the potential impacts of the pesticide cyantraniliprole. This effects determination was supposed to be issued before EPA registered the pesticide. Unfortunately, EPA did not do so. Moreover, EPA acknowledged that it routinely registered pesticides without performing the required effects determination.… More
Following an announcement at COP27 by President Biden, the EPA issued a supplemental proposal to reduce methane and other harmful emissions from new and existing sources in the oil and gas industry. In its regulatory impact analysis for the supplemental proposal, EPA included a sensitivity analysis detailing a revised methodology and new estimates for social cost of greenhouse gases (SC-GHGs), including carbon, methane,… More
Environment and Energy Report (subscription required) had a story today about growing opposition to EPA’s proposal to list two PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS, as hazardous substances under CERCLA. Here’s what really caught my eye about the opposition. The National Association of Clean Water Agencies opposes the proposal. They think it inconsistent with EPA’s historical implementation of CERCLA:
EPA’s proposed designations,… More
I’ve written before about the developing science regarding the impacts of PM2.5 emissions. Short version – they’re bad for you. They’re even worse than we thought, and there’s increasing evidence that they cause a lot of harm at concentrations below the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 12 ug/m3.
As frequent readers know, I am a big fan of cost-benefit analysis. The basic idea is that, when we make a decision to regulate at a certain level, we are by definition deciding that regulating to that level is “worth” the costs that the regulation will impose. We might as well make such calculations explicitly.
However, that doesn’t mean that CBA cannot consider the distributional impacts of federal regulations. … More
Federal agencies continue to roll out plans to address environmental justice issues, which has become a focal point in the Biden administration’s agenda. Now that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) is in effect, federal agencies are now able to access more funds to address environmental justice concerns. As discussed in a prior blog post, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its “Equity Action Plan” in April 2022 and on September 30,… More
EPA announced today that it is proposing to list PFOA and PFAS as hazardous substances under CERCLA. EPA appears to be sanguine about how the listing will play out in the real world.
EPA is focused on holding responsible those who have manufactured and released significant amounts of PFOA and PFOS into the environment. EPA will use enforcement discretion and other approaches to ensure fairness for minor parties who may have been inadvertently impacted by the contamination.… More
Last month, EPA issued interim health advisories for PFOA and PFOS that took many people’s breath away. It is rather amazing how quickly we’ve moved from parts per billion past parts per trillion to the low parts per quadrillion range.
At the same time, EPA issued a final health advisory for GenX compounds, setting the level at 10 parts per trillion. … More
Those wondering what states can do to at least partially ameliorate the impacts of West Virginia v. EPA need look no farther than Massachusetts, which issued its Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030 the same day that the Supreme Court extended its crusade against the modern world by limiting EPA’s authority to regulate in the absence of a clear delegation by Congress.
Just when we environmental old-timers were just getting used to talk about PFAS concentrations in the low parts per trillion range, EPA has moved us squarely into uncharted territory. EPA has released new, interim, lifetime drinking water health advisories of 4 parts per quadrillion for PFOA and 20 parts per quadrillion for PFOS. I’ll just note a couple of points:
- I think it sort of charming that EPA still states the health advisories in the units of parts per trillion (0.004 ppt for PFOA and 0.020 ppt for PFOS,…
Last week, EPA released its proposed “Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification Improvement Rule”. The proposed rule would make a number of significant changes to the rule promulgated by EPA in 2020.
I’m going to focus on one in particular, because it could be a good test of just how far the current Supreme Court is willing to go to limit the authority of the executive branch.… More
In an effort to “redress inequities in [Federal] policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity,” the Biden administration has set forth an agenda to identify areas of improvement and advance equity across the Federal Government. On January 20, President Biden issued Executive Order 13985 which requires agencies to produce “Equity Action Plans” that are agency sponsored reports to assess whether underserved communities face systemic barriers in accessing benefits and opportunities available based on an agency’s policies and programs.… More
Last week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a person who enters into an administrative settlement with a state is immune from citizen suits seeking civil penalties, but not immune from suits for declaratory or injunctive relief. I don’t think that the decision would even have been newsworthy, if it hadn’t required that the Court overrule its 1991 decision in North and South Rivers Watershed Ass’n v.… More
Last week, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee formally transmitted its recommendations to EPA Administrator Regan regarding the PM2.5 NAAQS. Consistent with trade press reporting over the past few months, the majority of CASAC members recommended that the PM2.5 NAAQS be set between 8-10 ug/m3. A minority recommended the range be set between 10-11 ug/m3. I’d be surprised if the revised NAAQS is set above 10 ug/3.
For me,… More
EPA Restores the California Advanced Clean Car Program; GHG Emissions From Transportation Will Continue For Some Time
EPA has now formally restored its waiver under § 209(b) of the Clean Air Act that allows California’s greenhouse gas emissions standards and Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, notwithstanding the preemption of state vehicle emission standards contained in § 209(a) of the CAA. EPA also restored the authority of other states under § 177 of the CAA to adopt the California standards.
In what we lawyers might describe as pleading in the alternative,… More
The Impact of Exposure to Leaded Gasoline Was Horrific: Will We Say the Same in 2050 About the Impact of PM2.5 Exposure?
An article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (login required) has documented the devastating impact caused by the use of leaded gasoline. The study estimates that more than half of Americans alive in 2015 had been subject to unsafe blood lead levels as children. The study further estimates that the impact of these elevated blood levels was a net loss of 824,097,690 IQ points as of 2015. … More
In January, I noted that Ameren Missouri had surrendered in its defense of the NSR enforcement action brought by DOJ with respect to the Rush Island generating facility. Ameren Missouri submitted to the Court a proposal to shut Rush Island early rather than install expensive pollution control equipment.
None of this was really news. What was news was that DOJ (and the Sierra Club) opposed Ameren Missouri’s proposal. … More
EPA has proposed to revoke the Trump administration finding in 2020 that it is not appropriate and necessary to regulate emissions of air toxics from coal- and oil-fired electric generating units. Instead, EPA proposes to reaffirm its 2012 and 2016 determinations supporting such regulation.
As everyone knows, the Supreme Court has teed up West Virginia v. EPA, which challenges EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and Sackett v. EPA, which challenges EPA’s authority to define what constitutes a water of the United States. Betting money does not favor EPA in either case.
I don’t have any inside authority on what will happen and I don’t really have thoughts that haven’t been expressed by others,… More
Jerry Anderson of Drake University Law School recently did an interesting post regarding environmental enforcement. I recommend the full post, but I particularly wanted to bring my readers’ attention to a figure Jerry included in the post.
For those who have worked in EPA Region 1, this may not be a total surprise – and yet it’s still shocking. This picture is worth more than a thousand words,… More
According to Inside EPA (subscription required), the Department of Justice (and the Sierra Club) have opposed Ameren’s Missouri’s motion to allow it to close its Rush Island generating facility early, rather than install otherwise required pollution control equipment. You may ask why DOJ is opposing the shutdown of a coal-fired power plant. Like Tevye in A Fiddler on the Roof, I’ll tell you.
I don’t know.… More
The momentum continues to build for a more stringent National Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM2.5. In June, EPA announced it would revisit the Trump Administration’s decision to keep the PM2.5 NAAQS at 12 ug/m3. In early October, EPA staff released a supplement to its assessment of the PM2.5 NAAQS. That supplement also supported a more stringent standard.
Now, the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee is about to weigh in. … More
Last week, EPA and the Army Corps proposed a new rule to define what constitutes “waters of the United States.” Déjà vu all over again.
Under the proposal, the agencies:
are exercising their discretionary authority to interpret “waters of the United States” to mean the waters defined by the longstanding 1986 regulations, with amendments to certain parts of those rules to reflect the agencies’ interpretation of the statutory limits on the scope of the “waters of the United States” and informed by Supreme Court case law.… More
Earlier this week, Greenwire (subscription required) had an interesting story about the role that EPA’s estimate of the cost to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule played in the politics and judicial review of the rule. It turned out that compliance costs were much less than originally estimated by EPA – let alone by industry. Unfortunately, the $9.6 billion price tag originally put on the MATS rule lived on,… More
On Friday, EPA announced that it was reconsidering its 2020 decision to leave the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone unchanged. The reconsideration will be based on the existing record. The notice does not identify any specific perceived flaws in the 2020 decision. However, EPA stated that it:
will reconsider the decision to retain the ozone NAAQS in a manner that adheres to rigorous standards of scientific integrity.… More
First, EPA published its human health toxicity assessment for “GenX chemicals,” also known as hexafluoropropylene oxide (“HFPO”) dimer acid (and don’t forget its ammonium salt!). EPA has pegged HFPO’s toxicity at 7-100 times higher than that of other PFAS compounds for which assessments already exist,… More
Late last week, Judge William Alsup vacated the Trump-era EPA amendments to the regulations governing water quality certifications under section 401 of the Clean Water Act. EPA had requested remand, and made clear that it disagreed with the amendments promulgated in 2020, but it opposed vacatur.
Whatever one’s view of the merits of the 2020 rule, from the court’s perspective, faced with EPA’s current statements indicating substantial disagreement with significant elements of the 2020 rule,… More
There’s No Doubt What EPA Staff Thinks Should Be the Result of EPA’s Reconsideration of the PM2.5 NAAQS
Late last week, EPA released an external review draft of the “Supplement to the 2019 Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter.” For those of you who don’t recall, the original Integrated Science Assessment was the report by EPA scientists that very clearly called for a decrease in the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM2.5. It was criticized by the Chair of the Clean Air Act Science Advisory Committee and ignored by Administrator Wheeler,… More
Earlier this month, the 9th Circuit vacated the District Court judgment in a Clean Water Act citizens’ suit, because the basis for the judgment had been undermined by the Supreme Court decision in Maui. The decision is not a surprise, given that Maui explicitly rejected the prior 9th Circuit test for when discharges to groundwater are subject to the NPDES permitting regime. … More
Last week, EPA withdrew guidance issued in the waning days of the Trump Administration interpreting the Supreme Court decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund. As the masochists who follow the torturous case law we call Clean Water Act jurisprudence are well aware, SCOTUS ruled in Maui that discharges from point sources to groundwater that are the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge to surface water are required to obtain NPDES permits.… More
Last week, I reported that Judge Rosemary Marquez had vacated the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule. I also asked “what’s next”? EPA and the Army Corps have now answered that question, at least for the short run. In a brief announcement on EPA’s web page, EPA stated that:
the agencies have halted implementation of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule and are interpreting “waters of the United States” consistent with the pre-2015 regulatory regime until further notice.… More
As climate change rightly has dominated recent discussions of environmental policy, it’s been easy to forget how much progress has been made in the past fifty years. I was reminded of the extent of that progress by the story in Bloomberg (subscription required) that the last refinery in the entire world to produce leaded gasoline has ceased operations. There’s no doubt that that’s something to be celebrated.
