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February 17, 2017 Scott Pruitt Confirmed by Senate to Lead EPA

EPA logoAllison A. Torrence PhotoBy Allison A. Torrence

Friday afternoon, Scott Pruitt was confirmed by the Senate to serve as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 52 Senators voted for Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation, while 46 Senators voted against him. The vote was largely along party lines, with Democratic Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voting for Pruitt and Republican Susan Collins of Maine voting against him.

As we previously reported here, Mr. Pruitt has been the Attorney General of Oklahoma since his election to that post in 2011. As Oklahoma Attorney General, Mr. Pruitt has sued EPA numerous times to challenge EPA regulations, including current litigation over the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Oklahoma is part of the coalition of 28 states challenging EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants – a key component of the Clean Power Plan – in the case of West Virginia v. EPA, Case No. 15-1363. This case is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation came after a flurry of activity related to his nomination over the past several days. On Thursday, a federal judge ordered the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office to release thousands of emails related to Mr. Pruitt’s communications with fossil fuel companies while Attorney General. Senate Democrats wanted to delay Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation vote until after those emails were made public, and held an all-night session of the Senate to voice their concerns over Mr. Pruitt. However, when a motion to extend debate and delay Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation vote until February 27th was put forward by the Senate Democrats, the motion was voted down and the confirmation vote went forward today.

One of the first orders of business for Administrator Pruitt will be to review recent and pending EPA regulations that have been subject to the Trump Administration’s “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review.” As we previously reported here, all pending EPA regulations that have not yet been published in the Federal Register are on hold, and all EPA regulations that have been published in the Federal Register but had not reached their effective date (as of January 26, 2017) have be delayed until March 21, 2017.

Administrator Pruitt’s biography is already posted at EPA’s website. The biography sates that:

Administrator Pruitt believes that promoting and protecting a strong and healthy environment is among the lifeblood priorities of the government, and that EPA is vital to that mission.

As Administrator, Mr. Pruitt’s overarching goal is to lead EPA in a way so that our future generations inherit a better and healthier environment, as he works with the thousands of dedicated public servants at EPA who have devoted their careers to helping realize this shared vision, while faithfully administering environmental laws.

The EPA website also invites the public to join the new Administrator on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at noon ET, as he addresses EPA employees, and to “stay tuned” for more information.

CATEGORIES: Air, Cercla, Climate Change, FIFRA, Greenhouse Gas, Hazmat, RCRA, Sustainability, TSCA, Water

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence

January 24, 2017 Trump Administration Issues Freeze on New and Pending Rules – Halting Dozens of Recent EPA Rules

Allison Torrence PhotoBy Allison A. Torrence

Last Friday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued a memorandum directing all agencies, including EPA, to freeze new or pending regulations. The freeze effects regulations at a variety of stages of finality. Under the Administration’s direction, the following actions are being taken by EPA and other agencies:

  • Regulations that have been finalized but not yet been sent for publication in the Federal Register will not be sent until reviewed by someone selected by the President.
  • Regulations that have been sent to the Federal Register but not published will be withdrawn.
  • Regulations that have been published in the Federal Register but have not reached their effective date will be delayed for at least 60 days for review (until March 21, 2017).

Following through on this direction, EPA released a notice that will be published in the Federal Register on January 26, 2017, delaying implementation of all published rules that have yet to take effect until at least March 21, 2017. The delayed rules include EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) facility safety rule, the 2017 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets, and the addition of vapor intrusion to Superfund NPL site scoring.

CATEGORIES: Air, Cercla, Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas, Hazmat, RCRA, Sustainability, Toxic Tort, TSCA, Water

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence

January 23, 2017 CFATS: New DHS Outreach

Lynn Grayson Photo

Seal of the US DHS ImageBy E. Lynn Grayson:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to implement recent changes to the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program.  DHS updated its data platform and portal that will require regulated facilities to resubmit the Top-Screen information that originally was submitted in the 2008 time frame.

