On February 14, 2019, EPA announced the release of its Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan (Action Plan) in an unprecedented series of simultaneous press conferences across all 10 of its Regions. The Action Plan brings together and organizes regulatory, enforcement, and scientific efforts across nearly all of the Agency’s statutory programs, including the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund), and the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA). Some of the components of the Action Plan are entirely new, while others represent the continuation or revival of prior initiatives. Below we summarize the highlights of the 60+ page Plan.
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
In the Rose Garden of the White House, President Trump fulfilled a key campaign promise today by confirming that the United States will begin withdrawing from the Paris Climate Change Agreement (“Agreement”). President Trump cited the Agreement’s potential financial and economic burdens as a key reason for the withdrawal. Continue Reading U.S. to Withdraw from Paris Climate Deal
On January 12, 2017, EPA published a final rule adjusting for inflation the civil monetary penalty amounts for the statutes it administers. This most recent adjustment follows on the heels of a major adjustment finalized in July 2016. These adjustments are mandated by 2015 revisions to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act. The new law required agencies to make initial “catch-up” adjustments by July 2016, followed by annual inflation adjustments beginning January 15, 2017. In the past, EPA only adjusted penalty levels for inflation once every several years.
On Wednesday, December 21, 2016, EPA issued a final rule that overhauls its Risk Management Plan (RMP) facility accident prevention program. A 2013 executive order issued by the Obama Administration following a chemical release at a Texas fertilizer facility required EPA to promulgate the rule.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election as the next president of the United States, questions have been raised regarding the fate of federal regulatory actions taken by the current administration. Recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actions are of particular interest because EPA has adopted a number of very high profile and highly impactful regulations. Commenting on EPA during the campaign, Mr. Trump stated that “[w]e are going to get rid . . . of [EPA] in almost every form. We’re going to have little tidbits left but we’re going to take a tremendous amount out.” While Mr. Trump later softened this stance by stating that he would “refocus the EPA on its core mission of ensuring clean air, and clean, safe drinking water for all Americans,” these statements illustrate that the Trump administration will almost certainly seek to roll back at least some of President Obama’s ambitious environmental initiatives. While Mr. Trump vows to reduce EPA’s size and repeal business-burdening regulations, these changes will not occur overnight. The following sections discuss ways in which an incoming administration may halt or repeal its predecessor’s actions.
Recently, the Ninth Circuit upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) decision to issue an air permit under the Clean Air Act for the construction of a biomass cogeneration facility at a lumber mill, concluding that EPA had acted reasonably when it determined that the applicant should not be required to consider solar power or a greater use of natural gas as part of the Greenhouse Gas Best Available Control Technology (“GHG BACT”) review for the permit.
Recent comments from Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden, head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division (“ENRD”), regarding DOJ’s increased use of criminal prosecutions to enforce environmental laws suggest the heightened role the ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section could play in future enforcement actions regarding violations of environmental laws. Continue Reading DOJ Shines New Light on Environmental Criminal Prosecutions
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently teamed up to enforce air and energy laws in a case involving both civil and criminal allegations under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and Federal Power Act. This marks the first criminal prosecution under the Federal Power Act. Continue Reading Alleged Manipulation of Air Monitors Leads to Civil and Criminal Settlement Under the Clean Air Act
On March 14, 2016, EPA proposed to amend the Risk Management Program (“RMP”) under Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act, indicating its intent to improve safety at facilities where hazardous chemicals are used and distributed. These revisions come in response to recent incidents at chemical facilities, particularly a deadly 2013 explosion that occurred at a Texas fertilizer facility, and a resulting Executive Order (“EO”) issued by President Barack Obama on August 1, 2013, requiring EPA to expand the RMP to address additional hazards. Continue Reading EPA Proposes Changes to the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program