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May 21, 2012 Federal Appellate Courts Limit OSHA Injury Recordkeeping Enforcement

Sigel_Gabrielle_COLORBy Gabrielle Sigel

 

Two recent U.S. Court of Appeals decisions limit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's ("OSHA") ability to enforce regulations regarding workplace injury and illness reporting. OSHA requires most U.S. employers to prepare detailed logs of every significant work-related injury and illness. 29 C.F.R. Part 1904. The injury/illness must be recorded within seven days of an employer's knowledge of the incident. 29 C.F.R. 1904.29(b)(3). Two different Court of Appeals decisions addressed OSHA's enforcement with respect to the injury/illness regulations.

CATEGORIES: OSHA

April 30, 2012 Business Roundtable Report Calls For Improved Permitting Process

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

The Business Roundtable (BRT) issued a report this month, Permitting Jobs and Business Investment Streamlining the Federal Permitting Process, highlighting the adverse impacts to business of the often long, inconsistent and burdensome federal permitting process. The CEOs of Business Roundtable believe that it is time to simplify, streamline and accelerate America's permitting process with the goal of encouraging large-scale capital investments in the U.S. economy while maintaining the nation's commitments to health, safety and soundness. With this goal in mind, this report identifies key challenges associated with the existing regulatory permitting system and sets forth a series of recommended reforms.

CATEGORIES: Air, Cercla, Hazmat, OSHA, RCRA, Sustainability, TSCA, Water

April 20, 2012 2012 Environmental Health Webinars Announced By NIEHS

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Partnerships in Environmental Public Health (PEPH) has initiated an environmental health and education webinar series. The webinars will strive to promote interactions among PEPH grantees, and increase awareness of emerging issues and approaches in environmental public health. The PEPH umbrella unites researchers in basic and clinical research, community-based participatory research, education, outreach, and environmental justice in the pursuit of improved public health.

The first webinar conducted earlier this year focused on the theme of connecting environmental exposures to chronic inflammation and diseases. Topics included: 1) How Is the Immune System Involved in Inflammation; 2) Air Pollution Morbidity: Confounding Effects of Chronic Inflammation; and, 3) Inflammation and Effects of Chronic Disease. The most recent webinar focused on the health implications of arsenic in our food system.

Upcoming seminars include the following:

  • April/May: Mapping and Environmental Public Health: Visualizing Health Disparities and the Effects of Pollution
  • May: Health Impact Assessments and Community Engagement
  • June: Science-based Decision Making
  • July: Hydraulic Fracturing

The PEPH webinars are free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. Registration information is available in advance of each webinar at http://www.niehs.nih.gov/index.cfm or by contacting the Office of Communications and Public Liaison at 919-541-3345.

The PEPH webinar series provides easy access to up to date research on the interplay between environmental impacts and public health concerns.

CATEGORIES: Air, Cercla, Hazmat, OSHA, RCRA, Toxic Tort, Water

February 13, 2012 New MOU For EPA And DoD

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

EPA and DoD have entered into a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to advance the use of innovative technologies and their mutual interests in sustainability. This MOU is entered into between EPA through its Office of Research and Development, and the Department of Defense through its Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment, to establish relations between the two institutions regarding collaboration on their mutual goals.

The Office of Research and Development (ORD) is the scientific research arm of EPA, whose leading-edge research helps provide the solid underpinning of science and technology for the EPA. The work at ORD laboratories, research centers, and offices across the country helps improve the quality of air, water, soil, and the way these resources are used.

The Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment ((DUSD-I&E)) is the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense on matters related to Department of Defense (DoD) installation capabilities, programs, and budgets. Responsibilities include installation-energy programs and policy, environmental management, safety and occupational health, environmental restoration at active and closing bases, conservation of natural and cultural resources, pollution prevention, and environmental research technology.

Subject to mutual consent and availability of funding, EPA and DoD intend to carry out joint activities to advance the development and/or demonstration of new applications and technologies that can be used to achieve mutual sustainability goals. These applications and technologies will use both new and existing data about health and the environment, as well as new data developed within the scope of this MOU.

EPA and DoD intend to cooperate in research, development, and demonstration of technologies that can be used to achieve mutual goals. Joint EPA-DoD activities are expected to be undertaken subject to available funding and resources within each agency. Each party may contribute funding and in-kind resources, depending on the collaborative project, which is consistent with the goals, missions, and programmatic requirements of the party.

The MOU is effective for five (5) years until 2017.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, OSHA, RCRA, Sustainability, Water

September 20, 2011 New USGS Report Finds Wells Contaminated

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

According to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey, Trace Elements and Radon in Groundwater Across the United States, 1992-2003, about 20% of untreated water samples from public, private and monitoring wells contain concentrations of at least one trace element, such as arsenic, manganese and uranium, at levels of potential health concern.

