Two recent actions by the Biden Administration will identify areas of focus for environmental justice and therefore influence environmental enforcement priorities, federal permitting and licensing, and federal spending, among other actions. On February 18, the White House Council on Environmental Quality released the beta (or draft) version of its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), a key component of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative. The Justice40 Initiative set the goal of “delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments” to disadvantaged communities. The CEJST serves a specific purpose: to help agencies identify disadvantaged communities in order to direct federal benefits and help agencies measure whether 40 percent of benefits are being received by those communities.
Continue Reading Biden Administration Rolls Out New Climate, Economic, and Environmental Justice Tools

On the heels of the November 2021 Tribal Nations Summit, a flurry of memoranda was signed by the White House and many government agencies. These memoranda seek to further the Biden administration’s promises of consulting with indigenous people and acknowledging their communities’ cultures, customs, sacred sites, and historical knowledge in the contexts of environmental planning, sustainability, and justice, and in ongoing and forthcoming federal decision making and regulatory rulemaking. Center stage in the ongoing discussion is Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK), and the need for including and consulting with Tribal communities on the front end of planning as part of the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Stakeholders from developers and investors to Tribes and regulators, among other parties, should expect increased focus and guidance from the Biden administration in 2022 on these issues.
Continue Reading 2022 Promises Greater Focus on Tribal Consultation and Incorporation of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the Permitting Process

Under a process known as Sunset Review, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will be abolished in 2023 unless a bill is passed in the 88th Texas Legislative Session reauthorizing the agency. The Sunset Review process, performed by the Sunset Commission, takes approximately two years. The TCEQ review process began last year with the preparation of the Self Evaluation Report (SER), completed by TCEQ in September 2021. The general public is encouraged to participate in the process. Public input is confidential and not passed on to the agency at this stage. Public comments should be provided by February 1, 2022 to be fully considered.
Continue Reading TCEQ Will Undergo Sunset Review During 88th Texas Legislative Session

On January 11, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the beginning of a scoping period to prepare a draft environmental assessment (Draft EA) for the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Call Area to assess potential impacts associated with offshore wind leasing. The area includes approximately 30 million acres of federal lands on the outer continental shelf (OCS) in the GOM, and covers areas in what is commonly known as the Western and Central Planning Areas of the GOM. This is the same area described in the Call for Information and Nominations published in the Federal Register on November 1, 2021. Comments will be received through February 9, 2022. BOEM anticipates completing the Draft EA this summer.

Continue Reading Interior Announces Environmental Review of Offshore Wind Leasing for the Gulf of Mexico

On December 15, 2021, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved the publication of proposed changes to its compliance history rules to allow the agency to reclassify a site’s compliance history classification if an emergency incident results in significant impacts to the public and the environment.[1] In describing the background and reasons for the rulemaking, the agency noted the occurrence of a number of emergency incidents at industrial facilities in the state and resulting scrutiny of the facilities involved in those incidents.
Continue Reading TCEQ Proposes Changes to Compliance History Rules Focused on Industrial Incidents

The American Bar Association published an article, Navigating Environmental Justice Issues in Federal Permitting, which discusses Environmental Justice in federal permitting by Hunton Andrews Kurth attorneys Kerry McGrath, Andrew Turner, John Bobka, and Mayer Brown attorney Lauren Bachtel.
Continue Reading Navigating Environmental Justice Issues in Federal Permitting

The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS or the Service) revocation of the Trump administration’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) rule took effect last Friday, December 3.  On the same date, the public comment period closed on the Service’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), in which USFWS announced its plan to issue a proposed regulation codifying an interpretation of the MBTA that prohibits incidental take, and to propose a system of regulations to authorize the incidental take of migratory birds under certain conditions.
Continue Reading Revocation of Trump Administration’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act Rule Takes Effect

On October 4, 2021, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS or the Service) published a final rule revoking its January 7, 2021, Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA or Act) rule. 86 Fed. Reg. 54,642  (Oct. 4, 2021) (Rule or Revocation Rule). The January 7 rule was issued at the end of the Trump administration and established that the MBTA does not prohibit incidental (unintentional) take of migratory birds.  86 Fed. Reg. 1134 (Jan. 7, 2021). In the preamble to the Rule, which lists an effective date of December 3, 2021, the Service explained that “[t]he immediate effect of this final rule is to return to implementing the MBTA as prohibiting incidental take and applying enforcement discretion, consistent with judicial precedent and longstanding agency practice prior to 2017.” 86 Fed. Reg. at 54,642.  On the same day it published the Revocation Rule, FWS also published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), requesting public input that will be used to develop proposed regulations to authorize the incidental take of migratory birds under prescribed conditions, 86 Fed. Reg. 54,667 (Oct. 4, 2021), and issued a Director’s Order clarifying the Service’s current enforcement position.

Continue Reading FWS Revokes Trump Administration’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act Rule

Recent federal court decisions continue to show that Article III standing can be a formidable defense to environmental citizen suits, particularly following the Supreme Court’s decision Spokeo v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330 (2016).
Continue Reading Article III Standing Still Proving to be a Formidable Defense to Environmental Citizen Suits

As we have reported previously in this blog, in March 2021, the Massachusetts Governor signed historic climate legislation designed to effectuate the Commonwealth’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 (Chapter 8 of the Acts of 2021 or the “Act”). Some of the more controversial items in the Act were the provisions to incorporate requirements into the state’s building code to advance construction and/or retrofitting of buildings with energy systems designed to reduce emissions. In general, the efforts to facilitate a transition away from fossil-fuel energy systems in buildings continue to prove difficult as existing programs and policies are not necessarily designed to prompt the shift away from traditional energy systems at the pace that some argue is required to meet the aggressive emission targets of the state goals.

Continue Reading State Lawmakers Confront the Challenge of the Energy Transition