February 12, 2010 SEC Issues New Guidance Regarding Climate Change Disclosures

By Jerry J. Burgdoerfer, Gabrielle Sigel, William L. Tolbert, Jr., Elaine Wolff, Lee E. Dionne

At an open meeting held January 27, 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission voted to issue an interpretive release (the “Release”) to provide guidance on existing climate change disclosure obligations.[1] Specifically, the Commission’s discussion identified four categories of information about climate change that companies should consider disclosing:  

  • the impact of legislation and regulation;
  • the impact of international accords;
  • the indirect consequences of regulation or business trends; and
  • the physical impacts of climate change.

CATEGORIES: Climate Change

PEOPLE: Gabrielle Sigel

February 10, 2010 January 2010 Update: Climate Change

By Gabrielle Sigel and Jennifer L. Cassel

Federal Legislative Developments

  • Obama Calls for Comprehensive Energy and Climate Bill in Address to Nation

    On January 27, 2010, in his first State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his desire to see a comprehensive energy and climate bill adopted in the coming year. In his speech, Obama tied such legislation to job creation, providing examples of “green jobs” and emphasizing that, “to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives.” Among the programs Obama espoused are the construction of new, “safe, clean” nuclear power plants; “continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies,” and the passage of a “comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.” While Obama did not mention the words “cap and trade” in his speech, he supported his plea for climate legislation by stating that “providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future—because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.” Obama also indicated that he would be willing to make “tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development,” but only as one component of his energy plan for the country.

 

CATEGORIES: Air, Climate Change

PEOPLE: Gabrielle Sigel

February 5, 2010 February 2010 Update: Environmental Lender Liability

By Gabrielle Sigel and Genevieve Essig

CERCLA Case Law Developments

  • District Court Finds Owner of Leased Equipment Liable Under CERCLA
    On February 9, 2010, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that an owner of equipment leased for use in an electroplating operation is a PRP under CERCLA as a “facility owner at the time [of cleanup].”  United States v. Saporito, No. 07-C-3169, slip op. at 15 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 9, 2010).  In Saporito, the federal government sought to recover $1.5 million it spent to clean up hazardous substances affecting soil and groundwater at the former Crescent Plating Works site on the northwest side of Chicago from defendant individuals James Saporito and Paul Carr.  During the electroplating process, items to be plated were dipped into a series of chemical baths through which an electrical current was run, and hazardous materials contained in the baths, such as sodium cyanide, hexavalent chromium, and TCE, at times splashed onto the concrete floor, ultimately reaching the soil below.  Saporito, whose dealings with Crescent Plating included his purchasing and leasing back to Crescent Plating equipment used in the electroplating process, filed a number of counterclaims against the government and moved for summary judgment on his liability.  The government moved for summary judgment on its claims that Saporito was both an owner and an operator liable under CERCLA, and moved to dismiss Saporito’s counterclaims, both of which the court granted.

PEOPLE: Gabrielle Sigel

January 18, 2010 January 2010 Update: Environmental Lender Liability

By Gabrielle Sigel and Genevieve Essig

CERCLA Case Law Developments

  • District Court Finds Non-Settling PRP Can Intervene in CERCLA Consent Decree

    On January 15, 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia held that a PRP’s right to contribution under CERCLA is a significantly protectable interest permitting a non-settling PRP to intervene as of right to challenge a consent decree between the federal government and a settling PRP. United States v. Exxon Mobil Corp., No. 08-124 (N.D. W. Va. Jan. 15, 2010).  In Exxon, U.S. EPA identified Vertellus Specialties, Inc. (“Vertellus”) and CBS Corporation (“CBS”) as PRPs for contamination at Big John’s Salvage Site (“BJS Site”), a former industrial site in Marion County, West Virginia, the remediation of which could cost more than $24 million.  Exxon, previously identified by EPA as a PRP due to its predecessor’s coke production activities nearby, had agreed to a consent decree under which it would pay the government $3 million in exchange for relief from liability for pollution at the BJS site and protection from contribution claims by other PRPs; Vertellus and CBS asserted that the decree unreasonably underestimates Exxon’s liability and sought intervention under Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2) and CERCLA § 113(i).  Overruling EPA’s objections, the court granted Vertellus’s and CBS’s motions to intervene “for the limited purpose of challenging the proposed consent decree.” Exxon, No. 08-124, slip op. at 20.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, OSHA, RCRA, Water

PEOPLE: Gabrielle Sigel

January 13, 2010 A green economy: What lawyers need to know

Grayson PhotoBy E. Lynn Grayson

A media buzz surrounds the politically charged concept of developing a green economy by investing in initiatives that are good for the environment and financially beneficial for business.

CATEGORIES: Air, Climate Change

August 31, 2009 Water Scarcity: A Critical Climate Change Challenge for Business

Grayson photoBy E. Lynn Grayson

While reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is the best known, most often debated climate change challenge, water scarcity is emerging as the more significant concern confronting the international environment. A report recently released by Ceres and the Pacific Institute, Water Scarcity & Climate Change: Growing Risks for Business & Investors, details the risks posed by the declining availability of water resources throughout the world.[1] The Ceres/Pacific Institute report concludes that climate change will exacerbate these water risks, especially as the world population grows by an expected 50 million a year. This report supports other recent findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluding that global warming will lead to changes in all components of the freshwater system and that water and its availability and quantity will be the main pressures on, and issues for, societies and the environment under climate change.[2]

CATEGORIES: Water