On November 10, the Biden Administration announced a proposal to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to require “major federal suppliers” and “significant federal suppliers” to disclose their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and assessments of climate-related risks, and to set targets for GHG emission reductions. The rest of this note summarizes this proposal.Read More
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
The US had been a major player in the drafting and enactment of the Kigali Amendment (during President Obama’s administration), but then withdrew its support (during President Trump’s administration). However, the US enacted Kigali-like requirements in the December 2020 coronavirus relief bill (American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act)), among the many provisions buried within its 5,593 pages; EPA finalized its rules in September 2021 (I wrote about these rules here).
The remainder of this note summarizes the situation.
Why are HFCs being phased down, and how?HFCs were developed primarily as substitutes for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are the principal ozone depleting substances (ODSs) targeted by the Montreal Protocol. HFCs have lower but non-zero ozone depleting potential, and are greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Accordingly, nearly 30 years after the initial 1987 approval of the Montreal Protocol roughly 200 national and international parties negotiated HFC phase-downs. As adopted in Kigali, Rwanda these amendments divide countries into three groups with different schedules and targets:
- developed nations including the United States – cut consumption to 90% of 2011-2013 baseline of most HFCs (plus 15% of those already covered by the Protocol) by 2019, declining to 15% by 2036
- most developing nations, including China and over 100 others - consumption to peak in 2024 at 100% of 2011-2013 baseline of most HFCs (plus 25% of those already covered by the Protocol), declining to 20% by 2045
- 10 hot-climate developing countries (where air conditioning is particularly important), including India, Pakistan and some Gulf states - consumption to peak in 2028 at 100% of 2011-2013 baseline of most HFCs (plus 25% of those already covered by the Protocol), declining to 15% by 2047
After the Trump administration replaced the Obama administration, the US took no action on this agreement. During this period, however, other countries have moved forward to ratify and work to meet their commitments.
What HFC-related provisions did the AIM Act enact?The massive coronavirus relief bill includes Division S (“Innovation for the Environment”), with section 103 (“American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020”). Without mentioning the Kigali Amendment, section 103 incorporates its requirements into US law:
- the legislation lists 18 specific HFCs, and authorizes EPA to designate additional formulations
- EPA was to calculate 2011-2013 production and consumption baselines for each, and to use these to calculate future phase-down levels ranging from 90% in 2020 to 15% in 2036 and thereafter
- EPA was to issue regulations with 270 days (by 9/23/21) to set phase-down requirements, with associated procedural requirements including allowances associated with each baseline amount, and reclamation and destruction methods
EPA’s rules are designed to meet these requirements. In addition, EPA has initiated or re-invigorated other programs to support the phase-down of HFCs and their replacement by refrigerants that are less harmful to global climate and the stratospheric ozone layer.
What now?Ratification will become official once the US submits formal notification to the United Nations. The new rules took effect on November 4, 2021 and are progressing; EPA proposed 2024-reduction formulas on October 20, 2022.. While domestic requirements will not change from those enacted through the AIM Act, ratification returns the US to the center of international HFC-reduction efforts, and reinforces national commitments to the environment.
- Does the organization manufacture, import or use any ozone depleting substance (ODS) subject to the Montreal Protocol and/or CAA Title VI?
- If the phase-out date for any ODS has passed, do any of the organization’s activities qualify with applicable exceptions or essential uses?
- Does the organization manufacture, import or use any HFCs?
- Has the organization reviewed any such activity to identify alternatives for any HFC that is or may become subject to phase-down under US and international law?
Where do I go for more information?
Information available via the Internet includes:
● US legislation
When must organizations evaluate and disclose how climate change will affect their operations?
The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) provides a cooperative forum for Canada’s provincial and territorial securities regulators, including the development of model regulations and associated guidance. Last October, CSA took its latest step toward climate-related disclosure requirements, by proposing “National Instrument 51-107 – Disclosure of Climate-related Matters;” public comments were due by January 17, 2022. Assuming CSA moves ahead and finalizes this National instrument (NI), then securities regulators throughout Canada will enact equivalent requirements and establish compliance deadlines for companies they regulate.
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.
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.
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.Read More
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.Read More