Posts tagged EPA.
Time 9 Minute Read

On February 21, 2024, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final rule adjusting the fees it collects under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EPA is required under TSCA Section 26 to review and, if necessary, adjust the fees every three years to ensure that funds are sufficient to defray part of the costs of administering TSCA. While EPA has significantly increased TSCA fees for manufacturers, importers, and processors of chemicals, it has also finalized new, key exemptions from fee requirements. These new fees will be effective on April 22, 2024.

Time 3 Minute Read

By March 1, 2024, all establishments that produce pesticides, devices, or active ingredients for pesticides must file their annual production reports for the 2023 reporting year pursuant to Section 7 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). 7 U.S.C. § 136e(c)(1). Last year, EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance reminded stakeholders that the agency is poised to take action against companies that violate FIFRA and noted that non-compliance with the requirements related to producing pesticides and devices by EPA-registered establishments is increasing.

Time 4 Minute Read

EPA’s plans to investigate – and eventually establish limits on and liability for – PFAS in wastewater discharges and biosolids crossed a significant milestone on January 31, 2024, with the completion of two new analytical methods to detect these ubiquitous contaminants. The most significant of the two is Method 1633, which provides a standardized quantitative method for laboratories to detect 40 different PFAS compounds, at very low levels, in wastewater, surface water, groundwater, soil, biosolids, sediment, landfill leachate, and fish tissue. Method 1621 is a low-cost screening method for the presence of fluorine-containing organic compounds, which could lead to use of the more sensitive Method 1633 to further characterize any PFAS in the sample. EPA’s public statements provide no timeline for seeking approval of these methods for PFAS monitoring of wastewater discharges as part of 40 C.F.R. Part 136, but a Method Update Rule is likely to be proposed before the end of the year.

EPA has big plans for the PFAS data that these two new methods will generate.

Time 6 Minute Read

On February 1, 2024, EPA released two proposed rules under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that will advance EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. These two actions would subject certain PFAS—and potentially other emerging contaminants—to RCRA corrective action and may also be a precursor to EPA listing certain PFAS as hazardous waste under RCRA. Once published in the Federal Register, comments on the Definition Rule will be due in 30 days, and comments on the PFAS Hazardous Constituent Rule will be due in 60 days.

Time 3 Minute Read

In December 2023, federal agencies released their “Fall 2023” Regulatory Agendas that provide an outlook for numerous upcoming regulatory actions on chemicals that could have significant implications for the regulated community. Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP’s chemical regulatory team has provided analyses of these upcoming regulatory actions:

Time 3 Minute Read

On January 5, 2024, EPA approved Louisiana’s application to administer the Class VI underground injection control program (UIC). 89 Fed. Reg. 703. Class VI wells are used to inject carbon dioxide into deep geological formations for long-term underground storage. This technology is a promising tool for reducing carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere.

EPA’s grant of “primacy” to Louisiana for the Class VI program will allow the state’s Department of Natural Resources to issue UIC permits for Class VI wells, and to ensure compliance with the program. Louisiana submitted its application for Class VI primacy on September 17, 2021. It becomes the third state with primacy over Class VI wells, joining North Dakota (granted primacy in 2018) and Wyoming (2020). Louisiana is the first state to receive primacy over Class VI wells during the Biden administration. Several other states—including Texas, West Virginia, and Arizona, according to the EPA’s website—currently are seeking primacy.

Time 6 Minute Read

In 2022 and 2023, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed five risk management rules under Section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) imposing restrictions and bans on chemical uses. This is the first group of risk management rules that EPA has published since Congress amended TSCA in 2016, establishing EPA’s process to address “unreasonable risks” identified for certain uses of existing chemicals. These proposed rules provide a roadmap for EPA’s approach to chemical regulation under Section 6(a), establishing the precedent for future regulation.

Companies should anticipate more proposed bans, especially for consumer uses of a chemical, along with significantly lower chemical exposure limits compared to occupational exposure limits. Rigorous workplace requirements, including exposure monitoring, respiratory protection and additional personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements are also expected. And, the absence of industry data on a chemical’s use may lead to more stringent proposed regulation.

Time 13 Minute Read

On October 13, 2023, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) published its first annual report detailing the implementation of its Comprehensive Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy (EJ Strategy). As we reported, in mid-2022, DOJ established an Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established a new Office of Environmental Justice (EJ) and External Civil Rights. DOJ’s OEJ is housed in the Environmental and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). DOJ intended its EJ Strategy to extend throughout the Department, in that OEJ’s mandate is to engage all DOJ bureaus, components, and offices in the collective pursuit of environmental justice. DOJ’s new report cites two main executive branch agencies involved in environmental protection and community development: EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The report touts efforts that DOJ views as EJ-related “successes” and details a number of authorities DOJ has relied upon in EJ-focused enforcement, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Affordable Care Act. Building on these highlighted successes, DOJ states that it will continue its focus on enforcement proceedings where there is a nexus with environmental justice and will seek EJ-focused mitigation to resolve such proceedings. 

Time 3 Minute Read

Many involved in carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) policy foresaw several years ago the situation we are in now:  lots of Class VI Underground Injection Control (UIC) permit applications to store CO2, not enough speed at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get them processed, and not enough speed by EPA to divvy up the work by delegating the permitting authority to the States. 

That’s why Congress included funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for Class VI UIC permitting:  $50 million for EPA to help States defray costs of taking over the Class VI permitting program and $25 million total for fiscal years 2022-26 for EPA itself to get the job done.

Time 8 Minute Read

On September 8, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) (together, the Agencies) published a final rule in the Federal Register to amend the Agencies’ January, 2023 “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) definition (Amended Rule). 88 Fed. Reg. 61,964 (Sep. 8, 2023).[i] According to the Agencies, these amendments conform that definition to the Supreme Court’s Sackett decision. 

Time 9 Minute Read

EPA finalized a rule effective on August 7, 2023 concerning the treatment of confidential business information (CBI) claims made in Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) submissions. Companies who submit any information to EPA under TSCA and want their confidential information to be protected from public disclosure must comply with these new requirements for CBI claims. Failure to follow these procedural requirements can result in EPA’s denial of the confidentiality claims and the information being made public.

Time 6 Minute Read

The US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently finalized its long-anticipated National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (“NECIs”) for fiscal years 2024 through 2027, naming six “priority areas” on which EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”) will focus its enforcement efforts and direct additional resources. In his first significant action since being confirmed by the Senate on July 20, 2023, OECA Assistant Administrator David Uhlmann issued a memorandum on August 17, 2023 to the EPA Regional Administrators, advising of the six NECIs. He stated that over the next four years EPA will “address the most significant public health and environmental challenges, protect vulnerable and overburdened communities, and promote greater compliance with our environmental laws.”

