On March 12, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) issued guidance ending its decades-long practice of permitting private defendants in civil settlements to expend funds to provide environmentally beneficial goods and services to third parties in lieu of civil penalty payments. Defendants have long preferred to undertake supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) in lieu of paying larger penalties, and government enforcement lawyers saw SEPs as a valuable tool to encourage settlements. DOJ now finds that these SEPs violate the federal Miscellaneous Receipts Act, which requires federal officers receiving funds on behalf of the United States to deposit those funds into the United States Treasury. “Moving forward, [SEPs] will no longer be part of the suite of relief the Environment and Natural Resources Division seeks in its cases (unless specifically authorized by Congress), both in light of their inconsistency with law and their departure from sound enforcement practices,” according to ENRD’s memorandum. ENRD’s new policy is prospective and will not affect SEPs in existing settlements.
On Tuesday, March 3, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a list of antimicrobial disinfectant products that are currently approved to make limited efficacy claims against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The exact claims that can be made, and where they can be made, are specifically governed by the EPA’s 2016 Emerging Viral Pathogen guidance, which the agency activated on January 29 for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19.
On February 28, 2020, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced wide-ranging energy legislation that calls for enhanced energy efficiency and technological advancement. SB 2657, entitled the American Energy Innovation Act, is the result of a year of activity in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The bipartisan effort could move quickly in the Senate. (more…)
On February 20, 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued preliminary determinations to regulate two perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) compounds in drinking water: perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). In its announcement, the agency noted that it is also gathering and evaluating information to determine if regulation is appropriate for other chemicals in the PFAS family. (more…)
State governments continue to move ahead with increased regulation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS)-related compounds, including recent significant steps by California. On February 6, 2020, California’s State Water Resources Control Board announced that it would reduce response levels (RLs) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in drinking water to 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and 40 ppt for PFOS. (more…)
On February 3, 2020, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) released a prepublication version of a final rule establishing new requirements for owners and operators of stationary sources to report accidental releases of regulated substances or other “extremely hazardous substance[s]” into the ambient air within eight hours of such release. (more…)
On February 5, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule in the Federal Register to streamline the process to petition the agency to object to state-issued Clean Air Act Title V air permits. The rule changes petition content and format requirements to describe the information a petition needs to include in order for EPA to review a claim of permit or permit process deficiency. With this rule, EPA also requires delegated state permitting authorities to respond in writing to “significant” comments while permitting authorities determine the significance of comments. Pursuant to the revised regulation, state permitting authorities must also submit to EPA a “statement of basis” that describes the legal and factual basis for the permit terms and conditions to be available during the public comment period and the agency’s 45-day review period.