News & Articles

Environmental Regulatory Update – November 2017

Download the full report for November 3, 2017 (pdf)

Recent Developments (Updated November 3, 2017)

EPA Proposes to Repeal Clean Power Plan

In fulfillment of a campaign promise by President Trump, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP), President Obama’s signature climate change initiative, after concluding that it lacked the authority for the program under the Clean Air Act (CAA), in particular, 42 USC § 7411. The CPP relies on states to implement one or more of three “building blocks” to achieve reductions in greenhouse gases from existing power plants: (1) reducing the carbon intensity of generation at individual units through heat rate improvements; (2) substituting less carbon-intensive generating units (e.g., replacing coal with natural gas); and (3) increasing reliance on low or zero-carbon generation sources (such as solar and wind). In the recent repeal proposal, EPA declared that the definition of best system of emission reduction in 42 USC § 7411 on which the CPP relies is limited to emission reduction measures that can be applied to or at the individual stationary source covered by the standard. Because the CPP calls for emission reductions from sources other than existing power plants covered by the emission guidelines, the Trump administration EPA concluded that the law violates the CAA. The proposal to repeal the CPP can be found in the October 16, 2017 Federal Register at: www.gpo.gov/fdsys.

EPA Issues Directive Ending “Sue and Settle” Practice

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a Directive Promoting Transparency and Public Participation in Consent Decrees and Settlement Agreements, designed to end “sue and settle” practices in the agency—EPA’s purported practice of entering into collaborative consent decrees or settlement agreements resolving lawsuits over EPA’s failure to fulfill its obligations under federal environmental statutes. The Trump administration EPA contends that many of the decrees and settlements appear to have been the result of collusion with outside groups and that they have led to the creation of regulations outside the normal administrative process. In response, Administrator Pruitt issued the recent directive, which outlines measures to promote transparency and public participation in the consent decree and administrative settlement process. These measures include: making key documents, including notices of intent to sue, complaints, and the agreements themselves, accessible to the public and providing opportunities for comment; barring EPA from entering into a consent decree with terms that the court would otherwise have lacked the authority to order if the parties had not resolved the litigation; and seeking to exclude the payment of attorney’s fees for litigation that is settled via consent decree or settlement agreement on the theory that there is no “prevailing party.” The full directive and an accompanying memorandum can be found on EPA’s website at:  www.epa.gov/newsroom/directive-promoting-transparency-and-public-participation-consent-decrees-and-settlement.

DEC Revises BCP Application Guidance

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has revised DER-32, Brownfield Cleanup Program Applications and Agreements, which summarizes the procedure for applying for, and obtaining approval of, a Brownfield Cleanup Agreement (BCA) under DEC’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP). DEC revised DER-32 to implement recent changes to the BCP statute and make other updates/improvements. The guidance outlines the key steps in the application process, including: application submission; determination of a complete application; procedures for submitting reports and draft work plans simultaneously with the application; application approval and disapproval; information about the BCA itself; and procedures for amending and terminating the BCA. The revised guidance implements numerous changes including: requiring preapplication data to show that the site qualifies for the BCP; simplifying the provisions relating to existing and future land use; revising the criteria for denying a BCP application; dropping the model BCA from the guidance; and clarifying the rules governing amendment of BCP applications. Program Policy DER-32 can be found on DEC’s website at:    www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/2393.html.  