Time 10 Minute Read

On August 14, EPA published its proposed modifications to regulations establishing the requirements for a state or tribe to assume the Clean Water Act (CWA) section 404 permit program, including necessary state program elements, EPA responsibilities (e.g., approval and oversight of assumed programs), and requirements for review, modification, and withdrawal of state programs.  88 Fed. Reg. 55,276 (Aug. 14, 2023).  The proposal provides helpful clarifications but does not resolve a number of key issues faced by states considering assumption and by permittees in those States. 

Time 3 Minute Read

In June 2023, federal agencies released their “Spring 2023” Regulatory Agendas that provide an outlook for numerous upcoming regulatory actions on chemicals which could have significant implications for the regulated community. Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP’s regulatory team have provided analyses of these upcoming regulatory actions:

Time 9 Minute Read

On May 3, 2023, EPA released its proposed risk management rule under Section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to impose restrictions on the manufacture, import, processing, distribution, and use of methylene chloride, a widely-used solvent in a variety of consumer and commercial applications. This is the first risk management rule proposed by EPA since it issued revised risk determinations last year based on its new “whole chemical approach” and policy for assuming that personal protective equipment (PPE) is not used by workers. It also reflects a substantial expansion of the regulatory prohibitions applicable to a chemical that was already subject to TSCA risk management restrictions, albeit more limited ones, under EPA’s prior framework for risk management actions.

EPA is proposing to prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer use; prohibit most industrial and commercial uses of methylene chloride; require a workplace chemical protection program (WCPP) for certain identified conditions of use that are allowed to continue; and provide certain time-limited, critical use exemptions under Section 6(g) of TSCA for uses of methylene chloride that would otherwise significantly disrupt national security and critical infrastructure. Stakeholders have until July 3, 2023 to comment on the proposed rule.

Time 4 Minute Read

On April 27, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Proposed Rule to grant Louisiana primacy to administer and enforce the Class VI Underground Injection Control (UIC) program within its borders. EPA approval of Louisiana’s primacy application would authorize the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) to issue UIC permits for Class VI geologic carbon sequestration facilities and undertake compliance enforcement for such facilities located within the state. EPA has determined that Louisiana’s application meets the necessary requirements for approval and is soliciting public comments on the proposal. One of the major sticking points in EPA’s approval of Louisiana’s program has been the approach to incorporating environmental justice (EJ) into the Class VI permit process. LDNR has agreed to implement a number of EJ-focused elements into the permitting process, including robust EJ analysis and public participation.

Time 3 Minute Read

On March 29 the US House of Representatives adopted by voice vote an amendment offered by Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and August Pfluger (R-TX) to speed up Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review of state applications for primacy to run the Class VI Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. The amendment was included in H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, the high-profile energy and permitting reform bill the House approved on March 30.

The UIC program is designed to prevent endangerment of underground sources of drinking water from subsurface injections. The Class VI program specifically regulates the geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide, which is considered to be essential for the world to meet international emission reduction targets. 

Time 3 Minute Read

President Biden issued his second veto late last week. The President’s second veto protects a U.S. EPA rule that went into effect on March 20, 2023. That rule redefines “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), and at a high conceptual level, returns the Agency’s interpretation of WOTUS to that of the Obama administration, an interpretation that was revoked and replaced by the Trump administration.

This matter has been hotly contested in the federal courts. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to issue a ruling within the next several weeks on Sackett v. EPA, a decision which could substantially revise and narrow the Agency’s definition of “waters of the United States.” The Court’s decision here could send the Biden administration’s revised definition of WOTUS back to EPA for changes needed in-line with the Court’s decision, if and when issued.

Time 5 Minute Read

On March 29, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register its long-awaited proposed rule to restrict certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). This action is part of EPA’s whole-of-agency approach in its PFAS Strategic Roadmap and is expected to directly affect 66,000 public water systems across the country. Comments on the proposal are due on May 30, 2023. EPA will also hold a public hearing on May 4, 2023 to receive stakeholder input on this important rulemaking.

Time 7 Minute Read

In late February 2023, EPA released for public comment its Draft Proposed Principles of Cumulative Risk Assessment under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“Draft Principles”), which proposes a set of principles for evaluating cumulative risks for chemicals undergoing risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). In conjunction with the Draft Principles, EPA also released its “Draft Proposed Approach for Cumulative Risk Assessment of High-Priority Phthalates and a Manufacturer Requested Phthalate Under the Toxic Substances Control Act,” (“Draft Proposed Phthalates Cumulative Risk Approach”), an approach for applying these Draft Principles to the evaluation of cumulative risks posed by certain phthalates undergoing TSCA risk evaluations. EPA referred to these documents as the “first steps” towards the Agency conducting cumulative risk assessments under TSCA.

Time 5 Minute Read

In February 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) quietly released a Compliance Advisory “What You Need to Know about Producing, Distributing, or Selling Pesticide Devices.” The advisory follows on the heels of similar advisories and provides information to the regulated community about requirements for pesticide devices under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in order to promote compliance. EPA issued this advisory in response to a “significant increase” in the number of pesticide devices being sold or distributed in the US in which EPA has found “substantial non-compliance” with FIFRA requirements. EPA has also experienced a high volume of inquiries from companies and other regulators seeking clarification about pesticide device requirements. The advisory suggests that EPA remains poised to continue taking enforcement actions against companies that import, distribute or sell pesticide devices that do not comply with FIFRA’s requirements.

Time 3 Minute Read

In January 2023, federal agencies released their “Fall 2022” Regulatory Agendas that provide roadmaps for upcoming and long-term regulatory actions on chemicals that could have significant implications for the regulated community. These agendas make clear that the Biden Administration continues to prioritize regulatory actions to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) across multiple agencies. And the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also continues to implement numerous regulatory initiatives to assess and mitigate chemical risks under the strengthened Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Hunton’s chemical regulatory team has provided analyses of these upcoming regulatory actions:

Time 6 Minute Read

On December 22, 2022, EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program released its ORD Staff Handbook for Developing IRIS Assessments (IRIS Handbook). EPA began working on the approaches in the IRIS Handbook after a 2011 National Research Council report recommended several improvements to the overall IRIS assessment process. In 2020, EPA released a draft IRIS Handbook for public comment and commissioned a peer review by the National Research Council.

Established in 1985 to ensure Agency-wide consistent toxicity evaluations, IRIS assessments provide chemical toxicity values for noncancer and cancer human health effects resulting from chronic exposure to chemicals. These values are often utilized in EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). While chemical risk evaluations conducted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) require more information and analysis than that provided by an IRIS assessment, IRIS assessments will likely continue to be used to inform TSCA risk evaluations. State agencies and international bodies also rely on IRIS assessments.

