In the first installment of this series, we focused on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) continued regulation of the electric utility sector during the second term of the Obama administration. This article looks beyond the electric utility sector to other areas of anticipated EPA action during President Obama’s second term. Importantly, we believe that many of the administration’s actions during the second term will impact the broader “energy” sector, including petroleum refining and pipeline distribution of petroleum products. Beyond the energy sector, we believe that water quality issues and environmental justice will be at the forefront of the EPA’s agenda through the second term.
The EPA is likely to continue its aggressive enforcement of the Clean Water Act against point sources that discharge pollutants into “waters of the United States” (i.e. “navigable waters”) in violation of National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements. NPDES permits, which are tailored to the activities and operations of the permittee, include strict effluent discharge limits, facility management practices and recordkeeping requirements. One of the EPA’s ongoing national enforcement priorities under the Clean Water Act is reducing the number of discharges from the nation’s rapidly deteriorating sewer and stormwater infrastructure. The EPA and the DOJ have brought dozens of sewer and stormwater-related enforcement actions, obtaining billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements and millions in penalties against localities across the country.