In an October 16, 2017 order signed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, EPA reversed a position it has held for many years — that the Agency has authority, in the context of Title V permitting, to review previous state-level decisions on the applicability of new source permitting requirements. The new policy outlined in the October 16 order removes the Title V petition to object as an avenue for citizens to seek EPA review of state preconstruction permitting decisions.
EPA issued what the Agency is calling “Round 1” of final area designations under the 2015 ozone standard on November 6, 2017. The designations, which will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, November 16, and become effective 60 days later, include only those counties, tribal areas, and territories that EPA has designated “attainment/unclassifiable” — totaling 2,646 counties. EPA also designated 3 counties in the state of Washington as “unclassifiable.” EPA did not designate any nonattainment areas as part of the final rule, but simply noted that it is “not yet prepared to issue designations” for the remaining areas of the U.S.
EPA is currently facing litigation over its June 2017 announcement extending the deadline for designating areas under the 2015 ozone NAAQS by one year, to October 2018, even though the Agency later reversed that decision. On July 12, 2017, a dozen environmental and public health groups sued EPA in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming the Agency did not have authority to extend the deadline for designating areas under the Clean Air Act. Fifteen states followed in their footsteps, filing their own lawsuit challenging the delay on August 1. EPA responded the following day by publicly announcing its intent to withdraw the deadline extension and published official notification of the withdrawal in the Federal Register on August 10. (82 Fed. Reg. 37,218.) Continue Reading EPA Issues Attainment Designations Under the 2015 Ozone Standard But Holds Nonattainment Designations
On November 9, 2017, on the heels of New Jersey’s move to set a maximum contaminant level for certain perfluoroalkyl substances, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to the list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause reproductive toxicity (also known as the Prop 65 list).
On November 1, 2017, New Jersey officials announced that they would set Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for public drinking water systems for PFOA and PFNA, making the Garden State the first in the nation to do so.
On November 2, EPA announced that it plans to hold the public hearing on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan in Charleston, West Virginia and the Agency is extending the deadline for written comments on the rule until January 16, 2018. The hearing will be held on November 28 and 29 from 9 am – 5 pm at the West Virginia Capitol Complex in Charleston. A copy of the press release is available here.
On October 25, 2017, EPA Region 6 announced a settlement with Macy’s department stores for alleged violations of hazardous waste regulations. In the press release, EPA alleged that Macy’s generated thousands of pounds of hazardous waste between 2012 – 2015 and qualified as a small-quantity generator but failed to notify EPA and state authorities. EPA also alleged that Macy’s failed to meet the regulatory requirements for small-quantity generators and did not complete appropriate manifests. As part of the settlement, the company is required to pay a $375,000 civil penalty and, as a supplemental environmental project, develop an internal training and audit program. This settlement demonstrates that EPA Region 6 continues to pursue enforcement actions initiated under the former Administration using evidence from data mining of manifests and records related to hazardous waste generators, big and small. With this EPA action, the current Administration appears to be willing to continue its focus on retail hazardous waste enforcement. Troutman Sanders has extensive experience advising clients on retail hazardous waste management and enforcement. Please contact Greg Blount or Angela Levin for further information.
FERC released a policy statement on October 19, 2017, revising its longstanding approach to setting the license terms for hydroelectric projects. The new policy establishes a default term of 40 years for non-federal projects, which can be shortened or extended in certain identified circumstances. According to Section 6 of the Federal Power Act, the term of a license may not exceed 50 years — the Act sets no minimum license term. It has been FERC’s policy to set a 50-year term for licenses issued to federal projects and to base the license term for non-federal projects on the level of redevelopment, new construction, or environmental mitigation and enhancement slated for the project. For projects involving little to no activity, FERC has set a 30-year term, for a moderate amount of activity, a 40-year term, and for extensive activity, a 50-year term.
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.
A new chapter opened last week in the perennial water wars between Georgia and Florida. After briefing by both sides, including amici, relative to whether Special Master Ralph Lancaster correctly decided that Florida had failed to carry its burden in this original jurisdiction action, the Supreme Court in an October 10, 2017 Order granted oral argument in the case to be heard “in due course.” Presumably, that will yield an argument during the Court’s October Term which usually completes in June or July. Spokesmen for Georgia and Florida welcomed the opportunity to address the Court on the merits.
The dispute involves the water of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin (“ACF Basin”), a network of rivers, dams, and reservoirs that begins in northern Georgia and ends in the Florida panhandle. Georgia and Florida have been disputing the extent of each state’s use of the ACF Basin waters for years but recently, in 2014, the dispute made its way to the United States Supreme Court. There, Florida argued that overconsumption of waters in Georgia, particularly in connection with agribusiness uses on the Flint River, have led to dangerously low flows of waters into Florida from the ACF Basin and the downfall of the Apalachicola Bay’s oyster fishery. Florida requested that the Court cap the amount of water Georgia can use at levels that existed in 1992. Continue Reading Supreme Court Orders Oral Argument On GA-FL Water Wars