Time 9 Minute Read

Yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) (together, the Agencies) published a final rule revising the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) subject to federal regulation and permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act (CWA).  This rule is the latest attempt by the Agencies to craft a durable rule defining WOTUS.  The new rule, which largely mirrors the 2021 proposal, asserts a broader geographic scope of federal jurisdiction than the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR).  In particular, the Agencies adopt the broadest possible interpretation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Rapanos (through incorporation of both the plurality’s “relatively permanent” test and Justice Kennedy’s “significant nexus” test).  The final rule would, for the first time, codify aspects of the Agencies’ 2008 Rapanos Guidance and would rely on the significant nexus test’s case-by-case approach for evaluating jurisdiction for tributaries, wetlands, and other waters.  The Agencies released the final rule while the Supreme Court considers the scope of CWA authority over a major category of WOTUS, “adjacent wetlands,” in Sackett v. EPA, and the Supreme Court could hand down a decision in the coming months that could require changes to the rule.

Time 6 Minute Read

On January 12, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published its proposed National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives ("NECIs”), soliciting public comment on the Agency’s potential Initiatives for fiscal years 2024 through 2027. These NECIs will guide EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”) in its enforcement efforts over the next four years by focusing resources on “serious and widespread environmental problems where federal enforcement can make a difference.” Unsurprisingly, the identified NECIs build off EPA’s FY2022 Enforcement Results (on which we recently reported) and reflect OECA’s overarching goal: “to protect human health and the environment by holding polluters accountable and compelling regulated entities to return to compliance.”

Time 12 Minute Read

The US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) announced its enforcement and compliance results for Fiscal Year 2022 (“FY2022”) in late December. In the Annual Results report prepared by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”), OECA highlights EPA’s efforts to target the most serious violations of the country’s core environmental statutes and civil rights laws—effectuating the mission and principles set forth in its FY2022 to 2026 EPA Strategic Plan. According to OECA, EPA’s enforcement and compliance program used “a range of tools and best practices” to specifically target water, air, land and chemical violations that impacted communities the most. In so doing, EPA reportedly reduced, treated or eliminated approximately 95 million pounds of pollutants and compelled violators to pay over $300 million in fines, restitution or penalties. The enforcement and compliance trends highlighted below continue an overall decline seen in the last decade, yet provide evidence that EPA is succeeding in its enforcement and compliance efforts in areas that are the biggest priority for the Biden administration.

Time 5 Minute Read

On July 20, 2022, in Naturaland Trust v. Dakota Finance, LLC, No. 21-1517, a split Fourth Circuit panel held that a state agency’s notice of violation did not “commence an action” within the meaning of 33 U.S.C. § 1319(g)(6)(A)(ii). That provision states that a Clean Water Act violation “shall not be the subject of” a citizen suit for civil penalties if a state “has commenced and is diligently prosecuting” an action with respect to the violation “under a State law comparable to” the Clean Water Act. The court also held that this provision is not jurisdictional.

Time 8 Minute Read

On June 15, 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released drinking water health advisories [1] for certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), resulting in the establishment of:

  1. Near zero updated interim advisory levels for Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) that are not only orders of magnitude below previously established levels, but that are also below detectable levels and, notably, were issued in advance of completion of peer review by EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB); and
  2. Newly issued final advisories at low levels for GenX and PFBS chemicals that have been used as replacement chemicals for PFOA and PFOS.
Time 4 Minute Read

On May 18, 2022, in York et al. v. Northrop Grumman Corp. Guidance and Electronics Co. Inc. et al., No. 21-cv-03251 (W.D. Mo.), a federal district court dismissed state-law tort claims for alleged groundwater contamination, finding that they were preempted by an existing Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) consent decree. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that two CERCLA “savings clauses” allow their claims to proceed.

Time 5 Minute Read

On April 12, 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a sweeping proposed ban on ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos, the only form of asbestos known to still be imported into the United States. EPA’s proposed ban is the first risk management rule issued under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) since the 2016 Lautenberg Act overhauled the statute to give EPA new powers to review and regulate existing chemicals.

Time 4 Minute Read

Last week, in Residents of Gordon Plaza, Inc. v. Cantrell, the Fifth Circuit denied a petition for rehearing en banc of a recent decision affirming the dismissal of a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) citizen suit. The key issue in the underlying appeal, 25 F.4th 288 (5th Cir. 2022), was whether certain maintenance activities qualify as a “removal” action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The court affirmed that the maintenance activities do indeed constitute a “removal action.” Therefore, the suit was barred under 42 U.S.C. § 6972(b)(2)(B)(iv), which precludes RCRA citizen suits where a “responsible party is diligently conducting a removal action” pursuant to a CERCLA consent decree with EPA.

Time 7 Minute Read

On December 29, the chemicals program at EPA closed out 2021 by proposing revisions to its risk determinations for the Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster (HBCD), a solvent used as a flame retardant and wetting agent which has not been manufactured in the United States in nearly five years. In doing so, the Biden EPA made good on its June 2021 promise to revisit risk determinations previously made during the Trump Administration in accordance with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The draft “revisions” represent a significant shift from EPA’s prior approach to existing chemical risk evaluation and foreshadow increased regulatory and litigation risk for all companies—not just those whose operations may have historically involved HBCD.

Time 9 Minute Read

EPA hopes to issue its final National Recycling Strategy (NRS) this November, according to recent statements by acting director of EPA’s Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division, Office of Land and Emergency Management Nena Shaw at the American Bar Association’s Fall Conference. Previously, EPA indicated it intended to finalize the NRS in the spring of 2021 with an implementation roadmap out in the fall of 2021. To date, the agency has yet to release its final NRS.

Time 8 Minute Read

 On October 18, 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency launched its PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action 2021-2024 (“Roadmap”)[i] setting forth its “whole-of-agency” approach to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The Roadmap sets forth timeframes for EPA actions to address PFAS across environmental media and under various statutory authorities including the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Clean Water Act (CWA) and Clean Air Act (CAA). As such, EPA’s implementation of the Roadmap, including key initiatives rolled out in the days following its release, will affect a broad spectrum of industry sectors and facilities throughout the PFAS lifecycle who may face new and expanded regulatory requirements and obligations.

Time 9 Minute Read

In a dramatic announcement last week, EPA suggested that if companies import, manufacture, or process a finished good for commercial sale, and that product is not a pesticide, not a firearm, not a tobacco product, and not a food, food additive, drug, cosmetic, or device, they will need to know all chemicals contained in those products. We explain more about this below.

