In an attempt to bring clarity following the recent Supreme Court decision—which as noted in our prior post will result in expiration of the nationwide stay of the 2015 revised definition of “waters of the U.S.” that was imposed two years ago by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals—EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued a final rule extending the applicability date of the 2015 revised definition to February 6, 2020.  With this final rule, the Agencies seek to ensure that the pre-2015 “waters of the U.S.” definition will remain in place consistently throughout the country while the Agencies consider possible revisions. As expected, the final rule has already been subject to judicial challenge, further ensuring that the scope of “waters of the U.S.” will continue to remain uncertain in the near future as these challenges play out. Continue Reading Final Rule Adds 2020 Applicability Date to “Waters of the U.S.” Rule

On January 22, 2018, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision threw the long contested issue of what constitutes “waters of the U.S.” back to the lower courts.  Somewhat surprisingly, the Supreme Court held that federal district courts have jurisdiction to hear challenges to the rule, reversing a Sixth Circuit decision and suspending that court’s nationwide stay of the rule.  In doing so, the Court guaranteed that a revised definition of “waters of the U.S.” will remain undecided for some time to come. Continue Reading Definition of “Waters of the U.S.” Remains Uncertain

The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed several key aspects of a PHMSA Final Order in a recent opinion issued on August 14, 2017. That decision is significant for the fact that few final actions by this agency have been presented for judicial review, and, of those, even fewer have been successful.  The decision is based on a complex set of facts and legal issues that went through several years of administrative appeals before the agency.  As with most complex cases, many of the factual issues were unique, and are not likely to be repeated.  There are a few larger, procedural themes to be gleaned from the decision that apply more broadly, however, both to this agency and administrative law generally.

Continue Reading Judicial Review of PHMSA Order: Limitations of Agency Deference

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced a series of public teleconferences for stakeholder input on recommendations to revise the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.  This definition is critical to the determination of whether wetlands or water discharge permits are required for construction projects or operations across all industries.  In total, there will be ten teleconferences beginning on September 19, 2017, nine of which will be tailored to a specific industry sector and one of which will be open to the public at large (see summary below).  The session specific to the energy, chemical and oil and gas industries is scheduled for October 24, 2017.  The teleconferences will run throughout the fall on Tuesdays from 1 to 3 pm eastern.  Continue Reading Stakeholder Meetings Scheduled for Revised Waters of the U.S. Rule

By Margaret Campbell & Mack McGuffey on July 6, 2017

The DC Circuit issued a decision on July 3, 2017, vacating the 90-day stay of the Oil & Gas Industry NSPS rules – the first rules to regulate methane from that sector.  In a June 5 Federal Register notice, the new Trump EPA stayed the rules pending reconsideration under Section 307(d) of the Clean Air Act.  Environmental Groups filed an emergency challenge to the stay, asking for either a stay of that decision or summary vacatur of it.  Issuing its decision less than a month later, the court vacated EPA’s stay of the rules.

Continue Reading DC Circuit Vacates EPA Stay of Oil & Gas Rule

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) issued a prepublication version of a proposed rule that will rescind prior 2015 revisions to the definition of “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act (CWA), pending the issuance of a more substantive rulemaking that reevaluates the definition.  The prior revisions expanded federal jurisdiction over certain waters and prompted numerous judicial challenges and a subsequent nationwide stay of the rule.

Continue Reading EPA and the Corps Take Steps to Revise “Waters of the U.S.” Definition

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently published a notice inviting public comment to identify statutes, rules, regulations, and interpretations in policy statements or guidance that “unjustifiably delay or prevent completion of surface, maritime, and aviation transportation infrastructure projects.”  As stated in the notice [attached], in keeping with President Trump’s regulatory reform agenda, DOT and other federal agencies are in the process of reviewing existing policy statements, guidance documents, and regulations that might pose impediments to transportation infrastructure projects.   The upcoming deadline to provide input on that review is July 24, 2017.  We encourage industry to consider submitting comments, particularly given DOT’s statement that comments are not restricted to burdensome regulations, but also extend to policy statements, interpretations and guidance.

Continue Reading Deadline Approaching for Input on Regulatory Improvements

A bill intended to streamline the siting of natural gas pipelines and increase transparency is advancing through the U.S. House.  As approved by voice vote, H.R. 2910 , would facilitate concurrent federal and state agency reviews to help streamline the siting review process under the Natural Gas Act (NGA) which is led by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  This bill comes at a time when the permitting process for natural gas pipelines has become protracted, cumbersome, and subject to third party challenges and delays at the federal, state and local levels.

Continue Reading Legislation Advances to Streamline Natural Gas Permitting

In an April 18, 2017 letter, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stated that the Agency will reconsider final rules governing new sources of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. This decision was prompted by issues raised in petitions for reconsideration filed by a number of groups—including API and the Texas Oil and Gas Association—concerning EPA’s final rule amending the oil and natural gas sector New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) (the Final Rule), which was published on June 3, 2016 and became effective August 2, 2016. Under Clean Air Act Section 307(d)(7)(B), the Agency must convene a proceeding if a petition for reconsideration raises issues that are of central relevance to the rule and arose after the public comment period closed or were impracticable to raise during the public comment period. Continue Reading EPA Reconsiders and Stays Compliance with Oil and Gas Methane Rule