The EU’s Approach to Product Stewardship

While the European Union (EU) does not have any legal principle specific to product stewardship, it has applied the full range of EU environmental law principles to create a comprehensive framework for product stewardship. These principles include the prevention and precautionary principles, sustainability, extended producer responsibility, supply chain responsibility, and corporate social responsibility. In addition, product stewardship is a key instrument in the EU’s latest strategic environmental focus areas: the circular economy and the toxic-free environment, two main themes of current EU environmental policy making.
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EPA has shown a little love for states wanting action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). On February 14, 2019, EPA announced its PFAS Action Plan, calling it “the most comprehensive, cross- agency action plan for a chemical of concern ever undertaken by the Agency.” The Action Plan consists of 23 priority action items with the majority identified as short-term or generally taking place or expected to be completed in the next two years.
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Industrial hemp has officially returned as a legal agricultural commodity in the United States. President Trump signed into law the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, otherwise known as the 2018 Farm Bill, that re-legalizes the production of hemp after the crop was banned for more than eighty years under federal law. 
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Because of their widespread environmental presence, persistence and bioaccumulation, the group of substances known as PFAS have been described as a “Perfect Storm” of liability. The number of plaintiff’s suits concerning PFAS have spiked in the last few years. Also, EPA faces increasing bipartisan calls from Congress to adopt new drinking water standards and cleanup levels. In the interim, states are filling the void. In October 2017, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection  announced a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 14 parts per trillion for PFOA. Some NGO’s have called for levels as low as 1 part per trillion.
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Continuing its vanguard approach to environmental regulation, California is poised to incorporate Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)-specific requirements into its industrial storm water general permit (IGP). TMDLs are pollutant- and water body-specific and establish the maximum amount of a pollutant a water body can receive while meeting water quality standards. Once effective, these new requirements will provide additional avenues of attack for the already active Clean Water Act citizen suit docket.
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Weeks after a federal judge called the science behind the alleged carcinogenicity of glyphosate “shaky,” a California state court jury hammered Monsanto with a $289 million verdict, connecting a former groundskeeper’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma to his exposure to the Roundup® chemical. The August 10, 2018 verdict in Johnson v. Monsanto Co., No. CGC16550128 (California Superior Court, County of San Francisco)—which included $250 million in punitive damages—was the first in the nearly 8,000 Roundup-related cases currently pending against Monsanto, many of which are consolidated in multidistrict litigation in California federal court. However, adding another layer of confusion surrounding the use of glyphosate, a federal court in California recently decided that the state could not require Proposition 65 cancer warnings on products containing the chemical. The intense publicity surrounding the verdict has left retailers whose products contain ingredients that might have been treated with glyphosate wondering whether their products may be targeted next.  
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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.
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California is considering the first-in-the-nation general industrial stormwater permit incorporating Total Maximum Daily Load-related numeric action levels and numeric effluent limitations. Touted as an effort to promote green infrastructure and water reuse, this proposal could revamp how industry manages stormwater.
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