Author:

Daniel Bourgault

The Clean Air Act: Private Groups Fill Regulatory Void – Sue to Hold EPA Accountable for Failure to Properly Regulate Dangerous Emissions

On October 13, 2020 Earthjustice filed a petition for review with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups and scientists asserting that a Final Rule promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) failed to adequately regulate certain carcinogenic emissions as required by the Clean Air Act. The Miscellaneous Organic Chemical Manufacturing (“MON”) rule, effective as of August 12, 2020, regulates toxic emission of about 200 chemical plants which release dangerous carcinogens including ethylene oxide which have been shown to be contributing to cancer hotspots around the country.  However, the petitioners contend that the final MON rule fails to properly regulate unacceptable levels of risk posed by ethylene oxide and the other carcinogens released by MON facilities.

Open Meetings and Government Transparency in the Wake of COVID-19

On March 16, 2020, Governor JB Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-07 which, among other things, suspended certain provisions of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“OMA”), an act which ensures transparency regarding meetings, discussions, and actions taken by public actors concerning public business.  The executive order was a response to the practical challenges to compliance with the OMA’s in-person and physical quorum requirements facing local governments as they grapple with restrictions on public gatherings due to the public health threat of COVID-19, declared an emergency in Illinois by Pritzker’s Gubernatorial Disaster Declaration on March 12, 2020.  Since March, Pritzker has continued to re-issue and extend COVID-19-related executive orders and the disaster declarations, including the executive actions identified above and their restrictions and suspensions applicable to the OMA, most recently through Executive Order 2020-55 on September 18, 2020.  While the suspensions through executive order have provided a temporary solution allowing local governments to comply with the OMA in such an emergency situation, the Illinois legislature took it upon itself to address the issue permanently by amending the OMA statute.

The NEPA: Environmental Impact Statements, Compliance, and an Impending Threat to Environmental Regulation

On March 25, 2020, a judge for the United States District Court in the District of Columbia held that the Army Corp of Engineers (hereinafter the Corp) failed to comply with the standards of the National Environmental Policy Act (hereinafter “the Act”) by failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before deciding to approve federal permits for construction of a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline which ran under the Mississippi River.  The ruling came four years after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe brought the original action in 2016.  The Act is meant to ensure the public that agencies have considered the environmental consequences of a potential project before going forward with it, and so requires agencies to consider any and every significant environmental impact that could result from the project through completion of an Environmental Assessment, and, in some cases, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).