Ecological catastrophy

ITLOS Issues Historic Advisory Opinion on Climate Change and International Law

On May 21, 2024, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) published what has been deemed as an “historic” and “unprecedented” advisory opinion on climate change, international law, and on state obligations regarding climate change. Sought by the international organization called the Commission of Small Island States (COSIS), the historic nature of this opinion comes from the fact that this is the first time an international tribunal has issued an opinion clarifying the international law obligations on states binding them to protect …

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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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smoke background

New Federal Regulations Regarding Soot Create Challenges for States

Fine particle pollution – also known as soot – is a cause of respiratory disease, increased asthma symptoms, cancer, and cardiovascular dysfunction. Incomplete combustion of organic materials such as wood, fuel oil, plastics, and household refuse create soot – which is released from smokestacks, vehicle exhaust, wildfires, agricultural work and some forms of cooking. Soot is smaller in diameter than a human hair and is small enough to pass through human bloodstreams after inhalation.

This year, the Environmental Protection Agency implemented much more stringent standards …

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Close up of conveyor belt in bottling plant

Regulatory States: Further Limitations on PFAS-Containing Products Now in Effect

Right out of the gate in 2024, we’ve seen several states further regulate the sale of PFAS-containing products. On Jan. 1, a Connecticut statute took effect prohibiting the sale or promotion of any “food package to which PFAS has been intentionally introduced during manufacturing or distribution in any amount.” The law defines “food packaging” to mean “any package or packaging component that is applied to, or in direct contact with any food or beverage.”

Connecticut defines “intentionally introduced” to mean any “deliberately utiliz[ing] regulated metal …

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A large construction excavator removes contaminated soil from an urban brownfield development site.

Leading with Lead: EPA to Implement Strategy for Lead in 2024

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency kicked off the New Year by strengthening its guidance for investigating and cleaning up lead-contaminated soil at residential properties, especially in areas where children live and play. Toward this end, the EPA lowered the recommended screening levels for lead in residential soil, from 400 parts per million to 200 ppm, for the first time in 30 years. 

While screening levels are not cleanup standard, this change is expected to assist the EPA in making site-specific cleanup decisions, which may include …

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Money roll and judges hammer on wooden table

Environmental and Transportation Regulation Violators Should Expect to Pay More in Civil Penalties in 2024

Both the Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency finished 2023 by issuing new rules that increase the maximum civil penalties for violating certain regulations. For the EPA, those regulations include the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and Toxic Substances Control Act. For the DOT, the maximum civil penalty increases affect regulations contained within, among others, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Hazardous Materials Regulations, and the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

For a little background as to why this is happening, …

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EPA Offices, Washington DC

EPA Proposes New Rules on Lead and Copper

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced proposed rules that would strengthen its regulation of lead and copper. These new regulations, if approved, would require water systems across the country to replace lead service lines within the next 10 years. They would also lower the allowable amount of lead in drinking water from 15 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion and require that lead service lines across the country be replaced within 10 years.  

Sampling protocols would improve throughout the country, too. The …

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Flag of California Republic in San Francisco

California not just dreamin’ about expanding Prop. 65 product-notice requirements

If a company makes, distributes, or sells consumer products—including food products—containing chemicals that might turn the leaves brown, proposed amendments to California’s Proposition 65 may saddle it with additional warning-notice requirements. Affected companies should respond not only by preparing to update their relevant product warnings, but also submitting comments on the state’s rulemaking while they still can.

Proposition 65 requires businesses with 10 or more employees to provide a “clear and reasonable” warning of possible exposure to the 900+ chemicals California has determined to cause …

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downtown manhattan orange sky

NYC Proposes New Indoor Air Quality Regs to Combat Orange Dystopia

In the fall of 2020, when New Yorkers saw photos and videos of orange skies over San Francisco caused by the Bay Area’s infamous fog, combined with heavy smoke from what seemed like non-stop wildfires raging throughout California, it looked like a dystopian movie landscape, or even another planet. Even more surreal, Californians in these vivid images were often wearing masks — not necessarily as protection against the smoky skies, but, rather, as protection from a global pandemic. With time, however, the memory of those …

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EPA Announces Proposed Perchloroethylene Regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposed regulation of perchloroethylene (PCE) under the Toxic Substances Control Act to protect public health.  

PCE, also known as perc and tetrachloroethylene, “is used for the production of fluorinated compounds; as a solvent for dry cleaning and vapor degreasing; in catalyst regeneration in petrochemical manufacturing; and in a variety of commercial and consumer applications such as adhesives, paints and coatings, aerosol degreasers, brake cleaners, aerosol lubricants, sealants, stone polish, stainless steel polish, and wipe cleaners.” …

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