On November 13, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially opened the public comment period for its proposed revisions to its Lead and Copper Rule under the Safe Water Drinking Act. The EPA will receive comments on the proposal until January 13, 2020. A copy of proposal can be found here and an explanation of

EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ new rule repealing the 2015 “Clean Water Rule,” will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow.

The “repeal rule” will take effect December 20, 2019, providing nationwide consistency regarding the jurisdiction of Waters of the U.S. and ending the current state-by-state patchwork of where the

On October 10, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced long-awaited proposed revisions to its Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The proposed LCR revisions come nearly 30 years after the federal government last updated its lead and copper testing procedures. Originally promulgated in 1991, the LCR has long been criticized for its imprecise language and has come under fire in recent years in the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

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Yesterday, Susan Bodine, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), issued final guidance for EPA regions regarding interactions between the Agency and the states in civil enforcement and compliance assurance matters.  Under the new guidance, EPA will generally defer to a state as having primary jurisdiction over inspections and enforcement, but it also sets out a number of important exceptions where EPA may take direct action.  The final guidance replaces previous interim guidance issued in January 2018.

The guidance is split into three parts and expands upon the interim guidance by providing additional procedures and outlining various principles and approaches for coordination between EPA regions and states.  The changes are the result of input from EPA regional offices, states, and a workgroup on compliance assurance that EPA and the Environmental Council of States convened in September of 2017.
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The US EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) has recently published its final National Compliance Initiatives (NCIs) for FY 2020-2023, setting out its new enforcement and compliance areas of focus.  Formerly known as the National Enforcement Initiatives (NEIs), the newly-renamed NCIs reflect OECA’s shift toward compliance assurance.  EPA believes the name change helps better convey the goal of the NCIs, which is to reduce the average time from violation identification to correction. In doing so, the Agency seeks to use a collaborative approach, working with other federal, state, and local actors to help resolve violations and provide compliance resources.  In its notice, EPA endorses the use of a “full range of compliance tools,” including informal actions, state-led guidance, and the use of federal civil or criminal enforcement where necessary.
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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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On March 8, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Army, and Army Corps of Engineers petitioned the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 4th and 9th Circuits to voluntarily dismiss their appeals of the Suspension rule. This is yet another development in the litigation surrounding the 2015 Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS). Our previous blog posts on this topic can be accessed here.
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Today the Supreme Court issued its order list from its February 15 Conference during which it considered whether to grant certiorari in two pending petitions regarding discharges of pollutants to groundwater that is hydrologically connected to surface water. The Court granted certiorari in County of Maui, HI v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, et al. only as

EPA recently released its FY 2018 Enforcement Results highlighting the environmental benefits reaped from its enforcement and compliance assurance actions over the past year.  This year’s report shows a marked shift away from previous years’ reports, which focused on the number of cases initiated and resolved and the amount of penalties imposed.  Overall enforcement numbers declined over previous years, with a continuing decline in inspections from 10,612 in FY 2018 compared to 11,941 in FY 2017, fewer cases initiated and concluded, and few penalties imposed from $69.4 million in FY 2018 compared to $1.67 billion in FY 2017.  To contextualize the penalty reduction, EPA notes that annual penalty totals are often skewed by one or two large cases in a particular year, such as the Volkswagen mobile source defeat device enforcement with $1.45 billion in penalties in FY 2017 and the $5.7 billion in penalties assessed in FY 2016 for the BP oil spill.  Despite other reductions, the report shows an increase in enforcement of environmental crimes for FY 2018.

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