Flanked by two dozen coal miners, Vice President Mike Pence, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and joined by various coal state congressmen and industry executives, President Trump visited EPA headquarters yesterday to sign a long-anticipated Executive Order to end the previous administration’s so-called “war on coal.”
Following a short delay caused by the Trump Administration’s January 20, 2017 White House Memorandum halting implementation of several regulatory processes, the rusty patched bumble bee was officially listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “Service”) on March 21, 2017.
Last week, a federal district court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to complete its “risk and technology review” of existing hazardous air pollutant (HAP) rules for 20 industrial sectors within three years. The order comes in response to a lawsuit filed by environmentalists arguing that EPA is years overdue in completing reviews required by the Clean Air Act (CAA). Specifically, the CAA requires EPA to determine whether the HAP standards it has already adopted, though intended to be highly stringent, nevertheless still allow enough HAP emissions to present a risk to public health that may warrant additional restrictions. The industry sectors identified in the court’s order include municipal solid waste landfills, asphalt processing, and stationary combustion turbines. Whereas the challengers had sought a review schedule of one to two years, and EPA asked for a five-year schedule, the court selected a middle ground of three years for EPA to complete all of the reviews. Notably, that will require EPA to complete all of the reviews within the Trump administration.
A copy of the opinion is available here. If you have questions about this order, please contact Mack McGuffey or Andy Flavin.
The Trump administration released its proposed budget today, calling for steep cuts in funding for U.S. EPA. The plan proposes an EPA budget of $5.7 billion, a reduction of $2.6 billion from current levels, representing a 31 percent cut in overall funding.
On February 24, 2017, industry groups challenged the final Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule (“Final Rule”) in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The long-anticipated Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on November 28, 2016 (81 Fed. Reg. 85732). Pursuant to Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) section 7006, petitioners have ninety days from that date to challenge the rule in the D.C. Circuit. Because the ninety-day deadline to challenge the rule expired on Monday, February 27, 2017, no more challenges may be filed. A previous discussion of the Final Rule and its potential impacts can be found here.
Parties that are potentially responsible for residential environmental contamination in North Carolina face broad exposure and unpredictable outcomes. A recent appellate decision limiting damages commercial property owners can recover for environmental contamination to the diminution in value of the property greatly expanded the potential scope of liability for residential environmental claims. The decision recognized a personal use exception that could require responsible parties to pay well in excess of diminished value to remediate or repair residential property. When property claims are coupled with claims for non-economic injuries for diagnosed and undiagnosed conditions, the potential exposure for responsible parties in residential contamination cases can be considerable and vary greatly. A full summary of the decision is available here.
EPA has reportedly been instructed by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) to develop a plan for consolidating its ten (10) regional offices into eight (8) as a way to realize efficiencies and reduce costs. The proposed reduction in the number of regional offices is part of the OMB’s broader budget document for fiscal year 2018, which is reported to propose a 25 percent cut to the agency’s overall budget, a 30 percent reduction in state grants, and a 20 percent cut in personnel. The proposals are preliminary, and President Trump’s official budget outline for FY 2018 is expected to be issued March 16th. The federal fiscal year begins on October 1st.
On March 1, 2017, the Senate confirmed Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior. In grand fashion, Secretary Zinke arrived to his first day of work—at the invitation of the National Park Service (“NPS”) Park Police—riding an Irish sport horse. As Secretary of the Interior, Zinke’s responsibilities will include overseeing the management of national lands, waters and resources through the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), the NPS, the Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”), the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and several other agencies. Secretary Zinke is a former Navy SEAL and a former Republican Congressman from Montana.
Yesterday, the EPA withdrew its request seeking data from the oil and gas industry on methane emissions from existing oil and gas operations, effective March 2, 2017. The 2016 information collection request (ICR) required more than 15,000 owners and operators to provide detailed information about types of equipment, methane sources and emission control devices or practices at oil and gas facilities in the United States. In a brief notice, EPA stated its desire to assess the need for the information targeted by the ICR and reduce burdens on businesses while assessing that need. EPA also highlighted the receipt of a letter from nine state Attorneys General and the Governors of Mississippi and Kentucky expressing their concerns with the burdens imposed on businesses by the ICR. Continue Reading EPA Withdraws Oil & Gas Methane Information Request
In a brief ceremony yesterday, President Trump signed an Executive Order requiring EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the final “Clean Water Rule,” also known as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule to ensure it is consistent with a new policy also laid out in the order to keep the Nation’s navigable waters free from pollution “while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles played by Congress and the States under the Constitution.” Although implementation of the Rule has been stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit pending further court review, the Executive Order also requires EPA and the Corps to review all orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies implementing the Rule and to revise or rescind such rules consistent with the Executive Order.