Much ado is being made of recent amendments to the Clean Air Act (CAA) contained in the Biden administration’s budget reconciliation law passed in mid-August, commonly referred to as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). And with good reason, as the law includes the most significant changes to the CAA since 1990, and the new sections formally define greenhouse gases (GHGs) as an “air pollutant,” consistent with the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA.

However, the IRA amendments to the CAA do not in fact make significant substantive changes in law. Legally speaking, they can’t, given that the IRA is merely a reconciliation bill through which Congress may only assign funding. More to the point, none of the IRA amendments to the CAA address in any way the limitations the Supreme Court recently placed on EPA’s authority to adopt climate change regulation in West Virginia v. EPA, notwithstanding some characterizations to the contrary.

Continue Reading Clean Air Act Amendments Minimally Impact EPA’s Authority to Pass Climate Change Regulation

EPA’s standards for hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from industrial boilers have been controversial for nearly two decades. Ever since EPA first proposed “maximum achievable control technology” (MACT) standards for boilers in 2003, which were then entirely vacated by the D.C. Circuit, each new iteration of the rule has raised new legal issues and often foundered in court.

Continue Reading EPA’s Final Industrial Boiler Rule Raises Controversial Topics

On June 28, a coalition of 11 environmental groups petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Clean Air Act to address the alleged failure of Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to comply with and properly implement public participation and environmental justice requirements in its air permitting program. Specifically, the petition alleges that TCEQ violates the Clean Air Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by: (1) restricting public participation in air permitting by limiting judicial review of permits; (2) allowing applicants to withhold public information during the permitting process; and (3) allowing facilities to operate under the state’s permits by rule (PBR) program, which provides no meaningful opportunity for public participation.

Continue Reading Environmental Groups Target Texas Air Permitting Program on Environmental Justice Grounds

On the last day of what was already an historic term, the Supreme Court issued another significant decision impacting EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. As EPA embarks on a third attempt at a rule targeting CO2 emissions from existing power plants that will pass legal muster, the question now is how the Court’s decision will affect that new rule.

Continue Reading West Virginia v. EPA: The Supreme Court Speaks Again on Climate

In a proposed rule signed on February 28, but not yet published in the Federal Register, EPA proposed to significantly expand its current approach to regulating the interstate transport of ozone. Under the so-called “good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act, states are required to submit State Implementation Plans (SIPs) to EPA containing rules sufficient to prohibit emissions from their state that would either significantly contribute to another state’s nonattainment of national ambient air quality standards or interfere with another state’s maintenance of those standards. If a state submits a SIP that is insufficient to satisfy its good neighbor obligation, EPA must issue a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) to fully address the problem.

Continue Reading EPA Proposes Significant Expansion to Interstate Ozone Transport Regulations

To help reboot after the holiday break, here is a list of air topics we expect to make news in 2022 with a short discussion of why each one may be important to you.

Continue Reading Welcome Back! These Are the Air Topics That Will Make News in 2022

Earlier this week, EPA published its proposed new methane regulations for the oil and gas sector. These new rules will have significant practical implications for the industry and have the potential to set new precedent for EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to address climate change for other industries as well. While the proposal is over 150 pages long, it does not include the actual text of the proposed rules, promising instead to provide proposed text in a supplemental notice early next year.
Continue Reading EPA Issues Highly Anticipated Methane Rule for the Oil and Gas Sector

The U.S. Supreme Court has elected to hear a legal dispute over the scope of the authority granted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power plants. In orders issued October 29, the Court granted certiorari to four petitioners — West Virginia, North Dakota, the North American Coal Corporation, and Westmoreland Mining Holdings LLC — seeking reversal of a September 2020 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Will Hear Controversy Over EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Existing Power Plants

The Biden EPA just did something unexpected — it decided to keep a Trump EPA rule, at least for the time being. The rule, known as “project emissions accounting” under the “New Source Review” (NSR) air permitting program, allows sources of air emissions to avoid permitting by using emission decreases to offset an increase that would otherwise need a permit. While largely procedural in nature, EPA’s decision to keep the rule is notable for a few reasons.
Continue Reading Biden EPA Decides to Keep a Trump EPA NSR Rule … For Now

At the end of September, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued yet another memorandum regarding emissions resulting from startup, shutdown, and malfunctions (SSM) at stationary sources of air pollutants, such as refineries, manufacturing facilities, and power plants. This newest memo announces a return to the policy EPA announced in 2015, when it asked 45 states and local jurisdictions to change their locally written and previously EPA-approved rules. EPA’s goal in 2015 was to eliminate state rules that allow relief from penalties for “SSM” emissions. In 2020, the Trump EPA issued a memo allowing such rules under certain circumstances, but the newest EPA memo puts those rules back on the chopping block. This post provides a brief recap of the long-running debate over SSM emissions and a look forward into what is to come under EPA’s latest policy shift.

Continue Reading Penalizing Unavoidable Air Emissions: The Fight Over SSM Continues