Jenner & Block

Corporate Environmental Lawyer Blog

May 8, 2017 Jenner & Block Hosting Environmental Risk CLE Presentation with CBA and A&WMA

Torrence_jpgBy Allison A. Torrence

On Thursday, May 11th, from 12-1 pm, Jenner & Block will host a CLE presentation on Environmental Risk: Best Practices in Spotting, Evaluating, Quantifying and Reporting Risk. Business risk associated with environmental issues is an important topic that is often not fully understood by in-house counsel or outside attorneys and consultants. Effectively spotting, evaluating and managing environmental risk plays an important role in the success of a business and should be understood by all environmental attorneys and consultants advising businesses. This program will help you improve your ability to spot, evaluate, quantify and report on risk to provide value for your clients and their businesses.

Jenner & Block is pleased to be joined by members of the CBA Environmental Law Committee and the Air & Waste Management Association.

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The presentation will be moderated by Christina Landgraf, Counsel, Environmental, Health & Safety, United Airlines, Inc. and Jenner Partner Allison Torrence. The panel of speakers will include Jenner Partner Lynn Grayson, Kristen Gale, Associate, Nijman Franzetti and Jim Powell, Director, Environmental Permitting, Mostardi Platt.

The CLE presentation will be held at Jenner & Block, 353 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL – 45th Floor, from 12-1 pm. Lunch will be provided starting at 11:45 am. If you are unable to attend in person, you can participate via webinar.

You can RSVP here.

Any questions can be directed to Pravesh Goyal: (312) 923-2643 or pgoyal@jenner.com

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

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence

April 19, 2017 Attorney-Client Privilege Does Not Protect Communications with Environmental Consultants

Lynn Grayson PhotoBy E. Lynn Grayson

Attorney-client-privilege ImageA recent case reminds us that not all communications between lawyers and environmental consultants are privileged despite best efforts to make them so. In Valley Forge Ins. V. Hartford Iron & Metal, Inc., the Northern District of Indiana ruled that the attorney-client privilege doesn’t protect a lawyer’s emails to environmental contractors when the communications concern remediation as opposed to litigation. This case provides a good overview of the protections afforded by the attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine in the environmental law context.

At issue are Hartford Iron’s communications with environmental contractors Keramida, Inc. and CH2M Hill, Inc. which were the subject of a motion to compel filed by Valley Forge. Following an in camera review of 185 emails, the court concluded that the evidence reflects that “….Hartford Iron retained Keramida and CH2M as environmental contractors for the primary purpose of providing environmental consulting advice and service to Hartford Iron in designing and constructing a new stormwater management system, not because Hartford Iron’s counsel needed them to “translate” information into a useable form so that counsel could render legal advice.”

The Court did find that certain of the emails were subject to the work-product doctrine as the communications were prepared for the purposes of litigation and that IDEM and EPA already had filed suit against Hartford Iron.

Despite the best efforts of lawyers, not all communications are privileged. The legal privileges are narrowly construed and generally do not protect communications with environmental consultants.

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

March 3, 2017 Trump Adminstration: 2017 Insights

Lynn Grayson photo

By E. Lynn Grayson

This week I published an article in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin Trump election puts environment into less than green state.  In this article, I discuss my thoughts on environmental issues during the transition from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration. I specifically address: 1) what authority President Trump has to implement environmental changes; 2) what environmental actions have been taken to date; 3) insights into future environmental changes we are likely to see; and 4) reaction from the environmental community.

If you would like to hear more about what’s happening on the environmental front in the Trump administration, please join us next Tuesday, March 7 at Noon for a program titled Environmental, Health & Safety Issues in 2017: What to Expect From the Trump Administration. My partners Gay Sigel, Steve Siros and Allison Torrence will be providing the latest updates on what we know and what we can anticipate from the Trump administration in connection with environmental, health and safety considerations.