Yesterday, Judge Rosemary Marquez vacated the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, the misnomer also known as the Trump WOTUS rule. In response to this citizens’ suit challenging NWPR, the Biden EPA and Army Corps of Engineers moved to remand the rule to the agencies, since they had already announced an intent to revisit the definition of WOTUS. However, for reasons that I have never understood, the agencies sought remand without vacatur,… More
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has largely affirmed a District Court order finding that Ameren Missouri violated the NSR provisions of the Clean Air Act in making major modifications to its Rush Island facility. The Appeals Court did reject the District Court’s requirement that Ameren Missouri make improvements at its nearby Labadie facility that was not in violation of the CAA.
I have three thoughts about the decision.… More
The Sacketts Got Their Day in Court on the Merits; Another Lesson in Being Careful What You Wish For
Last week, in what may or may not be the last round in the ongoing efforts by Michael and Chantell Sackett to build a house on wetlands in Idaho, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that:
EPA reasonably determined that the Sacketts’ property contains wetlands that share a significant nexus with Priest Lake, such that the lot was regulable under the CWA and the relevant regulations.… More
Most people other than Andrew Wheeler and the Trump Administration Clean Air Science Advisory Committee know that exposure even to low levels of PM2.5 causes increased morbidity and mortality. And now comes evidence that exposure to PM2.5 may adversely impact cognitive capacity as well. If the evidence is correct, then the externalities created by activities that release PM2.5 are likely much more significant than we had realized,… More
Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to EPA guidance that suggested a new statistical method, the Test of Significant Toxicity, for determining the toxicity of discharges subject to NPDES permits. The Court found that, because it was “nonbinding guidance,” it was not final agency action and was thus not subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act.
May I ask my legal colleagues to wrap their heads around the concept of “nonbinding guidance?” Doesn’t the existence of “nonbinding guidance” imply the existing of “binding guidance?” If not,… More
Last week, District Judge Susan Mollway ruled that the County of Maui must obtain a NPDES permit for discharges to groundwater by the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility. It is the first trial court decision applying the factors identified by Justice Breyer in the SCOTUS Maui decision.
Judge Mollway found the most important factors to be what she considered to be the relative short distance from the discharge to the surface water (½ mile) and the relatively short time between the groundwater discharge and the surface water discharge (as little as 84 days and,… More
Earlier this month, EPA circulated a memorandum on “Strengthening Environmental Justice Through Cleanup Enforcement Actions.” It could significantly increase the volume of CERCLA enforcement actions. More importantly, if implemented appropriately, it could help reduce the risks posed by Superfund sites in overburdened EJ communities.
The trick of course will indeed be how it’s implemented. If this becomes just another in a long line of screeds on the subject that all Superfund cleanups take too long,… More
EPA Withdrawal of Its Proposed Veto of a 404 Permit Is Reviewable — This Should Not Be Earth-shattering News
Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that EPA’s decision to withdraw its proposed veto of the Army Corps’ Section 404 permit for the Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay, Alaska, was subject to judicial review. Although there was a dissent and the majority opinion was 39 pages, I don’t think that the case should have been so hard.
The Court noted the “strong presumption” that final agency action is subject to judicial review. … More
EPA announced yesterday that it will “reconsider” the Trump EPA’s decision not to change the PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standard. I’ve blogged numerous times about the growing body of evidence that exposure to concentrations of PM2.5 below the current NAAQS causes significant additional mortality and morbidity. The evidence is clear.
I certainly agree that climate change is an existential threat and that’s where our emphasis needs to be. … More
On Wednesday, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they plan to revise the definition of “Waters of the United States”. Simultaneously, DOJ moved to remand the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, in a challenge to the Trump-era rule brought by the Conservation Law Foundation. Can you say “déjà vu all over again”?
This is such a target-rich environment that I almost don’t know where to begin – but I’ll try.… More
I’ve frequently discussed in recent years the mounting evidence for the need to lower the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM2.5. There is also substantial evidence that PM exposure is an environmental justice issue. In this context, electrification of our transportation system is seen as having a substantial co-benefit in the reduction of vehicle-related PM emissions, particularly in EJ communities.
Two recent stories both confirmed the validity of these issues and made manifest the complexity of the problems we are trying to solve. … More
The Other Shoe Drops — EPA Formally Announces Its Reconsideration of the Withdrawal of the California Preemption Waiver
I noted in yesterday’s post about the NHTSA proposal to withdraw the SAFE I Rule that EPA was expected to follow the NHTSA action by restoring the Clean Air Act Section 209 waiver for California’s Advanced Clean Car program. The ink was barely dry on the post when EPA released a Notice that was considering doing just that.
The evidence of the harm resulting from PM2.5 exposures keeps rolling in. Earlier this month, Environmental Research published an article titled “Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem” (abstract available; full article requires purchase), which concluded that global annual mortality from PM2.5 exposure is roughly twice as high as previously estimated.
Last month, I noted that the Trump administration had suffered “one final judicial defeat” – the rejection of its Affordable Clean Energy Rule. Of course, I spoke too soon. Last week, Judge Brian Morris rejected EPA’s rule “Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information” – also known as the “Secret Science Rule.”
The Secret Science Rule was promulgated on January 6,… More
Yesterday, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. It’s even more comprehensive than last week’s order. Indeed, my main reaction to the order isn’t to any of the specific provisions. It’s one simple realization – he really means it. And I think that’s the point. There is no question at this point that President Joseph Robinette Biden,… More
Among the important provisions of President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis is the requirement to review and revise estimates of the social cost of carbon (and nitrous oxide and methane). The order establishes a working group, co-chaired by the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, the Director of OMB, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. … More
Yesterday was the last full day of President Trump’s term. On environmental issues, it closed on a fitting note – another major judicial defeat. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals vacated EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule. In doing so, the Court – thanks to what appears to have been a misguided strategic decision by EPA – confirmed EPA’s authority to use a range of tools to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.… More
Last month, I posted that EPA’s decision to retain the current PM2.5 NAAQS of 12 ug/m3 was the single worst decision by Trump’s EPA. Since then, I have not received any comments suggesting that my ranking was incorrect. In case anyone was still in doubt, Environmental Research recently released an on-line Pre-proof of A National Difference in Differences Analysis of the Effect of PM2.5 on Annual Death Rates. … More
Yesterday, EPA formalized its decision to leave the ozone NAAQS unchanged, at 70 ppb. I don’t think that this decision is in the same category of egregiousness as EPA’s recent decision not to reduce the PM2.5 NAAQS. After all, only one decision can be the single worst environmental policy of an entire administration.
I’m not that close to the science on the ozone NAAQS,… More
EPA Finalizes Decision to Retain the Existing PM2.5 NAAQS — Single Worst Environmental Decision of the Trump Administration?
Yesterday, EPA finalized its decision to retain the existing PM2.5 NAAQS of 12 ug/m3, rejecting substantial scientific evidence that PM2.5 causes significant harm at concentrations below 12 ug/m3. In fact, as noted in one of my prior posts on this subject, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that exposure to PM2.5 at concentrations below 12 ug/m3 causes more than 10,000 deaths annually. … More
The recent decision by the 8th Circuit that the Coyote Creek Mining Company did not require a major source permit under the Clean Air Act is both fascinating and important. The question on the merits was whether CCMC had to include its fugitive emissions in determining its potential to emit. Such emissions are normally excluded, but are included if they are part of a “coal processing plant.”
The Court concluded that the regulations are ambiguous and that EPA guidance did not resolve the issue. … More
Last week, Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts released a study titled “The high persistence of PFAS is suﬃcient for their management as a chemical class.” The title is one of the two big takeaways from the article. The other is that:
We argue that this high persistence is suﬃcient concern for their management as a chemical class, and for all “non-essential” uses of PFAS to be phased out.… More
I’ve been complaining about guidance for most of the 33 years I’ve been in practice. The summary of the issue provided in Appalachian Power v. EPA in 2000 still has not been bettered:
Congress passes a broadly worded statute. The agency follows with regulations containing broad language, open-ended phrases, ambiguous standards and the like. Then as years pass, the agency issues circulars or guidance or memoranda,… More
As the New York Times has documented, President Trump stated numerous times that Mexico would pay for the border wall. With this context, it was hard not to appreciate the delicious irony when EPA announced earlier this week that it would be financing two separate measures to reduce pollution migrating from Mexico to Southern California.
Last week, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals vacated EPA’s approval of Pennsylvania’s SIP for attaining the 2008 NAAQS for NOx. Specifically, the Court found that EPA’s approval was arbitrary and capricious with respect to three separate, but related, provisions of the SIP. The flawed provisions were:
- The NOx standard for power plants utilizing selective catalytic reduction was set at 0.12 pounds/MMBtu.…
Last week, EPA finalized its rollback of Obama administration regulations governing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The move is not exactly a surprise. Regarding the purpose of the rollback, I stand by my take on the proposed regulations. This regulation was promulgated for two purposes. First, it provides generic red meat to those who think government regulation is inherently a bad thing. … More
On Tuesday, Judge John Koeltl ordered EPA to issue a final rule addressing its obligations under the Good Neighbor provisions of the Clean Air Act by no later than March 15, 2021. Two aspects of the decision are worth note.
The big issue in the case, once the Judge disposed of EPA’s jurisdictional arguments, was whether it is impossible for EPA to issue a final rule by the plaintiffs’ suggested date. … More
There have been numerous studies that support a decrease in the current PM2.5 annual standard of 12 ug/m3. EPA has nonetheless proposed to retain the current standard on the basis that there is too much uncertainty regarding whether those studies provide a basis for concluding that PM2.5 concentrations below the standard cause increased mortality. As I have previously noted, the statutory provision requires that NAAQS be set with an “adequate margin of safety.” That would seem to require EPA to resolve such uncertainty in favor of a more stringent standard.… More
Sometimes, history repeats itself. Sometimes, that is not a good thing.
After the Obama WOTUS rule was promulgated in 2015, the challenges came fast and furious, and in multiple forums. The Supreme Court, as I put it, adopted the “give me a break” theory over the “just plain nuts” theory, and ruled that challenges to the rule had to be heard in district courts. … More
Particulate Matter Experts Still Think that the PM2.5 NAAQS Should Be Lowered. Will The Courts Defer to Them Or to EPA?
Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine published The Need for a Tighter Particulate-Matter Air-Quality Standard, written by the Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel. For those who don’t remember, the Review Panel used to be a sub-committee of EPA’s Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, until EPA Administrator Wheeler decided that CASAC did not need the specific advice that the Review Panel had to offer.… More
Last week, EPA released its proposed rule regarding Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in the Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process. As much as I hate to give aid and comfort to this Administration, I have to say that the rule does not herald the end of western civilization. The biggest controversy surrounding the rule is its impact on consideration of “co-benefits”. … More
On Tuesday, President Trump issued an Executive Order on Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery. I’ll leave to others a discussion of the provisions telling agencies to look for more regulations to roll back. I’m in general agreement with commenters who have said that those provisions don’t add much to Trump’s prior deregulatory efforts and are likely to face mostly the same reception in the courts as prior efforts.… More
Earlier this week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals became the latest court to reject EPA’s position that its decision to bar scientists receiving grants from EPA from serving on its advisory panels was not subject to judicial review. The D.C. Circuit went farther than the First Circuit; it went to the merits and found that EPA’s policy was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act.… More
SCOTUS Gets One Right: Discharges To Groundwater Require Permits, But Only If They Are the Functional Equivalent of a Direct Discharge to Surface Water
The Supreme Court ruled today that discharges to groundwater are subject to the permitting requirements of the Clean Water Act, but only where the “discharge is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters.”
