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.”
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a revised policy to clarify what constitutes “ambient air” under the Clean Air Act, which will directly affect what areas stationary sources of air emissions must model to determine the effect of their facilities on air quality. The revised policy will most notably affect sources that have to model air quality around their facilities to demonstrate compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), as well as sources applying for air construction permits under the EPA’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permitting program.
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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
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new guidance memorandum on Thursday, January 25, 2018 that addresses the question of when – and whether – a major source of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs, such as lead, mercury, and benzene) can be reclassified as an “area source” under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, and thereafter avoid major source permitting requirements. The new guidance allows major sources to become area sources at any time, by agreeing to federally enforceable limits on their potential to emit HAPs. This replaces the EPA’s previous “once in, always in” policy, whereby any major source of HAPs remained a major source regardless of later reductions in its potential to emit HAPs.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently denied the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed delay of an Obama-era rule that limits methane emissions from new oil and gas equipment, sending oil and gas companies scrambling to immediately ensure compliance with the rule to avoid any enforcement actions.
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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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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.
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On January 6, 2016, the Third Circuit held that the Clean Air Act’s diligent prosecution bar cannot be the basis for a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  Instead, the bar requires citizen suits under the Act to be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Group Against Smog & Pollution v. Shenango, Inc., Case No. 15-2041 (Jan. 6, 2016). Several federal environmental laws bar citizen suits where regulators are “diligently prosecuting” a civil action against the alleged violator. With this case, the Third Circuit became the third appellate court to break with past precedent and hold that a diligent prosecution bar is not jurisdictional. This change will require defendants filing motions to dismiss based on the diligent prosecution bar to do so before they answer a complaint. Additionally, it will require courts to accept all well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Industry defendants should be aware of these procedural changes as they prepare to respond to citizen suits.
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On November 2, 2015, the Sixth Circuit held that the Clean Air Act does not preempt state law nuisance, trespass, and negligence claims.  Little, et al. v. Louisville Gas & Electric Co., PPL Corp., Case No. 14-6499 (Nov. 2, 2015); Merrick v. Diageo Americas Supply Inc., Case No. 14-6198 (Nov. 2, 2015).  In a class action lawsuit, the plaintiffs in Little v. LG&E alleged that dust from Louisville Gas and Electric Co.’s (LGE) Cane Run power plant contaminated their property and caused health problems.  Defendant LGE argued that the Clean Air Act (CAA) preempted the plaintiffs’ nuisance, trespass, and negligence claims.  LGE argued that the CAA preempts state common law air pollution claims because it gives the EPA the authority to set uniform air quality control standards across the country.  LGE further argued that the state common law claims conflict with the CAA’s methods for regulating emissions and that allowing those claims to proceed would disturb the balance among federal and state interests.  The district court disagreed.  LGE petitioned for interlocutory appeal and the district court certified the order for appeal.
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On October 1, 2015, EPA lowered the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion (ppb).  The new standard will replace the 2008 standard of 75 ppb, which EPA found inadequate to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety, as required under the Clean Air Act, and likely will result in changes in ozone attainment designations in a number of areas.
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