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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Key Takeaways: People Places Planet: The Enforcement Angle Podcast Featuring SEC’s Kelly Gibson

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.

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EPA Issues Final Rule to Reduce Hydroflurocarbons

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…)

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Biden Administration Proposals: Sustainable Fuels, Greenhouse Gas Reductions in the Aviation Industry

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…)

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EPA Publishes Landmark Study on the Effect of Climate Change on Socially Vulnerable Populations

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…)

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Half of World’s Assets under Net Zero Asset Management

On Tuesday, July 6, 2021, 41 fund management firms announced their joining of the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative, an initiative by asset management firms to lower the carbon footprint of their clients’ portfolios and develop net-zero investment products.

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SEC Climate Disclosure Bill Clears U.S. House Committee Vote

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…)

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U.S. Supreme Court Provides Procedural Victory to Defendants Seeking to Keep Climate Change Nuisance Litigation in Federal Court

On May 24, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated and remanded First, Ninth, and Tenth Circuit rulings that sent climate change litigation to state courts (Order List: 593 U.S. – May 24, 2021). The Supreme Court’s orders come fresh off its May 17, 2021, decision in Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP P.L.C., et al., in which the Supreme Court addressed appellate court review of a district court’s remand orders.

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President Biden Signs Sweeping Executive Order on “Climate-Related Financial Risk”

On May 20, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order (EO) on “Climate-Related Financial Risk,” which established a comprehensive policy to advance disclosure and mitigation of climate-related financial risk in an effort to achieve the U.S. goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Announces Environmental Justice and Climate Action Initiatives

On April 23, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Michael Regan, announced three new agency initiatives to support “community-driven solutions” for environmental justice and climate change in North America and across the world. The announcement came in conjunction with President Joe Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate where the President pledged to cut nationwide net greenhouse gas emissions at least 50% to 52% by 2030 in comparison to 2005 levels. (more…)

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