CEC Approves New Operational Plan For 2013-2014
By E. Lynn Grayson
Last week the Council of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) agreed to a new Operational Plan for 2013-2014 that focuses on collaborative actions in three strategic areas to maximize the overall impact: greening transportation, tackling climate change while improving air quality, and addressing waste in trade. Key developments included:
- Participants at the town hall meeting on transportation and the environment, as well as the Joint Public Advisory Committee members during their round table on sustainable transportation yesterday, called for action to reduce the environmental impact from CEC member transportation networks that serve as vital links between our countries. To this end, we are announcing new initiatives to reduce emissions from trucks and buses, as well as from maritime transportation, especially at our borders and along our coasts.
- We have also decided to bolster joint efforts to combat climate change as well as harmful air pollutants that threaten the health of our communities and our economies. These efforts are intended to focus on reducing carbon in the atmosphere through protecting coastal and forest ecosystems, avoiding black carbon emissions, collecting and disseminating reliable and comparable data on greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, and promoting green building construction.
- The management of hazardous wastes in trade, including electronic wastes and spent lead-acid batteries (SLABs), requires particular attention from our governments. The CEC Secretariat's recent Hazardous Trade? report on SLABs made specific recommendations that have been considered in developing a North American response, through our enforcement and regulatory officials, to ensure that these wastes are properly managed to avoid harming the environment and the health of our communities.
- Finally, as part of the new Operational Plan, CEC intends to continue the collaboration on key North American initiatives tracking pollutants, protecting shared ecosystems, reducing risks from chemicals, and coordinating environmental enforcement.
Meeting in Canada in 2014, CEC plans to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, an agreement of historic significance borne out of trade agreement negotiations, which has enabled our three countries to work together on issues affecting our shared environment.
The CEC was established by Canada, Mexico and the United States to build cooperation among the NAFTA partners in implementing the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). The CEC addresses environmental issues of continental concern according to the priorities and objectives set out in the Council Strategic Plan.
The Council, the CEC's governing body, is composed of the federal environment ministers (or equivalent) of the three countries, and meets at least once a year. The Council members are Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent, Mexican Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Juan José Guerra, and Acting US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Bob Perciasepe. The Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) is a 15-member, volunteer body that provides independent advice and public input to Council on any matter within the scope of NAAEC.
For more information on any of the topics reviewed by Council, visit www.cec.org.
USGS Releases Water And Sediment Priority Constituents Monitoring Report
By E. Lynn Grayson
The USGS has released a new report, Prioritization of Constituents for National and Regional Scale Ambient Monitoring of Water and Sediment in the United States, that addresses the methodology used to prioritize constituents to be assessed. This effort was undertaken in preparation for the third decade of the National Water – Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) including the time period 2013-2023.
Constituents were prioritized by the NAWQA National Target Analyte Strategy Work Group on the basis of available information on physical and chemical properties, observed or predicted environmental occurrence and fate, and observed or anticipated adverse effects on human health or aquatic life.
The constituents were ranked in three tiers:
- Tier 1 with those having the highest priority on the basis of their likelihood of environmental occurrence in ambient water or sediment, or likelihood of effects on human health or aquatic life;
- Tier 2 for constituents of intermediate priority on the basis of their lower likelihood of environmental occurrence or lower likelihood of effects on human health or aquatic life; and
- Tier 3 of those with low or no priority for monitoring.
Overall, 2,541 constituents were assessed with 1,081 constituents identified for ranking in Tier 1. Constituent groups included volatile organic compounds in water; pesticides in water or sediment; pharmaceuticals and hormones in water or sediment; trace elements and other inorganic constituents in water or sediment; cyanotoxins in surface water; lipophilic organic compounds in sediment; disinfection byproducts in water; high-production-volume chemicals in water; wastewater-indicator and industrial compounds in water; and radionuclides in water.
USGS began the NAWQA program in 1991 to develop long-term and consistent information on U.S. streams, rivers, and groundwater, how the conditions are changing over time, and how natural features and human activities affect these features, according to the USGS website.
The USGS report is available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2012/5218/sir12-5218.pdf.
Pesticide Use Data Now Available From USGS
By E. Lynn Grayson
The USGS recently made available detailed maps identifying annual usage of 459 pesticides throughout the U.S. The Pesticide National Synthesis Project manages pesticide data from 1992-2009 and provides specific statistics associated with pesticide use per crop and within each county.