I don’t often say this about Supreme Court environmental decisions, but I think that the Court got it exactly right.
The apparent dilemma for the Court was that,… More
Last week, EPA formally revised the cost-benefit analysis for its rule limiting the emissions of hazardous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants. The rule jettisons consideration of so-called “co-benefits,” in this case, the benefits from the reduction in emissions of PM2.5 that result from limits on mercury emissions. The very idea of excluding consideration of co-benefits is just plain incoherent.
I’ve spent my career defending cost-benefit analysis to many of my environmentalist friends. … More
It’s Still Good to Be King; SCOTUS Continues to Interpret CERCLA In Ways Unrecognizable to Practitioners
I have previously discussed how nice it must be for Supreme Court justices to reach judicial decisions from on high, without getting their collective hands dirty worrying about the practical consequences of their decisions. The same has always been true with respect to SCOTUS decisions concerning CERCLA, which has seemed far simpler to SCOTUS than to us poor lawyers who have to actually make it work.
Exhibit A for this argument is the latest SCOTUS Superfund decision. … More
After more than three years of ignoring science whenever it does not support this Administration’s preferred outcomes, the issue of the future of science in environmental regulation has now been well and truly joined. Yesterday, Administrator Wheeler, disagreeing with the recommendation of EPA’s own staff, announced that EPA is proposing to retain the current National Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM2.5 of 12 ug/m3, notwithstanding substantial evidence that PM2.5 poses significant risks even below 10 ug/m3. … More
I hope that I am not struck down for saying this, but EPA’s guidance on doing remedial work during the COVID-19 emergency is reasonable and appropriate. At the risk of oversimplifying, it basically has two requirements:
- Consider the benefits to be obtained by performing the work, and prioritize work intended to eliminate or abate serious hazards that are imminent, such as immediate risks to indoor air or drinking water supplies;…
Last week, I discussed the Administration’s guidance concerning the exercise of its enforcement discretion during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now comes evidence that the guidance may actually be self-defeating. While the administration is – understandably – trying to cut regulated industries some slack while they are trying to deal with COVID-19, it turns out that exposure to PM2.5 has a significant impact on the COVID-19 death rate.… More
EPA and the NHTSA have finally released Part 2 of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicle Rule. Most readers will know that Part 1 of the SAFE rule revoked California’s waiver authorizing it to impose more stringent mileage standards. Part 2 substantially rolls back the federal fuel-efficiency standards promulgated by the Obama Administration.
Last week, Susan Bodine, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, issued a memorandum stating that EPA would exercise its enforcement discretion and not take enforcement action against entities that cannot comply with obligations to EPA due to issues arising from COVID-19. At a certain level, this is understandable. The world has been turned upside down and no one quite knows what is feasible in the current circumstances and what it not.… More
On Monday, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals held that EPA’s directive forbidding those who receive EPA grants from serving on EPA advisory committees is subject to judicial review. It’s an important issue, because the advisory boards are one of the few checks on EPA’s efforts to undermine of the use of science in its rulemaking.
EPA argued that it retains discretion over the composition of its advisory committees and that plaintiffs’ claims were not justiciable. … More
There has been much angst at the state level that EPA has not moved faster to develop drinking water or cleanup standards for PFAS. One of the states affected by the pace of EPA’s regulatory efforts is New Hampshire. Taking up the mantle, New Hampshire enacted legislation requiring the Department of Environmental Services to take a variety of actions with respect to PFAS. One required action is the development of a plan for the establishment of surface water quality standards for four PFAS compounds.… More
The attack on science by this administration is not news at this point. Part of that attack has been to increase the number of industry scientists on EPA’s Science Advisory Board. I have no objection per se to additional industry representation on the SAB; a lot of good science gets done by industry. There are dangers, though. When Tony Cox, who is neither a statistician nor an epidemiologist,… More
Earlier this week, EPA announced grants for the development of market-based programs to address water quality problems in the Great Lakes, as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. I’ve spent more than a little time criticizing EPA’s actions under this Administration. Having spent the better part of 30 years pushing for market-based approaches to environmental regulation, it has been more than a little distressing to have this president give regulatory reform such a bad name.… More
Evidence That Low Exposures to Particulate Matter Pose Health Risks Continues to Accumulate — Will Administrator Wheeler Listen?
EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards has issued its final “Policy Assessment for the Review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter.” The Policy Assessment comes with the standard disclaimer that its “findings and conclusions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of EPA.” Sadly, truer words were never spoken.
Those following this issue know that,… More
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the petition for rehearing in the “once in, always in” case. It was a one sentence order. Judge Rogers, who dissented from the original panel opinion, dissented from the denial. Judge Rogers is still right.
Led by California, 23 states, including Massachusetts, have sued the Trump administration challenging new federal regulations that strip the states’ authority to set their own vehicle emissions standards. On December 3, 2019, the administration moved to dismiss on procedural grounds, arguing that the D.C. District Court was the wrong venue, and that the case should have been brought before the D.C. Circuit for its direct review.… More
At the end of the December, the EPA Science Advisory Board posted the text of a letter that the SAB intends to send to Administrator Wheeler concerning the administration’s proposed revision to the WOTUS rule. The SAB’s conclusions were not ambiguous.
The SAB finds that the proposed revised definition of WOTUS decreases protection for our Nation’s waters and does not support the objective of restoring and maintaining “the chemical,… More
Earlier this month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a long-term failure by a state to submit to EPA a TMDL for an impaired water can constitute a “constructive submission” of no TMDL, triggering an obligation on EPA’s part to reject the constructive submission and, in turn, to issue the requisite TMDL itself.
The logic of the decision is straightforward. The Clean Water Act unambiguously imposes a non-discretionary duty on states to submit TMDLs for waters on the so-called “303(d) list.” In turn,… More
EPA Administrator Wheeler has distributed a “Revised Policy on Exclusions from ‘Ambient Air’”. Here’s the short version. EPA has long defined “ambient air” as outside air “to which the general public has access.”
EPA’s policy has been to require the regulated community to satisfy two criteria to invoke an exclusion. First, the regulated entity must have legal control over the land. … More
Yesterday, Judge William Young ruled that discharges to groundwater are not subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction, even if they ultimately reach surface waters that are unambiguously waters of the United States. He did not wade into the murky waters, as it were, of the Maui case or any of the various judicial theories for or against jurisdiction. Instead, he took a simpler path.… More
According to Bloomberg Environment (subscription required), EPA’s Clean Air Science Advisory Committee cannot reach agreement whether to recommend that the NAAQS for PM2.5 be lowered. Even after two years, I guess I had not realized the extent to which the scientists relied on by this administration are willing to ignore what used to be generally known as the “scientific consensus.”
Last week, Federal District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill granted a preliminary injunction to various NGOs, barring the Bureau of Land Management from implementing amendments BLM had made in 2019 to protection plans for the sage grouse promulgated by BLM in 2015. It makes compelling reading. In 29 pages, it pretty much summarizes everything the Trump administration has done in the environmental arena, and how courts have reacted.… More
Last month, I noted that EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards had released a draft reassessment of the particulate matter NAAQS. In a bold moment of speculation, I indicated that it would be difficult for EPA to avoid lowering the PM2.5 NAAQS to between 8.0 and 10.0 micrograms/cubic meter. Following issuance of the draft, and in order to ensure that EPA does not ignore the emerging scientific consensus,… More
On Tuesday, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals vacated EPA’s “Close-Out Rule,” which basically concluded that upwind states contributing to exceedances of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone in downwind states did not have to undertake any additional actions to reduce their contribution to downwind state ozone concentrations. The decision was inevitable following last month’s decision in Wisconsin v. EPA,… More
On Monday, District Judge Rodney Sippel ordered sweeping injunctive relief against Ameren Missouri, intended to remedy violations of PSD requirements he had previously identified resulting from upgrades to the Ameren Missouri Rush Island generating plant.
Notwithstanding the lengthy opinion, most of the Court’s findings are fairly plain vanilla. Basically, Judge Sippel ordered Ameren Missouri to submit a PSD permit application and he ruled that BACT for control of SO2 emissions at Rush Island required installation of wet flue gas desulfurization equipment.… More
Yesterday, EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the “Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Program,” more succinctly known as the withdrawal of the California’s § 209 waiver under the Clean Air Act. As part of that announcement, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was quoted as saying that “California has the worst air quality in the United States.”
And why is this ironic? … More
Last Friday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that EPA violated the Clean Air Act in failing to impose deadlines on upwind states violating the CAA’s Good Neighbor provisions. The Court concluded that, where downwind states face significant consequences in not meeting statutory deadlines to attain National Ambient Air Quality Standards, but don’t control their own fate because upwind states are contributing significantly to the downwind states’ nonattainment,… More
Last week, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers promulgated the final rule repealing the 2015 rule defining the Waters of the United States. The repeal rule is 172 pages in its pre-publication version. The word “science” is used 18 times in those 172 pages. Almost all of them are used in quotes from the 2015 rule or characterizations of the intent of the 2015 rule.… More
EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards has released a draft of its reassessment of the adequacy of the current national ambient air quality standard for particulate matter. Here’s the primary takeaway concerning PM2.5:
The risk assessment estimates that the current primary PM2.5 standards could allow a substantial number of PM2.5-associated deaths in the U.S.
When taken together, we reach the preliminary conclusion that the available scientific evidence,… More
Last week, EPA proposed to eliminate regulation of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The most noteworthy response to the proposal came from the large producers. ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP all oppose the rollback. In fact, Shell went on record not that long ago requesting the EPA increase the stringency of oil and gas methane regulation. Anyone else hear an echo of the large automakers’ response to the Administration’s efforts to relax fuel efficiency standards?… More
The D.C. Circuit today largely upheld EPA’s 2015 revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone. I’m not much of a prognosticator, but I pretty much called this one years ago. The Court was never going to require EPA to consider costs in setting the NAAQS – not a surprise, given that the Supreme Court concluded in Whitman v.… More
Earlier this week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the “Wehrum Memo,” which reversed EPA’s longstanding policy of “once in, always in” regarding MACT jurisdiction, was not final agency action subject to judicial review. Like Judge Rogers, I dissent.
The majority makes much of its effort to clarify this “byzantine” area of the law. My take is that,… More
Earlier this week, Judge Christopher Cooper of the District Court for the District of the Columbia, struck down EPA’s approval of Total Maximum Daily Loads established by the District of Columbia for the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. Why?
