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Corporate Environmental Lawyer Blog

October 12, 2017 Imagine a Day Without Water

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By E. Lynn Grayson  Imagine a Day Without Water 2017

  Today recognizes the third annual Imagine a Day Without Water event to raise awareness and educate America about the value of water. Over 500 organizations, cities, water authorities, and corporations have joined together once again to focus attention on the importance of this valuable resource and the critical need to upgrade and improve water infrastructure throughout the U.S.

No water to drink, or even to make coffee with. No water to shower, flush the toilet, or do laundry. Hospitals would close without water. Firefighters couldn't put out fires, and farmers couldn't water their crops. Some communities in America already know how impossible it is to try to go a day without our most precious resource: water.

The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card published by the American Society of Civil Engineers provided an overall grade of a D+ for the status and condition of U.S. infrastructure. Particularly as to drinking water, the Report Card noted the following:

  1. One million miles of pipes deliver drinking water and most date from the early 20th century with a 75-100 year lifespan
  2. Over 240,000 water main breaks occur annually
  3. Over $1 trillion dollars is the estimate needed to maintain/upgrade/expand service to meet water demands over the next 25 years.

Can you imagine a day without water? In the context of your business and its operations, please consider the resources available from these two organizations that address the following water-related considerations, including conditions and capacity, funding, public safety, future needs, and resilience and innovation.

CATEGORIES: Climate Change, Real Estate and Environment, Sustainability, Water

PEOPLE: E. Lynn Grayson

September 12, 2017 Third-Annual Environmental Attorney Reception at Jenner on Thursday 9/14

Torrence_jpgBy Allison A. Torrence

On Thursday, September 14th, from 5 pm to 7 pm, environmental attorneys and professionals will come together for a networking reception at Jenner & Block's offices in Chicago. Complimentary food and drinks will be provided thanks to the event’s sponsors. This is the third year Jenner & Block has hosted this event, which continues to grow every year. Jenner & Block will be joined by a number of bar associations and organizations:

  • CBA Environmental Law Committee
  • CBA Young Lawyers Section Environmental Law Committee
  • ISBA Environmental Law Section
  • ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
  • Air & Waste Management Association Lake Michigan States Section
  • DRI Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Committee

Jenner & Block partner Allison Torrence is a former Chair of the CBA Environmental Law Committee and will be giving brief welcome remarks.

Details for this event are below. If you would like to join us at this reception, please RSVP here.

Environmental Attorney Reception

September 14, 2017 | 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Jenner & Block Conference Center | 45th Floor | 353 N. Clark St. | Chicago, IL 60654

RSVP

Reception Sponsors:

Sponsors

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

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence

September 7, 2017 Hurricane Harvey Response: TCEQ Suspends Environmental Rules

TCEQ logoGrayson

 

By E. Lynn Grayson  

As the cleanup, rebuilding, and recovery continues in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, there has been increasing news coverage about the environmental consequences resulting from impacts of this devastating storm in Texas. We have all seen the coverage on the Arkema SA chemical plant explosion and fire in Crosby, Texas, as well as this weekend’s news that 13 Superfund sites in the Houston area have been flooded and are experiencing possible damage. What we have not heard much about is action on the part of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to do its part to allow residents and their commercial and industrial businesses to recover.

Last week, TCEQ issued a Request for Suspension of TCEQ Rules that may prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with Hurricane Harvey. The rules suspended in order to manage Hurricane Harvey impacts address regulatory obligations related to air, water, storage tank, fuel and waste management. In addition, TCEQ has developed a Hurricane Response webpage and made clear the Agency's priority is the recovery efforts helping to restore water and wastewater services as well as to assess damage, manage debris, and bring other critical services back online.

Most substantive federal environmental laws and their implementing regulations also provide emergency exemptions that can be triggered following any natural or manmade disaster to ensure laws do not interfere with rescue and recovery efforts. Most emergency exemptions require a declaration or finding on the part of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or of another high-ranking government official. We will address EPA's Hurricane response actions in future blogs.

At a time when the residents of Texas need the best of their government, TCEQ is providing an excellent example of support, help, and a willingness to do what is right under the circumstances. Kudos to TCEQ!

