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Daily News

March 22, 2018

EPA air chief William Wehrum is said to be leaning against reconsidering the Obama-era decision to tighten the ozone national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb, instead aiming to speed up the next Clean Air Act-mandated NAAQS review as a potential vehicle to weaken the limit, sources say.

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A federal district court judge has vacated the Trump administration's delay of an Obama-era rule bolstering training requirements for applicators of certain pesticides, holding that EPA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in delaying the rule without seeking public input and that farmworker groups face harms from the delay.

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Environmentalists are previewing their likely court challenge to Oklahoma's first-of-its-kind permit program for coal ash disposal, arguing in comments on EPA's proposed approval of the permit regime that regardless of its technical mandates the state's lack of enforcement resources and public-input policies constitute fatal flaws in the plan.

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EPA appears to have largely escaped Trump administration plans to cut its budget by 31 percent in fiscal year 2018 after lawmakers unveiled a spending bill for the remainder of the year that funds the agency at essentially FY17 levels while also increasing funding for key infrastructure programs.

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The Sierra Club in a new legal brief is attacking changes the Obama EPA made to air quality monitoring policies and claiming the revisions unlawfully weakened states’ substantive monitoring requirements, among other criticisms, in a suit that appears to have been revived by Trump EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's order banning “sue-and-settle” pacts.

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March 21, 2018

ST. PAUL, MN -- EPA and state regulators are continuing months-long talks on streamlining agency reviews of states' federally-delegated programs, seeking to clarify the level of deference EPA staff should afford state regulators and crafting a policy for elevating disputes among lower-level officials during permitting or enforcement reviews.

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A series of new legal briefs from several states, power companies and environmental groups highlights wide-ranging and often competing attacks on the Obama EPA's “update” to its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) emissions trading program, a program that the Trump administration is defending in ongoing appellate litigation.

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Auto suppliers and a car-state Democrat are urging policymakers to avoid a political and legal blowup over pending revisions to light-duty vehicle GHG and fuel economy rules, pushing Trump officials to work seriously with California on a possible deal, while also suggesting that defenders of the Obama-era standards must be open to some changes.

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The Defense Department (DOD) is querying whether a 1998 study EPA is considering using in its upcoming Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment of uranium -- a study that is also the basis for several strict regulatory policies -- is appropriate, or whether the agency should instead use a 1949 study that could result in weaker limits.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear oral argument March 22 in a suit filed by environmentalists over EPA's rule allowing Clean Air Act regulatory exemptions for air pollution associated with “exceptional events” such as wildfires, a policy critics claim allows for unlawful increases in emissions.

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March 20, 2018

ST. PAUL, MN -- Seeking to increase compliance with environmental rules, EPA is crafting a new audit policy for streamlining disclosure of non-compliance by new oil and natural gas facilities and is seeking states' input on the issue, though environmentalists and others are cautioning that strong enforcement will still be needed to deter non-compliance.

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Government lawyers have told a federal appellate court that EPA will miss a 90-day deadline -- expected to kick in as soon as March 27 -- for proposing updates to its lead hazard standard for residential structures though the lawyers are asking the court to clarify the deadline after the judges failed to issue an expected mandate that would have made the order final.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is poised to hear oral argument March 21 in the first appeal over whether coal ash disposal sites that pollute surface waters through groundwater leaks are liable under the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the eventual ruling could set a precedent for whether ash facilities nationwide face penalties for leaks.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has rejected a Michigan road commission's novel suit claiming that EPA objections to draft Clean Water Act (CWA) permits are final agency actions subject to judicial review, but the ruling may boost GOP lawmakers' claim that the case shows a need to streamline CWA permits.

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A federal appeals court in a unanimous ruling is backing the Obama EPA's policy allowing states to rely on their participation in the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) emissions trading program to satisfy regional haze air pollution control mandates, rejecting challenges to the policy from environmentalists and utility industry groups.

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A new study linking low-level lead exposure with increased risk of adult deaths from cardiovascular disease could help EPA strengthen its cost-benefit analyses and drive new or updated rules to address the metal, including a measure addressing lead paint in public and commercial (P&C) buildings where the agency is struggling to assess risks to adults.'

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March 19, 2018

EPA's deputy water chief says the agency plans to propose a rule to replace the Obama-era Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction policy this “summer,” a delay that means EPA will miss Administrator Scott Pruitt's goal of floating a new rule in April and that could also prolong uncertainty over litigation challenging the existing CWA policy.

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to issue waivers for individual refineries from having to meet renewable fuel standard (RFS) mandates, which could reduce the price of RFS compliance credits in the short term and ease oil sector pressure on the agency to cap credit prices, say biofuels sources and a recent economic analysis.

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Pro-ethanol lawmakers are calling on President Donald Trump to oppose calls from the oil sector and others for EPA to impose a short-term cap on renewable fuel standard (RFS) compliance credit prices, warning that a cap would make it “impossible” to achieve the RFS' goals for production of alternative and renewable fuels.

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Environmentalists are urging a federal appeals court to uphold their district court victory finding the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) liable under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for coal ash leaks at a Tennessee impoundment, saying a recent related ruling bolsters the decision and that it is the only reasonable reading of the water law.

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