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Environmental Policy Alert - 02/15/2017

  • Novel RCRA Citizen Suits Could Increase If EPA Enforcement Diminishes

    Several pending novel citizen suits under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCA) could lead to an expansion of how the law's citizen suit provision can be used, as well as increase the number of such suits, especially if EPA enforcement falls in the next few years, a legal expert says.

    1100 words

  • Appellate Suit Tests Reach Of EPA Ash Rule To Preempt Local Disposal Bans

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit is poised to hear a case from Puerto Rico next month that will test whether EPA's first-time coal ash disposal rule preempts local governments' power to adopt ordinances that bar disposal or reuse of the material, potentially setting a precedent that the power and ash reuse sectors fear might undermine the agency's new federal permit system.

    1342 words

  • Industry Seeks More Time For Input On Mining Financial Assurance Rules

    The mining and oil industries are urging EPA to extend the public comment period for first-time draft financial responsibility rules for the hardrock mining industry due to the complexity of the proposal, with the National Mining Association (NMA) arguing the agency could seek a modification of the court order driving the rule's current deadline.

    1124 words

  • Colorado Business Groups Press For 'Good Samaritan' Cleanup Legislation

    Colorado business organizations are pressing Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) to back efforts to develop consensus-based legislation that would prompt so-called Good Samaritan cleanups of abandoned mines, saying a stakeholder-developed bill would have greater chances of passing Congress.

    1182 words

  • EPA Guidance Advises Regions On Best Practices For Sediment Sites

    EPA's waste office is recommending in new guidance that regional offices consider taking early actions at high-risk portions of sediment sites and is re-emphasizing collaboration between Superfund and water programs at such sites, as part of an effort aimed at providing best practices for what are often complex and expensive mega-sites.

    1195 words

  • Judges Question Trump EPA On Legality Of Obama-Era Air Toxics Regulation

    Appellate judges at Feb. 10 oral argument queried the Trump EPA over its defense of an Obama-era rule declaring that the agency has satisfied a Clean Air Act mandate to regulate 90 percent of sources of seven air toxics, questioning the legitimacy of the rule but also raising doubts on whether environmentalists' suit over the finding is timely.

    1316 words

  • EPA Will Pursue Appeal Of Deadline For Study Of Air Rules' 'Jobs' Effects

    EPA is signaling that it will ask an appeals court to at least extend the deadline a district judge set for a sweeping review of how its Clean Air Act rules have affected power sector employment -- the first indication that the Trump administration will continue litigating the case despite environmentalists' concerns that it would reverse course.

    834 words

  • Federal District Court Adds To EPA Wins On Key Aspects Of NSR Program

    A federal district court in Missouri is reiterating its support for the Obama EPA on key aspects of enforcing the Clean Air Act new source review (NSR) air permit program, adding to a recent appellate court victory that backed the agency's enforcement approach -- though the Trump EPA's plans on enforcing NSR remain unknown.

    1079 words

  • Delegating CWA Permit Powers Could Aid Weakening Of Jurisdiction Rule

    The Trump administration could permanently weaken federal authority to regulate wetlands regardless of the fate of the Obama EPA's controversial Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule by delegating dredge-and-fill permitting to states and removing direct federal power over many waters subject to the rule, an industry attorney says.

    1190 words

  • White House Agrees To Lift Hold On Army Corps' CWA Nationwide Permits

    The Trump administration will release its hold on implementing the Army Corps of Engineers' updated Clean Water Act (CWA) nationwide permits (NWPs), allowing the revised general permits to take effect as originally scheduled on March 19, after states warned the delay could cause widespread confusion for the thousands of projects subject to NWPs.

    504 words

  • EPA Warns Releasing Utility ELG Data May Hinder Rulemaking, Enforcement

    EPA is urging a federal appeals court to reject environmentalists' suit seeking to force release of data on the agency's power plant effluent rule that the agency withheld from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, saying release of the data would set a negative precedent that may broadly hinder future rulemaking and enforcement efforts.

