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Daily News

June 23, 2020

House lawmakers have begun their review of new legislation governing the military’s use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as part of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), though the initial legislation is expected to face amendments with beefed up requirements as it advances.

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As EPA begins crafting its first risk management rules under the revised toxics law, a coalition of chemical users is quietly asking the agency to write a procedural rule governing compliance deadlines, exemptions for certain uses, coordination with other agencies and other measures for when officials eventually write any regulatory mandates.

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Environmentalists are urging EPA to “suspend” use of a new model enforcement order that the agency quietly issued to govern it’s approval of new chemical uses under the revised toxics law, charging it was crafted without public comment and further weakens the agency’s implementation of the revised law’s new chemical mandates.

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June 22, 2020

EPA in the near future will “terminate” its controversial policy granting industry broad discretion from meeting compliance obligations under environmental regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, says a top agency enforcement official who adds that EPA might still offer similar discretion for future unforeseen circumstances.

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EPA is paring back some of the revisions it planned to include in an updated waste rule aimed at addressing “ignitability” criteria for hazardous waste, following concerns raised by industry groups that the draft rule could have prompted recategorizing generators’ materials and cost the chemical and retail industries tens of millions of dollars.

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EPA is proposing to add Iowa to the list of states that can offer companies Clean Air Act regulatory waivers for excess pollution during periods of facility startup, shutdown or malfunction (SSM), but the agency continues to deny it is making a national policy change on SSM that would be subject a key federal appeals court’s review.

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A federal judge in Colorado has blocked the Trump administration’s narrowed definition of waters of the United States (WOTUS) from being implemented in that state, hours after another federal judge rejected a nationwide halt to the rule and while legal challenges to the WOTUS policy increase from environmentalists and other EPA critics.

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Colorado officials have halted what environmentalists say is illegal forest clearing by a coal company for a controversial mine expansion project, with the company pressing ahead even though a federal appeals court overturned its approval for the work due to a flawed environmental review.

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Warning of an anticipated “explosion” in liability lawsuits under toxics and other laws, industry lawyers are urging companies to audit for the presence or use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their operations and find safer alternatives to these persistent toxic chemicals in the face of increased regulatory scrutiny.

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Members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel that is peer reviewing EPA’s approach for systematically reviewing the information available for its existing chemical evaluations under the revised toxics law are seeking to clarify what EPA wants it to review and the status of the agency’s evolving approach.

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EPA has issued a final significant new use rule (SNUR) for a group of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), meeting a statutory deadline while dropping controversial “safe harbor” provisions from an earlier proposal which Democrats and environmentalists criticized as setting a precedent for exempting importers and others from such rules.

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June 19, 2020

Unable to secure programmatic changes in Congress, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking an early step that could help it overhaul its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program, releasing a retrospective economic analysis which it plans to use as a basis for regulatory changes to the program.

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A federal district judge has denied Democratic states’ bid for a nationwide injunction blocking enforcement of the Trump administration’s rule narrowing the scope the Clean Water Act (CWA), holding that the states have not shown that the rule is clearly unlawful and casting doubt on their chances of winning a decision on the merits.

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Appellate judges appeared doubtful at recent oral argument that granting a request from Ohio and Tennessee for a preliminary injunction against the now-defunct Obama-era waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule could provide relief but grappled with what their instructions to a lower court might say if the case is now moot because EPA scrapped the rule.

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California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) is warning retailers of residential wood heaters that the state intends to enforce a prohibition on sales of heaters that fail to meet stringent EPA emissions standards that went into effect May 15, despite an agency proposal to provide more time for retailers to sell their non-compliant stock.

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Environmentalists are launching a legal bid to undo the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era mercury and air toxics standards (MATS) for power plants, saying EPA’s rule that scraps the cost-benefit finding justifying MATS but leaves the regulation in place is a “bogus excuse” for coal companies to ask a court to kill the overall air toxics policy.

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Industry lawyers are flagging upcoming deadlines to press EPA for review of new or existing guidance documents, including an opportunity to eliminate policies as soon as this month -- under an October executive order (EO) from President Donald Trump directing agencies to scrutinize such policies.

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EPA is poised to promulgate a final rule adding 172 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the list of chemicals that must be reported to the Toxic Release Inventory, rejecting calls from water utilities to drop a de minimis exemption will allow facilities to release the persistent toxics into the environment without monitoring.

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In a first, EPA has issued its final evaluation of the risks posed by the widely used solvent methylene chloride (MC), finding that 47 of 53 commercial, industrial and consumer uses it evaluated pose “unreasonable risks” that require regulation under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

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June 18, 2020

A federal judge in California pushed back on Justice Department (DOJ) suggestions at a June 18 hearing that case law bars him from staying the Trump administration’s waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule on a nationwide basis, although he also said some of the merits arguments from the rule’s critics were hard to understand.

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