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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
July 6, 2018


EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigns under a cloud of ethics scandals

THE NEW YORK TIMES - Jul 5 Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has resigned after facing months of allegations over legal and ethical violations. President Trump announced the resignation in a tweet on Thursday in which he said the agency’s deputy, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, would take over as the acting Administrator on Monday. Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who built his career on lawsuits against the agency he would eventually lead, began the largest regulatory rollback in the agency’s history, undoing, delaying, or blocking several Obama-era environmental rules.

EPA and Army Corps move forward with plan to repeal Clean Water Rule

NATURAL GAS INTELLIGENCE - Jul 3 The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) said they plan to repeal, rather than modify, a controversial Obama-era definition of what constitutes Waters of the United States (WOTUS), arguing that the definition has led to regulatory uncertainty and runs afoul of previous rulings by the Supreme Court. Opponents of the rule, including the oil and gas industry, worry that WOTUS is so broad that it could be used to include ditches and ruts in dirt roads that capture rainwater. In a 93-page supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPR), the EPA and Army Corps clarified that they plan to repeal the definition, known as the Clean Water Rule, which both agencies jointly promulgated in 2015, in its entirety. The rule outlined what constituted WOTUS and, therefore, qualified for protection under the federal Clean Water Act. The EPA and the Army Corps will accept public comments on the SNPR for 30 days, following its publication in the Federal Register.

NHTSA exceeded authority by delaying emissions penalties

THE HILL - Jun 29 The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled last Friday that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) exceeded its statutory authority when the agency moved a year ago to delay indefinitely the imposition of fines on car companies producing automobiles that fail to meet fuel efficiency standards. In 2016, NHTSA increased automakers’ fines under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program from $5.50 to $14.00 for each 0.1 mile per gallon that each car they sell exceeds the standards for vehicles in its class. Automaker groups asked the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to reconsider the increases, arguing that the increased fines could cost them $1 billion. Last year, DOT agreed to review the rule and decided to indefinitely postpone its application. California and other states (New York, Vermont, Maryland, and Pennsylvania) sued last September, arguing that the delay was illegal and conferred an unfair advantage on car companies that failed to meet the standards.

EPA says it doesn’t need new ‘good neighbor’ air pollution rule

THE HILL - Jun 29 The EPA on Friday said that it doesn’t need to write a new regulation to comply with the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provision, which mandates that the EPA work to ensure that emissions from certain upwind states do not worsen ground level ozone (smog) in downwind states. According to EPA, a 2016 update to the Cross State Air Pollution Rule went far enough to regulate states’ ozone pollution and will meet the legal "good neighbor" standard once it is implemented. The attorneys general of New York and Connecticut sued the EPA for missing an August 2017 deadline to comply with the “good neighbor” provision. Earlier this month, a federal judge in New York ruled that the EPA must address the issue, though he did not specify a remedy. As such, the EPA must finalize the action it took Friday by December 8. At that point, states or other opponents could sue again if they wish.

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