Photo of Angela Levin

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

On January 30, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) released its anticipated Migratory Bird Treaty Act (“MBTA”) proposed rule. The purpose of the proposed rule is to codify the December 2017 Department of Interior (“DOI”) Solicitor opinion (“M-Opinion”) limiting liability under the MBTA. The M-Opinion overturned an earlier Obama Administration M-Opinion explicitly finding that MBTA liability applied to incidental take.

Continue Reading Trump Administration Releases Anticipated MBTA Proposed Rule

On January 31, 2020, California announced proposed changes to warning requirements under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65, by releasing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Proposal”). Among other things, the changes are intended to clarify on-line warning requirements (through a website or using a mobile phone app) and catalog warning requirements. The Proposal also includes revised requirements specific to the sale of alcoholic beverages through delivery services, reflecting the provisions of an enforcement action settlement currently being negotiated by the Attorney General.

Continue Reading California Proposes Changes to Online and Alcoholic Beverage Delivery Warning Requirements Under Proposition 65

New federal reporting requirements for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) went into effect on January 1, 2020. The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020 (NDAA), signed into law on December 20, 2019, required EPA to add certain PFAS to the federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) list of reportable chemicals.

The NDAA identified fourteen specific PFAS chemicals for addition to the TRI list, and directed EPA to add other substances that met two criteria: (1) they were subject to a significant new use rule (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) on or before December 20, 2019, and (2) they were identified as active in commerce on the TSCA Inventory that was published in February 2019. Among the new additions are some of the best-known and most-studied substances, including PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), and GenX chemicals (including hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid).


Continue Reading Toxic Release Inventory Expanded to Include PFAS, with 160 New Reportable Chemicals and Counting

On January 28, in Center for Biological Diversity v. Everson, No. 1:15-cv-00477 (D.D.C. 2020), the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia remanded, but did not vacate, the United States Fish and Wildlife Services’ (“USFWS”) April 2015 decision to list the northern long-eared bat (“NLEB”) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). The court also vacated a component of the USFWS and National Marine Fisheries Services (collectively, “Services”) significant portion of its range policy (the “SPR Policy”) regarding how to evaluate whether a species is endangered in a “significant portion of its range” once a determination has been made that the species is threatened throughout “all of its range.” The SPR Policy, issued in 2014, has formed the basis for other listing decisions and thus its vacatur has implications beyond the NLEB.

Continue Reading Federal District Court Remands Northern-Long Eared Bat Listing Decision

On January 27, EPA published a preliminary list of manufacturers that are potentially subject to a fee obligation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). This is a follow-up notice to EPA’s designation of 20 additional substances as High Priority Substances in December, for which the agency will now go through a risk evaluation, including:

Continue Reading EPA Publishes Preliminary List of Manufacturers Subject to TSCA Risk Evaluation Fees

EPA’s New Source Review (NSR) reform efforts have been in full swing over the past month or so as the Agency released two final guidance documents, issued a pre-publication version of a proposed rule, took final action to end a years-old reconsideration of a 2007 rulemaking, and released its Fall Unified Agenda detailing dates for a number of upcoming NSR-related actions. While these actions may not have immediate consequences for many regulated sources, they are evidence that EPA continues to pursue its NSR reform agenda. 
Continue Reading EPA Engages in Flurry of NSR-Related Actions as 2019 Draws to a Close

On November 22, 2019, the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) agreed to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the operation of the federally owned and operated Chief Joseph Dam, the second-largest hydropower producing dam in the United States, as part of a settlement with the Columbia Riverkeeper. The settlement resolves litigation (previously addressed on this blog) brought by the Columbia Riverkeeper, which claimed that the Corps’ dam operations had long been discharging oil, grease, and heated water into the Columbia River without a permit.

Sections 301(a) and 402 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) prohibit anyone, including a federal agency, from discharging “pollutants” through a “point source” into a “water of the United States” except as authorized by a NPDES permit. Section 505 of the CWA provides any citizen, including a citizen group like Columbia Riverkeeper, the ability to bring a civil action against any person, including the United States, that is violating an effluent standard or limitation. As detailed by its complaint, the Columbia Riverkeeper alleged that the Corps has been in violation of CWA standards by allowing oils and grease to accumulate in sumps that drain into the river and utilizing hydro-carbon based lubricants on generation equipment that become discharged with cooling water without a NPDES permit.
Continue Reading Army Corps Agrees to Obtain Clean Water Act Permit to Operate Federal Hydroelectric Dam

On November 15, EPA posted its pre-publication version of the Final Rule re-classifying aerosol cans as “universal waste” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which finalizes EPA’s March 16, 2018 proposal (83 Fed. Reg. 11,654).  As discussed in our prior blog post regarding the proposal, many aerosol cans have historically been classified as hazardous waste because of their ignitability, and thus often are subject to stringent regulations related to handling, transportation, and disposal.

Universal waste is a sub-category of RCRA regulated hazardous waste that allows certain widely generated products, such as batteries, certain pesticides, and lamps, to qualify for less stringent regulation than the traditional hazardous waste regime.  The Final Rule is intended by EPA to ease regulatory burdens on retail stores and others that discard hazardous waste aerosol cans by providing an optional pathway for streamlined waste management treatment; promote the collection and recycling of these cans; and encourage the development of municipal and commercial programs to reduce the quantity of aerosol cans going to municipal solid waste landfills or combustors. 
Continue Reading EPA Finalizes Rule Classifying Aerosol Cans as Universal Waste

EPA’s first major action under its February 2019 comprehensive Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan (previously discussed in detail here) is out. On September 25, EPA sent a request for public input on whether EPA should add “certain PFAS chemicals” to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). EPA issues advance notices of proposed rulemaking to get a sense of public reaction before it initiates an important regulatory change, typically before it has conducted significant research or expended agency resources.
Continue Reading EPA Seeks Public Input on Adding PFAS to the Toxic Release Inventory