EPA has traditionally declined to extend most of its chemical regulations to finished goods, which are known as “articles” under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), on the grounds it would be enormously difficult for importers of complex consumer products to determine the chemical identity of each chemical substance in these products. Industry stakeholders have generally supported this approach and have long taken the position that supply chains are too complex to expect finished product manufacturers to be aware of all chemicals in those products.

Time 5 Minute Read

On August 30th, EPA granted the 2007 Petition from the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) requesting that EPA revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances. This followed the Ninth Circuit order earlier this year for EPA to: “(1) grant the 2007 Petition; (2) issue a final regulation within 60 days following issuance of the mandate that either (a) revokes all chlorpyrifos tolerances or (b) modifies chlorpyrifos tolerances and simultaneously certifies that, with the tolerances so modified, the EPA "has determined that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide chemical residue, including all anticipated dietary exposures and all other exposures for which there is reliable information," including for "infants and children"; and (3) modify or cancel related FIFRA registrations for food use in a timely fashion consistent with the requirements of 21 U.S.C. § 346a(a)(1).”

Time 5 Minute Read

In the face of accelerating EPA and state regulatory activity on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”)[i], Congress is pressing forward with measures that would address or impose limitations on these “forever chemicals.” More than thirty such legislative measures are currently pending in Congress covering a number of subjects related to PFAS including, but not limited to, those involving military uses, funding assistance, detection and research, product stewardship, site remediation, and regulatory mandates. Of these, the most comprehensive initiative ...

Time 4 Minute Read

The White House announced on July 22, 2021, President Biden’s nomination of David Uhlmann to be the Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Uhlmann is currently the director of the Environmental Law and Policy Program at the University of Michigan Law School and was previously a federal prosecutor for 17 years, including as the Chief of the Environmental Crimes Section of the US Department of Justice. His nomination signals the White House’s clear intent to reinvigorate EPA’s enforcement program after what the EPA’s Inspector General found in its March 31, 2020 report to be years of declining case statistics across multiple administrations.

Time 5 Minute Read

On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, EPA held the first of two public “listening sessions” to inform its review of the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations pursuant to Executive Order 13990.  According to Carlton Waterhouse, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Land & Emergency Management (OLEM), the listening sessions are “a first step in considering improvements to the RMP rule, so EPA can better address the impacts of climate change on facility safety and protect communities from chemical accidents, especially vulnerable and overburdened communities living near RMP facilities.”

Time 5 Minute Read

The topic of infrastructure has been front and center in recent weeks, following the Biden Administration’s unveiling of the American Jobs Plan, a massive investment plan to “Build Back Better” the country’s infrastructure.  A critical infrastructure component is water systems—drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater—many of which have deteriorated with age and lack of funding.  The renewed focus on infrastructure proposes to funnel massive investment into upgrading the nation’s water systems, under the American Jobs Plan and a slate of bills now before Congress.  We take a look at what the new infrastructure developments could mean for water systems.

Time 8 Minute Read

As we previously reported, for the first time in over 25 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the formal transfer of Clean Water Act (CWA) section 404 permitting authority to a state.  On December 22, 2020, the State of Florida – only the third state to receive such approval – “assumed” 404 permitting authority from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in certain waters of the United States (WOTUS).  Since that time, CWA section 404 permit applicants have faced a number of questions about the scope and process of assumed 404 permitting.  Five of the top questions are listed below, followed by their answers.

Time 5 Minute Read

On Earth Day, as expected, the Biden-Harris Administration continued its efforts to fulfill campaign commitments on climate change.  The big announcement came on what is called the “Nationally Determined Contribution” or NDC.  The Administration announced that the United States will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 50% by 2030.  This reflects an increased commitment from the United States’ prior commitment of cutting emissions by 25% from 2005 levels by 2025.

Time 2 Minute Read

Late last year, New Jersey became the first state to require via legislation that its environmental state agency evaluate the contributions of certain facilities to existing environmental and public health stressors in overburdened communities when reviewing certain permit applications. California, never to be outdone, has begun its own legislative process to further incorporate environmental justice into state decision-making.

Time 2 Minute Read

As we have explained, environmental justice will be a central focus of the Biden-Harris administration. A recent Executive Order declares federal agencies “shall make achieving environmental justice part of their missions by developing programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionately high and adverse human health, environmental, climate-related and other cumulative impacts on disadvantaged communities, as well as the accompanying economic challenges of such impacts.” Both big and small, changes are coming at the federal level on permitting, rulemaking, enforcement, and other actions that will have a practical impact on corporations and communities.

Time 6 Minute Read

On January 26, 2021, a coalition of advocacy groups and prominent asbestos plaintiffs’ experts launched two challenges to “Part 1” of the asbestos risk evaluation recently released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  EPA concluded in Part 1 that 16 of the 32 “conditions of use” analyzed pose an “unreasonable risk” to human health, but advocacy groups have criticized EPA for only addressing risks associated with chrysotile asbestos and excluding review of other fiber types.  Now, those groups have teamed up on a pair of legal challenges that could force EPA to revisit its Part 1 asbestos risk evaluation, which could delay risk management regulations.

Time 4 Minute Read

On January 15, 2021, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”) received approval to implement the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) program for oil and gas discharges. [1]  Generally, as a result of this approval, applicants for NPDES permits for produced water, hydrostatic test water, and gas plant effluent will only require a single TCEQ authorization rather than authorizations from both the Railroad Commission of Texas (“RRC”) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as previously had been required. [2]

Time 5 Minute Read

A January 12, 2021 US Department of Justice (DOJ) memorandum extends and provides additional legal analysis to support the government’s increasing drumbeat against settling cases and reducing environmental penalties in recognition of Supplemental Environmental Projects or “SEPs.”  The new memo addresses the limited circumstances under which attorneys in DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), the division of DOJ that represents EPA and other federal agencies in enforcing environmental laws, may include certain mitigation requirements in settlement agreements.  Issued last week by ENRD Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark on the same day that he announced his departure from the Department, the memo bolsters the previously provided rationale for ENRD’s policy prohibiting SEPs in settlement agreements.  It also distinguishes SEPs from “equitable mitigation,” which the memo defines more narrowly and considers to be both permissible and appropriate.  The memo also lists criteria to guide ENRD attorneys evaluating whether equitable mitigation measures are appropriate in a given civil enforcement case.

Time 6 Minute Read

Before yesterday only two states had received approval to administer the Clean Water Act (CWA) section 404 program (Michigan and New Jersey), and no state had received approval since 1994.  Now, for the first time in over 25 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the formal transfer of section 404 permitting authority to a third state: Florida.  Once EPA’s approval is published in the Federal Register, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) will “assume” 404 permitting authority from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in certain waters, significantly altering the 404 permitting process in Florida.  EPA’s decision has broader implications for the 404 program on a national scale, as other states, including Oregon and Minnesota, consider whether to pursue assumption.