Other Recent Developments

Federal                                                                

  • TRANSITION: EPA issued a report on implementing President Trump’s Executive Order 13783 to curb regulatory burdens in order to promote energy production and economic development that identifies four initiatives to reduce regulatory burdens on domestic energy production: new source review reform; changes to the process for reviewing and implementing national ambient air quality standards; requiring completion of mandatory evaluations of the impact of regulatory changes on employment; and implementing the Smart Sectors program to improve EPA’s sector-specific expertise and outreach.
  • AIR: EPA issued the results of its residual risk/periodic technology review of three source categories regulated under the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) program: nutritional yeast manufacturing (40 CFR Part 63, subpart CCCC), publicly owned treatment works (40 CFR Part 63, subpart VVV), and chemical recovery combustion sources at kraft, soda, sulfite and stand-alone semichemical pulp mills (40 CFR Part 63, subpart MM).
  • CHEMICAL: EPA proposed reporting requirements to assist the agency in developing an inventory of mercury supply, use and trade under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
  • RELEASE REPORTING: EPA proposed interim guidance to help farmers comply with requirements to report releases of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from large-scale animal farming operations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

New York State:

  • AIR: DEC allowed an August 2016 proposal to replace its existing rules governing the burning of wastes fuel for energy recovery to expire without taking action. The rule proposed to revise 6 NYCRR Subpart 225-2 to revise key definitions, lower certain constituent limits, expand eligibility for burning waste oil by lowering the minimum permissible heat input limit for regulated boilers, and broaden the permitting exemption for automotive maintenance/service facilities.
  • WATER: The New York State Department of Health adopted its fourth emergency rule requiring lead testing of school drinking water to extend the program while it finalizes a permanent rule.

Young/Sommer LLC Recognized in Publication

The 2018 Edition of U.S. News – Best Lawyers® has named Young/Sommer LLC a “Best Law Firm” in the Metropolitan Tier 1, Albany, Environmental Law practice area.  The publication also names attorneys Dean Sommer and Douglas Ward as “Best Lawyers in America” for Environmental Law and Kevin Young for Mining Law.

EBC Meeting on December 8, 2017

DECEMBER 2017 JOINT LUNCHEON MEETING

of the Young/Sommer LLC Environmental Breakfast Club, NENY Chapter of Air and Waste Management Association; and Notre Dame Club of NENY

Proudly Presents:

“Einstein: How One Mild-Mannered Physicist Changed the Way We Understand Our World”

*About one hundred years ago, Albert Einstein, armed with nothing more than paper, pencil and his intellect, radically changed our view of the universe. This lecture explains a few of his more significant discoveries, how they changed our understanding of the laws of nature, and their relevance to today’s world*

By Dr. Mitchell R. Wayne, University of Notre Dame

Friday, December 8, Noon @ Radisson Hotel Albany, 205 Wolf Road, Albany, NY 12205

RSVP through December 7 by registering on-line at http://www.youngsommer.com or by emailing Betsy Wykes at bwykes@youngsommer.com

Presentation: Free   *   Lunch: $20

Young/Sommer Secures First Upstate NY Approval for Community Choice Aggregation Energy Procurement Program

The firm successfully advocated on behalf of the Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance (“MEGA”) and obtained approval of the New York State Public Service Commission to bring a cost-saving community energy buying program to Upstate communities—the first ever approved under the Commission’s April 2016 Community Choice Aggregation Framework Order.

The Commission unanimously approved MEGA’s proposed Community Choice Aggregation (“CCA”) program, authorizing MEGA to act as a CCA Administrator providing education and outreach, technical assistance, and aggregation services to villages, towns, and cities throughout Upstate New York. The approved MEGA CCA will allow participating residents and small businesses to leverage their buying power to secure cheaper and/or greener electricity by creating a community-based purchasing group, and soliciting bids to purchase power from Energy Services Corporations (“ESCOs”) on behalf of participants.

As the Commission noted in its CCA Framework Order (Case 14-M-0224) approving the concept of CCA in New York, a CCA offers customers the opportunity to receive more favorable energy supply terms through the bargaining power bulk purchasing provides, the expertise provided by CCA administrators, and a competitive public process for choosing an energy supplier. The Commission imposed numerous prerequisites for the formation of a CCA program, and required that any municipality or entity seeking to create such a program submit documentation demonstrating municipal participation, program design, and compliance with the CCA Framework Order, to obtain Commission approval. Young/Sommer Partner James A. Muscato II and Associate Laura K. Bomyea worked closely with MEGA to implement a compliant public outreach and education campaign to introduce communities to CCA, develop an implementation plan for organization and operation of the CCA and a data protection plan to ensure customer information is properly safeguarded, and provide model local laws and resources for municipal attorneys to implement the necessary legal mechanisms to allow community participation.

