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Daily News

May 30, 2019

A chemical industry trade association is suing EPA over its first-time Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) ban on consumer uses of paint-strippers containing methylene chloride, charging the measure goes too far by unintentionally limiting access to some commercial uses even though it does not intend to.

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EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) says that at the halfway point of fiscal year 2019 it has more than tripled its target for annual “return on investment” by producing $295 million in cost savings, monetary benefits and additional fines for the agency, but achieved no environmental improvements or regulatory changes in the same period.

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Reversing a key finding in a tentative ruling, a California superior court judge has determined that a trucking company has standing to bring suit over the state air board’s greenhouse gas standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and trailers, though the court still finds that the company’s claims of financial hardship are unripe.

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California’s Senate is advancing a controversial bill that would require the state air board and other agencies to implement a first-time inspection and maintenance (I/M) smog check program for heavy-duty diesel vehicles, including provisions targeting trucks that are registered out of state but regularly travel through California.

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A California trucking company that has successfully sued the state air board over its environmental reviews of emission standards is now objecting to the board’s new changes to implementing regulations for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

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California Assembly lawmakers are prioritizing low-carbon transportation projects and funding for a program to reduce conventional pollution in disadvantaged areas, in their proposed fiscal year 2019-20 spending plan for $1.4 billion generated by the state’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.

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Environmentalists and farmers are attacking claims by California’s Kern County that its broad ordinance allowing oil and gas drilling also includes sufficient measures to protect the environment, with the groups charging that numerous parts of the plan violate the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has named Christina Morkner Brown, a former top lawyer with the state air board and the attorney general’s office, as the new CalEPA deputy secretary for law enforcement and general counsel.

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May 29, 2019

EPA is proposing a potentially precedent-setting voluntary emissions trading system for an area in Utah to ease oil and gas extraction permitting, though environmentalists, who say the plan is likely inadequate to curb ozone, may be reluctant to challenge it because of a novel deal they have reached with a local tribe not to challenge a related permit “streamlining” plan.

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Merchant refiner HollyFrontier is defending EPA’s policy on issuance of waivers from renewable fuel standard (RFS) compliance from an appellate court suit filed by biofuel producers, echoing agency arguments that proved successful in defending the waivers in a related lawsuit recently decided by the same court.

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The Asbestos Disease Awareness Group (ADAO) is urging EPA to perform a strict assessment of asbestos’ human health risk, citing in part findings by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and others that there is no safe level of exposure to the toxic mineral as some fear EPA will soften its analysis.

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The trucking sector and California regulators appear to be far from reaching agreement on the industry’s proposed “voluntary” program to achieve national nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission cuts sooner than what is expected under an EPA rule, with state officials concerned that the industry plan is too weak.

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A federal district court in Texas has remanded to EPA without vacatur the Obama-era Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule on procedural grounds after finding the agency changed a key definition between the proposed and final rule without public comment, exacerbating a regulatory patchwork as the rule remains in effect in other states.

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May 28, 2019

Democratic attorneys general (AGs) from 16 states, along with two national organizations representing state water regulators, are urging EPA to refrain from scaling back the scope of states’ review authority under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), saying the agency has failed to show changes are needed and failed to properly engage with states.

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As environmentalists and rival campaigns await a detailed climate change policy rollout from former Vice President Joe Biden, the early front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, less popular candidates are continuing to jockey on the issue as a way to shore up support among primary voters.

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EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are asking a federal district court to clarify the scope of its 2015 ruling that prevented the Obama-era Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule from going into effect in several states, after the court removed New Mexico from the injunction but said it would still apply to some counties in the state.

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The White House Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) plan to streamline agencies’ requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) may face long delays that threaten hopes to finish the policy in President Donald Trump’s current term, sources say, even though CEQ will submit the plan for inter-agency review next month.

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EPA wastewater chief Andrew Sawyers is explicitly endorsing the concept of drinking water and wastewater utility consolidations -- a position the agency has been edging towards over the past few years -- although he says there may be some advantages to a less-centralized system in some cases.

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May 24, 2019

EPA is poised for imminent release of its final action allowing summertime sales of 15 percent ethanol fuel (E15) ahead of a June 1 self-imposed deadline to authorize the fuel, but the agency might drop parts of a planned companion policy that would overhaul the market for renewable fuel standard (RFS) compliance credits, sources say.

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EPA has finalized recreational water quality criteria for two cyanotoxins that states can use in developing swimming advisories and water quality standards, raising the acceptable concentrations compared to the Obama administration’s proposal, primarily due to new data on the amount of water children accidentally ingest.

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