On August 17, 2017, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published in the Federal Register a final rule designating over 3,900 river miles along the east coast as critical habitat for five distinct population segments (“DPS”) of Atlantic Sturgeon (New York Bight, Chesapeake Bay, Carolina, South Atlantic and Gulf of Maine).  The agency chose these areas based on the presence of “physical or biological factors” (PBFs) essential for the conservation of the species and that may require special management considerations or protection.  Back in 2012, NMFS had listed each of the five Atlantic Sturgeon DPS as either endangered or threatened.  77 Fed. Reg. 5880; 77 Fed. Reg. 5914.  Once a species is listed, the relevant agencies must identify critical habitat for the species.  Under the ESA, impacts to critical habitat must be evaluated in federal permitting actions, in addition to impacts to the species itself.

Continue Reading NMFS Designates Critical Habitat for Atlantic Sturgeon

On August 15, 2017, EPA issued non-binding guidance providing insight of EPA’s expectations for states to assume regulation authority over coal combustion residuals (CCRs).   Comments on this guidance are due September 14, 2017. Under the Water Infrastructure and Improvements for the Nation Act, states may develop their own CCR permit programs that are “at least as protective” as the federal CCR rule.  EPA must review these programs at least every 12 years.  Upon the submission of a program application by a state, EPA will have 180 days to act, which includes a period of public notice and comment.  States may choose not to submit such a program, and instead opt to remain under the federal scheme.

Continue Reading Environmental Protection Agency Issues Guidance on Approving State Permit Programs under the WIIN Act

On July 25, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 398, an extension of California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade program through 2030.  Eight days after being introduced, AB 398 passed the California Legislature with a two-thirds majority vote of 55-22 in the Assembly and 28-12 in the Senate.  AB 398 implements California’s goal of reducing GHG emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, which was codified in SB 32, a bill signed by Governor Brown last year.

Continue Reading California Extends Greenhouse Gas Cap-and-Trade Program Through 2030

Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (“Fourth Circuit” or “the court”) vacated a federal district court’s order requiring EPA to account for the economic impacts of Clean Air Act (“CAA”) regulations.  This decision stems from a suit filed by coal companies claiming that EPA had failed to perform a non-discretionary duty by completing continuous evaluations of job losses and plant closures resulting from CAA implementation or enforcement as required under Section 321 of the CAA.  In a strongly worded opinion, the district court ordered EPA to come into compliance with the requirements of Section 321 by July 2017, an order that EPA subsequently appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Nixes EPA Coal Jobs Review Requirement

As we previously reported, industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, challenged the final Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule (“Final Rule”) in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on February 24, 2017.  The Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on November 28, 2016 (a discussion of the Final Rule and its potential impacts can be found here).  Since our previous post, some updates have occurred in the pending challenge.

Continue Reading Updates in Industry Challenge to Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule

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.”

Continue Reading Trump Begins Rolling Back Regulatory Burdens on Fossil Fuel Energy Production

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

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.

Continue Reading EPA Begins to Implement TSCA Reform; Delays Possible with Transition to New Administration

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.

Continue Reading Senate Committee Votes to Recommend Pruitt Confirmation

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.”

Continue Reading Trump Issues Executive Order Expediting Infrastructure Projects Approvals