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Daily News

January 23, 2019

Democrats' efforts to craft ambitious federal climate policies in the new Congress are reviving debates over whether such measures should focus solely on renewable technologies such as wind and solar or whether they should include a broader suite of low-carbon approaches such as nuclear energy and fossil energy paired with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

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January 22, 2019

State environmental regulators are growing increasingly concerned about the adverse effects of EPA's shutdown on a wide range of their operations, undermining key federal reviews of state permits and water quality measures, joint air quality planning for the upcoming wildfire season and possibly certifications for state air quality monitoring equipment.

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The electric power sector is warning appellate judges against scrapping EPA’s extended deadlines for utilities to shut down many of their coal ash disposal sites despite a 2018 decision holding that the original rule was already too lenient, arguing that vacating the extensions would force widespread utility closures and endanger the electric grid.

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The Navy is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider its precedential ruling allowing residents near two military facilities to pursue medical monitoring claims after they were exposed to pefluorinated compounds, arguing the court erred when it found that federal waste law unequivocally waived sovereign immunity to allow such a remedy.

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A federal appellate court has agreed to environmentalists' request to continue monitoring their suit over EPA's failure to propose a rule to protect occupants of public and commercial buildings from lead exposure possible during renovation and repair activities, after suggesting late last year that it terminate the decade-old case.

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The Supreme Court took no action in its Jan. 22 orders on a pair of closely-watched Clean Water Act (CWA) suits testing liability for pollution that travels through groundwater to protected surface waters, deepening the uncertainty surrounding EPA’s planned change in its policies governing such discharges.

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January 18, 2019

The Department of Justice's (DOJ) environment division is in the midst of an exodus of experienced and high-profile attorneys who are leaving the Trump administration for work in the private sector and on Capitol Hill, creating a “brain drain” just before EPA is set to finalize major regulatory rollbacks that the division must defend in court.

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The nearly month-long shutdown of EPA and other agencies is hampering the agency's ability to comply with a host of looming statutory deadlines that Congress set in the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), raising the stakes that officials will miss targets to assess chemicals, complete rulemakings or approve new chemical uses.

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EPA's rule setting user fees for chemical manufacturers and processors to fund agency actions under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has taken effect without a challenge from environmentalists or other parties, marking the only one of the agency's four TSCA framework rules to take effect without facing a lawsuit.

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A national organization of municipal wastewater utilities is urging California to drop its plan to adopt a new method for assessing toxicity of effluent discharged to surface waters, arguing it “will set a troubling national precedent” if California adopts the controversial, EPA-backed method.

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Utah and groups representing major industries are backing EPA's revised policy limiting the scope of review for objections to Clean Air Act Title V operating permits by excluding analysis of other air permits contained within a Title V permit, saying a broader approach would unlawfully allow the agency to “second guess” state permitting decisions.

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January 17, 2019

Concerns over EPA and other agencies almost one-month shutdown are growing as the EPA-administered federal online regulatory docket shuttered -- apparently due to the shutdown -- while federal courts that review EPA and other agency actions appear close to running out of funds.

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A coalition of state groups is urging EPA's top water official to drop plans to narrow states' authority for reviewing federally permitted pipelines and other projects under the Clean Water Act (CWA) section 401 authority, arguing changes are unnecessary and would contradict the Trump administration's commitment to cooperative federalism.

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Environmentalists are asking the Supreme Court to resolve a set of splits between and among federal appellate courts on when states' Clean Water Act (CWA) section 401 certifications for natural gas pipelines are final and subject to judicial review, creating new legal uncertainty for the authority just as EPA and GOP lawmakers weigh possible reforms.

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The oil and trucking industries as well as large energy consumers are urging the Supreme Court to review a split panel ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upholding Oregon's low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), arguing that previous appellate and high court rulings prove that the program unconstitutionally regulates out-of-state conduct.

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January 16, 2019

EPA is weighing its rarely used emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to address perfluorinated compounds, a potential alternative authority the agency could use to quickly require cleanups of the chemicals at local hot spots given its reticence to craft national cleanup standards.

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New Hampshire's recently proposed safe drinking water standards for several perfluorinated compounds at levels somewhat less stringent than other recent state proposals underscore the continuing patchwork of safety levels states are creating for the emerging contaminants in the absence of federal drinking water standards.

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EPA and the Transportation Department are planning to finalize rules requiring a 0.5 percent annual improvement in vehicle fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the top Democrat on the environment committee, a move only marginally tougher than the agencies' plan to fully freeze Obama-era rules through 2026.

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Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is acknowledging that the government shutdown is slowing or threatening to slow a number of major EPA rules or policies, including publication of a proposed mercury rule and issuance of plans to manage perflourinated compounds, authorize summertime ethanol blends and address a toxic paint stripper chemical.

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Forced into a public discussion with Senate Democrats about the risks posed by climate change, acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler struggled to justify the Trump administration's planned regulatory rollbacks, underscoring the broader policy challenge the administration has faced on the issue.

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