The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently issued a new policy in order to prohibit the department from using its civil enforcement authority to compel compliance with agency guidance documents. The policy has major implications for civil environmental enforcement actions, such as new source review cases and Clean Water Act matters in which the DOJ relies heavily on Environmental Protection Agency guidance documents to establish violations of law.
The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a guidance memo that reverses its interpretation of the 'once in, always in' policy, which locked a source into meeting the maximum achievable control technology standards for major sources of hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The revised guidance may provide sources that no longer exceed the major source threshold with the opportunity to reduce burdensome monitoring, record-keeping and reporting requirements.
The Toxic Substances Control Act inventory reset process is now taking place. The reporting deadline for chemical manufacturers and importers was February 7 2018 and the deadline for all other companies that use chemicals is October 5 2018. Meeting these deadlines is important because a chemical will not be legal for use in the United States if it is not identified, reported (or subject to an exemption) and included in the active Toxic Substances Control Act inventory.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently issued an order rejecting North Dakota's bid to intervene to oppose an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settlement. In 2015 the environmental groups sued the EPA in district court, alleging that the EPA had failed to undertake non-discretionary statutory duties periodically to review and, if necessary, revise its Resource Conservation and Recovery Act solid waste rules.
The California Supreme Court recently ruled that the charges that the city of Ventura pays to the United Water Conservation District for groundwater conservation activities are neither taxes nor fees that require approval by property owners or vote. This decision limits to some degree the ability of the municipal water supplier to set rates for water service and will have an effect on both agricultural and residential water users.
Husqvarna, a Swedish company that makes outdoor power tools, has agreed to settle with the Environmental Protection Agency over allegations that it overstated the emission reduction capabilities in certain engine models, according to a consent decree. Husqvarna will pay more than $2.8 million in penalties to the United States for air pollution testing violations from its leaf blowers, trimmers and chainsaws.
The Delaware River Basin Commission has issued draft regulations that would ban fracking in portions of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. If implemented, the rules would make permanent a de facto moratorium on fracking in the basin that has been in place since 2010. The commission will hold four hearings at the end of January 2018 and will accept written comments on its proposal until February 28 2018.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a guidance memo clarifying its interpretation of the Clean Air Act's New Source Review (NSR) regulations, including outlining when and under what criteria the EPA will consider the emission projections that a source makes under the rules. The memo is part of the EPA's implementation of the president's directive to streamline regulatory permitting requirements for manufacturing and other facilities.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced its decision on its proposed regulations for financial responsibility requirements for hard rock mining and mineral processing facilities. According to the EPA, it decided not to issue final regulations because it determined that they were inappropriate based on the EPA's interpretation of the statute and its analysis of its record developed for this rulemaking.
Can an environmental organisation file suit under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act's citizen suit provision claiming harm from stormwater run-off which could be, but was not, subject to limits under a Clean Water Act permit? The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently held that it could. The ruling is a portentous development at a time when environmental groups are actively seeking out litigation opportunities to enforce federal regulations.
The Ninth Circuit recently issued an opinion that reflected a limited interpretation of the scope of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act's anti-duplication provision, which provides that the act must be construed to apply to or authorise state regulation of "any activity or substance" regulated under several other federal statutes, including the Clean Water Act.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a directive intended to strengthen and improve membership on the agency's advisory committees. The directive calls for the EPA to apply the following principles in setting membership on its advisory committees: strengthen member independence; increase state, tribal and local government participation; enhance geographic diversity; and promote fresh perspectives.
A pair of new lawsuits claim that various government officials and agencies are violating youth plaintiffs' constitutional rights due to a failure to combat climate change sufficiently. The first case is against the state of Alaska, its governor and various other state officials and agencies. The second case alleges that specific Trump administration actions violated the plaintiffs' due process and public trust doctrine rights.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently issued two notices of data availability in support of its proposed stays of various portions of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards for the oil and gas industry (known as the 'Quad Oa' rule). The notices include a proposed two-year stay of the Quad Oa requirements and a proposed three-month stay to run during the gap between the publication and effective dates of the two-year stay.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final rule addressing which areas of the United States are in attainment of the 2015 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). The agency found that 2,646 of the over 3,100 counties in the United States are in attainment of the ozone NAAQS. The EPA will continue to review the designation of the remaining counties.
In a recent opinion the US District Court of the District of Massachusetts partly dismissed an environmental group's challenge to a Boston Harbour terminal's stormwater permit, which claimed that the permit fails to protect the group's members from future harm caused by climate change. The court held that alleged injuries which would not occur until 2050 or 2100, as alleged in the complaint, could not be considered imminent and therefore dismissed the claim based on future effects.
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit recently vacated and remanded a Natural Gas Act Section 7 certificate of public convenience and necessity granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The ground to vacate and remand the certificate was FERC's failure under the National Environmental Policy Act to adequately discuss the downstream effects of carbon emissions from natural gas transported through the pipelines in the project's environmental impact statement.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently took historic action under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The new rules will almost immediately affect chemical manufacturers and those who use products that contain chemicals. All companies that manufacture, use, process, import, export or sell products containing chemicals must understand the new regulatory regime and the new obligations and hurdles that it presents.
President Trump recently followed through on one of his signature campaign promises and announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. This fits firmly within the new administration's agenda to promote domestic fossil fuel development. There has been speculation that some signatories may attempt to use trade, such as a tariff on the carbon content of US exports, to take a tougher stance with the United States, which could result in additional costs for US businesses.
Recent environmental law developments include the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's granting of the Environmental Protection Agency's request to indefinitely hold litigation in abeyance concerning the June 2016 new source performance standards for the oil and natural gas sector while the agency re-evaluates the rule. In addition, New York state recently released its Methane Reduction Plan, a collaborative effort by five state agencies.