By

Jack Raffetto

09 December 2021

Eighth Circuit Denies Rehearing Request in Wide-Ranging New Source Review Appeal

On November 30, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit denied cross-petitions for rehearing in United States v. Ameren Missouri, a case that addressed the reach of the new source review (NSR) requirements of the Clean Air Act (CAA). In denying the cross-petitions, the Eighth Circuit left in place an August 20, 2021, panel decision that, among other things, upheld the Eastern District of Missouri’s decision to impose injunctive relief for past NSR violations but reversed the District Court’s decision to require controls at a different power plant operated by Ameren as a way of offsetting past violations. As such, the court leaves in place precedent that sustains the United States’ authority to seek and obtain injunctive relief for wholly past violations — but may be cited as a limit on future government efforts to obtain relief beyond bringing a source into compliance. (more…)

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07 December 2021

U.S. Department of the Interior Releases Report on Federal Oil and Gas Leases

On November 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) issued a long-anticipated report on federal oil and gas leases. The report focuses on the fiscal terms, leasing process, and remediation requirements of federal oil and gas leases. Notably, however, it does not discuss the possibility of banning new leases. (more…)

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14 September 2021

VW Cert Petition Raises Clean Air Act Circuit Split

On August 27, 2021, Volkswagen AG and several affiliates (petitioners) filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States seeking to overturn a decision of the Ohio Supreme Court that held the Clean Air Act (CAA) did not preempt state antitampering law. Petitioners assert that the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision was wrong because the CAA preempts state laws regulating emission controls. In support of their request to the U.S. Supreme Court, petitioners argue that there is a growing split among lower courts on the issue of CAA preemption, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (and now the Ohio Supreme Court) holding that the CAA does not preempt state emission control laws and the Alabama Supreme Court and intermediate appellate courts in Tennessee and Minnesota holding that it does. (more…)

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07 September 2021

EPA Announces Analytical Method for Testing for PFAS

On September 2, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the publication of a laboratory-validated analytical method (Draft Method 1633) for testing for per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances. EPA reported that its Office of Water developed Draft Method 1633 in conjunction with the Department of Defense. The method is reportedly able to test for 40 PFAS compounds in eight different media, including wastewater, surface water, groundwater, soil, biosolids, sediment, landfill leachate, and fish tissue. (more…)

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01 July 2021

Congress Rescinds Trump-Era Methane “Policy Rule”

On June 25, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to rescind a Trump-era methane rule using its Congressional Review Act (CRA) authority, which includes special procedures that allow Congress and the President to rescind certain rules promulgated during a prior administration, within defined time limits. The Senate passed the CRA resolution disapproving the rule on April 28, 2021. The measure garnered bipartisan support in both chambers. Congress presented the resolution to President Biden, who signed it on June 30, 2021.

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29 June 2021

Western District of Virginia Dismisses Challenge to Trump-Era NEPA Rule as Unripe

On June 21, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia dismissed a lawsuit by environmental groups challenging a Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) July 2020 rule changing how agencies undertake National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews. Filed in June 2020, Wild Virginia et al. v. Council on Environmental Quality et al. alleged that CEQ’s rule violated NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and asked that the rule be vacated. Because other federal agencies have not yet drafted the procedures implementing the rule and might never do so under the Biden administration, the court concluded that the challenge was not ripe.

(more…)

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27 May 2021

Supreme Court Addresses What Triggers a Contribution Claim Under CERCLA

On May 25, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in a case addressing whether a settlement agreement resolving Clean Water Act (CWA) liability can ripen a cause of action for contribution action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund). For companies crafting settlement language related to environmental contamination or preparing to file contribution claims, Guam v. United States provides an important consideration regarding what potential liabilities to include or leave out.

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13 May 2021

EPA Plans to Increase Reporting Requirements for Toxic Chemicals

On April 29, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it plans to add certain chemicals to companies’ annual release reporting requirements. The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) established the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) to track releases of certain chemicals that EPA deemed a threat to human health and the environment. EPCRA requires certain facilities to issue annual reports showing their releases of chemicals so that such releases can be included on the TRI.

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11 May 2021

EPA Issues Memorandum Outlining Environmental Justice Enforcement Plans

On April 30, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Assistant Administrator for Enforcement, Lawrence Starfield, issued a memorandum outlining agency enforcement plans in communities with environmental justice concerns. Given the Biden administration’s focus on environmental justice both during the campaign and since the inauguration, this memorandum is not a surprise. The memorandum follows on Administrator Michael Regan’s message to EPA employees regarding the agency’s commitment to environmental justice, which was discussed on this blog on April 13.

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18 March 2021

Ninth Circuit Affirms Special Power Rate for Cryptocurrency Miners

On March 11, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a decision approving of Grant County, Washington’s, special power rate for cryptocurrency miners. In Cytline, LLC, et al. v. Public Utility District No. 2 of Grant County Washington, a group of cryptocurrency companies sued after a Grant County utility district created a special energy rate applicable only to cryptocurrency miners. The companies had moved to Grant County because the county had some of the lowest rates for electricity in the country. (more…)

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