These findings are based on over 5,000 samples collected primarily from public and private wells nationwide. This study is part of efforts by the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Quality Assessment Program to monitor the quality of the nation's groundwater and surface water.

Human health benchmarks used in this study include U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Maximum Contaminant Levels for regulated contaminants and Health Based Screening Levels (HBSLs) for unregulated contaminants. HBSLs are unenforceable contaminant threshold guidelines developed by the USGS in collaboration with EPA, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Oregon Health Sciences University.

The major findings of the new study include:

  • Arsenic, uranium, and manganese, were the trace elements in groundwater that most frequently exceeded USEPA human-health benchmarks.
  • Climate and land use are important factors in trace element distribution.
  • Basic geology and geochemistry of water samples helps to predict occurrence of trace elements in groundwater.
  • The effects of mixtures of trace elements are poorly understood and could cause further health concerns.

More information about the USGS and its national water quality assessment program can be accessed at USGS.gov.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, OSHA, RCRA, Sustainability, Water

June 2, 2011 EPI Concludes Environmental Benefits Outweigh Compliance Costs Of EPA Regulations

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) announced on May 31st the results of an analysis of the relationship between Obama-era environmental regulations and economic factors, particularly employment. Two broad conclusions emerge from this analysis detailed in an EPI briefing paper titled Tallying Up the Impact of New EPA Rules. First, the dollar value of the benefits of the major rules finalized or proposed by the EPA so far during the Obama administration exceeds the rules' costs by an exceptionally wide margin. Health benefits in terms of lives saved and illnesses avoided will be enormous. Second, the costs of all the finalized and proposed rules total to a tiny sliver of the overall economy, suggesting that fears that these rules together will deter economic progress are unjustified.

CATEGORIES: Air, Hazmat, OSHA, RCRA, Sustainability, Water

May 2, 2011 Gabrielle Sigel to Speak At Chicago Bar Association Environmental Law Committee Regarding Chrome Regulation

Sigel_Gabrielle_COLORBy Gabrielle Sigel

 

On May 3, 2011, Gabrielle Sigel, a partner in Jenner & Block's Environmental Law Practice, shall provide a presentation to the Environmental Law Committee of the Chicago Bar Association addressing the overlap in OSHA and EPA regulation regarding chrome use in the workplace.  Both OSHA and EPA have detailed regulations regarding chrome emissions in the workplace, employee exposures, and work practices.  Ms. Sigel will explore this area of regulation to demonstrate the extent to which these regulations overlap and present significant compliance requirements.  The Chicago Bar Association committee meeting will be hosted by Jenner & Block.  Further details regarding attendance are provided in the attached announcement.

Gabrielle Sigel is a founding Partner of the Firm’s Environmental Law Practice, Co-Chair of Jenner & Block’s Climate and Clean Technology Law Practice, and a member of the Environmental Litigation Practice.  Ms. Sigel regularly represents clients in workplace safety and health enforcement and compliance matters and  in complex environmental statutory, common law, Superfund enforcement, toxic tort, and cost recovery actions. 

CATEGORIES: Air, Hazmat, OSHA, Toxic Tort

PEOPLE: Gabrielle Sigel

April 5, 2011 Allison Torrence to Speak at Northwestern School of Law

Torrence_Allison_COLORBy Allison A. Torrence

 

Allison Torrence will be speaking at Northwestern School of Law on April 5th, 2011, at a panel discussion about Careers in Environmental & Animal Law.  Ms. Torrence will discuss her education and training in environmental law and take questions from law students eager to learn about practicing in the environmental law field.  Ms. Torrence will also describe her work experience in the Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Law Practice at Jenner & Block.

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

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence

February 1, 2011 December 2010 Update: Climate Change

By Gabrielle Sigel and William Kaplowitz

Gabrielle Sigel and William Kaplowitz, attorneys in Jenner & Block's Environmental, Energy & Natural Resources Law Practice, recently posted to Jenner & Block's Climate Change Update Resource Center their December 2010 Update of Climate Change Developments. 

Click here to read the December 2010 Climate Change Update. 

CATEGORIES: Air, Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas, OSHA, Sustainability

PEOPLE: Gabrielle Sigel

January 21, 2011 OSHA Succumbs to Noisy Public Comment

Sigel_Gabrielle_COLORBy Gabrielle Sigel

 

On January 19, 2011, in response to vociferous objection from the regulated community, OSHA withdrew its proposed official interpretation of the term "feasible administrative or engineering controls" as used in its General Industry and Construction Occupational Noise Exposure standards.   The standards state that employers must use administrative or engineering controls, rather than personal protective equipment (PPE), to reduce noise exposures that are above acceptable levels when such controls are  "feasible," i.e., "capable of being done," even if the cost of such controls are much more than the effective use of PPE, such as ear plugs.  Notably, OSHA withdrew this proposed interpretation before the close of public comments in March 2011.

