On November 20, with no fanfare at all, not even a press release, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Draft Guidance: Applying the Supreme Court’s County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund Decision in the Clean Water Act Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Program to Discharges Through Groundwater. This draft guidance is the agency’s second effort to guide implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision, which extends applicability of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program to include the “functional equivalent” of point source discharges of pollutants to waters of the U.S.Continue Reading EPA’s New Proposed Maui Guidance: Underwhelming and Sneaky
On October 7, 2023, California Governor Newsom signed two landmark bills into law, Senate Bill (SB) 253 and SB-261, imposing new requirements on large companies doing business in California to publicly report their annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate-related risks. These laws apply to both publicly traded and privately held companies, exceeding the scope of the climate disclosure rule proposed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in March 2022. Our professionals have prepared a more detailed summary here; some key highlights are included below.Continue Reading California Adopts Landmark GHG Emissions and Climate Risk Reporting Laws
On March 13, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the long-anticipated step of proposing maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs), as well as individual maximum contaminant levels (MCLs), for six PFAS compounds under the Safe Drinking Water Act. PFAS are a large family of synthetic chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s. Many PFAS have unique physical and chemical properties that make them highly stable and resistant to degradation in the environment, which is why they are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals.”Continue Reading EPA Advances PFAS Strategic Roadmap With Proposed Drinking Water Standards
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
Landowners and permit applicants received an email notification this week that the Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) would not be processing their requests for coverage under a variety of Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 Nationwide Permits (NWPs). NWPs are general permits that authorize activities under Clean Water Act Section 404 that “will cause only minimal adverse environmental effects when performed separately, and will have only minimal cumulative adverse effects on the environment.” CWA Section 404 (e)(1).
Continue Reading Army Corps Halts Coverage Under Nationwide Permits
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new “Strategic Roadmap (Roadmap),” describing a suite of ongoing and future agency actions to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). While many of these actions were previously presented in EPA’s 2019 PFAS Action Plan, or in more recent announcements, the Roadmap provides additional updates and clarity into the expected timing of some regulatory actions. The new projected dates for some key regulatory initiatives include the following:
Continue Reading EPA Announces New “Strategic Roadmap” for PFAS
EPA announced yesterday its intent to revise some portions of the 2020 Steam Electric Effluent Limitation Guideline Reconsideration Rule (2020 ELG Rule). EPA’s press release and the pre-publication version of its Federal Register notice sent a clear message that the agency is aiming at membrane technology to control flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater discharges from coal-fired power plants. The notice also states that the agency will reconsider the technology selected for bottom ash transport, and it may revise or eliminate the subcategories created by the 2020 ELG Rule for high-flow facilities, low-utilization facilities, and for facilities that commit to retire or repower coal-fired units by 2028.
Continue Reading EPA Signals More Stringent Regulation for Steam Electric Power Generators
On December 8, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) issued draft guidance to clarify the application of the “functional equivalent” test created by the United States Supreme Court in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Foundation, 140 S. Ct. 1462 (2020). The guidance is intended to help both members of the regulated community and permitting authorities determine when a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit may be required for discharges from point sources that reach navigable waters through groundwater. Comments on the draft guidance are due 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
Continue Reading EPA Seeks to Clarify Application of Maui and “Functional Equivalent” Test
On March 3, 2020, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) filed with the Illinois Pollution Control Board (Board) proposed regulations establishing standards for coal combustion residue (CCR) surface impoundments, commonly referred to as coal ash ponds, at power generating facilities. The Board published the rules for First Notice on April 16, 2020. The first public hearing was on August 11, and continued on August 12, 13 and 25. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual participation in the hearings was allowed by WebEx or by telephone. The second public hearing, which will allow testimony from the regulated community and other interested parties, is set for 9 a.m. on September 29, and continue as necessary on September 30 and October 1. The hearings are planned to be held in-person at the Board’s offices in Chicago, with virtual participation again allowed via WebEx or telephone. The hearing officer’s order scheduling the hearing dates and providing access information can be found here.
Continue Reading Illinois Pollution Control Board Schedules Second Round of Public Hearings on Proposed Regulations for Coal Ash Ponds
Citing delegated States as the primary enforcers of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the promotion of federalism, Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Environmental and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) Jeffrey Bossert Clark recently issued a memorandum promoting the use of enforcement discretion for certain civil CWA matters where a state proceeding has been initiated or concluded.
Continue Reading New DOJ CWA Enforcement Guidance