CATEGORIES: Air, Cercla, Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas, Hazmat, RCRA, Real Estate and Environment, Sustainability, Water

PEOPLE: E. Lynn Grayson

August 2, 2017 DHS Waives Environmental Laws to Construct San Diego Border Wall

Dept of Homeland SecurityGrayson

 By E. Lynn Grayson 

 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced yesterday its plans to waive numerous environmental laws to allow more expedient construction of barriers and roads in the vicinity of the international border near San Diego. The decision was signed by then DHS Secretary John Kelly and applies to a 15-mile border segment in San Diego where the Agency plans to upgrade fencing and build border wall prototypes.

DHS issued the waiver pursuant to its authority in Section 102 of the 2005 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). This law grants the DHS Secretary a number of authorities necessary to carry out DHS’s border security mission. Citing this authority, the DHS notice makes clear that these infrastructure projects will be exempt from complying with critically important environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and other laws related to wildlife, conservation, cultural and historic artifacts, and the environment.

This action has been under consideration by DHS and the subject of much discussion among environmental activists. The Center for Biological Diversity already sued DHS earlier this year seeking an updated environmental review of the southern border infrastructure projects.

According to yesterday’s notice, “…while the waiver eliminates DHS’s obligation to comply with various laws with respect to the covered projects, the Department remains committed to environmental stewardship with respect to these projects. DHS has been coordinating and consulting—and intends to continues to do so—with other federal and state agencies to ensure impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the extent possible.”

Even in the wake of everything ongoing in D.C with the new Administration, this action is extraordinary and inconsistent with typical federal government practices, except in the case of an emergency or other exigent circumstances. The final decision will appear in the Federal Register soon.

CATEGORIES: Air, Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas, Hazmat, Real Estate and Environment, Sustainability, Water

PEOPLE: E. Lynn Grayson

July 31, 2017 Renegotiation of NAFTA Includes Environmental Considerations

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By E. Lynn Grayson 

Exec Office of President Office of US Trade Rep

The Trump Administration signaled its plans to renegotiate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by issuing the Summary of Objectives for the NAFTA Renegotiation this month. President Trump committed to renegotiate NAFTA in order to obtain more open, equitable, secure, and reciprocal market access with our two largest export markets in Canada and Mexico.

Environmental considerations currently are managed in a side agreement to NAFTA, but one of the Administration’s priorities is to incorporate environmental provisions into the new NAFTA. The Summary outlines 13 environmental issues to be addressed as part of the renegotiation process: 

  1. Bring the environmental provisions into the core of the agreement, rather than in a side agreement.
  2. Establish strong and enforceable environmental obligations that are subject to the same dispute settlement mechanism that applies to other enforceable obligations of the agreement.
  3. Establish rules that will ensure that NAFTA countries do not waive or derogate from the protections afforded in their environmental laws for the purpose of encouraging trade or investment.
  4. Establish rules that will ensure that NAFTA countries do not fail to effectively enforce their environmental laws through a sustained or recurring course of action or inaction, in a manner affecting trade or investment between the parties.
  5. Require NAFTA countries to adopt and maintain measures implementing their obligations under select Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) to which the NAFTA countries are full parties, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  6. Establish a means for stakeholder participation, including commitments for public advisory committees, and a process for the public to raise concerns directly with its government if they believe it is not meeting its environmental commitments.
  7. Require NAFTA countries to ensure access to fair, equitable, and transparent administrative and judicial proceedings for enforcing their environmental laws, and provide appropriate sanctions or remedies for violations of their environmental laws.
  8. Provide for a framework for conducting, reviewing, and evaluating cooperative activities that support implementation of the environmental commitments, and for public participation in these activities.
  9. Establish or maintain a senior-level Environmental Committee, which will meet regularly to oversee implementation of environmental commitments, with opportunities for public participation in the process.
  10. Combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, including by implementing port state measures and supporting increased monitoring and surveillance.
  11. Establish rules to prohibit harmful fisheries subsidies, such as those that contribute to overfishing and IUU fishing, and pursue transparency in fisheries subsidies programs.
  12. Promote sustainable fisheries management and long-term conservation of marine species, including sharks, sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals.
  13. Protect and conserve flora and fauna and ecosystems, including through actions by countries to combat wildlife and timber tracking.

Critics note that the above environmental considerations look much like the provisions in the now defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership that many environmental advocates opposed.

The first round of talks on the possible renegotiation of NAFTA is scheduled to take place in Washington August 16-20. The Summary confirms that “…the new NAFTA will be modernized to reflect 21st century standards and will reflect a fairer deal, addressing America’s persistent trade imbalances in North America.” While part of the agenda, it does not appear that environmental considerations will be a critical portion of these upcoming negotiations.

