Air

Tracking the latest agency and congressional debates over rules to cut emissions of traditional pollutants, and a broad range of novel EPA policies including the agency's shift to a "multipollutant" regulatory approach for individual sectors.

Topic Subtitle
Tracking the latest agency and congressional debates over rules to cut emissions of traditional pollutants, and a broad range of novel EPA policies including the agency's shift to a "multipollutant" regulatory approach for individual sectors.


Court Ruling Bolsters Regulators’ Need For ‘Events’ Waivers As Fires Rage

As massive wildfires continue to burn in western states, the recent ruling upholding EPA’s air-standards waiver for Arizona based on ozone from distant fires highlights the growing importance of such exemptions to regulators faced with increasing impacts, though some fear they are not adequately protecting public health from such “exceptional events.” One western state air quality official says the ruling will assist state, local and tribal regulators in avoiding nonattainment designations for national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) when there...

VW asks high court to review second air act preemption case

Automaker Volkswagen (VW) has launched a second appeal to the Supreme Court seeking to confirm federal preemption of state or local efforts to enforce against manufacturers for post-sale changes to vehicle fleets that result in air emissions beyond permissible levels, after the Ohio Supreme Court found the state can bring its own action. VW Aug. 27 filed a petition asking the justices to review the Ohio court’s holding earlier this summer in State of Ohio ex rel. Dave Yost, Ohio...

EPA Enforcement Focus Yields Aftermarket-Parts Deals Amid IG Inquiry

EPA’s two-year-old enforcement focus on aftermarket parts manufacturers has yielded a series of new settlements to halt sales of illegal “defeat devices” that bypass or render inoperative EPA-certified emission controls on mobile sources, though the agency still faces an Office of Inspector General (OIG) inquiry into the program. Over the past few days, EPA has announced three Clean Air Act settlements with aftermarket parts companies across the country. For example, EPA won a surprise deal with Arizona-based Gear Box Z...

Hurricane Ida triggers focus on chemical plant safety issues

The massive Hurricane that hammered Louisiana earlier this week is refocusing attention on the environmental risks posed by the state’s petrochemical industry. Just days before Hurricane Ida made landfall, a former Army general who led the Defense Department’s (DOD) task force on Hurricane Katrina in 2005 called for state and federal agencies to halt the permitting of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and other large fossil fuel projects in the Gulf Coast’s so-called hurricane alley. Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré,...

Environmentalists Step Up ‘Rights’ Claims To Bolster EJ Elevation Effort

Environmental and community groups are stepping up their claims that state and local regulators are failing to abide by the Civil Rights Act (CRA) in their permitting decisions, filing petitions with EPA and other agencies at a more rapid pace than in the past in response to efforts by President Joe Biden to prioritize environmental and racial justice concerns. Over the past few days, for example, groups in Texas and New York have filed separate petitions under Title VI of...

As EPA issues hurricane fuel waiver, RFA pushes more ethanol

EPA has issued waivers from federal fuel volatility limits for Louisiana and Mississippi to alleviate fuel supply concerns in the wake of Hurricane Ida, as the storm spurs advocacy from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) which is pushing for regulatory waivers to allow increased ethanol sales to help meet any shortfall in fuel. EPA announced Aug. 31 an emergency waiver of the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) requirements in Louisiana and Mississippi to help improve the fuel supply beginning August 30...

Texas sues EPA over SO2 nonattainment designations

Texas is suing EPA over its refusal to lift its Clean Air Act “nonattainment” designations for several counties that have failed to meet federal sulfur dioxide (SO2) standards, after the Trump EPA initially proposed to use an “error correction” procedure to lift the findings in the light of power plant closures that reduce SO2 emissions. In a lawsuit filed Aug. 25 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, Texas sued EPA to overturn its June 29 denial...

EPA’s Regan Pledges ‘Aggressive Approach’ For Power Sector GHG Rules

EPA Administrator Michael Regan says his agency is taking a “fresh look” at options for regulating greenhouse gases from both new and existing power plants, arguing that a forthcoming proposal would include lessons learned from defunct rules issued by the past two administrations while aiming for a “very aggressive approach.” Regan offered new details on the highly anticipated power sector rules during Aug. 30 remarks as part of a wide-ranging event hosted by think tank Resources for the Future (RFF),...

Petition Ups Pressure On EPA To Widen Scope Of Title V Air Permit Review

Pressure is mounting on EPA to widen its review of Clean Air Act Title V state operating permits to include underlying air permits and states’ choice of permits required, as environmentalists again press the agency to revoke a Trump-era doctrine that EPA will not “second-guess” states’ air permitting decisions. Indiana citizens filed an Aug. 6 petition seeking to reverse the Trump-era policy, asking EPA to object to the Title V and NSR permits for a proposed plant using kilns to...

