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Environmental Trends

29 October 2020

International Maritime Organization Working Group Agrees to Emissions-Cutting Measures

On October 23, 2020, a week of climate discussions by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Ships concluded with draft measures to cut carbon emissions from ships. The new measures would amend the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships (MARPOL Convention) and require ships to reduce their carbon intensity as part of IMO’s goal to reduce the carbon intensity of international shipping by 40% by 2030 from 2008 levels. If adopted, the amendments would require new ships to be built so that they are more energy efficient than the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) baseline. (more…)

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27 October 2020

EPA Finalizes Project Emissions Accounting Rule for New Source Review Permitting Determinations

On October 22, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a prepublication version of a final rule clarifying the process for existing air pollution sources to determine whether the New Source Review (NSR) permitting program applies to proposed projects. The new rule clarifies and confirms that project emissions accounting can be considered during Step 1 of the two-step NSR applicability test, meaning that both emissions increases and decreases from the proposed modification will be considered. The two steps of the NSR applicability test consist of a first step to determine whether a proposed project will cause a significant emission increase of a regulated NSR pollutant and, if it would, the second step determines if there will be a significant net emission increase of the same regulated NSR pollutant considering all other contemporaneous emissions increases and decreases.

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20 October 2020

EPA Rule Establishing Requirements and Procedures for Guidance Documents Will Be Effective November 18

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published in the Federal Register a final rule establishing the agency’s management of guidance documents consistent with the Executive Order 13891, “Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents,” which will become effective on November 18. (more…)

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08 October 2020

EPA Revises National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants General Provisions to Allow Major Sources to Reclassify as Area Sources

On October 1, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a prepublication version of a final rule under the Clean Air Act that will allow major sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) to reclassify as area sources if the source reduces its potential to emit HAPs below the major source threshold (10 tons per year of any single HAP or 25 tons per year of any combination of HAPs). EPA had previously applied a “once in, always in” interpretation through a May 1995 policy memorandum issued by John Seitz, then-Director of EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. Under that policy, a facility designated as a major source on the first substantive compliance date of an applicable major source National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants rule had to retain its major source status regardless of whether the source subsequently reduced its potential to emit below major source thresholds. But on January 25, 2018, EPA withdrew the May 1995 policy, laying the groundwork for EPA’s action here.

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24 September 2020

California Air Resources Board Hosts Advanced Clean Cars Workshop

Earlier this month, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) hosted an Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) II Workshop to obtain public input on CARB’s development of ACC II regulations. The ACC II rules would be meant to contribute to meeting California’s carbon neutrality targets, advancing zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) technology, and reaching ozone targets under California’s State Implementation Plan. The workshop materials note that CARB views a need for deep reduction to light-duty vehicle emissions to address climate and air quality issues.

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22 September 2020

U.S. Legislators and Regulators Bring New Attention to PFAS

Late summer this year has brought a surge of activity related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research office reported at an industry conference last week that it was evaluating ways to divide PFAS compounds into categories for purposes of risk assessment and risk management. This aligns with the approach supported by industry groups but conflicts with demands from environmental advocates that EPA study each compound separately. Because of the complexity and number of individual PFAS molecules, which number in the thousands, categorization would likely expedite the review process.

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18 September 2020

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Framework for Endangered Species Act Critical Habitat Exclusion Analysis

On September 8, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a proposal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) addressing how FWS will conduct discretionary analyses to determine whether to exclude land that otherwise would be constrained from use due to a critical habitat designation. (more…)

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16 September 2020

Third Circuit Limits CERCLA Liability Shield

On September 8, 2020, in New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), et al. v. American Thermoplastics Corp., et al., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit limited the liability shield a potentially responsible party (PRP) receives when it settles a cost recovery action with a state under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The court held that “a settling-PRP is protected only insofar as a consent decree and a contribution action address the same matters. In effect, our decision encourages a PRP to settle with both the relevant State and Federal Governments.”

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