This summer, EPA sparked public outrage with its proposed “significant new use” rule, or SNUR, addressing certain commercial uses of asbestos. Publications criticized EPA for loosening its regulations to pave the way for asbestos to be reintroduced to the market, allowing asbestos-containing construction materials to be used in homes and other buildings again for the first time in decades. There’s just one issue: EPA’s proposed action does the opposite of what these critics claim.
Continue Reading

Effective July 13, 2018, the California State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW) established drinking water notification levels of 14 ppt for PFOA and 13 ppt for PFOS, and a combined PFOA/PFOS drinking water response level of 70 ppt. Notification and response levels are non-binding, health-based advisory levels for contaminants in drinking water where maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) have not been promulgated. Establishment of notification and response levels often is the DDW’s first step toward adopting binding MCLs.
Continue Reading

In August 2016, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) adopted new regulations that replaced Prop 65’s “clear and reasonable” warning provisions. These new regulations, which allocate responsibility for providing warnings on consumer products sold in California and include new criteria for “safe harbor” warnings, become operative on August 30, 2018.
Continue Reading

As the spotlight continues to focus on the City of Flint and its efforts in response to its public health crisis four years ago, water utilities seeking to avoid similar liability (and notoriety) should study Flint as a veritable textbook on potential liability under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the US Constitution, and state law. Part 1 of this series noted that a spate of civil lawsuits and criminal charges were filed in the aftermath of Flint. These cases are still unfolding in the courts.
Continue Reading

The Administration is considering substantial changes to the current regulatory approach to reducing exposure to lead in drinking water. The US EPA (EPA) is assessing long-term revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule (LC Rule), a Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulation that seeks to protect public health by minimizing lead and copper in drinking water, primarily through corrosion control measures. Lead contamination in drinking water has been the subject of national scrutiny in the aftermath of the public health crisis in Flint, Michigan, where high levels of lead leached from aging pipes into the city’s drinking water after the city switched its source of drinking water to the Flint River, the quality of which was more corrosive than the prior source. Congress eventually banned lead pipes in new construction with amendments to the SDWA in 1986, but in a 2016 survey, the American Water Works Association estimated that 6 million lead-containing service lines continue to distribute drinking water to 15-22 million people in the United States. As state and local governments nationwide confront similar challenges, EPA appears poised to address the legacy of lead infrastructure through updates to the LC Rule. In January 2018, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged to update the LC Rule as part of his “war on lead” in drinking water.
Continue Reading

A federal judge blocked California from requiring Monsanto to put warning labels on its Roundup products, ruling there is “insufficient evidence” that the active ingredient causes cancer. When “California seeks to compel businesses to provide cancer warnings, the warnings must be factually accurate and not misleading. As applied to glyphosate, the required warnings are false and misleading,” likely violating Monsanto’s First Amendment rights.
Continue Reading

On February 7, 2018, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a proposed rule to establish user fees to defray EPA’s costs of administering its responsibilities under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the 2016 Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act). EPA estimates in the proposed rule that it will collect about $20.05 million per year in user fees, not counting any user fees associated with manufacturer-requested risk evaluations, which would range from $1.3 million to $2.6 million per evaluation.
Continue Reading

Last October we saw the state of California implement its “PSM for Refineries” standard and now the state of Washington’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health is releasing draft language.  This new chapter will only apply to Process Safety Management (PSM) for petrochemical refining facilities. 
Continue Reading

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

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