The maps were developed for use in national and regional water-quality assessments. The USGS data was collected from surveys of farm operations and USDA statistics on annual harvest-crop acreage. This information was used to calculate use rates for each crop per year.
These maps show interesting information about the nature of pesticide use around the country. Data includes insight into the quantity of pesticide use per U.S. county as well as the specific crop growing in the same area.
The usage maps for all 459 pesticides can be accessed at http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/pnsp/usage/maps/compound_listing.php.
High Court Refuses to Take Up Kivalina Climate Suit
By Keri L. Holleb Hotaling
On May 20, 2013, the United States Supreme Court denied the Alaska town of Kivalina’s petition for writ of certiorari in its public nuisance lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. and other energy companies. Kivalina contended that the energy companies were injuring the small Eskimo village by causing global warming and a commensurate sea level rise, and, as a result, inhabitants were forced to leave and relocate further inland. Because the Supreme Court has opted not to hear the case, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in favor of the energy companies will stand. The Ninth Circuit largely followed the reasoning of the Supreme Court in American Electric Power Co., Inc. v. Connecticut, ---U.S.---, 131 S. Ct. 2527, 180 L. Ed. 2d 435 (2011), in affirming the dismissal of the action by the district court and finding that the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) displaced Kivalina’s claim for $400 million in damages to fund a relocation project. (See “Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Federal Common Law Nuisance Claim for Global Warming.”) Kivalina urged the Supreme Court in its February petition that the case be controlled by Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471 (2008), which held that the Clean Water Act, a statute like the CAA, did not displace a federal common law damages claim. The case is Native Village of Kivalina, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et al., Case Number 12-1072, U.S. Supreme Court.
Compliance With FIFRA Regulations Provides Defense From Product Liability Lawsuit
By Steven M. Siros
An Indiana appellate court recently affirmed summary judgment on behalf of The Dow Chemical Company and Dow AgroSciences, LLC (collectively "Dow"), in a personal injury lawsuit premised on alleged design defect and failure to warn claims. See Gresser et al. v. The Dow Chemical Company, Inc., et al. (Ind. Ct. App. April 30, 2013). Plaintiffs purchased a home that had been treated with the pesticide, Dursban TC. Shortly after moving into the home, plaintiffs allegedly experienced adverse health impacts that they attributed to the pesticide. Plaintiffs therefore filed product liability claims against Dow and negligence claims against the pesticide applicator.
Dow filed for summary judgment, arguing (1) that the Dursban was not a defective product and (2) that plaintiffs' claims were preempted under federal law. The trial court granted summary judgment, finding that Dursban was not a defective product and that plaintiffs' claims were preempted. On appeal, the Indiana appellate court noted that Indiana's Product Liability Act ("IPLA") provides a rebuttable presumption that a product is not defective where, before the sale, the manufacturer complies with all applicable codes, standards, regulations or specifications established by an agency of the United States or Indiana. Because Dow had registered the pesticide in compliance with the applicable FIFRA regulations, the court found that Dow was entitled to a statutory presumption that its product was not defective. Plaintiffs presented no admissible evidence to rebut this presumption, and therefore, the court found that Dow was entitled to summary judgment under the IPLA.
With respect to Dow's alternative preemption argument, however, the court found that the trial court's grant of summary judgment on this ground was improper. The court cited to Dow Chemical Co. v. Ebling, 753 N.E.2d 633 (Ind. 2001), noting that "the use of state tort law to further the dissemination of label information to persons at risk clearly facilitates rather than frustrates the objectives of FIFRA and does not burden an applicator's compliance with FIFRA."
To see a copy of this opinion, please click here.
Jenner & Block Program: “Professional Responsibility And Ethics For Environmental Lawyers” – May 8th
By E. Lynn Grayson
You are invited to join us on Wednesday, May 8, at 12:00 noon on the 45th Floor of the Chicago office for a program entitled "Professional Responsibility and Ethics for Environmental Lawyers." This professional responsibility and ethics program will focus not only on a general update of these issues but discuss legal scenarios and situations unique to environmental law practices.
Our two speakers will be: 1) Miranda K. Mandel, Loss Prevention Counsel, Attorneys' Liability Assurance Society, Inc. (ALAS); and, 2) Michael L. Shakman, Partner, Miller Shakman & Beem LLP.
Enjoy lunch, network with fellow environmental lawyers and learn what experts suggest we do to manage difficult situations that arise in our law practices.
