Yesterday, we started our series of blog posts about the final WOTUS rule by taking advantage of the rule’s increased clarity to identify the waters that would always be considered jurisdictional. The rule’s definitions leave no doubt that certain waters will always be considered jurisdictional by EPA and the Corps. But there’s another group of waters that aren’t always jurisdictional by definition, but will most likely be so in practice. (more…)
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The Final Waters of the U.S. Rule: Waters That Aren’t Always Jurisdictional by Definition, but Probably Are in PracticeFriday, May 29, 2015 9:25 am by Lowell Rothschild
Yesterday, the Obama administration finalized the waters of the US rule it proposed last spring. There’s a lot to be said about the final rule, and so this will be the first in a series of blog posts (just like for the proposal). But because the new rule creates a few immediate obligations, we’ll start this series with the punchline.
The rule remains broad, but is somewhat more clear (more…)
A permit system may finally arrive for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act – New Opportunities and ResponsibilitiesWednesday, May 27, 2015 5:06 pm by Lowell Rothschild
For years, Federal Courts have held that individuals can be held criminally liable under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for the death of birds regardless of whether they intended to harm them. While several courts have recently called into question this precedent, yesterday, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) started a process that could help clarify liability under the Act. However, with this clarity will come additional regulatory obligations and the creation of a bright line between compliance and noncompliance.
Like the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the MBTA imposes criminal liability for harming specifically-identified birds. Unlike the ESA, however, the MBTA does not currently have an extensive permitting system. As a result, most companies are unable to proactively ensure compliance with the MBTA unless they can avoid harming any migratory birds during their operations – and complete avoidance is extremely difficult when engaging in many industrial activities of any scale. Thus, entities operating wind energy, communication towers, oil and gas production, and electrical transmission facilities, for example, have generally adopted best management practices and hoped that their proactive efforts would result in lenient treatment by FWS if and when their operations accidentally harm migratory birds. (more…)
Major Air Enforcement Action Against New Plant Owner Suggests the Value of EPA’s “New Owner Audit Policy”Thursday, May 21, 2015 11:41 am by Tim Wilkins and Kevin Ewing
A new $1.3 million Clean Air Act penalty action by U.S. EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality against AK Steel Corporation has received significant public and media attention this week. The proposed consent decree, filed with the court and opened for public comment on May 19th, includes significant cash penalties and supplemental environmental project requirements, along with burdensome obligations to establish an environmental management system, perform third party audits, and install costly new pollution controls. Less often mentioned in this week’s stories about the consent decree is the fact that AK Steel just acquired the facility in question last year. (more…)
Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and John Hoeven (R-ND) recently introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, legislation designed to streamline the integration of commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the United States. The legislation would establish an interim rule governing small UAS operations, provide the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with some flexibility on issues like visual-line-of-sight (VLOS) operations, reduce the regulatory burden for commercial operators, create a new deputy administrator position at the FAA focused on UAS, and encourage maximum use of current FAA UAS test sites. (more…)
Texas Regulators Take Robust Step Reacting to Reports Connecting Seismic Activity and Wastewater Injection WellsFriday, May 8, 2015 4:03 pm by Scott Sherman
Two members of the Railroad Commission of Texas recently said they will consider taking action against two wastewater injection wells linked by a recent scientific report to earthquakes north of Fort Worth Texas. Hearings have been scheduled for June, and the operators have been directed to “show cause” on why their permits should not be canceled, or perhaps suspended or modified, and the wells not be shut down. (more…)