As we have noted previously (An Opportunity for a New Federal-State Relationship Under the Regional Haze Program, July 17, 2017; A New Perspective on Regional Haze Regulation?, February 14, 2017), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently signaled a new openness to recognizing state prerogatives and flexibility in implementing the regional haze program under the Clean Air Act (CAA). That program addresses impairment of visibility in the skies over protected national parks and wilderness areas that is attributed to widespread haze resulting from emissions to the air from varied sources. Continue Reading Recent Developments in Regional Haze Policy: EPA and Environmental Groups Battle Over a New Program for Texas
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.).
Since President Trump’s inauguration and the beginning of Scott Pruitt’s tenure as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), much of the focus of Clean Air Act activity in the new administration has been on global climate change issues. As more time passes, however, EPA is beginning to address other areas of Clean Air Act regulatory policy, and, in some respects at least, charting a new course that departs from the record of the Obama administration. One of the areas to which EPA has started to give renewed attention is the regional haze program. Continue Reading An Opportunity for a New Federal-State Relationship Under the Regional Haze Program
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.
During much of the Obama administration, states and EPA were in conflict about how to craft Clean Air Act plans to reduce “regional haze” impairment of visibility in national parks and wilderness areas. The technical and policy issues are daunting. Regional haze forms in the atmosphere from many sources’ air emissions — emissions from cars and trucks, construction equipment, factories and power plants (among others), plus natural sources like wildfires and dust storms. Developing regional haze implementation plans entails complex policy choices and weighing sometimes heavy compliance costs for emission controls — costs that may total in the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars — against improvements in visibility that can be hard to measure and in some cases are even imperceptible to the human eye.
This summer has been an eventful time for EPA’s regional haze program. In July, the Fifth Circuit issued an important decision to stay EPA’s controversial Texas and Oklahoma regional haze rule and to retain jurisdiction over the litigation on that rule, denying an EPA request that the litigation be transferred to the DC Circuit. While that litigation played out in the spring of this year, EPA proposed major revisions to the regional haze rules that will shape the next round of the program’s implementation.