Because the District’s TMDLs did not conform to the plain meaning of the words “Maximum” or “Daily.” The decision is lengthy and complicated, because the statutory framework is complicated. … More
Here’s my take on the Affordable Clean Energy Plan.
On the merits, it does almost nothing. It requires only that states impose heat rate improvement requirements on coal-fired power plants. It’s not going to meaningfully lower emissions. Administrator Wheeler has trumpeted that emissions will be 35% lower in 2030 than in 2005, but the ACE rules contribute almost nothing to that result.… More
Yesterday, EPA finalized its Affordable Clean Energy rule, which will replace the Obama Clean Power Plan. More on ACE later. For now, I just want to use the ACE roll-out to contrast what’s happening at the federal level with what’s happening in the rest of the world – specifically, in this case, in Boston.
While President Trump is throwing coal a “lifeline,” the Carbon Free Boston: Transportation Technical Report is discussing banning internal combustion automobiles from the City of Boston by 2050. … More
When the Supreme Court decided that the district courts had jurisdiction over challenges to the Obama administration WOTUS rule, I described it as a victory of the “give me a break” doctrine of statutory interpretation over the “just plain nuts” theory. I also noted that the Supreme Court had the luxury of ignoring the chaos that would ensue.
Whatever one may think of the merits of the competing theories,… More
On Monday, District Judge Haywood Gilliam imposed a schedule on EPA for review of state plans under EPA’s 2016 rule for emissions from municipal solid waste landfills. The ruling is notable for two reasons.
Because EPA did not dispute that it had missed certain deadlines, its first line of defense wasn’t that it complied with the statute; it was that the states challenging EPA’s delay did not have standing. … More
EPA Weighs In On Whether Discharges to Groundwater Can Be Subject to the CWA — You Won’t Be Surprised at the Answer
On Monday, EPA issued an Interpretive Statement concluding that point source discharges to groundwater are never subject to NPDES permitting requirements. EPA did a good job marshalling its arguments – much better than this EPA has done in a number of similar situations.
Some cases just make you wonder what people were thinking. I’m not sure even Donald Trump would have tried to get away with what Dico, Inc., tried to get away with.
In 1994, EPA issued an administrative order, requiring Dico to address PCBs in insulation in buildings it owned in Des Moines, Iowa. Without informing EPA, Dico sold the buildings. Dico did not inform the buyer of the buildings about either the presence of PCBs or the EPA order.… More
In 2008, EPA issued an administrative order to Chantell and Michael Sackett, requiring them to remove what EPA had concluded was illegally placed fill on their property in Northern Idaho. Litigation followed, including a fairly well-known Supreme Court decision.
After the Supreme Court ruled that the Sacketts were entitled to appeal the administrative order, the case was remanded to the District Court. … More
Yesterday, the Washington Post (subscription required) published an article about the Trump Administration’s inability to defend many of its policies in court. Yours truly was among those quoted. I liked the story and it was largely accurate, including its quotes from me, except that Fred Barbash stated that I had “been looking forward to deregulation under Trump.” On that issue, I can only say that Fred and I had a misunderstanding,… More
Late last month, Federal Judge Rodney Sippel ruled that EPA could obtain injunctive relief against Ameren Missouri in the long-running NSR enforcement case concerning Ameren’s Rush Island Plant. The Court had already ruled that Ameren had violated the Clean Air Act by failing to obtain a PSD permit prior to implementing substantial modifications at the plant.
Having lost at the liability stage, Ameren took three shots at avoiding injunctive relief. … More
Earlier this month, EPA released its recommendations for its National Compliance Initiatives for 2020-2023. I face a dilemma in posting about the NCI, because I actually agree with the two biggest changes EPA is proposing. This administration has given regulatory reform a bad name. It’s sort of like a reverse “Nixon in China” situation. These changes might be credible if they were made in any administration other than this one.… More
I’ve only now had the opportunity to catch up with EPA’s proposed reconsideration of its approach to cost-benefit analysis for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. I don’t know whether I’ve gone down a rabbit hole or it’s just that the law is an ass. Either way, it’s not good news.
A lot of proverbial ink has been spilled regarding the Trump administration’s proposal to amend the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The administration has focused on what it views as a more reasonable legal interpretation of the historical scope of the term. It has also emphasized returning authority to the states and providing more certainty to landowners.
In August, a judge in South Carolina issued a nationwide injunction against the “Suspension Rule,” which delayed the effective date of the 2015 Waters of the United States rule. Now, a judge in Washington state has gone even further. Judge John Coughenour has vacated the rule.
The core of the new decision is the same as that in South Carolina. … More
Being a poor country environmental lawyer, I don’t often delve into the academic world. I therefore just recently caught up to the article written last year by my friend Dan Esty. Red Lights to Green Lights: From 20th Century Environmental Regulation to 21st Century Sustainability, is a wonderful synthesis of a lot of work on how to build a better regulatory mousetrap.
The title does not exactly roll off the tongue,… More
As readers of this space know, I have been mystified by the opposition in Massachusetts to obtaining delegation of the NPDES Program. In my temperate way, I have called it an embarrassment.
I have just learned that Idaho was recently delegated authority to operate the NPDES program. Now, only Massachusetts, New Mexico, and New Hampshire remain undelegated.
The Boston Globe said that the current arrangement has worked. … More
EPA’s Latest Particulate Review Shows Impacts Below the Current NAAQS. How Will Trump Avoid Doing Something About It?
Last week, EPA posted its draft Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter. It’s the foundational document for EPA’s periodic review of its National Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM. The current standard for PM2.5, promulgated in 2012, is 12 ug/m3.
Section 109 of the Clean Air Act requires the Administrator to set the NAAQS “requisite to protect the public health” with “an adequate margin of safety.”
The new ISA states that:
Evidence from U.S.… More
Earlier this month, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted something of a reprieve to EPA’s New Source Review enforcement initiative. The Court first confirmed what everyone other than EPA and DOJ already knew – that failure to get a pre-construction permit is a one-time offense, so that penalty claims for alleged violations more than five years prior to filing are barred by the statute of limitations.… More
Are Discharges to Groundwater Potentially Subject to the Clean Water Act? A Circuit Split Tees It Up.
The Sixth Circuit ruled earlier this week that discharges to groundwater are not subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction. We now have the requisite circuit split, opening the possibility of Supreme Court review. For those who might still be open-minded, I commend both the majority and dissenting opinions in the 6th Circuit; they are each as clear and as persuasive as they could be.
Although I have long thought that it does not make sense to regulate discharges to groundwater under the CWA,… More
Earlier this week, the Climate Leadership Council released an analysis demonstrating that the “Baker Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan” would result in greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions than the US committed to attaining under the 2015 Paris agreement. I don’t doubt that the CLC analysis is right. If I had to guess, I’d predict that they probably underestimate the reductions that would be reached with a robust carbon tax.… More
EPA has finally released its proposed replacement for the Clean Power Plan, dubbed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule. More affordable than clean, I’d say.
What’s really telling is that EPA’s own analysis shows that the CPP would have delivered significantly more benefits than ACE. And that goes for both direct benefits in GHG emissions reductions and indirect benefits related to reductions in traditional criteria pollutants.… More
On Friday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated EPA’s “Delay Rule”, which postponed compliance with EPA regulations governing preparation of Risk Management Plans under the Clean Air Act. The decision comes only one day after another court decision vacating the “Suspension Rule” which postponed the Waters of the United States Rule.
Memo to EPA General Counsel’s office. If something labeled “Delay Rule” or “Suspension Rule” comes across your desk,… More
On Thursday, the Trump Administration’s “Suspension Rule,” which delayed implementation of the Obama Waters of the United States Rule for two years was struck down. Judge David Norton of the District of South Carolina issued a nationwide injunction against the rule.
It’s important to note that the case was not about the merits of the WOTUS rule. It was simply about the Trump administration’s failure to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act in promulgating the Suspension Rule.… More
Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered EPA to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos within 60 days. It’s another fairly devastating indictment of the Trump administration.
First of all, the merits were pretty clear. Clear enough that the administration did not attempt to defend the case on the merits! The statutory language requires EPA to ban pesticides from use on food products unless:
There is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide.… More
So the Trump administration has formally proposed to roll back CAFE standards for model years beginning in 2021. And California has announced its intention to start separately enforcing its own standards if the federal standards are weakened. Trying to sort it all out, I was somehow reminded of the famous Winston Churchill statement:
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe.… More
According to Greenwire (subscription required), EPA has acknowledged that it possesses no records providing a factual basis for claims made by Scott Pruitt that GHG emissions are not a primary contributor to global warming.
As we noted in June, EPA opposed a FOIA request seeking documents supporting Pruitt’s statements, and the Court ordered EPA to provide responsive documents. Except that, apparently, there aren’t any.… More
Score One For Rational Regulation: The 2nd Circuit Rejects Environmental and Industry Challenges to EPA’s Cooling Water Intake Structure Rule
On Monday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected all challenges to EPA’s cooling water intake structure rule. Notwithstanding the Court’s rejection of the industry challenges, it’s a big win for industry. As I noted when the rule was promulgated, industry dodged a major bullet when EPA decided not to require closed-cycle cooling at existing facilities.
The decision is really all about Chevron deference and is another bit of evidence in support of my ongoing effort to demonstrate that conservatives might want to be careful what they wish for when they discuss overruling Chevron.… More
Earlier this month, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on challenges to EPA’s National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants from the brick and clay industries. The Court granted the environmentalists’ petitions almost in their entirety and denied the industry petitions in their entirety.
The decision is not really surprising, because EPA had failed to justify a number of the decisions that it made. … More
Last week, EPA and the Army Corps issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in support of their efforts to get rid of the Obama WOTUS rule. It’s a shrewd but cynical document. It’s shrewd, because it fairly effectively shifts the focus from the scientific question to the legal question. Instead of asking what waters must be regulated to ensure that waters of the United States are protected,… More
The decision last week in City of Taunton v. EPA did not break any new ground, but it is certainly a reminder of just how much of an uphill battle it is to challenge an NPDES permit.
The City of Taunton challenged EPA’s decision to include a numeric limit for nitrogen in Taunton’s renewed permit. The Court rejected all of Taunton’s challenges in a tone that,… More
The debate over the definition of “Waters of the United States” goes on and on. I tend to think that Kennedy’s “significant nexus” test was a reasonable approach to making sense of a vague statute. I also think that the Obama administration definitional rule was supported by good science.
What we sometimes lose track of in the ongoing debate is that the definition – whatever we choose – matters,… More
Earlier this week, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a District Court opinion and held that West Virginia had not “constructively submitted” no TMDLs for waters affected by ionic toxicity. (And, yes, that sentence is difficult to parse.)
The basic issue is pretty simple. The responsibility for promulgating TMDLs in the first place belongs to the states. Once a state submits TMDLs to EPA,… More
EPA Must Produce Any Agency Records Supporting Administrator Pruitt’s Statement that Human Activity Is Not the Largest Contributor to Climate Change
Last Friday, EPA was ordered to produce documents, in response to a FOIA request, on which Administrator Pruitt relied in stating on CNBC that: “I would not agree that [carbon dioxide] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” and “there’s a tremendous disagreement about of [sic] the impact” of “human activity on the climate.”
