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.
Continue Reading Everyone Loses with New DOJ Policy Ending 30-Year Practice of Supplemental Environmental Projects

Federal officials often conduct unannounced, sometimes intrusive inspections of regulated entities, which can be a major disruption to companies’ operations and has historically left them with little to do about it but wait for the interruption to pass – until now. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued two documents aimed at improving the efficiency and normalizing the process of conducting environmental inspections and investigations.
Continue Reading Regulated Entities: It’s Time to Speak Up if You Don’t Like How Federal Agents Come Knocking

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week its latest step in the implementation of its Action Plan—a preliminary regulatory determination regarding two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The Action Plan was issued in February 2019 and outlined the agency’s efforts to address PFAS contamination in groundwater. This latest step comes on the heels of the EPA’s November 2019 proposal to add PFAS to the list of chemicals for which facilities must report use under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).

Continue Reading EPA Takes One Step Closer to Regulating PFAS in Drinking Water

The Trillion Trees Initiative was in focus at the January 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos. President Trump endorsed the initiative in his State of the Union address. Companies may want to consider this and other green initiatives as the trend for company sustainability continues to gain traction.
Continue Reading The Trillion Trees Initiative and Sustainability

Regulated entities may not be able to challenge an agency’s informal decisions if those decisions are unpublished and the entity was not a party to the decision. In a recent D.C. Circuit case, the court dismissed a plaintiff’s petition to review an agency’s informal decision for lack of jurisdiction. The plaintiff’s petition, according to the court, had failed to identify a final agency action, such as a discrete informal adjudication or decision making.
Continue Reading Can a Federal Court Obtain Jurisdiction Over an Agency’s Unpublished Informal Decisions?

A district court judge adopted the rarely applied “constructive submission” doctrine, which could ultimately give advocacy groups leverage over states that ignore Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements. This decision may embolden advocacy groups and comes at a time when, as noted in previous posts on this blog, enforcement actions brought by public citizens continue to grow as an effective means of enforcing environmental laws and regulations.
Continue Reading Advocacy Groups Have a New Opening to Enforce the CWA When States Do Not Act

As federal tax incentives for wind and solar energy projects set to expire this year, project costs will increase, which is sure to impact the renewable energy market in 2020. Without these added financial benefits, strategic utility developers will need to pursue cost-effective development options and other available tax incentives to continue making the most of renewable project investments.

As one of several trends we recently introduced as part of our 2020 renewable energy outlook series, this post takes a closer look at developing projects on brownfields and capitalizing on other federal, state, and local tax incentives for developers.
Continue Reading 2020 Renewable Energy Outlook: Redevelopment Opportunities and State and Local Tax Incentives in Lieu of Waning Federal Incentives

Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — long used in consumer and industrial products —  have recently been in the news and the subject of increased regulatory attention, resulting in proposed and implemented regulation on both the state and federal level. PFAS have been used in a variety of products including, fabric protectants, nonstick coatings on cookware, and fire-fighting foams.
Continue Reading Illinois EPA Proposes PFAS Groundwater Standards

Illinois’ new cannabis legislation legalizing recreational cannabis is lauded as the “greenest in the nation” for its integrated environmental protections. The act’s energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste reduction requirements set the bar high for Illinois cannabis cultivators, transporters, and dispensaries. Applicants seeking to best position themselves for one of the initial 75 dispensing licenses are advised to provide an environmental plan of action (Environmental Plan) that demonstrates how the applicant will “minimize the carbon footprint, environmental impact, and resource needs for the dispensary.”
Continue Reading Tips for Satisfying the Illinois Cannabis License Application Environmental Plan

Renewable energy is the fastest growing energy source in the United States, and its development is expected to continue the growth trajectory well into 2020 and beyond. The outlook is bright, but utility companies looking to develop renewable energy can also expect 2020 to be a year of significant changes and challenges. This post is the first in our three-part series covering the renewable energy outlook for 2020 and introducing several key issues on the horizon and trends that we’ve observed.
Continue Reading 2020 Renewable Energy Outlook: Waning Incentives, Redevelopment Opportunities, and Community Opposition