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Environmental Trends

03 September 2020

California NOx Omnibus Regulation Requires 90 Percent NOx Reduction by 2027

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.

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02 September 2020

SEC Updates Disclosures Required by Regulation S-K — Impact on Environmental Disclosure

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.

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01 September 2020

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Approves First Small Modular Reactor Design

On August 28, 2020, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the first-ever design certification application for a small modular reactor (SMR) through its issuance of a final safety evaluation report that outlines the agency’s multiyear, six-phased technical review. The agency approval represents a milestone for the U.S. nuclear sector and advanced nuclear technologies.

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27 August 2020

Senate Democrats Release “Climate Roadmap”

On August 25, 2020, U.S. Senate Democrats released a “climate roadmap” detailing their legislative goals if the November elections give the party a majority in the Senate. The report, provided by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, sets out goals to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, globally, by 2050, such as promoting the use of renewable generation, electrified vehicles, and low-emission cement and steel. (more…)

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25 August 2020

Judge Defers to Bureau of Land Management on National Environmental Policy Act Analysis of Cumulative Impacts on Climate Change

On August 18, 2020, a U.S. district court judge for the District of New Mexico upheld the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) analysis of climate impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The case concerned BLM’s decision to authorize the lease of 68,000 acres of land in New Mexico for oil and gas development. (more…)

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20 August 2020

EPA’s Proposal to Freeze Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards Issued in Anticipation of Criticism

On August 14, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its proposal to retain the existing ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). The proposal sets an October 1 deadline for public comment and schedules two virtual hearings, for August 31 and September 1, 2020. The current ozone NAAQS were established in 2015 and set 70 parts per billion for both primary and secondary standards.

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18 August 2020

EPA Revises Oil and Gas Regulations, Spurring Divergent Reactions

On August 13, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed its reconsideration of the agency’s 2016 oil and gas regulations when Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a pair of rulemakings that revise the new source performance standards  for new oil and gas sources. EPA describes the revisions as reducing undue regulatory burdens and providing substantial cost savings without increasing emissions. Several environmental groups argue the revisions unlawfully reduce regulation of methane emissions and immediately pledged to file suit to challenge the new rules.

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13 August 2020

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service Propose Definition for “Habitat”

On August 5, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively the Services) published a proposed rule to define “habitat” as that term is used in the context of critical habitat designations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. One of the tools under the ESA to conserve listed species is the designation of critical habitat to identify areas that are essential to a species’ recovery. (more…)

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11 August 2020

U.S. Army Corps Proposes to Reissue and Modify Nationwide Permits

On August 3, 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released a prepublication version of a proposal to reissue and modify its existing 52 nationwide permits (NWPs) and issue five new NWPs. The Corps issues NWPs to authorize categories of activities in jurisdictional waters and wetlands under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act that will result in no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects. The Corps typically updates NWPs every five years, and the current NWPs are scheduled to expire on March 18, 2022. However, in response to President Donald Trump’s March 18, 2017, Executive Order 13783, which directed the heads of federal agencies to review regulations that potentially burden domestic energy production, the Corps identified nine NWPs that could be modified. In addition to revising those nine NWPs, the Corps is proposing to reissue the remaining NWPs so that all NWPs are on the same five-year cycle.

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06 August 2020

Environmental Groups Sue White House Over NEPA Rule

On July 29, a number of environmental groups, including Earth Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Wildlife Federation, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) July 15 final rule revising its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing regulations. A similar suit followed on June 30 by a different collection of environmental groups in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The CEQ’s final rule sets forth a significant shift in how the White House views the government’s duties and obligations under NEPA and is the first change its NEPA implementation regulations since 1978. Notably, the final rule expands projects categorically excluded from NEPA review, limits most Environmental Impact Statement reviews to two years, and removes an obligation for an agency to consider impacts that are not reasonably foreseeable or those that are “are remote in time, geographically remote, or the product of a lengthy causal chain.”

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