As part of his regulatory reform agenda, President Donald Trump instructed federal agencies to review their regulations to identify requirements that burden businesses and industry. See EO 13771 and EO 13777. In order to comply with these directives, on June 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requested public comments to identify statutes, rules, regulations, and interpretations in policy statements or guidance “that unjustifiably delay or prevent completion of surface, maritime, and aviation transportation infrastructure projects.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently issued a memorandum rolling out a new policy prohibiting settlement payments to third parties. The policy, which is effective immediately, prohibits DOJ attorneys from entering into settlement agreements that include payments to non-governmental organizations or third-party organizations that were not parties to the dispute. The memorandum aims to ensure that settlement funds are used to compensate victims, redress harm, or punish and deter unlawful conduct.
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
Yesterday a group of organizations with ties to the Shenandoah River sued the EPA claiming that EPA violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by approving Virginia’s 2014 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report (Integrated Report) which includes a listing of Virginia’s water quality-impaired rivers. The groups claim that Virginia failed to evaluate data and information showing impairments to the North Fork, South Fork, and main stem of the Shenandoah River and their tributaries (collectively the Shenandoah River) due to algae blooms resulting from nutrient over enrichment, and as a result failed to add the Shenandoah River to the impaired waters list. The groups claim that EPA’s approval of Virginia’s Integrated Report violated the CWA because EPA relied on Virginia’s determination that it is too challenging to apply Virginia’s water quality standards to algal blooms, and therefore EPA failed to require that the Shenandoah River be listed as impaired by excessive algae and that as a result EPA also failed to promulgate a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the pollutants causing the impairment in violation of its obligations under CWA § 303(d)(2). Continue Reading Suit against EPA Claims CWA Violations for Approving Virginia’s Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report
On May 23rd, the Trump administration released its full fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, continuing its call for significant funding cuts for many EPA programs. Consistent with the framework outlined in the administration’s “skinny” budget issued earlier in March, the proposal would cut EPA’s overall budget by 31.4 percent, reducing overall spending from $8 billion in 2017 to $5.7 billion for 2018. The plan would eliminate approximately 20 percent of the agency’s workforce, reducing the number of staff from over 15,000 to approximately 11,600, a reduction of approximately 3,800 jobs.
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.
Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued orders holding litigation challenging two major climate regulations in abeyance—the “Clean Power Plan” and the “Carbon Pollution Standards” for new and modified electric generating units. Both rules were critical components of the Obama Administration’s climate change agenda by requiring steep cuts in CO2 emissions from existing and new power plants, respectively. In the orders, the court granted EPA’s motion to hold the case in abeyance, but only for 60 days. The court also ordered EPA to file status reports every 30 days. The court further directed the parties to submit supplemental briefs by May 15th to address whether the cases should be remanded to EPA instead of held in abeyance.
The orders can be found at the following links: Clean Power Plan & Carbon Pollution Standards. For more information or questions on these cases, please contact Peter Glaser, Margaret Campbell, or Mack McGuffey.
On April 24th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order indefinitely delaying oral argument and holding in abeyance litigation over EPA’s 2015 Startup, Shutdown and Malfunction (SSM) Rule. The order comes in response to EPA’s request for a continuance to allow it to review the SSM Rule for possible modification or repeal. EPA must file status reports on its review of the SSM Rule at 90-day intervals beginning 90 days from the date of the order. Within 30 days of EPA informing the court of what action it has or will take with respect to the rule, parties to the litigation must file motions to govern future proceedings.
In the May 2017 issue of Natural Gas & Electricity, Partner Mack McGuffey offers a summary of the new direction the EPA will take under the appointment of its newest EPA administrator, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. A copy of the article can be obtained here: “Clearing the Air on EPA’s New Chief.” Natural Gas & Electricity 33/10 ©2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., a Wiley company.