The DHS last year issued notice in the Federal Register (81 FR 47001, July 20, 2016) announcing revisions to its CFATS program, effective October 1, 2016. The main objective of the notice was to advise that the DHS was transitioning to revised versions of the applications for the Chemical Security Assessment Tool (CSAT), the CSAT Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) and the CSAT Site Security Plan (SSP). DHS implemented a three-step process to transition to these new versions: 1) temporarily suspended, effective July 20, 2106, the requirement for CFATS chemical facilities of interest to submit a Top-Screen and SVA; 2) replaced the current applications with CSAT 2.0 beginning in September 2016; and 3) reinstated the Top-Screen and SVA submission requirements effective October 1, 2016.

At this time, regulated facilities do not need to take any action unless notified by DHS. DHS began sending out notices to individual facilities every two weeks once the roll-out started in October 2016. Each batch of notifications will include sites from all risk-based tiers and also will include sites that have previously tiered out or are otherwise exempt from CFATS.

Other key highlights and insights include:

  1. While there is no requirement to do so, regulated facilities may choose to proactively resubmit a Top-Screen utilizing the new CFATS CSAT. Once notified, facilities will have 60 days to submit this updated and/or new Top-Screen.
  2. No changes have been made to the Appendix A identifying the chemicals of interest (COI) and the associated screening threshold quantity (STQ).
  3. CSAT 2.0 makes some changes in terms of how and when information is reported. For example, information previously collected through the SVA now may be collected through the Top-Screen. Other information collected in the past in the SVA now will be collected in the SSP.
  4. The new online SSP will come partially pre-populated from the new Top-Screen and the new SVA submissions as well as information from previous submissions.

In general, CFATS requires chemical facilities report COIs at or above the STQ through submission of a Top-Screen to DHS. Thereafter, DHS decides whether to impose security requirements upon the facility at issue. CFATS requirements apply to facility owners and operators that possess, consume, sell or create various chemicals that could be useful to conducting a terrorist event. There are over 300 COIs including commonly used chemicals such as ammonia, propane, hydrogen peroxide, flammables, bromine, aluminum, nitric oxide and vinyl chloride. Original compliance deadlines for submission of Top-Screen information was in 2008 time frame.

Facilities that previously submitted a Top-Screen survey, even those previously determined to be exempt from the CFATS requirements, will be required to resubmit the Top-Screen information using the new data CSAT 2.0 platform and portal. DHS will notify each facility about these new requirements and facilities will have 60 days to submit the new Top-Screen information. Facilities are welcome to be proactive and submit an updated Top-Screen prior to any DHS notification.

For further insight into these new requirements, please see the Federal Register notice at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/07/20/2016-16776/chemical-facility-anti-terrorism-standards or visit the CFATS program website at https://www.dhs.gov/chemical-facility-anti-terrorism-standards .

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, RCRA, Toxic Tort, TSCA

January 20, 2017 U.S. EPA Says Sorry But We Don’t Have to Pay for Gold King Mine Spill

Steven Siros Photo By Steven M. Siros Gold King Mine Spill Photo

On Friday, January 13, 2017, notwithstanding its previous promises to take full responsibility for the Gold King Mine environmental spill, U.S. EPA, with guidance from the United States Department of Justice, concluded that it was not legally liable to pay compensation for administrative claims for the Gold King Mine disaster under the Federal Tort Claims Act. According to U.S. EPA, the Federal Tort Claims Act does not authorize damages for discretionary acts by federal agencies (i.e., actions which require the exercise of judgment on the part of the agency). Because U.S. EPA was conducting a site investigation of the gold mine pursuant to CERCLA, the agency’s actions are considered a discretionary function under the law (at least according to U.S. EPA). 

Not surprisingly, this action by U.S. EPA was blasted by New Mexico lawmakers and the Navajo nation with lawmakers vowing to continue to press for legislation that would hold U.S. EPA fully accountable for the spill. Moreover, U.S. EPA’s conclusion that it has no responsibility for administrative claims is likely to be challenged as aggrieved parties have six months from the date of denial to challenge U.S. EPA’s decision. 

