On January 18, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) urged the Fourth Circuit, U.S. Court of appeals to affirm the pre-application dismissal of environmentalists’ litigation over a Trump era rule that significantly altered how agencies utilize the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including their climate analysis. Continue Reading White House CEQ Asks Fourth Circuit for a “Do Over” on NEPA
On January 11, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new interpretation of its coal combustion residual (CCR) regulations: CCR landfills or surface impoundments “cannot be closed with coal ash in contact with groundwater.” Although EPA claims it has “consistently held” this interpretation, this is the first time EPA has expressly articulated this view. Perhaps acknowledging the novelty of its position, EPA also announced its intent to “review … state-level CCR program applications to ensure they are as protective as federal regulations” and to proceed toward a federal CCR permitting framework. Continue Reading EPA Announces Key CCR Policy Amid Alternative Closure Determinations
Gearing up for a potential final rule in summer 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on January 10 submitted a proposed rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to designate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). OMB reviews are generally targeted to be completed within 90 days, but they can last much longer — or be concluded more quickly — depending on the rule being studied. The submittal is consistent with what EPA forecasted in its October 2021 PFAS Roadmap and its Unified Agenda. Continue Reading EPA’s Delivery of Draft Rule to OMB for Study Starts the Clock for Potential PFAS Reporting and Enforcement Activity by 2023
To help reboot after the holiday break, here is a list of air topics we expect to make news in 2022 with a short discussion of why each one may be important to you.
In November 2021, the secretaries of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (the participating agencies) entered into a voluntary Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to “improve the protection of, and access to, Indigenous sacred sites through enhanced and improved interdepartmental coordination, collaboration, and action.” Continue Reading Federal Agencies Sign Memorandum of Understanding for the Protection of Indigenous Sacred Sites
On October 26, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services) proposed to rescind two Trump-era final rules: the Habitat Definition Rule and the Designating Critical Habitat Rule. Both rules deal with the designation of critical habitat — a Service-designated area determined to be essential to an endangered species’ conservation and recovery, which may be occupied by a species when designated or unoccupied. Both rules are also a direct result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. FWS, 139 S. Ct. 361, which remanded a critical habitat decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, noting, among other things, that a determination of habitat is needed before FWS can determine what is considered critical habitat. Continue Reading Biden Administration Rescinds Two Trump-Era Endangered Species Act Rules
On October 21, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California vacated and remanded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2020 Clean Water Act Section 401 final rule (Certification Rule).
In response to the court’s ruling, EPA is implementing the previous water quality certification rule nationwide, which had been in effect since 1971, while it develops a new rule.
Pursuant to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), no federal license or permit that may result in a discharge to U.S. waters may be issued unless the state or authorized Tribe, where the discharge will originate, issues a water quality certification or waives the certification requirement. Continue Reading Court Decision to Vacate, Remand State Water Quality 401 Certification Rule
On Friday, December 17, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly issued a Q&A document concerning the vacatur of the 2020 Section 401 Certification Rule (2020 Rule). The Q&A confirms EPA’s view that the 1971 certification regulation is now in effect nationwide, but does not present a policy or legal rationale for this decision. Although much of the Q&A refers the reader to the 1971 certification regulation, it also provides some pretty important information. Continue Reading EPA Issues 401 Q&A
In a landmark ruling signaling a new lens with which to view the treatment of interstate water allocation, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision on November 22 in Mississippi v. Tennessee, et al., 595 U.S. ___ (Case No. 21o143) rejecting Mississippi’s claim to sole ownership of waters of the Middle Claiborne Aquifer within that state’s borders. Instead, the Court held that the traditional remedy of equitable apportionment used to allocate surface waters of streams and rivers should apply. The case represents the first time that the Court has held that equitable apportionment applies to groundwater, which may open the door to new disputes among border states who claim equal rights to underground water resources. Continue Reading Equitable Apportionment of Interstate Waters Sinks to New Levels
In a final rule published in the Federal Register on November 24, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly finalized a hotly contested proposed rule, adding natural gas processing facilities to the list of industry sectors required to report their releases of certain chemicals under Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), also known as the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). Facilities must report releases and waste management of specifically listed chemicals to the TRI if they: (1) have 10 or more full-time employees, (2) have a primary Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) or North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code listed in the regulations, and (3) manufacture, process, or otherwise use certain listed chemicals in the course of a calendar year in quantities exceeding identified thresholds. Continue Reading Natural Gas Processors to Report to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory Beginning 2023