On April 12, 2019, the Fifth Circuit issued its opinion in Southwestern Elec. Power Co. v. EPA, ordering EPA to reconsider parts of its 2015 Effluents Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category (“2015 ELG Rule”). The opinion resolves a challenge brought by environmental groups regarding the rule’s effluent limitation guidelines for “legacy” wastewater and for combustion residual leachate from landfills or settling ponds.

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On April 15, 2019, EPA issued its long-awaited Interpretative Statement addressing the Clean Water Act’s applicability to releases of pollutants from point sources into groundwater that subsequently migrate to jurisdictional surface waters. The question this interpretation addresses stems from the 2018 federal circuit split previously discussed here. On February 19, 2019, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in one of the cases that contributed to the split, County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund. The United States filed its amicus brief in that case, urging the highest court to review County of Maui, but not a similar ruling from the Fourth Circuit. As the question was being reviewed by the federal courts, EPA requested public comment on this issue and received over 50,000 comments. EPA is addressing some of these comments in the Interpretative Statement.
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Troutman Sanders partners Douglas Henderson and Lindsey Mann and associate Nicholas Howell had an Insight piece published in Bloomberg Law titled, “Contamination ‘Issue’ Class Actions—Recent Certification Realities.”

In the article, the authors review the confusing outcomes and mistaken promise of environmental “issue” class actions under Rule 23(c). Two cases from 2018—involving virtually identical facts—reach fundamentally

The most recent development in the decades-long water wars between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama occurred today at the Supreme Court.  In a 5-4 decision, Justices Breyer, Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor overruled the Special Master’s February 14, 2017 decision and remanded the case back to him for further consideration on factual issues.  In his decision, the Special Master dismissed Florida’s claim against Georgia for its consumptive use of water from the ACF River Basin, stating that Florida failed to carry its burden of demonstrating that a limit on Georgia’s water consumption would make any difference to Florida’s economic and ecological harm.

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Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that federal district courts, rather than appellate courts, are the proper venue to challenge the “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) Rule (discussed in a previous blog post here), an Obama-era regulation that expansively defined waters subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction.  Following the Supreme Court decision, the Eleventh Circuit on Wednesday vacated its 2015 decision which held the opposite.  In doing so, it also remanded a challenge to the WOTUS Rule brought by a coalition of states (led by Georgia) in 2015 in the federal district court in Brunswick, Georgia.

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On July 21, 2017, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) proposed amendments to the regulations implementing Prop 65 – the California law that requires business to provide a “clear and reasonable warning” to consumers on products that contain any chemicals listed by California as causing cancer or reproductive harm.  According to OEHHA, these amendments are intended to clarify a previous round of amendments that were finalized in August 2016 that will become effective on August 30, 2018, discussed here .

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On November 29, 2016, EPA announced the first ten chemicals for which the Agency will perform a risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”), as reformed by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, passed earlier this year.  As part of this review, EPA will evaluate whether the chosen chemicals “present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.”

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Recently, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) in California finalized revisions to the regulations implementing Prop 65 – the California law that requires business to provide a “clear and reasonable warning” to consumers on products that contain any chemicals listed by California as causing cancer or reproductive harm.

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On September 19, 2016, EPA extended the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule report deadline from September 30, 2016 until October 31, 2016. As a reminder, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requires manufacturers of chemical substances to periodically report their manufacturing, processing, and use of chemicals listed on the TSCA Inventory.  EPA granted the extension in response to the regulated community’s concerns about delays in CDR Reporting resulting from issues associated with electronic reporting.  This is a one-time extension that does not apply to subsequent submission periods, the next being in 2020.
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On Tuesday, May 24, compromise legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives. Last week, the House and Senate announced the compromise legislation with the goal of reaching the President’s desk for signature before the Memorial Day recess.  That goal now appears to be in reach, with the White House already signaling plans to approve the legislation by calling it a “clear improvement” and a “historic advancement” for chemical safety.
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