On October 13, 2023, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) published its first annual report detailing the implementation of its Comprehensive Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy (EJ Strategy). As we reported, in mid-2022, DOJ established an Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established a new Office of Environmental Justice (EJ) and External Civil Rights. DOJ’s OEJ is housed in the Environmental and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). DOJ intended its EJ Strategy to extend throughout the Department, in that OEJ’s mandate is to engage all DOJ bureaus, components, and offices in the collective pursuit of environmental justice. DOJ’s new report cites two main executive branch agencies involved in environmental protection and community development: EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The report touts efforts that DOJ views as EJ-related “successes” and details a number of authorities DOJ has relied upon in EJ-focused enforcement, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Affordable Care Act. Building on these highlighted successes, DOJ states that it will continue its focus on enforcement proceedings where there is a nexus with environmental justice and will seek EJ-focused mitigation to resolve such proceedings. Continue Reading New Report Suggests DOJ to Continue Actively Pursuing Environmental Justice-Focused Enforcement Actions
Many involved in carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) policy foresaw several years ago the situation we are in now: lots of Class VI Underground Injection Control (UIC) permit applications to store CO2, not enough speed at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get them processed, and not enough speed by EPA to divvy up the work by delegating the permitting authority to the States.
That’s why Congress included funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for Class VI UIC permitting: $50 million for EPA to help States defray costs of taking over the Class VI permitting program and $25 million total for fiscal years 2022-26 for EPA itself to get the job done.Continue Reading Fixing the Class VI Permit Application Backlog
On September 8, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a final rule in the Federal Register to amend the Agencies’ January 2023 “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) definition. 88 Fed. Reg. 61,964 (Sep. 8, 2023). According to the Agencies, these amendments conform that definition to the Supreme Court’s Sackett decision.
Continue Reading Agencies Issue Final Rule to Amend the 2023 “Waters of the United States” Definition
EPA finalized a rule effective on August 7, 2023 concerning the treatment of confidential business information (CBI) claims made in Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) submissions. Companies who submit any information to EPA under TSCA and want their confidential information to be protected from public disclosure must comply with these new requirements for CBI claims. Failure to follow these procedural requirements can result in EPA’s denial of the confidentiality claims and the information being made public.Continue Reading EPA Waives Certain Requirements and Faces Litigation Over New TSCA Final Rule to Protect CBI Claims
The US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently finalized its long-anticipated National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (“NECIs”) for fiscal years 2024 through 2027, naming six “priority areas” on which EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”) will focus its enforcement efforts and direct additional resources. In his first significant action since being confirmed by the Senate on July 20, 2023, OECA Assistant Administrator David Uhlmann issued a memorandum on August 17, 2023 to the EPA Regional Administrators, advising of the six NECIs. He stated that over the next four years EPA will “address the most significant public health and environmental challenges, protect vulnerable and overburdened communities, and promote greater compliance with our environmental laws.”Continue Reading EPA Announces Its Final National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives for FY2024-2027
On August 14, EPA published its proposed modifications to regulations establishing the requirements for a state or tribe to assume the Clean Water Act (CWA) section 404 permit program, including necessary state program elements, EPA responsibilities (e.g., approval and oversight of assumed programs), and requirements for review, modification, and withdrawal of state programs. 88 Fed. Reg. 55,276 (Aug. 14, 2023). The proposal provides helpful clarifications but does not resolve a number of key issues faced by states considering assumption and by permittees in those States. Continue Reading EPA Proposes to Modify Regulations to Facilitate State Assumption of CWA Section 404 Permitting
In June 2023, federal agencies released their “Spring 2023” Regulatory Agendas that provide an outlook for numerous upcoming regulatory actions on chemicals which could have significant implications for the regulated community. Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP’s regulatory team have provided analyses of these upcoming regulatory actions:
- EPA’s Spring 2023 Unified Regulatory Agenda—Upcoming PFAS-Related Actions
- EPA’s Spring 2023 Regulatory Agenda—Upcoming TSCA Actions
On May 3, 2023, EPA released its proposed risk management rule under Section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to impose restrictions on the manufacture, import, processing, distribution, and use of methylene chloride, a widely-used solvent in a variety of consumer and commercial applications. This is the first risk management rule proposed by…
On April 27, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Proposed Rule to grant Louisiana primacy to administer and enforce the Class VI Underground Injection Control (UIC) program within its borders. EPA approval of Louisiana’s primacy application would authorize the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) to issue UIC permits for Class VI geologic carbon sequestration facilities and undertake compliance enforcement for such facilities located within the state. EPA has determined that Louisiana’s application meets the necessary requirements for approval and is soliciting public comments on the proposal. One of the major sticking points in EPA’s approval of Louisiana’s program has been the approach to incorporating environmental justice (EJ) into the Class VI permit process. LDNR has agreed to implement a number of EJ-focused elements into the permitting process, including robust EJ analysis and public participation.Continue Reading EPA Proposes to Give Louisiana Authority for CO2 Injection Permits Under Condition that State Permit Process Includes Robust Environmental Justice Analysis and Outreach
On March 29 the US House of Representatives adopted by voice vote an amendment offered by Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and August Pfluger (R-TX) to speed up Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review of state applications for primacy to run the Class VI Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. The amendment was included in H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, the high-profile energy and permitting reform bill the House approved on March 30.
The UIC program is designed to prevent endangerment of underground sources of drinking water from subsurface injections. The Class VI program specifically regulates the geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide, which is considered to be essential for the world to meet international emission reduction targets. Continue Reading House of Representatives Approves Class VI Primacy Amendment