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We are not expecting further big climate reduction commitments from countries this year at COP27. The leaders of China and Russia (the world’s first- and fifth-largest climate polluters) are not attending the event, nor are officials from many of the largest economies, including India and Australia. U.S. President Joseph Biden will make only a short

Introduction

President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (the Act) into law on August 16, 2022.  The Act represents an expansive investment in the energy industry, with many provisions targeting clean energy and climate change issues through funding and tax credits.  However, several notable provisions from an environmental permitting and compliance standpoint are buried amongst the financial and tax provisions.  These environmental provisions relate to permitting and compliance that the regulated industry, especially energy companies, should watch closely.

Funding for Permitting and Programmatic Development

The Act provided significant funding to regulatory authorities for a number of permitting-related activities. 

For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) received $20 million to assist with permitting and project review.  The funds are meant to result in more efficient, accurate, and timely reviews for planning, permitting and approval processes through hiring and training personnel and obtaining new technical and scientific services and equipment. 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) received $40 million for its permitting and project review efforts.  The funds will be utilized to develop efficient, accurate, and timely reviews for permitting and approval processes through hiring and training of personnel, development of U.S. EPA programmatic documents, procurement of technical or scientific services for reviews, development of environmental data and new information systems, purchase of new equipment, developing new guidance documents, and more.

The Act provided over $62.5 million to the Council on Environmental Quality to develop programmatic documents, tools, guidance, and improvement engagement.  These funds will also support collection of data regarding environmental justice issues, climate change data, development of mapping/screening tools, and tracking and evaluation of cumulative impacts. 

Several other federal agencies received millions in funding for review and planning of electricity generation infrastructure, like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, and the Department of the Interior.  Funding will be used to facilitate timely and efficient reviews, as well as generate environmental programmatic documents, environmental data, and increase stakeholder and community involvement. 

In sum, regulators involved in environmental and energy permitting received a substantial boost in funding targeting the permitting process, including supporting the development and build out of programmatic documents and capabilities.  The funding could improve the timing of the permitting processes for these agencies, but it could also lead to additional administrative burdens in the form of new application and compliance materials and increased regulatory scrutiny where a regulator has more time and money to invest in the regulatory process.

Continue Reading Environmental aspects of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022

As anticipated, on Friday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed Risk Management Program (RMP) Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention rule pursuant to the Clean Air Act. The proposed rule would reinstate certain provisions newly introduced to the RMP rule (originally promulgated in 1991) late in the Obama administration and subsequently removed by the Trump administration in 2019.  The EPA has additionally added significant new requirements not originally in the 2017 draft RMP rule, including provisions aimed to further current policies on environmental justice and climate change.  The proposed RMP rule also appears to draw influence from recommendations made by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) as well as state updates to process safety regulations in the past decade, most notably the California Accidental Release Prevention Program (CalARP) and the California Refinery Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard. 

These changes, including the addition of requirements regarding employee participation, public availability of information, inherent safety, third party auditing, facility siting and natural hazards consideration, as well as emergency response planning, will result in covered RMP facilities having to significantly revisit and revise their RMP programs and plans.  Certain requirements also appear to be directly aimed at limiting stationary sources’ ability to privately manage their internal risk management decisions.  For example, covered facilities would now be required to document any revisions between draft and final compliance audits and provide justifications for rejected RMP program recommendations.

According to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, “protecting public health is central to EPA’s mission, particularly as we adapt to the challenges of climate change, and the proposal announced today advances this effort, especially for those in vulnerable communities.  This rule will better protect communities from chemical accidents, and advance environmental justice for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by these facilities.”  EPA estimates the rule will cost approximately $77 million a year.

Comments on the proposed rule are due to EPA within 60 days of its publication in the Federal Register and may be submitted online, via mail, or hand-delivery.

Continue Reading EPA Proposes Expansive Changes to EPA RMP Rule

In a highly anticipated decision, the U.S. Supreme Court (Court) rejected U.S. EPA’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan in West Virginia v. EPA on June 30, 2022.  Relying upon the “major questions doctrine,” the Court found that Congress had not intended to authorize EPA to regulate emissions using “generation shifting” (i.e., requirements that power production be

Status

Last month, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) released a revised discussion draft of a proposed regulation for workplace violence prevention (Proposed Rule). The Proposed Rule would expand existing health care industry workplace violence prevention requirements to all industries. The Proposed Rule includes new definitions with broad applicability and a “one-size-fits