Companies Face State Court Claims for Climate Damage After Circuit Courts Hold That Such Claims Are Not “Inherently Federal”

Federal appeals courts in Maryland and Colorado have sent lawsuits seeking to hold energy companies responsible for climate change back to state court even after the U.S. Supreme Court directed the Fourth Circuit to take a second look in the Maryland case.

In Maryland, the City of Baltimore seeks millions of dollars in damages for, among other things, energy companies’ alleged violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act that affected climate change. In Colorado, the City of Boulder and a couple of Colorado counties also …

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EPA Puts Ethanol Back in Play to Keep Gas Prices at Bay

On April 29, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officially suspended the ban on sales of gasoline blends with a higher concentration of ethanol. This suspension came two weeks after President Biden’s vow to lift the ban in order to counteract the increased gas prices attributed to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. The suspension went into effect on May 1.

E15, or fuel with 15% ethanol, is traditionally banned during the warmer months—June through October—in an effort to combat the production of smog. In the current …

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The Ethanol Waiver for E15 Is Not a Reason to Fill Up

Although ethanol is one of the earliest biotechnologies, it wasn’t until the energy crisis of the 1970s that ethanol was widely used as an additive to gasoline. Back then, concerns about the price of fuel and the impact of leaded gas on the environment led to a search for less expensive and more environmentally friendly alternatives. Ethanol seemed to fit both criteria. Today, approximately 90% of the gasoline sold in the United States contains ethanol—and this ethanol is largely produced from corn. Corn is used …

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SCOTUS to Decide Whether Congress or the EPA has the Power to Regulate Carbon Emissions – Part II

On the heels of oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, we provide an update to a prior ELM post whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s has the ability to regulate carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act. 

Various theories abound that the court could depend on to support its decision, which could have significant reverberating impacts.  Among the possibilities, from the most earth-shattering to the least are: (1) the non-delegation doctrine; (2) the major question doctrine; (3) statutory …

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Mercury No Longer Rising

A decade ago, as part of a concerted effort to reign in industrial pollution, the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated the mercury and air toxics standards (MATS) pursuant to its authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The purpose, as implied by the title, was to limit the amount of mercury and other toxins released into the air by coal-fired power plants. It was heralded by proponents and environmentalists as a large step forward in reducing the risk of heart attacks and cancer, and …

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Ethanol Industry Suffers After Supreme Court Decision Regarding Year-Round E15

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a significant setback to the ethanol industry on Monday, January 10, 2022, when it refused to review a ban stopping the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from allowing the year-round sale of a higher ethanol blend of gasoline.  

The sale of gasoline with 15% ethanol (E15) is generally banned in the United States during the summer months (June 1 to September 15) because studies show that such a high concentration of ethanol likely contributes to smog and may damage older …

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Another Citizen Suit Under the Clean Air Act Doomed on Standing Grounds

On August 30, 2021, a North Carolina federal court dismissed a Clean Air Act citizen-group lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club (plaintiffs) against defendant University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) for certain violations of its Title-V permit, which comprehensively regulates a particular facility’s emission sources. In granting UNC’s summary judgment motion, and denying the plaintiffs’ cross-motion for summary judgment, the court found that the plaintiffs lacked standing, pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution, as a …

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Third Circuit Affirms No Duplicative Reporting for “Federally Permitted Releases”

Two fires at the U.S. Steel Mon Valley Works facility near Pittsburgh, PA in December 2018 and 2019 resulted in the release of pollutants, including hydrogen sulfide, benzene, and coke oven gas into the air. Following air monitoring that revealed increased levels of the pollutants, in compliance with its Clean Air Act permits and regulations, U.S. Steel reported the fires and emissions to the Allegheny County Health Department—the local governmental arm that enforces the Clean Air Act.

Notwithstanding, the Clean Air Council, a nonprofit environmental …

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Ethylene Oxide: The Coming Storm?

Ethylene oxide is a gas commonly used to make other chemicals utilized in a variety of consumer and industrial goods, including fabric, detergents, medicines, and adhesives. It’s even used to sterilize medical devices and spices and to kill microorganisms in grains. But ethylene oxide is acknowledged as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing compound or substance) in high-level concentrations and extended periods of exposure. Ethylene oxide has been linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and breast cancer, among many other cancers and physical ailments.

The …

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EPA Finalizes Cost-Benefit Rule for Clean Air Act Rulemaking

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its Clean Air Act (CAA) cost-benefit rule, which it proposed in June 2018 and held a public hearing on in July 2020. A procedural rule, it is meant to “improve the rulemaking process under the Clean Air Act by establishing requirements to ensure consistent, high-quality analyses of benefits and costs are provided to the public for significant rules,” according to the EPA’s press release. The final rule codifies “best practices” for benefit-cost analyses (BCA) in CAA rulemaking. …

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