Time 8 Minute Read

One of the most frequent terms heard in conjunction with President-Elect Biden’s energy and environmental agenda is “environmental justice,” which is often described as an overarching objective as well as a key component of the incoming administration’s climate agenda.  This post looks at how the Biden Administration may translate environmental justice principles into concrete executive actions, and how project proponents can prepare for increased focus on environmental justice in their permitting.

Time 5 Minute Read

On October 27, 2020, in a succinct order, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“the Court” or “D.C. Circuit”) denied motions for stay and for summary vacatur filed by several environmental advocacy groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund and Sierra Club, as well as states and local governments, with leadership from the States of New York and California in litigation challenging EPA’s Oil and Natural Gas Sector:  Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review, 85 Fed. Reg. 57,018 (Sept. 14, 2020) (“Methane Repeal Rule,” or the “Rule”).  Order at 1, California, et al. v. Andrew Wheeler, et al., No. 20-1357 (D.C. Cir. Oct. 27, 2020).  In addition to an opposition filed by EPA, regulated industry trade groups, including the American Petroleum Institute (“API”), weighed in with the Court on EPA’s behalf to oppose the stay.

Time 10 Minute Read

On October 8, 2020, Wyoming federal district court Judge Skavdahl struck down the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “Waste Prevention Rule,” otherwise known as the “Venting and Flaring Rule,” which had been promulgated on November 18, 2016, in the closing months of President Obama’s second term (“2016 Rule”).  See Order on Pets. for Review of Final Agency Action, Wyoming v. U.S. Dep’t of Interior, No. 2:16-CV-0285-SWS (D. Wyo. Oct. 8, 2020) (Order vacating 2016 Rule).  The detailed fifty-seven-page decision concludes that in issuing the 2016 Rule, BLM exceeded its statutory authority and acted arbitrarily.  The core of the court’s holding was that the 2016 Rule was grounded in air quality motivations, which was the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and, therefore, beyond BLM’s statutory authority to promulgate.

Time 8 Minute Read

In the age of COVID-19, demand for surface wipes, sprays and similar products is at record levels. Retail stores have struggled to keep supplies stocked and shelves may once again be emptied when the winter flu season arrives. If schools and businesses reopen concurrently, the prospects of securing these products becomes even bleaker, which may re-fuel consumer stockpiling. To meet this surging demand, manufacturers have ramped up production and new entrants are pouring into this market space in unprecedented numbers. Supply chains are already stressed and further straining is expected to continue.

Time 8 Minute Read

Flaring has the attention of RRC, Producers and Stakeholders

Flaring has the attention of the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), oil and natural gas companies and stakeholders such as royalty owners, investors and environmental groups. Requests for RRC authorization of flaring has been on the increase in the Permian Basin. As a result, a number of interested parties are looking at regulatory changes. Some interested parties voice concern that a valuable resource is being wasted, others state that the definition of natural gas 'waste' is too limited, still others are concerned about methane emissions and some all of the above. Though the interested parties may not always be aligned, there is a general sense that regulatory amendments are needed.

Time 9 Minute Read

Company Boards of Directors and senior executives of oil and gas companies should take notice of a May 14, 2020, guidance document issued by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) entitled, “CSB Best Practice Guidance for Corporate Boards of Directors and Executives in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry for Major Accident Prevention.,”  And don’t be deceived by its title reference to offshore activities.  Companies also need to pay mind to the guidance for onshore operations.  Why?  If there is an accident, government agencies will likely argue that the principles articulated apply equally as well on dry land.

Time 4 Minute Read

On June 30, 2020, Democratic members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis unveiled a 538-page report that calls for reaching net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions economy-wide by 2050. The report, titled “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy and Just America,” includes over a hundred policy recommendations to meet the 2050 goal.

Time 5 Minute Read

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be 50 years old this year.  Over the past half-century, EPA has issued literally tens of thousands of documents explaining its extensive regulatory programs.  These guidance documents come in a wide variety of forms.  Some may be signed by the EPA Administrator. Many more are signed by officials in program offices, in the Regions, or even by technical staff.  Some may provide broad national guidance, while others interpret rules in source-specific factual settings.  Guidance may appear in preambles to rules, in response to “frequently asked questions” (FAQS), in applicability determinations, in Environmental Appeals Board decisions, in General Counsel opinions, and in many other ways.  And of course, as Administrations change, guidance may change to reflect new policies.  Anyone who has had to manage environmental compliance is familiar with the challenges of identifying operative agency guidance.

Time 4 Minute Read

Recent press reports note that air quality has improved worldwide and in the United States during the ongoing pandemic1. Shortly prior to the pandemic, though, stories lamented declining American air quality2. What’s really going on?  Is the news good or bad?

Time 6 Minute Read

On June 1, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, signed a final rule seeking to increase predictability for applicants by clarifying the regulations that govern the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 water quality certification process.

Time 5 Minute Read

Agency guidance will be subject to certain standards and procedures under a proposed rule published by EPA in the Federal Register on May 22, 2020.  According to EPA, the proposed rule is “intended to increase the transparency of EPA’s guidance practices and improve the process used to manage EPA guidance documents.”  EPA will accept written comments on the proposed rule until June 22, 2020.

Time 5 Minute Read

Today, April 10, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its anticipated interim guidance on impacts to operations at cleanup sites due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The guidance memorandum, issued jointly by the heads of EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) and Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) and directed to Regional EPA Administrators, focuses on adjusting response activities at cleanup sites under a number of EPA administered programs and emergency responses due to the COVID-19 situation and the myriad of state and local shelter-in-place and business curtailment orders.

Time 5 Minute Read

The reach of the CWA is “notoriously unclear.” Sackett v. EPA, 132 S. Ct. 1367, 1375 (2012) (Alito, J., concurring). It can be difficult for a landowner to understand whether wetlands or a small creek on his or her parcel, for example, are federal waters that require a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit before the landowner can begin work to build a home, develop the property, or cultivate the land. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) (together, the Agencies) issued a new, long-awaited final rule, titled the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” which seeks to streamline and clarify the geographic scope of federal CWA jurisdiction.

Time 5 Minute Read

Over the past few years, certain states have relied on ambiguities in the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 water quality certification process to block the construction of significant energy infrastructure projects (e.g., oil and gas pipelines, coal export facilities, and liquid natural gas [LNG] terminals) determined by federal agencies to be in the public interest of individual states, regions, and the nation as a whole. Consistent with the cooperative federalism structure of the CWA—and the important role of states in protecting water quality within their borders—Section 401 requires applicants for a federal license or permit anticipated to result in discharges to navigable waters to obtain a certification from the relevant state that the discharge will comply with applicable state water quality standards. States can waive this requirement, and if they do not act within “a reasonable period of time (which shall not exceed one year) after receipt” of the request for the certification, waiver is automatic. 33 U.S.C. § 1341(a).

