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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New York Becomes Second State to Ban Plastic Toiletry Bottles in Hotels—the Latest Subject of Single-Use Plastics Bans

In April, New York became the second state to pass a law prohibiting hotels from offering their guests personal care products in single-use plastic bottles. Set to go into effect on January 1, 2024 for hotels with 50 rooms or more and January 1, 2025 for hotels with less than 50 rooms, the law, which is included in New York’s Environmental Conservation Law, restricts “hotels from making available to hotel guests small plastic bottle hospitality personal care products.” The legislation defines “small plastic bottle” as …

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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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Another Former Potomac River Paper Mill Strikes Costly Settlement Deal to Avoid Lengthy Pollution Litigation

Verso Corporation and Verso Luke LLC, owners of the now closed Luke Paper Mill, became the latest potentially responsible parties (PRP) to resolve claims against them for discharging waste into the North Branch Potomac River. The mill manufactured paper products along the river, which straddles the Maryland-West Virginia border. 

On April 6, 2019, a fisherman reported to Maryland that “pure black waste” was entering the river near the mill. Subsequent investigations revealed black liquid seeping from several locations along approximately 500 feet of riverbank located on the mill’s property …

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The Battle for Biofuel Exemptions Heads to the Supreme Court

In a bid to curb the emission of greenhouse gasses and reduce American dependence on foreign oil sources, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which included the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS imposes Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) on transportation fuel producers in the U.S., requiring them to include a threshold amount—increasing annually—of renewable fuels such as those derived from corn, grain, or sugarcane.

Though hailed by environmental groups as a step in the right direction, the RFS has promulgated the acceleration of …

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Offshore Wind Alert: New York Bight—The Next Major Wind Farm?

On March 29, 2021, the Biden administration announced a plan to expand offshore wind power along the East Coast. One area that may be part of such expansion is the New York Bight, which is a geological area that describes a swath of shallow waters along the Atlantic coast, spanning from the Cape May Inlet in New Jersey to Montauk Point at the eastern tip of Long Island. It is also the area subject to a potential offshore wind zone that the administration hopes can produce 30,000 megawatts (30 gigawatts) of power from wind turbines by 2030. 

To “advance domestic energy production, generate revenue, and increase …

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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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Are SEPs Dead? Outgoing DOJ Strengthens Prohibition on SEPs as Mitigating Remedies

During the final days of the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), which represents the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in environmental enforcement actions, issued a memorandum that summarizes new polices relating to Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs). SEPs are environmentally beneficial projects that settling parties had previously been allowed to undertake either to diminish fines or to serve in lieu of paying civil penalties in order to resolve environmental law violations, and had been popular with alleged violators and …

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Hawaii’s Ban on Oxybenzone and Octinoxate-Containing Sunscreen Takes Effect

Hawaii’s sunscreen ban has officially taken effect. In May 2018, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to ban the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. The law went into effect on January 1, 2021, with the goal of preserving Hawaii’s marine ecosystems.

According to the language of the bill, Hawaii’s legislature found that oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals found in many sunscreens, “have significant harmful impacts on Hawaii’s marine environment and residing ecosystems, including coral reefs that protect Hawaii’s shorelines.” Studies …

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NRD Alert: New Study Links 6PPD Tire Additive Transformation Product to the Death of Coho Salmon in the Puget Sound

On December 3, 2020, a study authored by a team of researchers from the University of Washington was published in the journal Science, linking a transformation product from a common tire additive to the death of Coho salmon in the Puget Sound. Researchers had observed acute mortality in Coho salmon in the area for decades, and while the mortality had been previously linked to storm water, and then later to tires generally, the exact causal toxicant was unknown until now.

6PPD, one of several …

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