Flint Water Crisis Ruling May Signal Expansion in EPA Liability

The now-infamous Flint water crisis arose when the city of Flint, Michigan, changed the source of its water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River. The raw water drawn from the Flint River, processed through Flint’s outdated and previously mothballed water treatment plant, was highly corrosive and not properly treated by the city’s public works department. As a result, water with excessive lead and copper levels flowed through the city and into residents’ homes, causing them physical injury and damage …

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Presidential Environmental Policy Rigidly Defined by Doubt and Uncertainty

Following what seemed like an interminable and chaotic presidential election cycle, November 3, 2020, is finally upon us, and the country will soon know who our next president will be. Regardless of whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden takes the oath of office come January, what is not certain is how each of their respective policy objectives would play out during the next presidential term―particularly with regard to environmental regulations and oversight. Although one might assume the vast gulf between the two candidates on environmental …

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New Jersey May Be First in Country to Ban Paper Bags

New Jersey is slated to join the ever-growing list of states implementing bans on plastic bags, but a bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature on September 24, 2020 takes the regulation one step further—banning paper bags as well.

The bill, originally introduced in January 2020, seeks to ban “single-use plastic carryout bags, single-use paper carryout bags, polystyrene foam food service products, and single-use plastic straws.” While plastics do appear to be the focus of the bill, it includes language that “single-use paper carryout bags …

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What the EPA’s Reclassification of Information Under Clean Air Act Means

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a prepublication version of a final rule under the Clean Air Act (CAA) that permits major sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) to reclassify as sources if the source reduces its potential to emit HAPs below the major source threshold (10 tons per year of any single HAP or 25 tons per year of any combination of HAPs). In addition, the rule is design to finalize amendments to clarify the compliance dates, notifications, and recordkeeping requirements …

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Golden State’s Governor Takes Bold Measures in Effort to Combat Climate Change; Issues Ban On Gas-Powered Cars

As an unprecedented amount of wild fires continue to ravage the state of California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-79-20 on September 23, 2020, banning the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and trucks by 2035—an aggressive attempt to combat the effects of climate change.

The order recognizes that bold action is needed to eliminate emissions from transportation, which is the largest source of carbon emissions in the state. The order also notes that zero emissions technologies reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollutants, and …

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Massachusetts Adopts Stricter MCL for Six Combined PFAS Chemicals

On October 2, 2020, Massachusetts became the latest state or commonwealth to promulgate stricter water quality regulations for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued a new standard of 20 parts per trillion (ppt), which is more than three times lower than the present federal standard of 70 ppt (i.e., for the sum of PFOA and PFOS). MA’s new standard is more expansive as it covers the sum of six PFAS chemicals: the well-known PFOA and PFOS, and …

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Increase of Climate-Related Weather Events Continue to Threaten Superfund Sites

The U.S. EPA’s Superfund program began in 1980 in response to serious health concerns arising out of a school and neighborhood in upstate New York that was built atop a toxic-waste dumping ground now infamously known as Love Canal—the nation’s first Superfund site. Since then, a list of more than 1,750 sites have cropped up and made it to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List.

Turning to weather-related events—the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned in a 2019 report that 945 Superfund sites remain vulnerable to …

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The Garden State Passes Landmark Environmental Justice Legislation to Protect Overburdened Communities

In the United States, New Jersey has quickly become a leader in tackling environmental justice issues. Earlier this year, the state, which boasts 130 miles of shoreline, became the first to require builders to take climate change and rising sea levels into account to obtain government project bids. The Garden State also pledged it would produce 100 percent clean energy by 2050. On September 18, 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy signed one of the most stringent environmental justice bills in the country into law. The overall …

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Economic Impact of Climate Change—A Dive into the CFTC Report

On September 9, 2020, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a report of the climate-related market risk subcommittee. Throughout the report, the CFTC highlights the significant emphasis that must be placed on climate change, as threats related to such changes may impact U.S. financial institutions and regulators. The report is critical, as it analyzes the future needs for progression and development within financial markets, and the intersection of environmental policies and controls on those markets. By developing this report, the CFTC intended to develop …

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City of Hoboken Dials Up the Heat Against the Fossil Fuel Industry, Seeks Damages Relating to Climate Change

On September 2, 2020, the City of Hoboken, which sits across from New York City along the Hudson River, commenced suit against a consortium of fossil fuel industry giants alleging the companies engaged in a multi-decade campaign to mislead the public and conceal the climate change risks posed by the production and use of fossil fuels. Hoboken is the 20th municipality, state, or private organization to sue the fossil fuel industry over climate change since 2017, and the fifth local jurisdiction to sue for alleged …

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