On April 28, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, sitting en banc, considered in Blackstone Headwaters Coalition, Inc. v. Gallo Builders, Inc. et al. whether a state consent order settling claims under a state analogue to the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) barred a subsequent citizen suit brought under the CWA seeking injunctive and declaratory relief arising out of the same alleged discharges. Over 30 years before, in North and South Rivers Watershed Ass’n v. Town of Scituate, the First Circuit held that CWA enforcement barred subsequent citizen suits arising out of the same alleged violations, regardless of the type of relief sought. In Blackstone, the en banc First Circuit overruled Scituate and held that the prior state consent order bars only citizen suits seeking civil penalties. (more…)
On April 25, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit addressed the application of the statute of limitations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) in Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP et al. v. NCR Corp. NCR is the latest in a long line of cases stemming from PCB contamination related to carbonless copy paper manufacturing and recycling. In NCR, the court concluded that the claims of Georgia Pacific (GP) against NCR, International Paper, and Weyerhaeuser for costs stemming from a series of administrative settlements and court judgments were barred by CERCLA’s statute of limitations. (more…)
On Saturday, February 19, 2022, the United States appealed an injunction prohibiting federal agencies from adopting and relying on the interim Social Cost of Greenhouse Gas estimates established by the Interagency Working Group. (more…)
On February 11, 2022, the Supreme Court of Texas issued its opinion in Texas Environmental Quality et al. v. Maverick County, et al., a case that addressed the meaning of the term “operator” in the context of the application for an issuance of Texas Pollution Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) permits. Maverick County provides clarity about who must apply for a TPDES permit, particularly in the context of facilities owned by one entity but operated day-to-day by another. The decision also provides a helpful analysis of what definitions govern when a judicial interpretation differs from the language provided by an agency pursuant to its statutory authority. (more…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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.
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.