I’ve done a fair number of FOIA requests in my time. … More
I’ve posted a lot over the years about the role of EPA’s Science Advisory Board in judicial review of agency decisions. The short version is that, on scientific questions, EPA’s going to be on thin ice if its regulatory decisions are inconsistent with SAB advice. Recently, I’ve speculated on the level of deference that EPA will get on scientific issues if it starts to ignore scientific consensus. … More
Last Friday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated EPA’s rule adding the West Vermont Drinking Water Contamination Site to the National Priorities List, finding EPA’s decision to be arbitrary and capricious and not supported by substantial evidence. As the opinion makes clear, EPA has to work pretty hard to lose these cases.
Why did EPA lose?
The critical issue was whether the overburden and bedrock aquifers beneath the site were directly connected. … More
Last month, a decision in a case involving the Lake Erie toxic algae blooms demonstrated some “issues” concerning the nature of cooperative federalism. Such blooms have been a problem for some time and pretty much everyone knows about the 2014 bloom, which left Toledo without water for several days.
Notwithstanding what pretty much everyone who can read or watch the news already knew,… More
Last week, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals – not the most liberal court in the land – joined the 9th Circuit in ruling that discharges from a point source to groundwater can be subject to the Clean Water Act. The decisions follow a number of district court cases to the same effect. It’s hard to deny the trend at this point.
I’ve always been skeptical of these cases,… More
There’s been a lot of discussion regarding EPA’s decision to withdraw EPA’s Mid-term Evaluation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Model Year 2022-2025 Light-duty Vehicles. After pondering for a while, my question is how much deference courts will give to EPA’s decision.
On Wednesday, EPA lost yet another regulatory delay case. After the Obama EPA promulgated rules updating requirements concerning certification and use of “restricted use pesticides” in January 2017, the Trump EPA purported to delay the rule’s implementation date five separate times. According to the Court, EPA provided no notice and opportunity to comment on four of those occasions; once, they provided a four-day (yes, four) comment period.… More
Today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected environmental and state/industry challenges to EPA’s Regional Haze Rule. In essence, the ruling confirms that EPA was reasonable in determining that compliance with its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule was sufficiently stringent to constitute “better-than BART” and thus could excuse states from complying with Best Available Retrofit Requirements where they are subject to CSAPR.
Boy, that was a mouthful.… More
OMB Reports that the Benefits of Regulation Exceed the Costs. The President Knows that Can’t Be Right
Late last month, to no fanfare whatsoever, OMB released its annual report on the costs and benefits of federal regulations. There’s a reason that the Administration did not give the report any attention. The report states that, for the 10-year period ending September 30, 2016, the benefits of major Federal regulations ranged from $219 billion and $695 billion, while the costs ranged between $59 billion and $88 billion. … More
The Trump administration. The gift that keeps on giving to bloggers. After posting last week about the order requiring DOE to send its energy efficiency standards to the Federal Register for publication, I noted that that regulatory delay cases were going to have to become a regular feature in this space. Lo and behold, on the same date, Judge Jeff White rejected EPA’s “Delay Rule” that would have postponed compliance deadlines under the Formaldehyde Act. … More
Last week, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down EPA’s rule implementing the 2008 ozone standards. My primary take-away? The structure of the Clean Air Act is so dense and so complicated that it gives me a headache, and I do like to think I’m something of an expert. Those of us who believe in government regulation need to be honest and admit that there’s a reason why some people become Libertarians. … More
President Trump’s infrastructure plan includes a number of important proposals. My initial reaction is consistent with my view of many of the President’s initiatives – he gives regulatory reform a bad name. We do need to reform the way we implement infrastructure projects in the US, but this President is not the one to lead the effort.
Here are some of the problems I see.
In November, Attorney General Sessions issued a memorandum prohibiting DOJ from issuing regulations disguised as guidance.
Now, DOJ has taken the prohibition a step further. It will no longer rely on guidance issued by other agencies when taking civil enforcement action. The memorandum has made the regulated community and the NGO community sit up and take notice.
I am sympathetic to the concerns raised in the Sessions memo. … More
NGOs Again Fail to Establish that EPA Has a Non-Discretionary Duty Under the CWA Stormwater Regulations
Last month, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Conservation Law Foundation’s argument that EPA had a non-discretionary duty to require persons owner property where stormwater runoff contributes to an exceedance of a TMDL to obtain NPDES permits. Now, Judge George Russell has ruled that EPA does not have non-discretionary duty under the Clean Water Act to determine whether commercial, institutional, and industrial users contribute to a violation of water quality criteria in the Back River watershed. … More
Earlier this week, EPA was ordered to take final action on a Clean Air Act § 126(b) petition filed by the State of Connecticut, asserting that emissions from the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station in Pennsylvania contribute to nonattainment in Connecticut. EPA did not dispute liability; it had clearly missed the original statutory deadline. The case was all about the remedy. EPA asked to be given until December 31,… More
Settling Federal Environmental Enforcement Claims — Some Payments to Third Parties May Be Allowed (But Not Many)
Earlier this month, Jeffrey Wood, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources issued a memorandum expanding on Jeff Sessions’ memorandum of June 5, 2017, generally barring payments to third parties as part of government settlements. (And, yes, I know there should be another “s” after the apostrophe, but I’m hereby announcing a new rule; if I can’t pronounce it, I’m not writing it!) The Wood Memorandum affirms – of course – the June 5 Memorandum,… More
Last week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Conservation Law Foundation’s argument that EPA’s acceptance of TMDLs in Rhode Island and Massachusetts carried with it a concomitant obligation to require permits of landowners contributing to violations of the TMDLs. Easy cases make good law.
CLF’s position was simple. EPA’s approval of the TMDLs meant that EPA had determined that stormwater controls are needed. … More
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that challenges to the WOTUS Rule must be heard in the district courts. At a certain level, the decision was easy and obvious – as evidenced by the absence of any dissent.
After all, the Clean Water Act does assign jurisdiction to the district courts of all cases under the Act other than in seven specifically identified categories,… More
If this Administration’s first year has taught us anything, it is that determining when EPA has an affirmative duty to act is going to be very important over the remaining 3 (or 7!) years of the Trump presidency. That was the subject of last week’s decision in A Community Voice v. EPA, in which the 9th Circuit ordered EPA to issue a proposed rule updating its lead paint standards within 90 days,… More
In July, EPA released the recommendations of the Superfund Task Force. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a FOIA request, looking for documents related to the operation of the Task Force. This week, the AP reported on EPA’s defense of the inevitable law suit that PEER filed when EPA did not turn over any documents.
It turns out that, according to Johnny Walker,… More
I’ve noted numerous times that the NSR program is incomprehensible gibberish. These are scientific and objective comments. The most recent example of this is the DTE litigation, in which a one-judge minority somehow ended up writing the opinion of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, allowing EPA enforcement claims against DTE Energy to continue.
The question in DTE Energy is whether EPA can second-guess a generator’s pre-construction prediction of future actual emissions and bring a claim for an NSR violation – even where post-project actual emissions did not show a significant net increase in emissions. … More
On Tuesday, the Boston Globe joined most local environmental organizations in opposing delegation of the NPDES program to Massachusetts. How wrong is this? Let me count the ways.
- Donald Trump
- Even recognizing, as the Globe points out, that presidential administrations are only four years, does anyone seriously expect the federal EPA budget to be anything other than massively underfunded for the foreseeable future?…
Whether the Clean Water Act regulates discharges to groundwater has been a topic of significant debate. At this point, there seems to be something of a trend in the cases towards concluding it does, but it remains true that all of the courts of appeal that have addressed the issue have concluded that it does not. As I have noted, the problem with the “yes” answer is that pretty much all groundwater eventually discharges to surface water,… More
Last week, the government released the Climate Science Special Report, the first volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment. It makes grim reading – or perhaps more accurately, grim reaper – reading. Here’s what we might call the executive summary of the Executive Summary. First, the bottom line:
This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases,… More
As regular readers know, the tension between guidance and regulation is one of my favorite topics. My view is that, in general, guidance is too often used simply to avoid notice and comment rulemaking and that, once issued, it is treated by those implementing it in the agency street-level bureaucracy as though it were a rule. Nonetheless, guidance is sometimes appropriate. The recent decision in Sierra Club v.… More
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt today issued a Directive prohibiting the practice of “sue and settle.” He also issued a Memorandum to senior staff explaining in more detail some of the concerns about “sue and settle.” They are two very strange documents.
As to the substance of how EPA will handle future citizen suit claims, there are some specific concrete steps which individuals and groups across the political spectrum actually can support. … More
In June, I posted about Foley’s brief in support of those challenging Executive Order 13771, the so-called “2 for 1” EO. By ignoring the benefits of existing and proposed regulations, the Order ignores the purposes behind the legislation pursuant to which regulations are promulgated. The Order is thus the definition of arbitrary and capricious.
In 2011, the National Parks Conservation Association sued EPA for failure to enforce the regional haze requirements of the Clean Air Act. EPA and the NPCA settled in 2012, establishing a schedule by when SIPs or FIPs had to be promulgated. The only state remaining is Texas. After several extensions, EPA is required to approve a SIP or promulgate a FIP by September 9, 2017. You can hear the clock ticking.… More
Earlier this week, a divided 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed entry of a consent decree between the Sierra Club and EPA, resolving litigation over EPA’s failure to promulgate attainment designations for the sulfur dioxide NAAQS under the Clean Air Act.
I would have thought that entry of the settlement would be fairly straightforward. EPA misses deadlines with some regularity. Persons sue over such failures with some regularity. … More
In a very interesting – and extremely rare – case, Emhart Industries has successfully defended itself against a unilateral administrative order issued by EPA under CERCLA, on the ground that key decisions made by EPA were arbitrary and capricious. The decision, concerning the Centredale Manor Restoration Project Superfund Site, is worth a read for CERCLA practitioners, even though it weighs in at 108 pages.… More
Earlier this week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down part of an EPA rule promulgated pursuant to the Montreal Protocol. The section that was struck down would have required manufacturers of HFC-134a, which is not ozone-depleting and which had previously been determined by EPA to be an acceptable replacement for ozone-depleting compounds, to find other replacements, because EPA determined in 2015 that HFC-134a did not “reduce overall risks to human health and the environment.” Why? … More
Earlier this week, Scott Pruitt released the results of the Superfund Task Force he established in May. Though skeptical, I was pleased at the creation of the task force and goals he established for it. With the release of the report, my skepticism has returned.
First, the report and Pruitt’s memo about it repeat the claptrap about restoring “the Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission.” Since he keeps repeating that statement,… More
Yesterday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals remanded EPA’s MACT standards for PCBs, polycyclic organic matter, and hexachlorobenzene to EPA. Rather than setting specific MACT standards for these compounds, EPA regulated them through “surrogates,” commonly particulate matter. The Sierra Club and others argued that EPA did not adequately justify the use of surrogates.
