Tag Archives: Todd S. Mikolop

Water Quality Certification Waiver for Natural Gas Pipeline Projects an Issue for FERC, and Not the Court, to Decide

In a closely watched case, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week dismissed an interstate natural gas pipeline company’s challenge to the State of New York’s delay in issuing a water quality certification under section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) for the Millennium pipeline project. While the company requested a ruling that the state had waived its right to make a decision on water quality certification for the project, the court decided to dismiss the action – holding that even if the state agency’s lengthy delays did constitute a waiver under CWA section 401, there was no cognizable injury to the company that would give it standing to challenge the delays in court. Rather, according to the court, the remedy is for the company to present evidence of waiver directly to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to seek authorization to begin construction of the project. The case is one of several pending across the country that involve a state’s authority to issue, deny, or waive a CWA water quality certification for interstate natural gas pipeline projects. … Continue Reading

Federal Court Remands Corps Environmental Analysis for Dakota Access Pipeline

Despite oil already flowing through the pipeline, federal litigation involving the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) took another turn last week when partial summary judgment was granted to tribes challenging the adequacy of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ review of DAPL under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other statutes. Two tribes, the … Continue Reading

DOJ Directive May Squeeze the Life Out of Supplemental Environmental Projects

A new policy directive issued earlier this week by the Department of Justice (Justice) has raised concern among regulated industry that the availability of Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) in civil settlements could be severely reduced, or even largely eliminated. If the directive is applied to restrict the availability of SEPs, it would remove a useful, and at times powerful, tool routinely used by the regulated community to negotiate acceptable settlement agreements in civil enforcement actions. It could also eliminate tens of millions of dollars of annual funding of such projects—which typically benefit local communities or address niche environmental issues—currently provided through the use of SEPs in consent decrees. Because applicable policies preclude Justice from requiring parties to include SEPs in settlements, it is difficult to identify any upside in any potential narrowing or elimination of SEPs as an optional tool to assist in the resolution of civil environmental enforcement actions.… Continue Reading

President Trump’s Budget Proposal Would Curb EPA’s Environmental Enforcement Spending by 20 Percent, But Major Enforcement Priorities Would Continue

The White House Office of Management and Budget released on Tuesday the Trump administration’s first full budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year (starting in October 2017). The comprehensive proposal provides detail about the administration’s policy priorities. If the budget is adopted by Congress as written, the Environmental Protection Agency would face its greatest budget cuts ever. These cuts would broadly impact federal environmental efforts, including the enforcement of federal environmental laws.… Continue Reading

Susan Parker Bodine Nominated to Head EPA’s National Enforcement Office

President Trump recently nominated Susan Parker Bodine to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”). OECA is responsible for coordinating the enforcement of federal environmental laws under EPA’s authority. OECA acts through a combination of compliance assistance, administrative enforcement and, in partnership with the US Department of Justice, civil and criminal enforcement.… Continue Reading

Environmental Enforcement Efforts Continue Amid Regulatory Rollbacks

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

EPA Releases Fiscal Year 2016 Enforcement Statistics Showing Continued Focus on High-Profile, Complex Cases Due to Decreasing Agency Resources

On Monday, December 19, the US Environmental Protection Agency released its enforcement and compliance annual results for fiscal year 2016 (FY 2016). The report compiles environmental enforcement statistics for the final year of the Obama administration and shows the continuation of an enforcement trend focusing on high-impact, high-value cases intended by the administration to deliver significant environmental and public health results and drive compliance across regulated industry. The wildcard in drawing conclusions from this year’s report, however, is how the terrain will change with the arrival of the Trump administration in early 2017. … Continue Reading

Environmental Enforcement Through an Administration Transition

As the presidential transition draws nearer, many have asked what the change in administration will mean for the enforcement of our nation’s environmental laws. The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior, Army Corps of Engineers, US Coast Guard and other agencies are all tasked with enforcement responsibilities under the major federal environmental statutes. The future of environmental enforcement under the incoming Trump administration thus depends on the future of each of these agencies.… Continue Reading
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