On May 13, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC or the Council) voted and agreed on recommendations to advance the Biden administration’s environmental justice (EJ) agenda. Housed within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the WHEJAC was established by Executive Order (EO) 14008 to recommend to the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council how to address current and historic EJ issues.
WHEJAC adopted recommendations of the three working groups: the Justice40 Initiative (Justice40), EO 12898, and Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool.
On April 30, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Assistant Administrator for Enforcement, Lawrence Starfield, issued a memorandum outlining agency enforcement plans in communities with environmental justice concerns. Given the Biden administration’s focus on environmental justice both during the campaign and since the inauguration, this memorandum is not a surprise. The memorandum follows on Administrator Michael Regan’s message to EPA employees regarding the agency’s commitment to environmental justice, which was discussed on this blog on April 13.
Historically, the emissions standards for mobile sources promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been viewed as more ambitious than European Union (EU) standards. The United States’ stringent enforcement of mobile source emission standards may result in significant financial penalties; extensive injunctive relief, such as recalls and high-cost mitigation projects; corporate compliance requirements; and in some cases, criminal indictment.
On the other side of the Atlantic, in the EU, mobile emissions compliance regulations are becoming more robust. In particular, the EU appears to be adopting a stricter approach on emissions through a growing body of case law on the interpretation and application of existing emissions compliance regulations. In a judgment on 17 December 2020, in CLCV and Others, the Court of Justice of the European Union (Court) adopted a potentially broad interpretation on the definition of defeat devices and appeared to limit the scope of exceptions for their use in vehicles sold, registered, or put into service in the EU.1 This judgment is likely to set the benchmark for other proceedings on the admissibility of defeat devices in the EU.
Notably, there are at least six cases pending before the Court on mobile source emissions and the concept of defeat devices for light-duty passenger and commercial vehicles under Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 (Regulation).2
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new guidance related to its policy on Incentives for Self-Policing: Discovery, Disclosure, Correction and Prevention of Violations (the Audit Policy), 65 Fed. Reg. 19618 (April 11, 2000). The new guidance, titled EPA’s Audit Policy Program: Frequently Asked Questions (the 2021 FAQ), provides an update to interpretive guidance from 1997, 2007, and 2015 for self-disclosure of potential noncompliance.
Earlier this month, the Acting Assistant Attorney General supervising the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a memorandum rescinding nine policy or guidance documents issued for ENRD over the past three years. The documents generally concerned enforcement priorities and discretion and payments to third parties as part of settlements. The memorandum cites Executive Order 13,990, signed by President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021, which directs agencies to review agency agencies that may conflict with a range of environmental goals.
Earlier this month, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announced multiple picks for the transition team with an environmental justice (EJ) focus. Leading the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is Patrice Simms, who is vice president for healthy communities at Earthjustice. Simms has advocated for environmental enforcement focused on low-income communities and communities of color, and he has critiqued the Trump administration on the same topic. The transition team also includes alumni of the Obama administration with a reported record on EJ issues.
An ELI & Sidley Austin LLP Co-Sponsored Webinar
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has long governed federal pesticide law under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). FIFRA has a broad reach, overseeing conventional insecticides, but also plant growth regulators, antimicrobial surface disinfectants, pesticide “devices” like germicidal ultraviolet light systems or ozone generators, and more. Currently, EPA has continued to stress FIFRA as a leading priority area in national enforcement guidance.
Under FIFRA, EPA has specific authority to regulate products meant to provide surface disinfection from bacteria, microbes, and viruses. Indeed, products making claims to mitigate SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19, have fallen under intense scrutiny from EPA recently. Meanwhile, the focus on FIFRA compliance issues is increasingly intersecting with EPA’s growing scrutiny of imports to the U.S. Import reviews target traditional pesticide products, and now also center on nontraditional items such as UV lights and air purifiers.
Given these trends, questions are arising over EPA’s enforcement priorities in U.S. pesticide law. What are EPA’s strategies for enforcing federal pesticide law? What new or unexpected directions is the agency focusing on, especially in regards to compliance of nontraditional products, including those created in response to COVID-19? Expert panelists will address these questions, provide practical guidance on compliance with FIFRA, and explore FIFRA enforcement priorities.
On June 29, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) amended its COVID‑19‑related temporary enforcement policy. As previously reported, EPA issued temporary COVID-19 Enforcement Guidance on March 26, 2020, providing guidelines on how EPA will, in certain cases, exercise discretion in enforcing environmental legal obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic. (more…)
With the market evolving rapidly, we are pleased to provide you with the following enforcement updates:
- FERC extends deadlines for filing EQRs and Form No. 552 to June 1, 2020.
- Trading company challenges PJM FTR forfeiture rule.
- PJM submits tariff revisions to enhance rules for evaluating and managing credit risk.
- FERC establishes paper hearing to evaluate proposed rejection in bankruptcy.
- Parties file summary judgment motions and reply briefs in FERC v. Coaltrain Energy.
- Kraft conditionally withdraws its motion for sanctions in CFTC v. Kraft Food Group, Inc.
- Settlement discussions continue in FERC v. Richard Silkman et al.
- Comments filed on the request for technical conference and petition for rulemaking to update credit and risk management in the ISO/RTO markets.
- FERC issues Order 860-A on Connected Entity Information.
- Fourth Circuit finds FERC’s action timely in FERC v. Powhatan Energy Fund, LLC.
- CFTC approves proposed rule on position limits for derivatives.
- FERC issues notice of intent to revoke MBR authority to thirteen entities for failure to file EQRs.
- FERC approves a Stipulation and Consent Agreement between the Office of Enforcement and Emera Energy Incorporated.
Earlier this summer, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criminal office announced criminal charges against employees of an oil and gas operation for tampering with and disabling pollution controls and on-board diagnostic (OBD) systems on the company’s truck fleet. DOJ and EPA charged five employees of Rockwater Northeast LLC, a company that services the hydraulic fracturing industry, for modifying emission control and OBD systems on approximately 30 of the company’s heavy-duty diesel trucks. (more…)