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Daily News

September 18, 2020

A Justice Department (DOJ) memo clarifying when funds from the Treasury’s Judgment Fund can be used in settlements is prompting questions among Superfund attorneys, who say it may complicate Superfund settlement negotiations and that it creates ambiguity on whether DOJ is rejecting use of the fund in pay-as-you-go settlements.

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EPA’s largest employee union is raising alarm over the agency’s plan to move its Region 5 offices into the second phase of its three-phase plan for reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, warning that the move due to take effect Sept. 22 could require staff to return to their offices just two weeks later, despite lingering fears about unsafe conditions.

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Reps. David McKinley (R-WV) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) are floating draft details of a plan to cut utilities’ greenhouse gas emissions that combines an immediate focus on technology programs with a longer-term “clean electricity standard” (CES), coupled with at least temporary preemption of existing EPA utility GHG rules.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is poised to hear oral argument Sept. 22 in a suit filed by Sierra Club and other environmental groups over EPA’s policy allowing “interprecursor” air trading in states’ plans for attaining federal ozone standards, a practice critics say violates the Clean Air Act and may hike pollution.

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The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) -- a cap-and-invest program for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic -- is advancing with plans for a final memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the program by later this fall, despite disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Environmentalists’ new lawsuit aiming to force EPA to add limits for additional air pollutants to its existing steel mill toxics emissions policy will test a recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit precedent requiring that EPA fill in “missing” limits for air toxics left unregulated by toxic emissions policies.

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September 17, 2020

Montana and the oil and gas industry are echoing the Army Corps of Engineers’ call for an appellate court to reverse a ruling that vacated the use of a Clean Water Act (CWA) general permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, arguing a lower court erred on both the merits and the remedy in its decision.

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EPA is changing its position on whether Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation is required as part of a state’s request to assume Clean Water Act (CWA) dredge-and-fill permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers, announcing it will conduct such consultation as a part of Florida’s formal application to receive such permitting authority.

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A federal appeals court has granted a request by environmental groups for an “administrative” stay of EPA’s rollback of Obama-era oil and gas methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions limits while it weighs an “emergency” call by environmentalists to halt the rules during litigation.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is expected to soon sign an executive order (EO) detailing his plan, announced Sept. 11, to accelerate the state’s suite of climate change and clean energy targets and programs as a response to the devastating wildfires, sources say.

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California air board staff is floating preliminary proposals to tighten criteria emissions and other standards for model year 2026 and subsequent conventional light-duty vehicles and zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) from air conditioning systems, non-methane organic compounds (NMOG) and nitrogen oxide (NOx), as well as requiring ZEVs to meet one standardized fast-charging inlet configuration.

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Shell Oil is urging a federal district court to reject arguments from Rhode Island that novel climate change litigation brought by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) should be allowed to proceed, arguing the state has yet to finalize regulatory requirements the court could interpret to rule on the merits of the case.

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The California air board has approved the first legislatively required air pollution-reduction plans for three disadvantaged regions in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, but some environmentalists are concerned the plans don’t go far enough or ensure subsequent regulatory actions and some industry sectors say the plans are flawed and unfair.

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September 16, 2020

Wastewater treatment officials and public health advocates are clashing with industry groups over the breadth of California’s proposed listing of fiber-based food packaging containing per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that could be subject to regulation under the state’s Safer Consumer Products (SCP) green chemistry program.

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After a high-profile setback last month, EPA is continuing to search for an incineration facility to test destruction of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) surrogates to determine the technology’s effectiveness in destroying the compounds, the agency’s PFAS research leader says, adding that officials would also like to expand testing to a range of different types of incinerators.

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EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) appears poised to finalize a report detailing several concerns with the agency’s rule to overhaul the cost-benefit analysis procedures under its Clean Air Act program, while suggesting that EPA reexamine whether some of the proposal’s provisions might be better addressed in guidance.

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A coalition of 10 environmental groups including Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is asking a federal appeals court to immediately stay EPA’s final policy “review” scrapping direct methane emissions on new oil and gas facilities, expanding the legal fight over the rollback of the Obama-era policy.

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Former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican who served under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, says she fears a second term for President Donald Trump will mean the “end” of the agency, while believing that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) would be a “wonderful” new EPA administrator under a Biden administration.

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Municipal and industry groups, along with Montana officials, are pushing back on environmentalists’ challenge to EPA’s approval of a controversial state water quality nutrient criteria provision, telling a federal district court the approval was consistent with the agency’s authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

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A federal district court is rejecting the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) lawsuit seeking to force disclosure of the Obama State Department’s legal memo supporting the previous administration’s decision to join the Paris climate deal as an “executive agreement” rather than a treaty that requires Senate ratification.

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