Challenge to Trump Administration Clean Water Act Rule Dismissed as Moot

On Wednesday, January 25, 2024, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a challenge to a 2020 rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revising regulatory requirements for water quality certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. That rule came under challenge by environmental groups and Democratic-led states and was initially vacated by the district court but then reinstated by the Ninth Circuit in 2023 and remanded to the district court for additional review. However, on September 27, 2023, EPA promulgated a new rule that superseded the 2020 rule and replaced it with new Section 401 requirements, rendering challenges to the 2020 rule moot. Even as this 2023 rule is being challenged, the court stated that at present, there is no longer a pending controversy as to which effective relief can be granted. But because the 2020 rule was dismissed without prejudice, the court stated that if the 2023 rule is enjoined and the 2020 rule were to be resurrected, plaintiffs can reinitiate their challenge. Additional information on the issue is provided in prior posts on the vacatur here and 2023 rule here.

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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. Department of Transportation Announces $623M in Grants for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

On January 11, 2023, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced $623M in grants to expand electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. The grants are part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program and have been made available to fund 47 EV charging and alternative fueling infrastructure projects in 22 states and Puerto Rico. Ranging from $500,000 to about $68.3M, 36 of the grants were awarded to EV charging and hydrogen fueling “community” projects in rural and urban communities, while the remaining 11 grants were awarded to “corridor” projects focused on fueling along roadways to assist in establishing national EV charging and alternative fueling networks.

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The Enforcement Angle: David Uhlmann and OECA

Join Sidley for the Environmental Law Institute’s People Places Planet Podcast series, “The Enforcement Angle.” Through this series, Sidley partners discuss state and federal enforcement of environmental laws and regulations with senior enforcement officials and thought leaders on environmental enforcement in the United States and globally. The featured guests offer their insights into the challenging environmental issues facing corporations today. (more…)

U.S. EPA Issues Draft Final Oil and Gas Methane Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft of its final oil and gas methane rule on December 2, 2023. It may be some time before the final rule is officially published in the Federal Register, starting the clock on the rule’s compliance obligations. Interested parties will need that extra time to fully digest the 1,690-page draft final rule, which addresses methane emissions from new (in subpart OOOOb) and existing sources (in subpart OOOOc). Here are some of the rule’s key aspects to consider. (more…)

U.S. Department of Transportation Publishes Final Rule on State Greenhouse Gas Performance Measures 

On December 7, U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published a final rule providing state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) a national framework to track transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and set targets for reduction. The rule adds a new GHG performance management measure to the existing FHWA national performance measures and creates a system under which state DOTs and MPOs must set targets for reducing roadway travel GHG emissions. Stakeholders that contract with states to build infrastructure should take note of these new mandates.

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U.S. Publishes Fifth National Climate Assessment

On November 14, 2023, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) published the Fifth National Climate Assessment. The National Climate Assessment (NCA) is a federal initiative formed under the Global Change Research Act of 1990, which requires a report to the President and the Congress every four years that integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the USGCRP; analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity; and analyzes current trends in global change and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years. Before this NCA, four assessments were published (in 2000, 2009, 2014, and 2017).

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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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Terence T. Healey

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Kenneth W. Irvin

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Casey Khan

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Michael L. Lisak

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Brittany A. Bolen

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Aaron L. Flyer

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Brooklyn Hildebrandt

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Hannah Posen

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Jack Raffetto

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