EPA Proposes Amendments to Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boiler and Process Heater Standards

On July 8, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published proposed amendments to the 2013 National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters. The proposed amendments, the result of three remands issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, revise certain maximum achievable control technology (MACT) limits and provide more explanation about other aspects of the rule.

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Tenth Circuit Rejects EPA’s Position on Renewal of Clean Air Act Permits

On July 2, 2020, in Sierra Club v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit rejected the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) interpretation of the scope of its obligations to review permits under Title V of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The court found that the plain language of EPA’s regulations requires EPA to review whether a state-issued Title V permit complies with all applicable CAA requirements, not only the requirements the state included in the permit. The issue may end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, as it diverges from a recent ruling by the Fifth Circuit.

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Fourth Circuit Rejects NEPA Challenge as Untimely

On July 1, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed Howard County, Maryland’s, petition to review the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval (FAA) of construction at Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport as inconsistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires the federal agencies to conduct environmental assessments of federally licensed projects to determine whether the project will have significant environmental effects. In 1994, Congress provided for a 60-day limitations period covering challenges to certain projects. This limitations period includes challenges to the adequacy of the NEPA review (NEPA does not contain a statute of limitations provision). 49 U.S.C. § 46110(a).

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EPA Amends Its COVID-19-Related Temporary Enforcement Guidance

On June 29, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) amended its COVID‑19‑related temporary enforcement policy. As previously reported, EPA issued temporary COVID-19 Enforcement Guidance on March 26, 2020, providing guidelines on how EPA will, in certain cases, exercise discretion in enforcing environmental legal obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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District Court: Risk Assessment Not Required Every Time EPA Revises Clean Air Act Technology-Based Standard

On June 26, 2020, a federal district court ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not required to perform a risk assessment every time it revises its technology-based standards for a hazardous pollution source. Rather, the EPA is required to conduct a risk assessment only in connection with its initial adoption.

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D.C. Circuit Declares Tolling Orders Impermissible Under the Natural Gas Act

On June 30, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) ruled en banc 10-1 in Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC to invalidate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) common practice of issuing tolling orders to extend the time for deciding rehearing requests under the Natural Gas Act (NGA) beyond the 30-day deadline set forth in the statute. The court found that a tolling order, in which FERC “grants rehearing” for the limited purpose of affording it additional time to act on a rehearing request, does not constitute “action” upon the rehearing request as required by the NGA. The decision reversed the approximately 50-year old D.C. Circuit precedent upholding the tolling order practice as permissible. The court derided the practice as an unauthorized way for FERC to stall for time while precluding parties aggrieved by FERC orders from seeking judicial review.

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