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Daily News

April 03, 2020

EPA Region 3 is joining environmentalists and state officials in urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to more closely scrutinize the environmental effects of a developer’s plan to bifurcate a proposed natural gas pipeline in the Mid-Atlantic region.

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The Supreme Court’s June 2019 decision curtailing judicial deference to agencies’ regulatory interpretations could make EPA’s efforts to reverse prior policies through new guidance vulnerable to court challenges because judges read it as bolstering limits on “unfair surprise” to stakeholders, attorneys say.

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The refining sector, backed by the state of Wyoming and Senate environment committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), is urging a federal appeals court to grant rehearing of its landmark decision striking down compliance waivers granted to small refiners for renewable fuel standard (RFS) biofuel blending obligations.

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EPA is urging a federal district court to find that it properly excluded 1,365 acres of salt ponds adjacent to San Francisco Bay from Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction, one of the rare cases where EPA has invoked its “special case” authority allowing it, rather than the Army Corps of Engineers, to make the final CWA jurisdictional determination.

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The Trump administration’s own analysis for its final rollback of vehicle greenhouse gas standards estimates that the policy will actually reduce up to 20,000 auto sector jobs, a finding that complicates President Donald Trump’s claims that the rule keeps a promise to boost the auto industry and the broader economy.

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April 02, 2020

House lawmakers are launching an early push to try to attach stalled policy measures to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to next year’s defense authorization bill, seeking to build on efforts late last year that added a host of PFAS measures to the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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A key House Democrat and an asbestos awareness group are stepping up efforts to advance stalled bipartisan legislation seeking to ban asbestos, arguing EPA’s recently released draft evaluation of the minerals under the revised toxics law is too narrowly focused and ignores multiple aspects of asbestos risk as well an appellate court ruling.

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A federal district court has ruled the Air Force can move forward with its landmark case challenging New Mexico’s regulation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in a hazardous waste permit for a base, bolstering the military’s precedent-setting attempt to limit states’ PFAS authorities over cleanup of the emerging contaminants.

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EPA and environmentalists in new legal briefs are defending a federal district court’s requirement that electric utility Ameren Missouri install tougher emissions controls on two power plants, in an appeal testing the limits of EPA’s enforcement authority under the new source review (NSR) air permit program.

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States from Texas to Ohio are issuing a range of policies temporarily waiving compliance with environmental rules during the COVID-19 emergency, with several echoing EPA’s approach that facilities must document that they were unable to comply with requirements due to the pandemic, officials and attorneys say.

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EPA’s pending proposed rule that is expected to define sustainably sourced biomass power as carbon neutral for regulatory purposes is not expected to widen the scope of the agency’s current policy to various types of agriculture residues, sources say, despite an extended push by the agricultural sector.

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In response to criticism from the clean power industry and environmentalists, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is requiring utilities to submit power procurement plans showing how they can achieve two greenhouse gas emission targets by 2030 instead of one as it earlier proposed, with the second being more stringent.

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Numerous industries are pressing California air officials and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) for regulatory compliance relief and to pause a host of rulemakings due to the coronavirus outbreak, though they are largely meeting resistance from regulators and push-back from environmentalists and equity groups.

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California local air districts are expediting permits for companies that are “repurposing” their facilities to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by manufacturing items such as masks and hand sanitizer, officials say.

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Independent oil companies are pressing California officials to abandon a fiscal year 2020-21 budget proposal to boost staff at a key agency that regulates the sector by 40 percent -- funded with an industry fee hike of $24 million per year -- arguing producers are facing “unprecedent challenges” amid plunging oil prices and the COVID-19 emergency.

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California air officials are thus far denying an oil industry request to defer by at least one month enforcement of a summertime fuel blend evaporative hydrocarbon standard due to an overstock of wintertime blend gasoline caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a move the industry says is needed to avoid a potential fuel shortage in the state.

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April 01, 2020

A coalition of environmental organizations is petitioning EPA to quickly issue an emergency rule that would require companies that make use of the agency’s enforcement discretion policy during the coronavirus pandemic to disclose when they stop monitoring or reporting their releases and provide a justification for doing so.

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EPA and many industry attorneys are defending the agency’s guidance limiting civil enforcement for reporting and monitoring during the coronavirus pandemic as a responsible and limited response to the unprecedented restrictions imposed to address the health emergency, stressing that the guide is not, as some critics charge, a “license” to pollute.

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In a win for environmentalists, a federal appeals court is ordering EPA to publicly release its computer model that could highlight faulty assumptions in the agency’s rollback of vehicle greenhouse gas standards, saying the model is not “deliberative” data protected from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

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Nearly a dozen Senate Democrats are pressing EPA to detail a host of decisions about its operations during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including its new policy floating enforcement discretion for various industries, officials’ steps to continue advancing rulemakings, and potential long-term plans allowing staff to telework.

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