The three-part test for the adequacy of a surrogate is clear and worth repeating:
(1) the relevant hazardous air pollutant is invariably present in the proposed surrogate;… More
On Thursday, EPA extended the compliance deadline for its General Permit for Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems for one year, until July 1, 2018. The move almost certainly prompted a collective sigh of relief among both small municipalities directly subject to the rule and developers who would be indirectly impacted, as MS4s struggle to comply.
EPA gave several reasons for the delay:
- The MS4 permit had been challenged,…
Earlier this week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals handed environmentalists at least a temporary win in what I think was the first case to reach judicial decision in Scott Pruitt’s great environmental roll-back tour of 2017. The Court rejected EPA’s effort to stay the effective date of the New Source Performance Standards for fugitive emissions from oil and natural gas operations, pending EPA’s reconsideration of certain aspects of the Obama-era rule.… More
EPA Does Not Have a Non-Discretionary Duty to Assess the Impact of Clean Air Regulations on Employment
Yesterday, the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed a District Court decision and rejected the lawsuit by Murray Energy which argued that EPA had a non-discretionary duty under § 321(a) of the Clean Air Act to:
conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provision of this chapter and applicable implementation plans,… More
Earlier this week, EPA and the ACOE began implementing the Trump administration’s efforts to deconstruct the Obama rule defining “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. EPA and the ACOE submitted for Federal Register publication a proposed rule that would temporarily restore the WOTUS definition that existed prior to the promulgation of the Obama rule in 2015, while they go about drafting a narrower definition.… More
Earlier this week, Attorney General Sessions issued a brief memorandum barring DOJ from entering into any civil or criminal settlement that would provide for a payment by a defendant to any non-governmental person that is not a party to the dispute.
Where does this leave the common practice of mitigating enforcement penalties through the implementation of Supplemental Environmental Projects? Hanging on by a thread, I’d say.… More
On Monday, on behalf of our client, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Foley Hoag filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in the case challenging President Trump’s Executive Order 13771, the so-called “2 for 1” EO. One paragraph from the brief pretty much summarizes the argument:
It is important to note, as Executive Order 13771 acknowledges, that agencies are already required,… More
Last week, I offered less than fulsome praise of EPA Administrator Pruitt’s announcement that he was taking control of remedial decisions for big Superfund sites. Now, he’s followed up with a memorandum announcing establishment of a task force to look at ways to reform Superfund implementation. While he’s still plainly wrong in putting Superfund “at the center of the agency’s core mission,” I have to confess that I think he otherwise has pretty much hit a home run with the latest memorandum.… More
Last week, EPA Administrator Pruitt issued a memorandum requiring that all Superfund remedies estimated to cost at least $50 million be approved by the Administrator. I’m not optimistic that this will cure, or even ameliorate, what ails CERCLA.
First, the memorandum gets off on precisely the wrong foot. Administrator Pruitt states that:
The Superfund program is a vital function of the U.S.… More
Does Chevron Ever Permit EPA to Rewrite a Statute? EPA’s Release Reporting Exemptions Are Struck Down
On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated EPA’s final rule governing reporting of air releases from animal feeding operations. The Court found that EPA had no statutory authority to exempt AFOs from the reporting regulations.
The decision is also important because it is another in a recent line of cases regarding the extent of agency authority to interpret statutes. The issue was whether EPA had authority to exempt smaller AFOs from reporting requirements,… More
Earlier this week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected challenges to the Federal Implementation Plan EPA promulgated after finding that Arizona’s regional haze State Implementation Plan was inadequate. I think that the result is both correct and unsurprising.
However, one part of the opinion – a recitation of black-letter law – caught my eye. In discussing the standard of review, the court noted that the arbitrary and capricious standard is “highly deferential.” No surprise there. … More
Make no mistake, the Executive Order signed by President Trump at EPA yesterday is a big deal. Time will tell whether the Administration’s U-turn on the Obama rules currently in litigation, such as the Clean Power Plan and the rule on fracking on federal lands will make any difference to judicial review of those rules. There are plenty of states and NGOs ready to step into EPA’s and BLM’s shoes to defend those rules.… More
When EPA approved total maximum daily loads for the Charles River, but failed to require NPDES permits for persons discharging stormwater to the Charles, CLF sued. CLF alleged that EPA violated a non-discretionary duty when it failed to require the permits. Last Friday, Judge Richard Stearns dismissed CLF’s suit.
EPA’s regulations provide that it will issue NPDES permits where it:
Determines that the discharge,… More
On Wednesday, federal Judge Christopher Cooper ordered EPA to promulgate emissions standards for 13 sources of hazardous air pollutants by June 30, 2020. EPA admitted that it missed statutory deadlines to do so; the only argument was over how much time EPA should have. EPA asked for 4 ½ years, while the plaintiffs suggested two. Judge Cooper pretty much split the difference.
Why is the case important? … More
The conservative cases in support of Chevron deference keep arriving. This week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s federal implementation plan for compliance with its regional haze regulations by the Navajo Generating Station, which is apparently the largest coal-fired power plant in the western United States. Environmentalists challenged the FIP on a number of grounds, including EPA’s decision to grant Navajo Generating emission credits for some early NOx reductions as well as the amount of time the FIP gave the facility to attain the required reductions.… More
Earlier this month, Trump transition team member David Schnare sent a memorandum to EPA Assistant Administrators and Regional Administrators. The one-paragraph memo directs AAs and RAs:
to identify and send upward any proposed decisions or final agency actions for the Administrator’s review which, in the judgement of the Acting RA’s and AA’s would limit the flexibility of the States, limit energy resource use,… More
On Tuesday, President Trump issued another executive order on the environment, this time directing EPA to revisit the EPA rule defining Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act. It’s a curious order, for a number of reasons.
First, Section 1 of the EO states as “Policy” that “minimizing regulatory uncertainty” is in the national interest. Well, the purpose of the WOTUS rule was pretty much to reduce the regulatory uncertainty surrounding the definition of WOTUS. … More
Acting in response to state legislation, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection ceased work on promulgation of total maximum daily loads related to ionic toxicity. Ionic toxicity is a consequence of mountaintop removal coal mining. In case you weren’t aware, the coal industry has a certain amount of political clout in the Mountain State (and can they keep the nickname if they chop the tops off of all of their mountains?).… More
Earlier this week, the Climate Leadership Council rolled out The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends (note the absence of the “T” word in that title!). It’s a serious proposal and, if we lived in a world of facts, rather than alternative facts, it would be a useful starting point for a discussion.
Here are the highlights:
- A gradually increasing carbon tax,…
Last Monday, in a comprehensive, 189-page opinion, Judge Rodney Sippel ruled that Ameren Missouri had violated EPA’s PSD regulations by failing to get permits for upgrades in 2007 and 2010 at its Rush Island facility. As I noted when Judge Sippel denied cross-motions for summary judgment, the result is not really a surprise.
Moreover, Judge Sippel’s decision is not based on any extreme reading of the law. … More
With GOP control of Congress and the White House, conservatives appear to have Chevron deference in their crosshairs. Put simply, I don’t get it. There are at least two good reasons why conservatives should prefer Chevron deference to no deference.
First, the alternative is for courts to decide all questions of agency authority. But haven’t conservatives railed against unelected judges for years? … More
Earlier this month, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that NPDES permit holders must comply with all of the terms of their permits. I’m not sure why this should be earthshattering news, but the case does have some relevance for defining the scope of the permit shield.
The case involved the Fola Coal Company and the recurring issue of high conductivity resulting from surface coal mining operations. … More
The NSR Regulations Still Make No Sense: The 6th Circuit Reverses the DTE Decision Based on a 1-Judge Minority Opinion
Last week, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed – for the second time – a District Court decision granting summary judgment to DTE Energy in the United States’ case alleging that DTE Energy had violated EPA’s NSR regulations. According to the 6th Circuit, EPA has authority to bring an enforcement action against DTE Energy, notwithstanding that the regulations don’t provide for EPA review of DTE Energy’s emissions projections prior to construction and also notwithstanding that the project did not in fact result in a significant net emissions increase.… More
Earlier this week, Judge Mary Lisi, of the District Court of Rhode Island, dismissed the Conservation Law Foundation’s Residual Designation Authority law suit against EPA. CLF had asked the Court to order EPA to require permits from stormwater dischargers alleged by CLF to be contributing to exceedances of the Total Maximum Daily Load established by Rhode Island for certain impaired water bodies.
CLF alleged that EPA’s approval of the TMDLs constituted a determination that certain stormwater dischargers were contributing to exceedances of water quality criteria and that the controls on these dischargers are necessary to meet the TMDL and thus attain the water quality criteria.… More
As I noted last spring, the Baker administration had filed legislation to support NPDES delegation to Massachusetts. At the time, I supported the delegation effort and pleaded with my friends in the environmental community to support it. Sadly, my pleading fell on deaf ears and the legislation was not enacted.
In supporting the legislation, I pointed out that it would be foolish to oppose delegation on the ground that a Democratic administration in Washington would do a better job protecting the environment from evil polluters than a Republican administration in Boston. … More
As I noted when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed EPA’s disapproval of Texas’s regional haze plan, EPA had pretty much no chance of winning. Although the parties then stayed the litigation to talk settlement, EPA announced yesterday that it was seeking a voluntary remand of the final rule. You don’t have to be privy to any confidential information to draw the conclusion that a certain election on November 8 rather drastically reduced EPA’s leverage in those negotiations.… More
- It’s still going to be difficult to amend the key statutes, unless the GOP goes nuclear with the filibuster rules. I don’t see Clean Air Act amendments happening. Significant amendments might be possible to the Endangered Species Act and Superfund.…
Last week, DOE announced that transportation sector CO2 emissions in the US exceeded power sector CO2 emissions for the first time since 1978. Why? The combination of increasing vehicle miles traveled in the transportation sector and the decreasing use of coal in the power sector is certainly most of the answer.
The real question is whether this is good news or bad news.… More
Last week, Judge John Preston Bailey ruled that EPA had violated a non-discretionary duty by failing comply with the requirement of § 321(a) of the Clean Air Act that it:
Conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provision [sic] of the Clean Air Act….
I’ve noted in the past that good lawyering matters. … More
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 from such redefinition of the source. … More
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.
On Friday, the D.C. Circuit largely upheld EPA’s Boiler MACT rule. The 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
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,…
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
On July 1, EPA promulgated an interim final rule making inflation adjustments to the civil penalties under statutes it administers. The adjustments are required by statute. The new amounts apply to violations that occurred after November 2, 2015 and that are assessed after August 1, 2016, which is the effective date of the rule.
The rule has a handy table to locate the new penalty amounts,… More
An article published Friday in Science reports that the Antarctic ozone hole is 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
Before getting to the details, it’s worth emphasizing what a significant accomplishment it was to get TSCA reform passed in the current Congress. It’s also enlightening, because the message of TSCA reform may be that reform of existing legislation is possible,… More
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. I 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
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” are 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
Dylan Thomas said “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
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.
