On October 14, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new interim guidance to expedite approvals that would allow companies to make claims regarding the residual effectiveness of long-lasting surface disinfectants and other products against COVID-19. In response to the constant need to disinfect public spaces, companies have been developing innovative products that do not require continuous application. The process recently announced by the Agency is intended to fast-track products to market that are capable of keeping surfaces clean for several hours or even days.
On October 1, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) issued its final rule allowing for a source classified as a “major source” of hazardous air pollutants (“HAP”) under section 112(a) of the Clean Air Act to reclassify as an “area source.” A “major source” emits or has the “potential to emit” 10 tons per year or more of a single HAP or 25 tons per year or more of a combination of HAP. The EPA had long-followed the “once-in-always-in” policy, under which a facility that qualified as a major source of HAPs as of the “first substantive compliance date” of the applicable Maximum Achievable Control Technology (“MACT”) standard was permanently subject to that standard, even if the source was later able to reduce its emissions below major source applicability thresholds. With the final rule, branded as the “Major MACT to Area” (“MM2A”), EPA codified the withdrawal of the “once-in-always” policy and provided the requirements that apply to major sources choosing to reclassify, including reclassification that occurs after the first substantive compliance date of an applicable MACT standard.
State strategies for regulating air emissions during periods of startup, shutdown, and malfunction (SSM) have been a controversial topic in recent years. Air emissions can be higher during periods of SSM because emitting units are not in steady-state operation and some pollution control devices cannot be operated effectively or safely during such events. Since most air emission limitations are not crafted to cover periods when emission units are not operating normally, many states have adopted regulations in their Clean Air Act-required State Implementation Plans (SIPs) to provide compliance flexibility for sources during periods of SSM. These regulations typically take the form of either automatic or discretionary exemptions for emissions that exceed otherwise applicable limitations, or affirmative defenses to liability or penalties for violations asserted by enforcement authorities or private citizens.
On July 1, 2020, New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy signed the Permit Extension Act of 2020 (“PEA 2020”) into law. The PEA 2020 tolls certain state and local permit approvals, including approvals of soil erosion and sediment control plans granted by a local soil conservation district and waterfront development permits, during the pendency of the public health emergency caused by COVID-19. Additionally, the PEA 2020 extends the deadlines for those approvals that would have otherwise expired during the public health emergency for an additional six months beyond the end of the COVID-19 extension period. Importantly, the PEA 2020 does not impact those approvals that expired prior to March 9, 2020 (the beginning of the public health emergency) or apply to those that will expire after the public health emergency ends.
The EPA has issued a rule requiring all significant agency guidance to undergo a public notice and comment process prior to issuance, modification or withdrawal (Rule). The new Rule was adopted pursuant to Executive Order 13891, which also required the agency to distinguish active guidance from inactive guidance, and to limit documents available through the official EPA guidance portal (Order). As of June 27, 2020 only guidance available through the official agency guidance portals qualifies as active guidance.
As of September 4, 2020, Illinois has responsibility for direct administration of the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permitting program under state regulations, including federal Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements under authority delegated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In doing so, Illinois joins 46 other states that have elected to administer the PSD program directly. State PSD regulations, added as Part 204 of the Illinois air quality pollution rules, 35 Ill. Adm. Code Part 204, were published in the Illinois Register on September 19, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated fiscal concerns of water and sewer service providers, with many states imposing a moratorium on the collection of delinquent bills and the termination of service. The affordability of water and sewer service has also been a central topic in environmental justice discussions. In the midst of this heightened interest, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released its long-awaited proposed updates to its Clean Water Act (“CWA”) affordability guidance. The pre-publication version of its 2020 Financial Capability Assessment for CWA Obligations (“2020 FCA”) was released on September 15, 2020. The proposal builds on EPA’s prior guidance, issued in 1997, as well as its 2014 Financial Capability Assessment Framework. The purpose of the guidance is to establish criteria for EPA consideration of the impact of water quality, stormwater, and drinking water requirements on affordability. This information can then be used to prioritize different regulatory requirements and establish longer compliance schedules in permits and enforcement actions.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) released new proposed groundwater quality standards for select per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The new standards were released as a discussion draft of proposed amendments to the groundwater quality rules under 35 Ill. Adm. Code Part 620, regulating the following PFAS types:
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. FWS, 139 S.Ct. 361 (2018), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has issued a series of proposals to refine the scope, meaning, and criteria for designating critical habitat for species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The most recent proposal will be published in the Federal Register on September 8, 2020, kicking off a 30-day public comment period.
Environmental justice has received greater attention in 2020, both because it is an election year, but also because of the increased focus on racial inequality since the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. Many states are considering legislation on this topic, but on August 27, 2020, New Jersey passed a significant environmental justice bill, the first to require denial of a permit on environmental justice ground. Continue Reading New Jersey Passes Significant Environmental Justice Legislation