Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

EPA finalizing HFC phase-down rules

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Oct 06, 2021

On September 23, 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced final rules to phase down production and consumption of specified hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs) (I wrote about the proposal HERE). These HFCs are used in refrigeration and air conditioning and fire suppression, and as foam blowing agents and solvents. These rules are consistent with directives included in the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the United Nations-sponsored Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (which I wrote about HERE). The US finally enacted statutory support for Kigali-like requirements in the December 2020 coronavirus relief bill (American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act)), which included dozens of unrelated provisions within its 5,593 pages.

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Tags: EPA, climate change, Environment, HFCs, Montreal Protocol, Ozone Layer

US Federal insurance Office seeking information on climate-related financial risks

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Sep 27, 2021

Organizations around the world are responding to the latest climate-related risk assessment produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which replaced earlier cautionary information with an urgent warning that climate change is “widespread, rapid, and intensifying.” On August 31, the US Federal Insurance Office (FIO), an element of the Department of the Treasury, published a “Request for Information on the Insurance Sector and Climate-Related financial Risks” (RFI) in the Federal Register, posing 19 questions it will use to focus its application of climate-related risks to the domestic insurance sector. Insurers should obviously be interested in these questions and their answers, but any entity that buys insurance should consider them as well. The remainder of this note summarizes FIO’s questions.

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Tags: climate change, Environment, FIO, IPCC, RFI

Maine enacts first US extended producer responsibility law for packaging

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Sep 01, 2021

In recent years, governments around the world have extended solid waste management efforts to support—and in some cases require—recycling and resource recovery efforts to divert more solid wastes from landfills, and to substitute reused materials or raw materials. Increasingly, specialized stewardship programs target particular types of hazardous wastes – used oils, spent batteries, etc. – the national advocacy group Product Stewardship Institute identifies more than 120 such programs spread among 34 US states (I introduced these efforts HERE). Maine already has a number of these programs.

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Tags: Environment, environmental law, Maine, Recyclable, Packaging

Proliferating product stewardship programs facilitate recycling

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Aug 18, 2021

Solid waste management has come a long way since enactment of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) of 1965 to address the national “landfill crisis.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) applies SWDA authority to adopt landfill standards, which are administered by state and local governments. EPA also empowers these state and local governments to do more, not just through additional disposal standards, but through expanded requirements for recycling and resource recovery efforts designed to keep more solid wastes out of landfills. In addition, extended management programs impose “product stewardship” and “extended producer responsibility” on manufacturers. This note discusses these introduces these ideas, and summarizes the extent of state programs that apply them.

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Tags: EPA, SWDA, Environment, environmental law, Recyclable, Stewardship Program

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

Avoiding false and misleading environmental advertising

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, May 26, 2021

A host of laws are designed to protect consumers from abusive business practices. These laws include longstanding protections against advertising that uses “false” or “misleading” advertising to induce consumers to buy products that do not perform as advertised, or that produce consequences different from those advertised. The basic U.S. federal law protecting consumers from false advertising is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act, originally adopted in 1914; many states have enacted analogous provisions (in Canada, the Competition Act also provides analogous requirements). Organizations must meet these standards if they intend to make claims about their products or services, and should remember these provisions when reading materials prepared by others. 

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Tags: Environment, FTC, FTC Green Guides

US joins the world in HFC phasedown

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, May 11, 2021

On April 30, 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rules to phase down production and consumption of specified hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs), consistent with directives included in the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the United Nations-sponsored Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. These rules were authorized by the massive coronavirus relief bill (American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act)) enacted in December 2020, which included dozens of unrelated provisions within its 5,593 pages.

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Tags: EPA, climate change, Environment, HFCs, Montreal Protocol, Ozone Layer, AIM Act, ODS

EPA Revises Multi-Sector General Permit For Industrial Stormwater Discharges

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, May 05, 2021

Effective March 1, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a revised “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Multi-Sector General Permit for Discharges from industrial Activities” (MSGP).” This new 2021 MSGP replaces EPA’s 2015 MSGP (which expired in 2020 but was continued by administrative fiat). Compliance begins May 30, 2021 for facilities that have been subject to the 2015 MSGP. Even though EPA's direct permit authority applies only in limited parts of the country, the new MSGP provides a reminder to organizations nationwide that stormwater management efforts need to be thorough and up-to-date.

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Tags: EPA, Stormwater, clean water, NPDES, Environment, MSGP

Biden directs agencies to review all Trump administrative actions

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Feb 22, 2021

President Biden is moving quickly to review and revise many of former President Trump’s administrative actions. As I discussed HERE, the fastest mechanisms for these reversals are executive orders (EOs) and slightly less formal executive memoranda from the President or his agency heads. One of the EOs signed on president Biden’s first day of office starts immediate action to review all Trump administrative actions. EO 13990 of January 20, 2021, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis”, applies to all federal agencies but focuses on President Trump’s environmental actions. The remainder of this note discusses this particular EO. 

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Tags: Environmental, climate change, Environment, Environmental Policy

How, and how fast, can Democrats make environmental policy changes they’ve promised?

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Feb 17, 2021

President Biden and the Democratic majorities in Congress have announced sweeping plans to reverse most of the Trump Administration’s environmental policies. The timing and practicality of these reversals depends very much on each of the targeted policy’s legal status – laws, regulations, Executive Orders, or guidance documents. The remainder of this note comments on each of these sets of situations, highlighting examples of each. I’ll discuss them in order ranging from quickest/easiest to most time consuming/difficult.

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Tags: Environmental, climate change, Environment, Environmental Policy