Last week, EPA issued its “Supplemental Finding”, confirming that it still believes that its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are “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
As announced in the Federal Register this week, EPA finally released the General Permit for small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems in Massachusetts (say that three times fast!)
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 events. … More
According to the trade press, today’s argument in Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes did not go well for the government. Pretty much the entire Court was seen as likely to conclude that Corps jurisdictional determinations are final agency subject to judicial review. The reach of Sackett expands a bit more.
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
At 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
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. True, 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
Earlier this week, the 9th Circuit denied Arizona’s challenge to EPA’s decision to reject Arizona’s SIP addressing regional haze requirements 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
Yesterday, the Supreme Court stayed EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule. No matter how much EPA and DOJ proclaim that this says nothing about the ultimate results on the merits, the CPP is on very shaky ground at this point.
Last week, we wrote about an audit that MassDEP is conducting of previously closed sites to look for high concentrations of TCE in soils and groundwater. The intent of the audit is to address potential vapor intrusion. The EPA has been paying attention to VI as well, and last Wednesday proposed to add vapor intrusion as a factor to be considered when evaluating the hazards posted by a contaminated site.… 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 standard 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.
Last month, I went out on a limb and predicted that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals would not stay the CPP. Today, the Court vindicated my faith in judicial rationality and refused to grant a stay. In a brief order, the Court simply stated that “Petitioners have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.”
The Court did expedite briefing,… 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
When EPA assesses the costs and benefits of environmental regulations, it typically looks at direct health impacts resulting from exposure to pollutants. According to a recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by Evan Herrnstadt and Erich Muehlegger, EPA may need to start assessing the costs of another set of pollution impacts – violent crime. In Air Pollution and Criminal Activity: Evidence From Chicago Microdata,… More
Yesterday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to vacate EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The decision was not a surprise. As I noted earlier this fall, there is a definite trend towards refusing to vacate complex EPA rules. Where the rule is sufficiently complicated and EPA can tell any kind of credible story that maintaining a slightly tarnished rule is better than no rule at all,… More
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 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
On Wednesday, EPA provided notice of its new “eDisclosure Portal”. Going forward, self-disclosures under EPA’s Audit Policy and its Small Business Compliance Policy will be made via the web-based portal.
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
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
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 is upheld this time around? … More
Earlier this month, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum on “Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment.” If 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
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 (though I certainly have clients who would not object if OSWER sank without a trace),… More
So the Clean Power Plan has been published in the Federal Register. For those who cannot get enough, you can find all of the important materials, including EPA’s Technical Support Documents, on EPA’s web site for the CPP.
Not surprisingly, given the number of suits brought before the CPP was even finalized, opponents were literally lining up at the courthouse steps to be the first to sue. … 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, in 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.…
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. The 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,…
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, but 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
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 SIP. 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
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
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
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
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
Having gotten the Clean Power Plan out the door, EPA has moved on to another target of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: landfill methane emissions. Late last week, EPA proposed both new emission guidelines for existing landfills and a supplemental proposal to modify the new source performance standards for new or modified landfills. The landfill rule is a somewhat easier lift than the Clean Power Plan.… More
So the Clean Power Plan is out. It’s difficult to be pithy about such a big, sprawling, mess, other than to say that it’s probably about as good as it could be, though that may not be enough. Here are a few items that have caught my eye so far:
- Although the initial deadlines have been eased, the goal of 32% reduction over 2005 emissions by 2030 is a slight increase over the 30% in the draft.…
The Clean Air Act’s good neighbor 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
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
On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s update of its hexavalent chromium MACT 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
On Friday, Judge Claire Eagan dismissed Oklahoma’s latest challenge to EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Yes, that plan. The one that hasn’t been promulgated yet.
Following rejection by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals of a prior law suit, Oklahoma tried again, this time on what it presumably hoped would be more friendly ground, the Northern District of Oklahoma. Not so much.… More
On Monday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s TMDL for the Chesapeake Bay. This 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
The short answer is, yes, though the majority is more wrong.
In fact, the issue in Michigan v. EPA seems so simple that the MATS rule could have been affirmed in a two-page opinion. Judge Scalia notes that the word “appropriate” – on which the entire 44 pages of the majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions focus – is “capacious”. I agree. … More
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.”
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
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
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
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. EPA 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”…
Yesterday, EPA and the Army Corps finally released their long-awaited rule defining “waters of the United States.” I’m actually with EPA and the Corps on this one. It’s an important rule, and I’m glad that EPA and the Corps did finally give up on the guidance approach and issue a rule, but here’s why I don’t see this as earth-shattering.
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. 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
Late last month EPA issued draft guidance on adjusting post-closure periods under RCRA. It’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
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. It’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
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. The 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
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
After Sackett, the question on everyone’s mind was “How far does it go?” The first test of that question was the decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals – not known as a bastion of liberalism – in Belle Company v. Corps of Engineers, holding that a Corps jurisdictional determination is not final agency action subject to judicial review. … More
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 and 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
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
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
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
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
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
In Paradise Lost, John Milton wrote that “easy is the descent into Hell, for it is paved with good intentions.” A 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
In November, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation provided its “Initial Reliability Review” of EPA’s Clean Power Plan. NERC raised a number of concerns about the impact of the CPP on reliability.
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 Watershed 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
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 caused 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
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 States. 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
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.
On Friday, EPA finally released its final rule regulating coal combustion residuals. Facility owners breathed a sigh of relief, as EPA chose to regulate under Subtitle D of RCRA, rather than under the cradle-to-grave provisions of Subtitle C. Given the extensive beneficial reuse of CCRs, EPA clearly made the right call.
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
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
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
Yesterday, EPA finally proposed a revised ambient air quality standard for ozone – except that the agency is still hedging its bets. The Clean Air Science Advisory Committee had previously supported a revised ozone NAAQS of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm. EPA has narrowed the range slightly, proposing a revised NAAQS of from 0.065 to 0.070 ppm, but still has not yet picked a number.… More
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
Transportation Projects Get A Lot Of Deference in Demonstrating Compliance With Air Quality Standards
In a decision late last month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made clear just how much deference agencies can get under the Supreme Court decisions in Chevron and Auer. The question in NRDC v. USDOT was whether, in determining whether a project to connect the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to I-405 was in conformity with the California SIP,… More
If readers have been wondering when GHG regulation would truly feel real, EPA may have delivered the answer yesterday, with its announcement of a $350 million settlement with Hyundai and Kia over allegations of violations of EPA’s GHG tailpipe standards. The details may matter only to those subject to the tailpipe rule, but they do demonstrate that EPA is not merely regulating GHG emissions for show;… More
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 system that’s going to be in place once EPA promulgates a final rule. … More
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. On Monday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the cap-and-trade program adopted by New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.… More
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.
The Union of Concerned Scientists today announced release of a report which attempts to document that the renewable energy “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
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
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 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.
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 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” under 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
Over the past few months, I worked with a number of colleagues from the American College of Environmental Lawyers to provide the Environmental Council of the States with a balanced review of the history and background of how the term “waters of the United States” has been defined and interpreted under the Clean Water Act. In announcing the release of the memorandum, Dick Pedersen, President of ECOS,… 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
On Friday, EPA released its “Policy Assessment for the Review of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards.” EPA staff concluded:
that it is appropriate in this review to consider a revised primary O3 standard level within the range of 70 ppb to 60 ppb. A standard set within this range would result in important improvements in public protection, compared to the current standard,… More
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
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
EPA Publishes Final 316(b) Rule: Flexibility for Generators Means Litigation By Environmental Groups
Last Friday, EPA finally published its § 316(b) rule in the Federal Register. As we noted in May, the rule is more significant for what it does not do – require closed cycle cooling – than for what it does.
Indeed, the rule provides a lot of flexibility for generators. It allows several different options for compliance with the impingement requirements.… 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
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
The Reach of Sackett is Not Infinite: Regulated Facilities May Not Challenge EPA Notices of Violation
After the Supreme Court held in Sackett v. EPA that EPA must provide hearings to those to whom it issues unilateral administrative orders, the regulated community immediately began to wonder how broadly the ruling would sweep. It is clear that EPA’s order authority under similar statutory provisions – such as those in the Clean Air Act – is also subject to Sackett.… 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
As some folks may have heard, EPA proposed emission guidelines for GHG emissions from existing generating units on Monday. Obviously, the rule is a little too complicated to summarize in one blog post, though I’ll try to post on some aspects of it in coming days, if I can figure out a blog-efficient way to do so. Today, I’d like to focus on the big picture.
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
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
As we have noted previously, EPA has had difficulty in promulgating a revised National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone. Whenever the revised NAAQS is issued – and EPA is under court deadline to propose a draft by December 1, 2014 and a issue a final by October 1, 2015 – the actual standard that EPA is likely to issue is coming into focus.
Late last week,… 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
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
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
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
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
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
As I have previously noted, the government’s record in NSR enforcement cases has been going downhill, particularly with important defeats before the 3rd and 7th Circuits’ Courts of Appeals. The latest governmental defeat came late last week, in Pennsylvania v. Allegheny Energy, when Chief Judge Conti granted judgment for the defendants on claims alleging both NSR and NSPS violations.… 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
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
On Monday, EPA released its second external review draft of an updated Policy Assessment on the national ambient air quality standard for ozone. It also released updated draft risk and exposure assessments. To no one’s surprise, the new drafts confirm support for lowering the ozone NAAQS from 75 ppb to a range of 60 ppb to 70 ppb.
Why is this not a surprise? … 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 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
For those of you who were skiing or snorkeling (snorkeling in my case) and missed it, on December 30, EPA announced a direct final rule incorporating the new ASTM 1527-13 standard for site assessments into its all appropriate inquiries rule. Following ASTM’s release of the new standard, EPA’s action was expected, but remains important.
The biggest issue here is what EPA will do regarding the prior standard,… 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
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
In September, I noted that Judge Mark Wolf had dismissed CLF’s law suit challenging EPA’s approval of the TMDLs for the Cape Cod embayments, ruling that CLF did not have standing. CLF, as is its wont, is not going gentle into that good night. It is still raging, raging, at EPA’s decision. More to the point, it has refiled its complaint.
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
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
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.
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
Last Friday, in American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA, Judge Sylvia Rambo upheld EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL. 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
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
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 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
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
President Obama yesterday released his Climate Action Plan, together with a Memorandum concerning EPA’s issuance of rules governing carbon emissions from new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. At a certain level, there is not much new here. The mere existence of the Plan and the commitment to address climate issues is presumably the point.
The Plan does not provide many specifics. … 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
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 – 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.
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
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
On Thursday, in United States v. DTE Energy Company, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals revived EPA’s enforcement action against DTE energy for alleged NSR violations at DTE’s Monroe Power Plant. As the dissent notes, it may be a hollow victory.
