The EPA’s Campaign to Transform WOTUS from Ephemeral to Resolute

If we are being honest, when it comes to the Clean Water Act, “navigable” is just one of those words that makes us all a bit tongue tied—not just because it’s tricky to pronounce, but because it is even more vexing to define, especially when we look to make sense of the regulatory definition of “waters of the United States.” Unpacking the definition of navigable and federally protected waters has indeed been the perennial work of scholars, judges, lawyers, and politicians alike since the CWA’s …

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Can “Microrobots” Help Humans Battle Microplastics Pollution?

The presence of microplastics—fragments of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters—is ever increasing across all types of environments, from cities to waterways. Moreover, microplastics do not biodegrade easily; the process can take hundreds of years. The ubiquity of durable microplastics in our environment, and the challenges we face in removing them due to their small size, has resulted in a significant amount of research intended to assess the ways by which microplastics can be eliminated.

A recent study in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the …

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Air Quality Control Board Votes to Cut Emissions in Southern California

Southern California is known for its beautiful beaches, perfect weather, and for being the smoggiest region in the nation. On May 7, 2021, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) passed the Warehouse Indirect Source Rule (Warehouse Rule) in a 9-4 vote in an effort to combat Southern California’s smog problem. The Warehouse Rule is essentially a program that will focus on reducing the exposure of nitrogen oxide and diesel particulate matter in the air over the next three years. Specifically, the Warehouse Rule …

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Supreme Court Holds CERCLA Contribution Requires Resolution of a CERCLA-Specific Liability

As previously reported by the Environmental Law Monitor, in January 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari in the matter of Guam v. United States, to resolve a long-standing circuit split on an issue related to CERCLA’s settlement and contribution provisions.

By way of background, the United States and Guam have been embroiled in a decades-long dispute over the Ordot Dump, which was constructed by the United States Navy in the 1940s, and served as a toxic military waste deposit …

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The Methane Moment

On April 28, 2021, the U.S. Senate voted 52-42 to restore regulations on the oil and gas industry to address methane emissions. Specifically, the regulation will seek to limit methane gas leaks relating to drilling operations by establishing stricter monitoring requirements and requiring corrective actions when leaks are detected. While methane only represents 10 percent of the United States greenhouse gas emissions, it is more efficient at trapping radiation than other greenhouse gases. Due to this characteristic, methane is viewed as a key contributor to …

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President Biden Continues to Act on Climate Change with Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risk

On May 20, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on climate-related financial risk, in which the new president directs the federal government to develop a strategy to curb the risk of climate change on public and private financial assets in the United States. The order notes that it is the policy of the administration to “advance consistent, clear, intelligible, comparable, and accurate disclosure of climate-related financial risk” and directs certain federal agencies to incorporate climate risk and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations into …

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ATSDR Releases Final Guidance on Perfluoroalkyls

As promised in our November 2018 blog post, “ATSDR PFAS Update: No Final Report Yet, But Further Guidance on Minimal Risk Levels and Drinking Water Concentrations,” we are providing an update on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s recent release of its final Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls (Tox. Profile). This represents the ATSDR’s final guidance on these substances.

The purpose of the toxicological profile is to “succinctly characterize[] the toxicologic and adverse health effects information for these toxic substances…,” which are developed under …

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NY Navigation Law Alert: Appellate Division Reaffirms “Method of Delivery” is Key for Strict Liability in Oil Spill Case

In the recently-decided Scott v. Triborough Energy Corp., NY Slip Op 03126 (May 13, 2021), the First Department considered a case where the defendant—the plaintiff’s residential heating oil supplier—allegedly caused oil to leak into the plaintiff’s basement while delivering to their home. The plaintiffs sued under Navigation Law § 181(5) (NL), which permits private causes of action in strict liability against a petroleum discharger, as long as the plaintiffs have “not caused or contributed to (and thus are not ‘responsible for’) the discharge. See

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Can Biofilm Engineering Be Used to Address Microplastics Pollution?

Microplastics, which are fragments of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters, have increasingly been released into the environment over the last several decades—primarily into bodies of water—whether during production, use, or degradation of plastic products. Microplastics have been found in over one hundred aquatic species, in sources of food such as crops, and within large plastic debris piles floating across the ocean. The prevalence of microplastics pollution across ecosystems, exacerbated by the fact that microplastics are not easy to biodegrade, has prompted proposals and passage of …

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A Change is Gonna Come … (and it’s kinda sorta already here)

The legendary singer/songwriter Sam Cooke may have intended for his 1964 anthem, “A Change is Gonna Come,” to be a protest song to surreptitiously fuel the civil rights movement and its pursuit of social justice, but little did he know the soulful R&B melody may realize its revival in the Biden administration as the U.S. Environmental Agency’s (EPA’s) new battle cry for environmental justice.

The EPA defines environmental justice (EJ) academically as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, …

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