Please click here to see U.S. EPA’s public statement concerning its liability conclusion with respect to the Gold King Mine spill.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Climate Change, Hazmat, Sustainability, Water

PEOPLE: Steven M. Siros

January 12, 2017 EPA Proposes Notice of Intent to Proceed with Rulemaking for CERCLA Financial Responsibility Requirements for the Chemical Manufacturing, Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing, and Electric Power Industries

Bandzaphoto of growing money

By Alexander Bandza

Yesterday, on January 11, 2017, the EPA issued a notice of intent to proceed with rulemaking regarding whether and to what extent financial responsibility requirements under CERCLA section 108(b) should apply to the Chemical Manufacturing, Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing, and Electric Power Industries. 

The rulemaking will have an interesting path forward in light of its history and the upcoming administration change.  On January 6, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that identified additional classes of facilities within three industry sectors that could warrant developing financial responsibility requirements under CERCLA section 108(b): (1) the Chemical Manufacturing industry (NAICS 325); (2) the Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing industry (NAICS 324); and (3) the Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution industry (NAICS 2211).  In August 2014, environmental groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, for a writ of mandamus requiring issuance of CERCLA section 108(b) financial responsibility rules for the three additional industries identified by EPA in the ANPRM.  EPA and the petitioners submitted and the court approved an Order on Consent, which included a schedule for further administrative proceedings under CERCLA section 108(b).  Critically, in granting the motion to enter the Order, the D.C. Circuit recognized that “the content of [the rulemaking required under the Order] is not in any way dictated by the [Order].”  Therefore, the upcoming administration may be bound to entertain the process of rulemaking, it appears free to disregard producing any rule as a result of this process.

This Notice satisfies that Order.  Although the Notice is “not a determination that requirements are necessary for any or all of the classes of facilities within the three industries, or that EPA will propose such requirements,” EPA did discuss and dismiss the arguments that the potentially regulated industries raised.  For example:

  • EPA rejected that RCRA’s financial responsibility requirements were sufficient because those requirements are “more narrowly designed to assure compliance with those closure requirements.”
  • In selecting these industries, EPA relied on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), and RCRA’s national Biennial Report (BR), and, according to EPA, “[n]one of the commenters submitted data to dissuade the Agency from the path of acquiring additional and more comprehensive information for these industries.”
  • Industry believed that by using the National Priorities List (NPL), the EPA was not giving credit to the fact many of those sites either did not remain in production, or had practices that were improved based on environmental regulations issued after the initial contamination. EPA instead stated that the NPL analysis was informative and there was no evidence that the risks were completely eliminated at these sites.
  • Finally, EPA rejected industries’ argument that they generally are healthy and not at risk for bankruptcy, stating that “[e]conomic solvency at an industry-wide level is not a substitute for insurance against the possibility of CERCLA liabilities remaining unsatisfied on a facility-specific basis.”

In sum, EPA is bound to entertain a rulemaking regarding the financial responsibility requirements for these industries, but it remains to be seen whether the same concerns that the Obama EPA recognized in this Notice will similarly motivate the Trump EPA to produce a rule.  The Notice is available here.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, Real Estate and Environment

December 8, 2016 U.S. EPA Issues Final Rule Adding Vapor Intrusion to NPL Site Scoring System

EPA subsurface intrusion graphic

Steven M. Siros Photo

By Steven M. Siros 

In a move that should not come as a great surprise, on December 7, 2016, U.S. EPA published a final rule which added a "subsurface intrusion” or “SsI" component to CERCLA’s Hazard Ranking System (HRS). More specifically, SsI can include either groundwater or vapor intrusion although vapor intrusion is the much more common exposure pathway. The new rule, which can be found here, will become effective within 30 days of publication in the federal register. According to U.S. EPA Waste Chief Mathy Stanislaus, the new rule expands the types of sites that be assessed by U.S. EPA to now include sites that solely have SsI  issues, as well as sites that have SsI issues that are coincident with a groundwater or soil contamination problem.

