Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Department of Justice Reviving Use of Supplemental Environmental Project Agreements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jun 13, 2022

On May 12, 2022, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) published an interim final rule that revokes a Trump-era prohibition against its attorneys’ use of payments to third parties, including via “supplemental environmental projects (SEPs)”, in settlements with violators of federal environmental laws. (I discussed Trump Administration policies several times, most recently HERE). In these cases, DOJ acts as the attorney for the agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that enforce laws and regulations allegedly violated. This rule change would codify policy changes presented in a memorandum from Attorney General Merrick Garland to US attorneys. This change is designed to restore flexibility to DOJ’s US attorneys to trade penalty dollars for more rapid commitments by wrongdoers to undertake actions to offset harms caused by their violations.

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Tags: EPA, DOJ, SEP, Environment, Climate

Biden Administration reverses Trump Administration revisions to Federal Environmental Impact Assessment rules

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, May 09, 2022

The federal Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has revised 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.

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Tags: Environment, Climate, NEPA, CEQ

EPA proposes new bans on asbestos-containing products

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, May 02, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to ban a number of longstanding uses of chrysotile asbestos, using expanded authority provided as part of amendments adopted to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 2016. This proposal is EPA’s latest step to apply its expanded authority to review and restrict uses of asbestos, renewing agency efforts from the 1980s that were blocked by litigation.

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Tags: EPA, Environment, Climate, asbestos

EPA proposes to require worst case release planning by onshore facilities

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Apr 25, 2022

On March 28, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed regulations requiring “non-transportation-related onshore facilities” to prepare response plans covering possible releases of hazardous substances, and submit those plans to EPA. This proposal implements longstanding but unused EPA authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The remainder of this note discusses the proposal.

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Tags: EPA, climate change, Environment, Climate

Biden Administration again proposes to expand EPA’s budget significantly

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Apr 18, 2022

On March 28, the Biden Administration issued its budget proposal for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 (October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023). The administration proposes a $11.9 billion budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a 29% ($2.6 billion) increase above EPA’s adopted 2022 budget of $9.6 billion – similar to the administration’s FY 2022 proposal of $11.2 billion (which I wrote about HERE), which Congress cut considerably.

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Tags: EPA, climate change, Environment, Climate

SEC proposes climate-related disclosure requirements for public companies

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Apr 04, 2022

When must organizations evaluate and disclose how climate change will affect their operations?

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) administers reporting requirements for companies listed on national securities exchanges (“listed companies” or “public companies”), under federal securities laws including the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Some of the SEC’s requirements provide detailed specifications, such as financial reporting consistent with Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP). Others are less quantified, requiring reporting of information that might be “material” to investors’ evaluation of a public company. Over time, SEC has added topics subject to reporting of material information, and some of these generalized requirements have evolved into more specific ones. In the latest example of this evolution, in March 2022 SEC is proposing regulatory requirements for disclosures about “climate-related risks and metrics” by public companies, enhancing and standardizing existing agency guidance (I’ve written about these several times over the years, most recently HERE). The remainder of this note summarizes SEC’s proposal.

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Tags: climate change, Environment, Climate

Department of Justice recalibrating enforcement policies

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jun 01, 2021

Within the US federal government, the Department of Justice (DOJ) enforces many civil and criminal laws directly, and also provides the attorneys who represent federal agencies in enforcement cases. For example, DOJ’s “US attorneys” represent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in cases under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, etc. In doing so, DOJ provides those attorneys with departmental policies to guide their activities – as a practical matter, DOJ policies supersede any conflicting client-agency policies. It’s therefore important, that since the Biden administration assumed office, Attorney General Garland and his deputies have moved aggressively to review and revise departmental policies inherited from the Trump administration. The remainder of this note discusses some of these changes.

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Tags: EPA, DOJ, Environment, ENRD, Climate