Time 4 Minute Read

On Wednesday, April 10, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO), titled Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth, that requires the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies to undertake a series of regulatory actions to clarify the Clean Water Act (CWA) § 401 water quality certification (WQC) process. CWA § 401 provides states with the opportunity to evaluate the potential water quality impacts from discharges of proposed projects by certifying whether the discharge will comply with applicable water quality standards. States can waive this requirement, and if they do not act within “a reasonable period of time (which shall not exceed one year) after receipt” of a request for certification, waiver is automatic. 33 U.S.C. § 1341(a). A handful of states have relied on this process to thwart the development of energy infrastructure projects, either by denying certification due to concerns unrelated to water quality (such as opposition to hydraulic fracturing, climate change concerns, etc.) or by ignoring the statutory time period to reach a determination.

Time 3 Minute Read

EPA has shown a little love for states wanting action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). On February 14, 2019, EPA announced its PFAS Action Plan, calling it “the most comprehensive, cross- agency action plan for a chemical of concern ever undertaken by the Agency.” The Action Plan consists of 23 priority action items with the majority identified as short-term or generally taking place or expected to be completed in the next two years.

Time 1 Minute Read

The US National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are the centerpiece of the US Clean Air Act (CAA) and establish allowable concentration levels for six "criteria air pollutants": ozone, particulate matter, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. The CAA requires the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and, as appropriate, revise the NAAQS at least every five years, and EPA has, since 1970, regularly adopted increasingly stringent standards. Whether those revisions have gone far enough or too far has become a predictably contentious issue, with each review involving debates over science, the role of EPA's Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC), the discretion of the EPA Administrator, and the format of the review process itself, among many other issues.

Time 5 Minute Read

Last week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) (together, the Agencies) issued a long-awaited proposal to redefine the “waters of the US” (WOTUS) subject to federal regulation and permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The reach of the CWA is notoriously unclear, but knowing which areas on your property are jurisdictional and will require permits is critical to project planning and timelines. If finalized, the proposed rule would replace the Obama administration’s contentious 2015 WOTUS Rule and eliminate the regulatory patchwork that currently exists as the 2015 WOTUS Rule is being implemented in only certain parts of the country.

Time 8 Minute Read

Nearly two years into the current administration, many questions remain regarding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) approach to environmental enforcement. EPA and DOJ have both issued various policies that we have covered in past blog posts that provide some level of insight on priorities and procedures, but a better assessment can only be made by looking at cases initiated, referred, resolved or concluded after a trial.

Time 4 Minute Read

One of the first lessons that most Superfund practitioners learn is that it is no easy task to prevent EPA from placing a site on the National Priorities List. The NPL is the “list of national priorities among the known or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants throughout the United States.”[1] It “contains the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites.”[2] There are nearly 1,350 sites on the NPL today. Since the first list was issued in 1980, only 399 – or, on average, ten per year – have been deleted. That is only two per state in a decade (on average). The pace of EPA’s decision-making on proposed deletions is protracted, if not glacial. And looking to the courts for relief from the stigma of having a site on the NPL rarely bears fruit.

It therefore surprised and may even have delighted some practitioners when the DC Circuit decided, in Genuine Parts Company v. EPA, No. 16-1416 (D.C. Cir. May 18, 2018), to overturn EPA’s decision to list the West Vermont Drinking Water Contamination Site on the NPL.

Time 7 Minute Read

On February 7, 2018, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a proposed rule to establish user fees to defray EPA’s costs of administering its responsibilities under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the 2016 Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act). EPA estimates in the proposed rule that it will collect about $20.05 million per year in user fees, not counting any user fees associated with manufacturer-requested risk evaluations, which would range from $1.3 million to $2.6 million per evaluation.

Time 4 Minute Read

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual enforcement and compliance results for the most recent fiscal year (FY) on February 8, 2018. The results, which cover the period from October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017, are the Trump administration’s first annual statistical report on federal environmental enforcement. The results provide insight into the administration’s focus and priorities for enforcement.

Time 8 Minute Read

A year ago, the regulated community and its environmental lawyers recognized that the Trump administration would bring a new approach to the enforcement of federal environmental laws, but the nature of the specific changes remained nebulous. While it is still early to speculate on the long-term impacts to enforcement that may be implemented by the administration, events over the prior year have brought the new administration’s enforcement philosophy and priorities into greater focus. This post reviews some of the key personnel, policy, and budget announcements made during President Trump’s first year in office that will shape the future of federal environmental enforcement by the Environmental Protection Agency in the coming years.

Time 7 Minute Read

We are serious.  And don’t call us Shirley.

So EPA sent your company a dreaded Request for Information (“RFI”).  What do you do now?  If you’ve never been through this process before, you likely have a lot running through your head:

  • Did our company do something wrong?  Is my company under investigation?
  • Is this EPA’s way of asking for my help to improve its regulations?
  • Do I have to answer this?
  • How can I possibly compile all this information in 30 days?
  • Do we need a lawyer to help us respond?
  • What about confidential information?  EPA is asking for customer or supplier information.  Isn’t that private?
Time 4 Minute Read

On January 22nd, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous (9-0) decision, authored by Justice Sotomayor, agreeing with industry groups, some eNGOs, and many states, that the district courts have jurisdiction over challenges to the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule. Nat’l Ass’n of Manufacturers v. Dept. of Defense, et al., No. 16-299 (Jan. 22, 2018). The Court wholly rejected the government’s claim that the WOTUS Rule is subject to exclusive appellate court jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) judicial review provision and confirms that current and future challenges to the WOTUS Rule must be brought in district court. By reversing the Sixth Circuit decision which found that the CWA vests the federal courts of appeals with exclusive jurisdiction over challenges to the WOTUS Rule, the Supreme Court set in motion proceedings that will likely result in the lifting of the Sixth Circuit’s nationwide stay of the 2015 WOTUS Rule.

Time 3 Minute Read

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Susan Parker Bodine as the Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”).  OECA, the chief enforcement arm of EPA, coordinates the agency’s enforcement of numerous federal environmental laws within its authority.

This is the second leadership role at EPA for Bodine, who brings significant experience in environmental law to the position.  She formerly served as Assistant Administrator for the agency’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response—now called the Office of Land and Emergency Management—under President George W. Bush.  Before returning to the EPA, Bodine served as Chief Counsel for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, from 2015 until this August.  She also served as Counsel to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and was engaged in private legal practice.