If you would like to join us for this program or participate via webinar, please RSVP here.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Climate Change, Hazmat, OSHA, RCRA, TSCA, Water

February 28, 2017 Gay Sigel, Steve Siros, and Allison Torrence Speak at March 7 CLE Program

Lynn Grayson Photo

Jenner Block logo

By E. Lynn Grayson

Jenner & Block Partners Gay Sigel, Steve Siros, and Allison Torrence will speak at the upcoming program Environmental, Health, and Safety Issues in 2017: What to Expect From the Trump Administration, hosted by Jenner & Block’s Environmental, Workplace Health & Safety Practice Group on Tuesday, March 7 from 12:00 pm to 1:00 p.m. With the Trump Administration beginning to take shape, federal environmental, health, and safety (EHS) policy is certain to shift to the right. This CLE program will provide an overview of the Trump Administration’s actions impacting EHS matters to date and prognosticate on changes that may be forthcoming. You are invited to join us for this special program in person or via webinar. If you plan to participate, please RSVP as indicated below.

Program Details:

Tuesday, March 7, 12:00—1:00 p.m. with lunch starting at 11:45 a.m.

Jenner & Block, 353 North Clark, Chicago, IL—45th Floor Conference Center 

For more information about the program and to RSVP, please connect here.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Climate Change, Consumer Law and Environment, FIFRA, Greenhouse Gas, Hazmat, OSHA, RCRA, Sustainability, Toxic Tort, TSCA, Water

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence, Steven M. Siros, Gabrielle Sigel

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 30, 2017 Happy New Year from the Corporate Environmental Lawyer Blog

Steven Siros Photo Allison TorranceBy Steven M. Siros and Allison A. Torrence

As we begin the New Year, we wanted to take a moment to look back at some of the major EHS developments in 2016 and think about what we can expect in 2017.

2016 was a busy year for the Corporate Environmental Lawyer blog, which is now in its sixth year with over 760 posts. In 2016, we had nearly 100 blog posts from 10 different authors and over 6,700 visits to the site.

Our five most popular blogs from 2016 were:

EPA Lacks Authority to Regulate Plastic Microbeads in Water, by E. Lynn Grayson

Court Orders New EPA Spill Prevention Rules, by E. Lynn Grayson

Bipartisan TSCA Reform Act Signed by President Obama, by Allison A. Torrence

Navigating Hawkes, the Newest Wetlands Ruling from the Supreme Court, by Matt Ampleman

ExxonMobil, 13 State Attorneys General Fight Back Against the Exxon Climate Probes, by Alexander J. Bandza

As always, we are monitoring a variety of issues that are important to you and your business, including, for example, RCRA regulatory changes, the future of climate change regulation, implementation of the TSCA Reform Act, and new developments in environmental litigation. You can find current information about these developments and more on the Corporate Environmental Lawyer blog. If you don’t find what you are looking for on our blog, we welcome your suggestions on topics that we should be covering. In addition, keep abreast of new developments in the EHS area through our Twitter @JennerBlockEHS.

We also look forward to the opportunity to share our thoughts and insights with respect to current EHS issues with you at an upcoming program:

The program will take place at Jenner & Block’s Chicago office and also will be available as a webinar. We will post a formal invitation to the program in a few weeks.

We also invite you to visit our newly redesigned Environmental and Workplace Health & Safety Law Practice website for more information about our practice. We look forward to another exciting year and to connecting with you soon.

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

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence, Steven M. Siros, Gabrielle Sigel

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

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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

December 16, 2016 DTSC Seeks Comments on New Safer Consumer Products Guidance

Safer Consumer Products logoE Lynn Grayson Photo

By E. Lynn Grayson

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has issued draft guidance titled Alternatives Analysis Guide and is seeking comments through January 20, 2017. California’s Safer Consumer Products (SCP) Program challenges product designers and manufacturers to reduce toxic chemicals in their products. According to DTSC, the SCP regulations establish innovative approaches for responsible entities to identify, evaluate, and adopt better alternatives. The SCP approach requires an Alternatives Analysis (AA) that considers important impacts throughout the product’s life cycle and follows up with specific actions to make the product safer. DTSC prepared the Draft Alternatives Analysis Guide to help responsible entities conduct an AA to meet the regulatory requirements. Public comments are specifically requested to provide DTSC with insight on the clarity and usefulness of the Draft Alternatives Analysis Guide.

