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Daily News

November 15, 2019

States, environmental groups and local air officials are pushing back against Trump administration claims that litigation over Trump’s preemption of state vehicle emission rules belongs in appellate court, highlighting the legal downsides to the government’s strategy of severing the preemption action from a plan to weaken federal standards.

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As EPA unveils a framework for how it plans to bolster the struggling municipal recycling sector, waste industry officials are urging the agency and other federal entities to provide more leadership and additional policies to help advance the sector, which has struggled in the face of shuttered export markets and inadequate infrastructure.

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A federal judge has rejected EPA’s effort to block environmentalists’ suit challenging the agency’s refusal to craft asbestos reporting rules under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a potentially precedent-setting ruling that could further bolster plaintiffs’ efforts seeking to challenge EPA petition denials.

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The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is criticizing the Defense Department’s (DOD) approach for developing a new occupational exposure limit (OEL) for the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), including DOD’s decision to exclude a controversial study EPA has used to set TCE risk values to protect against fetal heart malformations.

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After a trial that appeared to show flaws in New York’s novel climate securities fraud case against ExxonMobil, supporters of several local governments’ climate nuisance suits against oil companies say that a potential adverse ruling for New York would have no effect on the tort cases because they are based on different legal claims.

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November 14, 2019

Over 100 House Democrats are poised to formally endorse legislation setting a national goal of a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050 and urging federal agencies to take early steps to meet that target using existing authority, part of an effort to craft a broad legislative agenda and mobilize advocacy around climate policy.

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EPA officials are downplaying concerns that the Defense Department (DOD) is preempting its draft screening levels for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in groundwater used for drinking water, after DOD last month issued guidance setting Superfund levels for two of the chemicals that are less stringent than levels suggested by EPA’s draft policy.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has denied environmentalists and labor groups’ challenges to the scope of EPA’s framework rule for evaluating existing chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), but the court also rejected EPA’s push to preclude “legacy uses” and associated disposal when assessing risks.

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Most members of a divided EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) are rejecting an EPA staff policy paper that called for tightening the annual fine particulate matter (PM2.5) ambient air limit to protect human health, with the majority instead saying the existing limit is sufficiently protective of the public.

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Legal experts are debating whether the Trump administration’s constitutional challenge to California’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program link to Quebec will succeed, with most arguing lower courts are likely to back California but some saying there is a good chance the Supreme Court could side with the administration if it hears the case.

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California water agencies are raising red flags over a draft state agency report and “data mapping tool” that seeks for the first time to assesses deficiencies and vulnerabilities of water systems across the state under a landmark “human right to water” law, suggesting the effort could unfairly target certain districts.

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Federal appellate judges are questioning whether the operator of a proposed coal storage and export terminal at the Port of Oakland in California illegally withheld information about the environmental impacts of the project, raising speculation that they may reverse a lower court’s ruling backing the operator and project.

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The California Energy Commission (CEC) has postponed voting on a controversial proposal by a major publicly owned utility to implement an alternative to the state’s landmark requirement that all new homes be installed with rooftop solar panels, in response to outcry by the solar power industry, panel installers and community representatives.

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November 13, 2019

EPA enforcement chief Susan Bodine is strongly defending the Trump administration’s commitment to environmental enforcement, using remarks at a Nov. 12 conference to repeatedly “push back” on the “misconception” that the administration is reducing enforcement efforts.

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EPA and the Justice Department (DOJ) are continuing discussions on the use of supplemental environmental projects (SEPs), which are used to offset penalties in enforcement settlements, even as the agencies are at odds over DOJ policies seeking to limit -- and possibly bar -- their use.

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House science committee Democrats sought to use their Nov. 13 hearing on EPA’s controversial proposed science transparency rule to bolster all but certain litigation over any final measure, though the agency witness largely declined to discuss details of a leaked draft supplemental proposal that has drawn scathing criticisms.

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Lorton, VA -- Just days before EPA is expected to issue a framework for advancing recycling in the United States, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is downplaying expectations that the agency is ready to offer solutions on how best to bolster the recycling system in light of major market impacts from China’s import restrictions.

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Major industry groups are warning EPA against imposing “safeguard” measures such as backstop emissions limits as part of its pending rule to scrap the long-running “once in, always in” policy that prevents facilities from ever escaping strict air toxics controls, saying such provisions would be unnecessary and potentially unlawful.

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Industry and environmental groups are clashing over the probable impacts of EPA’s proposal to end the “once in, always in” policy that forces industrial facilities to retain “major source” air toxics controls even if they reduce emissions below major source thresholds, a key issue that is likely to feature in expected litigation should EPA finalize the plan.

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EPA’s high-profile draft supplement to its controversial proposed rule on science transparency seeks to address a range of criticisms levelled at its first plan, including providing statutory authority, defining key and novel terms and clarifying the plan’s applicability and retroactivity, but the supplement is drawing new -- and equally harsh -- criticisms.

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