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Daily News

January 28, 2020

New draft climate change legislation from House Energy & Commerce panel Democrats outlines numerous new or expanded tasks for EPA to achieve a mid-century target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions, including stringent vehicle standards, new carbon capture permitting requirements and updated equity mandates.

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House lawmakers, utility officials and forestry experts are urging federal agencies to ramp up actions to reduce the threat of climate change and associated wildfires on the power sector, including initiatives to make infrastructure more resilient and to thin out forests, though Democrats add that the risk underscores the need for ambitious steps to cut greenhouse gases.

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Congressional Democrats from the Great Lakes region are urging the new EPA Region 5 administrator to boost enforcement and staffing levels over concerns low numbers are harming the agency’s work.

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Maryland is urging the Supreme Court to reject a bid by one of its counties to overturn a novel state court ruling upholding conditions in a stormwater permit tied to restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, saying the county does not raise a nationwide issue worthy of the high court’s review.

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EPA has declined to seek en banc rehearing of the recent appellate ruling that requires the agency to consider chemicals’ “legacy uses” in its Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) evaluations, and a spokesman says the agency is now considering issuing supplemental analyses for some already issued evaluations to account for the court’s requirement.

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A federal appellate court has affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a challenge to a state-issued Clean Water Act (CWA) section 404 permit, agreeing there was no final agency action to review but raising concerns about the limited options to reassess state oversight of certain waters for dredge-and-fill permitting.

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January 27, 2020

Even before it has been formally released, House Democrats’ sweeping climate change proposal is facing sharp criticism from some environmental groups who charge that the legislation will allow polluting fuels such as natural gas and biomass, along with “ineffective” credit trading, as part of a pathway to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050.

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A federal appeals court panel has unanimously scrapped renewable fuel standard (RFS) compliance waivers EPA granted to three small refineries who claimed meeting the RFS’ production goals would cause them economic hardship, a decision that casts doubt over the agency’s controversial waiver policy and future issuance of RFS exemptions.

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EPA has released preliminary lists of thousands of companies that may have to cover the costs of assessing the next 20 chemicals the agency will begin evaluating this year under the revised toxics law, leaving companies wondering how much of the up to $1.35 million per chemical they will be charged when the list is finalized.

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Leaked details from the Trump administration’s draft final vehicle greenhouse gas rule rollback show the plan’s estimated net benefits have been slashed by roughly $200 billion, likely highlighting the effects of changing controversial assumptions in the proposed rule including how much vehicles are driven and replaced under the policy.

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If the White House finalizes its recent proposal to significantly scale back how agencies must conduct National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews of major federal actions, the policy likely will face a complex array of legal challenges in multiple venues, threatening to undermine clarity on agencies’ responsibilities.

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January 24, 2020

Legal experts expect judges to quickly stay the Trump administration’s new Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule, preventing it from taking effect during imminent and likely-complex legal challenges that are all but guaranteed to reach the Supreme Court thanks to its contentious nature and legal basis that clashes with circuit court precedents.

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EPA has found that the once-common solvent carbon tetrachloride does not pose unreasonable risk to directly exposed workers or the environment, though other workers may face risk, says a just-released draft assessment the agency conducted under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

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EPA advisors are poised to eliminate debate on the emissions reduction “co-benefits” stemming from the agency’s review of the Obama-era utility air toxics rule, narrowing the focus of its final report on the review largely to direct mercury benefits and avoiding EPA efforts to discount co-benefits in order to support rolling back its cost-benefit justification.

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EPA staff’s just-released final integrated science assessment (ISA) that examines the health effects of particulate matter (PM) makes few changes from the proposed version that drew criticism from agency science advisers, delaying potentially fundamental changes to the scientific review process the advisors had sought for a future review.

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A California superior court judge is allowing key industry claims to advance in the first industry challenge to the state’s listing of a chemical under its landmark Safer Consumer Products (SCP) green chemistry program, rejecting arguments in a state demurrer and indicating she may ultimately rule in favor of the petitioners on the merits of the case.

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January 23, 2020

EPA and Army Corps of Engineers officials are emphasizing the legal strength of the Trump administration’s new definition of “waters of the United States (WOTUS)” and the regulatory clarity the rule provides even as environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers are vowing to fight the just-finalized rule with all available tools.

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EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) is poised to finalize, with some modifications, its sharp critique of numerous modeling assumptions the agency made in crafting its rollback of Obama-era vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy regulations.

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Even as the Trump administration’s draft final rule rolling back Obama-era vehicle greenhouse gas standards officially remains under wraps during White House review, a top Senate Democrat is disclosing several key aspects of a leaked draft that he says undermine several of the administration’s stated rationales for the policy.

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The Trump administration has issued its final rule significantly narrowing the universe of waters subject to protection under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

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