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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On Second Thought: U.S. EPA Issues 2020 Steam Electric Reconsideration Rule

This week, the U.S. EPA finalized a rule relaxing Obama-era standards for disposal of wastewater from coal-fired power plants. The Trump administration has characterized the new rule as a means of reducing pollution and saving jobs at the same time, while environmentalists decry the new rule as a threat to the nation’s waterways and the health of those who live near affected power generation facilities.

In 2015, the EPA issued a final rule regulating discharges from steam electric power plants, including arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, chromium, …

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algae bloom

New Technologies Being Developed to Combat Harmful Algal Blooms in Upstate New York

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)—neither pretty nor safe—have been an ongoing issue in certain Upstate New York lakes and other bodies of water. However, it appears that some good news has arrived for those otherwise bucolic upstate areas. Recently, the state of New York announced that new HAB mitigation technologies—being developed by Clarkson University and SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF)—are being tested: hydrodynamic cavitation with hydrogen peroxide, and electrochemical oxidation filtration.

According to the DEC, “Both treatment systems are designed to collect algae-laden water near …

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Will the U.S. Finally Have a Legal Reckoning with Ammonium Nitrate?

The explosion in the port of Beirut earlier this month was caused by—according to Lebanese officials—ammonium nitrate, and serves as a reminder of the deadly power of this chemical when recklessly stored or when there is an absence of oversight of its use.

Indeed, the Lebanese disaster echoes similarly fatal explosions involving ammonium nitrate at chemical plants in industrial pockets of the United States. Moreover, it is a primary chemical component of the livestock manure and fertilizer blanketing ever-expanding farms flung across the nation that …

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Oil Prospecting in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Is it Worth It?

Earlier this week, the Trump administration finalized its plan to open up a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development. This marks a significant change in protections for the Refuge, as protections have been afforded to this large stretch of wilderness for more than half a century. The Trump administration was drawn to this area of land based on a large coastal plain located in the Refuge, which is believed to contain significant portions of oil. Furthermore, oil production …

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Environmental Groups Raise Climate Change Concerns in New Suit Challenging Trump Administration’s Attempted NEPA Overhaul

Last week, a coalition of environmental groups filed suit in the Southern District of New York following the Trump Administration’s proposal to update the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—the federal law that requires certain environmental reviews prior to the approval of major infrastructure projects. 

The lawsuit, Environmental Justice Health Alliance et al. v. Council on Environmental Quality et al., Civil Action No. 20-cv-6143, is the third challenge to the Administration’s NEPA overhaul following two other cases filed in Virginia and California federal courts in late July.

The suits were spurred by the promulgation of …

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Bona-Fide Improvement: Ohio Adds BFPP Defense to Hazardous Waste Liability

This summer, Ohio implemented a change in its hazardous waste law that will be welcomed news to purchasers of brownfields. The new law adds a bona-fide prospective purchaser (BFPP) affirmative defense that will make those who qualify for its protections “immune to liability” to the state under the state’s environmental laws. Additionally, the new defense applies retroactively to pending causes of action that started before the law’s effective date.

The concept of a BFPP defense is familiar to purchasers of commercial property, as a similar …

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Empire State Adopts MCL for 1, 4-Dioxane, PFOA, and PFOS

On July 30, 2020, New York’s Public Health and Health Planning Council voted in support of maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA and PFOS—the two most well-known per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The Council voted to set the MCLs for both chemicals at 10 parts per trillion—among the lowest levels adopted by any state, and significantly lower than the U.S. EPA’s current guidance levels of 70 ppt.

Another chemical—1, 4-Dioxane—also has an MCL of 1 part per billion now. New York announced that this regulation …

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