2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

As required by the Clean Air Act, Texas submitted a State Implementation Plan (SIP) for approval to EPA. The SIP describes how Texas will attain and maintain compliance with Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements. Texas can change its SIP, subject to EPA’s approval, which may only be given if EPA determines the changes are consistent with the CAA and EPA’s rules.

Challenge to EPA’s Approval of Changes to the Texas SIP
Texas submitted proposed changes to its SIP relating to ozone requirements for the Houston and Dallas metropolitan areas; EPA issued rules approving the changes. Sierra Club filed suit in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming the changes did not comply with the CAA.

Precedential Effect Does Not Make a Rule Nationally Applicable
EPA, supported by Texas and an industry group, argued that the challenge to EPA’s approval should be heard by the 5th Circuit, the federal appeals court that takes cases from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The CAA allows challenges to SIP approvals and other EPA actions. When an EPA action is “nationally applicable,” the DC Circuit hears the challenge. When EPA’s action is “locally or regionally applicable,” the circuit court corresponding to the geographic area hears the case.

Sierra Club argued the rules approving the changes to the Texas SIP are nationally applicable because in issuing them EPA made interpretations that will have national implications. The DC Circuit rejected that argument; even if EPA’s decision may have precedential effect in future EPA proceedings, that does not make the approval nationally applicable. The DC Circuit transferred the case to the 5th Circuit.

To see the opinion 20-1121-1960963.pdf (uscourts.gov)