DTSC’s SCP Program regulations took effect October 1, 2013 and are being implemented based on the various regulatory requirements. The goals of the program are to: 1) reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products; 2) create new business opportunities in the emerging safer consumer products industry; and 3) help consumer and businesses identify what is in the products they buy for their families and customers.

The SCP program implements a four-step process to reduce toxic chemicals in the products that consumers buy and use. It identifies specific products that contain potentially harmful chemicals and asks manufacturers to answer two questions: 1) Is this chemical necessary? 2) Is there a safer alternative? The first step involved publication of a list of candidate chemicals that exhibit a hazard trait and/or an environmental toxicological endpoint. Regulators must then identify potential “priority products” containing chemicals that pose a significant risk to public health or the environment. Once a priority product is declared through a separate rulemaking, regulated entities must conduct an alternative analysis to determine if safer options are available. The final step in the lengthy process is for the department to determine if a regulatory response, such as banning the chemical-product combination, is required.

To learn more about the status of the SCP program and to obtain a copy of the new guidance, visit the DTSC SCP website at http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/SCP/index.cfm.

CATEGORIES: Climate Change, Consumer Law and Environment, Hazmat, Real Estate and Environment, Sustainability, TSCA

December 13, 2016 EPA Publishes Proposed Rule to Ban Certain Uses of TCE

Allison Torrence Photo

By Allison Torrence

On December 7, 2016, EPA published a proposed rule to ban certain uses of trichloroethylene (TCE) under section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) due to risks to human health from those uses. The proposed rule would prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, distribution in commerce and commercial use of TCE for aerosol degreasing and for spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities.

As we previously reported on this blog, EPA recently included TCE on its list of the first 10 chemicals it will evaluate broadly for potential risks to human health and the environment pursuant to requirements of the 2016 TSCA Reform Act. In a 2014 risk assessment, EPA identified serious risks to workers and consumers associated with TCE uses, concluding that the chemical can cause a range of adverse health effects, including cancer, development and neurotoxicological effects, and toxicity to the liver.

Based on the 2014 risk assessment, EPA has preliminarily determined that the use of TCE in aerosol degreasing and for spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health and is proposing to prohibit such uses. EPA’s risk assessment also preliminarily indicated that the use of TCE in vapor degreasing presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health. EPA has stated that it intends to issue a separate proposed rule for TCE use in vapor degreasing by the end of the year. EPA then plans to issue one final rule covering both the current proposed ban on aerosol degreasing and spot cleaning and the forthcoming vapor degreasing proposal.

EPA issued a press release and statement from Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, praising the new authority granted to EPA under the TSCA Reform Act and the recent actions of EPA under that Act:

For the first time in a generation, we are able to restrict chemicals already in commerce that pose risks to public health and the environment. Once finalized, today’s action will help protect consumers and workers from cancer and other serious health risks when they are exposed to aerosol degreasing, and when dry cleaners use spotting agents. I am confident that the new authority Congress has given us is exactly what we need to finally address these important issues.

The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register in the coming days. Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted by the public for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. Notably, the comment period on the proposed rule will run past the end of the Obama administration and any final rule issued after the comment period would be promulgated under the Trump administration, which could change or withdraw the proposal.

More information on the proposed rule is available at the EPA website.

CATEGORIES: Consumer Law and Environment, Hazmat, Toxic Tort, TSCA

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence

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

Allison Torrence Photo

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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

December 1, 2016 TSCA Reform in Action: EPA Releases List of 10 Chemicals Slated for Risk Evaluations

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By Allison Torrence

On November 29, 2016, EPA announced the first 10 chemicals it will evaluate for potential risks to human health and the environment under the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Reform Act, which was signed into law back in June. The TSCA Reform Act required EPA to publish this list of priority chemicals and begin the risk evaluation process on these chemicals by December 19, 2016. By the end of 2019, EPA will be required to have at least 20 chemical risk evaluations in process at any given time.

