On November 10, 2016, a federal district court in Oregon allowed litigation to proceed against the federal government based on its alleged failure to protect future generations against the threat of climate change. See Juliana v. United States, No. 15-1517, 2016 WL 6661146 (D. Or. Nov. 10, 2016). The decision represents the first time a court has determined that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that the government’s conduct infringed their constitutional right to a clean and healthy climate system.
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Under a recent summary judgment decision from a federal district judge, the EPA must continuously examine the effects that certain Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations have on employment in the coal industry specifically and other industries more broadly. This means the EPA will be subject to increased requirements before taking action under the CAA. The ruling also suggests that additional requirements could be imposed on the EPA under similar provisions in other environmental statutes, such as the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act, and CERCLA.
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As we previously wrote on this blog, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized New Source Performance Standards for methane emissions from the oil and gas industry on June 3, 2016. Both industry and environmental groups later submitted petitions for reconsideration of certain aspects of these New Source Performance Standards (the Methane Rule), which are now pending for consideration by the EPA Administrator.
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The Clean Power Plan, the Obama Administration’s attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, had its day in court on September 27. What a day it was!

Ten judges of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments addressing the validity of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan in this rare “once in a lifetime” case. (Judge Merrick Garland, a nominee to the Supreme Court, did not hear the case.) A dozen lawyers battled for nearly eight hours — far longer than the three hours the court had allotted — on issues ranging from the Plan’s constitutionality, obscure principles of statutory interpretation, congressional intent, states’ rights, and administrative procedure.
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On September 7, 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule updating the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) ozone season trading program.  The rule promulgates more stringent ozone season NOx budgets in several states.  CSAPR was promulgated to implement the “good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act, which requires states to address the transport of pollution across state lines.
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On August 5, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied two petitions by environmental and industry groups to reconsider startup and shutdown issues under the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule and the Utility New Source Performance Standards (NSPS). These regulations, finalized in February 2012, impose operational requirements to minimize emissions during periods of start-up and shutdown in lieu of numeric limits.
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In 2013, President Obama issued the Climate Action Plan. Its goal: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from a broad range of economic sectors. Moreover, the Climate Action Plan is the key set of initiatives necessary to achieve the United  States’ GHG reduction commitment set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international accord.

We covered the initiation of a wide range of rulemakings in a blog post dated September 28, 2015, and, as the Obama Administration comes to a close, climate change rulemakings continue to move forward. The most contentious rule—the Clean Power Plan—has moved from rulemaking to litigation. Many other rules (e.g. new rules limiting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry and the renewable fuel standards) have moved from proposal to final rules. We summarize the status of 10 different rules, standards, or programs meant to implement the Climate Action Plan below.
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On May 12, 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a pre-publication version of a final rule that sets the first-ever federal limits on methane emissions for new, reconstructed, and modified oil and gas sources. The Methane Rule aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the oil and gas industry in two ways: by updating New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the emission of methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and by imposing new monitoring and maintenance requirements. It is the latest in a series of EPA rulemakings to implement the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. The Methane Rule will become effective 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred.
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The Clean Power Plan continues its surprising path to becoming the law of the land. On May 16, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on its motion issued an order to delay oral argument in the Clean Power Plan rulemaking and hear the case en banc. The oral arguments were scheduled for June 2 and 3, and are now set to begin on September 27. Presumably the argument will be allotted two days, but the court notes that it will issue further orders regarding the allotment of time for oral argument.
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The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to issue its final rule establishing for the first time by regulation the standard by which emissions from separate sources in the oil and gas sector are aggregated under the Clean Air Act (the Aggregation Rule). On April 7, 2016, EPA sent the final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. The regulation will likely become effective in June 2016 after OMB completes its review.
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