Government Accountability Office Uncovers Regulatory Vacuum for Offshore Oil and Gas Pipelines

In April, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report recommending the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) take actions to further develop, finalize, and implement updated pipeline regulations to address limitations regarding the BSEE’s ability to ensure the integrity of offshore oil and gas pipelines—and to address safety and environmental risks associated with pipeline decommissioning. BSEE is responsible for enforcing standards and regulations for oil and gas operations in federal offshore waters of which there has been 40,000 miles …

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Second Circuit Holds Climate Change Litigation Belongs in Federal Court

On April 1, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit—in a unanimous decision—affirmed the dismissal of the City of New York’s climate change lawsuit filed against a number of global oil manufacturers that sought climate change-related infrastructure damages. The issue resolved by the federal appellate court was whether municipalities could seek to hold multinational companies liable for damages caused by global greenhouse emissions under state common law. Given the nature of the harm and the existence of a complex web of federal …

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White House Releases Interim Estimates on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases

The newly re-established White House Interagency Working Group (IWG) on social cost of greenhouse gases (SC-GHG) recently released interim estimates for the social cost of carbon (S-CO2), social cost of nitrous oxide (S-N20), and social cost of methane (S-CH4), collectively referred to as the SC-GHG, in accordance with President Biden’s directives set forth in one of his initial executive orders issued at the start of the new presidential term.

The SC-GHG is used by federal agencies in the regulatory cost-benefit analysis to justify certain executive …

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Is the “Safe Rule” as Safe as it Sounds? Developments Regarding the Fight Over Automobile Emissions Standards

The battle surrounding the regulation of automobile emissions standards lost some steam last week after a number of major automakers withdrew their support of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule enacted by the Trump administration.

Certain major car manufactures are looking to exit the federal litigation, in which automaker trade groups intervened on behalf of the federal government to support the SAFE rules that sought to strip states of the ability to set their own vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards. These …

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SCOTUS to Resolve Circuit Split Regarding CERCLA Liability

On January 8, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) granted the Government of Guam’s petition for a writ of certiorari in a Superfund cost recovery case in which Guam faces a $160 million cleanup bill for a landfill leaking toxic waste at a site that the U.S. Navy created in the 1940s. The case, Government of Guam v. United States, Docket No. 20-382, presents two longstanding circuit splits before SCOTUS, which address CERCLA’s settlement provisions and their impact on a settling …

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EPA Final Rulemaking Will Not Require Additional Financial Assurance Requirements for Cleanups at Industrial Sites

On November 25, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it finalized rulemaking on financial assurance requirements for the Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution; Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing; and Chemical Manufacturing industries. The EPA determined the financial risks from facilities in these industries are addressed by existing state and federal regulations and modern industry practices, which mitigate risks inherent in these industries and cover the costs of cleaning up hazardous substance releases.

The final rulemaking relates to section 108(b) of the Comprehensive …

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New York Takes Next Step in Nation-Leading Offshore Wind Efforts

The deadline for submitting proposals in response to New York’s second solicitation for offshore wind procurement recently expired, with three companies in the running to land contracts, including Vineyard Wind, Equinor Wind, and Bay State Wind (a joint venture of Ørsted A/S and Eversource Energy). Each submitted proposals in response to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s July 21, 2020, solicitation for 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy. These proposals followed along the heels of the state’s 2018 solicitation for 1,700 megawatts of offshore wind, which …

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Golden State’s Governor Takes Bold Measures in Effort to Combat Climate Change; Issues Ban On Gas-Powered Cars

As an unprecedented amount of wild fires continue to ravage the state of California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-79-20 on September 23, 2020, banning the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and trucks by 2035—an aggressive attempt to combat the effects of climate change.

The order recognizes that bold action is needed to eliminate emissions from transportation, which is the largest source of carbon emissions in the state. The order also notes that zero emissions technologies reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollutants, and …

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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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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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