To Remove or Not Remove – Complete Preemption is the Question!

An interesting dichotomy is developing in how federal courts are determining the proper forum for climate change lawsuits, that is whether they should be heard in state or federal court. This question, while seemingly a technical matter of civil procedure, could be fundamental to whether current and future climate change suits will be successful or whether they will be heard at all. The technical issue at stake is preemption – whether federal issues are determinative of the matters raised in
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Summer of Discontent – EPA looks to eliminate California Air Resources Board

Despite an effort by the automotive industry, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to finalize a proposal that would freeze fuel economy standards at roughly 37 miles per gallon for the next six years, rather than raising them to nearly 51 miles per gallon for 2025 models. The rule would also revoke California’s existing waiver to set its own rules under the Clean Air Act, a practice the federal government has allowed for decades. “As we acknowledged earlier this
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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.
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You’ve Got a Friend in Me — U.S. EPA Finds Ally in Colorado Automobile Dealers Association

As the United States Environmental Protection Agency continues its battle with the state of California over fuel efficiency requirements for new vehicles, a new area of conflict has opened: the state of Colorado. California is the only state that has a waiver under the federal Clean Air Act to impose its own vehicle fuel standards. States without waivers can approve a separate standard as long as it’s identical to California’s. In June 2018, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper issued an executive
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States Team Up to Bring Air Quality Lawsuit Against the EPA

On Wednesday, January 30, 2019, the Attorney Generals of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, along with the City of New York, joined forces to bring a lawsuit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency and its acting Administrator, Andrew Wheeler. The coalition is led by Letitia James, the newly elected Attorney General of New York. The lawsuit aims to force the EPA to take steps to limit air pollution. James was quoted saying the New York
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Pincer Move? State AGs Employ Two-Pronged Attack on U.S. EPA Over Landfill Emissions

A multistate coalition of Attorneys General, including California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont; and the California Air Resources Board, joined to file comments demanding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdraw its proposed rule delaying by four years implementation of a regulation that would reduce emissions from landfills. The regulation at issue, known formally as the 2016 Emission Guidelines and Compliance Times for Municipal Solid Waste Landfill, was designed to reduce landfill emissions
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EPA Proposes Rollback of Mercury Regulations

Last week of 2018, during the partial government shutdown and holiday lull, many may have missed a significant development in the environmental law arena – a proposal by the EPA to rollback an Obama-era regulation to reduce mercury pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants. ​The 2011 rule, called the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards(MATS), was promulgated by the prior administration and intended to address the negative effects of mercury on human health and the environment by requiring power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxins by more than 90 percent over 5 years. The regulation focused on
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Splitting from Other Circuits, Sixth Circuit Limits the Scope of the Clean Water Act

This week, the Sixth Circuit diverged from the Fourth and Ninth Circuits by limiting the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA) as it relates to groundwater. The court held that the CWA cannot regulate pollutants from point sources if they reach navigable waters through groundwater. This decision is a clear split from the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, who have both held this year that groundwater can be regulated under the CWA if it serves as a conduit for pollution
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The Costs of Doing Business: 9th Circuit Upholds Oregon Clean Fuels Program

In 2007, the Oregon legislature instituted a program designed to reduce the state’s greenhouse emissions to at least 10 percent lower than 2010 levels by 2025. The Oregon Clean Fuels Program uses a cap-and-trade scheme that attributes a carbon intensity value to transportation fuels produced or imported into Oregon. Regulated parties must keep the average carbon intensity of all transportation fuels used in Oregon below an annual limit. A fuel with a carbon intensity below the limit generates a credit, and one with a
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Trump Administration Continues Rollback of Obama-Era CO2 Regulations

On August 21, 2018, the Trump administration released a proposed CO2 plan that will permit states to establish emission standards for coal power plants rather than encouraging their closure. The new proposal will provide coal companies with a strong financial incentive to keep their plants in operation, rather than the Obama administration’s goal of replacing them with power plants using renewable energy.  According to the EPA, the proposed rule, named the Affordable Clean Energy (rule), contains several key components:  a
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