The EPA is moving towards establishing a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS, and has stated that it is considering avenues for regulating additional groups of PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) as well.  On February 22, 2021, the EPA announced two actions under SDWA to address PFAS.

First, the agency reissued the final regulatory determination to implement a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for PFOS and PFOA (the “Determination”).  This Determination is a continuation of an intended action under the Trump administration, but indicates the Biden administration intends to continue to move forward.  The Determination also states that the EPA is considering the regulation of additional PFAS chemicals.

Continue Reading EPA indicates intention to regulate certain PFAS in drinking water

On January 19, 2021, in a 2-1 decision, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated the Trump administration’s 2019 Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule and remanded it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The decision offers a strong statement about EPA’s breadth of authority to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and, if its position is upheld, clears the way for the Biden administration to regulate power plants.

The Affordable Clean Energy Rule

The EPA promulgated the ACE Rule in 2019 under the CAA, replacing the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP). Both rules sought to reduce GHG emissions from the power sector; but where the CPP implemented broader industry-wide mechanisms, the ACE Rule limited reduction efforts to the actual source power plants.

The 2015 CPP offered “beyond the fenceline” tools for states to reduce emissions by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources and participating in emissions credit-trading programs; however, in February 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the CPP pending litigation in the D.C. Circuit. During the stay and subsequent freeze of litigation, the Trump administration rescinded the CPP and promulgated the ACE Rule.

In promulgating the ACE Rule, the Trump EPA took an alternative view of the CAA than the Obama EPA and reasoned that the CAA expressly limited the EPA’s power to only “at the source” emissions reduction options, such as heat rate improvement technologies. As a result, the Trump administration removed all of the CPP’s “beyond the fenceline” options and limited emissions restrictions to those applied directly to power plants.

Continue Reading The fall of Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule and the strengthened EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases

Organizations closely scrutinizing PFAS, like the Environmental Working Group, are touting loudly that the Biden administration will address PFAS and speculating on how the Biden Administration might approach the chemicals by setting enforceable drinking water limits, designating the substances as hazardous and finding PFAS substitutes for consumer items.

Under President Trump, EPA touted its

President Elect Joe Biden announced his agency review teams. Agency review teams are responsible for understanding the operations of each agency, ensuring a smooth transfer of power. The Biden team states, “[t]he teams have been crafted to ensure they not only reflect the values and priorities of the incoming administration, but reflect the diversity of

On November 7, 2020, Joe Biden became the projected President-elect of the United States. With an aggressive climate change plan that includes rejoining the Paris Agreement on the first day of his term, President-elect Biden and his administration will likely make significant changes to environmental, health, and safety rules and policies that will rollback Trump administration environmental actions and increase civil and criminal enforcement of environmental laws.

New Regulatory Rollbacks and Expansions

The Trump administration took deregulatory actions that weakened or repealed more than 100 environmental policies and regulations.  For example, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which set targets for greenhouse gas emissions for existing power plants, was repealed and replaced with the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which removed emission targets and directed states to determine the best course of action for regulating power plant emissions.  The Trump administration issued the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule, which authorized the Department of Transportation to establish fuel economy standards and preempted similar state regulations, including California’s regulations regarding greenhouse gas emissions for new passenger cars and light trucks.  The Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule significantly narrowed the “Waters of the United States” Rule under the Clean Water Act.  Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) repealed Obama-era methane and volatile organic compound emissions standards for new and existing oil and gas operations, and removed the most stringent requirements of newly promulgated revisions to the Risk Management Program rule.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), meanwhile, largely stalled new rulemakings that had been initiated under the Obama administration, including the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard, and has so far declined to initiate a rulemaking in response to COVID-19 under the current administration.

Continue Reading Swinging the Pendulum: Significant Shifts in Environmental and Safety Regulation under a Biden Administration

On August 31, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, signed the final rule (referred to as the Steam Electric Reconsideration Rule) initially proposed last year to revise the technology-based effluent limitations guidelines and standards (ELGs) for common types of wastewater discharges from electric power generating facilities. This final rule rolls back the Obama-era effluent guidelines 2015 rule, which set the first federal limitations on toxic metal discharges from power plants. EPA touts that the new final rule will significantly reduce after tax compliance costs by $140 million per year.

New effluent standards

The Obama-era 2015 rule set requirements for wastewater streams associated with several processes and by-products of steam electric power generation: flue-gas desulfurization, fly ash, bottom ash, flue-gas mercury control and gasification of fuels such as coal and petroleum coke. However, EPA’s new final rule focuses on revisions to primarily two types: flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater and bottom ash (BA) transport water.

Continue Reading EPA administrator signs final power plant wastewater rule

On August 24, 2020, EPA announced an emergency exemption in the state of Texas that permits American Airlines and Total Orthopedics Sports & Spine to use an antiviral that kills microbes like COVID-19 on surfaces for up to seven days.  This exemption request was submitted under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide

On August 13, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two final rules—a Methane Policy Rule and an Inspection Rule —rolling back portions of its New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the oil and gas industry. In explaining these changes, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated that the EPA rescinded portions of the Methane Policy Rule because those portions were based on an impermissibly broad interpretation of the Clean Air Act (CAA).

Updated methane regulations rescind methane standards and ease emissions requirements

Under the new Methane Policy Rule, the EPA rescinded methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions standards for new and modified oil and gas transmission and storage infrastructure, including methane limits for new and modified oil and gas production and processing equipment.

Under the Inspection Rule, the EPA relaxed requirements for oil and gas operators to monitor emissions leaks. This Rule excludes low production well sites (“where the total combined oil and natural gas production for the well site is at or below 15 barrels of oil equivalent per day”) from fugitive emissions monitoring, as long as operators maintain records to demonstrate well production remains at or below the requisite threshold. Additionally, all fugitive emissions monitoring may stop when all major production and processing equipment is removed from the well site.

Continue Reading EPA rolls back methane regulations for oil and gas infrastructure

Products claiming to protect users against microbes, such as those that are currently being used to protect us from COVID-19, are flying off the shelves.  Manufacturers of these products must comply with regulations governing the use of such pesticides.  One of said regulations is the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Under FIFRA, EPA regulates all pesticides distributed or sold in the United States.  EPA defines a pesticide as a product that is intended for: (i) preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest; (ii) use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant; or (iii) use as a nitrogen stabilizer.  FIFRA generally requires that pesticide products be registered (licensed) by EPA.

However, there is an exemption to the requirement for FIFRA registration, known as the “Treated Articles Exemption.”  This exemption applies to qualifying treated articles that bear claims stating the article itself is protected.  To qualify for the exemption, the product being sold must be: (i) registered for such use in or on the article and (ii) the product label must only bear claims that the product itself is protected.

Continue Reading FIFRA’s treated articles exemption: Should your antimicrobial product be registered?

In a historic act, U.S. EPA proposed the nation’s first-ever greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standard for aircraft on July 21, 2020. (Proposed Rule). Once the Proposed Rule is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to submit comments. There will likely be significant push back from environmental groups on the Proposed Rule; so it may be important to provide industry comments, where appropriate. U.S. EPA has stated it is hoping to issue a final rule in 2021.

Continue Reading U.S. EPA takes historic action on aviation emissions