The battle over regional haze in Texas continued this week, as EPA published a final rule for the state to address visibility degradation in its national parks. The rule itself appears relatively plain on its face—it simply approves for Texas a regional haze policy that is similar to what EPA has approved for many other states. That is, it deems compliance with an emission trading program to be sufficient to satisfy the regional haze requirement for Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART). However, the Texas rule is the most recent and obvious indication that the Trump EPA is taking a very different tack on regional haze than the Obama EPA.
EPA’s proposed rulemaking to repeal the Clean Power Plan, signed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on October 10, 2017, was published in today’s Federal Register (82 Fed.Reg. 48,035, Oct. 16, 2017). Comments will be accepted on the proposed rule through December 15, 2017. See our analysis of the proposal here.
On October 10, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP was one of the Obama Administration’s signature environmental regulatory initiatives, designed to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fueled electric generating stations. The repeal proposal asks for public comments within 60 days from the day it is published in the Federal Register. It is expected that it will be published relatively quickly in the coming weeks.
On August 22, 2017, EPA released its proposed area designations in the latest round of designations under the 2010 SO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). The proposed designations largely track the states’ recommendations; however, EPA has identified a number of areas, recommended by states as “attainment,” that EPA believes “may be violating” the standard, including areas in Florida, Guam, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and Wisconsin. In addition, EPA has proposed to designate some areas as unclassifiable as opposed to unclassifiable/attainment. EPA has published a table that compares its intended designations with the state recommended designations. https://www.epa.gov/sulfur-dioxide-designations/intended-sulfur-dioxide-area-designations-august-2017
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.
California’s Supreme Court recently upheld the State’s greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade auction program. In a June 28, 2017 order, the Court denied petitions to review a lower court’s ruling that affirmed the program’s legality. Filed by a coalition of industry groups, including the California Chamber, the petitions had alleged that the cap-and-trade program constitutes an illegal tax under Proposition 13 because the law authorizing it, AB 32, was not passed by a two-thirds vote.
The DC Circuit issued a decision on July 3, 2017, vacating the 90-day stay of the Oil & Gas Industry NSPS rules – the first rules to regulate methane from that sector. In a June 5 Federal Register notice, the new Trump EPA stayed the rules pending reconsideration under Section 307(d) of the Clean Air Act. Environmental Groups filed an emergency challenge to the stay, asking for either a stay of that decision or summary vacatur of it. Issuing its decision less than a month later, the court vacated EPA’s stay of the rules.
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.
Yesterday, June 6, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a one-year delay of EPA’s final designation of areas under the 2015 ozone standard. The 2015 standard was issued on October 26, 2015 and tightened the existing 2008 standard from 75 ppb to 70 ppb. In general, EPA is required to issue designations within two years of publication of a new standard. Designations for the 2015 standard were originally due by this October, and EPA would have been required to preview for the states its intended designations at least 120 days in advance of the October deadline – by this August. Continue Reading EPA Extends Deadline for Final Area Designations under the 2015 Ozone NAAQS
In the Rose Garden of the White House, President Trump fulfilled a key campaign promise today by confirming that the United States will begin withdrawing from the Paris Climate Change Agreement (“Agreement”). President Trump cited the Agreement’s potential financial and economic burdens as a key reason for the withdrawal. Continue Reading U.S. to Withdraw from Paris Climate Deal