European Union Attempts To Move Towards A “Circular Economy”

Last October, the European Commission published its Work Programme for 2018. In the environmental area, a prominent topic is the EU initiative with respect to a ‘circular economy.’ This concept involves a transition to a “stronger and more circular economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way.”

The idea is to  “close the loop” of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use, so as to realize benefits for both the environment and the economy. Simultaneously, the EU’s circular economy strategy should “extract the maximum value and use from all raw materials, products and waste,” “foster energy savings,” and reduce “Green House Gas emissions.” Accordingly, the Commission’s proposals cover the full lifecycle of products: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials.

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Senate Confirms Susan Parker Bodine as New Head of EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Office

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Susan Parker Bodine as the Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (“OECA”).  OECA, the chief enforcement arm of EPA, coordinates the agency’s enforcement of numerous federal environmental laws within its authority.

This is the second leadership role at EPA for Bodine, who brings significant experience in environmental law to the position.  She formerly served as Assistant Administrator for the agency’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response—now called the Office of Land and Emergency Management—under President George W. Bush.  Before returning to the EPA, Bodine served as Chief Counsel for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, from 2015 until this August.  She also served as Counsel to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and was engaged in private legal practice.

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Catching Our Balance: Opportunities for ESA Reform

When Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems on which they depend, it emphasized the need to strike the proper balance between protecting species and allowing productive human activities. Widespread concern that this balance has been lost has sparked movement within the Trump Administration and Congress to improve the ESA and its implementation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (together, the Services). Many of these reform efforts are focused on ensuring earlier and increased involvement of states and other regulated entities and on improving the listing/delisting process to make certain that the extraordinary protections of the ESA are imposed, where warranted, and lifted, as appropriate.

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Recommendations for a US Message at the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum Ministerial Meeting

Energy ministers from participating Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF) countries will meet to discuss carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) issues in Abu Dhabi December 3-7. Below are some suggestions for a US position heading into the meeting. Before listing them, perhaps a bit of background on the CSLF and CCS is in order.

The CSLF was founded in 2003 with a mission to promote development and deployment of CCS technologies. It describes itself as “a Ministerial-level international climate change initiative that is focused on the development of improved cost-effective technologies for . . . CCS. It also promotes awareness and champions legal, regulatory, financial, and institutional environments conducive to such technologies.” Participants currently include 25 countries plus the European Union. It is unique in bringing together energy ministers and various stakeholders to discuss issues in open dialogue.

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EPA Denies Petitions to Change the RFS “Point of Obligation”

On November 22, 2017, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Pruitt signed a notice denying petitions to change the “point of obligation” under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program away from refiners and importers.  The notice, which was sent to the Federal Register for publication, provides a broad overview of EPA objections to the petitions.  EPA also posted on its website a final decision document explaining its denial in detail. Continue Reading

Legislators Request Action on Pipeline Infrastructure Attacks, and DOJ Responds

After a string of highly publicized attacks on energy pipelines in different areas of the country, several Congressmen addressed a letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month, asking that the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) respond to several questions concerning the ability and intent of the DOJ to investigate and prosecute criminal activity against energy infrastructure at the federal level. The letter also asks for DOJ clarification on whether attacks against the nation’s energy infrastructure fall within the DOJ’s understanding of 18 U.S.C. § 2331(5), which defines “domestic terrorism” to include activities that “involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State” and that “appear to be intended to . . . influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” For more information, see our post on PipelineLaw.

Navigating the CWA’s Reach: What’s Happening with WOTUS?

WOTUS, an acronym that has received a lot of attention in recent years, stands for the “waters of the United States.” When Congress enacted the Clean Water Act (“CWA” or the “Act”) in 1972, it prohibited “the discharge of any pollutant by any person” into navigable waters without a permit. The Act defines navigable waters as the “waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” 33 U.S.C. §§ 1311(a), 1362(7), (12). But Congress failed to, in turn, define the words “waters of the United States,” and the Supreme Court has noted that these “words themselves are hopelessly indeterminate.” Sackett v. EPA, 132 S. Ct. 1367, 1375 (2012) (J. Alito, concurring). The meaning of these words matters because violations of the CWA are subject to substantial criminal and civil penalties, so knowing whether a feature on your site is a WOTUS subject to federal jurisdiction has important consequences. Continue Reading

New Jersey Decision Highlights Importance of Reviewing Historical Liability Insurance Policies

A New Jersey court recently held that an electrical products manufacturer was entitled to coverage rights provided by a predecessor’s commercial general liability policies if it was found liable for environmental remediation costs as a result of cleanup efforts by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along a 17-mile portion of the Passaic River in New Jersey. Continue Reading

Reopened CERCLA Liability: New Causes for Concern?

New chemicals of concern, new scientific and technical developments, newly discovered wastes, or natural disasters can add up to new CERCLA liabilities. When the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) was passed in 1980, it did not address the finality of judgments and settlements for the cleanup of contaminated sites. Some early settlements with EPA provided a complete release from all future CERCLA liability, but that later changed when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) began to limit the scope of covenants not to sue to specified “matters covered” by the settlement. The 1986 CERCLA amendments in section 122(f)(6), 42 U.S.C. § 9622(f)(6)(1) permanently made the change to require “reopeners” in all but a few limited circumstances. Continue Reading

Reformed TSCA and REACH: How Do They Compare?

Last year, President Obama signed into law the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Congress made substantial changes with respect to how both existing and new chemical substances are regulated. Some of these changes are significant and will have a direct impact on US chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and users. However, the US did not attempt to mimic the EU’s REACH Regulation.

This article provides a high-level comparison of the main building blocks of the two regimes, bringing out the main similarities and differences between them. Of course, these are two different jurisdictions and no direct comparison can be completely valid, but it is worth making the comparison nonetheless, because many companies operate across both regions and because other jurisdictions have mimicked REACH in their regulatory reform, whereas the US has chosen not to. Continue Reading

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