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Daily News

April 17, 2019

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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EPA staff has prepared a new draft review that includes possible remedies for widely criticized assumptions in the Trump administration's proposed freeze of vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards, assumptions that critics say artificially boost the safety, cost and other benefits of the proposal while understating its environmental impacts.

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April 12, 2019

A federal appeals court has vacated portions of the Obama EPA’s Clean Water Act (CWA) power plant effluent rule as too lenient, agreeing with environmentalists that the agency acted “arbitrarily” when it left in place decades-old technology standards designating impoundments as the “best” technology for treating some forms of waste.

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Appellate judges are expected to require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to expand consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when approving natural gas pipelines with a known upstream producer, which would extend a two-year-old precedent requiring FERC to address downstream GHGs when the end user is known.

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A fight between critics and supporters of EPA’s proposal to scrap its cost-benefit finding underpinning the Obama-era utility air toxics rule is serving as a proxy for a broader battle over how, and whether, the agency should in future rulemakings count the “co-benefits” of reducing pollutants that are not directly regulated by a specific policy.

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The Justice Department (DOJ) is urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to overturn a district court ruling and forcefully reject a controversial judicial theory on when EPA must develop a waterbody cleanup plan, or if the appeals court believes the theory is binding in the 9th Circuit, to find the theory does not apply to excess water temperature that is expected to be exacerbated by climate change.

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EPA is proposing to publish more data on small refinery waivers from renewable fuel standard (RFS) exemptions, as the agency comes under renewed scrutiny from biofuels advocates and their congressional supporters for its increased issuance of waivers, which biofuel industry groups blame for “destroying demand” for their product.

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Tina Bahadori, chief of the EPA research center that oversees its influential Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program, is slated to be shifted to a new role as part of the Office of Research and Development's (ORD) reorganization, a move that some say may be driven by her efforts to advance a program the Trump administration is seeking to sideline.

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April 11, 2019

State regulators say EPA’s proposed Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule will leave them with uncertain and potentially costly burdens to regulate waterbodies that the rule would leave to state discretion, including dealing with losses in federal funding and duplicating federal programs that would be cut back under a narrow reading of the CWA.

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