Environmental Protection Agency Issues Interim Strategy Memorandum to Address PFAS in Federally Issued Water Permits

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.


Environmental Justice Features in Early Biden Transition Planning

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.


EPA Extends Deadline for Filing Under Chemical Data Reporting Rule to January 2021

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.


Biden Climate Change Plans Likely to Face Challenges

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.


EPA Proposes Amendments to Polyvinyl Chloride and Copolymers Production Emission Standards

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.


Massachusetts Regulators Open Investigation Into Natural Gas Industry

On October 29, 2020, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Public Utilities (DUP), announced an investigation into natural gas distribution companies in connection with the State’s goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. (more…)

President-Elect Announces Climate Change Priority

President-elect Joe Biden announced on his transition website that climate change is one of his top priorities post inauguration. That news comes as no surprise, given the president-elect’s comments during the campaign, but it is notable that climate change is one of only four areas highlighted as a priority (the others are COVID-19, economic recovery, and racial equity). (more…)

Sierra Club and Others Challenge EPA Coal Ash Rule

On November 2, 2020, several environmental interest groups including the Sierra Club and Earthjustice filed suits in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth and D.C. circuits challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent Steam Electric Reconsideration Rule (SERR), which rolled back certain Obama-era effluent discharge limitations on coal-fired power plants. (more…)

D.C. Circuit Dissolves Administrative Stay of EPA’s Methane Rule

On October 27, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dissolved its September 17 administrative stay of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (the “Agency”) Methane Rule.


U.S. Department of Interior Joins EPA in Revising Guidance Procedures

On October 26, 2020, the U.S. Department of the Interior (“DOI” or “The Department”) issued an interim final rule, which revises its guidelines for the development, review, and clearance of guidance documents.  The Department’s rule follows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s promulgation of a similar rule last month.  Both rules implement the October 2019 Executive Order on Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents directing Federal agencies to finalize regulations that set forth procedures for issuing guidance documents.