The US Environmental Protection Agency has continued to pursue an enforcement agenda against many of the same businesses believed to benefit the most from the Administration’s policies. Notably, this includes midstream oil and gas sources, as recently evidenced by EPA’s September 2019 Enforcement Alert titled, “EPA Observed Air Emissions from Natural Gas Gathering Operations in Violation of the Clean Air Act.”
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In October 2018, the Fifth Circuit joined the overwhelming majority of US courts of appeals in ruling the statute of limitations bars civil penalties for alleged NSR violations. But, in a divided opinion, the majority said injunctive relief may still be “available” to the government. After the full court granted the Defendant’s petition for rehearing en banc, the government dropped its entire case rather than losing on injunctive relief also.
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As we have discussed previously, the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) addresses what is often termed “interstate transport.” That is the phenomenon in which emissions from factories, power plants, motor vehicles and many other emission sources are transported by prevailing winds across state lines, sometimes over great distances. The CAA looks to states, first and foremost, to include control measures in implementation plans to reduce emissions that travel into other states. The statutory objective is to prohibit “significant contributions” by upwind states to violations of national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) in downwind states. Although states have primary responsibility, EPA sometimes has invoked its CAA authority to establish federally enforceable requirements to address significant contributions when it concludes upwind states have not taken sufficient steps. In 2016, EPA adopted its most recent set of regulatory interstate transport controls in a rulemaking action called the “Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Update”—or the “CSAPR Update” for short. On September 13, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit issued a decision in closely-watched litigation involving challenges to the CSAPR Update. (The case is Wisconsin v. EPA, No. 16-1406.) While upholding this EPA regulation in most respects, the court ruled in favor of a challenge that concerns the timing of upwind-state emission controls.
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The South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (SCAQMD or the District) Regional Clean Air Incentives Market (RECLAIM) made history as California’s first emissions cap-and-trade program. But the District’s decision to sunset the program has resulted in significant uncertainty surrounding RECLAIM’s transition for local communities and industry alike.

Widely acclaimed at its 1993 inception, the program was intended to promote more efficient emissions reductions by allowing facilities to meet their annual cap either by adopting pollution controls directly or by purchasing RECLAIM trading credits (RTCs) from other facilities able to install controls at lower cost and achieve emissions below their caps. In its early years supporters praised RECLAIM as a success, pointing to significant reductions across the South Coast Air Basin. But in more recent years, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other stakeholders criticized RECLAIM as falling short of expectations, pointing to periods of RTC price spikes reducing the program’s coverage and a subsequent glut of RTCs from plant closures that critics claim lowered the incentive for pollution reductions at remaining RECLAIM facilities.
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EPA’s National Compliance Initiatives for fiscal years 2020 through 2023, recently released, replace the former National Enforcement Initiatives and aim to help regulated entities understand their compliance obligations. Additionally, the Agency plans to focus on returning to compliance through information actions, building state capacity, supporting state actions, bringing Federal civil administrative actions and bringing civil or criminal judicial enforcement actions.
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Policy makers in California have pledged to resist Trump administration policy changes on environmental and other issues. Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), proposing the California Environmental, Public Health and Workers Defense Act of 2019, is the California legislature’s current preemptive response to the administration’s attempts to modify certain federal environmental and worker safety laws.

SB 1 has passed the California Senate. It is awaiting a final hearing in the State Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, likely sometime in mid‑to‑late August. After that, it moves to the Assembly floor, where a final vote is required by the end of California’s legislative session on September 13, 2019.
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The United States’ first major offshore wind energy project is running into delays as federal agencies internally debate whether the project plan adequately protects the fishing industry. How the agencies resolve the degree to which the project plan must address the fishing industry’s concerns will shape how future offshore wind energy projects are planned and permitted.
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On June 26, 2019, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released draft guidance instructing federal agencies on how to consider and document greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the effects of climate change when evaluating proposed federal actions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
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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.
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