Common Ground Found in Attempt to Limit Release of Ethylene Oxide Used for Sterilization

In a rare showing of bipartisanship before the mid-term elections, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, and Robert Berlin, a Republican State’s Attorney for DuPage County, filed a lawsuit seeking to place limits on emissions of ethylene oxide from a plant owned by Sterigenics U.S., LLC. The lawsuit alleges that the plant has released dangerous levels of the gas for over a decade. Ethylene oxide is a potent gas used to sterilize medical instruments, pharmaceutical drugs and food.

“We are alleging that since at …

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Tall Drink of Wastewater: EPA Considers Permitting Wastewater Disposal Into Texas Rivers and Streams

For every barrel of oil drilled in Texas, four-to-five barrels of wastewater are produced. The abundance of untreated water has led the EPA to consider whether to permit oil drillers in Texas to discharge wastewater directly into local rivers and streams, avoiding the complicated and costly process of trucking the water to underground wells that may be many miles away. If put into effect, this plan would alter established federal clean water regulations that have been in place for decades.

Currently, drillers pump wastewater, a …

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A $289 Million Dollar Roundup Verdict is at Risk of Reversal

Last week, a San Francisco judge issued a tentative ruling on the defendant Monsanto Company’s Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, and their Motion for a New Trial.  This ruling threatens to gut the $289 million dollar verdict ($39M compensatory and $250M punitives) that the plaintiff Dewayne Johnson secured this summer over the company that manufactures Roundup and Ranger Pro, the glyphosate-containing herbicides used by the plaintiff in his work as a school district groundskeeper and that were alleged to have caused his lymphoma.  In …

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Squaring the CERCLA: Federal Court in DC Weighs in on Interplay Between Action for Response Costs and Action for Contribution

One of the many pitfalls in Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) compliance is navigating the interplay between cost recovery actions under CERCLA § 107(a) and contribution actions under CERCLA § 113(f). In general, parties who incur costs to respond to environmental contamination gain a cause of action under § 107(a) against other potentially responsible parties (PRPs). On the other hand, parties who have been held liable for cleanup costs through some government action may seek contribution from other responsible parties under § …

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The Art of the Deal? New EPA Administrator shaves $30 million from clean-up costs for nuclear waste near underground landfill fire in suburban St. Louis.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced its final plan for the West Lake Landfill in suburban St. Louis. As we’ve previously reported, West Lake Landfill is the site of illegally dumped nuclear waste that is buried near a long-smoldering underground fire.

Approximately a decade ago, the EPA announced a cap-and-monitor proposal for the site. However, that plan was met with such resistance that it was withdrawn and a new proposal was announced earlier this year. That plan, with an estimated cost of $236 million, …

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Battles Over Suspension of the Clean Water Rule Leave 23 States Under its Guidance

In the last year, we’ve reported several times on the implementation and interpretation of the Clean Water Rule. The 2015 Clean Water Rule, or Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, attempted to more clearly define which bodies of water fall under United States federal jurisdiction and are covered under the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA). It expanded protection to some tributaries, streams, and wetlands that lead to the “navigable waters” traditionally protected under the CWA. Critics argue that in effect, the WOTUS rule greatly …

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The Costs of Doing Business: 9th Circuit Upholds Oregon Clean Fuels Program

In 2007, the Oregon legislature instituted a program designed to reduce the state’s greenhouse emissions to at least 10 percent lower than 2010 levels by 2025. The Oregon Clean Fuels Program uses a cap-and-trade scheme that attributes a carbon intensity value to transportation fuels produced or imported into Oregon. Regulated parties must keep the average carbon intensity of all transportation fuels used in Oregon below an annual limit. A fuel with a carbon intensity below the limit generates a credit, and one with a carbon …

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EPA Releases Report Linking Sterilizing Chemical to Increased Risk of Cancer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that a suburban area in Willowbrook, Illinois is facing a risk of cancer over nine times the national average due to contamination by ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide has been used for decades as fumigant to sterilize heat-sensitive medical equipment and other goods. The volatile, easily absorbed chemical has been recognized as a carcinogen since 1985. In December 2016, the EPA released a re-assessment linking it more conclusively to breast and blood cancer.

Sterigenics International, a company that’s …

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Ninth Circuit Bans Use of Pesticide Chlorpyrifos in Agriculture

On August 9, 2018, the Ninth Circuit ordered that the EPA ban a widely used pesticide called chlorpyrifos within 60 days. The court found that EPA had failed to determine that chlorpyrifos was safe.  The decision marked the end – albeit perhaps only temporarily – to a decade-long battle between the pesticide and agriculture industry on one side and environmental and public health groups on the other.

By way of background, EPA, under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, …

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Old MacDonald Had a Gas Station — EPA Requires Increased Quantities of Ethanol in National GasolineSupply, but Producers are Skeptical

The Environmental Protection Agency has increased the total amount of ethanol and biodiesel that must be used in 2019 to 19.88 billion gallons under the Proposed Renewable Fuel Standard for 2019, a 3 percent increase over 2018 levels. Fifteen billion gallons of the blended gasoline will be traditional ethanol, made from crops like corn and soy, while the remainder will be composed of biofuels and biodiesel.

This change was bolstered by agricultural and renewable fuel lobbyists, who argue that American farmers suffer from low commodity …

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