Since retaking control of the House following the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats have introduced a flurry of climate change-related legislation. While the ambitious Green New Deal resolution grabbed much of the headlines earlier this year, Democrats have continued to roll out various other measures aimed at addressing climate change. Continue Reading States Increase Renewable Requirements Without Federal Standard

Standing may seem like an arcane concept, but, as lawyers, we know that this term has special legal meaning—and that it affects whether our clients or our clients’ opponents can successfully bring a lawsuit. In the field of environmental law, understanding standing (a little alliteration) is no easy task. In a decision by the DC Circuit last week, the Sierra Club was reminded just how important standing can be when challenging, or more to the point attempting to challenge, environmental laws. Continue Reading You Don’t Have to Go Home, But You Can’t Stay Here: DC Circuit Tells Litigants to Show Injury If They Want the Court to Hear Their Cases

The EU’s Approach to Product Stewardship

While the European Union (EU) does not have any legal principle specific to product stewardship, it has applied the full range of EU environmental law principles to create a comprehensive framework for product stewardship. These principles include the prevention and precautionary principles, sustainability, extended producer responsibility, supply chain responsibility, and corporate social responsibility. In addition, product stewardship is a key instrument in the EU’s latest strategic environmental focus areas: the circular economy and the toxic-free environment, two main themes of current EU environmental policy making. Continue Reading How the EU’s Product Stewardship Regulations Affect Global Supply Chains

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a draft environmental assessment (EA) evaluating the potential environmental impacts of lifting the federal coal leasing moratorium. Publication of the draft EA opens a 15-day comment period that ends on June 6, 2019. This review was necessitated by the April 19 decision of the US District Court for Montana in Citizens for Clean Energy, et al v. Department of the Interior, et al. The court held that BLM’s actions in lifting the moratorium via a March 2017 secretarial order (Zinke Order) were arbitrary and capricious and in violation of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because it was a major federal action for which there was no such review. The court did not immediately reinstate the coal leasing moratorium or require a specific environmental review, but instead stated that BLM had an obligation to study the environmental impacts of lifting the coal leasing moratorium and required the parties to submit additional briefing on the remedy. Continue Reading BLM Releases Draft Environmental Assessment for Lifting Coal Leasing Moratorium

On May 15, 2019, EPA released its draft Study of Oil and Gas Extraction Wastewater Management under the Clean Water Act (Draft Study). The Draft Study addresses the results of an extensive review initiated last year to evaluate the management of oil and gas wastewaters generated at onshore facilities and to assess the need for additional discharge options for onshore oil and gas wastewater under the Clean Water Act (CWA).[1] Although EPA has not yet adopted any recommendations for regulatory action, it is evident that EPA is continuing to take a hard look at the merits of authorizing broader discharges of produced water to surface waters than those currently allowed for onshore discharges under the CWA effluent guidelines (and generally referred to as the zero discharge standard).[2] See 40 CFR Part 435, Subpart C. EPA is now requesting additional public comment on the Draft Study by July 1 of this year with the goal of finalizing it and determining next steps this summer. Continue Reading Expanded Produced Water Discharge Options – On the Horizon?

On March 15, 2019, the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change held a hearing titled, “Protecting Americans at Risk of PFAS Contamination & Exposure.” The hearing examined approaches to eliminate or reduce environmental and health risks to workers and the public from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Continue Reading House Conducts PFAS Hearing

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently determined that no revisions to existing RCRA Subtitle D regulations for the management of oil and gas wastes are necessary. This conclusion follows EPA’s completion of an extensive review to fulfill the requirements of a Consent Decree entered by the US District Court for the District of Columbia that settled litigation filed by certain environmental organizations over EPA’s alleged failure to update its rules for management of oil and gas wastes. EPA’s findings, released on April 23, 2019, are set forth in a report titled, Management of Oil and Gas Exploration, Development and Production Wastes: Factors Informing a Decision on the Need for Regulatory Action (Report). This means that, at least for now, EPA’s longstanding position on regulation of oil and gas wastes remains unchanged. Continue Reading EPA Determines Revisions to Federal Regulation of E&P Wastes Unwarranted

On April 12, 2019, the US District Court for the Northern District of California entered an order vacating the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) repeal of the 2016 Valuation Rule due to violations of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The 2016 Valuation Rule made changes to the government’s methods for valuing oil, gas and coal produced on Federal and Indian lands. The court’s ruling on the APA claims may impact the Trump administration’s repeal and replace rulemakings that are scheduled to be finalized in the near future. Continue Reading Decision Vacating DOI Valuation Rule May Impact Future Rulemakings

In a lawsuit recently filed in the Southern District of New York, a group of environmental plaintiffs allege that, for nearly 30 years, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to develop worst-case hazardous substance discharge, or spill, regulations under Section 311(j)(5) of the Clean Water Act (CWA). This suit comes on the heels of EPA’s June 2018 proposal not to develop a general hazardous substance spill program under CWA § 311(j)(1) (a provision related to the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule well known to industrial facilities storing oil) because of the many other programs EPA believes already regulate the prevention and containment of hazardous substance spills. That proposal is expected to be finalized in August 2019 under a 2016 consent decree in which EPA agreed to evaluate the need for general rules governing the prevention and containment of hazardous substance spills. The new lawsuit narrowly focuses on worst-case hazardous substance spills and the need for corresponding facility response plans. Continue Reading Environmental Groups Sue EPA to Develop Worst-Case Hazardous Substance Spill Rules

The Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service have released Notice 2019-32 seeking comment on key issues to be interpreted in the Section 45Q carbon oxide sequestration tax credit. Congress significantly enhanced the Section 45Q tax credit in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, increasing the credit from $10/ton for CO2 used as a tertiary injectant (i.e., to produce oil or gas) to $35/ton; and increasing the credit for CO2 geologically stored but not used as a tertiary injectant from $20/ton to $50/ton. See our previous blog post here for additional details on the applicable credit amounts for projects before and after enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act and other credit amount details. Continue Reading IRS to Seek Comment on Key Issues to be Interpreted in Section 45Q Tax Credit