MEGA’s approved program will now enable communities from the Southern Tier to the North Country, and from the eastern Adirondacks to Western New York, to take advantage of CCA. More information about MEGA’s CCA program is available on its website (http://megacca.org/). The first group of participating communities approved by the Commission consisted of the City of Elmira, Towns of Oneonta, Montour, Horseheads, Union and Binghamton, and the Village of Montour Falls. The day after Commission approval of the program, MEGA submitted local approvals from five additional municipalities, including the City of Hornell, the Towns of Owego and Lebanon, and the Villages of Delhi and Burdett. Additional municipalities are considering CCA, several are proceeding through the CCA education and local law process, and many more are hoping to join in the future. Young/Sommer will continue its efforts to support MEGA’s CCA program, and facilitate compliance with the Commission’s approval Order.

The Commission Order approving MEGA’s CCA Program, in Case 16-M-0015, is available here: http://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/Common/ViewDoc.aspx?DocRefId={E84E28E3-7C00-441A-8725-CA6984070331}.

Environmental Regulatory Update – October 2017

Download the full report for October 6, 2017 (pdf)

Recent Developments (Updated October 6, 2017)

DEC Revises Solid Waste Regulations

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) published its revised solid waste regulations following a pair of public comment periods. The revised regulations: delete several outdated rules; consolidate all generally applicable provisions (including definitions) into 6 NYCRR Part 360; organize facility-specific requirements into broad categories by Part; revise the list of exempt facilities and the criteria/thresholds for requiring registrations versus permits; add new categories of waste management activities to address recently-identified concerns, including mulch processing, metal processing and vehicle dismantling, used cooking oil and yellow grease processing, and navigational dredged material handling; update the landfill and other standards to reflect technological developments; revise the waste transportation requirements to increase the threshold for exempting loads of several common waste streams and establish registration and waste tracking requirements for certain transportation activities; and revise and update the beneficial use determination provisions, including establishing a five-year renewal requirement. In response to public comments, DEC revised key definitions; amended the new provisions relating to reuse of fill material to address concerns that the original proposal was burdensome; revised the composting provisions; loosened the requirements for wood debris and construction and demolition debris storage; and revised the provisions relating to landfill gas to avoid interfering with opportunities to market carbon offset credits. The final regulations can be found at: www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/81768.html.

EPA Issues Draft Strategic Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made its Draft FY 2018-2022 Strategic Plan available for comment. The plan outlines three broad goals for the agency for the next four years and identifies objectives for achieving those goals. In keeping with earlier pronouncements, the draft plan calls for returning EPA to its core mission of “providing Americans with clean air, land and water” as well as ensuring the safety of products in the marketplace through programs that evaluate the risk of chemicals and pesticides. The draft plan also calls for “rebalancing power between Washington and the states to create tangible environmental results for the American people” and “administering the law, as Congress intended, to refocus the Agency on its statutory obligations under the law.” Consistent with other Trump administration pronouncements, the draft strategic plan includes no mention of climate change. Information about the draft strategic plan can be found in the October 5, 2017 Federal Register at www.gpo.gov/fdsys.