States Urge EPA To Speed NOx Rules For Large Vessels As Truck Push Fails

State officials are urging EPA to speed plans for new regulations to cut releases of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ocean-going vessels, locomotives and aircraft, even as the agency rejects their call to accelerate new rules to slash emissions of the ozone-forming pollutant from heavy-duty (HD) trucks. In addition to the truck sector, “There are also several other important ‘federal source’ categories within the heavy-duty mobile source sector for which EPA needs to develop pathways to reduce emissions, namely ships,...

Biofuels Groups Eye Long-Term Vehicle GHG Rule As Venue For Sector

Biofuels groups are largely shifting their advocacy focus to future EPA rules, including its longer-term vehicle greenhouse gas standards, as they push ethanol and other biofuels as a low-carbon strategy, after the agency’s near-term auto GHG plan omitted discussion of biofuels as a potential compliance tool. The strategy surfaced in testimony from multiple biofuel backers at an Aug. 25-26 public hearing on EPA’s proposal for vehicle GHG limits from model year 2023-2026, a policy that focuses largely on other strategies...

EPA Seeks Remand Of Trump-Era RFS Waivers, Opening Door To New Policy

EPA is asking a federal appeals court to voluntarily remand Trump-era decisions that granted 31 small refinery waivers from renewable fuel standard (RFS) compliance and denied a smaller number of waiver requests, opening the door for the Biden administration to overhaul the agency’s waiver policies in light of recent court rulings. In an Aug. 25 motion filed in the consolidated suit Sinclair Wyoming Refining, v. EPA, the agency asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia...

Fearing GHG Delays, States Renew Press On EPA To Speed Truck NOx Rule

Update Appended State air regulators are stepping up their push for EPA to accelerate the timeline for adopting rules to slash nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from heavy-duty (HD) trucks, raising new fears that the agency’s plan to combine that measure with tighter greenhouse gas limits could delay the NOx standards and undercut states’ air quality goals. “EPA must take immediate action to issue a proposed rule, not only because revised HD NOx standards are long overdue, but...

Court Rejects Inadequate Contingency Measure In EPA Ozone-Plan Approval

A federal appellate panel has rejected EPA’s approval of California’s ozone attainment plan for the heavily polluted San Joaquin Valley, CA, agreeing with environmentalists that the plan’s single contingency measure is inadequate to help meet air quality limits and that the Trump EPA unlawfully changed its position on the role of such measures. A source familiar with the case says the majority’s endorsement of the need for strong contingency measures as a “meaningful plan B” is key and will be...

EPA Faces Legal, Political Doubts Over RFS Plan To Cut Biofuel Volumes

EPA is facing difficult legal and political questions over its plan, recently submitted to the White House for review, to reduce biofuel blending volumes required under the renewable fuel standard (RFS), especially its reported effort to reduce volumes not only for 2021 but also retroactively for 2020. EPA Aug. 26 sent its long-delayed proposal to set 2021 blending volumes to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for pre-publication review, according to OMB’s website. EPA is also expected...

Court Rejects Manufacturers’ Bid To Scrap EPA Wood-Heater Audit Rules

Wood heater manufacturers have lost their legal bid to scrap EPA requirements for post-sale auditing of their products to ensure compliance with particulate matter (PM) emissions limits, after an appeals court rejected their arguments that EPA did not account for variability in the test results of different laboratories conducting the audits. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in its unanimous Aug. 27 opinion in Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) v. EPA , says the...


Democrats Seek To Curb High-Emitting ‘Peaker’ Plants In Reconciliation Bill

House Democrats are seeking to include measures to address high-emitting “peaker” power plants in the package of environmental and other measures they include in any budget reconciliation legislation lawmakers are poised to write in the coming weeks, arguing such measures are needed to limit harmful exposures in overburdened communities. Speaking on an Aug. 26 roundtable in Astoria, NY, Democratic members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee spoke out on the dangers to health caused by peaking plants, which are...

EPA Vehicle GHG Hearings Showcase Industry Splits On EV Credits

Public testimony on EPA’s near-term vehicle greenhouse gas plan is showcasing splits between traditional automakers who broadly embrace its flexibilities -- including credit “multipliers” for electric vehicle (EV) and other advanced powertrains -- and EV makers arguing they could undercut the EV markets. The remarks at EPA’s August 25-26 hearing on proposed vehicle GHG standards for model years 2023- 2026 showcase how the plan’s effects depend on both its top-line stringency and detailed compliance provisions, including controversy about whether various...

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