Wild West: Colorado Court Allows Warrantless Searches of Oilfield Sites

A rancher in southwestern Colorado had three oil wells on his property, leased to an oil company, Maralex Resources, Inc., of which the rancher was the president. One afternoon, an inspection supervisor with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) contacted a local Maralex office and requested access to the wells for a routine inspection. Because the rancher was out of town, and the properties were protected by locked gates, the Maralex office refused to permit access that day. The inspection supervisor agreed to …

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Pain in the Ash: Byproduct Contamination at Coal Power Plants Back in Focus

Landfills and man-made ponds have been used for decades as dumping grounds for coal ash, which is the byproduct waste left over from burning coal in coal-fired power plants; it is one of the most prolific types of industrial waste generated in the United States. After all, coal is the biggest source of electricity production in the nation. Coal ash though contains a number of known carcinogens and is often stored in unlined pits, creating the potential for environmental and health risks such as increased …

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Cutting out the CARBs: EPA Administrator Suggests Possible Split with California on Emission Standards

Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recently discussed a broad range of issues in an interview with Bloomberg TV. Chief among those, Pruitt stated that the EPA is opposed to setting stricter fuel economy standards beyond 2025 and has questioned whether individual states should be able to enact their own tougher emissions rules for cars and light trucks. Pruitt said that California, which has a waiver under the 1970 Clean Air Act giving it authority to set its own emissions standards, …

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EPA to Host National Leadership Summit on PFAS

In the latest on per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), earliest this week, the EPA sent a letter to the governors of 56 states and territories announcing its plan to host a National Leadership Summit on PFAS in Washington, D.C. on May 22 and 23. Stakeholders from across the country are invited to participate in identifying immediate actions to address the public’s growing concern over PFAS. At the Summit, the EPA plans to:

  • Share information on ongoing efforts to characterize risks from PFAS and develop monitoring
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Superfund Alert: The Latest Proposed Changes to CERCLA

On February 12, 2018, President Trump’s Administration published its Infrastructure Plan (Plan) aimed at fixing America’s infrastructure. Within the Plan are several proposed changes to the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) (also known as Superfund).

The first proposed change is to expand funding eligibility for revitalization projects under CERCLA. Currently, CERCLA Sections 101(39)(B) and 101(41)(C) only authorize grants or revolving loans for brownfields — properties that contain hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants that complicate expansion, redevelopment, or reuse. The Plan recommends …

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Power Struggle: A State’s Constitution Being Used to Oppose Hydraulic Fracturing

In June 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its decision in PA Environmental Defense Foundation v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et. al, (PEDF) establishing a broad interpretation of PA’s Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA), which is found in the Commonwealth’s Constitution. Some folks in PA might not know this, but it’s one of only a few states in the nation to recognize having clean air and water as a basic civil right for its citizens. The case, brought by the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation, …

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California Second Generation Climate Change Suits — Back to the Future with Federal Common Law?

An interesting battle currently is playing out in the California courts involving what can be considered a “second generation” of climate change suits that seek to hold producers of greenhouse gases responsible for the costs that government entities are forced to expend in adapting to climate change. In July 2017, three California government entities — Marin and San Mateo Counties, along with the City of Imperial Beach — filed suit in California Superior Court against some of the world’s largest oil, gas, and coal companies, …

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Tijuana Blues: Mexican Wastewater Contaminates SoCal Coast, According to New Lawsuit

SoCal surfer dudes were in for a surprise when a serious funk rolled in with the tides in Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, California. A new lawsuit has been filed against the International Boundary & Water Commission – United States Section (IBWC or the Commission) and Veolia Water North America West for repeatedly failing to address “devastating pollution discharges” from the Tijuana River, which had been used as a dump for decades.

In the last three years alone, severely polluted waters have caused officials in …

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Strictly Business: Court Opens Door to PFOA Lawsuit for Purely Economic Damages

On February 20, 2018, a federal court in New York expanded the universe of plaintiffs who can sue for PFOA contamination in that state. The court ruled that plaintiffs could seek purely economic damages in negligence claims based on PFOA contamination, so long as the plaintiff’s business is located within the “zone of contamination.”

As readers of this blog may be aware, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) is a man-made chemical used, among other things, to make fabrics water- and stain-resistant. Originally manufactured by the 3M Company, …

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Ultraviolet Reactor? The Newest Technology to Combat Emergence of the Unregulated Chemical 1,4-Dioxane

New problems often necessitate new solutions. In the world of toxic torts and environmental liability, advances in remediation techniques are constantly being developed to alleviate the sometimes unavoidable, questionable, and/or nascent effects of innovation, manufacturing, and commerce. One emerging contaminant causing a stir is 1,4-dioxane — a flammable liquid with a variety of industrial applications, such as the manufacture of adhesives, sealants, and other chemicals. It is used in paint strippers, dyes, greases, varnishes and waxes, and it can be found in antifreeze, aircraft de-icing …

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