Other Recent Developments

Federal                                                                

  • TRANSITION: Consistent with other recent efforts, EPA extended compliance deadlines for two major Obama era regulations—the effluent limitations guidelines and standards for steam electric generating sources and the formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood products.
  • TRANSITION: President Trump issued an executive order compelling federal agencies to take steps to establish discipline and accountability in the environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects; the order was followed by an initial list of actions by the Council on Environmental Quality to implement the order.
  • AIR: EPA proposed to find that no changes to the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for portland cement manufacturing are necessary to address residual risk or implement recent technological developments.
  • CLIMATE CHANGE: EPA is accepting comment on possible further reductions to the renewable fuel standard volume levels for 2018 and 2019 (biomass-based diesel only) following the proposal of standards for 2018/2019 in July.
  • REMEDIATION: EPA authorized the use of ASTM International’s Standard E2247-16, Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessment: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process for Forestland or Rural Property to show that a site owner/purchaser had conducted all appropriate inquiries necessary to obtain liability protections under the federal Superfund program.

Environmental Regulatory Update – September 2017

Download the full report for September 8, 2017 (pdf)

Recent Developments (Updated September 8, 2017)

EPA Adopts Key TSCA Implementation Rules

EPA adopted several important rules required to implement Congress’ 2016 law reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act calls for significant changes to TSCA, the decades-old program requiring EPA to evaluate and respond to the risks posed by toxic chemicals. Among other things, the new law: establishes a risk-based process for prioritizing chemicals for risk assessment and sets goals and schedules for completing reviews; establishes a schedule for taking action when EPA identifies unreasonable risks relating to a specific chemical; and requires EPA to make a safety finding before allowing new chemicals/significant new uses into the marketplace. In fulfillment of the statutory mandate, EPA recently adopted rules implementing three key steps in the existing chemical review process. The first rule establishes procedures for reaching out to industry to identify chemicals that are no longer being manufactured and so do not require further review. The second rule establishes the procedures for identifying high priority chemicals that require evaluation. The third rule establishes the procedures for conducting a risk evaluation for purposes of deciding whether a particular chemical requires regulation under TSCA. Information about the TSCA reform statute can be found at: www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-toxic-substances-control-act.

Superfund Task Force Recommendations Issued

A task force of EPA staff convened by the EPA Administrator provided recommendations on ways to restructure the Superfund cleanup process to expedite remediation, reduce the burden on cooperating parties, incentivize remediation, encourage private investment in cleanups, and promote redevelopment. The EPA Superfund Task Force Report identified five overarching goals, followed by strategies, recommendations and specific actions for achieving each goal. Many of the 42 recommendations are intended to be implemented immediately. These include prioritizing and taking actions at sites where the risk of human exposure is not fully controlled; utilizing early or interim response actions more frequently to address immediate risk; prioritizing development of remedial investigation/feasibility studies for sites that require immediate action; compiling existing information on the reuse potential of National Priority List  (NPL) sites; tracking real time remedy implementation and completion; and focusing resources on current NPL sites with the most reuse potential. The focus of the recommendations generally is on setting aggressive deadlines for site cleanups and identifying sites where land can be re-used to promote third party investment. EPA also is recommending use of the superfund alternative approach, which involves the same site investigation/remediation process but avoids adding the site to the NPL, thus avoiding the stigma of listing. The report can be found on EPA’s website at: www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-task-force-recommendations.

EPA Proposes to Rescind Waters of the United States Rule

EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) proposed to rescind the 2015 joint rule redefining the term “waters of the United States” and thus the scope of protection afforded under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Over the years, many questions have arisen about the definition of this key term, prompting the Obama administration to adopt a controversial rule in 2015 defining the term to include specific categories of jurisdictional waters and allowing other waters to be included on a case-by-case basis. A federal court stayed the rule and President Trump issued an executive order directing EPA and the ACOE to reconsider it. With the recent rulemaking, EPA proposed to formally rescind the 2015 rule and restore the pre-revision version as informed by agency guidance and Supreme Court decisions. In a second step, the agencies plan to reevaluate the definition and potentially propose changes. The proposed rule can be found in the July 27, 2017 Federal Register at: www.gpo.gov/fdsys.

