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Daily News

September 25, 2017

At least two states have quietly sought EPA approval to begin operating permit programs to implement the agency's 2015 coal ash disposal rule, according to new court filings where the agency, industry and environmentalists are sparring over how the applications affect requests to indefinitely stay litigation over the merits of the rule.

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EPA's upcoming plan to repeal and eventually replace the Clean Power Plan (CPP), expected next month, is likely to return to a facility-specific approach that is being advocated by utility and labor groups that want a replacement rather than an outright repeal of the Obama-era climate rule.

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EPA is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to sever and hold in abeyance a lawsuit challenging the agency's designation of parts of Texas as out of attainment with federal sulfur dioxide (SO2) air standards, pending a ruling in a related 5th Circuit and EPA's ongoing reconsideration of the designation.

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Auto industry trade groups are urging regulators to treat the current EPA and Department of Transportation vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy program as the “upper bound” for what will be required for industry as the agencies review the rules, offering the latest indication that automakers are pushing to ease the standards.

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Environmental attorneys opposed to EPA's pending rule to repeal the Obama administration's Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction policy are readying arguments for expected legal challenges to the withdrawal, including that the repeal effort's economic analysis and lack of policy depth fall short of what Supreme Court precedent requires.

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Groups representing liable parties and cleanup contractors are urging EPA to borrow concepts from its Great Lakes cleanup program and create a national public-private collaborative to speed cleanups at Superfund sediment mega-sites, a shift from the litigation-driven, polluter-pays concept though one that will likely require congressional action to advance.

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September 22, 2017

Environmentalists and two chemical manufacturers are urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to reverse a split panel ruling vacating EPA's rule to reduce refrigerants that act as potent greenhouse gases, arguing that the agency's interpretation of a key Clean Air Act provision is entitled to deference.

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EPA is asking a federal district judge to end litigation over its now-withdrawn “interim” stay of compliance deadlines in the Obama-era Clean Water Act (CWA) effluent rule for power plants, saying the challenge is moot due to a separate recently finalized rule that codifies many of the same compliance deadline extensions.

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EPA is poised to respond to environmentalists' suit challenging the agency's rejection of their petition seeking to ban the practice of fluoridating water under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), but the case could test EPA's stance on which chemical uses it must consider in its risk analyses as it has taken a different position on the issue in recently issued TSCA rules.

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EPA has sent for White House review a proposal for the air quality thresholds used to define the severity of areas out of attainment with the 2015 ozone standard, but the agency is yet to issue any designations for nonattainment areas and appears likely to miss a looming Oct. 1 Clean Air Act deadline for finalizing those findings.

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A top EPA Office of Inspector (OIG) official says the office is working on several reviews of major agency air quality programs, including previously announced research into the accuracy of EPA's methods for estimating methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and a long-pending review of ambient air monitoring data.

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September 21, 2017

EPA is making “key revisions” to its methods for projecting interstate air pollution from power plants and the oil and gas sector under its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) emissions trading framework, but several Southern states are criticizing the overall framework as inappropriate for mitigating cross-state air pollution.

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Environmentalists and seven states are asking the Supreme Court to take up their challenge to EPA's Clean Water Act (CWA) rule that exempts water transfers from permit requirements, saying an appellate court's decision to uphold the Bush-era rule contradicts the law's plain text and breaks with the justices' past rulings.

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Utilities are warning that a district court ruling subjecting coal ash disposal sites to Clean Water Act (CWA) discharge permits for leaks into groundwater could subvert EPA's Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) rule governing ash disposal, an outcome they say could throw states' waste programs into “disarray.”

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A federal district court judge has issued a novel ruling extending to Utah the deference that courts often give EPA on interpreting the Clean Air Act, potentially setting a new more-expansive marker on the authority that judges could give states as EPA increasingly seeks to delegate implementation of environmental laws to states.

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A utility group is urging EPA to develop a replacement for the Clean Power Plan (CPP) greenhouse gas rule, with new, scaled-back targets based on actions taken “inside the fence” of regulated power plants -- an approach that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says he is strongly considering.

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California and other defenders of current federal light-duty vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards say that the Transportation Department must weigh existing rules issued by EPA and the Golden State when crafting its own requirements for model years 2022-2025, rather than its plan to use much weaker limits as a baseline to assess any regulatory options.

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September 20, 2017

If federal officials follow through with their suggestions that they might weaken model year 2021 greenhouse gas and fuel economy rules for light-duty vehicles, it could give a particular break for light trucks, critics say, jettisoning an automakers' agreement to accept tougher standards in the later years of the regulatory program in exchange for softer limits in early years.

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A federal district court judge is allowing environmentalists' litigation seeking to strengthen Washington state's program to control pollution from stormwater runoff to proceed, rejecting Justice Department (DOJ) efforts to dismiss the suit after finding the plaintiffs have met procedural hurdles to bring their claims against EPA and other agencies.

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The Trump EPA is proposing its first residual risk and technology review (RTR) -- a Clean Air Act mandated review of existing air toxics standards years after their issuance -- by floating eased emissions standards for cement production facilities, while also clarifying some compliance mandates that may save the sector money.

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