CATEGORIES: Climate Change, Hazmat, RCRA, Real Estate and Environment, Sustainability, TSCA, Water

PEOPLE: E. Lynn Grayson

July 27, 2017 EPA’s AAI Requirement References Updated ASTM AAI Standard

Jenner & Block's Corporate Environmental Lawyer is pleased to present a guest blog prepared by John Claypool, Director of Project Management at Brown and Caldwell. Brown and Caldwell is a national engineering consulting firm focused on the U.S. environmental sector. The degree to which and manner in which these ASTM standards are incorporated into regulatory standards is an important topic and we appreciate Brown and Caldwell's insight on this topic.

By John Claypool EPA logo

EPA recently issued a direct final rule to amend the requirements for conducting All Appropriate Inquires (AAI) to qualify for the Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser (BFPP) defense under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The direct final rule allows for the use of ASTM International E2247-16, Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process for Forestland or Rural Property. When the final rule becomes effective on September 18, 2017, ASTM E2247-16 can be used to satisfy the statutory requirements for conducting AAI.

Since 2008, the AAI rule at 40 CFR Part 312 has allowed the use of E2247-08 on transactions involving forestland or rural properties. As part of its 5-year review and reapproval cycle, ASTM International made significant changes to E2247-08 and reapproved/reissued it under the E2247-16 designation. A summary of the differences between E2247-08 and E2247-16 is available in the USEPA rulemaking docket (Docket EPA-HQ-OLEM-2016-0786).

The revisions to the AAI rule published in the Federal Register on June 20, 2017 allow the use of E2247-08 and E2247-16 for conducting AAI on forestland and rural property. Since E2247-08 is no longer considered an active standard by ASTM International, the practical implication is that AAI for forestland and rural properties will henceforth be conducted per E2247-16. The direct final rule did not make any changes to the AAI requirements for other types of properties, continuing to allow the use of ASTM E1527-13, Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process.

This addition of E2247-16 to the AAI rule may impact both public and private parties intending to claim a limitation on CERCLA liability in relation to the purchase of large tracts of forested land or large rural property. It may also impact parties conducting site characterizations or assessments on large tracts of forested land or large rural properties, when the parties are intending to use a brownfields grant awarded under CERCLA Section 104(k)(2)(B)(ii), including state, local, and tribal governments receive brownfields site assessment grants.

Brown and Caldwell's John Claypool, Brent Callihan and Julie Byrd contributed to the development of the revised ASTM standard, submitting comments to ASTM that led to the development of a working group to revise the standard, ultimately leading to the revised AAI rule.

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

PEOPLE: Steven R. Englund

July 18, 2017 Using GRI Framework Improves ESG Disclosures

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By E. Lynn Grayson 

G+A Logo

 

New research confirms that the quality of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) disclosures is greatly improved when companies use  the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Framework. The Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. (G&A), the data partner for GRI, also confirms that more companies than ever before are developing and disclosing sustainability reports.

In the first year of its study in 2010, G&A found that 80% of leading U.S. large-cap companies did not publish sustainability reports. The trend has changed over time with 53% of the S&P 500 companies reporting in 2012; 72% reporting in 2013; 75% reporting in 2014; 81% reporting in 2015; and 82% reporting in 2016.

To explore the quality of sustainability reports, G&A worked with The CSR-Sustainability Monitor (CSR-S Monitor) research team at the Weissman Center for International Business, Baruch College/CUNY. The CSR-S Monitor evaluated sustainability reports using a scoring methodology that categorizes the content of each report into 11 components referred to as “contextual elements” including: Chair/Executive Message; Environment; Philanthropy & Community Involvement; External Stakeholder Engagement; Supply Chain; Labor Relations; Governance; Anti-Corruption; Human Rights; Codes of Conduct; and Integrity Assurance. Companies using the GRI framework consistently achieved average contextual element scores higher than the companies not using the GRI for their reporting meaning, in part, that the data provided was of a higher quality and overall more helpful to stakeholders.

