The topic of infrastructure has been front and center in recent weeks, following the Biden Administration’s unveiling of the American Jobs Plan, a massive investment plan to “Build Back Better” the country’s infrastructure.  A critical infrastructure component is water systems—drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater—many of which have deteriorated with age and lack of funding.  The renewed focus on infrastructure proposes to funnel massive investment into upgrading the nation’s water systems, under the American Jobs Plan and a slate of bills now before Congress.  We take a look at what the new infrastructure developments could mean for water systems.

Continue Reading Water, Water Everywhere: Infrastructure Push Includes Significant Investment for Water Systems

For over 40 years, one of the Clean Water Act’s (CWA’s) key regulatory programs has not functioned as Congress originally intended, producing, over time, significant inefficiencies in the federal permitting process that increase costs and delays for developers and hinder environmental review and protection. Today, renewed efforts at both the state and federal levels seek to achieve the objectives established by Congress in 1977. In particular, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it intends to revise long-standing regulations that have derailed state implementation of the program. EPA’s approach to this rulemaking, and whether it can adequately address critical barriers to state assumption, has the potential to transform the regulatory landscape and produce substantial benefits for states, the public, the regulated community, and the environment.
Continue Reading When States Assume: Fulfilling Congress’s Objectives Under the Clean Water Act’s Wetlands Program

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 Why Congress Will Pass Permanent Tax Reform in 2017

The latest news is full of stories of federal agencies reviewing and, in some cases, rescinding environmental regulations and cutting agency spending. From these reports, it could seem the federal government might also cut back its enforcement of environmental laws. But in fact, even in this turbulent regulatory and fiscal appropriations landscape, enforcement–particularly criminal enforcement–of core existing environmental laws is one aspect of environmental regulation that is sure to continue.
Continue Reading Environmental Enforcement Efforts Continue Amid Regulatory Rollbacks

The Cocktail Conundrum
A common question that we all ask whenever we meet someone new in a social setting is “what do you do?” This seemingly innocuous question always makes me brace myself for the inevitable exchange that will follow. When I say that I am an environmental attorney, the next question is almost always whether I work for the “good” or “bad” guys. The clear assumption in this question is that environmental advocacy groups are “good,” while industry parties are “bad.” But is this issue really that black and white? Based on my experience, no. The issue is far from being that simplistic.

Continue Reading The Cocktail Conundrum

Corporate_Business Meeting Backli

Recently, the states and federal agencies have clashed in a number of environmental rulemakings and subsequent litigation over those rules. These disagreements have raised a host of important legal and policy questions, including the proper balance of power between the states and the federal government and the communication process and overall relationship between the states and federal agencies. Recently filed litigation challenging the Stream Protection Rule, 81 Fed. Reg. 93,066 (Dec. 20, 2016), would prompt judicial review of many of these issues. But the likelihood of administrative or congressional action on this rule (through the Congressional Review Act) could preclude judicial input on these questions for now. If the rule is ultimately withdrawn or overturned, the manner in which it is may also present important federalism questions. Further complicating this process are two motions to intervene in two of these cases, filed by several environmental groups to defend the final Stream Protection Rule from being vacated or weakened.


Continue Reading Continuing Federalism Issues Emerge in Challenges to Stream Protection Rule

The U.S. Supreme Court is not the only one keen on taking a closer look at deference to agency interpretations. Just as the Supreme Court will have an opportunity “to rein in a particularly aggressive use of agency deference” later this year, the House of Representatives is also set to take aim at judicial deference to agency interpretations through the recently proposed Regulatory Accountability Act (the Act) — a compilation of several earlier reform bills. A similar act was proposed last July and passed the House, but was ultimately not considered by the Senate. With the new incoming administration, however, the Act may have an increased chance of success.

Continue Reading Congress May Take a Stab at Limiting Judicial Deference