Overview of Federal Activities

January 21, 2020
Carol F. McCabe, Esq. and Zachary J. Koslap, Esq.
MGKF Special Alert - Federal Forecast 2020

The Trump administration and the EPA ended the decade with a number of policy announcements and rulemaking that we predicted in our 2019 forecast.  In particular, EPA’s repeal of the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule became final in December. EPA also undertook rulemaking actions and issued several memoranda relating to certain New Source Review permitting policies under the Clean Air Act at the end of 2019.  Additionally, EPA promulgated the final Affordable Clean Energy rule, which replaced the Clean Power Plan implemented during the Obama administration.  Although EPA largely continued its deregulatory focus during 2019, EPA also took steps to address the emergence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and announced the next chemicals to undergo risk evaluation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). 

This year, we can expect continued efforts to address PFAS contamination from both EPA and Congress.  EPA is also likely to issue rulemaking implementing many of the key policy objectives raised during the first year of the Trump administration, such as a finalized new WOTUS rule, and proposed rules addressing vehicle emissions standards and review of federal actions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Changes made to the Endangered Species Act regulations in late 2019 also are expected to significantly alter federal decision-making under that statute in 2020.  Finally, Two Executive Orders addressing how federal agencies develop, publicize and use guidance documents could radically change the nature, scope and effect of these important documents.

We may also see a significant decision from the Supreme Court impacting EPA’s ability to implement its remediation plans under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and a separate decision under the Clean Water Act that could bring the discharge of pollutants to groundwater within the ambit of that Act’s NPDES permitting program.  Further, litigation related to climate change and the jurisdictional reach of the federal and state courts will continue to occupy the judiciary in 2020.

The articles in this Federal Forecast discuss many of the significant federal activities that we expect to see unfold in 2020.