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Daily News

February 19, 2020

Appellate judges at Feb. 19 oral argument queried EPA and environmentalists over whether federal ethics rules apply to a Trump administration directive barring agency-funded scientists from serving on EPA advisory panels, with two judges appearing divided on the issue while the third judge hearing the case asked few questions.

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EPA is proposing to allow operators of coal ash disposal facilities that lack protective “composite” liners to keep operating if they can demonstrate that there is still “no reasonable probability” of significant groundwater contamination, softening a blanket ban on unlined waste sites that it proposed in late 2019 under an appellate court order.

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EPA is poised to receive a barrage of comments in the coming days on its planned update to air standards for heavy-duty trucks, including technical arguments that will cite a recent report from emissions control makers finding that the sector is able to achieve steep pollution reductions at low cost.

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EPA is urging a federal appeals court to reject a lawsuit over agency guidance that denied renewable fuel standard (RFS) credit for a new method of cellulosic ethanol production, citing the court’s recent ruling in a separate EPA lawsuit that some observers say raised the bar for proving that non-binding guidance can be subject to judicial review.

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Fourteen states and a group of former high-ranking federal officials and diplomats are supporting California’s defense against the Trump administration’s constitutional challenge to the Golden State’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program link to Quebec, claiming the pact does not violate the Constitution or interfere with the administration’s foreign policy on GHG regulation.

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A novel EPA-issued Clean Water Act (CWA) general permit for New Hampshire’s Great Bay could revive a legal battle over how to set discharge limits on permits, with municipal governments accusing the agency of ignoring science and cost concerns in setting new limits on the total nitrogen that can enter the bay.

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Major epidemiological studies are again suggesting early deaths from exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone at levels of pollution below EPA’s current national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for the two criteria pollutants, potentially bolstering calls by environmentalists and others for the agency to tighten the limits.

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Foreign relations law professors from across the country are supporting California’s defense against the Trump administration’s lawsuit targeting the state’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program link to Quebec, arguing the deal does not encroach upon the supremacy of the United States or violate the Constitution’s treaty and compact clauses.

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February 18, 2020

EPA in a new court filing argues that its regulatory change to Obama-era landfill methane standards -- punting compliance deadlines for years -- is essentially the same as a new statute passed by Congress in forcing a lower court to amend a final judgment requiring the agency to complete a federal plan for the rules.

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Michael Dourson, a former nominee to lead the Trump EPA’s toxics office, is suggesting a key public-private sector group launch an effort to resolve international differences on health risks from one of the most studied perfluorinated chemicals, an effort that could produce a weaker risk level to undermine some states’ stricter values.

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The Trump administration’s new rule revising the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) is generally seen as narrowing the scope of the law, especially for wetlands, but some of the changes might expand coverage over intermittent waters compared to the Obama-era rule, legal experts say.

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The Center for Biological Diversity and Waterkeeper Alliance are threatening to sue EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers over the recently finalized “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, alleging they failed to engage in mandatory consultation with other federal agencies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) before finalizing the rule.

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EPA’s call for input on how it might tighten air toxics rules for commercial facilities that use ethylene oxide (EtO) to sterilize medical equipment is prompting a fight between medical device makers and Democratic state attorneys general (AGs) over the agency’s estimate of EtO risks and the potential for stricter emission control mandates.

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California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) is faulting a new $1 billion “climate catalyst loan fund” in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget for greenhouse gas-reduction and climate change programs, saying state lawmakers should reject the funding request due to a lack of justification.

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February 14, 2020

EPA in a new draft guidance is recommending that industrial facilities consider “plantwide applicability limits” (PALs) as a way to avoid requirements to obtain stringent “major source” new source review (NSR) permits for projects that increase air emissions, downplaying industry concerns that states could unduly tighten the limits once issued.

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EPA’s toxics chief says the agency is grappling with how to obtain more data about chemicals from companies while having limited ability to protect it as confidential business information (CBI) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), an issue industry sources say limits companies’ interest and ability to share studies with EPA.

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EPA and a group of chemical companies are struggling to reach agreement on industry’s offer to provide a pair of studies the companies funded on the reproductive toxicity of n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in the agency’s ongoing TSCA evaluation of the chemical, while seeking to keep the signed study report from public release so it cannot be used by competitors.

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Environmentalists who support the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) -- an effort by a group of Northeast states seeking to develop a regional cap-and-trade plan for transportation fuels -- are pushing back on criticism levied by some state officials and conservative groups trying to pressure states not to join.

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In a case that tests the constitutionality of California’s landmark chemical warning label law, a coalition of agriculture industry groups is pushing back against the state’s defenses as the parties prepare for a hearing on competing summary judgment motions slated for this spring.

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February 13, 2020

As states begin to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), they are citing a host of unanswered questions that could impact their development, including the impact of new data on sensitive subpopulations and the effect of any federally enforceable standards, a new report from state environment commissioners says.

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