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

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

On April 24th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order indefinitely delaying oral argument and holding in abeyance litigation over EPA’s 2015 Startup, Shutdown and Malfunction (SSM) Rule.  The order comes in response to EPA’s request for a continuance to allow it to review the SSM Rule for possible modification or repeal.  EPA must file status reports on its review of the SSM Rule at 90-day intervals beginning 90 days from the date of the order.  Within 30 days of EPA informing the court of what action it has or will take with respect to the rule, parties to the litigation must file motions to govern future proceedings.

In the May 2017 issue of Natural Gas & Electricity, Partner Mack McGuffey offers a summary of the new direction the EPA will take under the appointment of its newest EPA administrator, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.  A copy of the article can be obtained here: “Clearing the Air on EPA’s New Chief.” Natural Gas & Electricity 33/10 ©2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., a Wiley company.

Following up on its recent promise to evaluate all existing regulations and reduce regulatory burden, EPA held a public teleconference on April 24th to take ideas on reforming its air-related regulations.  The call was scheduled for three hours, with each commenter limited to three minutes. The commenters essentially fell into two categories—environmental interest groups criticizing any attempts at what they view as a roll-back of important environmental protections, or businesses and industry groups citing specific regulations and guidance that should be reviewed and revised.  For example, David Doniger of the Natural Resource Defense Council expressed support for EPA’s climate regulations and encouraged EPA to “do its job,” while Andrea Field of the Utility Air Regulatory Group sought specific review and reform of the CO2 standards for new power plants, the mandatory greenhouse gas reporting rule, the Cross-State Air Pollution (CSAPR) Update Rule, visibility regulations, and pre-construction permitting requirements.  Other important rules mentioned by industry commenters included EPA’s methane standards for oil and gas production facilities, EPA’s national ambient air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter, the renewable fuels program, the maximum achievable control technology standards for industrial boilers, and EPA’s guidance on the use of dispersion modeling to assess air quality impacts.  Written comments in response to EPA’s request are due May 15, 2017, although several commenters have already requested more time.

If you have any questions regarding the EPA teleconference, please contact Mack McGuffey at (404) 885-3698.