Aerial/Drone view of a wind farm with multiple wind turbines at sunrise

New NEPA Rule Eases Permitting Process while Advancing Environmental Justice

On the final day of April 2024, a week and a half after Earth Day, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) finalized a rule intended to simplify and modernize the federal environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A pillar of environmental law passed in 1970, NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a wide array of agency activities, such as land management, infrastructure construction, and permitting decisions. This …

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Close-up of exhaust fan on factory roof

EPA’s Final EtO Rule Finally Finalized

The Environmental Protection Agency on March 14 announced final amendments to the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) applicable to 90 large commercial sterilization facilities that use ethylene oxide (EtO), a chemical to which long-term exposure can cause cancer or other serious injury.

The EtO rulemaking process has engendered some criticism – most dramatically in lawsuits filed against the EPA by advocates representing neighbors of EtO facilities who claim the rulemaking process was too little too late (covered by ELM here). But …

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Stack of papers paperwork on office desk table. With copy space.

New SEC Climate Disclosure Mandate Faces Pushback

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week approved the implementation of standardized climate disclosure rules (posted here) for publicly traded companies and in public offerings. No longer can companies simply post potential risks on their websites or through emails; rather, they must now include them in official SEC filings such as annual reports and registration statements.

The overarching goal is intended to enhance transparency concerning how companies address environmental and climate threats. The SEC’s decision was also the result of investors’ demand for …

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Crypto Currency Mining Rig

Feds Zero in on Energy-Guzzling Crypto Mining Giants

As closely monitored by ELM over the last couple of years, the expansion of cryptocurrency mining in the United States has resulted in the industry simply devouring the country’s energy resources (see here for general background on cryptocurrency mining effects on energy use, and here for an explainer on the federal government’s increased attention to crypto’s energy use).

Some analysts have concluded that the crypto mining industry releases between 25 and 50 million tons of CO2 annually – roughly the same amount as the U.S. …

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Sterile storage of medical and surgical instruments in the dentist's office. View from above. Closeup shoot.

FDA Finally Recognizes EtO Sterilizing Alternative as the World Becomes a Force Majeure Pile-Up

Perhaps nothing has proven the indispensable value of commercial sterilizers more than the devastating worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Without the highly effective and efficient commercial sterilizer ethylene oxide (EtO), we would not have been able to rely on lifesaving sterilized medical equipment and supplies – such as cotton swabs for nasal-swab testing, masks, ventilators, and thermometers – to get us through the past four years. Moreover, maintaining basic hospital functionality and everyday healthcare needs outside of the pandemic requires sterile equipment and supplies simply for civilization …

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detail of white smoke polluted sky

Ethylene Oxide 2023 Year-End Round-Up!

Nearly ten months after settling over 870 Illinois-based Cook County ethylene oxide (EtO) exposure claims for $408 million (covered by ELM here), at the beginning of the final quarter of 2023, Sterigenics, one of the world’s largest commercial sterilizers, along with its parent company Sotera, agreed to settle 79 lawsuits relating to EtO emissions from the Sterigenics sterilizing plant in Cobb County, Georgia, for an estimated $35 million, submitting its settlement proposal to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in late October. Just as …

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The flags of the North Carolina state and United States of America waving in the wind. Democracy and independence.

North Carolina Joins Growing List of U.S. Environmental Justice Policy Proponents

At the end of October, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 292, which reestablishes the Secretary of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board (EJ Board) as the Governor’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council (EJA Council), originally established by the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan, who previously served as North Carolina’s DEQ Secretary.

In a “whole of government” approach to policymaking, EO 292 also directs equity-promoting actions that reflect the needs communicated by local communities overburdened …

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EPA Offices, Washington DC

Lawsuits Claim EPA’s EtO Rules are Too Little, Too Late

Following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2016 finding that ethylene oxide (EtO), a highly effective chemical routinely used to sterilize medical devices and equipment, was significantly more hazardous than previously understood, individuals and shareholders began filing lawsuits against various EtO-using entities throughout the United States with no end in sight. At the end of last month, however, it was the EPA that became the legal target of furious environmental justice and health advocates acting on behalf of the communities the EPA is tasked to …

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EPA Offices, Washington DC

EPA Updates FOIA Regs to Promote Transparency and Affordability of Information Concerning Environmental Justice Issues

On September 7, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was updating its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations through its Phase II FOIA final rule. This “modernization,” is part of EPA’s continued efforts to advance transparency – here, by improving the EPA’s FOIA program through a renewed focus on accountability, affordability, and better access to information for communities of color with environmental justice concerns. The final rule is a wider part of the Biden Administration’s general promise to prioritize consideration of communities …

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EPA Offices, Washington DC

FDA to EPA: Pump the Brakes on New EtO Rules During Supply Chain Shortage

With COVID diagnoses spiking across the United States this summer, we cannot yet claim that the pandemic is behind us. In fact, we are still experiencing residual medical device and equipment shortages, which has caused medical providers to spend billions on alternative sterile medical products and even implementing rations in some cases. Complicating the issue is the fact that, typically, only a handful of manufacturers and suppliers distribute these life-saving products, so alternatives can be difficult to procure. Shortages appear to be endangering other …

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