Exercising one of its most important and far-reaching powers under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has lowered the primary annual National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from 12 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) down to 9 ug/m3, changing the game on air quality permitting for much of the U.S. EPA’s February 7, 2024 final rule, which will become effective 60 days following its publication in the Federal Register, represents a reversal of the Trump administration’s decision to retain the PM2.5 standard of 12 ug/m3 set under the Obama administration in 2012. The lower standard will set off a chain reaction of additional requirements for state air agencies, and ultimately industrial sources, in places designated as nonattainment with the new standard, but one impact of the new standard will be felt almost immediately: increased difficulty in obtaining air permits.Continue Reading EPA Lowers Annual PM2.5 NAAQS, With Immediate Impacts for Air Permitting
At the end of January, a federal judge issued a ruling in a high-profile environmental justice case, Louisiana v. EPA, brought by Louisiana against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The ruling temporarily blocks EPA and DOJ attempts to enforce disparate-impact regulations promulgated under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act against Louisiana state agencies. Beyond that, the decision has potentially significant ramifications for the Biden administration’s ongoing environmental justice initiatives.Continue Reading <em>Louisiana v. EPA</em>: A Turning Point for Title VI and Environmental Justice?
For anyone involved in the first round of the Clean Air Act regional haze program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) action on the first business day of 2024 came as no surprise: EPA proposed to disapprove the regional haze plan for Kansas. If the past is any indication of the future, this proposal foreshadows what will likely be many more regional haze state plan disapprovals over the next 12 months, given that EPA has already been hauled into court once again to force it back on schedule.Continue Reading And so It Begins…EPA Issues First Disapproval of Regional Haze Round Two
On November 30, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI). With this proposal, EPA aims to simplify and expand upon the 2021 Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) and the original 1991 Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). The proposed LCRI outlines aggressive measures to achieve further reductions of lead in drinking water. This initiative brings to the forefront a critical question: Are the potential health benefits projected by EPA enough to justify the scope and extent of the rule and its related hefty price tag?Continue Reading The Long-Awaited Lead and Copper Rule Improvements Have Arrived
On December 26, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published an Interim final rule updating its October final rule restricting the use of some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a key substance used in refrigeration and cooling technologies in residential, commercial, transportation, and industrial settings. The Interim final rule to EPA’s Phasedown of Hydrofluorocarbons: Restrictions on the Use of Certain Hydrofluorocarbons Under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 gives the regulated community a new 45-day notice and comment period to provide input on EPA’s proposed adjustments to the final rule, which restricts the use of HFCs in aerosols, foams, refrigeration, air conditioning, and heat pump equipment.Continue Reading EPA Revises HFC Rule for Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Products
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed listing the northwestern pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) and the southwestern pond turtle (Actinemys pallida) as threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), with a final listing decision likely to occur next year. Listing the turtles would affect large swaths of California, Oregon, Washington, and parts of Nevada — the northwestern pond currently inhabits portions of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, as well as northern and central California, and the southwestern pond turtle is found in central and southern California from northern Monterey County into Baja California, Mexico. The turtles rely on aquatic habitats such as streams, ponds, and adjacent uplands, and they are found from cool coastal regions to the Mojave River watershed.Continue Reading Western Pond Turtle Listing Will Impact Land and Water Managers Throughout the Western U.S.
On November 20, with no fanfare at all, not even a press release, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Draft Guidance: Applying the Supreme Court’s County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund Decision in the Clean Water Act Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Program to Discharges Through Groundwater. This draft guidance is the agency’s second effort to guide implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision, which extends applicability of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program to include the “functional equivalent” of point source discharges of pollutants to waters of the U.S.Continue Reading EPA’s New Proposed Maui Guidance: Underwhelming and Sneaky
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a new regulation to implement the Clean Water Act (CWA) section 401 water quality certification program. Continuing the recent practice of promulgating regulations and then promptly replacing them, EPA’s “CWA Section 401 Water Quality Certification Improvement Rule”(the 2023 Rule) replaces the “Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification Rule” that was finalized in 2020 (the 2020 Rule). The 2023 Rule was published in the Federal Register on September 27, 2023 and will become effective on November 27, 2023. This article provides background on the CWA water quality certification program, followed by a deep dive into the 2023 Rule and how it compares to the 2020 Rule.Continue Reading EPA’s New 401 Certification Rule: Expanded Scope and Unanswered Questions
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formally withdrawn cybersecurity rules it promulgated in March requiring that states report cybersecurity threats to their public water systems (PWS). The reversal comes in the wake of lawsuits filed in the Eighth Circuit in July by Missouri, Arkansas, and Iowa (the states), along with intervenors American Water Works Association and National Rural Water Association (the water associations). As a result of the withdrawal, the states and water associations filed to dismiss their suits.Continue Reading EPA Withdraws Cybersecurity Rule for Public Water Systems
On October 18, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention submitted a final rule for publication in the Federal Register, amending 40 CFR Part 372, involving reporting requirements for per- and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS) and supplier notifications for chemicals of special concern. The rule becomes effective 30 days after publication and applies to the reporting year 2024, with reports due July 1, 2025.Continue Reading US EPA Issues Final Rule on PFAS Relating to Community Right-to-Know and Pollution Prevention Acts