On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE), which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated in 2019 to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP had sought to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power plants, in part, by authorizing states to increase renewable generation. As explained in a previous post, EPA had reasoned that it had the discretion to define the best system of emission reduction (BSER) at a plant under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act (Act) to include measures employed outside the facility (such as new renewable resources) that were located “beyond the fenceline.” Stayed by the Supreme Court in 2016, the CPP never went into effect. Instead, the Trump administration repealed the CPP and replaced it with ACE. In ACE, EPA reasoned that Section 111 of the Act required EPA to only find BSER to be a technology that could be applied “inside the fenceline” on the facility.
On December 10, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft guidance for imported articles that may contain long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate chemical substances (LCPFAC), a subgroup of certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), as part of a surface coating and that would be subject to its Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) if a manufacturer seeks to resume using them. (more…)
On December 9, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its Clean Air Act (CAA) cost-benefit rule. The procedural rule sets requirements for evaluating the benefits and costs of regulatory decisions, which EPA believes is necessary to ensure transparency and consistency in the rulemaking process. The main requirements are as follows: 1) EPA must prepare a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) for all significant proposed and final regulations under the CAA; 2) BCAs are developed in accordance with best practices from the economic, engineering, physical, and biological sciences; and 3) EPA must increase transparency in the presentation of the benefits and costs resulting from significant CAA regulations. (more…)
On December 4, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a final rule updating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing regulations applicable to its review of applications to export domestically produced liquified natural gas (LNG) to non-free-trade-agreement countries under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act. DOE has determined that these actions are categorically excluded from NEPA review because 1) DOE is required by Section 3(c) of the Natural Gas Act to authorize these exports and 2) the reasonably foreseeable environmental effects DOE must review are limited — beginning at the point of export and extending to marine transport effects only. DOE is also removing reference to the import of LNG from its NEPA implementing regulations because the Energy Policy Act of 1992 leaves DOE with no discretion in its approval of such imports.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Water has published a new interim strategy memorandum for addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued by EPA. The memorandum includes recommendations generated by a cross-agency workgroup, which conducted a review of existing Clean Water Act (CWA) section 402 NPDES permitting authorities to determine where and how currently unregulated contaminants like PFAS may fit into the permitting process. Under the CWA, the NPDES permit program regulates point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. Currently, there are no CWA water quality criteria or effluent guidelines for PFAS, an umbrella category of thousands of synthetic chemicals historically used in industrial manufacturing processes for their flame-resistant and nonstick properties.
Earlier this month, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announced multiple picks for the transition team with an environmental justice (EJ) focus. Leading the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is Patrice Simms, who is vice president for healthy communities at Earthjustice. Simms has advocated for environmental enforcement focused on low-income communities and communities of color, and he has critiqued the Trump administration on the same topic. The transition team also includes alumni of the Obama administration with a reported record on EJ issues.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extended the deadline for submissions due under the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) Rule from November 30, 2020, to January 29, 2021. The CDR report covers chemical manufacturing and processing for the four calendar years of 2016 through 2019. We have covered the scope and application of the CDR rule here.
As reported in last week’s blog post, climate change is one of President-elect Joe Biden’s top four priorities post-inauguration. Implementing policies to accomplish Biden’s climate change goals, however, is unlikely to be an easy process. First, climate change has generally not been a bipartisan issue in the Congress. Hence, unless the Democrats prevail in both runoff races in Georgia, Biden may struggle just to get his nominee for EPA Administrator approved by a Republican-led Senate, let alone to advance legislation. Even a 50-50 split in the Senate would present significant challenges. Additionally, new environmental regulations may face increased hostility in the courts, as nearly a third of all federal appellate judges were appointed by President Donald Trump. If those judges interpret federal law narrowly, they could limit EPA’s authority to act by striking down new regulations as not specifically addressed by existing statutes.
On November 9, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published proposed amendments to the 2012 National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for Polyvinyl Chloride and Copolymers Production (PVC MACT). The proposed amendments, which are the result of industry and environmental group requests for reconsideration of the rule, propose to tighten certain maximum achievable control technology (MACT) limits, provide additional clarification about certain aspects of the rule, and eliminate waivers for excess emissions during a malfunction.