Environmental Regulatory Update – January 2019
Posted on January 17, 2019
Download the full report for January 4, 2019 (pdf)
Recent Developments (January 4, 2019)
EPA Proposes Major Changes to New Power Plant Climate Change Standards
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed changes to the Obama administration’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new, modified and reconstructed coal-fired power plants. In 2015, EPA determined that partial carbon capture and storage (CCS) was the best system of emission reduction for newly constructed coal-fired steam generating units and adopted NSPS based on that finding. With the recent notice, EPA announced that it was revising this determination based on the high cost and limited geographic availability of CCS. In its place, EPA is proposing significant increases in the CO2 emission limits for new coal-fired power plants; it also announced plans to apply the revised standards to both new and reconstructed units while retaining the existing provisions for large modifications (i.e., modifications that result in an increase in hourly emissions of more than 10%). Like its predecessor, the new rule limits emissions from modified units based on each unit’s own best potential performance. EPA is not proposing any changes to the NSPS for newly constructed or reconstructed stationary combustion turbines. More generally, EPA is taking comment on whether to revise its approach to identifying source categories for regulation under the NSPS program. Information about the proposed rule can be found in the December 20, 2018 Federal Register at: www.govinfo.gov.
DEC Seeks Comment on Updated SEQR Handbook
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is making the fourth edition of The SEQR Handbook available for public comment. The SEQR Handbook is a reference document that provides agency staff, project sponsors, and the general public with a practical guide to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), addressing common questions that arise during the SEQR process. The updated Handbook reflects changes to the SEQR regulations adopted in 2018 as well as clarifying existing sections to address questions or suggestions received since the third edition of the Handbook was released in 2010. Key changes since 2010 include a revamping of DEC’s environmental assessment forms and publication of workbooks to assist in completing the forms, revising the list of Type I and Type II actions, requiring scoping for all environmental impact statements (EIS), and updating the content/procedures governing EISs. The draft Handbook can be found on DEC’s website at: www.dec.ny.gov/permits/83389.html.
Other Recent Developments
- AIR: EPA finalized its determination that the existing Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) update for the 2008 ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) fully addresses various states’ obligations under the good neighbor provision of the Clean Air Act (CAA), finding that there would be no remaining nonattainment or maintenance concerns in these states with respect to the 2008 ozone NAAQS as of 2023.
- CLIMATE CHANGE: EPA established renewable fuel standards (RFS) for gasoline and diesel transportation fuel produced or imported for 2019, exercising its authority to set standards lower than those mandated by the CAA after finding that the market’s continued failure to produce the statutory quantities of cellulosic biofuel had impaired its ability to supply the increasing volumes of renewable fuel mandated by the Act.
- SOLID WASTE: EPA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) seeking comment on possible revisions to the rules barring the disposal of bulk liquids in municipal solid waste landfills, including the wisdom of allowing liquids in landfills for purposes of promoting accelerated biodegradation of waste as well as the possible permitting of so-called “wet landfill” units.
- OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed changes to its beryllium standard for general industry with the purported goal of clarifying certain provisions and simplifying and improving compliance.
- GENERAL: Following cross-governmental outreach and collaboration, the Trump administration issued a Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposure and Associated Health Impacts, identifying a series of goals, objectives and action measures targeted at reducing lead exposure in children. The identified goals are reducing children’s exposure to lead sources, identifying lead-exposed children and improving their health outcomes, communicating more effectively with stakeholders, and supporting and conducting critical research to inform efforts to reduce lead exposure and related health risks.
New York State
- AIR: DEC replaced its existing regulations implementing the CSAPR with new rules that simplify program implementation by incorporating key definitions and other federal requirements by reference rather than adopting State-specific regulations.
- GENERAL: DEC issued its Regulatory Agenda for 2019, identifying the regulatory changes DEC may pursue in the upcoming year. The agenda includes plans for new regulations addressing salt piles, oil and gas sector emissions, and a ban on the use of certain hydrofluorocarbons as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. Dozens of existing regulations are listed for possible revision.