EPA Is The CERCLA Gatekeeper: Plaintiffs Need EPA Approval To Seek State Court Damages For Restoration

Landowners seeking restoration damages in state courts, at sites where there is a cleanup remedy previously selected by EPA, may pursue such claims only if they first obtain EPA approval for the proposed restoration work.  Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian (No. 17–1498, April 20, 2020). Continue Reading

A Sale Is A Sale: NERA Asks FERC To Regulate Net-Metering

State regulation of net metering may be a thing of the past if a recent petition filed by the New England Ratepayers Association (“NERA”) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) is granted.  NERA’s petition requests that FERC (1) find that there is exclusive federal jurisdiction over wholesale energy sales from generation sources located on the customer side of the retail meter (such as rooftop solar facilities), and (2) order that the rates for such sales be priced in accordance with the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”) or the Federal Power Act (“FPA”), as applicable. Continue Reading

Will the SEC Offer Hope for Clear, Uniform Sustainability Disclosure Standards?

On May 21, in an open virtual meeting the SEC’s 23-member Investor Advisory Committee debated and endorsed the Investor as Owner Subcommittee’s long-awaited recommendations that the Commission begin in earnest an effort to update the reporting requirements of Issuers to include material, decision-useful, environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.  That same day, BlackRock shareholders debated in a virtual annual meeting whether the world’s largest asset manager is living up to CEO Larry Fink’s much ballyhooed commitment to sustainability as BlackRock’s new standard of investing and investment stewardship (as previously detailed in this blogpost).  While the path forward on possible new principles-based SEC disclosure rules around ESG factors may be long and uncertain, the Subcommittee’s recommendations offer useful considerations for companies in preparing currently required SEC filings and voluntary sustainability reports. Continue Reading

National Security Tariff Investigation of Steel-Based Components of Electrical Transformers: Comment Dates Set

As described in an earlier post to this blog, the Commerce Department initiated an investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 into whether “laminations for stacked cores for incorporation into transformers, stacked and wound cores for incorporation into transformers, electrical transformers, and transformer regulators are being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security.” Continue Reading

Six Highlights of EPA’s Proposal to Expand Reform of Guidance Documents

EPA on May 19 released a proposed rule that would put in place a set of regulations governing EPA’s issuance, modification, and withdrawal of guidance documents.  This proposal implements portions of Executive Order 13891, and builds on EPA’s previous efforts to create a comprehensive portal of guidance documents earlier this year.  Generally speaking, the stated purpose of the rule is to allow for increased transparency and public involvement in EPA’s guidance-formulation process, but the proposal also contains several key limitations. Continue Reading

DOE Proposes to Stop Evaluating Environmental Impacts of LNG Exports

The Department of Energy proposes to no longer subject LNG exports to evaluation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  According to a recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR), DOE says that the only source of potential environmental impacts within its authority to review are those associated with transporting natural gas by ship, and those shipments qualify for categorical exclusion from NEPA review. Continue Reading

National Security Tariff Investigation Targets Steel-Based Components of Electrical Transformers

The Commerce Department on May 4, 2020, announced a new investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, examining whether “laminations for stacked cores for incorporation into transformers, stacked and wound cores for incorporation into transformers, electrical transformers, and transformer regulators are being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security.”

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Top 5 Takeaways From EPA’s New Policy on Expediting COVID-19 Disinfectant Approvals

EPA on May 12 announced a new framework for reviewing and approving products for use against the novel coronavirus.  EPA’s framework explains which new product and existing product amendment requests will be expedited, and provides approximate timelines for EPA review and approval.  Because of continued high demand for disinfectant products, companies seeking to launch new products or amend existing registrations should take care to ensure that their requests will receive expedited treatment.  Seeking expedited treatment is particularly important given the concerns some companies have about making significant investments into EPA product registration, in light of the sometimes lengthy EPA-approval process. Continue Reading

President Signs Executive Order on Securing Bulk Power System Equipment

On May 1, President Trump signed an executive order on “Securing the United States Bulk-Power System” (the “Order”) that gives the Department of Energy new authorities under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to block or mitigate certain transactions involving bulk-power system electric equipment designed, developed, manufactured or supplied by a “foreign adversary.”  The Order declares a national emergency with respect to “the unrestricted foreign supply of bulk-power system electric equipment” and asserts federal oversight over private utility purchases of certain equipment from suppliers deemed to be controlled or influenced by foreign adversaries. Continue Reading

SCOTUS Has Spoken: Kinda Sorta Direct Discharges Need A Permit

On April 23 the Supreme Court announced its decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund (No. 18-260), which addressed the fundamental issue of what is a discharge to navigable waters requiring a permit under the Clean Water Act.  The case arose in the context of the County’s discharges of wastewater to wells that traveled through groundwater to the Pacific Ocean.  Justice Breyer’s opinion for the Court held that a permit is needed when there is the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge. Continue Reading

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