The New Source Review (NSR) Program of the Clean Air Act (CAA) requires large new plants (in the parlance of the Act “major” “stationary sources”) to go through an extensive, time consuming and expensive review and permitting process prior to construction. Such sources are required through these permits, among other requirements, to install the best available control technologies (BACT) to reduce levels of specific regulated pollutants. The NSR program also applies to existing facilities if they are modified in substantial ways and if, as a result, emissions increase by significant amounts (these are known as “major modifications”). Continue Reading Will the Fifth Circuit Put Another Nail in the Coffin of NSR Enforcement for Ancient Projects?

On November 16, 2017, the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in the cases challenging EPA’s 2012 rule allowing states to rely on compliance with the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) to satisfy electric generating units’ “best available retrofit technology” (BART) requirements for emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The cases are UARG v. EPA, No. 12-1342­ and consolidated cases (D.C. Cir.).

Continue Reading The Long and Winding Road for CSAPR and Regional Haze

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

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 What’s Up with Air Quality Standards for Ozone?

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

Throughout the Obama administration, federal officials from the President on down touted an “all of the above” approach to energy policy.  At the same time, they pressed forward with environmental regulations—climate change rules in particular—that would have made a seismic shift in the role fossil fuels play in the nation’s energy mix.

We all know the Trump administration is poised to make major changes.  A shakeup for the EPA was a consistent theme of the Trump campaign. The President made things official in March when he signed an executive order that, among other things, called for a “review” of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the EPA’s program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, and a proposed rule regarding the CPP is now under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget. The administration has also announced plans to cut the EPA’s budget, to take a new “red team-blue team” approach to climate change science, and to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. That’s quite a lot of activity for an administration that is often accused of moving too slowly. Continue Reading From “All of the Above” to “See What Sticks”

Navajo Generating Station
Navajo Generating Station

In two related decisions issued on March 20, 2017, the Ninth Circuit upheld an EPA plan imposing regional haze requirements on the Navajo Generating Station (NGS).  The rulings suggest a possibility that future haze plans need not be unduly inflexible—sometimes forcing premature unit closures, as many haze plans did during the program’s first round of implementation.

Continue Reading The Ninth Circuit Upholds a Haze Plan That Could Lead to New Flexibility in Future Rulemakings

Since 2013, EPA’s enforcement office has been promoting an initiative it terms Next Generation Compliance. In common parlance, the term “next generation” refers to the next stage of development or version of something. The term inherently suggests improvement – a better mousetrap, for example. Who would object to such progress? Several recent applications of EPA’s “Next Gen” strategy illustrate that, as with most things in life, the devil is in the details.

Continue Reading What’s Next for EPA’s “Next Generation Compliance” Program

Just before Christmas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released controversial regulations, titled Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs under the Clean Air Act; Prepublication Final Rule, that EPA states will “modernize” the Clean Air Act Section 112(r)(7) Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations. These 1990s-era regulations, covering about 12,500 facilities across the country, require that facilities storing certain amounts of specified chemicals develop risk management plans to prevent the accidental release of those substances into the air and mitigate impacts of accidental releases that do occur. EPA initiated these RMP rule revisions under the directive of President Obama’s August 1, 2013, Executive Order (EO) 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security. After proposal on March 14, 2016, EPA received more than 44,000 comments, making rule issuance in just over six months’ time remarkable, especially given that the final rule and response to comments total about 600 pages.

Continue Reading EPA Risk Management Plan Midnight Rule Poses Facility Security Threats and Imposes Huge Costs

On October 17, the federal District Court of the Northern District of West Virginia ruled in a lawsuit brought by Murray Energy that EPA had violated Clean Air Act § 321(a)’s requirement that the agency “conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment” that may result from EPA air regulations. Judge John Preston Bailey, a nominee of President George W. Bush, found that “Congress unmistakably intended to track and monitor the effects of the Clean Air Act and its implementing regulations on employment in order to improve the legislative and regulatory processes,” and that job loss evaluations “may have the effect of convincing the EPA, Congress, and/or the American public to relax or alter EPA’s prior decisions.” At that time, Judge Bailey gave EPA just two weeks to come up with a plan to evaluate those impacts.

Continue Reading Federal Court Orders EPA to Conduct Job Loss Evaluations of Air Regulations