Everyone knows that environmental cleanups are complicated. Sites can be geographically vast and varied, involve operations that have released chemicals over decades, and goal posts for how and what should be investigated, characterized, and – if necessary – remediated can change over time. The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in a case that could potentially throw remediation efforts at Superfund sites around the country – as Atlantic Richfield (the petitioner) put it – into “chaos.”
Continue Reading SCOTUS Will Review EPA’s Authority to Control Superfund Cleanups at Company’s Request

The EPA announced its final rule for power plant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, culminating often rancorous discussion and litigation over the EPA’s authority to regulate GHG emissions from existing coal-fired electricity generating sources. Under the new Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the states, not the federal government, are now responsible for driving down GHG emissions from power plants. Specifically, the EPA now requires unit-specific standards of performance to be developed by the states using its new emission guideline that details the “best system of emission reduction.”
Continue Reading EPA’s Final Power Plant Greenhouse Gas Rule Shifts Emissions Regulation to States

In separate decisions, a federal district court in Alaska recently struck down two Trump Administration efforts to roll back President Obama’s environmental initiatives. Taken together, these decisions signal that citizen suits can, in some sense, limit the ability of the administration to “deregulate.” To the regulated community, these decisions should serve as a warning that we continue to be in an ever-shifting legal landscape where individual decisions can buck the current deregulatory climate.
Continue Reading Signs of Potential Trouble Ahead for Trump Administration’s Deregulatory Agenda

Strategic in-house counsel and court-watchers are keeping a close eye on developments related to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent commitment to further address deference to administrative interpretation of regulations, a fundamental legal principle central to the regulated community. This practice of courts resolving close questions of statutory or regulatory interpretation in favor of “expert” agencies can cause significant ripple effects to industry profitability – especially when agencies’ regulatory interpretations change.
Continue Reading Regulatory Watch: Supreme Court May Resolve Administrative Agency Deference Issue

Municipalities and other local governments do not have free rein when it comes to regulating the environment, and the Second Circuit’s recent decision in Vermont Railway, Inc. v. Town of Shelburne is a clear reminder of that fact.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Derails Municipal Ordinance Targeted at Railway Operations

While President Trump’s border security policy has dominated recent news headlines, his deregulation policy has quietly jockeyed into a better position to survive court scrutiny. Last week, a federal district court issued an opinion that suggests it may never confirm whether the Trump Administration’s “two-for-one” executive order thwarts consumer protection and safety-related rulemakings by past administrations, because no plaintiffs have standing to raise these arguments. Rulemakings have a primary role in environmental law. This decision emphasizes that, in many cases, rulemakings will continue to be primarily shaped by the executive branch, not courts, excepting in particular cases.
Continue Reading Trump Administration Deregulatory Agenda Rolls Ahead for Now

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed its reconsideration of a January 2009 final action on “project aggregation.” Project aggregation is the concept that addresses when to combine nominally separate physical or operational changes at a stationary source to determine whether the changes trigger New Source Review (NSR) permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The 2009 final action (74 FR 2376) (the “2009 Aggregation Action”) sets forth the EPA’s desired interpretation and policy concerning when to aggregate such activities into a single project. The EPA has submitted the final action reconsidering the 2009 Aggregation Action for publication in the Federal Register (the “2018 Reconsideration”). After the 2018 Reconsideration is published, the 2009 Aggregation Action will go into effect
Continue Reading EPA Completes Reconsideration of “Project Aggregation” Final Action

Twenty-two months into the Trump Administration and a trend has become abundantly clear: courts are profoundly skeptical of the Trump Administration’s use of executive orders to undo or undercut regulations. Federal rulemakings are serious business for courts and regulated industries, which is why we have chronicled the Trump Administration’s regulatory reform efforts, including proposals to undo rules implemented by previous administrations.

Continue Reading Three Administrative Process Pointers from Department of Education Decision

In a key decision earlier this month with potentially hefty ongoing implications for developers and property owners, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held a chemical company liable for nearly $1 million in pre-acquisition cleanup costs. The case is Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection v. Trainer Custom Chemical, LLC and offers another clear illustration that property owners and developers may be liable for environmental response costs incurred before they acquired property.
Continue Reading Property Owners and Developers Beware: Third Circuit Holds Chemical Company Liable for Pre-Acquisition Cleanup Costs

Much has been written about the problem of the stagnating electricity market due to a combination of falling demand, widespread energy efficiency initiatives, lower electricity costs and aging infrastructure.

This issue has created a situation in which both power generators and utilities are unable to effectively plan for the future. Some utilities have even asked the federal government to approve rate payer-funded bailouts for specific power plants.


Continue Reading Vehicle Emissions Rollback Shouldn’t Stop Utilities From Investing in Electric Vehicles