Environmental Law & Policy Monitor

Analysis and commentary on developments in environmental and natural resources law

The New York City Council recently enacted a sweeping package of bills aimed at constricting carbon emissions from buildings across the City in an effort to combat climate change.  Known as the “Climate Mobilization Act,” the package sets lofty goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from certain buildings by 40% by 2030, and by 80% by 2050.  The measure is similar to recent efforts by other cities to reduce carbon emissions.  For example, numerous U.S.…
On Monday, May 6, 2019, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (Oregon DEQ) denied a water quality certification under section 401 of the Clean Water Act for the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal and its feeder pipeline, the Pacific Connector, to be located on Oregon’s southern coast.…
On April 15, 2019, the environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper (Riverkeeper) filed suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, alleging that the Corps’ operation of the Chief Joseph Dam is in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Riverkeeper’s complaint raises important questions as to whether certain discharges from hydropower facilities trigger the need for an authorization under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination…
EPA Region 6 has proposed to withdraw a 2015 finding that Texas’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) is substantially inadequate to comply with the Clean Air Act (CAA) because of state rules that provide an affirmative defense for excess air emissions that occur during upsets and unplanned maintenance, startup, and shutdown activities. 82 Fed. Reg. 17,986 (Apr. 29. 2019). Region 6 is now proposing to find that Texas’s affirmative defense provisions for so-called “startup, shutdown,…
On May 1, 2019, the Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS” or “Service”) issued a proposed rule “downlisting” Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) protections for the American burying beetle from endangered to threatened. The burying beetle was listed as endangered in 1989 and its listing has been particularly impactful to oil and gas development in Texas and Oklahoma.  Once with a range across thirty-five states, the beetle’s range when listed had been depleted to just two areas—Oklahoma…
On April 24, Troutman Sanders partner Sean Sullivan presented during the PFAS and Other Emerging Contaminants Conference hosted by the American Council of Engineering Companies of North Carolina. Sean’s presentation, “Turning Science into Law: The Process for Setting Health-Based Exposure Limits” explored the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA’s PFAS Action Plan and North Carolina’s Default Rules for Surface Water and Groundwater Quality Limits, among others. A copy of the presentation can be viewed here
In an order on rehearing issued April 18, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission or FERC)—applying the newly minted Section 36 of the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. § 823g—decided to extend the new license term for Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) Poe Hydroelectric Project by 10 years.  Pacific Gas and Electric, 167 FERC ¶ 61,047 (2019).  FERC’s initial relicensing order granted a new 40-year license term for the project, but on rehearing, the…
On April 12, 2019, the Fifth Circuit issued its opinion in Southwestern Elec. Power Co. v. EPA, ordering EPA to reconsider parts of its 2015 Effluents Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category (“2015 ELG Rule”). The opinion resolves a challenge brought by environmental groups regarding the rule’s effluent limitation guidelines for “legacy” wastewater and for combustion residual leachate from landfills or settling ponds.…
On April 15, 2019, EPA issued its long-awaited Interpretative Statement addressing the Clean Water Act’s applicability to releases of pollutants from point sources into groundwater that subsequently migrate to jurisdictional surface waters. The question this interpretation addresses stems from the 2018 federal circuit split previously discussed here. On February 19, 2019, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in one of the cases that contributed to the split, County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund. The…
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to expand the applicability of the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for stationary combustion turbines. EPA originally established the combustion turbine (CT) NESHAP in 2004. On April 12, EPA officially proposed the long overdue residual risk and technology review (RTR), which is required within eight years of the final standards. While, based on its RTR analysis, EPA proposes to leave the current CT standards in…