The facts trace a familiar NSR enforcement case trajectory. In 2010, DTE commenced a $65 million maintenance project at Monroe,… 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.…
On 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
Yesterday, I did an update on Clean Air Act developments. Today, it’s the Clean Water Act’s turn. According to the Daily Environment Report, EPA will meet its deadline of June 13, 2013 to promulgate a post-construction stormwater rule. I found it interesting that the story states that EPA has nearly completed its cost-benefit analysis for the rule – even though it has not yet made a decision on the size threshold. … More
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
As most readers will know, last year,… More
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
After the oral argument Sackett v. EPA presaged where the decision was coming down, I raised the question whether EPA would try to persuade district courts that nothing really had changed. On occasion, I call them correctly. According to E&E News, Mark Pollins, director of EPA’s Water Enforcement Division, in commenting on Sackett, said
What’s available after Sackett?… More
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%
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
- 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
Yesterday, 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
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.
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
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.
The decision last week by Judge Amy Berman Jackson – an Obama appointee – to reject EPA’s authority to withdraw its “specification” which authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to issue a § 404 permit to the Mingo Logan Spruce No. 1 mine would be important in its own right. In combination with the recent Supreme Court decision in Sackett,… More
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
In 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
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
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
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
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
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
Last week, I noted that the D.C. Court of Appeals had found that the National Association of Home Builders did not have standing to challenge a determination by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers that two reaches of the Santa Cruz River are traditional navigable waters. On Friday, in National Association of Home Builders v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, the NAHB lost yet another standing battle.… 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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
Following 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
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
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
The Pudding Tastes OK, But It’s Not the Treat It Could Be: EPA Issues Its Final Regulatory Review Plan
When EPA issued its preliminary plan in May for review of its regulations, I said that the proof would be in the pudding. Well, EPA has now issued its final plan. My review? The pudding tastes ok, but it doesn’t taste as good and it’s not as filling as it could be.
My major complaint with the preliminary plan was its failure to target the single biggest area for reform –… More
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
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
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 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
Last week, in Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, Judge Henry Kennedy reminded us that, in thinking about whether the existing Clean Air Act requires EPA to address climate change, the actual words of the statute matter. The scope of the climate problem does not obviate the need to parse individual provisions of the CAA and Massachusetts v. EPA did not resolve all issues. … More
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
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
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
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
As much as I’ve always found EPA’s use of unilateral administrative orders under Section 106 of CERCLA to be offensive, I still expected EPA’s authority to withstand challenge. As I noted previously, not every law that is unfair is unconstitutional. At least for now, the issue has probably been laid to rest. Yesterday, the Supreme Court denied GE’s petition for certiorari seeking to appeal the D.C.… More
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
While EPA remains under attack by the GOP-majority House, that doesn’t mean that coal is off the hook. To the contrary, coal remains under attack itself. A number of recent stories demonstrate the multi-pronged effort by those who want to reduce or eliminate use of coal. For example, the Environmental Integrity Project and two Texas-based NGOs just filed suit against the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Fayette Power Project,… More
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
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
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
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
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
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
I 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 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
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
In Cool Hand Luke, Paul Newman is sentenced to two years on a chain gang for cutting the heads off of municipal parking meters. The Mingo Logan Coal Company wants to cut the top off of 3.5 square miles of West Virginia mountaintop. This week, EPA gave the company’s Spruce No. 1 Mine
proposal the death penalty, using its authority under § 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to veto a permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007. … More
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
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
Earlier 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
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
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
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
Bill Hogan at the Kennedy School (shameless plug for alma mater) kindly asked me to speak at a meeting this week of the Harvard Electricity Policy Group. I’ve titled my talk “Carbon Policy When There Is No Carbon Policy.” Several items that came across the wires in the past few days buttress the theory behind my presentation, which is that our current carbon policy really is “A little bit of this,… More
Bismarck is supposed to have said that: "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” EPA apparently disagrees, and has launched a new web site, known as Reg Stat, in order “to increase the transparency of regulatory activity.”
It’s a potentially helpful website. It has some useful data on the types of regulations EPA is pursuing (mostly air during the past five years;… More
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
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.
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
As 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
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
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
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
My partner Robby Sanoff blogged last week about the “Illusion of Finality in CERCLA.” His post addressed City of Emeryville v. Sherwin-Williams, in which the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a person who was not a party to a prior settlement could bring a contribution claim against such a settling party, at least where the new claim involved contamination at a downgradient property,… More
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.
When clients are threatened with citizen suits – and particularly when the threatened litigation involves a matter where EPA or a state regulatory agency is heavily involved, the clients always want to know why they can’t somehow get rid of the citizen suit, given that EPA is on the case. The answer is that they can – but only in limited circumstances.
On a day when ClimateWire reported that thousands of walruses are stuck on land because their usual summer home – sea ice – has disappeared, I’m beginning to wonder whether EPA’s stationary source GHG rules are similarly at risk. It may not be difficult for EPA to brush off a fairly over the top letter from Texas which basically asked EPA “What part of ‘hell no” don’t you understand?”
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
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
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 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
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
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:
- Congress passes environmental protection laws for EPA to implement.
- Those statutes generally provide for EPA to set standards with something like “an adequate margin of safety.”
- EPA does its job.…
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
EPA held a public hearing this week on its proposed MACT standards for industrial boilers. The issue may not be as sexy as climate change, but it’s an important rule and not just for those operating industrial boilers. For example, the cement industry has burned 50 million tires – including steel belts – according to its own data. EPA wants to classify such tires as a solid waste,… More
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
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.
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
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
In 1972, Christopher Stone published his seminal book “Should Trees Have Standing?” That same year, Justice Douglas posed essentially the same question in his dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton, in which he argued that inanimate objects should have standing “to sue for their own preservation.”
When the Burlington Northern decision was first announced, I concluded that “never has the Supreme Court done so much by doing so little.” On May 5, Judge John Mendez, of he Eastern District of California, proved me at least half right. In United States v. Iron Mountain Mines, joint and several liability was imposed on the defendants in 2002. The 2002 decision stated that “given the nature of pollution at the site,… More
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
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
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
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 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
As I have previously noted, Cass Sunstein, now head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB under Obama, has called the precautionary principle “deeply incoherent.” Why? Because, as Sunstein notes, “costly precautions inevitably create risks.”
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.
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 guidance – effective 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
Last year, EPA delayed implementation of the Bush EPA’s Aggregation Rule; at the time, I said that the rule was on life support. Earlier this week, EPA announced that it was formally proposing to revoke the aggregation rule. It looks as though the rule is now off life support and it’s time for the last rites.
The aggregation rule always seemed to me a piece of simple,… More
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
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
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
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
I know that despair is always more fashionable than optimism, but it is sometimes useful to remember that not everything is going to hell in a hand basket. Yesterday, EPA issued a press release announcing publication of its latest report on trends in air quality. The report, titled “Our Nation’s Air: Status and Trends Through 2008”, makes clear that, overall, air quality has gotten significantly better,… More
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Last week, I reported on a decision by EPA Administrator Jackson, in an appeal from a permit issued by the Kentucky Division of Air Quality, to the effect that the developer of an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant, which converts coal to gas for combustion, had to consider use of natural gas as BACT, because the plant already had plans to use natural gas as a startup and backup fuel.… More
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
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
On Wednesday, EPA released a proposal to reduce the primary National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground-level ozone from the 0.075 ppm standard set by the Bush administration in 2008 to a range of from 0.060-0.070 ppm. EPA also proposed to set a secondary standard intended to protect sensitive ecological areas, such as forests and parks.
As almost everyone knows, the 2008 standard was,… More
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 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.
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
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
As anyone not hiding under a rock has by now probably realized, EPA officially announced Monday that it has concluded that GHG from human activity threaten public health and the environment. Since the announcement was not exactly a surprise, the question remains what impact it will have.
In the short run, the timing certainly seems intended to coincide with the Copenhagen talks and help to demonstrate to other nations that the U.S.… 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
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
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
A few weeks ago, we noted EPA’s release of its long-awaited “Tailoring Rule,” specifying how EPA would apply its PSD program under existing Clean Air Act authority to greenhouse gases, once they definitively become a regulated pollutant under the CAA some time next spring. Today, the proposed rule was published in the Federal Register. Comments are due December 28. More
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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 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
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
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
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
The House of Representatives narrowly passed H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 by a vote of 219-212 on Friday, June 26. The bill, the first piece of major legislation on global warming that has passed either house of Congress, is 1,428 pages long, and includes 5 titles covering everything from renewable energy and efficiency to adaptation and transitioning to a clean energy economy. … More
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
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
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
For those who missed it, just a quick note that EPA has once more extended the date by which subject facilities need to prepare or amend SPCC plans to comply with the latest revisions to the applicable regulations. The original compliance date was February 3, 2009; this marks the third time EPA has extended the date. More
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
For those of you who aren’t convinced that Senator Specter’s defection to the Democrats will be the savior of cap and trade legislation, and who are concerned by Senator Durbin’s recent pronouncement that, at this point, there are not 60 votes in the Senate, the question as to how EPA might regulate greenhouse gases under existing authority has taken on greater importance.
The traditional assumption,… More
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
As we mentioned yesterday, the discussion draft of the Waxman-Markey “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” which was released on Tuesday is notable both for what it includes and the significant portions it leaves to be decided at a later date.
In summary, the bill contains four titles:
- a “clean energy” title, which promotes renewable energy through a portfolio standard of 6% in 2012 rising to 25% by 2025,…
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,…
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
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
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
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
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,…
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
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
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
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
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
Coal has taken its lumps this week. Today, legislation was introduced in Congress to require EPA to promulgate MACT standards for mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants within one year of enactment of the legislation.
There has been some suggestion that the legislation was filed simply to prod EPA to drop its appeal of the decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting EPA’s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR),… More
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
As we previously noted, the recent Environmental Appeals Board decision in the Deseret Power matter raised the possibility that CO2 and other greenhouse gases need to be considered in PSD reviews. On December 18, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson issued an interpretation which concluded that GHG still do not need to be considered in PSD reviews.
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
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.
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
On the better late than never front, I finally got around to reviewing the still relatively recent decision in United States v. Cinergy Corp. regarding the scope of injunctive relief available with respect to violations of the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review, or NSR, provisions. Although the decision was issued in mid-October, its significance is great enough to mention here.
As most readers here will know,… More
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
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 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
Opening yet another front in the effort to force EPA to take more aggressive action to combat global warming, the Environmental Defense Fund recently announced its intent to sue EPA for its failure to update emissions standards with respect to emissions of methane from landfills. As EDF has alleged, Section 111 of the Clean Air Act requires that EPA update its New Source Performance Standards every eight years.… More
Has the D.C. Circuit had second thoughts about its decision to vacate EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule? As we noted last month, after Congress pretty much threw up its hands at efforts to salvage some part of CAIR, EPA, states and private stakeholder were left wondering how to proceed. Now, the Court may have provided a life-line to CAIR. In surprise Order issued last week,… More
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
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
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
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’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
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
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
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