On January 25, 2018, EPA’s Assistant Administrator, William Wehrum, issued a memorandum addressing when a “major source” subject to a section 112 maximum achievable control technology (“MACT”) standard of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) can be reclassified as an “area source,” and thus avoid any more stringent requirements that only apply to “major sources.” The memorandum departs from and supersedes EPA’s longstanding “Once in Always in” (“OIAI”) policy articulated in the May 1995 Seitz Memorandum. Under the OIAI policy, a major source of hazardous air pollutants (“HAPs”) was permanently subject to the MACT standard at the “first compliance date” of the standard even if the source was able to later limit its potential to emit (“PTE”) HAPs below the major source thresholds. EPA’s new policy explains that a major source will become an area source once it takes enforceable limits on its PTE to ensure emissions cannot exceed the applicable major source thresholds for HAPS.
This afternoon, EPA announced the details on the three anticipated “listening sessions” in connection with the Agency’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). At the same time, EPA noted that it would reopen the comment period on the proposal until April 26th. The comments are currently due to EPA by next Tuesday, January 16th. EPA’s Clean Power Plan webpage has been updated to reflect the effective extension of the comment period until late April. The listening sessions will be held in Kansas City, MO, San Francisco, CA and Gillette WY as follows:
Kansas City Listening Session
Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Time: 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., Central Standard Time (CST)
Location: U.S. Department of Agriculture Beacon Complex, 6501 Beacon Drive, Kansas City, Missouri 64133
San Francisco Listening Session
Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Time: 8:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., Pacific Standard Time (PST)
Location: San Francisco Main Library, Koret Auditorium, 30 Grove Street entrance, San Francisco, California 94102
Gillette Listening Session
Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Time: 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., Mountain Daylight Time (MDT)
Location: Gillette College Technical Education Center, 3251 South 4-J Road, Gillette, Wyoming 82718
On January 9, 2018, the EPA published the third round of final area designations under the 2010 SO2 NAAQS. In this round, the EPA identified six (6) nonattainment areas located in Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Guam. EPA designated 23 areas as unclassifiable and all other areas as attainment/unclassifiable. The primary focus in this round was on those areas electing to rely on ambient air quality modeling to assess attainment with the standard.
On January 8, the Supreme Court denied Murray Energy’s petition for appeal of a Fourth Circuit decision that had rejected its efforts to obtain judicial enforcement of Section 321 of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”). Section 321(a) requires EPA to evaluate the potential for plant closures and job losses resulting from regulation and/or enforcement under the Act. The decision marks the end of a legal challenge brought by Murray Energy and 15 states in October 2016, in which the Northern District of West Virginia strongly rebuked EPA’s failure to comply with the statute (as previously reported here). In a 27-page opinion, the district court took EPA to task, finding that the Agency’s longstanding failure to comply with § 321 evidenced a “continued hostility” to the provision. The district court required the Agency to establish a system by the end of 2017 for conducting the evaluations.
On January 9, 2018, EPA released the pre-publication copy of its annual civil monetary penalty adjustment. The final rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on January 10, 2018. The adjustments are mandated by 2015 revisions to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act, which requires federal agencies to make annual inflation adjustments to federal statutory civil penalty amounts. In the past, EPA only adjusted penalty levels for inflation once every several years. Beginning in 2017, however, EPA and other federal agencies must adjust their penalty amounts every year. Continue Reading EPA Publishes Updated Civil Penalty Amounts
On December 20, 2017, EPA took the next step in completing the area designation process under the 2015 ozone standard. Specifically, the Agency issued “120-day letters” to the states proposing designations for all areas of the U.S. that were not designated as part of the Agency’s November 6, 2017 rulemaking designating 2,646 areas as either attainment or unclassifiable under the 2015 ozone standard. Under the Clean Air Act, states recommend area designations and if EPA intends to modify a state’s recommended designation, it must notify the state no later than 120 days prior to making the final designation and give the state an opportunity to respond.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered EPA, in the context of ongoing litigation regarding the issuance of designations under the 2015 ozone standard, to present a timetable for designating the remaining areas of the country that were not addressed in the Agency’s November 16, 2017 final rule. In an order issued December 19, 2017, the court directed EPA to file a status report by January 12, 2018, “identifying with precision and specificity” when it plans to issue a final rule completing the designation process. Bill Wehrum, EPA’s Air Administrator, had already stated publicly that EPA expects to conclude the designation process, including issuance of 120-day letters to states in cases where the Agency disagrees with a state’s designation recommendations, by next spring.
On December 7, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a memorandum explaining EPA’s future approach concerning enforcement of the New Source review program, considering the uncertainty created by the Sixth Circuit’s decisions in the DTE NSR cases (U.S. v. DTE Energy Co., 711 F.3d 643 (6th Cir. 2013) and U.S. v. DTE, 845 F.3d 735 (6th Cir. 2017)). NSR requires new major sources and major modifications at existing sources to obtain a permit before construction commences. In determining whether a permit is needed for a major modification, owners or operators are required to conduct a pre-construction applicability analysis to determine whether the proposed project would cause a significant emission increase, calculated using the actual-to-projected-actual applicability test that compares past actual emissions to future projected emissions. The memorandum’s main focus is on circumstances where sources have used that test in determining NSR applicability and the pre- and post-project source obligations. Continue Reading New Source Review Memorandum Alters EPA’s Enforcement Approach Concerning Actual-to-Projected-Actual Applicability Test
In an October 16, 2017 order signed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, EPA reversed a position it has held for many years — that the Agency has authority, in the context of Title V permitting, to review previous state-level decisions on the applicability of new source permitting requirements. The new policy outlined in the October 16 order removes the Title V petition to object as an avenue for citizens to seek EPA review of state preconstruction permitting decisions.
EPA issued what the Agency is calling “Round 1” of final area designations under the 2015 ozone standard on November 6, 2017. The designations, which will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, November 16, and become effective 60 days later, include only those counties, tribal areas, and territories that EPA has designated “attainment/unclassifiable” — totaling 2,646 counties. EPA also designated 3 counties in the state of Washington as “unclassifiable.” EPA did not designate any nonattainment areas as part of the final rule, but simply noted that it is “not yet prepared to issue designations” for the remaining areas of the U.S.
EPA is currently facing litigation over its June 2017 announcement extending the deadline for designating areas under the 2015 ozone NAAQS by one year, to October 2018, even though the Agency later reversed that decision. On July 12, 2017, a dozen environmental and public health groups sued EPA in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming the Agency did not have authority to extend the deadline for designating areas under the Clean Air Act. Fifteen states followed in their footsteps, filing their own lawsuit challenging the delay on August 1. EPA responded the following day by publicly announcing its intent to withdraw the deadline extension and published official notification of the withdrawal in the Federal Register on August 10. (82 Fed. Reg. 37,218.) Continue Reading EPA Issues Attainment Designations Under the 2015 Ozone Standard But Holds Nonattainment Designations