On March 30, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on updates to federal motor vehicle safety standards for vehicles equipped with Automated Driving Systems (ADS). As always, compliance with these standards is a prerequisite to selling vehicles into interstate commerce. The action seeks to update select standards to account for ADS vehicles that lack traditional manual controls necessary for human drivers but otherwise have traditional seating configurations (i.e., a passenger sitting in the driver’s seating position). Because NHTSA developed these standards long before vehicles equipped with ADS technology were ever contemplated, the current regulatory structure inhibits development of this new technology.
On March 25, EPA issued a draft memorandum outlining its revised regulatory interpretation of when site owners and operators can “begin actual construction” of new major stationary sources or major modifications to existing major sources under the New Source Review (NSR) preconstruction permitting program. Under the NSR program and Prevention of Significant Deterioration of Air Quality rules at 40 C.F.R § 52.21, a site owner cannot “begin actual construction” on these sources without an NSR permit in hand. “Begin actual construction” is defined as “in general, initiation of physical on-site construction activities on an emissions unit which are of a permanent nature. … [including] installation of building supports and foundations, laying underground pipework and construction of permanent storage structures.”
On March 18, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) published a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking in its “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rulemaking. EPA’s original “Transparency in Science” proposal, published in April 2018, proposed that “for the science pivotal to its significant regulatory actions, EPA will ensure that the data and models underlying the science is publicly available in a manner sufficient for validation and analysis.” (more…)
On March 12, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) issued guidance ending its decades-long practice of permitting private defendants in civil settlements to expend funds to provide environmentally beneficial goods and services to third parties in lieu of civil penalty payments. Defendants have long preferred to undertake supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) in lieu of paying larger penalties, and government enforcement lawyers saw SEPs as a valuable tool to encourage settlements. DOJ now finds that these SEPs violate the federal Miscellaneous Receipts Act, which requires federal officers receiving funds on behalf of the United States to deposit those funds into the United States Treasury. “Moving forward, [SEPs] will no longer be part of the suite of relief the Environment and Natural Resources Division seeks in its cases (unless specifically authorized by Congress), both in light of their inconsistency with law and their departure from sound enforcement practices,” according to ENRD’s memorandum. ENRD’s new policy is prospective and will not affect SEPs in existing settlements.
On Tuesday, March 3, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a list of antimicrobial disinfectant products that are currently approved to make limited efficacy claims against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The exact claims that can be made, and where they can be made, are specifically governed by the EPA’s 2016 Emerging Viral Pathogen guidance, which the agency activated on January 29 for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19.
On February 28, 2020, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced wide-ranging energy legislation that calls for enhanced energy efficiency and technological advancement. SB 2657, entitled the American Energy Innovation Act, is the result of a year of activity in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The bipartisan effort could move quickly in the Senate. (more…)
On February 20, 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued preliminary determinations to regulate two perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) compounds in drinking water: perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). In its announcement, the agency noted that it is also gathering and evaluating information to determine if regulation is appropriate for other chemicals in the PFAS family. (more…)