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.
On October 2, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule amending the national marine diesel engine program set forth in 40 C.F.R. Part 1042. Through the amendment, EPA is providing boat manufacturers additional lead time to install Tier 4 marine diesel engines in certain high-speed commercial vessels. Tier 4 standards — applicable to marine diesel engines at or above 600 kilowatts — were expected to be phased in between 2014 and 2017 and were based on achieving emissions reductions through aftertreatment technology, such as selective catalytic reduction. While these engines are mostly used in various types of large workboats and passenger vessels, certain engines are used in high-speed vessels that need compact and powerful engine designs. After the Tier 4 standards were fully in effect, some high-speed boat manufacturers informed EPA that they were unable to find certified Tier 4 engines with suitable performance characteristics for the vessels they needed to build.
On September 23, 2020 California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-79-20, expressing the goals that:
- by 2035, 100% of all in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks will be zero-emission vehicles (“ZEV”);
- by 2045, 100% of all medium-and heavy-duty vehicles in the state be zero-emission for all operations where feasible (and the same goal for drayage trucks by 2035); and
- by 2035, the State will transition to 100% zero-emission off-road vehicles and equipment (where feasible).
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.
An ELI & Sidley Austin LLP Co-Sponsored Webinar
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has long governed federal pesticide law under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). FIFRA has a broad reach, overseeing conventional insecticides, but also plant growth regulators, antimicrobial surface disinfectants, pesticide “devices” like germicidal ultraviolet light systems or ozone generators, and more. Currently, EPA has continued to stress FIFRA as a leading priority area in national enforcement guidance.
Under FIFRA, EPA has specific authority to regulate products meant to provide surface disinfection from bacteria, microbes, and viruses. Indeed, products making claims to mitigate SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19, have fallen under intense scrutiny from EPA recently. Meanwhile, the focus on FIFRA compliance issues is increasingly intersecting with EPA’s growing scrutiny of imports to the U.S. Import reviews target traditional pesticide products, and now also center on nontraditional items such as UV lights and air purifiers.
Given these trends, questions are arising over EPA’s enforcement priorities in U.S. pesticide law. What are EPA’s strategies for enforcing federal pesticide law? What new or unexpected directions is the agency focusing on, especially in regards to compliance of nontraditional products, including those created in response to COVID-19? Expert panelists will address these questions, provide practical guidance on compliance with FIFRA, and explore FIFRA enforcement priorities.
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 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.
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.
On July 28, Judge John Koeltl of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue Federal Implementation Plans for the 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) that fully address the “good neighbor” obligations under the Clean Air Act by March 2021. The plans will force upwind Northeastern states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) to curb air emissions that otherwise impede the ability of neighboring downwind states (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) from meeting the statutory July 20, 2021 attainment deadline set forth in the 2008 ozone NAAQS.