Time 3 Minute Read

On November 22, 2017, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Pruitt signed a notice denying petitions to change the “point of obligation” under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program away from refiners and importers.  The notice, which was sent to the Federal Register for publication, provides a broad overview of EPA objections to the petitions.  EPA also posted on its website a final decision document explaining its denial in detail.

Time 6 Minute Read

WOTUS, an acronym that has received a lot of attention in recent years, stands for the “waters of the United States.” When Congress enacted the Clean Water Act (“CWA” or the “Act”) in 1972, it prohibited “the discharge of any pollutant by any person” into navigable waters without a permit. The Act defines navigable waters as the “waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” 33 U.S.C. §§ 1311(a), 1362(7), (12). But Congress failed to, in turn, define the words “waters of the United States,” and the Supreme Court has noted that these “words themselves are hopelessly indeterminate.” Sackett v. EPA, 132 S. Ct. 1367, 1375 (2012) (J. Alito, concurring). The meaning of these words matters because violations of the CWA are subject to substantial criminal and civil penalties, so knowing whether a feature on your site is a WOTUS subject to federal jurisdiction has important consequences.

Time 3 Minute Read

A New Jersey court recently held that an electrical products manufacturer was entitled to coverage rights provided by a predecessor’s commercial general liability policies if it was found liable for environmental remediation costs as a result of cleanup efforts by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along a 17-mile portion of the Passaic River in New Jersey.

Time 20 Minute Read

Last year, President Obama signed into law the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Congress made substantial changes with respect to how both existing and new chemical substances are regulated. Some of these changes are significant and will have a direct impact on US chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and users. However, the US did not attempt to mimic the EU’s REACH Regulation.

This article provides a high-level comparison of the main building blocks of the two regimes, bringing out the main similarities and differences between them. Of course, these are two different jurisdictions and no direct comparison can be completely valid, but it is worth making the comparison nonetheless, because many companies operate across both regions and because other jurisdictions have mimicked REACH in their regulatory reform, whereas the US has chosen not to.

Time 6 Minute Read

The US EPA released its draft strategic plan for 2018-2022 on October 5, 2017.[1] Not surprisingly, the draft plan differs greatly from the Obama EPA’s last strategic plan. The change in administrations has produced innumerable shifts in the policies, goals and operations of the federal government. EPA’s draft strategic plan is emblematic of these shifts.

Time 5 Minute Read

In October 2015, EPA reduced the level of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”) for ozone from 75 parts per billion (“ppb”) to 70 ppb. What is happening concerning implementation of those NAAQS?

Although litigation over EPA’s decision to lower the ozone NAAQS remains in abeyance as the Trump Administration continues to consider whether the Agency should reconsider the rule or some part of it, the 2015 standard itself has not been stayed. Thus, the Clean Air Act requires that implementation of the standard proceed. One key step in implementation is promulgation by EPA of a list of areas where the standard is violated, including areas that contribute to standard violations in nearby areas. EPA’s identification of these “nonattainment” areas is a trigger for many of the Act’s control requirements.

Time 5 Minute Read

Environmental and public-health groups have taken issue with the EPA’s rule establishing procedures for chemical risk evaluations under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which allows the EPA to exclude certain conditions of use when assessing whether a chemical presents unreasonable risks. These groups fear the exclusions could provide a “loophole” allowing some chemical risks to go unaddressed. But putting those concerns aside, should companies affected by the rule actually want to take advantage of these exclusions? Are they really beneficial to regulated industries? Or do they risk undermining one of the primary goals that companies sought to gain by supporting TSCA reform—federal preemption of overlapping state restrictions?

Time 21 Minute Read

Over the last decade, regulators have accelerated their focus on vapor intrusion risk at hazardous cleanup sites. This has led to new cleanup standards, policies and guidance to evaluate potential risks, environmental investigation requirements for brownfield redevelopments, and the reopening of previously closed remedial actions. Recently, attention has turned from chronic to acute vapor intrusion risk. Although protection of human health is paramount, this recent focus has been plagued with concerns about the validity of the underlying science and a lack of comprehensive guidance from regulators on how to respond. This article explores the evolution of vapor intrusion regulation, particularly developments addressing acute risk, as well as trends in vapor intrusion- related litigation.

Time 4 Minute Read

The good news about the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard is that it is a performance-based standard. The bad news about PSM, well, is that it is a performance-based standard. While it provides the operator some flexibility on complying, it can often lead to being second-guessed by an agency. Not only does the operator have to comply with the regulations, the operator must  comply with and document compliance with relevant codes and standards or Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices (RAGAGEP). These include widely adopted codes such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), consensus documents such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), non-consensus documents such as the Chlorine Institute (CI) and in most cases Internal Standards.

Time 3 Minute Read

In August 2014, residents of Toledo lost the use of tap water for two days because of a toxic algal bloom in the western basin of Lake Erie, which is their water source. In subsequent summers, the lake’s algal blooms have been smaller, but they remain a persistent phenomenon. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a significant cyanobacteria algal bloom in western Lake Erie this summer.

Numerous definitions of “harmful algal blooms” exist, but they generally can be understood as excessive growths of various species of phytoplankton, protists, cyanobacteria, or macro and benthic algae that negatively impact water quality, aquatic ecosystem stability, or animal and human health. The blooms may be toxic or nontoxic. Even nontoxic blooms can have repercussions for drinking water treatment, recreational use of the waterbody, and the overall economy.

Time 6 Minute Read

Since President Trump’s inauguration and the beginning of Scott Pruitt’s tenure as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), much of the focus of Clean Air Act activity in the new administration has been on global climate change issues. As more time passes, however, EPA is beginning to address other areas of Clean Air Act regulatory policy, and, in some respects at least, charting a new course that departs from the record of the Obama administration. One of the areas to which EPA has started to give renewed attention is the regional haze program.

Time 3 Minute Read

Throughout the Obama administration, federal officials from the President on down touted an “all of the above” approach to energy policy.  At the same time, they pressed forward with environmental regulations—climate change rules in particular—that would have made a seismic shift in the role fossil fuels play in the nation’s energy mix.

We all know the Trump administration is poised to make major changes.  A shakeup for the EPA was a consistent theme of the Trump campaign. The President made things official in March when he signed an executive order that, among other things, called for a “review” of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the EPA’s program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, and a proposed rule regarding the CPP is now under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget. The administration has also announced plans to cut the EPA’s budget, to take a new “red team-blue team” approach to climate change science, and to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. That’s quite a lot of activity for an administration that is often accused of moving too slowly.

