A Lighter Touch: USACE Withdraws Water Supply Rule

The law of administrative agencies creates a unique incentive system.  In many cases, the legislature grants broad authority over a given field to an administrative agency, empowering the agency to both create and enforce rules governing that field.  There is some judicial oversight that controls how agencies make and enforce their rules. However, courts recognize that the agencies have greater expertise in their fields of authority, and they therefore grant a measure of deference to administrative agencies in reviewing agency actions. Generally, the more formal the …

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Power to the City: New Jersey Appellate Court Affirms Municipal Courts may Enforce Spill Act

The New Jersey Court of Appeals provided greater flexibility to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in enforcing the New Jersey Spill Act. A DEP employee filed a complaint against Alsol Corporation in municipal court in Milltown, New Jersey. In the complaint, the DEP made bare allegations that Alsol failed to remediate certain property in violation of the New Jersey Spill Act (N.J.A.C. 7:26C-2.3(a)). Although the regulation is detailed and complex, DEP’s complaint merely alleged the date of Alsol’s alleged violation.

Alsol responded by moving to …

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EPA Denies New York’s Good Neighbor Request

Last week, the EPA issued a final rule denying New York state’s bid to have the EPA issue enforceable daily emissions standards for hundreds of emission sources in upwind states in order to allow the New York Metro Area and Chataqua County to comply with 2008 and 2015 national ambient air quality standards for ground-level ozone under the Clean Air Act. The EPA ruled that the state failed to prove that the upwind pollution sources are interfering with its efforts to comply with the NAAQS.…

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California v. Trump Administration Round LX: California and EPA War Over Vehicle Emission Standards

The Trump administration’s ongoing war with California over environmental standards has now reached a fever pitch. On September 19, 2019, the EPA announced that it will revoke the Clean Air Act waiver historically granted to California, which has allowed the state to set its own auto emission standards. The next day, California and 23 other states filed suit against EPA challenging the revocation.

The EPA’s stated goal is to reduce the regulatory burden on automakers by implementing a single national standard for emissions. However, the EPA’s move may …

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New York Continues to Lead Nation in Regulation and Removal of 1,4-Dioxane

New York continues to strengthen its regulatory approach to 1,4-dioxane. Last month, the state Department of Health adopted the nation’s first maximum contaminant level (MCL) for 1,4-dioxane in drinking water, The regulation is working its way toward implementation and is now in the public comment period. Following assessment of public comments, the proposed regulation will either be revised or submitted for adoption by the Public Health and Health Planning Council. The regulation will then go into effect upon publication of a Notice of Adoption in the New …

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$2 Billion Glyphosate Verdict Weed Whacked To $86.7 Million

On July 25, 2019, Judge Winifred Smith of the Alameda County, California Superior Court reduced a $2 billion judgment entered by a jury against Monsanto Company, holding that the damages award was unconstitutionally high. The damages award was the third against the Bayer AG subsidiary in cases regarding whether popular herbicide Roundup causes Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The court reduced the judgment to $86.7 million.

The court held that there was clear and convincing evidence that Monsanto committed malice, oppression, or fraud. Specifically, the evidence showed that …

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Tug-of-War: EPA and States Take Opposing Action on 1,4-Dioxane

On June 28, 2019, the EPA released its draft risk evaluation for 1,4-Dioxane. The EPA’s initial determination was that 1,4-Dioxane poses no unreasonable risks to the environment and no unreasonable risks to occupational non-users. However, the EPA also concluded that the chemical presents unreasonable risks to workers in certain circumstances. The same day, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control held a public workshop on 1,4-Dioxane risks, and the department is actively considering further regulation. Just two days earlier, the New York legislature approved a …

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WOTUS Woes – Federal Judge Remands Obama-Era CWA Rule

Last week, a federal district judge in Texas remanded the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule to the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (US ACE), citing the agencies’ failure to use proper procedure when publishing the rule.

​The 2015 rule, generally referred to as WOTUS, allowed for a drastic increase to the reach of the Clean Water Act (CWA), in part, by defining “waters of the United States” to include waters adjacent to waters that had traditionally been considered covered by the …

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FERC Ambivalence Leads to Pipeline Approval

In a split decision, a bipartisan four-commissioner panel of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved an application by Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC for a construction certificate. Transco plans to upgrade several portions of a pipeline that serves the northeast region of the country, including parts of New York City and New Jersey.

Specifically, the project involves construction of approximately 14 miles of pipeline in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Queens County, New York, 23 miles of offshore pipeline near Queens and Staten Island, …

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The Replacements: DC Circuit Partially Vacates EPA’s HFC Rule

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit invalidated part of a 2016 EPA rule that made hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) unacceptable for various uses in aerosols, automobile air conditioners, commercial refrigerators, and foams.

In the waning years of the Obama presidency, EPA made an effort to combat climate change by enacting two rules restricting the use of HFCs, which are greenhouse gases. EPA claimed it had authority to do so under Title VI of the Clean Air Act. Section 612 of the Act …

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