Other Recent Developments

Federal                                                                

  • AIR: EPA is proposing to retain the existing national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) without revisions after finding that the current standards provide the requisite protection to public health with an adequate margin of safety.
  • AIR: EPA announced that it was withdrawing its earlier proposal to extend the deadline for states to designate nonattainment areas under the 2015 ozone NAAQS one year after finding that the “gaps” in information that prompted the extension were not as significant as originally thought.
  • AIR: EPA is proposing changes to the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for manufacturing of amino/phenolic resins and wool fiberglass manufacturing to address issues remaining after completion of the residual risk/periodic technology review.
  • CLIMATE CHANGE: EPA is accepting comment on whether to reconsider its earlier finding that the greenhouse gas emission standards for model year 2022-2025 light-duty vehicles are still appropriate and achievable.
  • CLIMATE CHANGE: EPA proposed renewable fuel standards for gasoline and diesel transportation fuel produced or imported for 2018 at levels below those mandated by the Clean Air Act due largely to lower than expected levels of cellulosic biofuel production.
  • WATER: EPA issued a rule modifying and updating its testing procedures approved for analysis and sampling under the CWA to add newly approved methods, approve new versions of previously approved methods and update the list of consensus standards incorporated by reference, among other changes.

New York State

  • SOLID WASTE: DEC accepted a Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement for the revisions to the solid waste regulations that includes a brief description of each proposed change; a discussion of the history and purpose of the change; a review of the alternatives considered; and a summary of the environmental impact of the proposed change.

Young/Sommer Successful in Northern District Clean Air Act Case

The firm defended Global Companies against a citizen suit action seeking declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and civil penalties for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and New York’s state implementation plan at its petroleum terminal in Albany.  The plaintiffs in White v. Global Companies LLC alleged, among other things, Global failed to comply with the nonattainment New Source Review program when it modified its Title V air permit in 2012. Global moved to dismiss two of Plaintiffs’ claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and a third claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.  The Court granted Global’s motion to dismiss in its entirety after finding no merit in Plaintiffs’ action.  The decision can be viewed here.

Young/Sommer LLC Lawyers Highly Ranked in Publications

Young/Sommer LLC is pleased to announce it was again recognized by Chambers USA as a leading New York law firm in the environmental law practice area.  The firm is listed as one of the top nine Environmental firms in New York.  It is the fourteenth consecutive year that Young/Sommer has placed among the top ten New York State Environmental firms in the legal guide.  The Chambers USA listing states that Young/Sommer is an “Albany-based boutique known for its full environmental service capabilities and representation of upstate clients” and that Young/Sommer “boasts a diverse skill set encompassing wastewater, air quality and cleanup knowledge, among other areas.”

Partners Dean Sommer and Kevin Young were, once again, individually recognized in the Chambers USA listing.  The publication notes that Dean Sommer “enjoys a fine reputation as a leading environmental litigator with substantial experience in toxic tort and hazardous substances claims.”  Chambers notes that Kevin Young “advises clients on a broad range of environmental regulations, including on air, wetland and solid waste issues, and is noted for his representation of clients in Superfund and brownfield litigation.”

The Chambers USA rankings are based on in-depth confidential interviews with clients and lawyers, asking participants to rate firms on legal ability and client service.  Chambers USA is published by Chambers and Partners, an international firm that produces directories of top lawyers in 175 countries, providing independent rankings and editorial commentary.  Information on Chambers and Partners, and all the legal directories they publish, can be found at http://www.chambersandpartners.com.

Several Young/Sommer LLC attorneys were also selected to the 2017 Upstate New York Super Lawyers and 2017 Upstate New York Rising Stars lists, including Super Lawyers Kevin M. Young, Dean S. Sommer and James A. Muscato II (for environmental law), Robert A. Panasci (for real estate law), Kenneth S. Ritzenberg (for schools and education law) and Stephen C. Prudente (for family law).  Super Lawyers Rising Stars include Joseph F. Castiglione (for environmental litigation), Lauren L. Hunt (for family law) and Jessica Ansert Klami (for PI General: Plaintiff).

