EPA Takes Back Decision-Making Authority for the Most Costly Superfund Cleanups

In a break with long-standing policy, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has taken back authority to approve remedies costing $50 million or more at Superfund sites effective immediately. According to the delegation of authority memo issued on May 9, 2017, the purpose of these revisions is to promote accountability and consistency in the remedy selection process and encourage speedier remediation and revitalization of contaminated sites. Continue Reading

EPA Litigation Snapshot: Pivotal Cases See Continued Delays

As the Trump-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues the process of reconsidering Obama-era decisions, we have seen a flurry of EPA-requested stays on ongoing litigation related to rules and decisions from the prior administration. The courts have generally been willing to grant these motions, issuing 60, 90, or 120-day stays for most cases. Continue Reading

Four Issues Impacting Public Companies’ Climate Change Disclosures

As President Trump’s administration attempts to dismantle President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, one action may be removing funding from the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) for enforcement of the 2010 Commission Guidance Regarding Disclosure Related to Climate Change. So, should public companies continue to disclose climate change-driven risks and benefits?

Yes – according to the SEC, the climate change disclosure guidance merely “assists companies in satisfying” their pre-existing requirements concerning disclosure of environmental issues, affirming disclosure obligations in place since the 1970s. By following the guidance, companies merely will be supplying information about climate change that may impact investors’ decision-making. Continue Reading

Trump EPA Delays Ongoing Obama-Era Litigation

President Trump recently issued two executive orders that aim to reform administrative regulations and improve domestic energy production. On January 30, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” which, among other things, introduced a regulatory impact cost cap for 2017. On March 28, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13783, “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” which instructed an agency review of regulations that hinder domestic energy production.

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FERC Prevails Again in Order No. 1000 Appellate Proceedings

On April 19, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) implementation of Order No. 1000 with respect to ISO-New England (ISO-NE). The D.C. Circuit had previously upheld the legality of the order itself in 2014, and the Seventh Circuit upheld FERC’s implementation of Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc.’s Order No. 1000 compliance plan in 2016. This week’s decision represents another success for FERC and its Order No. 1000 policy objectives. Continue Reading

EPA Announces Stay of Deadlines and Reconsideration of ELGs for Steam Electric Power Plants

On April 12, 2017, the EPA announced that it will reconsider and administratively stay future deadlines of the 2015 final rule that set new, technology-based effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs) and standards for steam electric power plants under the Clean Water Act. The final rule places significant burden on affected segments of the steam electric power generating industry. While certain requirements of the new ELGs were generally set to become effective as soon as November 1, 2018 through incorporation into NPDES permits, the compliance timetable and future of the final rule is now unclear. Continue Reading

Are We Facing the Decline of Chevron Deference and an Article III Renaissance?

In February, presidential advisor Steve Bannon stated that a primary goal of the Trump administration was the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” One feature of the administrative state is “administrative deference,” which involves courts deferring to federal agencies’ interpretations of federal statutes – a topic that we have discussed repeatedly in the past few months,  see here and here. Continue Reading

California Prop 65 Decision Raises New Potential Conflict with Federal Pesticide Product Registration and Labeling Requirements

Monsanto officially lost its fight to avoid a Prop 65 warning label on its products containing glyphosate, a chemical used in the popular herbicide Roundup. As we previously reported, Monsanto argued that the State of California’s reliance on an unelected, European organization to decide that glyphosate poses a cancer risk was improper. Last month, a California superior court rejected Monsanto’s arguments. Continue Reading

Virginia Ash Pond Seeps Violate CWA, But Do Not Warrant Civil Penalty

A recent federal court ruling in a Sierra Club lawsuit against Dominion Virginia Power alleging violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) raises key questions about how other courts will interpret “point source” and “navigable waters” relative to ash ponds and groundwater releases, and whether a reasoned cost-benefit analysis can be used to substantially mitigate civil penalties and remedy selection.

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Energy Independence is Theme of Trump Environmental Plan

On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) called “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.”  The EO rescinds a host of climate change-related policies and rules instituted by the prior administration, including the Clean Power Plan and the Climate Action Plan. This new energy policy promotes all forms of domestic energy, and, as President Trump stated in the rollout, American energy dominance. The EO, through five policy statements, directs all federal agencies to identify and revise or revoke any rule that “burdens” the energy industry.

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