On March 3, 2020, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) filed with the Illinois Pollution Control Board (Board) proposed regulations establishing standards for coal combustion residue (CCR) surface impoundments, commonly referred to as coal ash ponds, at power generating facilities. The Board published the rules for First Notice on April 16, 2020. The first public hearing was on August 11, and continued on August 12, 13 and 25. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual participation in the hearings was allowed by WebEx or by telephone. The second public hearing, which will allow testimony from the regulated community and other interested parties, is set for 9 a.m. on September 29, and continue as necessary on September 30 and October 1. The hearings are planned to be held in-person at the Board’s offices in Chicago, with virtual participation again allowed via WebEx or telephone. The hearing officer’s order scheduling the hearing dates and providing access information can be found here.
Continue Reading Illinois Pollution Control Board Schedules Second Round of Public Hearings on Proposed Regulations for Coal Ash Ponds

On May 5, 2020, the Illinois Attorney General filed a complaint against a developer and its contractors responsible for demolishing the smokestack of a former coal-fired power plant in Chicago. The suit provides a good reminder that careful planning for the control of fugitive dust emissions is critical during decommissioning activities—and that state legal offices and regulators will keep their eyes on potential environmental issues at coal-fired plants until the last brick comes down.
Continue Reading Coal Plant Demolition Triggers Illinois Air Quality Lawsuit

On August 28, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Army (Army) published a Federal Register notice announcing that the agencies will hold ten teleconferences to hear from stakeholders on recommendations to revise the definition of ‘‘Waters of the United States’’ or “WOTUS” under the Clean Water Act. Nine of the teleconferences will be stakeholder specific calls, i.e., agriculture (row crop, livestock, silviculture); conservation (hunters and anglers); small entities (small businesses, small organizations, small jurisdictions); construction and transportation; environment and public advocacy (including health and environmental justice); mining; industry (energy, chemical, oil/gas); scientific organizations and academia; and stormwater, wastewater management, and drinking water agencies. One of the teleconferences will be open to the general public.
Continue Reading EPA and Army Schedule Public Meetings on Revisions to Definition of WOTUS

On May 23rd, the Trump administration released its full fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, continuing its call for significant funding cuts for many EPA programs. Consistent with the framework outlined in the administration’s “skinny” budget issued earlier in March, the proposal would cut EPA’s overall budget by 31.4 percent, reducing overall spending from $8 billion in 2017 to $5.7 billion for 2018.  The plan would eliminate approximately 20 percent of the agency’s workforce, reducing the number of staff from over 15,000 to approximately 11,600, a reduction of approximately 3,800 jobs.

Continue Reading Trump “Fat” Budget Proposal Fleshes Out EPA Cuts

Recent statements from Myron Ebell, the leader of President Trump’s U.S. EPA transition team, continue the drumbeat from the new Administration on reducing environmental regulation.  Ebell recently stated that the administration’s goal will be to reduce EPA’s 15,000-person staff to about 5,000 employees.  These statements follow on statements from President Trump in mid-November in which he would like to see two old regulations eliminated for every new regulation enacted.  Additionally, there is rampant speculation that EPA programs focused on climate change and environmental justice will be eliminated, and that the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance will be significantly overhauled.

Continue Reading Regulations-Cutting Rhetoric Continues

EPA has released “EJ 2020 Action Agenda,” its action plan for addressing environmental justice (“EJ”) for 2016 through 2020.  The Agenda builds on the foundation established in its last EJ strategic plan, Plan EJ 2014, which laid the groundwork of EJ practices with guidance and tools to integrate EJ in EPA’s programs and policies. The Agenda is framed by three overarching goals with priority areas and examples of key actions for each goal, as well as measures to evaluate progress.

Continue Reading EPA Releases Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda

EPA defines “environmental justice” as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” On June 7, 2016, EPA released its final version of the Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis (EJ Technical Guidance). EPA previously released a draft version of this guidance on May 9, 2013.  The new guidance complements EPA’s Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of Regulatory Actions, issued in May 2015, which provides direction on when EJ should be considered during the development of a “regulatory action,” and begins to address the issue of how to do so in an analytical fashion. A “regulatory action” is “any substantive action by an agency (normally published in the Federal Register) that promulgates or is expected to lead to the promulgation of a final rule or regulation, including notices of inquiry, advance notices of proposed rulemaking, and notices of proposed rulemaking.”
Continue Reading EPA Releases Final Environmental Justice Technical Guidance

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.”
Continue Reading EPA Outlines Enforcement Priorities and Targets for 2014-2018