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.
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.
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.
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…)
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.”
On August 31, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a final rule addressing effluent concentration limits for certain metals in power plant wastewater under the Clean Water Act. The Steam Electric Reconsideration Rule (SERR) changes several aspects of the coal-fired power plant effluent limitations included in the 2015 Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards rule, including the limits for two waste streams: flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash (BA) transport water. (more…)
On September 4, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published scope documents for 20 high-priority chemicals that will undergo risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The scope documents set frameworks for evaluating these 20 chemicals in light of their conditions of use, hazards, exposures, and potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations. TSCA directs EPA to complete risk evaluations for these 20 chemicals over the next three years.
On August 27, 2020, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved the Heavy-Duty Low NOx Omnibus Regulation (Omnibus Regulation), which requires heavy-duty truck manufacturers to achieve stringent nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission standards. The Omnibus Regulation follows the board’s June 2020 approval of the Advanced Clean Trucks regulation, which requires medium- and heavy-duty truck manufacturers to increase the sales of zero-emission models. Both rules require that certain compliance milestones be met by 2024.
On August 26, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted amendments to “modernize” its rules requiring disclosure about a company’s business description, legal proceedings, and risk factors. The SEC amended these items to make them more clearly principles-based as well as to enhance the readability of disclosures, discourage repetitive and immaterial disclosures, and reduce the compliance burden on companies. The amendments were adopted substantially as proposed by the SEC in August 2019 with certain modifications. With regard to environmental matters, one of the amendments broadens disclosure about the material effects of environmental compliance to encompass the material effects of compliance with all laws, while the other changes the threshold for disclosure of environmental legal proceedings involving the government.