The Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to be the new EPA Administrator on a vote of 52-46. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) crossed the aisle to vote in favor of his nomination and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) crossed the aisle to vote against the nomination. The vote followed 30 hours of debate, including an all-nighter last night, as Democratic Party senators voiced their vociferous opposition to his appointment.
In a seventy page opinion, Special Master Ralph Lancaster issued his recommendation to the Supreme Court today concluding that Florida had not met its burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that Georgia should be burdened with a consumption cap on its water use. Key to the Special Master’s ruling was a finding that because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would not be controlled by any decree of Court, a consumption cap remedy would be ineffectual. The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river basin is composed of two major forks, the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee fork that is highly regulated by the Corps in terms of streamflows, and the Flint fork for which there is little to no regulation.
On February 2, 2017, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) issued Guidance in order to clarify last week’s Executive Order (EO) regarding the issuance of administrative rules. The EO requires agencies to identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed for every one newly promulgated regulation. The EO also requires the total incremental costs of all new regulations finalized in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 to be offset by eliminating costs associated with repealed regulations. Continue Reading OIRA Issues Guidance on “Two-for-One” Rule
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reinstated an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement action against DTE Energy (DTE) for violating the New Source Review (NSR) program under the Clean Air Act. This case stems from capital projects undertaken at DTE’s Monroe Power Plant in Monroe, Michigan during a three-month scheduled outage in 2010. DTE had characterized the projects performed during the 2010 outage as routine maintenance, repair and replacement activities, which, if accurate, would exempt them from NSR.
As part of its implementation of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, Public Law 114-182E reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”), EPA recently published two proposed rules, including a proposed rule that would govern the process for active/inactive designations and a proposed rule that would establish the procedure for prioritizing chemicals for risk evaluation. Notably, although EPA has released a pre-publication of a third rule – proposing the process for performing a risk evaluation – that proposal appears to have been caught up in the Administration transition and has not yet been published in the Federal Register.
On January 11, EPA proposed Superfund financial assurance regulations for the hardrock mining industry. The proposal requires owners and operators of certain types of hardrock mines and mineral processing facilities to give financial assurances of their ability to pay for potential releases of hazardous substances from their facilities, including Superfund cleanup costs, health assessment costs and natural resource damages (NRD).
Last month, a federal district court judge excoriated EPA for its failure to take into account the economic impacts of its Clean Air rules as required under § 321 of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”), despite a court order demanding it to do so. § 321, a little known provision of the Act, requires EPA to conduct a continuing evaluation of job losses and plant closures resulting from Clean Air Act implementation or enforcement.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted this morning to recommend confirmation of Scott Pruitt to be EPA Administrator. The vote had been scheduled to take place yesterday, but Committee Democrats boycotted the meeting, preventing a quorum for a vote. The Democrats boycotted the meeting again today, but the Republicans then voted to suspend the Committee’s quorum rules requiring at least two members of the minority party present for a vote. The suspension cleared the way for the Committee to approve Pruitt without any Democrats present.
On January 31, President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Judge Gorsuch, 49, graduated from Harvard Law School and clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White and current Justice Anthony Kennedy. Since 2006, Judge Gorsuch has served on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado.
President Trump continues to focus on streamlining government reviews for large scale infrastructure projects. On January 24, he signed an Executive Order (EO) focused on expediting the permitting process for such projects. In the EO, President Trump stated that “[t]oo often, infrastructure projects in the United States have been routinely and excessively delayed by agency processes and procedures.”