On June 29, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) amended its COVID‑19‑related temporary enforcement policy. As previously reported, EPA issued temporary COVID-19 Enforcement Guidance on March 26, 2020, providing guidelines on how EPA will, in certain cases, exercise discretion in enforcing environmental legal obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic. (more…)
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States decided United States Forest Service et al. v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association et al. (Cowpasture). In a 7-2 decision, the court authorized the U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) to reinstate a special use permit under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (Leasing Act) to allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) to cross a portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (the Trail) that traverses the George Washington National Forest in West Virginia (GW Forest). The decision removes a significant obstacle to the ACP, but other legal roadblocks remain.
Earlier this week President Trump issued an executive order aimed at bolstering economic recovery as businesses reopen. This has potential for marked effects on environmental enforcement in light of how the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice have already been adapting environmental priorities in the face of the pandemic. (more…)
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 Agencies’ decisions have not yet been published in the Federal Register, but prepublication versions can be found here. The regulations will become effective 30 days after publication.
The definition of waters of the United States is central to the CWA. At its core, the Act bans “the discharge of any pollutant” except in compliance with other provisions of the Act, such as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting program. 33 U.S.C. § 1311(a). “Discharge of a pollutant” is defined in relevant part as “any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source,” where (i) “navigable waters” are “the waters of the United States,” and (ii) a “point source” is “any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft, from which pollutants are or may be discharged.” See 33 U.S.C. §§ 1362(7), (12) and (14). (more…)
*This article originally appeared on the WLF Legal Pulse at wlflegalpulse.com on November 22, 2017.
Can an environmental organization file suit under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act’s (“RCRA”) citizen-suit provision claiming harm from stormwater runoff which could be, but was not, subject to limits under a Clean Water Act (“CWA”) permit? In a November 2, 2017 decision, Ecological Rights Foundation v. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that it could. The ruling, which also rejected the defendant’s arguments opposing Article III standing, is a portentous development at a time when environmental groups are actively seeking out litigation opportunities to enforce federal regulations.
A September 27, 2017 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has created significant confusion on whether federal regulations governing hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands are now in effect. At first blush, the decision appeared to be a victory for the states and industry groups that sued to block the regulations, but the court’s remedy — vacating a lower court decision striking down the rule — has left the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), states, industry and environmental groups with very different views about the current legal obligations for oil and gas companies operating on federal and Indian lands. (more…)
Topics discussed this week include:
- Environmental group brings Clean Water Act citizen suit against Shell and Motiva that alleges climate change-related harms.
- District court stays CERCLA unilateral administrative order.
- District court overturns Department of the Interior stay of rule governing royalties for oil, natural gas and coal production on federal and Indian lands.
- Second Circuit upholds New York State’s decision to deny Clean Water Act certification to proposed pipeline.
- C. Circuit holds that FERC should consider power plant emissions in pipeline environmental impact statement.
- Hurricane Harvey affects Gulf Coast energy and chemical resources.
Topics discussed this week include:
- Federal agencies reopen comment on Obama administration auto fuel efficiency standards.
- Environmental groups file legal challenges to TSCA rules.
- Tenth Circuit vacates EPA denial of small-refinery renewable fuels exemption.
- EPA begins revisions to power plant wastewater rules.
- DC Circuit rules EPA’s hydrofluorocarbon rule exceeds statutory authority.