By

Peter Whitfield

30 June 2022

Agencies Rescind Trump-Era Definition of “Habitat” Under Endangered Species Act

On Friday, June 24, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service issued a final rule rescinding the agencies’ regulatory definition of “habitat” previously promulgated by the Trump administration on December 16, 2020, for use in determining a “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act (Act). Under this prior definition, “habitat” included “the abiotic and biotic setting that currently or periodically contains the resources and conditions necessary to support one or more life processes of a species.” (more…)

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21 April 2022

Council on Environmental Quality Partially Restores National Environmental Policy Act Provisions

The U.S. Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published a Final Rule regarding implementing regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on Wednesday, April 20. As anticipated, the CEQ’s final version is nearly identical to the earlier Proposed Rule and revises three separate NEPA provisions that CEQ identified as posing significant near-term interpretation or implementation challenges for federal agencies. These three provisions include purpose and need, 40 C.F.R. § 1502.13; agency NEPA procedures, 40 C.F.R. § 1507.3; and the definition of “effects” or “impacts.” Ultimately, CEQ’s Final Rule abandons revisions the agency made to NEPA regulations in 2020 and returns certain aspects of NEPA review to the former approach. CEQ noted that this revision is the first of two phases, so additional NEPA regulatory revisions are expected later this year. (more…)

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25 March 2022

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Propose to List Northern Long-Eared Bat as Endangered Species

On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed to reclassify the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), a bat species found in 38 U.S. states or territories, as an endangered species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (Act). The Service’s proposed reclassification is a direct response to a federal judge’s court order requiring the Service to revisit its previous listing decision and account for the impact of white nose syndrome (WNS), a disease-causing fungal infection that ultimately results in mortality. The heightened listing for the species is very likely to affect ongoing and future development over a large geographic region, given the species’ range outside of areas affected by WNS. (more…)

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10 September 2021

Biden Administration Proposals: Sustainable Fuels, Greenhouse Gas Reductions in the Aviation Industry

U.S. President Joe Biden unveiled an initiative to promote the production and use of sustainable fuel in the aviation industry on Thursday, September 9. This initiative includes a goal to cut emissions in the aviation sector by 20% by 2030 and is part of the Administration’s goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. (more…)

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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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18 June 2020

Infrastructure EO May Lead to Policy Reversals, Litigation

*Article first appeared in Bloomberg Law on June 18, 2020.

A new executive order seeks to accelerate federal approvals of infrastructure and development projects, relying on various emergency authorities in environmental statutes. The authors of this article say the scope of these provisions, as well as their interaction with other laws, is uncertain, and investors and developers should be cautious of potential judicial challenges.

(more…)

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25 February 2020

New Administrative Petitions for Reconsideration on the RMP Reconsideration Rule: What Does It Mean for Process Safety?

On February 18, 2020, a group of states and a national trade union filed separate petitions seeking administrative reconsideration of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA or Agency) recently finalized Clean Air Act Risk Management Plan (RMP) reconsideration rule (the Reconsideration Rule). The Reconsideration Rule became effective on December 19, 2019, and rescinds numerous provisions of the Obama administration’s January 2017 amendments to EPA’s RMP regulations under the Clean Air Act (the Amendments).

(more…)

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22 August 2019

Trump Administration Updates Endangered Species Act Regulations

Three new rules issued by the Trump Administration may allow project developers to better plan future projects, and may encourage preservation and conservation efforts for both private and federal landowners. These rules, issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, revise how the federal government will address critical habitat designations, protections for threatened species and interagency coordination under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (the Agencies), have issued three rules revising how the federal government will address critical habitat designations, protections for threatened species and interagency coordination under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The regulations will become effective 30 days after publication.

(more…)

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06 November 2018

Transportation Agencies Update Environmental Review Process for Infrastructure Projects

Regulations issued Monday could create a faster, less duplicative environmental review process for transportation infrastructure projects. Under the rule, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will share a single set of Section 4(f) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, with minor differences. 83 Fed. Reg. 54,480 (Oct. 29, 2018). The agencies explain that the changes “will provide a more consistent and predictable process for potential project sponsors, especially those that engage in environmental reviews for more than one mode of surface transportation.” Id. at 54,482. By joining the 23 C.F.R. part 771 regulations, FRA also fulfills its obligation under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The regulations go into effect November 28. (more…)

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