In the latest of the eight-part Renewable Energy Projects Webinar Series, Husch Blackwell’s Chris Reeder and Linda Walsh will discuss the federal and state regulatory approvals often required for typical wind and solar energy projects. They will address the circumstances under which such regulatory approvals are required and the timing needed to apply for

Husch Blackwell’s Daniel Fanning and Coty Hopinks-Baul provide interesting insights in the latest post from the CWA Series on whether or not a permit is required for discharges to groundwater under the Clean Water Act.
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In the United States, the largest category for water consumption is electric power generation. Similarly, the largest demand for electricity is water extraction and distribution (Department of Energy). This strong interdependence drives great opportunity in the Energy-Water Nexus (EWN) to impact both energy and water consumption.

As a proud supporter of the Midwest

Megan Caldwell was featured in Rock Products discussing the potential for asbestos rock to make a comeback as a result of a recent rule proposed by the Trump Administration. She provides insights into the history, international production and significant new use of asbestos rock. Is asbestos poised to make a comeback? Only time will tell.

As we previously reported, major changes are going into effect tomorrow concerning California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, known as Proposition 65. This law requires businesses to notify Californians about significant amounts of chemicals in products in their homes or workplaces, that are released into the environment, or that are present at certain

On August 21, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a prepublication copy of its proposed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. If adopted, the rule would (1) establish emission guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions from existing electric utility generating units (EGUs); (2) revise the regulations governing how states implement the emission guidelines; and (3) revise the New Source Review (NSR) program to allow modification to existing EGUs without triggering permitting requirements.

The Clean Power Plan regulations adopted by the Obama administration would have limited GHG emissions by directing states to reduce emissions by applying a combination of three “building blocks” as the best system of emission reduction (BSER), which consisted of:

1)    Improving heat rate at affected coal-fired steam generating units;

2)    Substituting increased generation from lower-emitting natural gas combined cycle units for decreased generation from higher-emitting affected steam generating units; and

3)    Substituting increased generation from new zero-emitting renewable energy generating capacity for decreased generation from affected fossil fuel-fired generating units.


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Federal environmental requirements and regulations have been relaxed (or are proposed to be relaxed) since President Trump was elected, but those environmental regulatory changes have not yet realized benefits for renewable energy and transmission project permitting.

As mainstream media sources like the New York Times have reported, the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken environmental laws has been somewhat substantial; to date, 67 environmental actions have been targeted by the administration, including 33 that already have been overturned, 24 with rollbacks in progress, and 10 regulations in limbo. However, most of those regulatory changes are unrelated to transmission or renewable energy project permitting. And even those regulatory changes that are loosely related to permitting haven’t yet impacted the speed with which permits are issued by federal agencies (or state agencies with delegated authority to implement federal programs), or the number of permits issued (versus denied). However, the key here is that the impacts haven’t been realized yet; permit processing efficiency and issuance are likely to improve as time goes on, particularly since some of the changes are directly intended to speed up permitting.
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As a reminder, the State of Texas’s new stormwater construction general permit is now in effect.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) has renewed its General Permit to Discharge under the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit, Permit No. TXR150000, which authorizes discharges from construction sites into surface water in the state.  Operators of

On February 20, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested comments on whether pollutant discharges from point sources that reach jurisdictional surface waters via groundwater or other subsurface flow with a direct hydrologic connection to the jurisdictional surface water may be subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The answer to this question will have far reaching implications because the scope of the agency’s powers under the CWA determines the scope of:

  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting programs;
  • Section 404 wetlands permitting programs;
  • Section 311 oil/hazardous substance release requirements; and
  • Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) requirements.

As a result, the extent to which a discharge to groundwater that reaches jurisdictional surface waters is subject to regulation under the CWA is a significant issue for farmers, manufacturers, and anyone who discharges to groundwater.

Background

The CWA regulates the discharge of pollutants and placement of fill into “navigable waters,” and defines navigable waters as “the waters of the United States.” Since the CWA was passed in 1972, there has been much debate over the extent to which waters that are not considered navigable in fact and wetlands may be regulated as waters of the United States. This uncertainty has given rise to a variety of CWA citizen suits alleging that discharges from point sources that migrate via groundwater to waters of the United States require NPDES permits.

Over the years, various federal courts have reached differing conclusions on the question of whether discharges to groundwater can be considered discharges to waters of the United States. Most recently, the Ninth Circuit addressed this issue in Hawaii Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui, 881 F.3d 754 (9th Cir. 2018). In that case, the County of Maui (the “County”) discharged treated effluent from its wastewater reclamation facility into injection wells. Tracer dye studies confirmed that this effluent migrated through the groundwater to the Pacific Ocean. A three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the County’s discharge triggered Clean Water Act jurisdiction and the need for an NPDES permit because the groundwater was hydrologically connected to the Pacific Ocean, a water of the United States. Under the court’s ruling, an indirect discharge of contaminants from point sources that travels through groundwater and ultimately reaches navigable waters will now be subject to federal permitting requirements.
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