EPA Releases Historic Climate Change Indicators Report

After a four-year gap, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resumed its issuance of climate change indicators reporting on Wednesday May 12, 2021. The newly released data, which used 54 separate indicators, provides the federal government’s most comprehensive and up-to-date public release of information to date and demonstrates that an ever-increasing warming trend world is making life more difficult in the United States. The report’s issuance is conveniently timed as the Biden administration is taking aggressive action to address the pollution challenges that contribute to global …

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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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A Second Bite at the PFAS: House of Representatives Passes PFAS Action Act of 2021; Similar to Act Passed in 2020

Recently, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill—the PFAS Action Act of 2021—that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin regulating perfluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water.

The legislation would require the EPA to establish a national drinking water standard within two years for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluoroactanesulfonic acid (PFOS)—the two most scrutinized PFAS chemicals. Currently, the EPA has a voluntary guidance level of 70 parts per trillion for both PFOA and PFOS combined.

The bill requires …

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California Permanently Calls it Quits on Fracking

One day after Earth Day 2021, California, a state that is routinely—if somewhat surprisingly—among the top five states for oil production, placed a moratorium on new hydraulic fracturing (fracking) by 2024 and the complete end to oil extraction in the state by 2045.

Fracking, the process of extracting oil or natural gas from the earth by using certain chemicals in proportion with large amounts of water to ‘fracture’ rock formations to release crude oil and natural gas, only accounts for up to one fifth of …

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Department of the Interior Pivots toward Renewable Energy

On April 16, 2021, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland issued two Secretarial Orders intended to prioritize battling the effects of climate change by promoting cleaner energy and modifying the decision-making process concerning federal energy development projects.

SO 3398 aims to bolster implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The order directs Interior Department offices to decline to apply 2020 changes to NEPA, “in a manner that would change the application or level of NEPA that would have been applied to a proposed action before the …

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EPA Releases Updated Toxicity Assessment for PFBS

On April 8, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an updated toxicity assessment for perfluorobutane sulfuric acid (PFBS). This assessment comes as part of the EPA’s larger PFAS Action Plan, aimed to increase the amount of research and publicly available information on chemicals in the PFAS family.

PFBS, which is part of the larger group of PFAS compounds, is a replacement chemical for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), which is no longer used in United States manufacturing. PFBS is mainly used as surfactants and repellants …

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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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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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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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