Please forward any RSVPs to Jan Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org).
BPA Added To California's Proposition 65 List
By Steven M. Siros
On April 11, 2013, California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment ("OEHHA") added bisphenol A ("BPA") to the list of chemicals known in the State of California to cause reproductive harm. OEHHA's listing of BPA is based on a 2008 report from the National Toxicology Program ("NTP") that BPA causes reproductive toxicity at high doses. Both the NTP report and OEHHA's proposal to list BPA were the subject of significant controversy, with industry groups challenging the science relied upon by NTP and environmental advocacy groups arguing that the proposed listing was long overdue. In an effort to respond to some of industry's concerns, OEHHA's proposed Maximum Allowable Dose Level ("MADL") for BPA was set at a level that has been characterized as being fairly high (290 micrograms per day) although that is likely to be challenged by environmental advocacy groups.
In any event, there is certainly likely to be a flurry of Proposition 65 notice letters sent out by the usual group of Proposition 65 plaintiffs and companies that distribute BPA-containing products in California would be well-served to ensure that their products contain the requisite Proposition 65 warnings.
Please click here for further information on OEHHA's decision to add BPA to the Proposition 65 list.
ELI and Jenner & Block Program: “Obama’s Second Term: Implications For Environmental Practice” – April 24th
By E. Lynn Grayson
You are invited to join us on Wednesday, April 24, at 12:00 noon on the 45th Floor of the Chicago Office, for an important luncheon program we are co-sponsoring with the Environmental Law Institute ("ELI") entitled "Obama's Second Term: Implications for Environmental Practice." This program will bring together three speakers, each of whom played a key role in environmental matters during President Obama's first term, and each of whom is very knowledgeable concerning EPA enforcement trends, emerging environmental issues, and environmental policy challenges.
The three speakers will be (1) John Cruden, currently the President of ELI, who previously served for many years as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of environmental enforcement at the Department of Justice; (2) Thomas Perrelli, Chair of the Government Controversies and Public Policy Litigation Practice at Jenner & Block, who recently returned to Jenner & Block and who previously was directly involved in environmental matters as one of the key former heads of the Justice Department; and (3) Robert Kaplan, who presently serves as Regional Counsel for Region 5 of the EPA. These speakers will share lessons learned, including what we can expect will affect business and environmental regulation during President Obama's second term.
We are privileged to partner in this program with ELI, one of the preeminent, non-partisan environmental law organizations in the country. Headquartered in Washington, DC, ELI has played a pivotal role since the early 1970s in helping to shape environmental law, policy, and management, both domestically and abroad. This program will present an insider's viewpoint on what we anticipate in environmental enforcement and regulation from the DOJ, EPA, and White House over the next four years.
Please forward any RSVPs to Elizabeth Wong (email@example.com).
Pacific Ocean—Next CERCLA NPL Site?
By Steven M. Siros
The Center of Biological Diversity ("CBD") has filed a petition with U.S. EPA seeking to add the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and waters of the Pacific Ocean within the United States' jurisdiction to CERCLA's National Priorities List ("NPL"). In its petition, CBD argues that the large mass of plastic debris known as the "Pacific Garbage Patch" is particularly harmful due to its impacts on marine wildlife and the coral reef ecosystems of the Hawaiian Islands. The CBD further argues that because these plastics contain toxic chemicals that are passed up through the food chain, the plastic debris is also harmful to humans that consume fish from the region.
In its press release, the CBD indicated that "this is the first time that plastic-infested waters of the United States have been nominated for Superfund designation." U.S. EPA has one year to act on the petition. In the event that U.S. EPA were to grant the CBD petition, it is unclear who might be responsible for remediating the contamination. To view the CBD petition, please click here.
DOJ Not Required To Produce Interagency Memorandum in CERCLA Case
By Steven M. Siros
A recent Seventh Circuit decision rejected a PRP's efforts to obtain interagency memorandum and other communications between the Environmental Enforcement and the Environmental Defense Sections within the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ"). See Menasha Corp. et al. v. United States, (7th Cir. 2013). In 2010, the United States, on behalf of U.S. EPA and the Department of the Interior, filed a lawsuit seeking to compel a number of alleged PRPs to remediate the Fox River Superfund Site (which remediation has been estimated to be as high as $1.5 billion).
