On February 18, 2022, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) announced for the first time that it will consider a proposed natural gas infrastructure project’s impact on climate change as part of its public interest determination under sections 3 and 7 of the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”). A proposed project’s environmental effects, including reasonably foreseeable greenhouse gas emissions that may be attributable to the project and the project’s impact on environmental justice communities, now will become part of FERC’s balancing test for whether a project is: (1) required by the public convenience and necessity (“PCN”) under NGA section 7; (2) or in the public interest under NGA section 3. FERC’s prior PCN policy prioritized economic factors to define public need. Environmental effects, while considered under the NGA, were addressed primarily under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). (more…)
On February 11, 2022, Judge James Cain of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming (Plaintiff States) to prohibit federal agencies from adopting and relying on the interim Social Cost of Greenhouse Gas (SC-GHG) estimates established by the Interagency Working Group (IWG). Executive Order 13990 mandated that IWG publish estimates of the monetized damages associated with incremental increases in greenhouse gas emissions. (more…)
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? (more…)
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.
This Sidley Update provides key takeaways from the most recent “The Enforcement Angle” episode as part of the Environmental Law Institute’s People Places Planet podcast. The episode is hosted by Justin Savage, partner and global co-leader of Sidley’s Environmental practice, and Ranah Esmaili, who recently joined the firm as a partner in the global Securities Enforcement and Regulatory practice from the SEC’s Asset Management Unit within the Division of Enforcement. Justin and Ranah talk with Kelly Gibson, director of the Philadelphia Regional Office for the SEC and leader of the Climate and ESG Task Force within the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.
Read more here.
On Friday, September 23, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the final rule to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 85% by 2036. The rule sets baselines for HFC production and consumption from which reductions can be measured and establishes a compliance and enforcement program. In addition to announcing the final rule, EPA also announced an interagency task force with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to prevent the illegal import and trade of HFCs. (more…)
U.S. President Joe Biden unveiled an initiative to promote the production and use of sustainable fuel in the aviation industry on Thursday, September 9. This initiative includes a goal to cut emissions in the aviation sector by 20% by 2030 and is part of the Administration’s goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. (more…)
On September 2, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) released a 100-page report, entitled “Climate Change and Social Vulnerability in the United States,” that analyzes the impact of projected climate change on four population groups within the United States. This report represents the Agency’s latest effort to further the Biden administration’s agenda to advance environmental justice and address the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations, as outlined in Executive Order 14008 on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. (more…)
The U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee advanced another piece of legislation related to disclosures of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) metrics on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Introduced by Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill., HR 2570, the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, cleared the committee with the full support of the majority members in a vote of 28 to 24. (more…)