On September 30, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) published proposed rule that would revise the regulations governing the issuance of eagle take permits (ETPs) under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.  87 Fed. Reg. 59,598 (September 30, 2022). In the preamble to the proposed rule, the Service acknowledges that its current ETP regulatory process, first established in 2009 and revised in 2016, is not working as intended.  In particular, the Service notes that “[w]hile there are more than 1,000 wind-energy projects on the landscape, the Service has received fewer than 100 applications from those projects and has currently issued only 26 permits since the promulgation of the 2016 Eagle Rule.”  87 Fed. Reg. at 59,602.

Continue Reading USFWS Tries Again to Make Eagle Take Permitting Process Work for Stakeholders and Wildlife

Beginning with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1983, each newly inaugurated president from a different political party than his predecessor has ordered the withdrawal from the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) of all pending regulations that have not yet been published.  86 Fed. Reg. 7425 (Jan. 28, 2021) (Biden); 82 Fed. Reg. 8346 (Jan. 24, 2017) (Trump); 74 Fed. Reg. 4435 (Jan. 26, 2009) (Obama); 66 Fed. Reg. 7702 (Jan. 24, 2001) (Bush); 58 Fed. Reg. 6074) (Jan. 25, 1993) (Clinton); 46 Fed. Reg. 11,227 (Feb. 16, 1981) (Reagan). The incoming presidents have used this approach to advance their policies as opposed to being constrained by the policies of their predecessors reflected in such “midnight rules.” The D.C. Circuit, in Humane Society v. U.S. Dept. of Agric., No. 20-5291 (D.C. Cir. July 22, 2022), has limited the rules that can be withdrawn under this long-standing approach. 

Continue Reading Humane Society v. U.S. Department of Agriculture: Has the D.C. Circuit Done More Than Protect Midnight Rules?

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

A recent Fourth Circuit decision narrowly construed the state administrative enforcement bar to the Clean Water Act citizen suit, allowing a citizen suit seeking civil penalties to proceed despite the fact the state had already issued a notice of violation for the same alleged conduct.
Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Ruling Narrowly Construes Administrative Enforcement Bar to Clean Water Act Citizen Suit

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 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

A recent federal district court decision shows how a consent decree can provide protection to responsible parties under CERCLA by precluding later-filed tort claims seeking additional relief or different remedial action.
Continue Reading Federal Court Finds Tort Claims Preempted by CERCLA Consent Decree

Last week, in Residents of Gordon Plaza, Inc. v. Cantrell, the Fifth Circuit denied a petition for rehearing en banc of a recent decision affirming the dismissal of a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) citizen suit. The key issue in the underlying appeal, 25 F.4th 288 (5th Cir. 2022), was whether certain maintenance activities qualify as a “removal” action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The court affirmed that the maintenance activities do indeed constitute a “removal action.” Therefore, the suit was barred under 42 U.S.C. § 6972(b)(2)(B)(iv), which precludes RCRA citizen suits where a “responsible party is diligently conducting a removal action” pursuant to a CERCLA consent decree with EPA.

Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Endorses Broad Reading of “Removal” Under CERCLA To Bar RCRA Citizen Suit

Two recent actions by the Biden Administration will identify areas of focus for environmental justice and therefore influence environmental enforcement priorities, federal permitting and licensing, and federal spending, among other actions. On February 18, the White House Council on Environmental Quality released the beta (or draft) version of its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), a key component of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative. The Justice40 Initiative set the goal of “delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments” to disadvantaged communities. The CEJST serves a specific purpose: to help agencies identify disadvantaged communities in order to direct federal benefits and help agencies measure whether 40 percent of benefits are being received by those communities.
Continue Reading Biden Administration Rolls Out New Climate, Economic, and Environmental Justice Tools

On the heels of the November 2021 Tribal Nations Summit, a flurry of memoranda was signed by the White House and many government agencies. These memoranda seek to further the Biden administration’s promises of consulting with indigenous people and acknowledging their communities’ cultures, customs, sacred sites, and historical knowledge in the contexts of environmental planning, sustainability, and justice, and in ongoing and forthcoming federal decision making and regulatory rulemaking. Center stage in the ongoing discussion is Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK), and the need for including and consulting with Tribal communities on the front end of planning as part of the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Stakeholders from developers and investors to Tribes and regulators, among other parties, should expect increased focus and guidance from the Biden administration in 2022 on these issues.
Continue Reading 2022 Promises Greater Focus on Tribal Consultation and Incorporation of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the Permitting Process