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Daily News

April 17, 2019

EPA has expanded the number of renewed asbestos uses for which manufacturers would have to seek agency approval though its final significant new use rule (SNUR), issued under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), still falls short of calls from some states and environmentalists for even broader restrictions or a total ban.

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Former EPA officials, including several who helped craft the Obama-era mercury and air toxics standards (MATS), are warning the Trump administration that it lacks legal authority for its proposal to scrap the cost-benefit finding underpinning the MATS rule, unless it pursues a major new cost review that the agency has so far avoided.

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EPA financial advisers have agreed to serve as a congressionally mandated panel to give the agency advice on stormwater infrastructure funding, though some of the advisers are raising concerns about their ability to provide independent advice when EPA will use the group's recommendations in an upcoming report to Congress.

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An EPA advisory board is urging the agency to create a new stormwater infrastructure financing program, either through a stand-alone mechanism or the expansion of existing EPA funding programs, after the agency sought recommendations on how to fund projects that allow water utilities to be more resilient to natural disasters.

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The bioenergy industry is criticizing a recent “alternate” proposal by California’s top public utility regulator that would narrow a plan to allow more biomethane into the gas pipeline system, while fearing that the commission will prematurely close its proceeding and thwart other legislatively mandated efforts to expand the use of biomethane.

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Several California assemblymen are crafting revisions to a controversial state air board draft greenhouse gas offset standard for tropical forest management projects, though they must balance competing arguments from environmental justice groups that oppose the standard and carbon traders who support it.

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Legislation that would create a California power-buying authority to ensure reliable electric service as the state transitions away from retail utilities is spurring debate over how such an entity may affect renewable power supplies, with rapidly growing community choice aggregators (CCA) raising the most concerns about the measure.

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California Energy Commission (CEC) officials are mulling whether to appeal an Alameda County Superior Court ruling that overturns as unconstitutional the commission’s current process for parties to legally challenge its power plant certification and siting decisions.

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Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is strongly defending his department's stance that the acceptable risk level for remediating groundwater contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) should be much weaker than the 70 parts-per-trillion (ppt) level that EPA favors, raising doubts that officials will be able to quickly issue a long-promised policy.

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A federal district court has entered a contested consent decree between EPA and an aftermarket parts maker that environmentalists had argued was too weak, even as the Justice Department awaits court approval on a similar, long-pending pact with Harley Davidson that has similarly drawn state and environmentalist opposition.

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April 16, 2019

Environmentalists and Democrats are using their comments on EPA’s proposed narrower Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule to preview the legal attacks they will make on any final version in guaranteed litigation, saying the rule has a host of procedural flaws, breaks with Supreme Court precedent, and exceeds the agency’s authority.

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Complicating Trump EPA plans to rollback Obama-era facility safety rules, industry lawyers are warning that the agency faces constitutional challenges over its plan to retain provisions that require companies to hold a public meeting to disclose data on an incident, saying the mandate helps potential plaintiffs and seeks to regulate by “shaming.”

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A recent ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit cements a trend of judges setting a low threshold for citizen suits to proceed that allege imminent and substantial endangerment under federal waste law, allowing cases to advance that merely raise the risk of harm rather than the threat of irreparable harm.

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Automaker trade groups are bolstering the Trump EPA's defense of its determination that vehicle greenhouse gas standards should be weakened, despite uncertainties about whether they will publicly support the administration's specific regulations to rollback the rules.

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EPA in a new guidance document says pollution releases to groundwater should never be subject to Clean Water Act (CWA) permit limits even if they contaminate protected surface waters, a move that could help secure deference for industry and wastewater utilities’ position in a pending Supreme Court case set to begin merits briefing on May 8.

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April 15, 2019

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), chair of the appropriations panel that oversees EPA’s budget, says Administrator Andrew Wheeler “intended to obfuscate” in recent testimony to avoid releasing adverse agency comments on a draft Minnesota mine permit, comments that critics say political appointees suppressed as they work to ease state oversight.

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A federal district court has vacated the Trump administration’s repeal of an Obama-era rule to determine fossil fuel royalties after it found the Interior Department (DOI) failed to state valid reasons for the new policy, with sources saying the ruling could serve as a warning for several pending EPA rollbacks of the prior administration’s policies.

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EPA is launching a long-planned reorganization of its regional offices in a bid to improve coordination between agency headquarters and its regions, despite fears from some agency staff that the “disruptive” shuffle could weaken enforcement and claims that EPA has not taken adequate steps to minimize the overhaul's adverse impacts.

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A federal appellate court is endorsing a lower court’s fact findings that parties who sold polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated buildings intended to arrange for disposal of hazardous substances, reinforcing the evidentiary bar that trial courts must meet to determine if a party is liable as an “arranger” under the Superfund law for response costs.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is seeking several significant changes to energy and utility policies and laws to address climate change and catastrophic wildfires, including creating a state entity to procure renewable power and potentially pursuing constitutional changes to make it easier for utilities to fund fire damage liabilities through rate hikes.

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