Although the Biden administration has yet to issue many new substantive air quality regulations, Biden’s EPA recently issued two rules revoking Trump-era procedural regulations that should pave the way for a more aggressive regulatory agenda. On May 13, EPA rescinded the “Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in the Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process Rule” (Cost-Benefit Rule), a requirement governing cost-benefit analyses for Clean Air Act (CAA) rulemakings, and on May 18, the agency revoked the “EPA Guidance; Administrative Procedures for Issuance and Public Petitions Rule” (Guidance Document Rule), which required all “significant” EPA guidance to undergo a public notice and comment process prior to issuance, modification, or withdrawal.
This blog post was republished by Law360 on September 14, 2021.
On August 19, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued a joint guidance document concerning implementation of EPA’s 2020 Water Quality Certification Rule. The agencies explain that the guidance applies specifically to 41 Clean Water Act Section 404 Nationwide Permits (NWPs) proposed in September 2020 that have already received certification (or for which certification was denied or waived) but have not yet been finalized, and a more detailed enclosure is intended to be applied generally to the Corps’ permit programs. The guidance also cryptically suggests that the agencies may revisit the 16 NWPs that were previously certified and finalized by the Corps in January 2021. In a press release the following day, EPA and the Corps frame the guidance as addressing “implementation challenges” raised by state and tribal certifying authorities. Continue Reading EPA and Army Corp’s Joint Section 401 Guidance Walks Back Regulatory Certainty
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.
On April 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) and Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) jointly released a memorandum to all EPA Regional Administrators regarding the suspension, reduction or continuation of on-site cleanup activity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The memorandum supplements earlier guidance released on March 19 outlining OLEM’s management considerations and posture in response to COVID-19, which is included as an attachment to the April 10 guidance.
In response to guidance issued by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance regarding enforcement discretion in light of COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued its own guidance. In its accompanying press release, DEQ takes a stern tone and makes clear that DEQ expects compliance with all environmental compliance obligations and permit limits, that the crisis does not “equal a free pass for the regulated community,” and that regulated entities should make every effort to comply.
California regulators have announced that the comment period for a recent proposal, Supplemental Guidance: Screening and Evaluating Vapor Intrusion, has been extended to June 1, 2020, and public workshops and webinars originally scheduled for April have been postponed until further notice.
Vapor intrusion occurs when contamination moves from groundwater and soil beneath a structure into the air, accumulating in occupied areas where they can result in safety hazards or health effects. Common vapor-forming chemicals include volatile organic compounds including trichloroethylene (TCE), mercury, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), and certain pesticides. Testing for vapor intrusion is an important step in investigating a potential development site, and in ensuring the health and safety of existing residential and commercial buildings.
Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) Susan Bodine issued guidance regarding OECA enforcement discretion in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) COVID-19 pandemic. EPA intends to focus its resources largely on situations that may create an acute risk or imminent threat to public health or the environment. The guidance, which is retroactively effective to March 13, does not have an end date but EPA commits to reviewing the policy regularly and to providing a seven day notice of its termination on OECA’s guidance page.
California agencies are beginning to provide clarification and directives to guide regulatory compliance following local “shelter in place” orders to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Governor Gavin Newsom’s state-wide “stay at home” order issued on March 19, 2020. While the State Department of Public Health is taking the lead in coordinating the state-level response, other regulatory agencies responsible for essential services and facilities have begun to issue their first formal directives related to environmental compliance and safety.
The emphasis of regulatory directives thus far are clear: all requirements related to critical infrastructure remain in effect, with special provisions for immediate notification if there are circumstances or current government directives that could impede timely compliance.
Yesterday, Susan Bodine, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), issued final guidance for EPA regions regarding interactions between the Agency and the states in civil enforcement and compliance assurance matters. Under the new guidance, EPA will generally defer to a state as having primary jurisdiction over inspections and enforcement, but it also sets out a number of important exceptions where EPA may take direct action. The final guidance replaces previous interim guidance issued in January 2018.
The guidance is split into three parts and expands upon the interim guidance by providing additional procedures and outlining various principles and approaches for coordination between EPA regions and states. The changes are the result of input from EPA regional offices, states, and a workgroup on compliance assurance that EPA and the Environmental Council of States convened in September of 2017. Continue Reading EPA Issues Final Guidance on State Partnerships, Lays Out Deference to State Inspections and Enforcement
On June 21, 2019, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a new draft guidance redefining the process federal agencies will use to evaluate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In marked contrast to GHG guidance issued by CEQ under the Obama Administration in 2016, the draft guidance encourages federal agencies undertaking NEPA review to follow the “rule of reason” and use their “expertise and experience” to decide whether and to what degree the agency will analyze particular effects of GHG emissions. Therefore, the draft guidance moves to a more deferential approach to agency review under NEPA than the Obama Administration’s prescriptive guidance. The draft guidance will be published in the Federal Register for public review and comment. If finalized, it will replace the Obama Administration’s 2016 guidance, which was withdrawn effective April 5, 2017, after President Trump issued Executive Order (EO) 13783, “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.” Continue Reading A Clear Shift in Policy: CEQ Issues Draft Guidance for Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Under NEPA