On March 14, 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture officially designated twelve Arizona Counties as primary natural disaster areas on account of agricultural loses brought on by intensifying drought. Despite being one the hottest and driest states in the nation, the state is one of the most agriculturally productive, sustaining a multi-billion dollar industry. As drought threatens this economic boon, competing interest groups petition the state legislature to adjust water-use regulations that have failed to stem shortages.
Since the Hanford Site stopped producing plutonium in 1987, contractors continue to clean up leftover radioactive contamination and hazardous solid and liquid waste. Although precautions are being taken to prevent workers from being contaminated by or exposed to the waste, the risk remains and worker’s compensation claims follow. The Department of Energy (DOE) OIG recently published an audit report concluding that the DOE does not have effective policies and procedures concerning the Workers’ Compensation Program at the Hanford Site.
Trump Tower is one of many buildings along the Chicago River that uses river water for its cooling systems. Trump Tower is the second largest intake system from the river. Illinois Attorney General, Madigan, filed a lawsuit against the property to ensure that such a large quantity user is not allowed to continue to violate the law. As the value of riverfront property rise, and development continues, enforcement of these types of permits is likely to increase.
President Trump has made his opinion of federal regulations known from the very start of his presidency. He clearly believes that federal regulations, especially those established by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), inhibit economic growth and unduly burden American businesses. However, it is equally unclear how his deregulatory efforts have benefitted anyone other than corporate America. Rather than utilizing his considerable influence to protect the health of the American people, President Trump and his administration have been hard at work unraveling such protections, much to the frustration of the states.
Congress has granted the President the authority to withdraw the Secretary of the Interior’s grants of mineral rights on public lands. However, President Trump has used that same grant of power to remove withdraws of some of the protections President Obama placed. On May 3, 2017, a group of environmental non-profits filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration in the Federal District Court of Alaska, alleging that his actions were an unauthorized use his Presidential power. On March 20, 2018, the Court denied the Defendant’s motion to dismiss.
Power plants generate a residue after burning coal called coal ash. In October 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established standards to address the environmental dangers and health risks of coal ash. In May 2017, industry officials petitioned the EPA to reconsider the rule, claiming adverse effects due to high compliance costs. The EPA agreed to review the coal ash regulations and announced one of two proposals to amend regulations in March 2018. The new proposal provides facilities more flexibility in coal ash disposal based on their needs.
Compliance professionals all over the country are paying close attention to the Trump administration’s deregulatory campaign. While deregulation in finance has received the most media attention, the uranium mining industry has been a quiet beneficiary of the President’s new regulatory scheme.
The Obama administration’s “Clean Water Rule” was designed to control pollution in approximately 60% of the country’s bodies of water. The Rule primarily extended current federal regulations to smaller bodies of water, requiring that pollution of rivers and wetlands be held to the same environmental penalties as larger bodies of water. However, the Trump administration has suspended enforcement of the regulation for two years. During that time, they will re-consider the definition of “waters of the United States.” The Trump administration intends to release a new version this year.
In early January of this year, the House Committee on Armed Services granted an extension to a bill that would increase border security. An unlikely opponent of this bill is the environmental lobby, since the bill would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to waive the requirements of some of the most important environmental protection statutes. These statutes have been the basis for almost all the citizen enforcement in the environmental arena; they work to maintain protections for 73 different areas along the border, along with numerous endangered species.
Environmental and tribal groups have historically taken important roles in implementing and enforcing regulations to protect the environment. In a recent action, environmental and tribal groups took on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in an attempt to quash BLM’s elimination of a rule regulating the chemicals used in fracking. Although the final rule was originally officially published and implemented in 2015, it never went into full effect due to major challenges brought by the oil and gas industry. However, the Trump administration recently repealed the rule in its entirety, prompting a lawsuit arguing that the BLM is required to promulgate regulations as part of its mission.