China Plans To Adopt ESG-Disclosure Framework Based on International Sustainability Standards Board Standards

In speaking at the recent Boao Asia Forum Annual Conference, Vice Chairman Fang Xinghai of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) announced that the CSRC is preparing new reporting standards and would adopt the new disclosure rules prepared by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB).

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SEC Brings First Enforcement Action Over ESG Disclosures

In late April, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought its first enforcement action over alleged false and misleading claims made in a mining company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosures. The complaint relates to the 2019 collapse of the company’s dam that injured hundreds and released 12 million tons of mining waste into the environment.

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First Circuit Holds State Administrative Enforcement Does Not Bar a Subsequent Clean Water Act Citizen Suit for Injunctive Relief

On April 28, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, sitting en banc, considered in Blackstone Headwaters Coalition, Inc. v. Gallo Builders, Inc. et al. whether a state consent order settling claims under a state analogue to the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) barred a subsequent citizen suit brought under the CWA seeking injunctive and declaratory relief arising out of the same alleged discharges. Over 30 years before, in North and South Rivers Watershed Ass’n v. Town of Scituate, the First Circuit held that CWA enforcement barred subsequent citizen suits arising out of the same alleged violations, regardless of the type of relief sought. In Blackstone, the en banc First Circuit overruled Scituate and held that the prior state consent order bars only citizen suits seeking civil penalties.

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Sixth Circuit: Long-Litigated Superfund Claims Barred by Statute of Limitations

On April 25, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit addressed the application of the statute of limitations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) in Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP et al. v. NCR Corp. NCR is the latest in a long line of cases stemming from PCB contamination related to carbonless copy paper manufacturing and recycling. In NCR, the court concluded that the claims of Georgia Pacific (GP) against NCR, International Paper, and Weyerhaeuser for costs stemming from a series of administrative settlements and court judgments were barred by CERCLA’s statute of limitations.

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EPA Launches Investigation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act

Under the Biden Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA” or the “Agency”) has announced the advancement of environmental justice and civil rights as an Agency goal. For fiscal years 2022–2026, the Agency has included in its FY 2022 – FY 2026 EPA Strategic Plan (“Strategic Plan”) the objective to promote environmental justice and civil rights at the federal, tribal, state, and local levels. Within that plan, the EPA noted that the Agency “ha[s] already seen an increase in external civil rights cases being referred to the EPA, and…are investigating them to ensure that recipients of EPA dollars do not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or retaliation.”

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EPA Releases Equity Action Plan to Advance Environmental Justice and Civil Rights

On April 14, 2022, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) released an Equity Action Plan, in accordance with Executive Order 13985, which directs EPA and other federal agencies to develop a plan to address barriers faced by underserved communities regarding full and equal participation in the Agency’s programs and procurement and contracting opportunities. Within the Equity Action Plan, EPA identifies six agency priority actions:

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Council on Environmental Quality Partially Restores National Environmental Policy Act Provisions

The U.S. Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published a Final Rule regarding implementing regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on Wednesday, April 20. As anticipated, the CEQ’s final version is nearly identical to the earlier Proposed Rule and revises three separate NEPA provisions that CEQ identified as posing significant near-term interpretation or implementation challenges for federal agencies. These three provisions include purpose and need, 40 C.F.R. § 1502.13; agency NEPA procedures, 40 C.F.R. § 1507.3; and the definition of “effects” or “impacts.” Ultimately, CEQ’s Final Rule abandons revisions the agency made to NEPA regulations in 2020 and returns certain aspects of NEPA review to the former approach. CEQ noted that this revision is the first of two phases, so additional NEPA regulatory revisions are expected later this year.

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