Two weeks ago we reported that Texas withdrew from a multi-party lawsuit challenging USEPA’s new air pollution standards regulating the oil and gas industry (including hydraulic fracturing operations). The suit is now led by industry petitioners. On January 16, 2013, six days after Texas’s withdrawal, USEPA filed an unopposed motion asking the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia to sever the case into two actions and altogether defer hearing the challenge.
In support of its request for the delay, USEPA explained that it would revisit parts of its final rule, which it promulgated last year. If the court agrees to sever the litigation – focusing one action on new source performance standards (NSPS) and the other action on national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) – USEPA suggested it will be able to revisit both sets of rules more efficiently. USEPA also provided the court two timelines, asking the court to hold in abeyance NSPS issues until August 30, 2013 and NESHAP issues until May 30, 2014. The timelines revealed USEPA’s tentative schedule for revisiting its rules: for the NSPS USEPA “anticipates that it will sign by March 29, 2013 a notice of proposed rulemaking addressing certain NSPS issues on an expedited basis,” and will take final action on those issues 60 days thereafter; and for the NESHAP reconsideration USEPA will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking in April of 2014, taking final action in March of 2015.
We will continue to track developments in this case. Our prior coverage and analysis of EPA’s new air rules for the oil and gas industry can be found here, here, here, and here.