Splitting from Other Circuits, Sixth Circuit Limits the Scope of the Clean Water Act

This week, the Sixth Circuit diverged from the Fourth and Ninth Circuits by limiting the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA) as it relates to groundwater. The court held that the CWA cannot regulate pollutants from point sources if they reach navigable waters through groundwater. This decision is a clear split from the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, who have both held this year that groundwater can be regulated under the CWA if it serves as a conduit for pollution
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Sub-National Efforts to Tackle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Take up the Slack

Given the Trump Administration’s position on climate change, one could easily become discouraged that any meaningful progress can be made in reaching the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) set for the United States under the 2015 Paris Agreement to stabilize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to keep anthropogenic warming to below 2°C. Under the Paris Agreement, the United States is tasked with reducing its GHG emissions by 26-28 percent below its 2005 emissions by 2025. Such pessimism might not be completely warranted, however, despite the Trump Administration’s notice that the United States is pulling out of the Paris Agreement.
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Long-Term Environmental Impact of Hurricane Florence Yet to be Seen

As of press time, Hurricane Florence has claimed nearly 40 lives and caused extensive destruction in the hardest-hit areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Environmental analysts will have their work cut out for them as they attempt to measure the environmental impact of the storm. At present, we have detected three current areas of primary environmental concern — risk to nuclear sites, the spread of coal ash waste, and the flooding of industrial farms.  Nuclear Sites: The Carolinas are uniquely situated
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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
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Environmental Due Diligence: What’s The Latest On Federal Environmental Review?

Just a few days ago, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee — in a tight split — voted to support a bill that seeks to target the slow pace of the permitting process for infrastructure and development projects that require review by federal agencies. The bill, named the “Permitting Litigation Efficiency Act,” is expected to impose limits on federal review of projects, i.e., an apparent two-year deadline for federal agencies to determine whether a project can go forward. Other
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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
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PFAS Update: Unregulated (Mostly), Uncertain, and Ubiquitous

Partner George Buermann and associate Oliver Twaddell of the firm’s Environmental Practice Group recently published a short article, “PFAS Update: Unregulated (Mostly), Uncertain, and Ubiquitous,” in DRI’s Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Committee newsletter.  This update offers a quick read on key developments related to PFAS — chemicals that have become a major focus of both the plaintiffs’ bar as well as regulators relative to environmental, product liability, and toxic tort issues. Read the full article here. 
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California Leading the Charge In Renewable Energy

Recently, the Assembly of the State of California approved the 100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2018 or “SB100” which will require all energy used in the state to come from renewable sources by December 31, 2045. The bill, authored by State Senator Kevin de León, passed the California Senate last year, the Assembly on August 28, 2018, and was reconciled by the Senate on August 29, 2018. All that remains before the bill becomes law, is Governor Jerry Brown’s
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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.
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Glyphosate and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Claims: Different Results In Different Courtrooms Based On The Same Science

We recently reported on a $289 million verdict for plaintiff Dewayne Johnson against Monsanto Company in the state Superior Court of California, an astounding verdict by the jury who found that Mr. Johnson’s use of glyphosate-containing herbicides caused him to develop a type of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Monsanto will be appealing the verdict on the grounds that the science does not show that glyphosate causes cancer. While the court in Johnson admitted scientific evidence by plaintiffs that glyphosate causes
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