New Year, New Vehicle Emissions Standards?

As 2021 came to a close and many Americans were setting their own standards and goals for 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency announced finalized revisions to national greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks. Overall, the new industry-wide average target will come out to roughly 40 miles per gallon by 2026. A reversal of the prior administration’s relaxation of fuel-emissions standards, the revised standards are the strictest federal greenhouse gas emissions requirements in history, and are seen as a fundamental part of …

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EPA Finalizes Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, Focusing on PFAS

On December 20, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) to establish nationwide monitoring for 29 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and lithium in drinking water. Distilled to its essence, the new rule requires certain public water systems to collect data for 29 PFAS, as well as lithium, over a five-year period, with preliminary preparations beginning in 2022. According to the summary of the rule, published by the EPA, UCMR 5 “will provide new data critically needed …

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EPA Puts Natural Gas Facilities on its “Naughty” List for 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving to include natural gas processing (NGP) facilities, also referred to as “natural gas liquid extraction facilities”, to the expanding list of industry groups obligated to report releases of specific chemicals pursuant to the reporting requirements of Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), commonly known as the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

The TRI requires certain industrial entities that create, manufacture, or otherwise use certain identified chemicals including hexane, hydrogen sulfide, toluene, benzene, …

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EPA Signs Proposed Rule to Revise Definition of “Waters of the United States”

In late November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army announced the signing of a proposed rule to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” protected by the Clean Water Act (CWA). The proposal aims to put back into place the pre-2015 definition, with some amendments to ensure suitability for present day. This definition, of course, determines which of the nation’s waterways falls within the definition of the CWA—the federal law that regulates the discharge of pollutants into …

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

On November 12, 2021, just as President Joe Biden prepared to travel to a major climate conference in Scotland with the intention of establishing America as a world leader in curbing greenhouse-gas emissions, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to a lower appellate court’s recent restoration of some of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority concerning carbon emissions. The challenge focuses on a provision of the Clean Air Act requiring the EPA to identify the “best system of emission reduction” for existing …

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EPA Moves to Enlarge Its Footprint on Methane Regulation

Methane, the powerful greenhouse gas responsible for a disproportionate percentage of man-made global warming, has for years been targeted with increasing oversight and regulation as a result of growing concerns about climate change. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Biden administration, is seeking to expand its stance on the issue with sweeping new proposals.

The EPA put out new regulations on November 2, 2021, including a proposal that would reduce more than 40 million tons of methane from 2023 to 2035 …

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EPA Releases PFAS Roadmap, Outlining Various Initiatives, Strategy, and Expected Rulemaking

After releasing a flurry of press releases and developments on PFAS regulation, on October 18, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator announced an ambitious national strategy to address PFAS over the next three years. Dubbed a “roadmap,” the EPA says that it is centered on three guiding strategies focused on research, restrictions, and remediation: “Increase investments in research, leverage authorities to take action now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment, and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS contamination.” North Carolina’s governor …

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EPA Releases Final Toxicity Assessment for GenX Chemicals

On October 25, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its final human health toxicity assessment for hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (referred to as “GenX chemicals”). HFPO dimer acid and its ammonium salt are the major chemicals associated with the processing aid technology developed by DuPont with the trade name GenX. GenX chemicals are part of the PFAS class, which replaced perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) that are no longer used in the United States. However, the …

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EPA Continuing to Move Swiftly to Curb HFCs

Coming shortly after the September 23, 2021, enactment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s rule calling for an 85% reduction in hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) over the next 15 years, the agency maintained its momentum on October 8, 2021, granting 10 petitions submitted under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act to further reduce HFCs.

The AIM Act, enacted in December 2020, specifically directs the EPA to address HFCs in three areas; phase down their production and consumption, manage the use of existing HFCs and alternative chemicals, …

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EPA Rescinds Guidance on “Functional Equivalent”

On September 15, 2021, the Biden administration announced it was rescinding the Trump administration’s guidance on the Supreme Court’s decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund and the Clean Water Act (CWA), § 402: National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

In County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund (590 US –, 140 S Ct 1462 [2019]), the U.S. Supreme Court addressed whether the CWA’s NPDES requires a discharger to acquire “a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to …

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