On January 26, 2021, a coalition of advocacy groups and prominent asbestos plaintiffs’ experts launched two challenges to “Part 1” of the asbestos risk evaluation recently released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA concluded in Part 1 that 16 of the 32 “conditions of use” analyzed pose an “unreasonable risk” to human health, but advocacy groups have criticized EPA for only addressing risks associated with chrysotile asbestos and excluding review of other fiber types. Now, those groups have teamed up on a pair of legal challenges that could force EPA to revisit its Part 1 asbestos risk evaluation, which could delay risk management regulations. Continue Reading Advocacy Groups and Plaintiffs’ Experts Launch Two Challenges to EPA’s Asbestos Risk Evaluation – Are EPA Settlements Possible?
A discussion of the National Environmental Policy Act and related regulations and their implications for project development.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), federal agencies must determine if their proposed major federal actions (including permit authorizations for projects sponsored by private entities) will significantly affect the human environment and consider the environmental and related social and economic effects. This means that virtually any project that requires a federal permit or authorization may be required to undergo a NEPA review. Development of broadband infrastructure, roads, bridges, oil and gas pipelines, and renewable energy facilities are just a few examples of the types of activities that may trigger NEPA review.
As the Biden Administration settles in and begins to appoint its designees to key executive and administrative agencies, a series of policy objectives are coming into focus. Chief among them is expanded attention and regulation in the ESG space regarding environmental, social and governance issues at American businesses. In this post, we survey the expected direction of these initiatives at, for example, the SEC, Department of Labor, and EPA.
On January 28, 2021, and for the second time in a month, the Massachusetts Legislature passed historic legislation designed to holistically address issues associated with the effects from climate change. Governor Baker has 10 days to sign it, veto it, or return it to the General Court with recommended amendments. Continue Reading Massachusetts Legislature Passes Landmark Climate Legislation…Again
Among the flurry of executive actions signed by President Biden last week on inauguration day was a presidential memorandum aiming to revise the regulatory review process. Titled “Modernizing Regulatory Review,” the memo is directed at the heads of executive departments and agencies and has dual focuses that show the Biden Administration’s commitment to strengthening key tenets of regulatory review while enhancing the focus on equitable and other considerations in the process. Though it garnered less attention than other actions issued simultaneously, this memo signals President Biden’s ambitious regulatory agenda and may have far-reaching effects that pervade the regulatory process. Continue Reading Presidential Memorandum Directs Evolution in Regulatory Review
On January 15, 2021, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”) received approval to implement the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) program for oil and gas discharges.  Generally, as a result of this approval, applicants for NPDES permits for produced water, hydrostatic test water, and gas plant effluent will only require a single TCEQ authorization rather than authorizations from both the Railroad Commission of Texas (“RRC”) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as previously had been required.  Continue Reading TCEQ Receives NPDES Program Authorization for Oil and Gas Discharges
Recently certain policy advocates have suggested that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) should attempt to revitalize the Federal Power Act Section 216 “backstop siting” authority as a means of addressing climate change. Their objective is to facilitate the construction of more long-haul transmission lines from areas with excess renewable generation, so zero-emitting generation can reach more markets. Continue Reading Resurrecting Federal “Backstop Siting” Authority for Interstate Transmission
Incident Response Tip: Responding to a COVID-19 Incident
The COVID-19 pandemic remains a health crisis in the United States and presents many unique challenges for employers. Many employers have already experienced COVID-19 cases among employees, while others may face such challenges as cases of the virus continue to rise. Though unique in some respects, the response to a COVID-19 incident has parallels to an industrial accident response, which involves developing and timely deploying the right resources. Continue Reading Tips For Minimizing Liability When Responding to a COVID-19 Incident
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) released its annual enforcement report detailing the results of the past year’s civil and criminal enforcement and compliance efforts. The report covers the 2020 fiscal year, which ran from October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020, and thus provides some key insight into the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on environmental enforcement. Continue Reading EPA’s FY2020 Annual Enforcement Results Are In
A January 12, 2021 US Department of Justice (DOJ) memorandum extends and provides additional legal analysis to support the government’s increasing drumbeat against settling cases and reducing environmental penalties in recognition of Supplemental Environmental Projects or “SEPs.” The new memo addresses the limited circumstances under which attorneys in DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), the division of DOJ that represents EPA and other federal agencies in enforcing environmental laws, may include certain mitigation requirements in settlement agreements. Issued last week by ENRD Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark on the same day that he announced his departure from the Department, the memo bolsters the previously provided rationale for ENRD’s policy prohibiting SEPs in settlement agreements. It also distinguishes SEPs from “equitable mitigation,” which the memo defines more narrowly and considers to be both permissible and appropriate. The memo also lists criteria to guide ENRD attorneys evaluating whether equitable mitigation measures are appropriate in a given civil enforcement case. Continue Reading New Memo Doubles Down and Bolsters Justice Department Positions on Limiting Supplemental Environmental Projects