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US Senate confirms energy nominees; shutdown affecting EPA-related litigation


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US Senate confirms energy nominees; shutdown affecting EPA-related litigation

US EPA review could inform Supreme Court case with big coal ash implications

The U.S. Solicitor General has encouraged the U.S. Supreme Court to review a case that carries major implications for coal ash cleanup efforts, and the results of a soon-to-be-completed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review could play a key role in the proceedings.

In a brief filed Jan. 3 at the request of the high court, the Solicitor General said justices should hear a case to resolve a so-called "circuit split" on whether the Clean Water Act applies to pollution that travels to federally protected surface waters via groundwater.

US EPA's mercury proposal could pave way for court challenge to Obama-era rule

With its recent proposal to rescind the legal basis for the Obama-era Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has staked out a nuanced position that some believe eventually could give private coal interests cover to challenge the regulation itself.

Others suggest that the move could be part of a broader effort by the agency to limit the consideration of co-benefits — or the monetized "side benefits" that flow from regulations — in other major rulemakings.

US Senate confirms several Trump energy, environmental nominees

As the 115th U.S. Congress wound down, the U.S. Senate voted Jan. 2 to confirm a wave of nominees for energy and environmental positions within the Trump administration: Daniel Simmons as assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Mary Neumayr as head of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, Teri Donaldson as the DOE's inspector general, Kelvin Droegemeier as director of the DOE's Office of Science and Technology Policy and Alexandra Dapolito Dunn as assistant administrator for toxic substances at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

US government partial shutdown starts to impact energy-related lawsuits

Attorneys working on energy-related litigation involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are beginning to feel the effects of the impasse over funding for portions of the federal government.

Out of approximately 14,000 employees nationwide, the EPA estimated that nearly 800 workers will be retained at its Washington, D.C., headquarters and regional offices under a contingency plan posted on the agency's website. In accordance with shutdown guidelines established in 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice already has requested court stays in some EPA-related litigation.

Interior advances proposal for Okla. met coal lease

Evans Coal Co.'s proposal to mine coal on 1,270 acres of federal land in Oklahoma would have no significant environmental impact, according to assessment by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Because of the finding, the agency will not prepare an environmental impact statement or supplement the assessment.

US EPA caps busy year of regulatory action on energy, air and water policy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had a busy year of regulatory activity.

Some of the 2018 highlights included a proposed replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, a proposal to relax national fuel economy and emissions standards for cars and light-duty trucks, significant changes to an Obama-era rule regulating coal ash storage, and the reconsideration of an Obama-era rule restricting emissions of mercury and other airborne toxics from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Murray Energy, MSHA unable to settle suit over pattern-violator rule for mines

Murray Energy Corp. and the Ohio Coal Association were unable to reach a settlement with federal mine safety officials over a challenge to an Obama-era rule targeting repeat violators of mine safety standards, and the parties now plan to proceed with briefing the merits of the case.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration and the plaintiffs told the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in a joint filing on Dec. 19 that despite extensions on previous deadlines to negotiate a settlement, they were unable to reach an agreement.