On Monday February 12, President Trump unveiled his long-awaited infrastructure plan.  According to President Trump, our country’s infrastructure “is in an unacceptable state of disrepair, which damages our country’s competitiveness and our citizens’ quality of life.”  While some view the plan as a step toward streamlining an environmental review process that could delay a project unnecessarily, others worry the proposal could curtail the authority federal agencies exercise over environmental reviews pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The plan calls for $200 billion to be spent rebuilding roads, bridges, highways, railways, waterways, and other infrastructure over the next ten years.  That money will come from cuts to other programs (particularly within the Department of Transportation) and is not intended—at least as proposed—to come from new revenue streams.  According to President Trump, the proposed changes will generate approximately $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure investment.

Continue Reading Trump Administration Reveals Long-Awaited Infrastructure Plan

On February 14, 2018, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) New Source Review (“NSR”) permitting program as an initial step towards NSR reform.  See https://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings/new-source-review-permitting-challenges-manufacturing-infrastructure/.  Six witnesses presented testimony at the hearing, with four in favor of and two against reform.  There is wide anticipation that EPA will move to adopt some sort of reform of the NSR program, although exactly how and when is not known.  The EPA Administrator this past December issued a Memorandum to the EPA regional administrators providing guidance on “Enforceability and Use of the Actual-to-Projected-Actual Applicability Test in Determining Major Modification Applicability,” and it is expected that further guidance or rulemakings may be forthcoming.  In addition, it is expected that a new effort will be made to reform the program through legislation, with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) having introduced two bills last June on that subject.

On February 1, 2018, the Ninth Circuit published Hawai’i Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui, which applied Clean Water Act (CWA) permitting requirements to well wastewater injections that migrate to the Pacific Ocean through groundwater.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Broadly Interprets Clean Water Act Jurisdiction

On January 25, 2018, EPA’s Assistant Administrator, William Wehrum, issued a memorandum addressing when a “major source” subject to a section 112 maximum achievable control technology (“MACT”) standard of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) can be reclassified as an “area source,” and thus avoid any more stringent requirements that only apply to “major sources.”  The memorandum departs from and supersedes EPA’s longstanding “Once in Always in” (“OIAI”) policy articulated in the May 1995 Seitz Memorandum.  Under the OIAI policy, a major source of hazardous air pollutants (“HAPs”) was permanently subject to the MACT standard at the “first compliance date” of the standard even if the source was able to later limit its potential to emit (“PTE”) HAPs below the major source thresholds.  EPA’s new policy explains that a major source will become an area source once it takes enforceable limits on its PTE to ensure emissions cannot exceed the applicable major source thresholds for HAPS.

Continue Reading EPA Withdraws “Once in Always in” Policy, Removing Disincentive to Reducing Emissions

The scope and definition of critical habitat under Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act has been a controversial subject.  In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 6,477 acres of land in Louisiana (including 1,600 privately-owned acres) as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog, despite the fact that the frogs have not been seen in the state for decades.  Timber company Weyerhauser Co. and private landowner Markle Interests LLC filed suit challenging that designation.  Subsequent to the critical habitat designation for the dusky gopher frog, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, “the Services”) promulgated new critical habitat rules that authorized, among other things, the designation of areas where a species was not actually present as critical habitat for that species.  Thus, the outcome of this case has significant implications for these 2016 rules.

Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Challenge to Designation of Unoccupied Habitat as Critical Habitat Under ESA

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that federal district courts, rather than appellate courts, are the proper venue to challenge the “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) Rule (discussed in a previous blog post here), an Obama-era regulation that expansively defined waters subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction.  Following the Supreme Court decision, the Eleventh Circuit on Wednesday vacated its 2015 decision which held the opposite.  In doing so, it also remanded a challenge to the WOTUS Rule brought by a coalition of states (led by Georgia) in 2015 in the federal district court in Brunswick, Georgia.

Continue Reading Challenge to WOTUS Rule Heads Back to Georgia District Court

Today, in a much-anticipated decision, the Supreme Court unanimously held that district courts are the proper courts to hear challenges to the “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) Rule, an Obama-era regulation that expansively defined waters subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction.  The decision overturns a Sixth Circuit ruling that federal appeals courts maintain the proper jurisdiction to hear such challenges.  Writing for the Court, Justice Sotomayor found that “Congress has made clear that rules like the WOTUS Rule must be reviewed first in federal district courts.”

Continue Reading Supreme Court Decides Jurisdiction for WOTUS Rule Challenges

On January 3, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the User Fees for the Electronic Hazardous Waste Manifest System and Amendments to Manifest Regulations Final Rule (“User Fee Rule” or “Rule”) in the Federal Register (83 Federal Register 420).  While the User Fee Rule does not set e-Manifest user fees, it gives EPA authority to establish user fees and establishes the methodology for EPA to do so.  The Rule becomes effective June 30, 2018.

Continue Reading e-Manifest User Fee Rule Published

This afternoon, EPA announced the details on the three anticipated “listening sessions” in connection with the Agency’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP).   At the same time, EPA noted that it would reopen the comment period on the proposal until April 26th.   The comments are currently due to EPA by next Tuesday, January 16th.   EPA’s Clean Power Plan webpage has been updated to reflect the effective extension of the comment period until late April.  The listening sessions will be held in Kansas City, MO, San Francisco, CA and Gillette WY as follows:

Kansas City Listening Session

Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Time: 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., Central Standard Time (CST)
Location: U.S. Department of Agriculture Beacon Complex, 6501 Beacon Drive, Kansas City, Missouri 64133

San Francisco Listening Session
Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Time: 8:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., Pacific Standard Time (PST)
Location: San Francisco Main Library, Koret Auditorium, 30 Grove Street entrance, San Francisco, California 94102

Gillette Listening Session
Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Time: 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., Mountain Daylight Time (MDT)
Location: Gillette College Technical Education Center, 3251 South 4-J Road, Gillette, Wyoming 82718

On January 9, 2018, the EPA published the third round of final area designations under the 2010 SO2 NAAQS.  In this round, the EPA identified six (6) nonattainment areas located in Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Guam.  EPA designated 23 areas as unclassifiable and all other areas as attainment/unclassifiable.  The primary focus in this round was on those areas electing to rely on ambient air quality modeling to assess attainment with the standard.

Continue Reading EPA Publishes Third Round of Final Area Designations Under the SO2 NAAQS