On August 12, 2019 the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) and National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) (collectively, the “Services”) released pre-publication versions of three final rules that are expected to significantly affect the applicability and implementation of the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).  These regulations relate to the process and standards for listing species and designating

On Friday, August 9, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) unveiled a pre-publication version of a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NOPR”) to clarify state water quality certification (“certification”) procedures under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) to allow for increased regulatory certainty in federal licensing and permitting activities, and particularly authorization of infrastructure projects.  

Global energy change through increased use of natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) has been the focus of this week’s World Gas Conference (WGC).  The WGC, sponsored by the International Gas Union, has convened these conferences once every three years since 1931.  This year’s meeting is being held in the U.S. for the first time since the natural gas boom that has occurred over the past ten years.  The U.S. is now the world’s largest producer of natural gas and has begun to export LNG (a dramatic change from only a few years ago, when the U.S. imported both gas and LNG).


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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.
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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.
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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. 
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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.


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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.

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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.
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Just last summer, EPA released its final version of the Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis (EJ Technical Guidance), defining “environmental justice” as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Now, not quite a year later, EPA is facing a proposed $2.6M budget decrease which will reportedly cripple the EJ program.
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