A recent federal court ruling in a Sierra Club lawsuit against Dominion Virginia Power alleging violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) raises key questions about how other courts will interpret “point source” and “navigable waters” relative to ash ponds and groundwater releases, and whether a reasoned cost-benefit analysis can be used to substantially mitigate civil penalties and remedy selection.
On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) called “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.” The EO rescinds a host of climate change-related policies and rules instituted by the prior administration, including the Clean Power Plan and the Climate Action Plan. This new energy policy promotes all forms of domestic energy, and, as President Trump stated in the rollout, American energy dominance. The EO, through five policy statements, directs all federal agencies to identify and revise or revoke any rule that “burdens” the energy industry.
The latest ruling in an Iowa case against Des Moines Water Works represents another win for farmers and the agricultural community.
As we previously posted, in January the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against Des Moines Water Works on certified, state-law questions including whether drainage districts are immune from paying money damages. The case had come to the Iowa Supreme Court after the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Iowa had certified state-law questions. The ruling was a relief for the agricultural community, which had been concerned about the potential for large, economic liability associated with nutrient run-off.
On March 3, 2017, BNSF Railway entered into a proposed consent decree with multiple environmental groups, led by the Sierra Club. BNSF agreed to clean up what it characterized as “coal pollution” along its tracks in Washington, fund $1 million in additional environmental work, and study the feasibility of covering its railcars. In exchange, the environmental groups agreed to drop their suit. The agreement allowed BNSF to avoid potentially billions of dollars in penalties, but an earlier ruling in the case set the stage for similar suits to be brought across the country. BNSF may have won its battle, but did it and other railroads lose the war?
Parties that settle environmental claims with the government frequently include covenants not to sue in their settlement agreements. But how does a party ensure that a covenant not to sue prevents the government from suing it again? By negotiating a broad covenant not to sue that contemplates all the ways in which the government may hold it liable at a site.
On February 28, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order directing EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers (the Corps) to rescind or revise the Obama administration’s Water of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
Monsanto has, at least temporarily, lost its fight to avoid a Prop 65 warning label on its products containing glyphosate, a chemical used in the popular herbicide Roundup. On January 27, 2017, a California judge tentatively dismissed Monsanto’s claims that the State of California unconstitutionally turned to an unelected, European organization to decide whether glyphosate posed a cancer risk. Continue Reading
Most businesses face numerous privacy concerns. Businesses that provide confidential information to regulatory agencies face a unique challenge: How can they keep this information private?
Recently, several hundred power plants faced this challenge when environmental groups sued EPA to compel disclosure of confidential information the plants had provided to EPA. The case highlights the different tactics groups may take to obtain information, and reminds businesses to be aware of the laws governing confidentiality of information. Continue Reading
With the inauguration of President Trump as the 45th President of the United States, stakeholders in various sectors of the energy industry have speculated about the future of energy policy in the new administration. While the early days of the administration have seen a clear commitment to the oil and gas sectors with action on the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, the question remains regarding the president’s anticipated support of the renewable energy sector. Continue Reading
In a big win for the agricultural community, the Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled against Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) in its state law claims against upstream drainage districts for nitrate pollution in the Raccoon River. See Bd. of Water Works Trs. of Des Moines v. SAC Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, No. 16-0076, 2017 WL 382402 (Iowa Jan. 27, 2017). The ruling instructs the federal court to dismiss DMWW’s state law claims (leaving only DMWW’s federal claims, which concern whether the districts should be regarded as ‘point sources’ under the Clean Water Act (CWA)). The ruling means that even if DMWW wins on its federal claims, DMWW—and thus the citizens who consume DMWW water—will have to foot the bill for any future nitrate processing. Continue Reading