Recent Regulatory Activity

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Attorney Anthony B. Cavender discusses selected federal regulatory actions taken or proposed by several federal agencies, including the EPA.

October 25, 2021
Anthony B. Cavender - Gravel2Gavel

Selected federal regulatory actions taken or proposed by several federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency:

EPA Actions.

On September 15, 2021, EPA’s Water Office issued a memo rescinding a January 2021 guidance document that purported to provide the regulatory community with EPA’s understanding of the Supreme Court’s Clean Water Act ruling in the case of County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund. That case involved a discharge of pollutants to groundwater which eventually made their way to the Pacific Ocean. Was an NPDES permit required to authorize this discharge, which was not initially made to a navigable body of water? The text of the Clean Water Act provided little guidance, and the matter has become very controversial. The Court held that if the discharge was the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge, a permit may be required, and the Court described some factors that could influence a determination that there was the functional equivalent of a direct discharge. However, EPA has rescinded the January 2021 guidance, opining that EPA’s earlier analysis was inconsistent the Court’s opinion, and that the guidance was issued without proper deliberation within EPA or with its federal partners. Until new guidance is prepared, EPA will continue to apply “site-specific, science-based evaluations” to resolve these questions. On October 1, 2021, EPA released its “Climate Adaption Action Plan.” Briefly, EPA will take steps to ensure that its programs and policies consider current and future impacts of climate change and how the impacts disproportionately affect certain underserved or environmental justice communities. The agency’s air and water quality programs, contaminated sites activities and chemical safety and pollution prevention programs will be analyzed to determine their impact. Also on October 1, 2021, EPA released its draft FY 2022-2026 Strategic Plan to protect health and the environment. The plan, essentially an internal directive to all offices and regions, reflects a new “foundational principle”—to advance justice and equity by taking on the climate crisis and taking decisive action to advance civil rights and environmental justice.

Mr. Cavender may be contacted at


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