The first 10 chemicals to be evaluated by EPA are:

1,4-Dioxane

1-Bromopropane

Asbestos

Carbon Tetrachloride

Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster

Methylene Chloride

N-methylpyrrolidone

Pigment Violet 29

Tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene

Trichloroethylene

This list will be published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks, at which point it will trigger several statutory deadlines for these 10 chemicals:

  • EPA must release a scoping document for each chemical within 6 months.
  • EPA must complete risk evaluations for each chemical within three years.
  • If the risk evaluation determines that a chemical presents an unreasonable risk to humans and the environment, EPA must mitigate that risk within two years.

More information on the TSCA Reform Act and EPA’s recent actions can be found on EPA’s website.

CATEGORIES: Hazmat, Sustainability, Toxic Tort, TSCA

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

August 5, 2016 New York Attorney General Sued Over Climate Change Probe

E and E Legal Institute logoGrayson photo

By E. Lynn Grayson

Earlier this year New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman spearheaded a coalition of attorneys general investigating whether ExxonMobil misled investors and the public about its knowledge of climate change. As previously reported in this blog (see ExxonMobil, 13 State Attorneys General Fight Back Against the Exxon Climate Probes and Climate Change Allegations Against Big Oil Continue), ExxonMobil has sued the Attorneys General for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Massachusetts pushing back on allegations and related subpoenas dating back at least 40 years into the corporate history and internal communications of the company related to climate change considerations. Two recent developments ensure the conflicts over these government led investigations against ExxonMobil are far from over:

  1. This week the Energy & Environment Legal Institute and the Free Market Environmental Clinic filed litigation in the Supreme Court of New York against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over his refusal to produce climate change-related communications demanded by these groups in requests filed under the New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). The free-market litigation nonprofits requested all correspondence between AG Schneiderman and eight individuals that contained certain keywords including “energy,” “fossil,” “climate,” “RICO” and “fraud.” The individuals targeted were associated with environmental organizations as well as lawyers that had litigated against ExxonMobil in the past. The Attorney General’s Office denied the FOIL requests claiming the communications sought were exempt from disclosure because they were protected as attorney client, attorney work product or inter- or intra-agency memoranda. The nonprofits assert that the majority of the information sought is communications between AG Schneiderman and outside parties that would not fall under any legal protections for withholding information.
  1. Last month, led by Texas Representative Lamar Smith, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology issued ten (10) subpoenas to the Attorneys General of New York and Massachusetts as well as a number of nongovernmental environmental advocacy groups seeking climate change-related communications among the attorneys general and the environmental groups that support them associated, at least in part, with the ongoing investigations against ExxonMobil. The attorneys general have refused to produce any documents saying the request encroaches onto their states’ sovereign power to pursue their fraud investigations. Both Attorneys General Schneiderman and Healey have pushed back on the issuance of these subpoenas noting they  are “…are an unprecedented effort to target ongoing state law enforcement investigations or potential prosecutions…” and if allowed would “…eviscerate AG Healey’s ability to conduct an ordinary and lawful investigation.”

Many have expressed skepticism about the legal reasoning and logic of the fraud, securities and RICO investigations launched by the “Green 20” state attorneys general. Critics charge the state attorneys general are using governmental power to further political objectives and in the process violating ExxonMobil’s constitutional rights of free speech and freedom from unreasonable searches. It appears there is nothing “ordinary and lawful” in the context of this unusual investigation aimed at achieving climate change parity where more appropriate regulatory and legislative efforts have failed.

CATEGORIES: Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas, Sustainability, TSCA

June 23, 2016 Bipartisan TSCA Reform Act Signed by President Obama

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By Allison Torrence

On June 22, 2016, President Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (a/k/a the TSCA Reform Act) into law. The TSCA Reform Act received bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, passing both bodies by wide margins. The TSCA Reform Act is a major overhaul of the 40-year-old chemical law, which had fallen short of its goal to protect people and the environment from dangerous chemicals.

In an article posted on EPA’s blog, Administrator Gina McCarthy praised the TSCA Reform Act, stating:

The updated law gives EPA the authorities we need to protect American families from the health effects of dangerous chemicals. I welcome this bipartisan bill as a major step forward to protect Americans’ health. And at EPA, we’re excited to get to work putting it into action.

Key provisions of the TSCA Reform Act include: 

CATEGORIES: Consumer Law and Environment, TSCA

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence