Released on March 20, 2023, the Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report was prepared by 93 authors and is based on the work of hundreds of scientists in the sixth assessment cycle of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC publishes comprehensive scientific assessments every six to seven years. The previous Fifth Assessment Report was completed in 2014 and provided the main scientific input in 2015 to The Paris Agreement.
Interstate Air Pollution Transport From Power Plants and Industrial Facilities. EPA’s Good Neighbor Rule Addresses Ground-Level Ozone
On March 15, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final Good Neighbor Plan addressing reductions in ozone-forming emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX) from power plants and industrial facilities. The new rule will restrict smokestack emissions in 23 states that impact other states downwind from the source. The objective is to assist downwind states to attain and maintain the 2015 ground-level ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
On March 14, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first federally enforceable drinking water limits for members of the widely used family of compounds commonly known as PFAS. EPA is proposing drinking water maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The levels for two common constituents, PFOA and PFOS, would be set at four parts per trillion (4 ppt), which is the level EPA says laboratories can reliably measure. Other constituent levels would be based on a Hazard Index, using combined levels of the constituents and a mathematical formula.
The EPA is proposing to strengthen the wastewater discharge standards that apply to coal-fired power plants. The agency’s proposal addresses discharges of toxic metals and other pollutants into water bodies.
On January 23, the Center for Biological Diversity made good on its threat to sue EPA for its approval of Colorado’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) amending the state’s programs for New Source Review and Air Pollution Emission Notices. See Petition for Review filed in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals here.
EPA’s Final Rule approving the ASTM E-1527-21 is effective as of Monday February 13, 2023, meaning that the updated standard may now be used to satisfy All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI). This is an important development for property purchasers seeking to qualify for the bona fide prospective purchaser (BFPP) safe-harbor defense to historic property liability under federal and (some) state Superfund laws. For an easy reference guide to similarities and differences between the old standard, the new one, and Superfund’s AAI Rule itself, you need only look at a comparison and summary prepared by EPA in March 2022.
U.S. Council on Environmental Quality Issues Climate Change Guidance for NEPA Reviews of Clean Energy Projects
In the January 9 Federal Register, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published updated Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change for the assessment and disclosure of climate impacts related to agency environmental reviews conducted pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NEPA review focus of the guidance is federal agency permitting for clean energy and other infrastructure projects and is designed to provide more clarity and predictability for conducting agency reviews. The guidance highlights existing tools and best practices.
Hoping to finalize a stable rule that the regulated community can trust, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Corps of Engineers (COE) have promulgated a new rule defining “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The new rule is the latest episode in a series worthy of an Oscar nomination for best documentary that began in 2015 during the Obama administration. See earlier rules at 80 FR 37054 (June 29, 2015); 84 FR 56626 (October 22, 2019); 85 FR 22250 (April 21, 2020). The agencies describe this latest iteration as “a clear and reasonable definition of waters of the United States” that is designed to “reduce the uncertainty from constantly changing regulatory definitions that has harmed communities and our nation’s waters.”
Following an extended review process, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday, December 15 approved the updated Phase I Standard issued by the ASTM work group in late 2021. This is an important development for property purchasers seeking to qualify for defenses to liability under federal and (some) state Superfund laws.
Climate Adaptation Plans – Will Words Be Translated to Actions? COP27, U.S., State, and Local Action Plans
Clients will have to adapt to the certainty of increased regulation at the international, federal, state and local levels to meet the aggressive carbon-reduction goals set by governmental authorities. John Doerr in his recent book “Speed & Scale, An Action Plan for Solving our Climate Crisis Now” summarizes the actions he submits that politicians, industries and investors must undertake to reach net-zero by 2050. He begins his blueprint for action with an admonition from his 15-year-old daughter voiced at a dinner he hosted in 2006 after a screening of An Inconvenient Truth: “Dad, your generation created this problem. You better fix it.”