On April 5 and 7, 2022, the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) will be holding public workshops to present information and solicit public input regarding a proposed administrative draft of a hexavalent chromium (chromium-6) maximum contaminant level (MCL). MCLs are drinking water standards with which public water systems must comply. The workshops, and administrative draft of the MCL, will help inform the Board’s formal rulemaking, expected to begin later this year. If adopted, the MCL would be the first drinking water standard for chromium-6 in the nation. [1]

Continue Reading California on Path (Again) toward Regulating Hexavalent Chromium (Chromium-6) in Drinking Water; Follows EPA Scientific Workshop in September 2021

Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revealed its much-anticipated proposal to require that public companies disclose climate-related information. The proposed rule is significant because, for the first time, the SEC would mandate that companies (including foreign companies) publicly traded in the US disclose climate-related risk and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions information beyond the risk information currently required by existing SEC rules applicable to registration statements and annual reports.

Continue Reading What’s Worth Understanding: The SEC Proposes a Mandatory Climate Disclosure Regime for Public Companies

Does your company manufacture, process, distribute, use, or dispose of fluorinated high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers and similar plastics? If so, it may be time for supply chain and process reviews aimed at identifying and eliminating possible per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination.

Continue Reading EPA Puts Industry on Notice of Potential TSCA Violations for PFAS Contamination in Plastic Containers

I. Introduction

In the 1967 film The Graduate, Mr. Maguire says to Benjamin: “There is a great future in cleaning up microplastics.” That’s not exactly correct, but if the movie were remade today, it might be. [1]

The State of California and the United Nations certainly envision that future. Late last month, California adopted a first-in-the-nation strategy to address microplastics in the environment. Shortly thereafter, on March 2, 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted a resolution setting up a path to a global treaty to end plastic pollution. And, after adopting the world’s first regulatory definition of “microplastics in drinking water” in 2020, California anticipates additional action addressing microplastics in drinking water as early as this month.

Continue Reading California and the World Move Toward Cleaning Up Microplastics: What You Need to Know Now

Last week, in Residents of Gordon Plaza, Inc. v. Cantrell, the Fifth Circuit denied a petition for rehearing en banc of a recent decision affirming the dismissal of a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) citizen suit. The key issue in the underlying appeal, 25 F.4th 288 (5th Cir. 2022), was whether certain maintenance activities qualify as a “removal” action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The court affirmed that the maintenance activities do indeed constitute a “removal action.” Therefore, the suit was barred under 42 U.S.C. § 6972(b)(2)(B)(iv), which precludes RCRA citizen suits where a “responsible party is diligently conducting a removal action” pursuant to a CERCLA consent decree with EPA.

Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Endorses Broad Reading of “Removal” Under CERCLA To Bar RCRA Citizen Suit

The road to net-zero emissions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is not a well-defined highway. In fact, at times it feels more like a barely discernible path through deep forested woods. The recent abandonment of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) in November 2021, less than a year after its announcement, stands as a clear reminder that there remains a vast divide between the ambitious 2050 net-zero emissions goal of the Commonwealth’s historic climate legislation (Chapter 8 of the Acts of 2021 or the Climate Act) and the regulatory changes necessary to achieve it. However, just as one proposed tool to clear the way gets dropped, Massachusetts regulators take up another to keep the track moving forward.

Continue Reading Massachusetts Regulators Begin to Clear the Path to Net-Zero Emissions

Two recent actions by the Biden Administration will identify areas of focus for environmental justice (EJ) 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 (CEQ) released the beta (or draft) version of its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), a key component of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and mandated by the same Executive Order 14008. As we described last year, 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

Risk management is one of the few key policy issues to facilitate carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Class VI storage facilities that has not been the beneficiary of substantial policy revision in the past few years. Stakeholders are interested in the development of policy to effectively manage the safety, performance, and liability risks associated with containment of captured and stored CO2.

Continue Reading Carbon Capture and Storage Risk Management

Last week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the results of its enforcement and compliance efforts for the federal government’s 2021 fiscal year (FY2021)—October 2020 through September 2021. Prepared by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), the report offers the first high-level look at the EPA’s enforcement of environmental laws under the Biden Administration. “Coming off a challenging few years,” said EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for OECA, Larry Starfield, “these 2021 results make clear that rigorous enforcement is back at EPA.” Key metrics in the report appear consistent with that message.

Continue Reading EPA Releases Annual Enforcement Statistics for 2021, Announces “Rigorous Enforcement is Back”

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)—something that inconsistently occurred in the past. 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. The additional focus on these issues will present opportunities, but also challenges, as it adds another step in the already time-consuming NEPA process.

Continue Reading 2022 Promises Greater Focus on Tribal Consultation and Incorporation of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the Permitting Process