HydraFracIn a letter to the Department of Justice late last week, California and 10 other states, the cites of New York and D.C., as well as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council agreed to give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) an extension until November 30th of this year to create regulations limiting the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by power plants before pursuing legal action to enforce a December 2010 settlement.

This all began back in 2006 when these petitioners sued EPA under the Clean Air Act (CAA) upon passage of a final rule regulating utility emissions without limiting GHGs. The petitioners’ position was given teeth following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the court held that carbon dioxide falls within the definition of a pollutant under the CAA. The 2010 settlement required that EPA create the rules by July of 2011. This deadline was extended to the end of September of this year and was then further extended to the end of October. The petitioners stated that they are willing to agree to this third extension “in light of progress made to date.” The extension talks are confidential (since they are really settlement modification discussions), however, various news outlets are reporting that the discussions are centered more around the schedule for rule-making rather than the meat of the rules.

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Earlier this month, the lower house of Australia’s parliament (think House of Representatives) passed a series of bills, including the Clean Energy Bill 2011, by a vote of 74 to 72. The bill is known as the “carbon tax.” Starting in July of 2012, approximately 500 of the biggest emitters in the country will be required to pay A$23 (approximately $23 USD) per metric ton of carbon emissions they produce. Then in 2015, a market based trading system will take over.

Australia is the biggest exporter of coal in the world and approximately 80% of its electricity is generated by coal. It is one of the biggest per capita greenhouse gas emitting countries in the world. The bill’s goals include a 5% reduction in carbon emissions from the levels in 2000 by 2020 and an 80% reduction by the year 2050.

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Courtroom

Last week, the California Supreme Court ruled to allow the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to continue to work on the cap and trade regulations contained within AB32’s Scoping Plan.

We have brought you the blow-by-blow action in this case (here, here, here, and here), and as we blogged, CARB’s implementation of the Scoping Plan was temporarily halted earlier in the year when the San Francisco County Superior Court ordered CARB to set aside its approval of the plan as it relates to cap-and-trade and complete a more thorough review of alternatives to the plan’s proposed reduction measures. CARB appealed the Superior Court’s substantive decision as well as the injunction halting CARB’s work on the Scoping Plan during the appeal. The Appellate Court granted CARB’s petition for a writ of supersedeas, staying the Superior Court’s Writ of Mandate and allowing CARB to move forward with its cap-and-trade rulemaking while the appeal proceeds. This is the decision that the Suprem

e Court affirmed last Wednesday.

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WhiteHouseLast week, the White House announced that it would ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw the proposed rule which would revise the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone, the main component in smog. The proposed rule would have strengthened the 8-hour “primary” ozone standard to a level within the range of 0.060-0.070 parts per million (ppm) (down from the 0.075 ppm standard established in 2008). It also would have established a cumulative, seasonal “secondary” standard within the range of 7-15 ppm-hours. EPA stated that the new rule would ensure that these standards are grounded in science, bringing them in line with the recommendation of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, EPA’s panel of science advisors.

The ozone standards are up for reconsideration under the Clean Air Act in 2013 and President Obama stated that he “did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.” The President confirmed that his decision to halt the rule is tied to the weakened economy, citing “the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.”
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SemiTruckOn Tuesday, the Obama administration, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) announced new standards aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increasing fuel efficiency for buses, big rig trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles. This comes on the heels of last week’s similar announcement for cars and light-duty trucks.

The program covers vehicles built for the 2014 through 2018 model years and divides the vehicles into three categories: (1) combination tractors (“semis” or “big rigs”), (2) heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and (3) vocational vehicles (such as buses and garbage trucks). By the 2018 model year, big rigs will be required to achieve a fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emission reduction of approximately 20%. An approximate 15% reduction will be required of 2018 model year heavy-duty pickups and vans. And, by model year 2018, buses, garbage trucks and the like will be required to achieve about a 10% reduction. These standards will result in savings of 4 to 1 gallons of fuel per 100 miles traveled, depending on the vehicle type.

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PollutingStacksOn Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the issuance of the final Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The rule will increase the amount and kind of information required to be reported by chemical manufacturers, including increasing the range of chemicals to which the reporting requirements apply, as well as increase the frequency of the required reporting (from every 5 years to every 4 years). EPA also states that the revised rule will decrease manufacturers’ ability to assert confidentiality claims.

One of the more interesting aspects of the rule, however, is the new requirement that the information be submitted electronically. Manufacturers affected by the rule will be required to use an EPA-provided, web-based reporting tool to submit reports through the Internet. Paper submissions will no longer be accepted. This will allow the public to more easily access the information – creating more transparency. Additionally, similar to the way electronic processing of prescriptions has allowed pharmacists to predict a potentially dangerous drug interaction, this new requirement will improve data quality and EPA’s ability to use the information to identify and manage potential risks associated with the chemicals.

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Los AngelesOn Monday, environmental groups, including Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Desert Citizens Against Pollution, Communities for a Better Environment and the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The suit alleges that EPA ran afoul of the Clean Air Act (CAA) by missing a May deadline requiring the agency to determine if the LA area has exceeded the federal one-hour ozone standard.

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WasteWaterThe California Court of Appeal in Orange County found late last week that agencies are not required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to evaluate the potential impact that the present environment would have on a proposed project. If you just read that and rubbed your eyes that is because it seems a little backwards… and it is.

Down in the beautiful beachy city of Dana Point, South Orange County Wastewater Authority operates a sewage treatment plant near the shore. (Okay, so, beautiful except for that.) In 2007, a developer submitted an application to the city requesting a rezoning of the property so that it could be developed into mixed-use residential and commercial. The City’s planning commission began the environmental review process required of it under CEQA. As our loyal readers will recall, CEQA requires “state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.” After its review, the City’s planning commission determined that any environmental effects caused by the proposed project could be mitigated and it issued a mitigated negative declaration (or MND). An MND is issued when the potentially significant effects that the proposed project may have on the environment can be avoided or reduced to a level of insignificance by making revisions in the project or instituting mitigation measures.
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Power PlantOn Monday, the highest court in the land held in American Electric Power Co., Inc. v. Connecticut that federal common law nuisance claims relating to climate change are displaced (or “preempted” for you traditionalists out there) by the Clean Air Act (CAA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action authorized by the CAA. The case began in 2004 when eight states and New York City sued American Electric Power Company, Inc. and three other private electric companies as well as the Tennessee Valley Authority for federal common law nuisance as well as state tort claims. (It was quickly consolidated with a similar case brought by non-profit environmental land trusts.) The plaintiffs’ federal common law nuisance claim was based on their contention that, as the “five largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States,” the defendants’ actions resulted in a “substantial and unreasonable interference with public rights.” That’s the “what”… here’s the “why”…
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Electric CarIn what the Air Resources Board (ARB) is calling “a wonderful problem to have,” the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) is projected to run out of funds by next month. I don’t think this comes has a huge shock to those of us that are Angelinos. After all, we are pretty accustomed to seeing electric vehicle charging stations all over town… someone must be using them! Among those using them are the approximately 1,700 people that have, thus far, received a rebate for purchasing a zero emission vehicle.
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