By Lawrence A. Kogan*
For decades, federal agencies have incrementally extended their control over agricultural lands by expanding the definition of “waters of the US” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and asserting broad legal jurisdiction over WOTUS-adjacent “wetlands.” Those efforts triggered intense legal conflicts, facilitated the CWA’s growth into a “regulatory hydra,” and caused a “reversal of terms [in our unique relationship with government] that is worthy of Alice in Wonderland.”1
President Trump recently issued Executive Order 13778 as the first step aimed at curtailing this government juggernaut. The order directs the heads of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) to review for substantial revision or rescission their jointly issued 2015 CWA regulation that expanded the definition of “WOTUS.” Presumably, EPA’s review of this regulation will be undertaken while the October 9, 2015 federal court-issued stay of its implementation remains in place.2 Continue reading
Susan E. Dudley is Director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, which she founded in 2009, and a distinguished professor of practice in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. From 2007 to 2009, she served as the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
WLF Legal Pulse: As promised, Congress and the Administration have quickly gotten to work reconsidering and removing a host of federal regulations while also setting the stage for a much different approach to regulation. Let’s first talk about what Congress is doing.
Professor Dudley: Under the Congressional Review Act of 1996 (CRA), Congress has 60 legislative days after a regulation is published to vote to disapprove it. The procedures for disapproval are streamlined (including requiring a simple majority in the Senate) and if a rule is disapproved, the agency cannot issue something substantially similar. Continue reading
*Grace Galvin, a Communications Associate at WLF who received her JD from Charleston School of Law and is pursuing a Master’s in Journalism and Public Affairs at American University, contributed significantly to this post.
“A blessing” is the description Franklin Bess used to convey his feelings toward the oil and natural gas industry, as long as the drilling is American-based. He and his wife, Katie Bess, are the proud owners of The Williamson Ranch in west Texas, land that has been in Katie’s family for five generations.
In an interview with Ezra Levant, a Canadian broadcaster and “ethical oil” advocate, the Bess family expressed relief in April 2015 when an oil-and-gas exploration and production company bought their expiring lease with Tall City Exploration. This sale has provided the income necessary to allow the Bess family to maintain the ranching life—a rarity today—and pass their land on to future generations.
Many ranching families near Big Spring, Texas have similar stories, and they have the Permian Basin shale that lies beneath their town, and the use of such extraction techniques as hydraulic fracturing, to thank for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, environmental activists, with the help of the federal government, have generated a narrative that paints hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” as a destructive and offensive process. Continue reading
Featured Expert Column – Environmental Law and Policy
By Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP
On July 15, 2016, North Dakota became the first petitioner to challenge the Obama Administration’s unprecedented Clean Air Act rule governing methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas sources (“Methane Rule”).1 More petitions are anticipated.
The rule—also referred to as the “QuadOa” rule,2—sets emissions standards for methane at certain new and modified upstream and midstream oil and gas sources and requires owners and operators of affected sources to implement a leak-detection program to identify and repair fugitive emission leaks. Home to the Bakken Shale formation and now the nation’s second largest oil-producing state, North Dakota has a substantial interest in the burdens and benefits of the rule. Continue reading
The U.S. Supreme Court: October 2015 Term Review
Speakers: The Honorable Jay Stephens, Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Andrew J. Pincus, Mayer Brown LLP; Elizabeth P. Papez, Winston & Strawn LLP; Jeffrey B. Wall, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Our speakers discussed Court rulings in the areas of class actions, arbitration, the federal False Claims Act, intellectual property, federal regulation, and property rights.
Featured Expert Column – Environmental Law and Policy
By Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP with Ben Tannen, Sidley Austin LLP
On May 31, 2016, the US Supreme Court held that a Clean Water Act (CWA) “jurisdictional determination” (JD) was final agency action subject to review under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes, Co. Hawkes empowers landowners to challenge decisions that the CWA applies to a specific parcel of property immediately after that determination, rather than after an enforcement action or completion of the lengthy and burdensome permitting process. The judgment was unanimous, with seven of eight justices signing on to Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion for the Court; Justice Ginsburg concurred in the judgment.
The underlying dispute involved the CWA’s most controversial provision: Section 404, which prohibits the discharge of pollutants from a point source into “waters of the United States” without a permit.1 Section 404 directs the Army Corps to issue permits authorizing the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. Continue reading
Returning to the topic of hydraulic fracturing (see Mark Chenoweth’s May 4 post below), we note the lawsuit that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other environmental activists filed on May 4 against EPA, alleging that the agency simply is not doing enough to regulate fracking. Just two days earlier, the Colorado Supreme Court held that state law preempts efforts by local governments to regulate fracking. Perhaps that outcome dictated the timing of NRDC’s action. Such local ordinances are part of NRDC’s three-pronged approach to attacking this oil and natural-gas extraction method. The coalition of plaintiffs includes Earthworks, which intervened to defend the local ordinance in one of the Colorado cases. Continue reading