CATEGORIES: OSHA, Toxic Tort

December 21, 2010 WHO Issues Indoor Air Quality Guidance

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued its first guidance on indoor air quality concerns. The new report titled WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality-Selected Pollutants evaluates exposure risks and other considerations for nine chemicals commonly found in indoor air. The nine chemicals addressed in the report are benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, naphthalene, nitrogen dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, radon, trichloroethylene, and tetrachloroethylene.

CATEGORIES: Air, Hazmat, OSHA, RCRA, Toxic Tort, TSCA

September 16, 2010 The U.S. EPA's Review of the Draft 2002 Subsurface Vapor Intrusion Guidance

By James A. Vroman

On August 30, 2010, the U.S. EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response ("OSWER") published its "Review of the Draft 2002 Subsurface Vapor Intrusion Guidance."  OSWER's Review of the Draft 2002 Guidance suggests that when OSWER finalizes the Draft 2002 Guidance, which it has promised will be done by November of 2012, the final version of the Guidance will present a more rigorous and comprehensive, and, thus, a more expensive, Soil Vapor Intrusion ("SVI") assessment process than the one presented in the Draft 2002 Guidance.  For example, the Review advised that the EPA plans to include in the final version of the SVI Guidance, in addition to the list of chemicals that will trigger a SVI assessment, "chemical-specific characteristics" that will be used to identify chemicals of concern that may generate vapors.  The EPA will also update the toxicity values of a number of the chemicals listed in Table 1 of the Draft 2002 Guidance.  In addition to these changes to the Draft Guidance, OSWER noted that the SVI assessment process that will be presented in the final version of the SVI Guidance will recommend that the assessment evaluate multiple lines of evidence rather than a single line of external evidence such as soil-gas samples or externally collected groundwater samples.  Consistent with this recommendation, the Review also noted that the final version of the Guidance will provide that the SVI assessment should expand its evaluation of SVI risks beyond single-family residential buildings to include other types of buildings such as non-residential and mixed-use buildings. 

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, OSHA, RCRA

July 26, 2010 Mine Safety & OSHA Reform Bill Approved by House Committee

Sigel_Gabrielle_COLOR

By Gabrielle Sigel

 

On July 21, 2010, the Education and Labor Committee for the House of Representatives voted 30-17 to send to the full House the Robert C. Byrd Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 (H.R. 5663). The bill incorporates portions of the previously introduced Protecting America's Workers Act (H.R. 2067, S. 1580) and addresses safety in both mines and other workplaces. With respect to revisions to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Byrd bill increases civil and criminal penalties, expands family members' rights in settlement of violations, requires abatement during the period that citations are contested, and enhances protection for whistleblowers. The Committee also passed amendments to H.R. 5663 which affects the employer's burden of proof and the statutory standard for criminal liability. In addition, the Committee approved providing OSHA enhanced mechanisms for requiring state plan programs to conform to federal requirements. The authority of the Mine Safety and Health Administration ("MSHA") would be expanded to allow for increased penalties and enhanced enforcement, including with respect to the right to close down an unsafe mine, subpoena documents and testimony, and require additional training for miners. Republican efforts to modify these expansions of OSHA's and MSHA's authority were largely rejected, and the bill was voted out of Committee along party lines.

CATEGORIES: OSHA

July 11, 2010 U.S. Chemical Safety Board Investigating Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Blowout

Sigel_Gabrielle_COLORBy Gabrielle Sigel

 

On June 25, 2010, Congress confirmed the appointments to the two last vacant positions on the U.S. Chemical Safety Board ("CSB"): Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso, as CSB Chairman; and Mark Griffon, as CSB Member. On June 18, 2010, the CSB also informed Congressmen Waxman and Stupak, of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, that the CSB intends to investigate the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. This investigation is occurring in response to a request made by the Congressmen earlier in June. The CSB, in operation since 1998, is an independent agency charged with investigating industrial chemical incidents. It has no authority to issue fines or citations, but its recommendations are often relied on by other government agencies, industry organizations, and unions.

In its June 18, 2010 letter confirming that the CSB intends to proceed with its investigation of the "root causes" of the Deepwater Horizon incident, then Chairman John Bresland stated that the CSB was uniquely able to assess the incident due to its "past work on BP's culture and corporate safety oversight." In particular, it noted that CSB's investigators of the Deepwater Horizon incident will include those who investigated the March 23, 2005 explosion at BP's Texas City refinery. However, the CSB emphasized that it did not intend to investigate the response to, or the impact of, the Gulf oil spill.

Finally, the CSB informed Congress that to conduct the Deepwater Horizon explosion investigation it would need to rapidly wind down or terminate other investigations, and that it would be requesting additional funding, as needed, from Congress. The CSB noted that the investigation of the Texas City refinery incident alone cost the agency approximately $2.5 million. In its letter, the CSB did not inform Congress of any target date for the conclusion of its Deepwater Horizon investigation.

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