The final rule is substantially similar to the draft rule but does have minor adjustments that were made in response to comments which U.S. EPA contends will better “help refine the mechanics of assigning an HRS site score.” Importantly, the new rule doesn’t change the existing HRS cutoff score of 28.5 for a site to qualify for listing on the NPL, nor does the new rule apply to sites that are already on or proposed to be listed on the NPL.

Industry groups and the Department of Defense had objected to the draft rule, and it is unclear whether the new rule will be retained or modified under the incoming Trump administration.  We will continue to track this and other rulemaking efforts on the part of U.S. EPA as the administration continues to transition. 

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Climate Change, Sustainability, Water

PEOPLE: Steven M. Siros

December 7, 2016 Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt Picked to Lead EPA

Allison Torrence Photo

Epa

By Allison Torrence

Several news outlets are reporting that President-elect Donald Trump will nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Pruitt has been the Attorney General of Oklahoma since his election to that post in 2011. In his role as Oklahoma Attorney General, Mr. Pruitt has been active in litigation challenging current EPA regulations in court, most significant of which have been challenges to the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Mr. Pruitt and Oklahoma are part of the coalition of 28 states challenging EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants – a key component of the Clean Power Plan – in the case of West Virginia v. EPA, Case No. 15-1363. This case is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which recently heard nearly seven hours of oral arguments and is expected to issue a ruling soon.

Environmental groups have been quick to react to Mr. Pruitt’s apparent nomination. Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael Brune released a statement critical of the pick:

Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires…We strongly urge Senators, who are elected to represent and protect the American people, to stand up for families across the nation and oppose this nomination.

Mr. Pruitt’s appointment must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Several Democratic Senators have already raised concerns over his nomination, including Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), who tweeted that he “will do everything I can to stop this.”

CATEGORIES: Air, Cercla, Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas, RCRA, TSCA, Water

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence

November 4, 2016 Chicago: New Industrial Growth Zones Program

E Lynn Grayson Photo

Chicago seal

By E. Lynn Grayson

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle recently launched an unprecedented effort to generate new industrial investment in Chicagoland neighborhoods. The Industrial Growth Zones program will accelerate neighborhood development in seven designated areas over the next three years by removing longstanding hurdles to development and providing a broad set of services to support property owners and industrial businesses. The purpose of the program to spur economic growth and generate real, sustainable jobs by promoting investment and industrial development in Chicago neighborhoods.

The program will address two primary issues traditionally viewed as obstacles to new landowners and developers: 1) vacant or unused lands with environmental conditions; and 2) often complex governmental regulatory oversight. As part of the program, participants will obtain access to a new site certification program making information about land available and transparent, allowing preparations for faster development. In addition, the program may provide up to $130,000 in financial assistance to fund environmental site assessments and remediation, if needed. Critical assistance also will be provided to lead projects through the City's permitting and regulatory requirements.

During the three-year pilot program, the designated zones include the Northwest, Greater Southwest, Burnside and Calumet Industrial Corridors, and the Roosevelt/Cicero Redevelopment Area in Chicago; and several South Suburban communities which contain significant assets, but face very real economic challenges The City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development and Cook County Bureau of Economic Development are collaborating with partners including the Civic Consulting Alliance, World Business Chicago and the Zeno Group on the initiative.

Working within the City of Chicago to develop or redevelop impacted property is always challenging. This new program is a positive development offering support to streamline and aid potential new landowners and developers.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, RCRA, Real Estate and Environment, Sustainability, Toxic Tort, TSCA, Water

October 12, 2016 Ninth Circuit Denies Rehearing Petition in Novel Aerial Deposition CERCLA Case

Allison Torrence photo

By Allison Torrence

The State of Washington and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are trying to expand the reach of CERCLA, but have been blocked, once again, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The case of Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals, Ltd., Case No. 15-35228 (9th Cir. Panel decision July 27, 2016), involves claims by the State of Washington and the Tribes against a smelter located in British Columbia. In August, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the defendants in this case. Yesterday, the full Ninth Circuit denied the plaintiffs’ petition for rehearing.

The case involves hazardous air emissions (lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury), which were emitted from the smelter’s smokestack, carried by wind, and deposited on the Upper Columbia River Superfund Site in Washington. Plaintiffs maintained that such air emissions constituted “disposal” of hazardous waste under CERCLA, thus the smelter had arranged for the disposal of hazardous waste pursuant to CERCLA and was a responsible party at the Superfund Site.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ CERCLA claims, which the trial court denied. The trial court found that air emissions could constitute disposal under CERCLA, but, recognizing the novel nature of this argument, certified the issue for immediate appeal to the Ninth Circuit. The three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit reversed.

CERCLA does not set forth its own definition of “disposal”, rather it cross-references the definition in RCRA. Thus, under both CERCLA and RCRA “disposal” is defined as:

the discharge, deposit, injection, dumping, spilling, leaking, or placing of any solid waste or hazardous waste into or on any land or water so that such solid waste or hazardous waste or any constituent thereof may enter the environment or be emitted into the air or discharged into any waters, including ground waters. 42 U.S.C. § 6903(3).

The Ninth Circuit found that plaintiffs’ interpretation of “disposal” to include “aerial deposition” is “a reasonable enough construction”, but ultimately determined that Congress did not mean to include the gradual spread of contaminants without human intervention in the definition of “disposal” in CERCLA (or RCRA). Instead, hazardous waste must first be placed into or on the land by human involvement. Thus, the defendants in this case did not arrange for the disposal of hazardous waste and were not responsible parties under CERCLA.

The State of Washington and the Tribes filed for rehearing and rehearing en banc, which were denied without further explanation on October 11, 2016. The plaintiffs now have 90 days to seek an appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court, if they choose to do so.

CATEGORIES: Air, Cercla, RCRA, Real Estate and Environment, Toxic Tort

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence

August 24, 2016 D.C. Circuit Rejects Government’s “Double Recovery” Claims in CERCLA Case

RocketSteven M. Siros

By Steven M. Siros

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has rejected arguments by the federal government that allowing an aerospace contractor to pass through certain CERCLA remediation costs back to the government under its existing government contracts constituted an impermissible double recovery under CERCLA. Lockheed Martin Corp. v. U.S. (D.C. Cir. Aug. 19, 2016). Lockheed had incurred in excess of $287 million to remediate several contaminated sites where it had manufactured solid-propellant rockets pursuant to government contracts. Lockheed sued the government under CERCLA to recover a portion of its costs incurred to remediate these sites, alleging that the government was directly responsible under CERCLA for a portion of these costs due to the government’s acquiescence in certain of Lockheed’s disposal activities. At the same time, however, the government and Lockheed had entered into an agreement pursuant to which the government agreed that Lockheed was entitled to recover a portion of its remedial costs as indirect costs charged through its current government contracts (the “Billing Agreement”). 

The district court engaged in a thorough analysis of the typical CERCLA equitable contribution factors and allocated a specific percentage of liability to Lockheed and a specific percentage of liability to the government (the percentages varied across the sites). On appeal, the government pointed to the fact that Lockheed was already recovering a significant portion of its remedial costs from the government through the Billing Agreement and argued that any further obligation on the part of the government to reimburse Lockheed for additional remedial costs was inconsistent with CERCLA’s broad equitable principles and constituted an impermissible double recovery under CERCLA Section 114. 

