In recognition of the impact the COVID-19 outbreak is having on every facet of life, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a temporary enforcement discretion policy to excuse certain civil violations occurring during and due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the EPA expects regulated facilities to maintain compliance, the agency does not expect to seek penalties for noncompliance for routine environmental monitoring and reporting obligations provided certain conditions are met. Other activities, such as the reporting of accidental releases of pollutants, will not be subject to discretion. Importantly, the EPA will not be seeking enforcement of violations occurring while the policy is in effect, even after the COVID-19 crisis subsides and the policy is terminated. The policy is retroactive to March 13, 2020.
Continue Reading EPA to Relax Civil Enforcement for Non-Compliance Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Under a new rule effective on Monday, March 23, 2020, owners and operators of stationary sources are required to report qualifying accidental releases to the ambient air of hazardous substances to the federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). While many companies are currently consumed with handling operations and logistics related to the coronavirus pandemic, compliance will still be expected going forward. Importantly, however, the CSB’s preamble to the new rule expresses a one-year grace period from the effective date of the rule, during which it will refrain from referring reporting violations for enforcement absent a knowing failure to report.

Continue Reading Requirement to Report Accidental Releases to Chemical Safety Board Takes Effect

No single answer exists for how the regulated community is expected to meet their environmental obligations or address potential delays in environmental compliance, especially amidst shelter-in-place orders in several states due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, relief from environmental obligations during this pandemic may be available under certain environmental laws and legal obligations. The nature of that relief will largely depend on the specific legal requirement, the impact on the source itself, and the evolving response by federal and state governments to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Continue Reading Environmental Compliance Relief and Requirements During Shelter-in-Place Mandate

On August 9, 2019, the EPA plans to publish a proposed rule to codify the current interpretation of New Source Review (NSR) Project Emissions Accounting. The rule would explicitly allow consideration of emissions decreases from a project, alongside any emissions increases, when determining whether the project causes a significant emissions increase from the source. Historically, many state regulators, and even certain EPA applicability determinations, have suggested that only emissions increases (and not decreases) should be considered. Considering emissions decreases in this analysis allows more projects to avoid triggering NSR.

Continue Reading Emission Decreases Count: EPA Proposes Rule to Codify Approach to NSR Project Emissions Accounting

Continuing reductions in environmental regulations across the power industry may seem like a good time for the C-suite to direct energy and attention towards other key priorities, but there is another force steadily working to tug reform back over the line — highly organized and increasingly strategic NGOs. Because deregulation is antithetical to their policy preferences, environmental groups routinely argue that federal agencies violate federal statutory laws, and power plant operations and infrastructure get caught in the crossfire.

Continue Reading Environmental Regulatory Rollbacks Are No Time for Utilities to Relax

As 2017 comes to a close, the specifics of the Trump Administration’s agenda for energy regulatory reform in 2018 are beginning to take shape. To implement President Trump’s Executive Order on “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” (No. 13783), federal agencies solicited public comment and have now issued reports identifying their priorities for reform. These energy independence reports, as well as the Trump Administration’s broader agenda for regulatory reduction and reform, describe steps the administration can take—largely without congressional involvement—to reduce the compliance burden associated with environmental regulations and permit requirements.
Continue Reading 2018 Energy Reform Priorities: Streamlining to Further Reduce Compliance Burden

On July 21, 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) in Docket No. RM16-17-000 to revise regulations regarding the collection of data for analytics and surveillance purposes from market-based rates (MBR) sellers and entities trading virtual products or holding financial transmission rights (Virtual/FTR Participants). FERC also withdrew two earlier NOPRs in Docket Nos. RM15-23-000 and RM16-3-000. FERC indicated that the newly-issued NOPR would address many of the issues in the withdrawn NOPRs.
Continue Reading FERC Issues NOPR on Information Collection, Rescinds Previous Iterations of Rule

On June 22, 2016, President Obama signed the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act into law.  The Act is the first significant change to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act in 40 years and amends the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) methods for reviewing chemical substances before they are marketed and allowed to be used in consumer products.

The Act has several new key features:
Continue Reading Toxic Substances Control Act Revised for the 21st Century

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) to revise its pro forma Small Generator Interconnection Agreement (SGIA). The new rule would require small generators (those that are 20 MW or less) to “ride through” through or to stay connected to and synchronized with the transmission system during a system disturbance.
Continue Reading Small Generators May Soon Be Required to “Ride Through” System Disturbances

Environmental groups continue their attack on long-standing rule provisions under the Clean Air Act that limit or exclude liability related to “startup, shutdown, and malfunction” events. Historically, USEPA has acknowledged that it may be impracticable, if not impossible, for industry to meet emissions standards during certain periods, including during startup, shutdown or malfunction events, when emissions are typically higher than during normal operation. However, in May 2015, in response to prior challenges, USEPA instructed 36 states to revise their implementation plans with regard to SSM events.
Continue Reading Environmental Groups Challenge EPA Refinery Rule