17 States File Complaint Challenging Constitutionality of California’s Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation

On May 13, 2024, 17 states filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California challenging California’s Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) regulation.

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U.S. EPA Proposes Revisions to Project Emissions Accounting Under New Source Review

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing revisions to the New Source Review (NSR) permitting program that would make it more difficult to net out of NSR requirements by changing how to calculate the net emissions resulting from a facility modification. EPA also proposes to define the term “project” more narrowly to prevent sources from aggregating changes to net out of major NSR requirements. The proposal would revise reforms adopted only four years earlier during the Trump administration that had provided additional flexibility to sources making changes to their operations.

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EPA Chemical Safety Rule Raises Questions About Authority

For what appears to be the first time in its history, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recently finalized a rule that requires board-level involvement in an EPA-administered program. Specifically, the EPA’s recent amendments to the Risk Management Program (RMP) require certain chemical plants and refineries to submit third-party audit reports on process safety directly to the audit committee of the company’s board of directors. In short, the EPA is seeking to get involved in corporate governance by dictating what information management must provide to the audit committee and when — regardless of management input. In this article, first published in Law360 on April 25, 2024, Sidley lawyers Justin Savage, Ike Adams, and Aaron Flyer dissect the recent RMP amendments, which are a follow up to the EPA’s Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention rule, finalized March 11, 2024. The authors explore the EPA’s authority to regulate corporate governance requirements, the practical value in doing so, and the potential fallout for companies in terms of corporate governance. If the new RMP rule survives judicial review, it may embolden the EPA to issue other board reporting obligations in any number of its regulatory programs governing corporate operations.

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U.S. EPA Sets Stricter National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter

On February 7, 2024, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule under the Clean Air Act lowering the primary (health-based) annual National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller (PM2.5) from 12 to 9 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). EPA asserts that the stricter standard is based on scientific evidence showing that the current PM2.5 standard (12 µg/m3), which was established in 2012 and retained in 2020, does not sufficiently protect human health. According to EPA, based on air monitoring data from 2020-22, 119 counties would not meet the new standard of 9 µg/m3.

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Louisiana Federal Court Enjoins EPA’s Use of Disparate Impact Requirements in State Permitting Actions

On Tuesday, January 23, 2024, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction filed by the State of Louisiana seeking to halt the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in imposing disparate impact-based mandates under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in permitting decisions. The state contends that Title VI prohibits only intentional discrimination and, as a result, EPA’s disparate-impact regulations in 40 C.F.R. §§ 7.10-180 are an unlawful attempt by EPA to impose its environmental justice policy goals in official permitting decisions. According to Louisiana, EPA’s efforts to advance disparate impact-based mandates without explicit statutory authorization runs afoul of the major questions doctrine, which requires agencies to act in accordance with explicit congressional mandate for matters of major political or economic significance.

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U.S. Fifth Circuit Reverses EPA’s Denial of Fuel Program Hardship Exemption for Refineries

In Calumet Shreveport Refining LLC v. EPA, Case No. 22-60266 (5th Cir. Nov. 22, 2023), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denials of six small refineries’ petitions for hardship relief under the Clean Air Act Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, holding that EPA used an “impermissibly retroactive” standard to deny the refineries’ petitions in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. This ruling could serve as a basis for other refineries to challenge EPA’s retroactive denial of their hardship petitions — and provides support for similar petitions pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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U.S. EPA Publishes New Regulations Governing State Plans for Existing Sources of Emissions

On November 9, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published implementing regulations that set timelines and other requirements for state plans to limit pollution from existing sources under Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 111. The amended provisions apply to all emissions guidelines published after July 8, 2019, and will affect the scope and pace of development of updated performance standards for existing facilities.

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EPA Proposes Stricter Air Pollution Limits on Reclassified Area Sources

On September 21, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice of a proposed rule, “Review of Final Rule Reclassification of Major Sources as Area Sources Under Section 112.” The proposal adds requirements for regulated sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) to reclassify from major source status to area source status under the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) program. Stakeholders who qualified under the revised policy adopted by the Trump administration should particularly take note of this further change by the Biden administration’s EPA. Comments are due by November 13, 2023.

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California Air Resources Board Revisits Advanced Clean Fleets Rule Through Formation of Truck Regulation Advisory Committee

In April 2023, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed its Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule, which will require California medium- and heavy-duty truck and bus fleet owners with over $50 million in annual revenue to transition to zero emission vehicles through a phaseout of their existing internal combustion engine–powered vehicles by 2045. On July 26, 2023, while the ACF rule was pending with the California Office of Administrative Law for a final determination prior to release, CARB withdrew the regulatory package with the intention of resubmitting it “at a subsequent date.” CARB is now forming a Truck Regulation Advisory Committee and, on August 22, 2023, will host a public meeting to discuss and solicit feedback on future efforts to implement the ACF rule. Instructions for participation in this public meeting can be found here.

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Spring 2023 Agenda Previews Continued U.S. Significant Environmental Regulatory Action

On June 13, 2023, the Biden administration released the 2023 Spring Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (Agenda). The Agenda lists federal agencies’ planned “short-term” regulatory actions to be taken over the next 12 months and “long-term” actions under development. The dates listed in the Agenda are based on publication dates in the Federal Register. Stakeholders should take note, as the Agenda provides a window into the administration’s priorities and strategies:

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