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.  

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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.
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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.
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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.
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In a memo directed to all federal law enforcement officials, including the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) outlined a new policy that prioritizes the prosecution of individuals for corporate misconduct. Traditionally, DOJ has pursued companies — not individual corporate officials and managers — for alleged corporate wrongdoing. In its new policy, DOJ makes it clear that law enforcement officials will also target the individuals responsible for alleged company misconduct. Notably, these changes will be implemented in DOJ’s U.S. Attorneys Manual (USAM). This formal revision to the USAM reflects a concerted effort to fully implement the new policy outlined in the memo in future investigations. Because violations of environmental laws may lead to both civil and criminal enforcement by EPA and DOJ, this shift will have a direct impact on corporations and the individuals within those corporations that are responsible for environmental management decisions.
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In a recent memo issued by EPA’s Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance (OECA), Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles announced that four specific “enforcement tools” should be considered “in all civil enforcement cases and incorporated in civil and administrative settlements whenever appropriate.”  OECA notes that these measures can be imposed via settlement through “injunctive relief, mitigation, or Supplemental Environmental Projects.”
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EPA recently revised its Enforcement Response Policy for High Priority Violations of the Clean Air Act: Timely and Appropriate Enforcement Response to High Priority Violations (the “HPV Policy”). Although the new Policy is dated August 25, 2014, it was only recently released to the public. In addition to EPA, the HPV Policy also applies to state, local, territorial, and tribal environmental enforcement agencies and is designed to prioritize enforcement actions for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. EPA describes the revisions as “substantial changes” and notes that the new policy “supersedes” a previous version of the HPV Policy issued in 1998. State/local agencies are directed to implement the changes beginning October 1, 2014.
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Earlier this week, the governors of ten states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast took the first step towards asserting control over portions of nine other states’ authority to regulate air pollution.  The petitioning states, all of which are members of the 13-state Ozone Transport Region (the “OTR”), asked EPA to require the following upwind states to join the OTR:
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EPA recently released its draft “FY 2014-2018 EPA Strategic Plan” for public review and comment.  The Plan generally outlines the Agency’s regulatory, policy, and enforcement goals for next year through 2018.  As part of the Plan, EPA summarizes its specific priorities for “Enforcing Laws and Assuring Compliance” with environmental requirements (pages 42-45).  EPA notes that it will pursue “vigorous civil and criminal enforcement” that will target “the most serious water, air, and chemical hazards in communities in order to obtain compliance.”
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