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.
Shipping is the backbone of today’s globalized world and accounts for the carriage of roughly 90% of international trade. Given the sheer number of countries that engage in international shipping, the United Nations created an agency known as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for regulatory oversight purposes. The IMO subsequently created the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the most significant international agreement dealing with maritime vessel pollution to date. A predominant responsibility of the IMO is to reduce shipping emissions, seeing as the industry accounts for nearly 3% of global CO2 emissions. Likewise, sulfur emissions are unacceptably high, which has compelled the IMO to take unprecedented steps toward reducing the sulfur content in the grade of fuel oil used by maritime vessels.
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).
On August 29, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (“the EPA”) announced a proposed reconsideration amendment to an Obama Administration rule regulating the natural gas industry’s methane emissions. This proposal is in response to President Trump’s order for federal agencies to review their actions, purportedly to remove potential resource burdens. The EPA asserts that the changes will remove regulatory duplication and save the industry millions of dollars, but the savings may come at the expense of increasing the planet’s vulnerability.
The battle over pesticide use has long plagued the agricultural sector. The legal challenges to the use of chlorpyrifos has created a debate about how to protect our agricultural system and the harm caused by these dangerous chemicals. A lawsuit was filed based on the EPA’s failure to follow advice of their own scientists. The battle over the use of certain pesticides, and the shifting focus of the EPA has created concerns over the ethical standards of officials in key positions.
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.
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.