On April 2, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) submitted three proposed rules to the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”), which is charged with reviewing every final and proposed federal agency rule before its publication in the Federal Register.  These proposals, if implemented, will significantly change USFWS’ implementation of the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).

Continue Reading Major Rollbacks of USFWS Regulations on the Way

On March 16, 2018, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals partially upheld and partially rejected an EPA rule known as the “Boiler MACT.”  Officially named the “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Major Sources: Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters,” it regulates the emissions of certain types of air pollutants known as “hazardous air pollutants” from boilers located at “major sources” of those pollutants.  EPA issued the rule in several different rulemakings, due to the fact that the agency decided to reconsider a few provisions several times along the way.  As a result, the litigation over the rule became very complicated.  Sierra Club challenged numerous provisions of the rule, claiming that they failed to comply with the Clean Air Act.  Most of those challenges were resolved in a 2016 decision, but the court had reserved two issues that were finally decided this week—namely Sierra Club’s challenges to EPA’s carbon monoxide (CO) limits for certain boilers and the startup and shutdown work practices.  Specifically, Sierra Club alleged that (1) EPA failed to adequately justify its decision to make CO limit less stringent (130 ppm), and (2) EPA’s qualitative “work practice” standards during startup and shutdown are unlawful.

Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Issues Latest Decision on Long-Running Boiler MACT Saga

Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity, Water Keeper Alliance, and a coalition of other organizations served a Notice of Intent to Sue the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers (the “Agencies”), alleging the Agencies’ delay in implementing the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (“WOTUS”) Rule violated the Endangered Species Act.

Continue Reading Environmental Groups Set to Challenge WOTUS Rule Delay under Endangered Species Act

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

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

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

Last summer, EPA finalized the TSCA Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Requirements, 82 FR 4255 (Active/Inactive Rule), which we previously reported on here .  As a reminder, the Active/Inactive Rule requires manufacturers and processers to submit notifications to EPA for chemicals that have been manufactured or processed between June 21, 2006 and June 21, 2016.  The deadline for submittal of the required reports by manufacturers – February 7, 2018, is quickly approaching.

Continue Reading Deadline Approaching for TSCA Inventory Active-Inactive Rule Reporting

On December 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) reversed course and issued a Memorandum interpreting the scope of criminal liability under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and its applicability to “incidental takings,” which the Memorandum defines as a death or other “take” that “results from an activity, but [that] is not the purpose of that activity.” In short, the Memorandum concludes that criminal liability under the MBTA should not be interpreted to extend to incidental takes, and instead only applies to “affirmative actions that has as their purpose the taking or killing of migratory birds, their nests, or their eggs.” This Memorandum will provide significant needed clarity to renewable energy projects and many other industries that perform activities with the potential to indirectly, and non-purposefully, impact migratory birds during development, construction, or operation.

Continue Reading Trump Administration Narrows the Scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Previously, we reported on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (“USFWS”) issuance of the final ESA Compensatory Mitigation Policy (“ESA-CMP”), the first comprehensive treatment of compensatory mitigation under the Endangered Species Act.  Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy, 81 FR 95316 (Dec. 27, 2016).  The policy formalizes the Services’ shift from project-by-project to landscape-scale approaches to planning and implementing compensatory mitigation.  We also reported on the Services’ issuance of a final revised Mitigation Policy in November 2016 intended to serve as an overall umbrella strategy under which more detailed Service sub-policies or guidance documents covering specific activities would be issued.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mitigation Policy, 81 FR 83440 (Nov. 21, 2016).  Both policies focus on using mitigation to achieve a “net conservation benefit.”

Continue Reading USFWS Seeks Comments on Compensation Goals in Recently Issued Species Mitigation Policies

On November 9, 2017, on the heels of New Jersey’s move to set a maximum contaminant level for certain perfluoroalkyl substances, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to the list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause reproductive toxicity (also known as the Prop 65 list).

Continue Reading California Adds PFOA and PFOS to Prop 65 Warning Requirements