On August 12, 2019, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (together, the Services) signed final rules instituting the first comprehensive revisions to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations in 33 years. The Services made substantial and broad revisions to their regulations concerning the process and standards for listing species and designating critical habitat, the scope of protections for threatened species and the process for consultation with federal agencies. Continue Reading FWS and NMFS Complete Long-Awaited, Comprehensive Revision of ESA Regulations

On June 26, 2019, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Kisor v. Wilkie, 139 S. Ct. 2400 (2019), which presented the question of whether the Court should overrule the Auer doctrine, named after the 1997 Supreme Court case Auer v. Robbins. The Auer doctrine rests on the premise that agencies have more expertise on their own regulations and are therefore in a better position than courts to interpret them. Under the doctrine, courts generally defer to an agency’s reasonable readings of its own “genuinely ambiguous” regulations. In a 5-4 decision, the Court declined to abandon the Auer doctrine on grounds of stare decisis but outlined important limitations on the scope and applicability of that doctrine. Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Potentially Poised to Address Impact of Kisor

Policy makers in California have pledged to resist Trump administration policy changes on environmental and other issues. Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), proposing the California Environmental, Public Health and Workers Defense Act of 2019, is the California legislature’s current preemptive response to the administration’s attempts to modify certain federal environmental and worker safety laws.

SB 1 has passed the California Senate. It is awaiting a final hearing in the State Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, likely sometime in mid‑to‑late August. After that, it moves to the Assembly floor, where a final vote is required by the end of California’s legislative session on September 13, 2019. Continue Reading SB 1: California’s Attempt to Halt Federal Environmental and Worker Safety Deregulation

The United States’ first major offshore wind energy project is running into delays as federal agencies internally debate whether the project plan adequately protects the fishing industry.

Vineyard Wind—an approximately 800 megawatt, 84-turbine wind energy project to be located roughly 15 miles off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts—is scheduled to begin construction this year and would have the capacity to power over 400,000 homes by 2021. Continue Reading First Major US Offshore Wind Project Delayed by Fishing Industry Concerns

Guarding confidential or sensitive information is a longstanding tradition that transcends daily life. From the pinky-swearing days of childhood (to prevent your parents from finding out you rode your bike beyond their imposed boundary), to the fourth down play when your team is one point down with three seconds left on the clock, to the unique, complex chemical composition of a lifesaving drug, the concept of secrecy has roots in just about everything we do. In the business world, secrets are routinely kept to protect market share, privacy of customers, technology or for any number of other legitimate business-related concerns. Indeed, disclosure of confidential information can pose a real threat to a business’s vitality. Continue Reading Supreme Court Alters Longstanding Test for Confidentiality under FOIA

In the wake of the April 19 ruling by Judge Morris of the US District Court of the District of Montana that required the Department of the Interior (DOI) to conduct an environmental review on its decision to lift the coal leasing moratorium, the parties disagree on the necessary remedy and the next steps. While DOI is requesting additional time to finalize its environmental review for its decision to lift the moratorium, environmental groups and states are requesting the court vacate then-Secretary Zinke’s Secretarial Order that lifted the moratorium altogether. Continue Reading DOI & Opponents Disagree on Remedy in Coal Leasing Moratorium Case

In this installment of our Inside Look series, Hunton partners Paul Tiao and Fred Eames discuss the challenges to businesses operating in a constantly evolving cyber threat landscape and steps some companies have taken to protect from attacks. It’s important for companies operating in this space to adjust to changes to international, federal and state regulations regarding critical infrastructure and information sharing, including seeking application for a US SAFETY Act certification. Continue Reading Inside Look: Managing Threat in Today’s Cybersecurity Landscape

On Thursday, July 11, 2019, the House of Representatives approved amendments to the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to address contamination from PFAS chemicals.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals are colloquially known as “forever” chemicals due to their ability to build up and to persist over time. PFAS chemicals regulated under this bill have long been used to manufacture a wide range of products, like firefighting foam, cookware, stain repellents, apparel and food packaging and wrappers. Continue Reading House Approves FY2020 NDAA Amendments Targeting PFAS Chemicals

Twenty Democratic candidates took the stage in Miami on June 26-27, with the hopes of winning over voters in the first 2020 Democratic presidential debate. During the four-hour event, top Democratic candidates contentiously debated hot button issues, such as immigration, gun control and healthcare. When it came to the topic of climate change, however, the debate left some viewers wanting more.

Although climate change has been deemed one of the most important issues for Democratic voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election, only about 15 minutes in total between the two nights were dedicated to the issue. Given the sheer number of participants and the debate format, it was difficult for the candidates, including those with fully formulated climate change platforms, to articulate any detailed substantive policy. Nevertheless, there were still some key takeaways from the first debate’s limited discussion on climate change. Continue Reading Despite Limited Airtime, Climate Change Still Major Factor in 2020