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Daily News

April 01, 2019

The Trump administration has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the California water board’s adoption in December of new water quality and flow standards for the San Joaquin portion of the Bay-Delta watershed, alleging that the state violated its own environmental laws in part by restricting flows to a federal water project.

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Appellate judges, during April 1 oral arguments, questioned whether EPA’s memo rescinding its longstanding “once in, always in” air toxics policy represents “final agency action” subject to judicial review, though they gave no clear indication of how they would rule.

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A federal appellate court is asking parties in a case challenging an EPA water discharge permit for drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico to discuss at upcoming oral arguments industry claims that environmentalists lack standing to sue -- even though the agency has said it believes the groups challenging the permit have standing.

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Democratic leaders in the California Legislature are pressing state air board officials to quickly address ongoing concerns that there is an “overallocation” of credits in the state’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program that may jeopardize achievement of the Golden State’s ambitious 2030 GHG target.

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Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' currently unknown position on when courts should defer to EPA and other federal agencies' interpretations of their regulations will largely determine whether and to what degree the current standard remains, according to legal experts.

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March 29, 2019

Biofuels groups and some oil sector interests are strongly opposing EPA’s proposed overhaul of the renewable fuel standard (RFS) credit market, as biofuels groups warn it will largely offset the benefits of the agency’s plan to allow higher ethanol fuel blends year-round, while larger oil companies say it will jam the efficient functioning of markets.

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is considered vulnerable in litigation challenging its policy to avoid considering the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas impacts from most natural gas pipeline projects, with a significant number of groups on both sides joining the suit.

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EPA, backed by the oil industry, is defending its use of “significant impact levels” (SILs) -- a screening tool to exempt industry air permit applicants from undergoing a full analysis of likely emissions impacts of their projects -- against environmentalist litigation arguing the tool allows unlawful increases in pollution.

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DENVER -- EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says the agency will propose its long-awaited update to the lead and copper rule (LCR) this summer with a three-step structure that aims to map the country’s remaining lead drinking water pipes and model their levels of corrosion before prioritizing the “most corrosive” lines for replacement.

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DENVER -- Career EPA and Justice Department (DOJ) enforcement officials say there has been no change in their agencies’ environmental enforcement posture under the Trump administration and their offices are “damn busy,” pushing back against environmentalists’ attacks on falling federal enforcement figures.

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March 28, 2019

EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), which advises the agency on how to set federal air standards, will urge the agency to reconstitute a specialized panel Trump officials disbanded to help review particulate matter (PM) limits, a move that would throw the administration’s timeline for completing its review into disarray.

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In a closely watched case, a federal judge has found that EPA improperly approved Montana's plan to allow dischargers 17 years to meet a controversial variance from strict water quality standards (WQS) for nutrients rather than requiring immediate compliance with the variance and working toward attainment of the WQS.

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A bipartisan group of senators will soon unveil legislation to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water, with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) suggesting support for both technical assistance and an enforceable drinking water standard that takes into account the costs and challenges of sampling and mitigating the chemicals.

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Key Democrats in both chambers are re-introducing “cap-and-dividend” legislation that would create a greenhouse gas permit program for “first sellers” of carbon-based fuels while rebating all revenues directly to the public, arguing their approach could be the most politically viable route to passing carbon pricing legislation.

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Oregon lawmakers are poised to consider recently unveiled amendments that would strengthen requirements for key sectors under a landmark bill to create a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program that links to the California-Quebec system, though the measure still faces calls from the natural gas industry for more flexibility.

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The California Assembly’s primary environment committee is advancing a landmark bill that would in part establish a first-time tax on all water agency customers in the state to help pay for the cleanup of contaminated water supplies in certain regions, rejecting push-back by agencies that argue the measure sets a disturbing water-tax precedent.

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The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is recommending a strategy for how California regulators should cost-effectively phase out the use of natural gas in buildings and gas-fired power plants in the coming decades, as part of its broader push for electrifying most sectors of the economy to fight climate change.

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Two major environmental groups suggest California may need to increase flexibility under its protocol for incorporating carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) into its low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), illustrating the priority that many experts place on deploying the technology to combat global warming.

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March 27, 2019

Supreme Court justices at March 27 oral argument appeared unlikely to completely overturn a key precedent granting deference to EPA and other federal agencies' interpretations of their regulations, though several of the justices appeared open to the Trump administration's call to narrow the deference.

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EPA is planning an annual review of its program office priorities for Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessments, a top official told lawmakers, despite controversy that the first such review stalled IRIS' work for months and led to charges that a top political appointee interfered in the review to drop the formaldehyde assessment.

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