A federal judge last week upheld the constitutionality of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a law that Congress has used recently to overturn more than a dozen federal regulations from the Obama Administration.  Under the CRA, Congress, by a majority vote, can disapprove a federal regulation if it does so within sixty legislative days after the regulation was adopted.  Once Congress disapproves a regulation, it cannot be readopted in substantially similar form.

Continue Reading Judicial Decision Upholding the Constitutionality of the Congressional Review Act

On Monday February 12, President Trump unveiled his long-awaited infrastructure plan.  According to President Trump, our country’s infrastructure “is in an unacceptable state of disrepair, which damages our country’s competitiveness and our citizens’ quality of life.”  While some view the plan as a step toward streamlining an environmental review process that could delay a project unnecessarily, others worry the proposal could curtail the authority federal agencies exercise over environmental reviews pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The plan calls for $200 billion to be spent rebuilding roads, bridges, highways, railways, waterways, and other infrastructure over the next ten years.  That money will come from cuts to other programs (particularly within the Department of Transportation) and is not intended—at least as proposed—to come from new revenue streams.  According to President Trump, the proposed changes will generate approximately $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure investment.

Continue Reading Trump Administration Reveals Long-Awaited Infrastructure Plan

On January 9, 2018, EPA released the pre-publication copy of its annual civil monetary penalty adjustment.  The final rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on January 10, 2018.  The adjustments are mandated by 2015 revisions to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act, which requires federal agencies to make annual inflation adjustments to federal statutory civil penalty amounts.  In the past, EPA only adjusted penalty levels for inflation once every several years.  Beginning in 2017, however, EPA and other federal agencies must adjust their penalty amounts every year. Continue Reading EPA Publishes Updated Civil Penalty Amounts

The GeoProfessional Business Association (GBA) – formerly known as ASFE – has released a new study on the standard of care for conducting Phase I environmental site assessments. This document is the fourth in a series of studies the organization has produced since the inception of the due diligence process in the early 1990’s. The study is an evaluation of approximately 200 Phase I reports from across the country, written between 2007 and 2010. The results of the study will be a valuable tool in determining whether a Phase I conducted during that time period meets the standard of care or not.

Continue Reading New Standard of Care Document on Environmental Due Diligence (“Phase I”) Process now available

On November 2, EPA announced that it plans to hold the public hearing on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan in Charleston, West Virginia and the Agency is extending the deadline for written comments on the rule until January 16, 2018.   The hearing will be held on November 28 and 29 from 9 am – 5 pm at the West Virginia Capitol Complex in Charleston.  A copy of the press release is available here.

On October 10, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP).  The CPP was one of the Obama Administration’s signature environmental regulatory initiatives, designed to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fueled electric generating stations.  The repeal proposal asks for public comments within 60 days from the day it is published in the Federal Register.  It is expected that it will be published relatively quickly in the coming weeks.

Continue Reading EPA Takes Step to Rescind, Possibly Replace the Clean Power Plan

On July 20, 2017, EPA published in the Federal Register two final rules intended to begin implementation of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act), which significantly reformed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The two final rules are the Procedures for Prioritization of Chemicals for Risk Evaluation Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, 82 Federal Register 33753 (Prioritization Rule) and Procedures for Chemical Risk Evaluation under the Amended Toxic Substances Control Act, 82 FR 33726 (Risk Evaluation Rule).  A third TSCA framework rule—the TSCA Inventory Notification (Active/Inactive) Requirements rule (Inventory Rule)—has not yet been published in the Federal Register, although a pre-publication version was released in June 2017 (we previously reported on all three proposed rules here).  Together, these three rules will help the Agency implement the extensive reforms set out in motion by the Lautenberg Act.

The Prioritization Rule and the Risk Evaluation Rule will become effective on September 18, 2017. Upon publication of the Active/Inactive Final Rule in the Federal Register – which EPA has indicated will become effective upon publication – a 180-day clock will be triggered for affected manufacturers, and affected processors must comply within 420 days of publication.

Finally, EPA published the notice of availability of Guidance to Assist Interested Persons in Developing and Submitting Draft Risk Evaluations, a guidance document intended to assist stakeholders with developing and submitting their draft risk evaluations, and has uploaded draft scoping documents for the first ten chemicals for which EPA is required to perform risk evaluations under the Lautenberg Act to its website (EPA’s initiation of the risk evaluation for these ten chemicals was previously discussed here).

Continue Reading EPA Finalizes TSCA Reform Framework Rules

Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (“Fourth Circuit” or “the court”) vacated a federal district court’s order requiring EPA to account for the economic impacts of Clean Air Act (“CAA”) regulations.  This decision stems from a suit filed by coal companies claiming that EPA had failed to perform a non-discretionary duty by completing continuous evaluations of job losses and plant closures resulting from CAA implementation or enforcement as required under Section 321 of the CAA.  In a strongly worded opinion, the district court ordered EPA to come into compliance with the requirements of Section 321 by July 2017, an order that EPA subsequently appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Nixes EPA Coal Jobs Review Requirement

Yesterday a group of organizations with ties to the Shenandoah River sued the EPA claiming that EPA violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by approving Virginia’s 2014 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report (Integrated Report) which includes a listing of Virginia’s water quality-impaired rivers.  The groups claim that Virginia failed to evaluate data and information showing impairments to the North Fork, South Fork, and main stem of the Shenandoah River and their tributaries (collectively the Shenandoah River) due to algae blooms resulting from nutrient over enrichment, and as a result failed to add the Shenandoah River to the impaired waters list. The groups claim that EPA’s approval of Virginia’s Integrated Report violated the CWA because EPA relied on Virginia’s determination that it is too challenging to apply Virginia’s water quality standards to algal blooms, and therefore EPA failed to require that the Shenandoah River be listed as impaired by excessive algae and that as a result EPA also failed to promulgate a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the pollutants causing the impairment in violation of its obligations under CWA § 303(d)(2).  Continue Reading Suit against EPA Claims CWA Violations for Approving Virginia’s Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report