Could Proposed Laws in the U.S. and EU Help Save the Planet?

Momentum on climate action is unstoppable. Investors, businesses, and the public are demanding policymakers get serious about reducing emissions. Legislation from the U.S. and EU offers challenges and incentives for businesses worldwide. How will these proposed laws impact companies, and importantly, can they deliver on the promise of making tangible progress in the fight against climate change?

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EPA Releases Draft Environmental Justice Plan

On January 5, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft Environmental Justice Action Plan. The Action Plan outlines measures that have been or will be implemented by EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) to address environmental justice (EJ) concerns in OLEM programs, including Superfund, emergency response, and risk management.

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EPA Rescinds Trump-Era Civil Inspection Rule

On Thursday, December 30, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule rescinding a Trump-era rule that changed EPA procedures for on-site inspections. The Trump-era inspection rule converted EPA civil inspection practices into rules that must be applied in all civil inspections. The December 30 recission “restor[es] the flexibility needed when carrying out civil inspections under a myriad of circumstances” by allowing inspectors to respond to site-specific conditions on a case-by-case basis.

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Head of DOJ Environmental Division Announces Enforcement Priorities

Todd Kim, Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), delivered remarks at the American Bar Association’s National Environmental Enforcement Conference on December 14, 2021. He provided insight into what DOJ plans to prioritize in environmental enforcement, centered on criminal enforcement, climate change, and environmental justice.

Kim emphasized that the purpose of enforcement is to ensure that businesses are properly incentivized to comply with the law through deterrence and to provide a level playing field, while protecting public health and the environment. He noted that DOJ has prioritized fighting corporate crime and is revising applicable polices, so ENRD will consider pursuing potential environmental and non-environmental crimes, as well as a business’s environmental and non-environmental track record in prosecution decisions.

Kim focused on methods of sector-wide enforcement, citing the Petroleum Refinery Initiative that involved settlements covering 112 refineries in 37 states since 2000.  Kim also expressed an interest in more penetrating identification of all involved parties within a business, as well as in the full supply chain, where relevant. This focus could be especially impactful for importers of chemicals, pesticides, or wood products.

With these various tools in mind, Kim cited climate change and environmental justice as the two highest priority issues.  For climate change, he indicated greater enforcement for air emissions from petrochemical plants and from facilities with refrigeration systems.  For environmental justice, he provided a general assurance that ENRD is paying greater attention to potential violations in communities of color and low-income communities that may be disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards and harms.

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Sidley Energy Enforcement Update

This Sidley Update addresses the following:

  • District court judge finds that FERC may not pursue joint and several liability and disgorgement in Coaltrain case – FERC seeks interlocutory appeal.
  • FERC Report on Enforcement highlights increased enforcement activity in 2021.
  • FERC approves settlement between Enforcement staff and Golden Spread.
  • FERC orders penalties against GreenHat Energy, LLC and individuals.
  • DOJ and CFTC charge Puerto Rico resident and his firm for misappropriation of nonpublic information and fictitious trading.

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