On December 8, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) issued draft guidance to clarify the application of the “functional equivalent” test created by the United States Supreme Court in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Foundation, 140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 Comments on the draft guidance are due 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.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 the evening of November 30, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new interim strategy to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment through EPA-issued wastewater discharge permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). While some states have already begun regulating PFAS in wastewater and stormwater discharges, this policy represents a shift by EPA from focusing solely on PFAS contamination of drinking water and standard setting under the Safe Drinking Water Act, to detailing an interim NPDES permitting strategy under the Clean Water Act to address PFAS. The new interim strategy’s primary recommendation is for permit writers to consider “phased-in monitoring” of PFAS compounds.

Continue Reading EPA Issues Interim Strategy for PFAS in NPDES Permitting

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

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

As anticipated, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on June 18, 2020, that it will not regulate perchlorate, a substance primarily found in rocket fuel and munitions, under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Before determining to regulate a chemical or substance under the SDWA, the EPA must consider whether (1) the contaminant may have an adverse effect on the health of persons; (2) the contaminant is known to occur or there is a substantial likelihood that the contaminant will occur in public water systems with a frequency and at levels of public health concern; and (3) in the sole judgment of the Administrator, regulation of such contaminant presents a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems. 42 U.S.C. § 300g-1(b)(1)(A). In its announcement, the EPA concludes that perchlorate does not meet these criteria for regulation.
Continue Reading EPA Declines to Set Drinking Water Limits for Perchlorate

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

The question of how to regulate temperature in water bodies is one that states in the Northwest have struggled with for years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) addressed that question on May 18, 2020, when it released a draft Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to achieve water quality standards for temperature in certain reaches of the Columbia and Lower Snake Rivers in Oregon and Washington. This new TMDL comes a few months after a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Columbia Riverkeeper v. Wheeler, requiring the agency to take the lead after Oregon and Washington failed to submit their own TMDL. Comments on the draft TMDL are due by the end of July 21, 2020.

Continue Reading EPA Issues Draft Temperature TMDL for Columbia and Snake Rivers

On May 26, 2020, the Ninth Circuit issued two related decisions in City of Oakland and County of San Mateo brought by California cities and counties against major oil and gas companies. Exclusively citing state law relating to, among other things, nuisance, negligence, and trespass, the California municipalities allege that the companies’ fossil fuel activities have substantially contributed to climate change and, in doing so, impermissibly caused public harm. The municipalities accordingly demand the companies reimburse their costs reacting to and preparing for the effects of climate change. At issue before the Ninth Circuit was whether these claims triggered the jurisdiction of federal courts. Answering this question in the negative, the court determined that the cases must proceed at the state level.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Holds that Federal Courts May Not Consider Climate Change Lawsuits

On May 5, 2020, the Illinois Attorney General filed a complaint against a developer and its contractors responsible for demolishing the smokestack of a former coal-fired power plant in Chicago. The suit provides a good reminder that careful planning for the control of fugitive dust emissions is critical during decommissioning activities—and that state legal offices

On March 31, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA” and, collectively, the “Agencies”) released the pre-publication version of the final part to their joint Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (“SAFE”) Vehicles Rule. The new rule amends EPA’s greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles in model years 2021 and onward, and it simultaneously amends or creates NHTSA’s corporate average fuel economy standards for similar vehicles in model years (MY) 2021-2026. Under these harmonized regulations, each new model year will bring a 1.5% increase in stringency through MY 2026. Though a significant lessening of requirements from joint standards last set in 2012, this “steady ramp rate” is a notable change from the proposed version of the SAFE Vehicles Rule, which sought to maintain requirements as they applied in MY 2020. The new rule will take effect sixty days from its publication in the Federal Register.

Continue Reading Agencies Release Final Rule on Passenger Vehicle Fuel Economy