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The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated fiscal concerns of water and sewer service providers, with many states imposing a moratorium on the collection of delinquent bills and the termination of service. The affordability of water and sewer service has also been a central topic in environmental justice discussions. In the midst of this heightened interest, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released its long-awaited proposed updates to its Clean Water Act (“CWA”) affordability guidance. The pre-publication version of its 2020 Financial Capability Assessment for CWA Obligations (“2020 FCA”) was released on September 15, 2020. The proposal builds on EPA’s prior guidance, issued in 1997, as well as its 2014 Financial Capability Assessment Framework.  The purpose of the guidance is to establish criteria for EPA consideration of the impact of water quality, stormwater, and drinking water requirements on affordability. This information can then be used to prioritize different regulatory requirements and establish longer compliance schedules in permits and enforcement actions.

Continue Reading EPA Issues Long-Awaited Update to CWA Financial Capability Assessment

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. FWS, 139 S.Ct. 361 (2018), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has issued a series of proposals to refine the scope, meaning, and criteria for designating critical habitat for species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The most recent proposal will be published in the Federal Register on September 8, 2020, kicking off a 30-day public comment period.

Continue Reading FWS Issues Additional Habitat Proposal

Environmental justice has received greater attention in 2020, both because it is an election year, but also because of the increased focus on racial inequality since the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. Many states are considering legislation on this topic, but on August 27, 2020, New Jersey passed a significant environmental justice bill, the first to require denial of a permit on environmental justice ground.
Continue Reading New Jersey Passes Significant Environmental Justice Legislation

A recent amicus curiae filing in a high-profile Michigan Clean Air Act case targets an important aspect of environmental law — citizen suit provisions — and whether they run afoul of constitutional principles. In U.S. v. DTE Energy et al.,[1] a Michigan district court is considering arguments of two law professors who question whether citizen suits invade executive powers.

Continue Reading Amicus Briefing Suggests Citizen Suits Are Unconstitutional

On July 31, 2020, the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, the “Services”) released an advance copy of a proposed rule defining “habitat” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register this week, kicking off a 30-day public comment period.
Continue Reading Definition of Habitat Proposed for the ESA

On July 16, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published its long-awaited final rule to amend its regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), introducing important changes to the 40-year-old review process. The statute requires federal agencies to take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts of certain proposed projects, but does not mandate any particular outcome. The final rule follows CEQ’s June 2018 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANOPR) and the January 2020 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR), which we previously discussed here.
Continue Reading CEQ Final Rule Overhauls NEPA Regulations

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) crystalized a new requirement that facilities manufacturing, processing, or otherwise using any of 172 different per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) submit Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reports by July 1, 2021, for calendar year 2020. The EPA created the TRI Program in 1986 under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act to provide the public with information regarding releases of chemicals that the EPA has concluded may pose a threat to human health and the environment. Facilities that manufacture, process, or use listed chemicals above established threshold quantities must annually report to the EPA the amounts released or otherwise disposed.
Continue Reading EPA Requires TRI Reporting of PFAS for Year 2020

Amid the ongoing public health pandemic, EPA has issued two fact sheets suggesting it may conclude that a federal drinking water standard for perchlorate is not warranted. In a June 2019 blog post we reported that EPA asked the public whether it should set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for perchlorate. Setting an MCL for this substance could affect both public water systems and other regulated entities. But EPA’s preliminary move last week appears to suggest that EPA is preparing to conclude that an MCL may not be warranted for perchlorate.
Continue Reading EPA Issues Fact Sheets in Advance of Decision Regarding Perchlorate in Drinking Water

On January 27, EPA published a preliminary list of manufacturers that are potentially subject to a fee obligation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). This is a follow-up notice to EPA’s designation of 20 additional substances as High Priority Substances in December, for which the agency will now go through a risk evaluation, including:

Continue Reading EPA Publishes Preliminary List of Manufacturers Subject to TSCA Risk Evaluation Fees

On January 10, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published the long-awaited proposed rule to amend its regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).  The statute, sometimes pejoratively referred to as a “paper-tiger,” requires a federal agency to take a hard look at the environmental impacts of certain proposed projects, but does not mandate any particular outcome.

Continue Reading Council on Environmental Quality Proposes Long-Awaited NEPA Regulations Overhaul