    957 words

  • NRDC Suit Over EPA Dental ELG Withdrawal Tests Scope Of Priebus Memo

    The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is suing EPA over the Trump administration's withdrawal of the Obama EPA's 11th-hour final dental amalgam effluent rule from publication in the Federal Register, posing a test of the scope of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus' memo ordering agencies to pull back some final rules.

    671 words

  • Trump's Early Regulatory Actions Raise Questions Over Impacts For TSCA

    President Donald Trump's early regulatory actions -- including an executive order (EO) on identifying two rules to withdraw for every new rule -- are raising questions over the implications for EPA's implementation of the updated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), including how it might affect the stringency of implementation.

    787 words

  • Stakeholders Flag Early Concerns On EPA TSCA Risk Evaluation Proposal

    Stakeholders tracking EPA's implementation of the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) are flagging early concerns over the agency's draft rule to establish a chemical risk evaluation process under the new law, including how the agency will consider the various uses of substances and how it will make inferences from chemical risk data.

    925 words

  • EPA Predicts $3.7 Million For Each Chemical Review Under Revised TSCA

    EPA in a recent report to Congress is predicting that it will cost roughly $3.7 million to assess each existing chemical that the agency prioritizes for review under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and is also indicating that EPA is trying to increase staffing in order to meet the demands of the updated toxics law.

    1254 words

  • Judges Issue Mixed Ruling In Environmentalists' ESA Pesticide Challenge

    A federal appeals court in a mixed ruling is backing a lower court's dismissal of much of environmentalists' lawsuit seeking to force EPA to consult with federal wildlife officials on risks of dozens of pesticides to listed species, but is reversing the lower court's finding that certain claims were a “collateral attack” on a prior pesticide registration.

    994 words

  • EPA Worker Safety Measures Could Be Model For Future TSCA Risk Rules

    Worker safety measures that EPA is seeking input on as part of its draft Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) rules to limit certain uses of three chemicals could become a model for use in other TSCA risk rules given the revised toxics law's mandate to consider risks to susceptible subpopulations such as workers, industry sources say.

    1022 words

  • Climate Policy Backers Praise GOP Tax Plan But Free-Market Critics Object

    Environmentalists and other supporters of climate policies to mandate greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions are praising a proposal by a group of Republican statesmen to enact a carbon tax with revenues returned to the public as an alternative to EPA climate rules, though free-market groups are sharply criticizing the idea of a new tax.

    847 words

  • Trailer Makers Detail Narrow Challenge To EPA Heavy-Duty Truck GHG Rule

    The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) says it plans to challenge only the trailer-related provisions of EPA's phase two medium- and heavy-duty truck greenhouse gas rule finalized last year, rather than pursue a broad challenge to the overall rule.

    1394 words

  • White House Guide Tees Up Battles Between EPA, Agencies On Rule Costs

    The White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) has issued guidance implementing President Donald Trump's regulatory review executive order (EO) that will tee up battles between EPA and other agencies over how to offset the cost of new rules, by declaring that an agency can request cost-saving offsets from a separate agency.

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  • Trump's 'One For Two' Rule Order May Create Confusion Over EPA Agenda

    President Donald Trump's executive order (EO) forcing EPA and other agencies to “identify” two existing rules for withdrawal for every new rule they issue might spur massive regulatory confusion, sources say, because it is likely to complicate development of new rules required by statute and may jeopardize some existing rules that industry groups support.

    1164 words

  • Trump Critics' Suit Over 'Two For One' Rule Order Claims Air Law Violation

    Environmentalists, labor unions and other pro-regulation advocates are suing over President Donald Trump's executive order (EO) that requires agencies to balance each new rule they issue by identifying two existing rules for repeal, saying the mandate violates Clean Air Act requirements for EPA to issue air and climate regulations.

    872 words

  • Gorsuch's Chevron, Originalist Views Suggest Mixed Environmental Record

    Appellate court judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, is highly skeptical of courts granting agencies deference to interpret statutes and is committed to adhering to the “original” meaning of the Constitution -- qualities that likely will not endear him to the environmental community, sources say.