Sustainability reporting and ESG disclosures are on the rise. The trend clearly is to encourage and promote more standardized sustainability reporting helping companies provide more reliable, consistent and material information to the public.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Climate Change, Consumer Law and Environment, Greenhouse Gas, Hazmat, Real Estate and Environment, Sustainability, Water

PEOPLE: E. Lynn Grayson

June 28, 2017 EPA Announces Proposed Rule to Rescind ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule

Torrence_jpgBy Allison A. Torrence

Pond2On June 27, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will be publishing a proposed rule (the Recodification Rule) that would rescind the Obama Administration’s definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPA states that the Recodification Rule is necessary to “ensure certainty as to the scope of CWA jurisdiction on an interim basis” while EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers conduct “a substantive review of the appropriate scope of ‘waters of the United States’”.

As we previously reported on this blog, the WOTUS Rule (a/k/a the Clean Water Rule) was promulgated by the Obama Administration in 2015, and was the latest attempt to define the jurisdictional limits of the CWA. The CWA limits its jurisdiction to “navigable waters”, which are obliquely defined in the CWA as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” 33 U.S.C. § 1361(7). The precise definition of “waters of the United States” has been a controversial and well-litigated issue for years.

As we also previously reported, the WOTUS Rule was challenged in court by numerous parties, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of the new rule on October 9, 2015. One aspect of that litigation – whether the Sixth Circuit has exclusive original jurisdiction under the CWA to hear the challenges – is currently on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Recodification Rule was drafted in response to the February 28, 2017, Executive Order titled “Presidential Executive Order on Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule”. The stated policy behind the Executive Order is that:

It is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of the Congress and the States under the Constitution.

The Executive Order directs EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to review the WOTUS Rule, and either rescind or revise the rule to define “Navigable Waters” in a manner consistent with the above-stated policy and the plurality opinion of Justice Scalia in Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006). In Rapanos, Justice Scalia determined that:

The phrase waters of the United States includes only those relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water forming geographic features that are described in ordinary parlance as streams, oceans, rivers, and lakes…[and] only those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are "waters of the United States" in their own right…

Id. at 739-42.

The 2015 WOTUS Rule was EPA’s first attempt to define “waters of the United States” since the Supreme Court rejected the previous definition in Rapanos. The Recodification Rule would rescind the 2015 WOTUS Rule and replace it with a recodification of the regulatory text in place prior to 2015, informed by applicable guidance documents and consistent with the Rapanos decision. At some future date, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers state that they will pursue notice-and-comment rulemaking to promulgate a new definition of “waters of the United States.”

The public will be able to submit comments on the proposed Recodification Rule for 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

CATEGORIES: Real Estate and Environment, Water

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence

June 5, 2017 World Environment Day 5 June 2017

IMG_5257GraysonBy E. Lynn Grayson 

 

Today we celebrate World Environment Day—a global celebration of nature and a day to reconnect with the places that matter most to you. Initiated in 1972, World Environment Day is the United Nations' most important day for promoting worldwide awareness and action for protection of the environment. Since it began in 1974, it has grown to become an international platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries.

This year's host country is Canada where the official celebrations will take place and the 2017 theme is connecting people to nature encouraging all of us to get outdoors and into nature.

There is greater international awareness and attention focused on the protection and preservation of the environment than ever before. Everyone understands the critical environmental concerns ranging from the politics of the Paris Climate Agreement, the adverse impacts of plastic waste in our oceans, to the international focus on water quality and quantity. World Environment Day is a time to reflect upon and appreciate that the welfare of the planet, including the economic viability of its many nations, depends on the collective efforts we make to protect, preserve and conserve our natural resources and the environment.

Learn more about World Environment Day and efforts around the world to celebrate and improve the environment.

CATEGORIES: Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas, Hazmat, Real Estate and Environment, Sustainability, Water

PEOPLE: E. Lynn Grayson

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

PEOPLE: E. Lynn Grayson

April 3, 2017 Waters of the United States Case Going Forward in Supreme Court Despite Trump Executive Order To Rescind or Revise the Rule

Seal of the US Supreme Court ImageAllison Torrence PhotoBy Allison A. Torrence


The controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule, promulgated under the Obama Administration, will have its day in the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the Trump Administration’s efforts to stall that litigation while the rule is being revised by the new administration.

As previously discussed in this blog, the WOTUS Rule, also called the Clean Water Rule, was published by U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers on June 29, 2015. The WOTUS Rule defines the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA limits its jurisdiction to “navigable waters”, which are defined obliquely as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” 33 U.S.C. § 1361(7). U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have attempted numerous times to define “waters of the United States”, and thereby define the jurisdictional scope of the CWA. Every such effort has been met with legal court challenges, with the previous definition being struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in a plurality decision. Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006).

