EPA Establishes Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights

On September 24, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency announced the establishment of a new office dedicated to advancing civil rights and environmental justice. The Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights (OEJECR) was created through the merger of three existing internal programs: the Office of Environmental Justice, the External Civil Rights Compliance Office, and the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center. The OEJECR will oversee the delivery of over $3 billion in grants to assist communities that are adversely impacted by environmental challenges such as …

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EPA Asks the Ninth Circuit for Permission to Reconsider Its Human Health and Ecological Determinations on the Common Herbicide, Paraquat

Paraquat dichloride is a synthetic chemical compound that has been used as an active ingredient in herbicide products sold in the United States since the mid-1960s. One of the most commonly used herbicides in the U.S., it has been described as “a fast-acting, non-selective herbicide used in an array of agricultural and other settings” … “typically applied via knapsack sprayers, hand-held sprayers, crop dusters, trucks with pressurized tanks, and tractor-drawn pressurized tanks.” The EPA has designated paraquat as a “Restricted Use” product (RUP), which means …

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First-of-its-kind Ethylene Oxide Verdict Awards Record Damages Against Defendant Sterigenics

On September 19, 2022, a Cook County (Illinois) jury awarded $363 million to 70-year-old plaintiff Susan Kamuda  in the first of many lawsuits against industrial sterilization company Sterigenics.  These lawsuits accuse the company of a reckless, decades-long pollution of Willowbrook, Illinois with ethylene oxide.  The jury in this case went beyond the damages requested by Ms. Kamuda, who lived within a quarter-mile of Sterigenics’ Willowbrook facility for more than 30 years.  While Ms. Kamuda only asked for $21 million in compensatory damages, the jury awarded …

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PA GOP Can’t Crack Anti-Frack

The Delaware River Basin Commission (“DRBC”), the first government-and-state joint venture in river basin planning since the birth of the nation, itself, won a substantial—but narrow—victory on Friday when the 3rd Circuit ruled that individual state senators did not have standing to challenge the fracking ban in Northern PA inacted by DRBC in February of 2021.

The DRBC was created in 1961 when the governors of New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania joined President Kennedy and signed concurrent legislation creating a regional legal …

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New Microplastics Requirements Put California’s Drinking Water to the Test

As previously reported in ELM, microplastics – plastic fragments smaller than 5 millimeters in length – have been found everywhere from Antarctica (https://environmentallawmonitor.com/emerging-issues/microplastics-found-for-the-first-time-in-freshly-fallen-snow/) to human lung tissue (https://environmentallawmonitor.com/emerging-issues/study-finds-microplastics-in-human-lung-tissue/) to, especially, bodies of water (https://environmentallawmonitor.com/emerging-issues/can-biofilm-engineering-be-used-to-address-microplastics-pollution/). This ubiquity has led to an increased number of studies and ever-improving sampling methods for the purposes of reversing the omnipresence of microplastics. 

After years of research involving several dozen laboratories, last week, California’s Water Resources Control Board approved microplastics testing requirements – the world’s …

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EPA Incites Further Controversy Proposing to Designate Forever Chemicals Under CERCLA

While critics may say the federal government has been slow to react to PFAS, last week the EPA took its most aggressive stance — publishing its notice for a proposed federal rule to designate two specific PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS, as “hazardous substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), and now the clock is ticking. 

Found in surface water, air, soil, and even more recently food packaging, PFOA and PFOS were used pervasively in American manufacturing beginning in the 1940s for their durability, heat/grease resistance, and waterproof nature, and quickly assumed the nomenclature “forever chemicals” because of their remarkable inability to decompose. 

When talking shop, lawyers, insurance carriers, and manufacturers alike have labeled PFAS the ‘emerging contaminant’ to watch out for …

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Key Corporate Climate Accountability Bill Fails to Pass in California

Despite California’s most recent, two-year legislative session ending on September 1 with a flurry of new bills aimed at fighting global warming getting passed, one noticeable bill failed to pass on the last day. Senator Scott Wiener’s S.B. 260, i.e., California’s Climate Corporate Accountability Act, died on the legislative floor by one vote. Co-authored by Senator Henry Stern, S.B. 260 would have been the nation’s first-ever mandatory requirement for large corporations to disclose their greenhouse emissions.

Had it been enacted, California’s legislation would have set …

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EPA Proposes to Designate PFOA and PFOS as Hazardous Substances under CERCLA

Friday of last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published a proposed rule that would designate perfluorooctanoic acid (“PFOA”) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (“PFOS”), including their salts and structural isomers, as hazardous substances under section 102(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (commonly known as CERCLA). The designations, if finalized, could have direct and indirect impacts on a range of individuals and companies, as well as the federal government itself.

The five broad categories of entities potentially affected by this designation as …

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EPA Previews 2021 List of Toxic Release Inventory

On July 28, 2022, the Environmental protection Agency (“EPA”) released its preliminary 2021 Toxics Release Inventory (“TRI”).  The purpose of the TRI is to give the public critical information regarding chemical releases, waste management, and pollution prevention undertaken at both federal and industrial facilities in the United States.  

The TRI program was created by Congress in 1986 as part of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.  Chemicals that are covered by the program include those that have adverse health or environmental …

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The Pendulum Swings Back Again on Clean Air

In June 1989, then-President George H. W. Bush proposed revisions to the Clean Air Act designed to reduce what were perceived as three of the largest threats to the environment at the time: toxic air emissions, acid rain, and urban air pollution.

More specifically, Section 112r of what became the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 required the EPA to publish guidance and regulations for chemical accident prevention by entities using compounds that posed the greatest risk of harm from accidental releases. These regulations were …

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