On January 9, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released its highly anticipated proposed rule to improve its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The proposed changes would be the first comprehensive amendment of the NEPA regulations since their original publication in 1978. CEQ’s proposed changes are designed to streamline and speed the NEPA review process, clarify important NEPA concepts, and codify key guidance and case law. CEQ’s Proposal is informed by comments it received on last year’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

NEPA requires that federal agencies analyze the environmental effects of their proposed federal actions. This means that virtually any project that requires a federal permit or authorization could be required to undergo a NEPA review. Development of broadband infrastructure, roads, bridges, oil and gas pipelines, and renewable energy facilities are just a few examples of the types of activities that could trigger NEPA. A NEPA review can take significant agency and applicant resources, can substantially delay permits and can provide a basis for a federal court challenge to the project.
Continue Reading CEQ Unveils Long-Awaited Proposal to Improve NEPA Regulations

Last month, the Supreme Court held oral argument in a case that addressed cleanup obligations for potentially responsible parties (PRPs) at Superfund sites. In Atlantic Richfield Company v. Christian, a company tasked with remediating one of the nation’s largest Superfund sites is urging the Supreme Court to overturn a Montana Supreme Court decision that permitted residents to sue the company for additional restoration damages, despite its ongoing cleanup efforts under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
Continue Reading Supreme Court Considers Landowner Rights in Superfund Case

Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, has already found commercial application in various industries and its use is on the rise. 3D printing converts 3D digital models created on a computer or with a scanner into physical objects, usually by successively adding material layer by layer. The process allows manufacturers to make complex designs, rapid prototypes and final products while offering the potential to limit process waste and reduce production costs.
Continue Reading EPA Focuses on Potential Emissions from 3D Printing

Last month, Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced companion bills in the House and Senate that renewed the call for a national clean energy standard for retail utilities. While Congress has mulled over the idea for over a decade, states have passed their own standards that force power generators to obtain increasing amounts of their electricity from non- or low-emitting sources. More recently, states have aggressively updated these targets in attempts to decarbonize their power sectors.
Continue Reading States Increase Renewable Requirements Without Federal Standard

The current administration has been in office for nearly two years, yet many questions regarding EPA and DOJ’s approach to environmental enforcement remain unanswered. Despite uncertainties, recent public statements and a review of concluded cases provide some insight into the government’s environmental enforcement priorities.
Continue Reading Environmental Enforcement: Are There Any Trends?