Flint Water Crisis Ruling May Signal Expansion in EPA Liability

The now-infamous Flint water crisis arose when the city of Flint, Michigan, changed the source of its water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River. The raw water drawn from the Flint River, processed through Flint’s outdated and previously mothballed water treatment plant, was highly corrosive and not properly treated by the city’s public works department. As a result, water with excessive lead and copper levels flowed through the city and into residents’ homes, causing them physical injury and damage …

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What the EPA’s Reclassification of Information Under Clean Air Act Means

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a prepublication version of a final rule under the Clean Air Act (CAA) that permits major sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) to reclassify as sources if the source reduces its potential to emit HAPs below the major source threshold (10 tons per year of any single HAP or 25 tons per year of any combination of HAPs). In addition, the rule is design to finalize amendments to clarify the compliance dates, notifications, and recordkeeping requirements …

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On Second Thought: U.S. EPA Issues 2020 Steam Electric Reconsideration Rule

This week, the U.S. EPA finalized a rule relaxing Obama-era standards for disposal of wastewater from coal-fired power plants. The Trump administration has characterized the new rule as a means of reducing pollution and saving jobs at the same time, while environmentalists decry the new rule as a threat to the nation’s waterways and the health of those who live near affected power generation facilities.

In 2015, the EPA issued a final rule regulating discharges from steam electric power plants, including arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, chromium, …

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Empire State Adopts MCL for 1, 4-Dioxane, PFOA, and PFOS

On July 30, 2020, New York’s Public Health and Health Planning Council voted in support of maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA and PFOS—the two most well-known per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The Council voted to set the MCLs for both chemicals at 10 parts per trillion—among the lowest levels adopted by any state, and significantly lower than the U.S. EPA’s current guidance levels of 70 ppt.

Another chemical—1, 4-Dioxane—also has an MCL of 1 part per billion now. New York announced that this regulation …

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Is a Watchdog’s Bark Worse Than its Bite? Inspector General Begins Probe of EPA’s New Vehicle Emissions Rule

The Office of the Inspector General of the United States Environmental Protection Agency is beginning an investigation into “potential irregularities” in the adoption of new regulations related to vehicle emissions. The evaluation arose after a former Environmental Protection Agency employee complained that career staff were not involved in the creation of the new rules.

The notice from the Office of Inspector General also credits Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) for initiating the investigation and notes that the Office of Inspector General will determine whether the rule …

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Mercurial Mercury Reporting: A Second Circuit Story

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the State of Vermont challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently-enacted Mercury Reporting Rule, and they came away with a mixed bag. The case came before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which issued its decision on June 5.

The Toxic Substances Control Act directs the EPA to promulgate rules requiring manufacturers and processors of chemical substances to maintain records of their use of chemicals and report that information to the EPA. In 2016, Congress amended the …

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Pencils Down! New EPA Rule Limits States’ Time and Ability to Review Energy Infrastructure Projects

On June 1, the United States Environmental Protection Agency announced it had enacted a rule to limit states’ ability to block the construction of energy infrastructure projects. Under the rule, first proposed in August 2019, the EPA will alter Section 401 of the U.S. Clean Water Act to make it impossible for a state to block a water permit for a project for reasons other than direct impacts of discharges into state waters and set a one-year deadline for a decision. The proposed rule can …

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EPA Set to Abandon Perchlorate Limits

On May 14, 2020, the EPA indicated it will not be imposing any limits on perchlorate, a chemical compound the EPA previously characterized as “a persistent contaminant of concern.” Perchlorate can be man-made or it can form naturally in the atmosphere in arid states in the Southwest U.S., in large deposits of sodium nitrate fertilizer in Chili, and in potash ore in the Northwest and Canada. Manufactured perchlorate is used in rocket propellant, munitions, explosives, fireworks, road flares, and in food containers and equipment that …

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EPA’s COVID-19 “Enforcement Discretion” Policy Challenged in Suit Commenced by Nine States’ Attorneys General

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) continues to face backlash over its policy relaxing certain monitoring and reporting obligations under various federal environmental laws amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week nine states’ attorneys general sued the U.S. EPA in the Southern District of New York in the action titled State of New York et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency et al., No. 1:20-cv-03714, in which New York, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont, and Virginia contend the U.S. EPA’s decision …

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States Bring WOTUS Rule Back to Court

The state of California continued its crusade against the Trump Administration this month, filing a lawsuit against the U.S. EPA, challenging the agency’s replacement for the defunct 2015 Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS). Sixteen other states joined the lawsuit, which was filed in the Northern District of California. The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) as used in the Clean Water Act has been disputed for …

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