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.
Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in a wide variety of applications, from medical devices to laptops — and now, increasingly, in electric vehicles (EVs). With the market for personal and commercial EVs growing, it is essential for U.S. manufacturers to have a secure, reliable supply chain of the critical minerals needed to produce EV batteries, including lithium, cobalt, nickel, and copper. Indeed, a recent study highlights the growing demand for these minerals — and the challenges the U.S. faces to meet this demand from mined sources.
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina finding that shrimping trawlers that disturb ocean floor sediment and discard other fish and marine organisms, or “bycatch,” after extracting shrimp from their nets are not discharging a pollutant under the Clean Water Act (Act). In so doing, the court made clear that neither discarding bycatch nor kicking up sediment already on the ocean floor constitutes the discharge of a pollutant or dredge or fill material that would otherwise require a permit by the Act.
On August 3, 2023, the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation — created through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to facilitate collaboration between the U.S. Departments of Energy (DOE) and Transportation (DOT) — officially announced the members of its Electric Vehicle (EV) Working Group, an independent advisory board. Parties interested in the growth of EVs in the United States should take note of the group, which will coordinate and consult on the development, adoption, and integration of EVs into the transportation and energy systems of the United States.
Regulated entities in designated communities — compiled and termed the “Consistently Nominated AB 617 Communities list” — will want to pay close attention to updates from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on its Community Protection Program Blueprint 2.0. Currently, communities in the Bay Area, Imperial, San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Metropolitan, and South Coast air districts are on the list. As part of a mandate to reduce toxic air contaminant and criteria pollutant emissions in communities that have a high cumulative exposure burden, CARB is updating the Program Blueprint 2.0 as required under Assembly Bill 617, adopted by the California Legislature July 26, 2017. CARB’s present revisions may result in increased investigation and enforcement of regulated entities in these communities.
On June 29, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a framework for its approach to reviewing new per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and significant new uses of existing PFAS. Stakeholders in sectors such as food packaging, textiles, semiconductors, and aerospace industries that continue to rely on PFAS compounds should take note. In general, EPA’s approval of new PFAS or new significant uses of existing PFAS may require additional testing — with substantial additional testing in some cases.
On June 26, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency) announced via e-mail to its EJ ListServ the third update to its environmental justice (EJ) mapping and screening tool, EJSCREEN. EPA uses EJSCREEN to inform several Agency functions, including permitting, enforcement, outreach, and compliance.
On June 22, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a series of proposed rules pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (the Act), seeking to clarify or reverse implementing regulations issued in 2019 during the Trump administration. The agencies jointly proposed two rules—one revising Section 7 regulations, related to interagency consultations, and a second revising Section 4 regulations, related to listing decisions and critical habitat designations. The Fish and Wildlife Service independently proposed a third rule to reinstate the general application of “blanket rule” options for protecting newly listed threatened species pursuant to Section 4(d) of the Act.