Pursuant to the Renewable Fuel Standard (“RFS”), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“U.S. EPA”) issues annual renewable volume obligations (“RVOs”), which set the minimum aggregate volume of renewable fuel that refiners must blend with transportation fuel for the following calendar year.

Refineries producing transportation fuel meet their RVOs by blending the required volume of renewable fuel into gasoline or diesel fuel or by acquiring credits (called renewable identification numbers, or “RINs”). The RFS permits “small” refineries – those producing fewer than 75,000 barrels of fuel per day – to claim an exemption by showing that meeting their RVOs would cause them “disproportionate economic hardship.”
Continue Reading Exemptions Under The Renewable Fuel Standard

Senior Associate Megan McLean has published “Biden Administration Promises to Double Down on Environmental Justice” in Rock Products Magazine. 

In the article, Megan outlines President Biden’s stance on environmental justice, the actions the EPA is taking to address environmental justice, and what companies need to do to mitigate foreseeable risks.

Read the article here.

Recent Regulatory Steps

On January 14, 2021, on the eve of President Biden’s inauguration, EPA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, seeking comment on whether PFOA and PFOS should be regulated under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”). This will likely lead to the designation of PFOA and PFOS as “Hazardous Substances” under CERCLA and RCRA. Such a designation will likely lead to EPA and the state agencies taking more aggressive action to investigate and identify new sites where PFAS may be a concern and also to review the status of existing sites where PFAS may be a concern that was not addressed in previous investigations or response actions and to potentially pursue response actions at such sites.  At this moment though there is only the interim policy that EPA provided to assist in addressing PFOA and PFOS groundwater contamination. The comment period on this advance notice just closed and we anticipate a proposed rulemaking in the near future.
Continue Reading PFAS – Regulation is Upon Us

D.C. Circuit Upholds USEPA Decision to Not Require Financial Assurance Under CERCLA for Hardrock Mining

We have previously blogged (in June 2019 and 2017) on a proposed rule released during the final days of the Obama Administration which required hardrock mines to provide financial assurance demonstrating they are able to fund the costs associated with the future cleanup of the mines under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the federal statute designed to address releases of hazardous substances and the cleanup of hazardous waste sites nationwide. In December 2017, the USEPA stated its intention not to issue the final rule, finding that there was no need for any CERCLA financial assurance mechanism for operating hardrock mines based on existing federal and state programs as well as modern mining practices. Several environmental organizations filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, challenging the USEPA’s decision not to issue the rule.
Continue Reading Updates on CERCLA Financial Assurance Requirements for Industry Sectors

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.
Continue Reading EPA Considers Whether a Discharge of Pollutants to Groundwater that is Connected to Navigable Waters Requires a Federal Permit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) have recently issued memoranda concerning civil enforcement of violations, including violations of environmental laws.

The January 22, 2018 EPA memorandum, entitled “Interim [Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance] Guidance on Enhancing Regional-State Planning and Communication on Compliance Assurance Work in Authorized

A client alert issued today by Husch Blackwell’s environmental practice group details a major reversal of Obama-era policy by the Trump Administration.  The EPA announced it will not issue final regulations under CERCLA Section 108(b) imposing financial responsibility requirements on the hardrock mining industry. Abandoning a December 1, 2016 proposed rule, the EPA emphasized that

The month of August, 2017 has seen three distinct developments that may significantly impact management of “Coal Combustion Residuals,” or “CCR,” which include bottom ash, fly ash, boiler slag, and flue gas desulfurization materials generated from burning coal at steam‑powered electricity plants. Although one of these developments may provide a degree of regulatory relief, the other two may preserve or even strengthen existing regulatory requirements.
Continue Reading The Shifting Landscape For Coal Ash