Friday, February 10, 2012

EPA Releases Final Health Assessment for Tetrachloroethylene (PERC)

On February 10, 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted the agency’s final toxicological review of tetrachloroethylene. Tetrachloroethylene – also known as PERC, or PCE – is a solvent widely used in the dry cleaning industry. The review characterizes PERC as a “likely human carcinogen” and provides estimates for both cancer and non-cancer effects of exposure to the chemical. EPA's new calculated cancer risks for PCE are lower than the current values used by EPA, while non-cancer risks are higher by an order of magnitude or more.  Thus, risk-based screening levels based on EPA's newly-calculated cancer risks may increase, resulting in less stringent cleanup standards at PCE-contaminated sites. 

Many states, including California, already have stricter risk-based cleanup standards for PCE, and will not be immediately affected by the new federal standards.  The new standard will be used to develop a revised Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL, the federal drinking water standard) for PCE, but it is too early to predict whether that standard will be lower than the current MCL.

-Chris Jensen and Morgan Gilhuly

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ninth Circuit Invalidates State Implementation Plan

California's Central Valley is once again without an approved State Implementation Plan for ozone. On Friday, January 20, the Ninth Circuit held, in Sierra Club v. US EPA, that EPA had acted arbitrarily and capriciously in approving the 2004 plan.

The Valley is an extreme non-attainment area for ozone, and has been a non-attainment area since 1991. California proposed a SIP for the Valley in 2004, but amendments to the plan and EPA's review took so long that by the time EPA approved the plan, which was based on 2004 data, in 2010 there was more current data that EPA chose not to consider in approving the SIP. The Ninth Circuit held that the SIP was required to be based on "current" and "accurate" data, and although that standard doesn't require constant updating, EPA could not ignore data that was collected in 2007 and in EPA's possession when it approved the SIP.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

US Supreme Court decides AEP

On Monday, June 20, 2011, the US Supreme Court issued its decision in American Electric Power Co., Inc. v. Connecticut. The Supreme Court reversed the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and held that the Clean Air Act displaces any potential claim under federal common law to restrain emissions of greenhouse gases. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower courts to decide whether the plaintiffs (a group of states and private land trusts) could sue for the same relief -- a cap on GHG emissions by large power companies -- under state nuisance law. The opinion did not take any position on that issue, but it was clear that at least some members, and perhaps all, of the Court would be skeptical of any claim that judges should determine GHG emissions. The decision was unanimous, with Justice Sotomayor recusing herself because she had participated in the Second Circuit decision below.

The upshot of this opinion is that it will increase the impetus for EPA to pursue comprehensive GHG regulation, even in the absence of further federal legislation. The Court made it clear that EPA is the agency charged under current federal law with regulation of GHGs, and that "[i]t is altogether fitting that Congress designated an expert agency . . . as best suited to serve as primary regulator" of GHG emissions. The Court explained that any EPA decision not to regulate GHG emissions would be subject to judicial review, and ultimately would end up back in the Supreme Court.


Monday, May 30, 2011

More on Judge Goldsmith's ruling and its impact

As the New York Times notes in this article, Judge Goldsmith's ruling is just part of a national retreat from a cap-and-trade approach.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

GHG Regs

The most effective enemy of the California Cap-and-Trade regulations is turning out to be the environmental community. First, environmental groups sued to stop the California Air Resources Board from promulgating the cap-and-trade regulation without a further CEQA analysis -- and won. Now, the Sierra Club has asked Governor Brown to re-assess cap-and-trade. So many cliches come to mind, it's hard to know where to start: with friends like these, who needs enemies, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, don't throw the baby out with the bath water, etc., etc. Whatever one's view of cap-and-trade, it seems obvious that without a successful AB 32 program in California, national action on climate change is far less likely. Thus, it's strange to see environmentalists lining up in opposition.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Green Chemistry

There are two mammoth environmental programs wending their way through the rule-making process in California now, CARB's proposed cap-and-trade regulations and DTSC's green chemistry initiative. The latter promises to have a far larger effect on products sold in California even than Proposition 65, which has generated its own litigation specialty. DTSC's acting director has reportedly said that DTSC will release a new draft of its green chemistry regulations within the next few days with very short 15-day public comment period.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Declaratory Relief in CERCLA Actions

The Ninth Circuit today held that a CERCLA plaintiff that fails to prove liability for recoverable response costs may not obtain declaratory relief for future response costs that it may incur. In City of Colton v. American Promotional Events, Inc., the Ninth Circuit first affirmed summary judgment for defendants on plaintiff's claims for responses costs because plaintiff had admittedly not complied with the National Contingency Plan. The court then held, in a case of first impression in the Ninth Circuit, that plaintiff was not entitled to declaratory relief for future costs.