Time 3 Minute Read

Earlier this week, July 4, 2017, was the nation’s 241st birthday. In Washington, DC, and in countless other places across the country, the event was celebrated with dazzling fireworks displays. My childhood days are long behind me. But, a good fireworks display still evokes awe and gives me goose bumps. Although fireworks are synonymous with the 4th of July, Americans are not alone in their appreciation of fireworks. All across the globe—from Europe, to Asia, to South America and back again—fireworks are a universal symbol of celebration.

Time 4 Minute Read

Today, EPA and the Corps released a highly anticipated proposal to rescind the Obama Administration’s controversial 2015 Clean Water Rule. The June 2015 rule, which has been stayed since October 2015, would broadly define the scope of “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) subject to federal regulation and permitting requirements under the CWA. The proposed rescission is the first step of a two-step process to repeal and replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule with a new WOTUS rule. With today’s proposal, EPA and the Corps are proposing to officially rescind the 2015 rule and continue to implement the regulatory definition in place prior to the 2015 rule while they work to promulgate a new rule to define WOTUS.

Time 3 Minute Read

The White House Office of Management and Budget released on Tuesday the Trump administration’s first full budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year (starting in October 2017). The comprehensive proposal provides detail about the administration’s policy priorities. If the budget is adopted by Congress as written, the Environmental Protection Agency would face its greatest budget cuts ever. These cuts would broadly impact federal environmental efforts, including the enforcement of federal environmental laws.

Time 3 Minute Read

President Trump recently nominated Susan Parker Bodine to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”).  OECA is responsible for coordinating the enforcement of federal environmental laws under EPA’s authority.  OECA acts through a combination of compliance assistance, administrative enforcement and, in partnership with the US Department of Justice, civil and criminal enforcement.

Time 3 Minute Read

In a series of orders this week, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit granted motions by EPA to pause cases challenging several Obama-era regulatory actions while the new administration reviews those rules. With those cases on hold, the dispute over the fate of those rules will move out of the courts and into the administrative process.

Time 5 Minute Read

In 1980, a lame duck Congress passed the nation’s first legislation, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. §9601 et seq. (CERCLA), to address the cleanup of toxic waste disposal sites. Comprehensive amendments were passed six years later. Over the next 30 years, EPA’s enforcement powers were used with increasing regularity and consistency to study, begin, and often complete cleanups at hundreds of the nation’s contaminated waste sites. The program has always had its critics, but not until the current administration has there been a fundamental reassessment of its basic cost-benefit structure, just as is being done with many other federal programs.

Time 4 Minute Read

What They Are:  PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) comprise a group of highly fluorinated manmade compounds that are showing up in drinking water supplies around the country. They are resistant to heat, water and oil, as well as to chemical breakdown. Because of these properties, PFASs have been used for decades as surface protection in a wide range of consumer products including carpets, clothing, cookware and food industry paper products such as pizza boxes and sandwich wrappers. PFASs are also present in foam used for fighting fires involving flammable or combustible liquids, such as oil and gasoline. Additionally, mist suppressants for metal plating operations may contain PFASs.

Time 6 Minute Read

[caption id="attachment_291" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Navajo Generating Station Navajo Generating Station[/caption]

In two related decisions issued on March 20, 2017, the Ninth Circuit upheld an EPA plan imposing regional haze requirements on the Navajo Generating Station (NGS).  The rulings suggest a possibility that future haze plans need not be unduly inflexible—sometimes forcing premature unit closures, as many haze plans did during the program’s first round of implementation.

Time 3 Minute Read

President Trump released his budget request for fiscal year 2018 on March 16. The budget blueprint, or “skinny budget” as it is being called, holds fairly flat the federal spending for programs other than entitlements. It requests a significant increase in defense spending that is offset by cuts to nondefense discretionary spending.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) faces drastic cuts, equaling nearly a third of its budget. This would bring the EPA’s total budget to levels not seen since 1990.

Time 6 Minute Read

In June 2016, Congress did something it had not done in over a quarter century: it enacted comprehensive, bipartisan revisions to a major environmental statute. More specifically, it substantially overhauled the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, a law that was first passed in 1976 and was widely considered to be in need of an update. The TSCA reform law, also known as the Lautenberg Act, expands EPA’s role in reviewing new chemical substances; gives EPA new authority to require testing of chemicals; and directs EPA to prioritize, evaluate and regulate the risks from existing chemicals. It also imposes strict deadlines on EPA for carrying out its new duties under TSCA.

And EPA has apparently taken these deadlines to heart.

Time 3 Minute Read

On February 28, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO)  that sets into motion a process for the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (jointly, the “Agencies”) to review the Obama Administration’s Waters of the US (WOTUS) Rule.  80 Fed. Reg. 37,054 (June 29, 2015). The EO directs the Agencies to review the WOTUS Rule for consistency with the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the policies set forth in the EO, stating that “[i]t is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation’s navigable waters are kept free from pollution,” while at the same time “promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles played by Congress and the States under the Constitution.”  Following review, the EO instructs the Agencies to publish, as appropriate, a proposed rule for notice and comment rescinding or revising the WOTUS Rule.

Time 5 Minute Read

On January 11, 2017, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule pursuant to Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA or Superfund), mandating extensive and costly financial assurance requirements applicable to the hardrock mining and mineral processing industry. On the same day, EPA also announced plans to commence rulemaking to consider similar requirements for additional classes of facilities in the petroleum and coal, chemical manufacturing, and electric power generation, transmission and distribution sectors. Both proposals derive from a series of lawsuits culminating in a “sue and settle” order of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals affirming a schedule agreed to between EPA and various environmental groups to issue financial assurance regulations.

Time 4 Minute Read

During much of the Obama administration, states and EPA were in conflict about how to craft Clean Air Act plans to reduce “regional haze” impairment of visibility in national parks and wilderness areas. The technical and policy issues are daunting. Regional haze forms in the atmosphere from many sources’ air emissions — emissions from cars and trucks, construction equipment, factories and power plants (among others), plus natural sources like wildfires and dust storms. Developing regional haze implementation plans entails complex policy choices and weighing sometimes heavy compliance costs for emission controls — costs that may total in the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars — against improvements in visibility that can be hard to measure and in some cases are even imperceptible to the human eye.

Time 3 Minute Read

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule “Update” for the 2008 national ambient air quality standards for ozone – the so-called CSAPR Update Rule – on October 26, 2016.  81 Fed. Reg. 74504.  The CSAPR Update Rule regulates emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from power plants located in 22 states in the eastern half of the country by establishing statewide ozone-season NOx emission budgets scheduled to take effect beginning May 1, 2017.  (Under the Clean Air Act, the regulatory “ozone season” runs from May 1 through September 30 each year.)

Search