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On June 1, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final rule clarifying substantive authorities and procedural requirements for water quality certifications under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPA’s August 2019 notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) (summarized in our previous post) articulated the Agency’s first-ever statutory interpretation of section 401 since its enactment nearly 50 years ago, and proposed sweeping substantive and procedural changes to its section 401 regulations in conformance with its interpretation. EPA’s final rule largely adopts the regulations in its NOPR, but makes important changes in adopting new regulations that preserve authority of states and Native American tribes exercising “Treatment as a State” (TAS) authorization to ensure that discharges from federally licensed and permitted activities meet state and tribal water quality requirements.
Continue Reading Long-Awaited EPA Rule Overhauls Section 401 of Clean Water Act

Today, June 1, 2020 marks the opening of the window to submit data for the four-year reporting period under the Chemical Data Reporting Rule (CDR Rule) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The CDR Rule requires manufacturers (including importers) of substances listed on the TSCA Chemical Inventory to submit data to EPA every four years. Companies subject to the CDR Rule should be aware of several developments that affect reporting requirements and procedures this reporting period.

Continue Reading Chemical Data Reporting Cycle Begins June 1 with Extended Deadline and New Exemptions

The question of how to regulate temperature in water bodies is one that states in the Northwest have struggled with for years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) addressed that question on May 18, 2020, when it released a draft Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to achieve water quality standards for temperature in certain reaches of the Columbia and Lower Snake Rivers in Oregon and Washington. This new TMDL comes a few months after a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Columbia Riverkeeper v. Wheeler, requiring the agency to take the lead after Oregon and Washington failed to submit their own TMDL. Comments on the draft TMDL are due by the end of July 21, 2020.

Continue Reading EPA Issues Draft Temperature TMDL for Columbia and Snake Rivers

On April 20, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the Montana Supreme Court’s decision in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian, limiting restoration damages claims beyond Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleanups at Superfund sites, while affirming the right of private parties to seek other kinds of damages under state law. The majority decision, penned by

Revisions to the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, commonly known as Proposition 65, go into effect on April 1, 2020. The amendments are intended to clarify methods of compliance by upstream parties, including manufacturers, producers, packagers, importers, suppliers, or distributors of products with chemicals subject to warning requirements under the Act. They also include a modified definition of the key phrase “actual knowledge,” one of the triggers that can result in retailer responsibility for warnings.

Continue Reading Proposition 65 Amendments Seek to Narrow “Actual Knowledge” and Expand Compliance Options

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.


Continue Reading Update – New California Supplemental Vapor Intrusion Guidance Comment Period Extended, Trainings Postponed

As reported previously, California agencies are providing clarification and directives to guide regulatory compliance following Governor Gavin Newsom’s state-wide “stay at home” order issued on March 19, 2020. More specific guidance has now been issued by the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) for Public Water Systems, and by the South Coast Air Quality Management District for all regulated entities.

Notably, although EPA has announced that enforcement discretion will be exercised in cases where routine compliance is not reasonably practicable, the Agency recognizes the authority of states and tribes to determine their own enforcement policies. Thus, California-regulated companies also must track how California agencies are approaching compliance during COVID-19 to ensure ongoing compliance.


Continue Reading Update – California Agencies Issue Additional Guidance on Environmental Compliance During COVID-19 Emergency

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.


Continue Reading Update – California Agencies Issue Guidance for Regulatory Compliance As COVID-19 Containment Orders Go Into Effect

Last week, EPA fulfilled a promise to reverse the expansion of its refrigerant management program during the Obama Administration. That expansion, which was finalized in 2016 and became effective in 2019, EPA extended the regulations for ozone depleting substances (ODS) to non-ODS “substitute” refrigerants, with the intent of reducing emissions of substitutes that consist of greenhouse gases (GHGs), including some with very high global warming potentials. Last week’s final rule returns the refrigerant management program to its original focus, at least with respect to appliance leak repair requirements, although some regulatory requirements for non-ODS substitute refrigerants will remain in place.

Continue Reading EPA Finalizes Rule to Limit Refrigerant Program to Ozone Depleting Substances

On February 20, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its intent to publish a preliminary regulatory determination under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Publication will initiate a 60-day notice and comment period that represents the first step toward the adoption of Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs) for PFOA and PFOS, two of the best-understood and most common compounds under the umbrella of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Continue Reading Safe Drinking Water Act: EPA to Issue Regulatory Determination for PFOA/PFOS