 

Environmental Regulatory Update – July 2017

Download the full report for July 17, 2017 (pdf)

Recent Developments (Updated July 17, 2017)

DEC Reproposes Solid Waste Regulations

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has made additional changes to its solid waste management regulations following a lengthy public comment period. The original proposal: deleted several outdated rules; consolidated all generally applicable provisions (including definitions) into 6 NYCRR Part 360; organized facility-specific requirements into several broad categories by Part; revised the list of exempt facilities and the criteria/thresholds for requiring registrations versus permits; added new categories of waste management activities to address recently-identified concerns, e.g., wood debris and yard trimmings, metal processing and vehicle dismantling, used cooking oil and yellow grease processing, and biohazard waste management; updated the landfill and other standards to reflect recent technological developments; and revised and updated the beneficial use determination provisions, including establishing a five-year renewal requirement. In response to public comments, DEC revised key definitions; amended the provisions relating to fill material (“historic fill” in the original proposal) to allow easier reuse of excavated materials on-site; significantly revised the composting provisions; loosened the requirements for wood debris and construction and demolition debris storage; added a new subpart addressing navigational dredge material handling and recovery; and revised the provisions relating to landfill gas to avoid interfering with opportunities to market carbon offset credits, among many other changes. The proposed revisions can be found at: www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/81768.html.

Additional Revisions to Industrial Stormwater Permit Available for Review

DEC is accepting comments on additional revisions to the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Industrial Activity, which was proposed for renewal earlier this year. The MSGP covers discharges of stormwater from facilities in certain industrial categories (i.e., sectors). Potentially regulated facilities must prepare a stormwater pollution prevention plan and notify DEC that they intend to be covered by the MSGP. After proposing numerous changes to the MSGP earlier this year to incorporate federal housekeeping requirements, increase the frequency of benchmark monitoring while eliminating certain reporting requirements, and change certain sector-specific obligations, DEC is now proposing to require electronic reporting of discharge monitoring reports using EPA’s NetDMR system, encourage electronic filing of other forms/reports and incorporate annual dry weather flow monitoring into comprehensive site compliance inspections, among other changes. The reproposed MSGP (GP-0-17-004) and related materials can be found at: www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/41392.html.

EPA Adopts Effluent Limitations Guidelines for Dentists

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted effluent limitations guidelines, set forth at 40 CFR Part 441, to limit discharges of mercury and other metals from dental practices to publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) based on installing and operating amalgam separators or other comparable equipment and compliance with specific best management practices to prevent mercury discharges that bypass the separator. Dentists that typically do not handle amalgam except in emergencies can submit a certification to EPA that exempts them from the rule. In recognition of the unique issues associated with regulating dentists, EPA is requiring dentists to submit a one-time compliance report containing information about the facility and a certification that the discharge meets the performance standard. In New York, the effluent guidelines will apply in addition to the existing hazardous waste regulations addressing dental amalgam set forth at 6 NYCRR subpart 374-4. EPA’s effluent guidelines can be found in the June 14, 2017 Federal Register at: www.gpo.gov/fdsys.

Other Recent Developments

Federal                                                                

  • TRANSITION: The Trump administration has proposed and/or adopted numerous extensions to the effective date of various regulations, including the oil and natural gas production emission standards, risk management plan requirements, effluent limitations guidelines and standards for steam electric power generating sources, and electronic injury and illness reporting requirements. However, a federal appeals court rejected the oil and natural gas rule extension after finding that EPA lacked the authority to adopt it under the Clean Air Act (CAA).
  • AIR: EPA announced that it is extending the deadline for states to designate nonattainment areas under the 2015 ozone national ambient air quality standards one year to October 1, 2018 while EPA reviews the standards.
  • CHEMICAL: EPA announced the availability of risk evaluation scoping documents for the first 10 existing chemicals designated for review under the amended Toxic Substances Control Act.