The 2015 WOTUS rule was challenged in court by numerous parties (including the State of Oklahoma, represented by then-Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is now the Administrator of U.S. EPA) in several different venues, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that it had exclusive original jurisdiction under the CWA to hear the challenges in the case National Association of Manufacturers v. U.S. Department of Defense, et al., Case No. 15-3751. That threshold jurisdictional question (and not the substantive challenge to the WOTUS Rule) was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in September 2016 (Case No. 16-299). The U.S. Supreme Court accepted the appeal in January 2017, but the parties have not yet submitted their briefs.

On February 28, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order titled “Presidential Executive Order on Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule”. The stated policy behind the Executive Order is that:

It is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of the Congress and the States under the Constitution.

The Executive Order directs U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to review the WOTUS Rule, and either rescind or revise the rule to define “Navigable Waters” in a manner consistent with the above-stated policy and the opinion of Justice Scalia in Rapanos. The executive Order also directs U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to notify the Attorney General of the rule review so the Attorney General may inform the court in pending litigation and take actions as appropriate.

In accordance with the Executive Order, on March 6, 2017, the U.S. Department of Defense filed a motion to hold the briefing schedule in National Association of Manufacturers v. U.S. Department of Defense, et al. in abeyance. Several parties, including industry groups, environmental groups, and States, opposed the motion to hold the briefing schedule in abeyance. On April 3, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the federal government’s motion to hold the briefing schedule in abeyance.

Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the Sixth Circuit properly asserted exclusive jurisdiction over the challenges to the WOTUS Rule. Petitioner’s briefs are currently due on April 13, 2017, and the case will continue to be briefed over the next several months. Although the substance of the WOTUS Rule will most likely change per the direction in President Trump’s Executive Order, the jurisdiction for hearing future challenges will be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court, making the path of future litigation more clear.

CATEGORIES: Real Estate and Environment, Water

PEOPLE: Allison A. Torrence

March 23, 2017 U.S. Water Risks: It's Not Only About Flint

Lynn Grayson Photo

World Water Day 2017

By E. Lynn Grayson

By and large, Americans are blessed with clean, safe, plentiful and mostly free drinking water sources. The Flint, Michigan contaminated drinking water scandal was a wakeup call for many that drinking water sources we depend upon may not be as reliable, stable, or even as affordable as we think.

On December 19, 2016, Reuters released a startling report about the quality of America’s drinking water. Reuters' investigation found that at least 3,000 water supplies in the U.S. were contaminated with lead at levels at least double the rates detected in Flint’s drinking water. In addition, 1,100 of these communities had rates of elevated lead in blood tests at least four times higher. Reuters concluded that Flint’s water crisis doesn’t even rank among the most dangerous lead hotspots in the U.S. Like Flint, however, many of the other localities are plagued by legacy lead: crumbling paint, plumbing, or industrial wastes left behind. Unlike Flint, many have received little attention or funding to combat poisoning.

Another critical issue looming on the horizon for many will be the affordability of water. A new Michigan State University (MSU) report recently concluded that a variety of compounding factors in the U.S. could easily push large portions of the population out of the financial range to even afford water in the future. The MSU report concludes:

A variety of pressures ranging from climate change, to sanitation and water quality, to infrastructure upgrades, are placing increasing strain on water prices. Estimates of the costs to replace aging infrastructure in the U.S. alone project over $1 trillion dollars are needed in the next 25 years to replace systems built circa World War II, which could triple the cost of household water bills…. Over the next few decades, water prices are anticipated to increase four times current levels. Prices could go higher if cities look to private providers for water services, who have a tendency to charge higher rates than public providers.

The MSU report concludes that 36% of households will be unable to afford water within five years. The highest risk areas in the U.S. are in the South, with the most at-risk communities in Mississippi. The MSU report noted that Ohio is 9th on the list, followed by Michigan at 12th.

Water risks come in many forms and include not only sufficient quantities and acceptable quality, but also affordability. The latter issue has not been addressed in a meaningful manner in the U.S. and will become a growing concern as water risks of all kinds increase in number and scope.

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

PEOPLE: E. Lynn Grayson

March 22, 2017 World Water Day: The Global Risks Report 2017

Lynn Grayson Photo

World Water Day 2017

By E. Lynn Grayson

Today is World Water Day as proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1993. World Water Day is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. Today, 1.8 billion people rely upon a drinking water source that is contaminated putting them at risk for cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. The UN Sustainability Development Goals launched in 2015 include a target to ensure everyone has access to safe water by 2030. 

