No single answer exists for how the regulated community is expected to meet their environmental obligations or address potential delays in environmental compliance, especially amidst shelter-in-place orders in several states due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, relief from environmental obligations during this pandemic may be available under certain environmental laws and legal obligations. The nature of that relief will largely depend on the specific legal requirement, the impact on the source itself, and the evolving response by federal and state governments to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Both communities and companies will no longer benefit from the use of Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) in settlements of environmental enforcement actions, following the United States Department of Justice’s (DOJ) comprehensive policy review and prohibition of the practice in all settlements. Despite 30 years of productive use backing these mutually beneficial arrangements, which began during my time at the DOJ in the 1990s, the DOJ has officially called it quits for now – at least until the next administration has a chance to reconsider this decision. For those who have not been immersed in these environmental enforcement actions, SEPs allow settling parties to mitigate a portion of a civil penalty in exchange for performance of environmentally beneficial projects.
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Continuing reductions in environmental regulations across the power industry may seem like a good time for the C-suite to direct energy and attention towards other key priorities, but there is another force steadily working to tug reform back over the line — highly organized and increasingly strategic NGOs. Because deregulation is antithetical to their policy preferences, environmental groups routinely argue that federal agencies violate federal statutory laws, and power plant operations and infrastructure get caught in the crossfire.

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On July 21, 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) in Docket No. RM16-17-000 to revise regulations regarding the collection of data for analytics and surveillance purposes from market-based rates (MBR) sellers and entities trading virtual products or holding financial transmission rights (Virtual/FTR Participants). FERC also withdrew two earlier NOPRs in Docket Nos. RM15-23-000 and RM16-3-000. FERC indicated that the newly-issued NOPR would address many of the issues in the withdrawn NOPRs.
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On June 22, 2016, President Obama signed the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act into law.  The Act is the first significant change to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act in 40 years and amends the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) methods for reviewing chemical substances before they are marketed and allowed to be used in consumer products.

The Act has several new key features:
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On July 29, 2015, the CFTC’s Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee met and heard from a panel on the impact that the initiatives regarding trade options and forwards with embedded volumetric optionality (EVO) will have on energy and environmental markets. In May 2015, the CFTC amended its seven-part guidance on distinguishing forward contracts with embedded volumetric optionality from commodity options and, in a separate rulemaking, the CFTC proposed to narrow the trade option exemption to the swaps regulations applicable to commodity options.
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