Over the past few years, certain states have relied on ambiguities in the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 water quality certification process to block the construction of significant energy infrastructure projects (e.g., oil and gas pipelines, coal export facilities, and liquid natural gas [LNG] terminals) determined by federal agencies to be in the public interest of individual states, regions, and the nation as a whole. Consistent with the cooperative federalism structure of the CWA—and the important role of states in protecting water quality within their borders—Section 401 requires applicants for a federal license or permit anticipated to result in discharges to navigable waters to obtain a certification from the relevant state that the discharge will comply with applicable state water quality standards. States can waive this requirement, and if they do not act within “a reasonable period of time (which shall not exceed one year) after receipt” of the request for the certification, waiver is automatic. 33 U.S.C. § 1341(a). Continue Reading EPA Proposes to Increase Predictability and Timeliness of Water Quality Certification Process

Under the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and California’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, industrial facilities in California are required to obtain coverage under the state’s NPDES general permit for discharges associated with industrial storm water activities (General Industrial Permit) or justify why they are exempt. For regulated facilities, including manufacturing facilities, landfills, mining operations, steam electric power generating facilities, hazardous waste facilities, and oil and gas facilities, failure to obtain coverage under the General Industrial Permit is a potential violation of the Clean Water Act (in addition to state law), which could expose the owner or operator of the facility to potential civil penalties of up to $54,833 per day. Enforcement, however, largely is dependent upon agency inspections or enforcement by citizen groups. Based on estimates by the California Coastkeeper Alliance, many facilities in California may have failed to enroll in the industrial storm water permit program. Continue Reading You Say You Want a Business License? California Enacts New Law to Improve Compliance with Industrial Storm Water Permitting Requirements

Recent headlines underscore the security challenges faced by public-facing businesses. From physical threats to cyber attacks targeting a wide range of critical infrastructure, companies in diverse sectors, such as the financial, retail, entertainment, energy, transportation, real estate, communications and other areas, face a challenging landscape of risks and potential liabilities. Join us on October 28, 2019, at 12:00 p.m. EST, for a webinar to discuss these issues, including why companies should consider SAFETY Act protection and how to obtain it. Continue Reading Webinar on the SAFETY Act, Security and Insurance

California’s Proposition 65 (Prop 65), adopted in 1986 by state voters, has long been considered among the most far-reaching right-to-know and toxic chemical reduction statutes in the country. It now has competition from Washington State’s Pollution Prevention for Healthy People and Puget Sound Act (the “Act”), SSB 5135 (Chapter 292, 2019 Laws), signed into law on May 8, 2019, by former 2020 presidential candidate Governor Jay Inslee. Numerous commentators have called the Act, the nation’s “strongest” policy for regulating toxic chemicals in consumer products. Continue Reading Washington State Ramps Up Chemical Regulation

In August 2018, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced it was rebranding its National Enforcement Initiatives as National Compliance Initiatives, and specifically stated it was no longer targeting oil and gas sources as deserving of extra scrutiny. In addition, since taking office in January 2017, the Trump administration has aggressively rolled back many environmental regulations promulgated under the Obama administration. Despite what some may perceive as a kinder, gentler EPA and the Trump administration’s “deregulatory” agenda, however, the EPA has continued to pursue enforcement cases 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 (EA) titled, “EPA Observed Air Emissions from Natural Gas Gathering Operations in Violation of the Clean Air Act.” Continue Reading Don’t Be a Pig: EPA Focuses Enforcement Alert Against Mid-Stream Gas Gathering Operations

In December 2018, an article in this blog flagged a petition for EPA rulemaking under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that, if denied, had the potential to set up precedent-setting litigation on citizens’ ability to use the courts to require EPA action under TSCA. Now, nearly a year later, the scenario that article described is coming true. In a challenge to EPA’s denial of that petition, a federal district court is poised to decide what constitutes a petition for issuance of a new rule as opposed to one for amendment of an existing rule—and in the process, to decide when a court may cast aside deference to EPA and undertake its own evaluation independent of the Agency’s record and conclusions. Continue Reading Federal District Court Poised to Consider Petition for Issuance of a New Rule Versus Petition for Amendment of an Existing Rule

California Prop 65 has allowed a slew of lawsuits to be brought by plaintiff attorneys against consumer retailers with products that end up in California.  Hunton Andrews Kurth partners Malcolm Weiss and Shannon Broome walk through the process for Prop 65 60-day notices and tactics companies can use to respond. Continue Reading VIDEO Inside Look: California Prop 65 60-Day Notices

On August 27, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) issued a White Paper proposing to disclose the names of entities that violate Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standards, while continuing to withhold other details of those violations. This significant change in policy reflects broader issues in FERC’s handling of security information. Continue Reading FERC’s CIP Information Proposal: Is it Time to Tip the Scale Toward Security?

Going green has gone mainstream. Perhaps nowhere is this more pronounced than in the automotive industry. J.P. Morgan estimates that, by 2030, electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids will make up 59 percent of the global market share, up from about 1 percent in 2015. What may be the most important feature of the EV revolution is its power source: lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. They are not new; they have been powering cell phones and computers for years. What is new is their large-scale use to power automobiles (and, some day, trucks and buses) and significantly reduce emissions. As our colleagues Samuel L. Brown and Lauren A. Bachtel note in an article to be published in the ABA’s Natural Resource & Environment magazine, components of Li-ion batteries include metals (e.g., lithium, cobalt, nickel) that are costly to extract and process. As demand for them increases, pressure to re-use or recycle batteries will increase. Continue Reading A Green Afterlife for EV Li-ion Batteries

Congress is exploring regulatory action for PFAS as states begin to implement their own regulations for the chemicals. Hunton Andrews Kurth attorneys, Dan Grucza and Chuck Knauss outline approaches companies can take while operating in this changing legal landscape.
Continue Reading VIDEO Inside Look: PFAS Regulatory Action