The World Economic Forum also has targeted water and water risks as one of the leading global risk factors as recently confirmed in its The Global Risks Report 2017. The Global Risks Report 2017 features perspectives from nearly 750 experts on the perceived impact and likelihood of 30 prevalent global risks as well as 13 underlying trends that could amplify them or alter the interconnections between them over a 10-year timeframe. The report notes that a cluster of environment-related risks—notably extreme weather events and failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as water crisis—has emerged as a consistently central feature of the Global Risks Perception Survey risk landscape.

In 2017, water crises were identified as the third most significant risk based upon potential impacts. In doing so, the experts concluded that there had been “…a significant decline in the available quality and quantity of fresh water, resulting in harmful effects on human health and/or economic activity….”

World Water Day provides a good opportunity to reflect upon how we use water at home and work and in our businesses. It is becoming an increasingly precious natural resource that must be protected and conserved.

CATEGORIES: Climate Change, Real Estate and Environment, Sustainability, Water

PEOPLE: E. Lynn Grayson

March 21, 2017 CDP A-List: Why It Matters

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By E. Lynn Grayson World Water Day 2017

The Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP’s) Global Water Report 2016 titled Thirsty Business: Why Water is Vital to Climate Action analyzes water disclosures made through the CDP’s 2016 information request. It was aimed at companies facing water risks and opportunities and investors seeking to better understand how water issues might impact portfolios. The report provides insight into the connection between water, energy and private sector efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

 Key findings from these corporate water disclosures include: 

  1. Water related risks cost business $14 billion dollars in 2016—a fivefold increase over prior year’s costs (These financial impacts come from drought, flooding, tightening environmental regulation and the cost of cleaning up water pollution and fines)
  2. 24% of greenhouse gas reductions depend on a stable supply of good quality water
  3. 53% of companies report better water management in the context of delivering greenhouse gas reductions

The CDP report evaluates corporate performance over five key metrics relating to water management, including tracking water use, reporting and target-setting. In 2016,  61% of companies reported that they track their water use , an increase of 3% over last year.

Ford and Colgate Palmolive are among the best companies in the world when it comes to water management, according to the CDP’s Water A List. The annual index  highlights companies implementing best practices in sustainable water management. In 2016, 24 companies made the CDP Water A List, up from eight last year. Ford and Colgate Palmolive are the only two U.S. companies identified on the A List in 2016. 

So what can companies do to better manage and reduce their water-related risk? The first step is assessing water use and setting measurable targets. But unlike corporate carbon emissions, there really is no standard methodology that business relies upon to measure and monitor water use. CDP has partnered with the UN CEO Water Mandate, The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute and WWF to develop a methodology that will help companies set context-based water targets — essentially a science-based targets approach to water management. In light of company disclosures confirming that 54% of the 4,416 water risks identified will  materialize over the next six years, there should be no shortage of corporate interest in test-driving the upcoming water methodology.

CATEGORIES: Climate Change, Real Estate and Environment, Sustainability, Water

PEOPLE: E. Lynn Grayson

March 20, 2017 World Water Day: Wednesday, March 22, 2017--Jenner & Block Announces Special Water Series

World Water Day 2017GraysonBy E. Lynn Grayson

World Water Day, held on March 22 every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.

In recognition of World Water Day 2017, the Corporate Environmental Lawyer blog plans to run a weeklong series focused on the critical issues concerning water quality and quantity in the U.S. and globally. This year’s theme for World Water Day is wastewater.

Why wastewater?

Globally, the vast majority of all the wastewater from our homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to nature without being treated or reused—polluting the environment and losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials.

Instead of wasting wastewater, we need to reduce and reuse it. In our homes, we can reuse greywater on our gardens and plots. In our cities, we can treat and reuse wastewater for green spaces. In industry and agriculture, we can treat and recycle discharge for things like cooling systems and irrigation.

By exploiting this valuable resource, we will make the water cycle work better for every living thing. And we will help achieve the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal 6 target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase water recycling and safe reuse.

Learn more about the importance of how we manage wastewater by viewing this fact sheet.

 

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Climate Change, RCRA, Real Estate and Environment, Sustainability, Water

PEOPLE: E. Lynn Grayson