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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Attorney General Donovan Announces Recent Environmental Actions

August 13, 2018

CONTACT:    Rob McDougall, Chief, Environmental Division, (802) 828-3186

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced some recent actions taken by his office to protect Vermont’s environment. “Protecting Vermont’s environment is one of my top priorities as Attorney General,” said Attorney General Donovan. “Vermonters care about our environment and are worried about the threats it faces. They want and deserve clean water to drink and clean air to breathe. My team and I remain committed to working every day – here in Vermont and on the national level – to do our part to protect Vermont’s environment from harm.”

Recent actions taken by the Attorney General include:

In a 2014 complaint against MLI, the Attorney General’s Office alleged a number of violations of Vermont’s environmental laws, regulations and permits at the landfill. The SEP agreed to by the parties will be used by the Vermont Solid Waste District Managers Association to purchase residential compost bins, food scrap collection buckets, and kitchen counter-top compost containers, which will be sold to Vermonters at a discount.

After notice from the state, Ace Carting acted quickly to apply for the required permits and provide its franchise tax returns. As a part of the settlement, Ace Carting also agreed to pay $49,500 in civil penalties for the violations.

  • MOTOR VEHICLE EMISSIONS ROLL BACK: Last week, Attorney General Donovan joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general in issuing a joint statement announcing an intention to challenge the federal government’s plan to roll back federal greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. The federal government also proposed to revoke the State of California’s authority to impose its own motor vehicle emission standards. Vermont and several other states have adopted the California standards as state law. Attorney General Donovan and the coalition of attorneys general are committed to opposing the rollback of the federal rules and to defending the rights of California, Vermont and other states to continue to enforce their own emission standards.
  • PESTICIDES: In 2017, Vermont joined six other states to intervene in a Ninth Circuit appeal challenging the EPA’s March 2017 order denying a petition to revoke all “food tolerances” for the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos. For a pesticide to be food tolerant means that some amount of it is permissible to appear in food. Studies in the administrative record for EPA’s action show that chlorpyrifos has adverse human health effects, included neurologic impacts on pre-natal children. Vermont, and other states, argued that due to the potential dangers, any food tolerance is not appropriate for this particular pesticide.

Last month, the Ninth Circuit heard legal arguments in the case. In a ruling dated August 9th, the Ninth Circuit held that there was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children.  It held that EPA’s ability to establish tolerances or leave them in effect requires a finding of safety (that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result). The court further held that the EPA cannot refuse to act because of possible contradictions in the future by evidence. The case was remanded back to the EPA “with directions to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days.”

  • “GLIDER” TRUCKS: On July 19th, Vermont joined 15 other states in a filing a lawsuit asking that the EPA’s plan to take no action to enforce the “glider rule” be halted or stayed. A similar lawsuit was filed by a number of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of these groups to stay the directive. A “glider” truck consists of an older truck engine (typically a pre-2002 diesel engine) that is paired with a new truck tractor body and sold as a new vehicle. The older engines do not meet current emission standards. They emit more pollution, including NOx (nitrogen oxides) and greenhouse gases, than new trucks that meet the current standards. They contribute significantly to public health issues and to difficulties some states have in meeting national ambient air quality standards.

In his last act as EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt committed the EPA to take no action to enforce the glider rule’s annual manufacturing cap of 300 gliders per company. Following the lawsuits by the attorneys general and the stay issued by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Acting EPA Administrator Andrey Wheeler reversed course and withdrew the directive to not enforce the glider rule.

  • GREENHOUSE GASES/HFCs: In late July, Vermont joined a multi-state amicus brief at the United States Supreme Court concerning greenhouse gases. The brief supported certiorari petitions filed by the Natural Resources Defense Counsel and national chemical manufacturers asking the Court to review the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Mexichem Fluor, Inc. v. EPA. In that 2-1 decision, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated in part a 2015 EPA rule that prohibited the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as a substitute for ozone depleting substances based on HFCs’ status as potent greenhouse gases (GHGs).

HFCs are used as propellants in aerosol spray cans, as refrigerants in air conditioners and refrigerators, and as blowing agents that create bubbles in foams. EPA initially listed HFCs as permissible substitutes for ozone depleting substances.  As a result, many manufacturers replaced ozone depleting chemicals with HFCs, which are not ozone depleting substances. At the time of EPA’s initial listing of HFCs as permissible substitutes for ozone depleting substances, EPA apparently was not aware of or was not concerned about HFCs status as potent GHGs.  EPA’s increased knowledge about GHGs prompted EPA to issue the 2015 rule prohibiting the use of HFCs as a substitute for ozone depleting substances.

While the D.C. Circuit Court only partially invalidated the 2015 rule, EPA subsequently issued a guidance document stating that it would not enforce any aspect of the HFC rule pending further rulemaking.  In June, Vermont and 11 attorneys general and state environmental agencies petitioned the D.C. Circuit Court for review of the EPA guidance document.

For more information on the Attorney General’s environmental work and to keep up-to-date on the latest activities of the Office of the Attorney General, please visit the Office’s website – www.ago.vermont.gov – and find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Last modified: August 13, 2018