The Obama administration released the final version of the Clean Power Plan last week at a White House ceremony attended by a crowd of administration officials, members of Congress and environmental advocates. This highly anticipated plan is the first comprehensive federal rule to target carbon emissions from existing, new and modified power plants. It is touted as the most ambitious regulation ever aimed at combating climate change.

                In Michigan v. EPA the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted unreasonably in failing to consider cost when deciding whether regulating mercury emissions from power plants is “appropriate and necessary.” Twenty-three states challenged the regulations.

                The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate air pollution from stationary sources based on how much pollution the source emits. But EPA may only regulate emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants if it finds that regulation is “appropriate and necessary.” EPA found it “appropriate” to regulate mercury emissions because they pose a risk to human health and the environment and controls are available to reduce them. EPA found it “necessary” to regulate mercury emissions because other requirements in the Act did not eliminate these risks.

All used nuclear fuel produced by the U.S. nuclear energy industry in the past 50 years—approximately 72,000 metric tons—if stacked end-to-end would cover an area the size of a football field to a depth of about seven yards. Although the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 established a national program for the safe, permanent disposal of highly radioactive waste, currently there is no disposal site in the United States for spent rods from the more than 100 operating commercial nuclear reactors across the country. As the nation moves to reduce carbon emissions, nuclear energy may become an increasingly important element in the stability of the U.S. power system, intensifying the need for a permanent solution to spent fuel storage. This free webinar reviews current storage practices and explore challenges and opportunities for a permanent storage solution for the nation’s high-level radioactive spent fuel.

Challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will have to wait until a final rule is released. That’s according to a federal appeals court that rejected on procedural grounds an early challenge to the EPA’s proposed regulations to establish new greenhouse gas standards for existing power plants. The lawsuit, filed by 14 states and some of the nation’s largest coal companies, was the first in a wave of anticipated challenges to the EPA climate change rules. Legal experts say they expect some of those challenges to make it to the Supreme Court.

On May 27, 2015, the Obama administration issued new regulations that identify the waters and wetlands the federal government can regulate under the Clean Water Act, or CWA.  The regulations are intended to resolve issues raised by several Supreme Court decisions that narrowed the reach of federal jurisdiction under the act. 

CSG Midwest
Across the Great Lakes region this year, bills have been introduced to ban the manufacture and sale of certain products containing plastic microbeads. This legislative trend began last year, in response to a two-year scientific study of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Its conclusion: Microbeads (tiny particles that are often too small to be captured by wastewater systems and that are also part of the trash left on beaches) account for the highest count of plastic pollution in the freshwater system.
 
CSG Midwest
Less than a year after a harmful algal bloom temporarily cut off the city of Toledo’s drinking water supply, Ohio lawmakers have passed groundbreaking legislation to keep pollutants out of Lake Erie. SB 1, signed into law in early April, establishes several new provisions to prevent nutrient runoff.
 

Brian Seasholes doesn’t think the Endangered Species Act does a very good job of protecting the at-risk species it was designed to preserve. Seasholes, a research fellow at the Reason Foundation whose work focuses on wildlife and land-use issues, was the featured speaker at a recent CSG eCademy session, “Bringing a Collaborative Approach to the Endangered Species Act.” He said the act, which was passed in 1973, is a stronger law than most members of Congress realized at the time. If you harm an endangered species or even its unoccupied habitat, you can be subject to up to a $100,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

The Endangered Species Act aims to conserve plant and animal species that are endangered or threatened throughout all or a portion of their habitat. But as the list of species protected under the act grows, the range of habitats in which these species live increasingly overlaps with areas otherwise designated for development.

Hundreds of thousands of comments were submitted from states, nongovernmental organizations, trade groups, companies and citizens before the March 17 comment period deadline for a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to tighten national standards for ground-level ozone under the Clean Air Act. Based on the recommendations of EPA’s science advisers, the agency’s rulemaking would lower the existing National Ambient Air Quality Standard—also known as NAAQS—for ozone from 75 parts per billion to between 65 and 70 ppb.

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