USEPA and Army Corps Propose New WOTUS Rule

Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease LLP
Ryan D.Elliott

December 11, 2018

This article was originally posted in the Vorys Energy & Environmental Law Blog

On December 11, 2018, USEPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a new rule defining “water of the United States” (WOTUS) subject to USEPA/Army Corps jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule would replace the 2015 WOTUS rule, which has been the subject of litigation across the country, with a more narrow WOTUS definition. Specifically, the new proposed rules defines 6 categories of waters subject to USEPA/Army Corps jurisdiction:

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EPA contractors

EPA Extends Deadline For PFAS Comments To September 28, 2018

Holland & Knight
Dianne Phillips and Deborah E. Barnard

September 9, 2018

In the wake of the PFAS National Leadership Summit convened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on May 22-23, 2018, EPA opened a public docket to solicit comments on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a category of man-made chemicals that have been widely used to make products because of their stain-resistant, waterproof and/or nonstick properties. Specifically, EPA seeks to obtain information on ongoing efforts to characterize risks from PFAS, as well as develop monitoring and treatment and cleanup techniques, to inform near-term actions needed to address challenges currently facing states and local communities, and to develop risk communication strategies to address public concerns with PFAS. The original comment deadline of July 20, 2018 was recently extended to Sept. 28, 2018.

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For a Clean Slate, Don’t Forget About EPA’s Audit Policy

Kelley Drye & Warren LLP
Joseph J. Green

September 13, 2018

After almost a decade of neglect, EPA is once again actively encouraging facilities to utilize the agency’s Audit Policy to “address noncompliance in an efficient and timely manner.” Over the last several months, EPA has taken steps to promote use of the “e-Disclosure” system and to remind regulated entities of the benefits of the Audit Policy, which allows for substantial (near 100% in many cases) penalty reductions for violations that are self-disclosed and promptly corrected.

In announcing the launch of the new campaign on May 15th, EPA declared the agency’s “renewed emphasis on encouraging regulated entities to voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, expeditiously correct, and take steps to prevent recurrence of environmental violations.” This renewed emphasis is consistent with the current EPA’s focus on improving compliance through mechanisms, including voluntary self-correction, that achieve environmental goals more quickly and in a less costly, adversarial and time-consuming manner than traditional enforcement means.

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EPA contractors

The EPA Proposes Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule

Synergy Environmental, Inc.
Brink Young

August 22, 2018

On August 21st, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule to replace the Obama Administration’s signature climate change regulation. This new plan is designed to scrap the Clean Power Plan and replace it with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule. This new rule will establish guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit GHG’s at their power plants. The ACE Rule is intended to empower states, boost energy independence and aid economic growth and at the same time promoting job creation.

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EPA Recommends Use of Adaptive Management Techniques at Superfund Sites

Phillips Lytle LLP
Luke Donigan

July 20, 2018

Earlier this month, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) issued a memorandum that defines Adaptive Management (“AM”) and calls for its expanded implementation at Superfund sites across the country. The push for AM derives from one of many recommendations made by the EPA Superfund Task Force (“STF”), which was established by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. As we previously reported, one of the former Administrator’s main priorities while in office was to revamp the Superfund program and restore it to “its rightful place at the center of the Agency’s mission.” The STF was established to further this goal and to “provide recommendations for improving and expediting site cleanups and promoting development.”

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PFAS: Pruitt Declares EPA will “Take Action” and Sets Four “Critical Steps” in Motion

DLA Piper
Adam Baas, George Gigounas and John E. Griffith, Jr.

May 23, 2018

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun its two-day National Leadership Summit in Washington, DC to address Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) – a class of man-made chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in the production of a wide range of products that resist heat, stains, grease and water, including furniture protectants, floor wax, food packaging and firefighting foam.

The intent of the Summit, according to EPA Director Scott Pruitt, is to “bring together stakeholders from across the country to build on the steps we are already taking and to identify immediate actions to protect public health.”

The Summit attendees include representatives of 30+ states, 20+ agencies, 3 tribes, and dozens of industry and NGO entities.

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The Superfund Task Force: One Year Later

Dinsmore & Shohl LLP
Elizabeth T. Schindzielorz

May 31, 2018

It was this time last year that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt created a Superfund Task Force to “provide recommendations . . . on how the agency can restructure the cleanup process, realign incentives of all involved parties to promote expeditious remediation, reduce the burden on cooperating parties, incentivize parties to remediate sites, encourage private investment in cleanups and sites and promote the revitalization of properties across the country” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. § 9601, et seq., also known as the “Superfund.”[1] Approximately two months later, the Task Force produced a report with 42 recommendations which “can be initiated without legislative changes within the next year.”[2] The recommendations are intended to advance five overarching goals: expediting cleanup and remediation, re-invigorating responsible party cleanup and reuse, encouraging private investment, promoting redevelopment and community revitalization, and engaging partners and stakeholders.[3] The Task Force has published two quarterly reports since October 2017 to document its progress implementing these recommendations.[4] This article highlights two of the most recent updates to the body of Superfund guidance pursuant to Task Force recommendations.

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The Coal Ash Rule Update: EPA Proposes More Flexibility for States and Companies Report Water Data

Steptoe & Johnson LLP
Libretta Stennes and Anthony G. Hopp

March 28, 2018

On March 1, 2018, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first of two sets of rules that will amend the regulations for the disposal of coal combustion residuals, also known as CCR or coal ash, from electric utilities and independent power producers. EPA proposed more than a dozen changes to the 2015 final CCR rule, and estimated that, if this proposal is finalized, it will save the regulated community between $30-$100 million per year.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a statement explaining that the goal of the changes is to demonstrate partnership with states to allow for flexibility to tailor permit programs based on their individual needs. Administrator Pruitt also emphasized the intent to seek “much-needed” public comment. Based on a 2016 Congressional Amendment to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the passage of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act), the EPA has proposed a series of changes that would potentially allow states more freedom to regulate CCR impoundments with oversight from EPA.

The proposed changes include:

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EPA Enforcement In The Coming Years

Breazeale Sachse & Wilson LLP
John B. King

April 11, 2018

EPA’s enforcement presence has been reduced over the last several years. This trend will continue during the Trump Administration as EPA re-defines its relationship with states and tribes. Even so, EPA has announced an enforcement approach that will maintain it as a formidable enforcer of our environmental laws.

According to EPA’s web-site, EPA’s budget was $10.3B in FY 2010, $8.1B in in FY 2016, and $8.06B in FY 2017. For those same years, EPA’s employee count was 17,218, 14,779, and 15,408, respectively. So, EPA’s budget and employee count were on a downward trend during the Obama years. [1]

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For the First Time, U.S. EPA Proposes to Add a Site to the National Priorities List Solely Based on the Risk Posed by Vapor Intrusion

Beveridge & Diamond PC
Jeanine L.G. Grachuk & Augustus E. Winkes

March 8, 2018

The National Priorities List is designed to identify the contaminated sites that pose the highest risk to human health or the environment so that U.S. EPA can focus its efforts on these sites. For the first time, on January 18, 2018, EPA proposed to list a site based solely on the risk to human health from subsurface intrusion to indoor air, also known as vapor intrusion. The site is Rockwell International Wheel & Trim in Grenada, Mississippi. The public comment period on this proposed listing will close on March 19, 2018.

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