The “major questions” doctrine is likely to substantially affect environmental law. The “major questions” doctrine provides that for “major policy question[s] of great economic or political importance, Congress must either: (i) expressly and specifically decide the major policy question itself and delegate to the agency the authority to regulate and enforce; or (ii) expressly and specifically delegate to the agency the authority to both decide the major policy question and to regulate and enforce.” As we noted in our last post touching on the “major questions” doctrine, we expect that the “major questions” doctrine may be a focus of other cases on the docket this year including a pending case involving U.S. Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas regulations.

Continue Reading Court Cites “Major Questions” Doctrine when Striking Down Biden “Social Cost of Carbon” Efforts

In a January 19, 2022, speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Michael S. Regan confirmed that “[f]or this EPA, environmental justice is not an add-on or an afterthought ― it is a central driving factor in all that we do.” Since his appointment as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Regan has repeatedly stressed that environmental justice will be a priority for EPA under his leadership. A press release issued a week ago outlined new concrete steps EPA will take to make good on that commitment.
Continue Reading EPA Administrator Michael Regan Emphasizes the High Priority EPA Places on Environmental Justice Issues

The Biden Administration has indicated that the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will include environmental justice issues among its priorities. EPA defines “environmental justice” as meaning fair treatment and meaningful involvement of people regardless of their race, color, national origin, or income regarding the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws. EPA’s new emphasis on environmental justice means the regulated community should be on alert to identify how their operations potentially affect environmental justice issues.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Decision Illustrates the Extent to Which “Justice” Issues Have Entered the Regulation Conversation

Property management companies (PMC) need to pay attention to a recent change in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) enforcement discretion concerning liability from renovations that could encounter lead-based paint. EPA has announced a change to its enforcement priorities for the Lead Renovation Repair and Paintings (RRP) Rule, which applies to renovations, repairs, or painting that could disturb lead-based paint in certain buildings constructed before 1978. Following the change, PMCs themselves, in addition to contractors hired, will be required to be trained by EPA-approved training providers and certify that they follow lead-safe work practices when conducting regulated renovations.
Continue Reading EPA Affirms its Intention to Hold Property Management Companies Responsible for Lead-Based Paint Safety Requirements for Renovations

As our colleagues have noted, the U.S. Supreme Court’s two vaccine-mandate-related decisions impact employers and have significant public health implications.

Outside of the public health context, both decisions ― in cases styled National Fed. of Independent Businesses v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Biden v. Missouri ― provide significant guidance related to principles of administrative law, with which the regulated community will have to grapple in future policy challenges in federal court.
Continue Reading Key Takeaways for the Regulated Community from the Supreme Court’s Vaccine Mandate Decisions

Demonstrating standing can be challenging for plaintiffs in environmental cases. The issues are addressed in court decisions with some regularity – see here and here. A recent Tenth Circuit decision in UPHE v. Diesel Power Gear, LLC, involving Clean Air Act (CAA) allegations against modifications to vehicles – in CAA parlance, “mobile source” – provides interesting guidance into what plaintiffs need to allege to have standing, at least in the Tenth Circuit. The take-away is that even though the impact of individual “defeat devices” on the environment might be small, courts may permit parties to bring claims about them in federal court.
Continue Reading Tenth Circuit Decision Could Pave the Way for More Frequent Clean Air Act Enforcement

Courts exist to adjudicate claimed harms. However, not every court can hear every claim. A recent D.C. district court decision in Jam v. Int’l Fin. Corp. emphasizes how difficult it can be for international plaintiffs to bring U.S. lawsuits for torts occurring abroad. The key holding in Jam – similar to other recent cases – is that just because a corporation makes general decisions about financing or operations in the United States does not mean every plaintiff can sue them in this country for harms occurring abroad. These cases’ holdings indicate that U.S. courts are limiting plaintiffs’ ability to bring suits for tortious activity abroad. As a result, many tort cases focused on international harms likely can be dismissed when the case’s only nexus to the United States is general corporate decision making.
Continue Reading International Plaintiffs’ Suit Jammed for Lack of Jurisdiction: District Court Precludes Plaintiffs’ Claims for Overseas Harms

We often think that environmental regulation comes top-down from Congress and Washington bureaucrats. But that isn’t always the case, as the recent California federal district court decision in California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley illustrates. The court there rejected a preemption challenge to a California municipal ordinance banning the installation of natural gas piping in new construction. The decision demonstrates the need for the regulated community to engage on all levels — federal, state, and local. Federal law does not control every aspect of many regulatory areas. Rather, states and localities continue to have some ability to regulate areas touched by federal statutes and regulations.
Continue Reading California Court Upholds Local Ordinance Precluding Installation of Natural Gas Piping in New Construction

Of course elections matter, and executive branch changes may bring real and meaningful policy change.  But the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA) limits the executive branch’s discretion to shape policy by requiring that policy changes be accompanied by a “reasoned explanation” generally set forth in an administrative record. A recent Ninth Circuit decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. Haaland — addressing Trump Administration changes to federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings — illustrates the guardrails the APA imposes that apply to all executive decision-making.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Decision on Pacific Walrus Illustrates Executive Branch Limits

Regulated industries pay close attention to how regulators use scientific data, because the stakes are high. While scientific knowledge may evolve rapidly, regulatory processes — and the business decisions that rely on them — tend to proceed more deliberately. As a result, the regulated community has long pushed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to base its decisions only on scientific information that is present in the public domain and thus subject to greater scrutiny.
Continue Reading EPA Releases Late-Term “Secret Science” Rule