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Daily News

July 21, 2017

A federal appellate court has found that the United States may be liable for cleanup costs as an “owner” at a massive Superfund site on public land while upholding a lower court ruling that found the government is not liable as an "arranger" at the site -- opening the door to new federal liability -- though attorneys say much will depend on how any liability is allocated.

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EPA is facing competing attacks from environmentalists and industry groups over a draft general permit for offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, with industry groups pledging to lobby EPA to ease the permit to comply with recent Trump executive orders while environmentalists are threatening to sue because the plan violates the Clean Water Act (CWA).

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Environmental and labor groups are renewing their arguments aimed at vacating the Trump administration's lengthy delay of an Obama-era update to the agency's Risk Management Plan (RMP) facility safety rule, charging the delay violates the Clean Air Act and faulting EPA's claim that seeking public input allows for lengthy reconsideration of final rules.

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Landmark litigation over EPA's approval of a Montana variance to the state's water quality standards is facing the prospect of dismissal or delay as the defendants in the case say it is moot since the variance at issue expired at the beginning of the month and the agency is now reviewing a new version.

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Environmental groups are urging EPA to strengthen North Dakota's Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) permitting program for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) wells before granting the state's first-in-the-nation application for “primacy” to issue such permits.

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July 20, 2017

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking to retroactively cancel part of a 2016 Clean Air Act settlement it entered into with Harley Davidson that required the company to pay $3 million to a third-party group to execute an emissions “mitigation” project, citing Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recent memo barring such payments.

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The Trump EPA is considering hiring Steven Koonin, the former Department of Energy (DOE) science adviser who has raised questions about the precise extent of the human role in climate change, to run the agency's proposed “red-team, blue-team” climate science review, according to a knowledgeable source.

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Ethanol and oil industry groups are dropping several remaining claims in their federal court challenge to California's “re-adopted” low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), with the groups opting to instead focus on supporting a pending ethanol industry case against the revised regulation in state court and potential appeals.

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The Supreme Court has announced that it will hear argument Oct. 11 in the case testing where challenges to rules on Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction should be filed -- setting the stage for a ruling that will dictate the path of future litigation over the Trump administration's planned actions withdrawing and replacing the Obama-era CWA policy.

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Free-market and other proponents of deregulation are reserving judgment -- at least publicly -- on the progress of the Trump administration's pledge to rollback environmental and other regulations, even as administration officials tout their initial successes in withdrawing or reconsidering rules at EPA and other federal agencies.

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The Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies (AAPCA), the group of state air regulators from mostly Republican-led states, is highlighting a suite of EPA rules that state and local air officials hope the agency will identify for possible overhauls in a report the agency is slated to issue next week.

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A potential EPA appeal of the ruling striking down its 90-day stay of Obama-era methane standards for new oil and gas operations could focus on a novel argument supported by a dissenting judge that courts lack authority to review such stays, but observers say that even if courts back that claim it might not impact related suits over other paused rules.

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July 19, 2017

EPA is drawing criticism from its children's health advisors and a Region 9 official over its decision to preclude legacy uses of chemicals, such as asbestos, in finished products from review under the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), bolstering criticisms from environmentalists who say they may sue the agency over its approach.

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EPA is citing the recent precedent-setting appellate court ruling that blocked an industry bid for a sweeping review of how Clean Air Act policies have affected jobs to defend against environmentalists’ suit seeking new cleanup plans for over 500 West Virginia waterbodies, an argument that if successful would expand the precedent on when courts can review citizen suits.

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As the Trump administration prepares to overhaul EPA and other agencies' cost-benefit analyses, EPA's top economist, Al McGartland, says he is working to enhance the certainty of EPA's studies for regulatory decisions, telling Inside EPA that the "explosion" of tools in the nascent era of big data provides both challenges and opportunities.

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EPA and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are using a district court suit over Clean Water Act (CWA) stormwater permit mandates to seek a broad standard on which CWA suits should be filed in appellate court -- a potential preview of how they will approach the pending Supreme Court case testing where the Obama-era CWA jurisdiction rule should be challenged.

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The House Appropriations Committee has approved an EPA spending bill for fiscal year 2018 that provides the agency with significantly more than what the Trump administration had sought though the bill's passage offers a prelude to further negotiations among both House and Senate lawmakers over funding levels and policy riders.

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July 18, 2017

A top adviser to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and several state officials say the agency appears to be moving away from its close “matter-by-matter” oversight reviewing a slew of individual state actions under delegated agency authority, shifting from the “paternalistic” approach to a broader “trust” that states' programs are adequate.

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The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is urging EPA in a new report to set up a new surveillance program to monitor scientific literature and new studies about health effects occurring at low exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals, in part because of concern that EPA's existing regulatory testing methods might miss these effects by not regularly testing at lower dose levels.

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Just-passed landmark legislation to extend California's greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program to 2030 presents state air regulators with a host of critical policy and regulatory choices about the program, which will have major implications for costs to regulated entities and consumers, the state's broader economy and how it reduces GHGs to meet declining emissions limits.

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