New York State

  • AIR: DEC set Title V fees for 2017 in accordance with the State’s statutory scheme, which requires all facilities to pay a base fee of $2,500 plus additional per ton fees ranging from $60 to $90. As in past years, the fees do not cover the cost of the Title V program as required by the CAA.
  • AIR: DEC is accepting public input on clean air projects to be funded by $128 million from the nationwide settlement with Volkswagen of allegations that the company cheated on emissions tests of certain diesel vehicles.
  • WATER: EPA issued a third emergency rulemaking imposing lead testing requirements on public school drinking water systems pending adoption of a permanent rule, which was proposed last month.
  • WATER: DEC made its revised Environmental Benefit Permit Strategy rankings available for review; the rankings identify the SPDES permits scheduled for a full technical review in the upcoming year.

Environmental Regulatory Update – June 2017

Download the full report for June 5, 2017 (pdf)

Recent Developments (Updated June 5, 2017)

Trump Withdraws from Paris Agreement

President Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The Agreement requires participating nations to pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, monitor their progress and report the results. Unlike the earlier Kyoto Protocol, which the United States declined to sign, the Paris Agreement does not impose binding targets on participating countries. As a result, the decision to withdraw is largely symbolic. The announcement has been widely condemned on environmental, political and economic grounds with various business leaders expressing concern that the decision may lead to trade disputes while depriving the nation of clean energy and other opportunities.

DEC Proposes New Dry Cleaning Emission Standards

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has proposed to repeal and replace the air emission standards for dry cleaning facilities set forth at 6 NYCRR Part 232 to reflect shifts in the industry and incorporate changes to federal standards. Among other things, DEC is: phasing out all perchloroethylene (perc) dry cleaning machines from residential buildings as well as all third generation machines (i.e., those without integral secondary control systems); imposing additional standards on fourth generation perc machines, including monthly operator machine testing at co-located residential and commercial facilities; and establishing an approval process for alternative dry cleaning solvents and imposing new emission standards, equipment and operating standards on alternative solvent dry cleaning machines. Currently, alternative solvent dry cleaning activities are regulated under 6 NYCRR Part 212. The proposed rule can be found on DEC’s website at: www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/110006.html.

Governor Announces Methane Reduction Plan

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his Methane Reduction Plan establishing a framework for state agencies to implement measures to reduce emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The Governor directed five agencies, including DEC, to inventory emissions and identify strategies for methane capture and elimination. The resulting plan identifies 25 measures in three sectors—oil and gas, landfills and agriculture. With respect to the oil and gas sector, the plan focuses on leak detection and repair measures, new monitoring and mitigation options, and improved knowledge and information sharing, among other measures. The landfill initiatives, by comparison, focus on developing and implementing programs to divert organics from landfills and implementing methane capture technologies. With respect to agriculture, the plan includes manure and livestock management and carbon sequestration measures. The plan can be found at: www.dec.ny.gov/energy/99223.html.  

Other Recent Developments

Federal                                                                

  • TRANSITION: The Trump administration proposed to slash the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2018 budget by approximately 31%, including: eliminating various regional and other programs; significantly reducing grants to the states for basic program administration; slashing funding for climate and energy research; and significantly reducing funding for basic air, water, enforcement and other programs.
  • CHEMICAL: EPA is accepting comments on draft guidance supporting its recently adopted rule requiring manufacturers/processors of nanoscale materials to report certain information under the Toxic Substances Control Act while at the same time extending the effective date of the rule three months.

New York State

  • WATER: After a pair of emergency rulemakings, the New York State Department of Health has proposed permanent regulations imposing lead testing requirements on public school drinking water systems.
  • WATER: DEC is compiling data to assist it in developing a list of impaired surface waters as required under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act for purposes of identifying waters that do not support their designated uses and so may require development of a total maximum daily load plan.