Proposed Changes to California’s Hazardous Waste Regulations Could Significantly Impact Your Operations

With its proposed revisions to California’s hazardous waste management regulations, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) continues to make California’s hazardous waste management program more onerous and complex than the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). DTSC proposes substantial changes to hazardous waste personnel training requirements, financial assurance obligations, and hazardous waste permitting decisions.[1] Almost every facility that manages hazardous waste in California will be impacted if DTSC’s proposal is finalized. Public comment on DTSC’s proposed revisions remains open through November 6, 2017.     Continue Reading

Federal Judge Declines to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline While Corps Corrects Errors in Environmental Review

Once large infrastructure projects, such as oil and natural gas pipelines, receive federal government approval, they are often the target of legal challenges from opposition groups. Opponents repeatedly argue that the environmental review, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), was insufficient. If a court finds deficiencies in the government’s NEPA analysis, can a court halt construction or cease operations even after years of project design, permit approvals at all levels of government, and tens of millions of dollars in investment? This question was at the heart of the ongoing litigation involving the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and, on October 11, Judge James Boasberg determined “no,” the court would not shut down the pipeline. This case is important precedent for projects being challenged under NEPA. For more information, see our post on PipelineLaw.

Core Functions and Cooperative Federalism: EPA’s Draft Strategic Plan

The US EPA released its draft strategic plan for 2018-2022 on October 5, 2017.[1] Not surprisingly, the draft plan differs greatly from the Obama EPA’s last strategic plan. The change in administrations has produced innumerable shifts in the policies, goals and operations of the federal government. EPA’s draft strategic plan is emblematic of these shifts. Continue Reading

What’s Up with Air Quality Standards for Ozone?

In October 2015, EPA reduced the level of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”) for ozone from 75 parts per billion (“ppb”) to 70 ppb. What is happening concerning implementation of those NAAQS?

Although litigation over EPA’s decision to lower the ozone NAAQS remains in abeyance as the Trump Administration continues to consider whether the Agency should reconsider the rule or some part of it, the 2015 standard itself has not been stayed. Thus, the Clean Air Act requires that implementation of the standard proceed. One key step in implementation is promulgation by EPA of a list of areas where the standard is violated, including areas that contribute to standard violations in nearby areas. EPA’s identification of these “nonattainment” areas is a trigger for many of the Act’s control requirements. Continue Reading

Viability of the “Act of God” Defense in a Superstorm World

The stakes are high for anyone facing environmental liability in the wake of superstorms like Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma, and Maria. If you are among the parties potentially liable for the costs to clean up a release of oil or hazardous substances caused by a major storm event, you may be thinking about a possible “act of God” defense.  You may want to think again. In practice, the availability of this defense has proved elusive.  It is still a good idea, however,  to minimize risk in planning for the next “big one.”  Ultimately, advance actions taken to avoid or mitigate the impacts of natural disasters may be the difference between being excused from or being saddled with cleanup liability. Continue Reading

Limits on the Timing of Administrative Review/Reconsideration: A Review of Several Recent Cases

As is almost always the case following a change in administration, many EPA policies and interpretations are being reviewed and, depending on your point of view, either appropriately reconsidered or “rolled back.” Front and center in this debate is the practical reality that such reviews take time, including in some cases the time necessary to comply with procedural requirements for notice and comment rulemaking. The extent to which the EPA can take the time it believes is necessary is currently playing out in courts across the country, which are grappling with questions of the degree to which the EPA can postpone regulatory compliance deadlines or delay statutorily required actions while it conducts that review.

Continue Reading

Update: Recent Court Decisions, the Evolving Divide Between FERC and States Jurisdiction, and the Justiciability of Private FPA Preemption Claims

Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court held that in the Federal Power Act (FPA), Congress had drawn a “bright line, easily ascertained, between federal and state jurisdiction…by making [federal] jurisdiction plenary and extending it to all wholesale sales in interstate commerce except those which Congress has made explicitly subject to regulation by the States.” FPC v. Southern California Edison Co. (Colton), 376 U.S. 205, 206-07 (1964). Several recent federal court decisions, including two decisions addressing the implementation of Zero Emissions Credits (ZECs) by New York and Illinois, highlight just how blurred that “bright line” has become in an era where Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulation relies primarily on markets, rather than cost-of-service ratemaking, to ensure just, reasonable and not unduly discriminatory electricity prices. For good measure, these decisions also break new ground on the justiciability of FPA preemption claims brought by private parties in federal court.

Continue Reading

You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play: How EPA’s Risk Evaluation Exclusions Limit TSCA Preemption

Environmental and public-health groups have taken issue with the EPA’s rule establishing procedures for chemical risk evaluations under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which allows the EPA to exclude certain conditions of use when assessing whether a chemical presents unreasonable risks. These groups fear the exclusions could provide a “loophole” allowing some chemical risks to go unaddressed. But putting those concerns aside, should companies affected by the rule actually want to take advantage of these exclusions? Are they really beneficial to regulated industries? Or do they risk undermining one of the primary goals that companies sought to gain by supporting TSCA reform—federal preemption of overlapping state restrictions?

Continue Reading

Why Congress Will Pass Permanent Tax Reform in 2017

Now that the “Big Six”[1] have announced that they will release an agreed-upon tax reform plan the week of September 25, the question becomes: Can they actually get it done? Is there enough time, motivation and a clear path forward to get permanent tax reform done in 2017? The answer is yes, it could happen. Politics will be the driving force, and the budget reconciliation process will provide the opportunity.

Continue Reading

One Person Who Could Significantly Delay Your Infrastructure Project

The Keeper.

For some, the name may conjure images of a character from Game of Thrones, protecting the realm from the evil to the north. But, the Keeper is actually a fairly important National Park Service (NPS) official and has a significant role under the National Historic Preservation Act (NPHA)—the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. Continue Reading

LexBlog