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Environmental Blog

  • 07
  • November
  • 2019


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Good Air Pollution Control Practice Enforcement—It’s a Real Thing

In September 2019, a federal district court in Massachusetts ordered  the owner of a fuel storage terminal to pay $1.2 million in civil penalties for violations of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The principal claims in the case were that the R.M. Packer Company caused excess emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and hazardous air pollutants (HAP) by failing to operate its fuel storage tanks and vapor control systems consistent with good air pollution control practices.

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EPA Issues Supplemental Proposed Rulemaking That Will Increase the Burdens of Non-Exempt Refiners Beginning in 2020

Making good on President Trump’s promise to corn-growing farmers, on October 28, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (Supplemental Proposal) that will effectively increase the renewable fuel obligations of non-exempt refiners and other obligated parties beginning in compliance year (CY) 2020. The EPA held a public hearing regarding the Supplemental Proposal in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on October 30, 2019, and will accept comments until November 29, 2019. EPA currently plans to issue a final rule in 2019. 

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Trump Administration Plans to Ramp Up Total Renewable Fuel Volumes Under the RFS Program for 2020

On October 4, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signaled an abrupt change to the status quo, by announcing plans to issue a final rulemaking that will increase total renewable fuel volumes under the federal Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) program beginning in 2020 to compensate for volumes lost whenever the EPA grants waivers to “small refiners,” who successfully claim a disproportionate economic hardship under the program. This change will greatly benefit farmers growing corn to produce corn-based ethanol, a “conventional” biofuel that supplies the bulk of total renewable fuel volumes required under the RFS program.

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DOJ Announces Another Nail in Supplemental Environmental Projects’ Coffin

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) will no longer use Supplemental Environmental Projects (“SEPs”) in settlements with states and municipalities as a result of a policy change announced August 21, 2019.The change follows a series of steps taken since 2017 curtailing SEPs. It may foreshadow future action to formally curtail SEPs in settlements with private sector parties, as the memo notes that the Department is actively reconsidering current guidance that continues to allow SEPs in settlements with private parties.2

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  • 21
  • June
  • 2018


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Environmental Appeals Board Weighs Challenge to Power Plant’s PSD Permit for EPA’s Dismissal of Battery Storage as BACT for Peak Demand Periods

On May 29, 2018, nongovernmental organizations (“NGOs”), including the Sierra Club, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Environmental Appeals Board, challenging the federal Clean Air Act Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit issued by EPA Region 9 for the Palmdale Energy Project in California.

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  • 13
  • March
  • 2018


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Consent Decree Dispute Highlights Changes in SEP, Mitigation Projects Due to New DOJ Settlement Policy

Controversy surrounding a Clean Air Act consent decree has served to highlight changes in environmental enforcement brought about by a June 5, 2017 memorandum from the United States Attorney General announcing a general prohibition on settlement payment to third parties. Memorandum for All Component Heads and United States Attorneys, Prohibition on Settlement Payments to Third Parties, (Office of the Attorney General, June 5, 2017) (“June 5 Memorandum”). Attorneys in the environmental community immediately recognized that this prohibition would have implications for environmental settlements that included Supplemental Environmental Projects (“SEPs”) (projects undertaken in settlements by defendants, that are not required for compliance, that result in a reduction in penalties, see Issuance of the 2015 Update to the 1998 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Supplemental Environmental Projects Policy (U.S. EPA March 10, 2015) (“SEP Policy”), as well as mitigation projects (projects undertaken by defendants as part of the overall injunctive relief to mitigate alleged harms due to past violations and which do not generally result in a penalty reduction), see Securing Mitigation as Injunctive Relief in Certain Civil Enforcement Settlements (2nd edition) (U.S. EPA Nov. 14, 2012) (“Mitigation Policy”). After the Attorney General Policy was announced, the Environmental and Natural Resources Division (“ENRD”) of the Department of Justice issued guidance on the application of the June 5 Memorandum to cases handled by ENRD. Settlement Payments to Third Parties in ENRD Cases, (Office of the Acting Assistant Attorney General, ENRD, January 9, 2018) (“ENRD Policy”). This policy sets forth a limited exception to third-party payments when the payments directly remedy harm to the environment.

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