It is clear that these have been busy months for federal environmental regulators, especially those working at EPA, the federal departments and the Council on Environmental Quality. Even the Department of Agriculture has found itself coping with greenhouse gases (GHG) issues in its administration of the laws applicable to agriculture and the national forests. The ambitious scope of the current “all of government” approach may be discerned after learning how many disparate federal agencies are employed in implementing this policy. So many actions have been proposed or completed that some state officials are experiencing “comment fatigue” because they are being overwhelmed by the scope, size, and complexity of these federal initiatives. The Environmental Protection Agency is, of course, at the forefront of these actions and activities, as described below.
Some very interesting and fairly complex environmental law rulings have been released in the past few days.
U.S. Supreme Court—Trump, et al. v. Sierra Club, et al.
On July 31, 2020, in a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court denied a motion to lift the stay entered by the Court a few days earlier. The earlier action stayed a preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which had enjoined the construction of a wall along the Southern Border of the United States which was to be constructed with redirected Department of Defense funds. The merits will be addressed by the lower court and perhaps the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has released a “discussion draft” of the committee’s climate bill. The legislation is over 600 pages long, but the Committee has also released a summary of this legislation, which is entitled the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s Future Act or the CLEAN Future Act. Here are some highlights.
On November 21, 2019, EPA released a pre-publication copy of its Reconsideration of the revised Risk Management Program (RMP) Rules. In an accompanying statement, the agency noted that it has taken steps to “modify and improve” the existing rule to remove burdensome, costly and unnecessary requirements while maintaining appropriate protection (against accidental chemical releases) and ensuring responders have access to all of the necessary safety information. This action was taken in response to EPA’s January 13, 2017 revisions that significantly expanded the chemical release prevention provisions the existing RMP rules in the wake of the disastrous chemical plant explosion in West, Texas. The Reconsideration will take effect upon its publication in the Federal Register.
The U.S. Court of Appeals or the District of Columbia has recently issued two important rulings on the Clean Air Act in particular and administrative law in general: California Communities Against Toxics, et al., v. EPA and Murray Energy Corporation v. EPA.