Relying in large part on the Billing Agreement, the D.C. Circuit noted that “the government agreed to [Lockheed’s recovery of its response costs] by entering into a settlement that allowed Lockheed in its new contracts to charge the government for the company’s own CERCLA liability at the discontinued sites.” Notwithstanding that the D.C. Circuit appeared sympathetic to the government’s claim that CERCLA was not designed to provide for a government-funded cleanup program but instead intended to shift remediation costs to the polluting party, here the government voluntarily agreed to the complained of funding mechanism when it entered into the Billing Agreement. In response to the government’s argument that allowing Lockheed to continue to pass these remedial costs through the Billing Agreement constituted an impermissible “double recovery,” the D.C. Circuit noted that the district court found that crediting mechanism agreed to by the parties would preclude any perceived “double recovery” and the D.C. Circuit found no reason to disturb that finding. Interestingly, the D.C. Circuit specifically stated that nothing in the Federal Acquisition Regulations or the Defense Contract Audit Agency Manual mandated the crediting mechanism agreed to by the parties but the D.C. Circuit declined to opine on the interplay of federal contracting law and CERCLA Section 114, leaving that to be resolved at a later time.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Sustainability

PEOPLE: Steven M. Siros

July 28, 2016 California Proposes MCL for TCP

Water testing photoGrayson

By E. Lynn Grayson

The State Water Resources Control Board has proposed a new maximum contaminant level (MCL) for 1,2,3-trichloropropane (TCP) of five parts per trillion (ppt).TCP is a manmade chemical found at industrial and hazardous waste sites. It has been used as a cleaning and degreasing solvent and also is associated with pesticide products.

California recognizes TCP as a carcinogen, and it has been found in numerous drinking water sources in the state. In August 2009, a public health goal (PHG) for TCP was developed by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) for use by the State Water Board to establish an MCL. The PHG represents the level of TCP in drinking water that OEHHA believes does not pose a significant risk to health over a lifetime of exposure (70 years). The PHG for TCP is 0.0007 µg/L, or 0.7 ppt.

A drinking water standard, or MCL, establishes a limit on the allowable concentration of a contaminant in drinking water that is provided by a public water system. The State Water Resources Control Board is proposing 5 ppt as the MCL for TCP. Formal rulemaking is expected later this year, and if approved, the MCL would become effective July 1, 2017.

EPA published a technical fact sheet about TCP in 2014. More background information and guidance on the proposed MCL action for TCP also is available from the California State Water Resources Control Board.

TCP is yet another emerging chemical that has been the subject of ongoing federal and state regulatory review and discussion for several years. It also is a chemical being analyzed and assessed at the lower threshold level of ppt versus more traditional parts per billion (ppb). As is often the case, it appears that the State of California is initiating regulatory action addressing TCP concerns, and it is likely that other states will follow.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Climate Change, Hazmat, RCRA, Sustainability, Water

June 7, 2016 Gold King Mine Spill Update: New Mexico Sues EPA

Gold King mine spill yellow water photoGrayson

By E. Lynn Grayson

EPA’s woes over alleged mismanagement of the Gold King Mine spill in August 2015 continue with a new lawsuit recently filed by the State of New Mexico in federal district court in Albuquerque. The lawsuit names the EPA as a defendant, along with an EPA environmental contractor and mine owners contributing to the mismanagement of reclamation waters. New Mexico contends that the Agency has not done enough to remedy the toxic release of a flood of wastewater contaminated with an estimated 880,000 pounds of heavy metals into local rivers.

New Mexico’s suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the contractor and mine owners violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as well as compensatory and punitive damages for alleged negligence and gross negligence. New Mexico also is asking for a declaratory judgment against all defendants under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

Although the suit does not specify damages, attorneys for New Mexico said communities are owed at least $7 million for emergency response costs and third-party monitoring of water quality. They said the defendants should pay another $140 million in damages for estimated economic harm. This calculation estimated the harm done to rivers that are critical for agricultural and ranching use; to the Navajo Nation, which owns a tract of land the size of a small state that was affected; and to recreation that provides a significant amount of New Mexico’s income.

The New Mexico Attorney General is requesting full and just compensation for the environmental and economic damage caused by EPA’s spill. The lawsuit alleges that the effects of EPA’s spill were far worse than reported. New Mexico Environmental Department Cabinet Secretary Ryan Flynn has stated publicly that “from the very beginning, the EPA failed to hold itself accountable in the same way that it would a private business.”

