Power plants generate a residue after burning coal called coal ash, more formally known as coal combustion residuals (CCRs). In October 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established national guidelines to address the environmental dangers and health risks of coal ash. In May, nearly two years after the rule regulating the disposal of CCRs from electric utilities came into effect, industry officials petitioned the EPA to reconsider the rule, claiming adverse effects.
Captive insurance companies, insurance companies owned by persons related to the insureds, have long served as an important risk management tool for businesses as varied as Sears and The New York Times. In recent years, there has been an explosion of “micro-captive” insurance companies, companies with premiums that do not exceed $1.2 million in a year. Until 2017, $1.2 million was the allowable maximum amount of premiums for an insurance company to elect favorable tax treatment under I.R.C. § 831(b), allowing the small insurance company to be taxed only on its investment income. The IRS believes that these “831(b)” micro-captives are often used as tax-shelters rather than for legitimate business purposes.
After Hurricane Irma’s dissipation on September 15, 2017, the residents of Florida can now begin to assess the damage caused by the strongest hurricane making landfall since Katrina in 2005. According to early estimates, Irma has caused over 62 billion dollars in damage. However, amongst the destruction there is a silver lining; the damage caused was significantly limited by building regulations that went into effect in 2002. Homes and buildings that would have otherwise been destroyed by Hurricane Irma were able to survive, and suffered only minor damage.
In the last month, multiple large-scale data breaches were reported by various entities, with 3 breaches reported in the past week alone. Unfortunately, even the most well-known entities do not stand a chance against increasing technological abilities of bad actors. Since the Equifax breach in early September, Whole Foods, Sonic, Deloitte and the Securities Exchange Commission, among others, had similar large-scale breaches affecting consumers across the country.
Illinois’ Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”) became effective on January 1, 2017. Illinois is just one of many states that recently strengthened their data breach notification systems and created data security laws to enhance protection of personal information. Like other state provisions, Illinois created stronger safeguards for personal information transmitted electronically. This act requires that all personal information provided electronically must be encrypted or redacted. The amendments to PIPA (1) broadened the statute’s definition of personal information; (2) clarified the safe harbor for encryption; (3) addressed required notification to residents after a breach; and (4) established limited exemptions.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows the United States government to obtain access to the communications (e.g. emails) of non-U.S. citizens without a warrant. The rationale behind the law is its potential for use in gathering intelligence on potential terrorists and potential terrorist activity. The law has become controversial because intelligence on U.S. citizens has incidentally occurred as well, as emails and phone calls from U.S. citizens have been contained in intelligence-storing databases. As the law expires at the end of 2017, Congress is considering changing the ways intelligence is collected pursuant to the collection procedures stipulated under the law.
Environmental regulation has been heavily targeted by President Trump since the first days of his presidency, and even throughout his campaign. He announced early on that he wanted to cut general business regulations by at least 75%. His justification was that he wanted to remove red tape and delays and promote industry growth and economic development. The two industries potentially most affected by changes to environmental regulations are the oil industry and the coal mining industry.
One of this administration’s first big moves towards environmental deregulation was withdrawing from the Paris Accord. Against the advice of many leaders in the tech and fossil fuel industry, Trump chose to withdraw, stating that the terms of the accord were not as favorable to the United States. Experts say the support of the Paris Accord stems from a general trend towards reducing emission and creating more sustainable sources as a better investment than coal and oil, and a more “global framework”. Although some experts and leaders in the fossil fuel industry have been denouncing the changes, others are consulting with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Interior Department on policy changes and leading the teams created to evaluate and remove regulations.
On September 25th, a former Okaloosa County, Florida paramedic, Christopher Wimmer, was sentenced to six months jail time and three years’ probation for taking “selfies” with incapacitated victims in ambulances last year and sending them to a co-worker. He and his co-worker, Kaylee Renee Dubois, were engaged in a “selfie war” with each other and snapped images and videos of patients in ambulances who were unconscious, sedated, intoxicated, or incapacitated. In total, 101 photos, 64 videos, and 41 patients were photographed or recorded during the so-called war, and a mere three patients consented to photographs being taken of them. Employees’ missteps with the privacy rights of patients have a negative lasting effect on their employer, their own career, and their patients.
On May 20, 2016 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new nutrition facts label for packaged foods, the first significant makeover in twenty years. The new label reflects new scientific information regarding our diets; such as the link between diet and chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. This new label comes after three years of negotiations and proposed improvements between the FDA, scientists, and lobbying groups. Those in favor of the changes have pointed out that the old nutrition fact labels had no information to help consumers determine if they were complying with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines’ recommendations and that the labels did not reflect the necessary nutrients per day. These changes affect manufacturers as well as consumers. Manufacturers are not only worried about having to reformulate their foods, but also having to reconsider their ability to make certain nutrient content claims in advertisements and on packaging. Companies will also have to consider additional costs associated with packaging design, development of new artwork, regulatory consultation and review to ensure label compliance, reconsideration of inconsistent advertising, and human costs associated with potential new operating procedures and training to ensure compliance with the new regulations. In response to complaints from manufacturers, consumer advocates are reminding the White House Administration to remember that the FDA’s mission is protect the health of the American people not the bottom line of manufacturers.
Chinese foreign investment policies have long favored investments that bring the country technological advances from foreign companies. In recent years, China has increasingly developed policies which force foreign companies to share their intellectual property with China and to allow Chinese companies to conduct business with the foreign country China has backed off their previous requirements to transfer such information in an attempt to meet the requirements of the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) since joining the organization in September of 2001. Evidenced by President Donald Trump recently signing a directive to initiate an investigation into Chinese trade practices regarding the attainment of intellectual property from foreign companies, many companies and trade organizations believe that China is not adequately protecting intellectual property rights of foreign companies.