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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On December 8, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) issued draft guidance to clarify the application of the “functional equivalent” test created by the United States Supreme Court in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Foundation, 140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 Comments on the draft guidance are due 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.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

On July 16, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published its long-awaited final rule to amend its regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), introducing important changes to the 40-year-old review process. The statute requires federal agencies to take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts of certain proposed projects, but does not mandate any particular outcome. The final rule follows CEQ’s June 2018 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANOPR) and the January 2020 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR), which we previously discussed here.
Continue Reading CEQ Final Rule Overhauls NEPA Regulations

In the past two weeks, two federal district courts reached seemingly opposite conclusions regarding the implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (“the Agencies”) Navigable Waters Protection Rule (“the Rule”). The Rule, which took effect on June 22, narrows the term “waters of the United States” and, thereby, the scope of waters subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”). The Rule has been a top priority for the Trump Administration under its two-step process to repeal the Obama Administration’s 2015 rule, which expanded the scope of the CWA, and replace it with a rule that provides more distinct clarity as to which waters are jurisdictional. States, environmental groups, and other interested parties have filed lawsuits across the country challenging the Rule and requested courts issue preliminary injunctions to prevent it from taking effect.
Continue Reading Federal Courts Reach Opposite Conclusions Regarding Implementation of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) crystalized a new requirement that facilities manufacturing, processing, or otherwise using any of 172 different per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) submit Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reports by July 1, 2021, for calendar year 2020. The EPA created the TRI Program in 1986 under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act to provide the public with information regarding releases of chemicals that the EPA has concluded may pose a threat to human health and the environment. Facilities that manufacture, process, or use listed chemicals above established threshold quantities must annually report to the EPA the amounts released or otherwise disposed.
Continue Reading EPA Requires TRI Reporting of PFAS for Year 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in the consolidated cases U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Assn. (Case No. 18-1584) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC v. Cowpasture River Preservation Assn. (Case No. 18-1587) addressing the U.S. Forest Service’s authority to issue authorization for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross beneath the Appalachian Trail. Reversing the Fourth Circuit’s December 2018 decision, the Court held that the Forest Service has authority under the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a right-of-way on lands within the George Washington National Forest owned by the Forest Service over which the Trail crosses.

Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Fourth Circuit, Holds U.S. Forest Service Has Authority to Grant Right-of-Way Beneath Appalachian Trail

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) recently amended its rules under the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act (NJ SDWA) to address per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). NJDEP adopted the amendments on March 31, 2020, and published them in the New Jersey Register on June 1, 2020. 52 N.J.R. 1165(b). The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began the process for establishing drinking water standards for certain PFAS compounds in February 2020; however, with these amendments, New Jersey now has some of the most stringent PFAS drinking water requirements in the United States.
Continue Reading New Jersey Adopts Stringent PFAS Drinking Water Rules and Adds Compounds to List of Hazardous Substances

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