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, DOJ sought judicial approval of a proposed consent decree with several defendants in which the United States offered to contribute $4.5 million to the cleanup in recognition that other federal agencies (including U.S. EPA and the United States Army Corps of Engineers) had contributed to the PCB contamination in the Fox River. Menasha Corporation ("Menasha"), one of the defendants in the underlying litigation, challenged the consent decree in part on the grounds that the federal agencies' contribution to the contamination at the site was far greater than the $4.5 million that they were proposing to contribute to the site cleanup. Menasha was concerned that the consent decree would act as a bar to its contribution claims against the United States.
Menasha therefore sought to obtain communications between the enforcement and defense sections of DOJ, likely hoping that these communications might evidence some collusion between the defense and enforcement sections of DOJ. Menasha argued that since the two sections of DOJ represent separate governmental entities with divergent interests, they were in fact adversaries. Since communications between adverse parties results in a waiver of privilege, Menasha argued that it was entitled to those communications. The District Court agreed and ordered the requested materials be produced. The Seventh Circuit was not similarly convinced.
Although some might analogize this situation to the adversary relationship between the State's attorney and the public defender, the Seventh Circuit analogized the situation to one where a consumer sues a private company in a personal injury lawsuit. One division of the company might seek to have the case settled to avoid bad publicity while the other division would seek to litigate the case to avoid setting a bad precedent. The general counsel would then make a final decision but the Seventh Circuit opined that one wouldn't reasonably argue that communications between the two divisions should be produced because of the adversarial relationship between the two divisions.
The Seventh Circuit expressed concern that were it to order disclosure of internal communications between competing interests within the Justice Department, the result would be that the Justice Department could never shield attorney work product in a case like this without "a crippling reorganization of the Department." Instead, the Seventh Circuit concluded that since the only federal party in the underlying litigation was the United States, a single party represented by a single representative, DOJ, communications between the separate sections of DOJ were not communications between adverse parties. As such, the Seventh Circuit concluded that these communications were protected by the attorney work product privilege and need not be disclosed.
Some might argue, however, that where DOJ represents a site PRP (a defendant) and U.S. EPA (or in this case, the Department of the Interior) (in its enforcement capacity), even if there is only a single federal entity named in the litigation, DOJ should not be able to hide behind the attorney work product privilege to shield communications between the two DOJ sections. The Seventh Circuit seemed to have left this door open a little, referring in dicta to the possibility of a waiver in a situation where you have independent federal agencies "squaring off against each other as opposing parties in litigation." However, the court acknowledged that this was not the fact pattern before it and it therefore rejected Menasha's efforts to obtain disclosure of these communications.
Minnesota Bans Triclosan For State Government
By E. Lynn Grayson
Minnesota is believed to be one of the first state governments to stop buying products containing triclosan, an antibacterial commonly used in soap and cosmetics. Through its combined buying power, the state purchases about $1 million worth of cleaning products a year.
While there is uncertainty about whether triclosan is hazardous to humans, there also is no evidence that hand soaps and/or hand sanitizers containing triclosan are better than regular soap and water at preventing infections. Laboratory studies have found that triclosan may disrupt hormones, interfere with muscle function and promote the growth of stronger bacteria. In addition, there is growing concern suggesting a buildup in the environment may present risks to wildlife.
Triclosan also is known as 2,4,4'-trichloro-2'-hydroxydiphenyl ether, 5-chloro-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy) phenol, trichloro-2'-hydroxydiphenyl ether, CH-3565, Lexol 300, Irgasan.
In the environment, triclosan becomes a dioxin, a family of environmental contaminants linked to a variety of health risks, from cancer to hormone disruption, and which persist in the environment for years. They once came largely from industrial sources such as paper pulp mills and garbage incinerators, but increasingly stringent regulations have greatly reduced their emissions.
The recent study of triclosan in eight Minnesota lakes, conducted by scientists at the University of Minnesota and the Science Museum of Minnesota, found that triclosan and the dioxins it forms have increased in sediment while other kinds have decreased. In short, even though the water-treatment process removes most of the triclosan, antibacterial products are now the primary source of dioxins in the lakes and rivers.
There is growing concern about Triclosan and its impact on humans and the environment. This recent action by the State of Minnesota is the latest development for a substance that is undergoing continuing scrutiny in the United States and in other countries as well.
Illinois Working On Development Of Fracking Regulations
By Steven M. Siros
Although leases have been signed on thousands of acres of land in southern Illinois, oil and gas companies have yet to aggressively initiate hydraulic fracturing in Illinois in large part because of the absence of laws regulating that practice. That may soon change, however, in light of efforts underway in Springfield to craft comprehensive fracking rules.
The Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Act (H.B. 25), which was introduced in the the Illinois House of Representatives on February 21, 2013, would grant the Illinois Department of Natural Resources the authority to promulgate rules and issue permits with respect to hydraulic fracturing activities. The proposed bill would further require the disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process, impose well construction standards to minimize source water contamination, establish setbacks with regard to residential and nearby water sources, and provide public input opportunities when fracking permits are issued.
The bill represents the collaborative efforts of industry, environmental groups and the Illinois Attorney General. We will continue to track this bill as it makes its way through the Illinois legislature.
U.S. EPA Releases Chemical Data Reporting Information
By Steven M. Siros
On February 11, 2013, U.S. EPA released 2012 Chemical Data Reporting ("CDR") information on more than 7,600 chemicals in commerce. Under the CDR rule, which was promulgated under TSCA, companies are required to report manufacturing and import data if the site-specific production or import volume of the chemical exceeds 25,000 pounds. According to U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, "[t]he 2012 Chemical Data Reporting information will help EPA and others to better assess chemicals, evaluate potential exposures and use, and expand efforts to encourage the use of safer chemicals." Administrator Jackson further noted that "[t]he CDR data also highlight the clear need for TSCA reform." The 2012 CDR information is available at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/cdr/index.html.
EPA Releases New ECHO State Enforcement Data
By E. Lynn Grayson
U.S. EPA just released state dashboards and comparative maps that provide the public with information about the performance of state and EPA enforcement and compliance programs across the country.
Most states and tribes in the United States have the authority to implement and enforce many of the nation's air, water and waste laws. The dashboards and maps include state level data from the last five years and provide information including the number of completed inspections, types of violations found, enforcement actions taken, and penalties assessed by state. To ensure data quality, EPA made the maps and dashboards available to the states in advance of this public release, in order to provide an opportunity to make any necessary data corrections.
Users can customize the dashboards to view state activity, EPA activity, or combined activity. Where available, the site also allows users to view national averages and display state enforcement trends over time.
The interactive state performance dashboards are located on EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) website. ECHO is an EPA transparency tool that allows the user to map federal and state inspection, violation, and enforcement information for more than 800,000 regulated facilities. The state dashboards and comparative maps that are available in ECHO are part of EPA's commitment to increasing transparency and providing data to the public in a format that is easy to understand and use.
EPA will host a webinar demonstrating how to use the state dashboards and comparative maps now available in ECHO on Tuesday, February 12, at 3 p.m. EST. The demonstration will highlight the new features added to the tool, important information about the data, and how to compare data by state.
It seems enforcement data is more readily available than ever before including new information on state enforcement discussed herein. This kind of data needs to be viewed with some caution to ensure that information is accurate and updated on a timely basis. Companies need to view the existing and new ECHO data about their facilities and communicate with EPA if there is incorrect information identified about their operations.
To register for the ECHO webinar, go to https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/407068441.
To view the state performance dashboards and comparative maps, visit http://www.epa-echo.gov/echo/stateperformance/comparative_maps.html.
EPA's ECHO website can be viewed at http://www.epa-echo.gov.
Will Ninth Try Be The Charm?—DTSC Issues Ninth Draft Of Green Chemistry Regulations
By Steven M. Siros
California's Department of Toxic Substances Control ("DTSC") issued its ninth draft of the Green Chemistry Initiative in an effort to respond to industry criticisms of early versions of the regulations. (See prior blog on Green Chemistry Initiative.) The comment period on this latest draft began on January 29, 2013 and will run through February 28, 2013.
In its latest version of the regulation, DTSC made a number of positive changes (from an industry perspective), including:
Notwithstanding that these revisions were a result (at least in part) of industry comments, the draft regulations significantly expand the list of chemicals that are on chemicals of concern list (adding European Union Category 1 respiratory sensitizers and Clean Water Act 303(d) list chemicals) as well as expanding the scope of the public review and comment provisions. It is expected that these draft regulations will be the subject of extensive comments by both industry and environmental groups. However, the consensus also appears to be that this will be the last set of draft regulations that will be issued by DTSC. At the close of the public comment period on February 28, 2013, it is expected that these regulations will become effective shortly thereafter. Please click here to go to DTSC's Green Chemistry website to see a copy of DTSC's lastest set of draft regulations.