Tug-of-War: EPA and States Take Opposing Action on 1,4-Dioxane

On June 28, 2019, the EPA released its draft risk evaluation for 1,4-Dioxane. The EPA’s initial determination was that 1,4-Dioxane poses no unreasonable risks to the environment and no unreasonable risks to occupational non-users. However, the EPA also concluded that the chemical presents unreasonable risks to workers in certain circumstances. The same day, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control held a public workshop on 1,4-Dioxane risks, and the department is actively considering further regulation. Just two days earlier, the New York legislature
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Wastewater-Induced Earthquakes May Cause Rising Insurance Rates, But Are Costs Recoverable? Tenth Circuit Says No

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed a putative class action (i.e., an uncertified class), alleging that fracking operations by various natural gas companies in Oklahoma increased the risk of earthquakes in the state, causing property insurance premiums to rise for local residents. In Meier v. Chesapeake Operating LLC, et. al., residents of Oklahoma claimed that wastewater disposal wells drilled into the Arbuckle formation, a 7,000-foot-deep sedimentary rock layer below the surface, have caused thousands of manmade earthquakes across
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Regulatory Alert: EPA Publishes Draft Risk Evaluations for 1,4-Dioxane and HBCD

Last week, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued controversial draft risk evaluations for 1,4-Dioxane and Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster (HBCD), two of 10 chemicals subject to scrutiny under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Under the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act which amended the TSCA in 2016, the EPA is required to publish information regarding “hazards, exposures, conditions of use and potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations,” regarding the enumerated chemicals. These risk evaluations are
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Don’t Go Taking My Land: Did SCOTUS Find a Serious Hurdle for State Limitations on Energy Development?

What does a private graveyard have to do with environmental regulation? Potentially a lot. The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that property owners can forgo state court to assert claims that the government unconstitutionally allowed a “taking” of their land. Most are familiar with the takings clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment: “[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” That is, governments are not permitted to take private property without providing fair value.
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To Remove or Not Remove – Complete Preemption is the Question!

An interesting dichotomy is developing in how federal courts are determining the proper forum for climate change lawsuits, that is whether they should be heard in state or federal court. This question, while seemingly a technical matter of civil procedure, could be fundamental to whether current and future climate change suits will be successful or whether they will be heard at all. The technical issue at stake is preemption – whether federal issues are determinative of the matters raised in
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Summer of Discontent – EPA looks to eliminate California Air Resources Board

Despite an effort by the automotive industry, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to finalize a proposal that would freeze fuel economy standards at roughly 37 miles per gallon for the next six years, rather than raising them to nearly 51 miles per gallon for 2025 models. The rule would also revoke California’s existing waiver to set its own rules under the Clean Air Act, a practice the federal government has allowed for decades. “As we acknowledged earlier this
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Another Study Finds Popular Cereals and Snack Products Contain Traces of Glyphosate

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) – a consumer products testing and environmental advocacy organization – recently commissioned a new round of laboratory tests that it claims detected traces of glyphosate in various popular cereals and snack food. Glyphosate purportedly was in these foods because it is used in herbicides applied to various source crops, such as grains and corn. In total, 21 oat-based food products were tested and all but four contained trace levels of glyphosate. The highest levels of
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Global Plastic Proliferation – An Emerging Climate Threat

From teeming landfills, choked rivers, and Pacific Ocean garbage gyres, to potential harm to marine and animal life from micro-plastic debris spanning the poles to the deepest part of the oceans, the growing proliferation of plastics is triggering a growing realization that the world has a plastics problem. This is not just an environmental pollution problem. Scientists are beginning to understand that plastics – from cradle to grave – potentially could have an unrealized significant impact on global climate change.
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WOTUS Woes – Federal Judge Remands Obama-Era CWA Rule

Last week, a federal district judge in Texas remanded the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule to the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (US ACE), citing the agencies’ failure to use proper procedure when publishing the rule. ​The 2015 rule, generally referred to as WOTUS, allowed for a drastic increase to the reach of the Clean Water Act (CWA), in part, by defining “waters of the United States” to include waters adjacent to waters that had traditionally been considered covered by the CWA.
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New Analysis of Public Data Highlights Emerging Contaminant Prevalence in New York

Just this week, the New York Public Interest Research Group released a report that analyzes an array of public federal data pertaining to unregulated emerging contaminants and their prevalence in New York State. The report is noteworthy for its study of more than 20 different emerging contaminants impacting the state. The report, titled “What’s in My Water?”, clearly notes that the mere existence of emerging contaminants does not necessarily mean that the public’s health is at risk. However, the report
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