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Showing 31 posts in Air.

This Blog Post was authored by Brielle Brown, a summer associate.  Originally published on July 7, 2021, it has been updated to reflect that after a rehearing, the decision was affirmed on July 20, 2021.

A three-judge panel of the Third Circuit held on June 21, 2021, that air emission exceedances governed by a state air permit and duly reported to state or local authorities pursuant to the permit need not be reported again to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) pursuant to the Section 103 reporting requirements of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). Clean Air Council v. U.S. Steel Corp., 2 F.4th 112 (3d Cir. 2021); 42 U.S.C. § 9603. The decision was reheard and affirmed on July 20, 2021. Clean Air Council v. U.S. Steel Corp., No. 20-2215, -- F.4th --, 2021 WL 3045927 (3d Cir., July 20, 2021). The court’s reasoning came down to an interpretation of CERCLA that the phrase “subject to” was intended to mean “governed or affected by” rather than “obedient to.” Id. at *3–4. Thus, air emissions that violate relevant Clean Air Act permits are nevertheless “subject to” that permit and therefore exempt from CERCLA’s reporting requirement. Id. Read More »

This Blog Post was authored by Timothy Johnson, a summer associate.

Earlier this month, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania concluded that the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) erred in its dismissal of the petitioners’ appeal of the approval of a compressor station plan by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Cole v. Pennsylvania Dep't of Env't Prot., No. 1577 C.D. 2019, 2021 WL 2420667 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2021). In doing so, the Court held that Section 717r(d)(1) of the federal Natural Gas Act, which provides that federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over “civil actions” for review of an approval or denial of a permit or approval required by federal law, does not preclude state administrative agency review of state permitting decisions. Accordingly, the EHB’s review of the matter was not preempted. Read More »

Earlier this month, the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court for the Southern District of New York’s ruling that state common law claims against oil companies for costs resulting from climate change were either preempted by the Clean Air Act, or, in the case of foreign emissions, represented a non-justiciable political question. See City of New York v. Chevron Corp., 993 F.3d 81, 2021 WL 1216541 (2d Cir. 2021). The decision represents the first time an appellate court has had the opportunity to rule on the merits of the federal preemption defense raised by defendants. Although there are active lawsuits in other jurisdictions where plaintiffs have made substantially similar claims, decisions in the other active climate change suits thus far have been restricted to the issue of whether climate change suits brought in state court were properly removed to federal court. The decisions in those cases, therefore, have not addressed the merits of the federal preemption defense. (The Supreme Court is predicted to issue a ruling on the removal issue by the end of its term in June. See Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. BP p.l.c., et al., 388 F. Supp. 3d 538, 548 (D. Md.), as amended (June 20, 2019), aff’d, 952 F.3d 452 (4th Cir.), cert. granted, 141 S. Ct. 222 (2020)). Read More »

On February 22, 2021, the D.C. Circuit granted the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) motion to stay the vacatur of the Trump administration’s Clean Power Plan Repeal Rule until EPA conducts further rulemaking on the issue in the case of American Lung Association v. EPA, No. 19-1140 (D.C. Cir., Feb. 22, 2021). This decision marks the latest action in the ongoing efforts by EPA and states to regulate greenhouse gas emissions; particularly in terms of carbon emissions from currently existing power plants. For additional background, please see previous MGKF blog on this topic here.  Read More »

On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated and remanded the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule (“ACE Rule”), which itself was a rollback of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (“CPP”); once again reshaping the heart of American climate policy. American Lung Association v. EPA, No. 19-1140 (D.C. Cir., Jan. 19, 2021). The CPP and ACE Rule both sought to regulate greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from existing stationary sources but used highly divergent interpretations of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) to do so. In making its ruling, the Court called the Trump Environmental Protection Agency’s interpretation of the CAA a “fundamental misconstruction” of the statute and provided a lengthy analysis of its findings. Id. at 16. The Court ultimately held that because the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) based the ACE Rule “on an erroneous view of the law” (as opposed to having based the ACE Rule on a valid exercise of agency discretion), the court had no choice but to vacate the rule and remand it to the EPA for additional interpretation. Id. at 46. Because President Biden has described climate change as the “existential threat of our time,” the Biden EPA will likely use this opportunity to draft new rulemaking regarding the regulation of GHG emissions. Read More »

Last week the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a precedential opinion reversing the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s decision granting a Motion to Dismiss a complaint filed by homeowners concerning alleged odors and air contaminants emanating from the Bethlehem landfill, thus reviving the case. Baptiste v. Bethlehem Landfill Co., No. 19-1692, slip op. (3d. Cir. July 13, 2020). In doing so, the Court found that a class of Pennsylvania homeowners allegedly affected by landfill odors may bring suit under theories of negligence, public nuisance and private nuisance. Read More »

Relying on Texas caselaw, the Fifth Circuit, in Gao v. Blue Ridge Landfill TX, L.P., No. 19-40062 (5th Cir. Oct. 30, 2019), affirmed a district court decision which held that homeowners who moved near a preexisting landfill were subject to a two-year statute of limitations to bring suit based on odors emanating from the landfill. The case, while reliant on state law, nonetheless suggests that such claims that sound in nuisance need to be brought quickly, and that even a change in operations or uptick in odor complaints may be insufficient to reset the clock on the viability of claims. Read More »

This Post was authored by Andrew LeDonne, a MGKF summer associate. 

On July 2, 2018, the State of Rhode Island (“RI”) filed suit against twenty-one oil and gas companies in an attempt to hold these organizations liable for climate change impacts RI has and will experience. The defendants (Chevron Corp., et al.) removed the case to federal court. On August 17, 2018, RI filed a motion to remand the case back to state court. On Monday, July 22, 2019, the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island granted RI’s motion to remand. The remand order was stayed for sixty days for the court to consider whether a further stay pending appeal is warranted. Rhode Island v. Chevron Corp., 2019 WL 3282007 (D.R.I. July 22, 2019). Read More »

Last week, Judge Chad F. Kenney, former Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge and recent appointee to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granted Defendant Bethlehem Landfill Company’s motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging that landfill odors created a public and private nuisance for all households within a 2.5-mile radius of the facility. Baptiste v. Bethlehem Landfill Co. et al., No. 18-2691, 2019 WL 1219709 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 13, 2019). The lead plaintiffs, Robin and Dexter Baptiste, reside 1.6 miles from the facility and allege that odors from the facility impacted their property value and ability to enjoy their property. Id. at *5. They alleged that the conditions affected 8,400 households within a 2.5-mile radius. Id.  They styled their claims as claims for public nuisance, private nuisance, and negligence. Id. at *1. Read More »

In August 2016, pursuant to § 7601 of the Clean Air Act, EPA issued its proposed Amendments to Regional Consistency Regulations (“Amended Regulations”), 40 C.F.R. §§ 56.3-56.5 (2017). The Amended Regulations state that, for purposes of implementing the Clean Air Act nationwide, EPA would only apply decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit uniformly:

Only decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court that arise from challenges to ‘nationally applicable regulations . . . or final action,’ as discussed in Clean Air Act section 307(b) (42 U.S.C. 7607(b)), shall apply uniformly.

In National Environmental Development Association’s Clean Air Project v. EPA, No. 16-1344 (D.C. Cir. June 8, 2016), industry groups (“Petitioners”) challenged the Amended Regulations in the D.C. Circuit on the basis that EPA is charged with implementing the Clean Air Act uniformly nationwide and must establish mechanisms for resolving judicially-created inconsistencies, as opposed to ignoring them. In the decision rendered earlier this month, the D.C. Circuit denied the petitions for review and upheld the Amended Regulations. Read More »