Under the Obama Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a rule on January 13, 2017 amending parts of the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Risk Management Plan (RMP) program, which regulates facilities that use hazardous substances.  Among other things, the Obama Administration’s 2017 RMP Rule implemented new requirements related to technology and alternatives analyses, third-party audits, disclosure requirements, and incident investigations.  Similarly to other areas of environmental law, the Trump Administration expressed its intention to repeal these requirements shortly after entering office.  After issuing a May 30, 2018 proposed rule and considering nearly 77,360 submitted comments, the EPA recently made good on its intention by releasing the pre-publication version of final RMP Reconsideration Rule that, among other things, repeals the Obama Administration regulations.

The final rule incorporates most of the substantive provisions in the proposed rule.  In addition to repealing much of the 2017 RMP Rule, the RMP Reconsideration Rule modifies the requirements related to local emergency coordination and compliance dates for some provisions.  The Reconsideration Rule will become immediately effective upon its publication in the Federal Register, which should occur soon.  Parties are also expected to challenge the RMP Reconsideration Rule in court, potentially resulting in the delay of the rule’s effective date or its reversal.  One potential challenger is a contingent of fourteen state attorney generals that submitted negative comments on the proposed rule.  More recently, the states submitted another comment listing chemical incidents that have occurred since the proposed rule, which they argue further evidences the need to keep the 2017 RMP Rule.
Continue Reading The Trump Administration Repeals Obama Workplace Chemical Requirements

On August 12, 2019 the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) and National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) (collectively, the “Services”) released pre-publication versions of three final rules that are expected to significantly affect the applicability and implementation of the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).  These regulations relate to the process and standards for listing species and designating critical habitat, the scope of protections for threatened species, and the process for consultations with federal agencies under Section 7.

Continue Reading Trump Administration Finalizes Broad Changes to Endangered Species Act Regulations

Troutman Sanders attorneys Randy Brogdon and Rich Pepper  authored an article published in Law360 titled “Workplace Safety’s Little-Known Hammer: The Clean Air Act” which examines the workplace safety requirements of the Clean Air Act and the potential consequences of exclusively relying on similar, but not identical, requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. They

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to expand the applicability of the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for stationary combustion turbines. EPA originally established the combustion turbine (CT) NESHAP in 2004. On April 12, EPA officially proposed the long overdue residual risk and technology review (RTR), which is required within eight years of the final standards.

While, based on its RTR analysis, EPA proposes to leave the current CT standards in place, the proposal would expand the reach of those standards to two additional subcategories of units by lifting a stay that has been in effect since the standards were originally finalized. Lifting that 15-year-old stay would impact lean pre-mix and diffusion flame natural-gas-fired CTs. The proposal would also eliminate the startup, shutdown, and malfunction exemption for all units subject to the rule. Although all existing lean pre-mix and diffusion-flame gas-fired units would become subject to the NESHAP, only units constructed or reconstructed after January 14, 2003 must comply with substantive emission and operating limitations.
Continue Reading EPA Proposal Would Regulate Air Toxics from Two Types of Stationary Combustion Turbines

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.
Continue Reading EPA & Army Corps Request Voluntary Dismissal of Their WOTUS-Related Appeal

This morning, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposed replacement for the Clean Power Plan (CPP) titled the “Affordable Clean Energy Rule,” which would regulate greenhouse gas emissions at existing coal-fired power plants.   The proposed rule gives discretion to states for determining the greenhouse gas performance standards achievable for existing coal-fired power plants within their state.  Specifically, the proposed rule would require states to evaluate a menu of heat rate improvement options and, taking into account the unit’s remaining useful life and other factors, determine the lb/MWh CO2 emission rate achievable at each affected unit. While the rule proposes to allow for emissions averaging among affected units at an individual source, it does not provide for broader averaging or emissions trading.  To facilitate the heat rate improvement projects, EPA also has proposed an option for states to adopt a new emissions test under the New Source Review program for EGUs that is based on both hourly and annual emissions.

Continue Reading Environmental Protection Agency Releases Clean Power Plan Replacement

Last Thursday, in South Carolina Coastal Conservation League v. Pruitt, South Carolina Federal District Court Judge Norton issued an order which made the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule take effect in twenty-six states.  As background, the CWA prohibits discharges to WOTUS without a permit, but does not define the term.  In 2015, the Obama Administration finalized the WOTUS Rule, which applied an expansive meaning to the term to broaden federal jurisdiction.  In October 2015, the Sixth Circuit delayed the effective date of the WOTUS Rule pending judicial review.  In January 2018, the Supreme Court concluded its review and ordered that the Sixth Circuit, among other actions, lift its stay of the Rule.  In order to delay the implementation of the WOTUS Rule, the Trump Administration responded with yet another rulemaking – referred to as the “Suspension Rule” – which delayed the effective date of the WOTUS Rule by two years while the Administration considered a replacement for the Obama-era WOTUS Rule.

Continue Reading South Carolina Court Decision Makes the WOTUS Rule Effective in 26 States

On July 20, the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) and National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) (collectively, the “Services”) released pre-publication versions of three proposed rules that would significantly affect applicability and implementation of the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). These regulations relate to the process and standards for listing species and designating critical habitat, the scope of protections for threatened species, and the process for consultations with federal agencies under Section 7.

In addition to implementing the Trump Administration’s general deregulatory goals and Executive Order 13777, several of these proposed changes appear directly responsive to negative court precedent from the Ninth Circuit that the Services indicate improperly have extended the ESA beyond its intended scope, while other changes are intended to rollback expansions that were implemented by the Obama Administration.
Continue Reading Trump Administration Proposes Broad Changes to Endangered Species Act

The most recent development in the decades-long water wars between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama occurred today at the Supreme Court.  In a 5-4 decision, Justices Breyer, Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor overruled the Special Master’s February 14, 2017 decision and remanded the case back to him for further consideration on factual issues.  In his decision, the Special Master dismissed Florida’s claim against Georgia for its consumptive use of water from the ACF River Basin, stating that Florida failed to carry its burden of demonstrating that a limit on Georgia’s water consumption would make any difference to Florida’s economic and ecological harm.

Continue Reading SCOTUS Overrules Special Master’s Water Wars Decision, and Remands It Back for Further Consideration