The Clean Water Act sometimes requires a permit for the indirect discharge of pollutants from a point source to navigable waters, but only when the discharge is the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge, the Supreme Court held on April 23.  The Court’s 6-3 opinion in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund (No. 18-260) addresses a circuit split regarding whether indirect discharges to navigable water via groundwater are subject to the Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting program, but it has implications for other types of indirect discharges as well.  Although the Court identified some factors that may help determine when a discharge is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge—especially the time and distance between the discharge of a pollutant from a point source and the pollutant’s arrival in navigable waters—its opinion is likely to create substantial uncertainty for the regulated community as the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), litigants, and the courts attempt to apply the Court’s multi-factor test to a variety of factual scenarios.
Continue Reading Clean Water Act Permit Required for “Functional Equivalent” of Direct Discharge, Supreme Court Says

Many of us think of coffee as a morning essential, however, there has been a long running debate between California regulators, courts, business, and consumer advocates regarding whether coffee must have a Proposition 65 (“Prop 65”) warning for cancer.  The debate stems from the fact that roasted coffee beans, and coffee brewed from those beans, contain acrylamide – a chemical of concern under Prop 65 because of potential cancer risks.  This article discusses the opinions of various research groups regarding the noncarcinogenic nature of acrylamide, as well as a recent lawsuit initiated by the California Chamber of Commerce against the California Attorney General to end the need to warn for acrylamide.
Continue Reading Prop 65 Warnings and Acrylamide in Food – Can I Still Have My Coffee and Drink it Too?

On February 20, 2020, the California Energy Commission approved its first community solar system under the 2019 Energy Code, which allows developers of new homes within Sacramento Municipal Utility District (“SMUD”) to meet mandatory solar energy system requirements through solar agreements with SMUD instead of installation of solar panels on new homes.
Continue Reading CALIFORNIA MANDATORY SOLAR UPDATE: First Community Solar Program Approved by California Energy Commission

On January 23, 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (the “2020 Rule”), which includes a revised definition of the “waters of the United States” subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act.[1] The revisions in the 2020 Rule come after a line of U.S. Supreme Court (“Supreme Court”) cases ending with Rapanos v. United States,[2] as well as an Obama-era administrative rule addressing the waterbodies under federal jurisdiction (the “2015 Rule”).[3] Rapanos was the last time the Supreme Court interpreted the term “waters of the United States,” with the intent of curtailing the substantial litigation concerning the meaning of the phrase and defining what “waters of the United States” should be included under federal jurisdiction. The 2015 Rule intended to clarify the definition further and codify the Supreme Court decisions. When effective, the newly issued Navigable Waters Protection Rule will limit the 2015 Rule, attempting again to define what are and what are not “waters of the United States.”
Continue Reading Navigable Waters Protection Rule: How are the “Waters of the United States” Being Defined?

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) recently adopted amendments to California Code of Regulations, section 25600.2 – the section titled “Responsibility to Provide Consumer Product Exposure Warnings.”  These amendments provide more specific guidance for manufacturers, retailers and other businesses in the chain of commerce on how to satisfy their responsibilities to provide consumer product exposure warnings for chemicals listed under Proposition 65. The amendments become effective on April 1, 2020.
Continue Reading Proposition 65: California Clarifies Responsibilities To Warn Amongst Manufacturers, Distributors and Retailers

Public awareness regarding air pollution in the European Union is at an all-time high and citizens expect authorities to act. In this vein, the European Commission[1] has recently taken a number of direct and indirect actions, including engagement of the Court of Justice of the EU, enforcement measures against car manufacturers and a Europe-specific “Green Deal,” to stem the tide of rising air pollution and become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
Continue Reading EU is Taking Action: The Fight for Clean Air

This Fall, the California Coastal Commission (“Commission”) was handed down two significant victories, further cementing its authority and jurisdiction within California coastal zones. These cases demonstrate that, in certain instances, compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Res. Code §§ 21000 et seq.) (“CEQA”) and local regulations may not be enough to secure development rights for either private developers or local governments.
Continue Reading Fall Season Results in California Coastal Commission Victories

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) published a rule on October 23, 2019, repealing the Clean Water Rule promulgated by the Obama administration in 2015. The rule, which goes into effect on December 23, 2019, puts the pre-2015 regulations governing areas subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act back into place nationwide. Environmental groups and state attorneys general have vowed to challenge the repeal in court.
Continue Reading EPA and Army Repeal Clean Water Rule and Move Forward with Plan to Redefine Waters Subject to Federal Regulation under Clean Water Act

Today President Trump announced on Twitter that the U.S. was revoking California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act (CAA) which allowed it to impose stricter tailpipe emission standards than the federal ones. California’s Governor Newsom and Attorney General Becerra immediately announced that the state would file suit to challenge the revocation.

While the revocation has been characterized as an immediate rollback, the federal corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards[1] established under the previous administration, which are consistent with California’s, remain in place. Last year the Trump administration proposed to rollback those standards, freezing the efficiency and emission rules in 2021 and canceling further increases in stringency set through 2028. The final rule has not yet been issued. It is rumored that it will not be, as the administrative record supporting it has many problems and most acknowledge that it faces significant legal hurdles.
Continue Reading Politics Trumps Economics? Trump’s Revocation of California’s Waiver Under the Clean Air Act

On August 27, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, the “Services”) published final rules amending three important parts of the federal regulations that implement the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq.). The amended rules, which will take effect on September 26:

  • Eliminate the automatic extension of protections to threatened (as opposed to endangered) species;
  • Revise the provisions for designating critical habitat and listing and de-listing species under ESA Section 4; and
  • Revise the procedures for interagency consultation under ESA Section 7.


Continue Reading Endangered Species Act Rulemakings Face Immediate Challenge