Supreme Court Lifts Stay of Trump-Era Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule

On Wednesday, April 6, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed an order from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California vacating and remanding a 2020 rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) narrowing the ability of states and tribes to block infrastructure projects that discharge into waters of the United States under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Finalizes Model Year 2024-26 Vehicle Fuel Economy Standards

On Friday, April 1, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced its final fuel economy standards for model year 2024-26 vehicles. The final rule increases vehicle efficiency requirements, as represented through vehicle-footprint-based targets, 8% annually for model years 2024 and 2025 and 10% for 2026, which the agency concludes represents the maximum feasible level manufactures can achieve for these model years. NHTSA predicts that the new standards will yield an industrywide average fuel economy of approximately 49 miles per gallon for model year 2026 passenger cars and light trucks, which represents an increase of 10 miles per gallon over model year 2021.

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California State Water Board Announces Scoping Phase for New Vapor Intrusion Cleanup Requirement

On March 25, 2022, the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) issued a notice of public scoping meeting for a proposed amendment to its rules governing site cleanup. This amendment would establish “requirements for the investigation and assessment of vapor intrusion at cleanup sites statewide.”

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EPA Proposes “Good Neighbor” Plan Addressing Regional Ozone Transport for the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard

On April 6, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to publish its proposed Federal Implementation Plan Addressing Ozone Transport for the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), otherwise known as the latest iteration of EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule or “Good Neighbor” Plan. The proposal would subject 26 upwind states to the “good neighbor” or “interstate transport” provision of the Clean Air Act because EPA is proposing to find that nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which are a precursor to ozone formation, from the upwind states significantly contribute to downwind states’ attaining and maintaining the 2015 ozone NAAQS.

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EPA Revokes Pruitt’s Anti–“Sue and Settle” Policy

On March 25, 2022, EPA Administrator Michael Regan issued a memorandum titled “Consent Decrees and Settlement Agreements to Resolve Environmental Claims Against the Agency” (the Memorandum). The Memorandum revokes the memo and directive issued by former administrator Scott Pruitt, who had sought to foreclose a practice described by some as “sue and settle,” whereby groups would file a lawsuit that would be resolved by a settlement with EPA that would lead to new regulatory policies.

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EPA Poses Questions to New St. Croix Refinery Owners to Make Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permit Determination

On March 22, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter to the West Indies Petroleum Limited and Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation LLLP, the new owners of the St. Croix refinery (Refinery). The letter addresses permitting requirements for the Refinery under the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) regulations — and offers insight into the agency’s current practice for evaluating PSD requirements when a source seeks to restart a permitted facility.

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FERC Rolls Back its Recently Enacted Policy Statements on the Certification of New Natural Gas Infrastructure

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced on March 24, 2022, that it will delay enacting any changes to its existing policies on the authorization or certification of interstate natural gas pipeline infrastructure under Sections 3 and 7 of the Natural Gas Act. Two policy statements FERC issued on February 18, 2022, in Docket No. PL18-1 and Docket No. PL21-3 (collectively, the 2022 Certificate Policy Statements) have now been deemed “drafts” that are subject to further comment. Initial comments will be due on April 25, 2022, with reply comments due on May 25, 2022. One of the two policy statements, which had been deemed “interim” but given immediate legal effect on February 18 prior to being relabeled a “draft” on March 24, had an initial comment date of April 4, 2022, which has now been extended to the aforementioned dates. Sidley provided a detailed summary of the changes implemented in the 2022 Certificate Policy Statements in a prior client alert and Energy Brief.

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