In a key decision earlier this month with potentially hefty ongoing implications for developers and property owners, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held a chemical company liable for nearly $1 million in pre-acquisition cleanup costs. The case is Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection v. Trainer Custom Chemical, LLC and offers another clear illustration that property owners and developers may be liable for environmental response costs incurred before they acquired property.
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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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While the manufacturing industry assesses the benefits of President Trump’s promised relaxation of federal environmental policy, many may find themselves increasingly embroiled with other challenges. Likely at the top of that list are disputes with “citizen scientists” – non-scientists eager to fill in what they see as gaps in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation and enforcement.

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The arrival of a new year marks the beginning of the annual proxy season. And this year, shareholders can expect to see a lot more climate change disclosure in 2017 corporate financials.

Companies now have guidelines to help do that. In June 2017, the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB) Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) issued voluntary disclosure recommendations, so companies can provide shareholders with information about the business risks, opportunities, and impacts posed by climate change. The TCFD is an international coalition of business, government, and financial leaders tasked with developing voluntary disclosure recommendations to help companies identify, report, and protect against climate risks. The voluntary recommendations are designed to “foster shareholder engagement and broader use of climate-related financial disclosures, thus promoting a more informed understanding of climate-related risks and opportunities by investors and others.”  Id. at iv.  The TCFD emphasizes that disclosure should be made according to each jurisdiction’s requirements and that the guidelines do not replace existing law.
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