On July 28, 2022, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  published the 2021 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) preliminary dataset that provides public access to data about chemical releases, waste management, and pollution prevention activities that took place in calendar year 2021 at more than 20,000 federal and industrial facilities across the country. The 2021 preliminary dataset, which for the second year includes reporting on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) added to the TRI by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), has not yet undergone the complete TRI data quality process. EPA plans to publish the quality-checked dataset in October 2022, at which time it will be the basis for the 2021 TRI National Analysis interpreting the information and examining trends that is expected to be published in early 2023. Companies should bear in mind that information collected under the TRI program can be used not only to inform regulatory action, but also as a basis for enforcement by EPA and citizen suits.

Continue Reading EPA Publishes 2021 TRI Preliminary Dataset and Plans to Remove De Minimis TRI Reporting Exemption for PFAS

On July 20, 2022, in Naturaland Trust v. Dakota Finance, LLC, No. 21-1517, a split Fourth Circuit panel held that a state agency’s notice of violation did not “commence an action” within the meaning of 33 U.S.C. § 1319(g)(6)(A)(ii). That provision states that a Clean Water Act violation “shall not be the subject of” a citizen suit for civil penalties if a state “has commenced and is diligently prosecuting” an action with respect to the violation “under a State law comparable to” the Clean Water Act. The court also held that this provision is not jurisdictional.

Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Ruling Narrowly Construes Administrative Enforcement Bar to Clean Water Act Citizen Suit

The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) has long been home to offshore energy development, but with President Biden’s call to advance offshore wind development, a new change is potentially coming to the horizon—wind farms. At the helm of GOM wind development is the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), who has now announced the solicitation of public comments on two potential wind energy areas (WEA) off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana and the related environmental assessment (EA) for the entire GOM Call Area.

Continue Reading Change on the Horizon for Gulf of Mexico Energy Production

We have written extensively on the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposal to require that public companies disclose climate-related information and other environment, social, and corporate governance (ESG) trends. However, the European Union (EU) is at the vanguard of emerging requirements focused on climate-related information and broader ESG-aligned information.

Continue Reading Emerging EU ESG Requirements: Transatlantic Implications for Multinational Companies

This week the US District Court for the Northern District of California overturned three Endangered Species Act (ESA) rules issued in 2019 that address: (1) listing species and designating critical habitat, (2) extending take prohibitions to threatened species, and (3) § 7 interagency consultation. Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, 19-05206 (N.D. Cal. July 5, 2022). The three rules were issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (together, the Services) in August 2019 and together represented the first comprehensive revisions to the ESA regulations in 33 years. The order has a number of important regulatory and caselaw implications. 

Continue Reading Court Vacatur of Comprehensive 2019 Endangered Species Act Rules Raises Big Questions

Yesterday, June 23, 2022, The Biden Administration announced the launch of a Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership (“Partnership”) to expedite and foster the growth of wind energy, tackle the climate crisis, strengthen American energy security, and achieve the goal of deploying 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030. 

Continue Reading Power to Launch: Creation of Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership

On June 15, 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released drinking water health advisories [1] for certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), resulting in the establishment of:

  1. Near zero updated interim advisory levels for Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) that are not only orders of magnitude below previously established levels, but that are also below detectable levels and, notably, were issued in advance of completion of peer review by EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB); and
  2. Newly issued final advisories at low levels for GenX and PFBS chemicals that have been used as replacement chemicals for PFOA and PFOS.
Continue Reading EPA Issues Near Zero Drinking Water Health Advisories for Certain PFAS

Prompted by several emergency events, as previously reported, on June 1, 2022, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) adopted revisions to the compliance history rules to authorize the executive director to reclassify a site’s compliance history if an “exigent circumstance” exists. An exigent circumstance is defined as: i) a significant disruption to one or more local communities; ii) a significant commitment of emergency response resources by a federal or state authority to address an actual unauthorized release of pollutants, contamination, or other materials regulated by the agency; and iii) a significant event the commission determined must be urgently accounted for in the site’s compliance history.

Continue Reading TCEQ Approves Changes to Compliance History Rules Focused on Industrial Incidents

In a wide-ranging interview on environmental justice (EJ) issues with Inside EPA, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP partner Matt Leopold discussed the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new enforcement strategy.

Continue Reading Jury Still Out On EJ-Focused Enforcement Results, Former EPA GC Says

On May 3, 2022, the Railroad Commission of Texas (Railroad Commission) voted to approve three actions that represent a major step forward in facilitating the deployment of carbon capture, use and sequestration activities (CCUS) in Texas. Specifically, the Railroad Commission approved:

  • Publication of proposed amendments to its rules implementing the state program for geologic storage of anthropogenic CO2 and incorporating federal requirements;
  • Submittal to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of a pre-application to gain regulatory authority over Class VI underground injection control (UIC) wells that are used for injection of CO2 into deep subsurface formations; and
  • A request that the Governor formally ask EPA for Class VI UIC well program approval. [i]  
Continue Reading Texas Takes Much-Anticipated Steps to Streamline Permitting and Assume Regulatory Authority for Carbon Sequestration Wells