While EPA declined to formally comment on the lawsuit, an Agency spokesperson advised that the EPA has taken responsibility for the spill and already paid the State of New Mexico $1.3 million.

The lawsuit is the first state litigation against the EPA over the spill. Other states impacted include Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and the Navajo Nation.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, RCRA, Sustainability, Toxic Tort, Water

April 8, 2016 EPA Limits TCE Use in Consumer Goods

GraysonBy E. Lynn Grayson

US EPA logo

EPA recently took action under the Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA) to ensure no TCE containing consumer products enter the marketplace before the Agency has the opportunity to evaluate the intended use and take appropriate action. The new rule issued April 6, 2016, known as a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR), requires any company intending to make certain TCE containing consumer products provide EPA 90-day notice before making the product.

The final rule applies to TCE manufactured (including import) or processed for use in any consumer product, except for use in cleaners and solvent degreasers, film cleaners, hoof polishes, lubricants, mirror edge sealants, and pepper spray. A consumer product is defined at 40 CFR 721.3 as “a chemical substance that is directly, or as part of a mixture, sold or made available to consumers for their use in or around a permanent or temporary household or residence, in or around a school, or in recreation.”

EPA’s June 2014 Work Plan Chemical Risk Assessment for TCE identified health risks associated with several TCE uses, including the arts and craft spray fixative use, aerosol and vapor degreasing, and as a spotting agent in dry cleaning facilities. In 2015, EPA worked with the only U.S. manufacturer of the TCE spray fixative product, PLZ Aeroscience Corporation of Addison, Illinois, resulting in an agreement to stop production of the TCE containing product and to reformulate the product with an alternate chemical.

It is important to note that this regulatory action may affect certain entities with pre-existing import certifications and export notifications required under TSCA.

 The rule becomes effective 60 days from its publication in the Federal Register.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Climate Change, Consumer Law and Environment, Hazmat, RCRA, Sustainability, Toxic Tort, TSCA

February 23, 2016 New 2017-2019 EPA National Enforcement Initiatives

Grayson photo By E. Lynn Grayson

EPA recently announced seven National Enforcement Initiatives (NEIs) for FY 2017-2019. Every three years, EPA identifies NEIs to focus resources on national environmental problems where there is significant non-compliance with laws, and where federal enforcement efforts can make a difference. According to EPA, the NEIs are selected with input from the public and other stakeholders across EPA’s state, local and tribal partners.

Starting October 1, 2016 and continuing for three fiscal years, the following are the NEIs:

  • Reducing air pollution from the largest sources
  • Cutting hazardous air pollutants*
  • Ensuring energy extraction activities comply with environmental laws
  • Reducing risks of accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities*
  • Keeping raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of our nation’s waters
  • Preventing animal waste from contaminating surface and groundwater
  • Keeping industrial pollutants out of the nation’s waters*

*New for FY2017-2019 as of February 2016.

 It is interesting to note that the newly identified NEIs appear to correspond to challenges that EPA recently confronted, including the Gold King Mine wastewater spill, the spill prevention litigation and settlement in New York, and the Flint, MI lead contaminated water matter, where recent government reports concluded EPA failed in its regulatory obligations to this community.

For more information, see EPA’s news release announcing these NEIs.

CATEGORIES: Air, Cercla, Climate Change, Hazmat, RCRA, Sustainability, TSCA, Water

February 18, 2016 Court Orders New EPA Spill Prevention Rules

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By E. Lynn Grayson

EPA has agreed to initiate rulemaking to better address industrial waste spills as part of a settlement with a coalition of environmental groups. The Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform (EJHA), People Concerned About Chemical Safety (PCACS), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), sued EPA last July alleging that the Agency had failed to prevent hazardous substance spills from industrial facilities, including above ground storage tanks. See Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, et al., case number 1:15-cv-05705, in the U.S District Court for the Southern District of New York.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Climate Change, Consumer Law and Environment, Hazmat, RCRA, Sustainability, Toxic Tort, TSCA