Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Supreme Court decision provides Superfund Responsible Parties with some relief

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jul 27, 2020

Forty years ago, the federal “Superfund” law -- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) – was enacted to provide legal requirements and procedural methodologies to speed identification and cleanup of contamination. Today, cleanups continue and the requirements and procedures continue to evolve. In April, the United States Supreme Court issued its latest decision interpreting a Superfund provision, this one defining clearer limitations on when the owners of contaminated land can force Responsible Parties for that contamination to pay for cleanup more extensive (and expensive) than cleanup ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The case is Atlantic Richfield Company v. Christian.

Read More

Tags: EPA, RCRA, clean water, Supreme Court, Superfund law, CERCLA, The Montana Supreme Court

Remember OSHA’s workplace hygiene requirements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Jun 10, 2020

Employers considering how to protect their employees from coronavirus infections can look to a growing variety of general and specific guidance. I recently wrote about the latest coronavirus-specific guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (see HERE). 

Read More

Tags: OSHA, EPA, clean water, CDC, Workplace hygiene, sanitation

Environmental Protection Agency issues administrative inspection rules

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Jun 03, 2020

Effective March 2, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued rules governing the agency’s administrative civil inspection procedures (40 CFR s. 31.1). These new rules meet a requirement created by President Trump’s Executive Order (EO) 13892 (“Promoting the Rule of Law Through Transparency and Fairness in Civil Administrative Enforcement and Adjudication”), issued October 9, 2019 (I wrote about this EO HERE). The new rules apply to on-site civil inspections conducted by EPA personnel, and to federally credentialled contractors and Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) employees conducting inspections on EPA’s behalf; they do not apply to criminal investigations, nor to state and state-credentialled inspections.

Read More

Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, clean water, clean air

Department of Justice Restricts Supplemental Environmental Project Agreements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, May 20, 2020

Effective March 12, 2020, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) prohibits its US attorneys from entering into settlements in which DOJ lowers penalties for defendants that agree to conduct “supplemental environmental projects (SEPs)”, if the SEP involves payments to a third party. This action is the latest in a series of DOJ moves against SEPs since President Trump took office. The first such step was a June 2017 DOJ management memorandum directing US attorneys NOT to agree to SEPs that include payments to third parties (I wrote about that memo HERE). The second was an August 2019 memorandum restricting use of SEPs in Clean Water Act (CWA) cases against state and local governments, in which DOJ rejected arguments that recent legislation allows them (I wrote about that memo HERE).

Read More

Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, clean water, clean air, DOJ, SEP, CWA, Environmental Projects

EPA and the Corps of Engineers Finish Redefining “Waters of the United States”

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Mar 18, 2020

On January 23, 2020 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) finalized revisions to narrow their joint regulatory definitions of “waters of the United States”, applying authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The agencies characterize this narrowing as an increase in certainty for stakeholders, accomplished by eliminating some of the site-specific discretion that the 2015 rules provided to permit writers.

This marks the latest step in a cycle of rulemakings that began during the Obama administration in 2015, when the same agencies adopted revisions to the same rules expanding their definitions in order to interpret and apply then-recent decisions by the US Supreme Court.

Read More

Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, clean water

Trump Administration Proposes to “Modernize” Federal Environmental Impact Assessments by Narrowing Them

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 25, 2020

The federal Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has proposed to revise its regulations administering the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions, and incorporate this information into their decisions. Government-wide guidance is provided by the White House’s CEQ, established by NEPA and appointed by the President. CEQ issues formal regulations that agencies must follow, and guidance documents that provide additional advice.  CEQ also reviews agencies’ NEPA implementation programs, and publishes annual national Environmental Quality Reports.

Read More

Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, EPA, clean water, site auditing, greenhouse

EPA Seeking to Enhance Water Quality Trading

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Dec 12, 2019

For nearly 30 years, environmental regulation has included examples of market-like mechanisms, where overall pollution limits (“budgets”) are set and individual sources assigned trade-able “emission credits” that can be traded among sources as they negotiate the most efficient pathways to overall reduction necessary to meet the budget. Although proliferating “cap and trade” systems for greenhouse gases are probably the most widely known, other examples abound.

Read More

Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, clean water

EPA Proposes to Revise Rule Governing Lead in Drinking Water

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Dec 10, 2019

Since 1991, Safe Drinking Water Act’s (SDWA) Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) has required public water systems (PWSs) to take steps to protect their customers from hazardous levels of lead in drinking water. Even before the highly-publicized crisis in Flint, Michigan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was working to update and expand LCR’s protective measures. These efforts include a 2016 White Paper announcing the “urgent need” for revisions, describing key issues and possible revisions, and projecting a proposal to issue extensive LCR revisions during 2017. However, after President Trump assumed office, EPA’s priorities shifted and the agency delayed action (I summarized the existing LCR and wrote about EPA’s regulatory delay here). In November 2019, EPA proposed LCR changes, which I summarize below.

Read More

Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, clean water

Department of Justice Reemphasizes its Disfavor for Supplemental Environmental Project Agreements with State and Local Governments

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 15, 2019

Since President Trump took office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken repeated steps to restrict federal attorneys from negotiating settlements in which defendants agree to conduct “supplemental environmental projects (SEPs)” in exchange for reduced formal penalties for the noncompliance that led to the agency investigation and enforcement. Proponents see SEPs as a way to promote environmental and health values by encouraging defendants to undertake projects that wouldn’t occur otherwise in order to reduce or eliminate civil and/or criminal liability. Opponents see them as rogue efforts in which prosecutors substitute their own judgment for the statutory and regulatory directives that are supposed to guide their actions.

Read More

Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, EPA, clean water

EPA Decides Not to Require SPCCs to Address Hazardous Substance Spills

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Sep 24, 2019

The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to define “oil” and “hazardous substances”, and includes requirements that EPA establish “procedures, methods, and equipment and other requirements for equipment to prevent discharges of oil and hazardous substances from vessels and from onshore facilities and offshore facilities, and to contain such discharges….” (33 USC § 1321(j)(1)(C)) Since 1973, EPA has required owners and operators of non-transportation-related onshore and offshore facilities to establish and implement Spill Prevention, Countermeasure and Control (SPCC) Plans if they manage more than threshold levels of oils (I summarized these requirements here).

Read More

Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, EPA, Hazcom, effluent, Stormwater, clean water, spcc