On Friday, August 9, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) unveiled a pre-publication version of a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NOPR”) to clarify state water quality certification (“certification”) procedures under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) to allow for increased regulatory certainty in federal licensing and permitting activities, and particularly authorization of infrastructure projects.  EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced on Friday that the “proposal is intended to help ensure that states adhere to the statutory language and intent of Clean Water Act.”  The NOPR proposes substantive changes to the scope of state water quality certification authority under the CWA and the procedures governing these certifications, focusing on the plain language of the statute and at times departing from prior case law precedent.

Significant components of the NOPR are summarized below.  EPA has established a 60-day period for public comment on the proposed rule, from the date of publication in the Federal Register.  In light of the substantial modifications to the scope, substance and procedures related to state water quality certification, the NOPR presents a unique opportunity for utilities, manufacturers, developers, and other regulated business entities to help shape a significant regulatory program. 
Continue Reading

On July 29, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a long-anticipated proposal to amend EPA’s 2015 Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rule.

EPA’s proposal includes a number of changes, including the establishment of an alternate risk-based groundwater protection standard for boron, revisions to the annual groundwater monitoring and corrective action report requirements, and revisions to the CCR website requirements. The proposal also includes changes in response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s August 21, 2018 remand of certain CCR rule provisions. These amendments address the “beneficial use” definition and CCR pile requirements.
Continue Reading

On April 15, 2019, EPA issued its long-awaited Interpretative Statement addressing the Clean Water Act’s applicability to releases of pollutants from point sources into groundwater that subsequently migrate to jurisdictional surface waters. The question this interpretation addresses stems from the 2018 federal circuit split previously discussed here. On February 19, 2019, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in one of the cases that contributed to the split, County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund. The United States filed its amicus brief in that case, urging the highest court to review County of Maui, but not a similar ruling from the Fourth Circuit. As the question was being reviewed by the federal courts, EPA requested public comment on this issue and received over 50,000 comments. EPA is addressing some of these comments in the Interpretative Statement.
Continue Reading

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to expand the applicability of the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for stationary combustion turbines. EPA originally established the combustion turbine (CT) NESHAP in 2004. On April 12, EPA officially proposed the long overdue residual risk and technology review (RTR), which is required within eight years of the final standards.

While, based on its RTR analysis, EPA proposes to leave the current CT standards in place, the proposal would expand the reach of those standards to two additional subcategories of units by lifting a stay that has been in effect since the standards were originally finalized. Lifting that 15-year-old stay would impact lean pre-mix and diffusion flame natural-gas-fired CTs. The proposal would also eliminate the startup, shutdown, and malfunction exemption for all units subject to the rule. Although all existing lean pre-mix and diffusion-flame gas-fired units would become subject to the NESHAP, only units constructed or reconstructed after January 14, 2003 must comply with substantive emission and operating limitations.
Continue Reading