    1758 words

  • Speculation On Trump Agenda Unlikely To Justify Delaying EPA Rule Suits

    Industry arguments that speculation about President Donald Trump's agenda for EPA and how it might change the agency's approach to enforcement and other policies is seen by observers as an inadequate reason to delay pending suits over EPA rules, although some groups continue to argue that the agenda's uncertainty justifies such delays.

    963 words

  • Rep. Smith Rejects Democrats' Criticisms Over EPA 'Secret Science' Bill

    Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chairman of the House science committee, appeared to reject concerns from Democrats and their witness with the substance of an upcoming bill he is expected to advance seeking transparency in EPA's scientific process, arguing that medical privacy concerns are easily addressed and information that EPA uses for decision-making should be publicly available.

    1522 words

  • EPA Integrity Policy May Allow Trump Review Of Agency Science, Critics Say

    The fundamental weaknesses of EPA's scientific integrity policy -- especially its limited implementing procedures and lack of penalties -- leave the door open for Trump transition officials to circumvent the policy's goals of insulating scientists from political interference and allow them to review agency scientists' work before public release, according to environmentalists and other critics.

    1621 words

  • Networks Seek To Archive, Protect Environmental Information From Trump

    Informal networks of academics, computer experts and librarians are working together to copy, archive and mirror as much environmental information as possible from EPA and other federal websites, working against fears that the climate and other scientific data may disappear under the Trump administration.

    1284 words

  • Former EPA Enforcement Official Sees Hurdles To Potential OECA Closure

    A former high-ranking career EPA enforcement official is pushing back on claims that the Trump administration might shutter the agency's Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance (OECA), saying that funding and other hurdles will complicate the push -- and suggesting less-sweeping ways to improve EPA's enforcement.

    1249 words

  • Obama DOJ Memo Could Help Retain Joint Civil Enforcement Under Trump

    The Obama Department of Justice's (DOJ) environment division quietly issued guidance that appears to reinforce an approach to joint state-federal civil enforcement efforts while formalizing the role of a federal "counselor" post created under Obama, which could potentially help DOJ officials to continue the approach under President Trump.

    728 words

  • Top Transition Official Details Budget For Trump To Permanently Shrink EPA

    Myron Ebell, the former head of the Trump transition team at EPA, says he hopes that President Donald Trump fulfills his campaign promise to dramatically and permanently shrink EPA by revoking its climate change authority, dramatically cutting its staff and budget, and shifting much of its work to states.

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  • EPA Vows Oversight Of Grants Staffing Amid Calls To Boost Aid To States

    EPA is pledging to step up its procedures for tracking hiring and performance of staff who administer grant programs after a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found it lacks data on those employees -- data that could become more important if conservatives succeed in shifting some agency duties to grant-funded state efforts.

    483 words

  • Senate GOP Sends Pruitt Nomination To Floor After Suspending EPW Rules

    Republicans on the Senate environment committee have approved the nomination of Scott Pruitt to be the next EPA administrator, though the move came after Democrats continued to boycott the vote and Republicans suspended the committee's rules to allow for a formal quorum without any minority members present.

    694 words

  • Refiners, Ethanol Groups Ramp Up Legal Attacks On EPA's Multi-Year RFS

    Groups suing EPA over the Obama administration's multi-year renewable fuel standard (RFS) volumes rule are ramping up their legal attacks in new briefs, with refiners doubling down on their claim that its compliance mechanism is flawed while ethanol groups argue the agency should have set more ambitious fuel production targets.

    1345 words

  • Refiner's Suit Eyes Alternate Path To Shift EPA's RFS 'Point Of Obligation'

    Refiner Valero Energy is suing EPA in federal district court in Texas eyeing an alternate way to force the agency to shift the renewable fuel standard (RFS) compliance mandate, or “point of obligation,” from fuel refiners and importers to blenders, saying EPA has failed to meet a Clean Air Act mandate to ensure the duty is “appropriate.”

    1091 words