The Federal Council recently published its dispatch regarding the total revision of the Federal Act on the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions for 2021 to 2030. The parliamentary debate on the revision of the act will start in 2018. This will define the development and course of Swiss climate policy for upcoming years. Switzerland aims to tighten the act and reinforce its contribution to the limitation of global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The Ninth Circuit recently issued an opinion that reflected a limited interpretation of the scope of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act's anti-duplication provision, which provides that the act must be construed to apply to or authorise state regulation of "any activity or substance" regulated under several other federal statutes, including the Clean Water Act.
A pair of new lawsuits claim that various government officials and agencies are violating youth plaintiffs' constitutional rights due to a failure to combat climate change sufficiently. The first case is against the state of Alaska, its governor and various other state officials and agencies. The second case alleges that specific Trump administration actions violated the plaintiffs' due process and public trust doctrine rights.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a directive intended to strengthen and improve membership on the agency's advisory committees. The directive calls for the EPA to apply the following principles in setting membership on its advisory committees: strengthen member independence; increase state, tribal and local government participation; enhance geographic diversity; and promote fresh perspectives.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently issued two notices of data availability in support of its proposed stays of various portions of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards for the oil and gas industry (known as the 'Quad Oa' rule). The notices include a proposed two-year stay of the Quad Oa requirements and a proposed three-month stay to run during the gap between the publication and effective dates of the two-year stay.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final rule addressing which areas of the United States are in attainment of the 2015 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). The agency found that 2,646 of the over 3,100 counties in the United States are in attainment of the ozone NAAQS. The EPA will continue to review the designation of the remaining counties.
The National Agency for Industrial Safety and the Protection of the Environment in the Hydrocarbons Sector recently filed a draft emergency Mexican official standard before the Federal Regulatory Betterment Commission. The draft establishes the criteria for classifying types of special and hazardous waste derived from the hydrocarbons sector, determines which types of waste are subject to a waste management plan and details the procedures for formulating such a plan.
Congress recently approved a tax reform that introduced a new Pigovian or green tax and amended income and indirect tax rates. The green tax will apply directly to emissions derived from industrial processes that result in environmental damage. The new tax will be implemented before the end of 2017 and will affect industrial establishments that use boilers or turbines.
In a recent opinion the US District Court of the District of Massachusetts partly dismissed an environmental group's challenge to a Boston Harbour terminal's stormwater permit, which claimed that the permit fails to protect the group's members from future harm caused by climate change. The court held that alleged injuries which would not occur until 2050 or 2100, as alleged in the complaint, could not be considered imminent and therefore dismissed the claim based on future effects.
Contrary to the EU emissions trading system (ETS), thus far the Swiss ETS does not incorporate aviation emissions. In order to align and link the Swiss and EU ETS, the Swiss system must include these emissions. As such, the Federal Council recently adopted the Ordinance on the Acquisition and Reporting of Tonne-Kilometre Data relating to Distances Covered by Aircraft.
The first update and review of Austria's national water management planning instrument has revealed that the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive will be achieved neither to their full extent nor in a timely manner. Nonetheless, the National Water Management Plan 2015 is a useful and comprehensive document that contains extensive information for all stakeholders and sets out the next steps to achieve the ultimate goal of restoring Austria's water bodies.
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit recently vacated and remanded a Natural Gas Act Section 7 certificate of public convenience and necessity granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The ground to vacate and remand the certificate was FERC's failure under the National Environmental Policy Act to adequately discuss the downstream effects of carbon emissions from natural gas transported through the pipelines in the project's environmental impact statement.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently took historic action under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The new rules will almost immediately affect chemical manufacturers and those who use products that contain chemicals. All companies that manufacture, use, process, import, export or sell products containing chemicals must understand the new regulatory regime and the new obligations and hurdles that it presents.
The Constitutional Court recently reached a landmark decision and overturned the Federal Administrative Court decision which had rejected the permit for a third runway at Vienna International Airport on the grounds of climate protection and land use. This decision is significant in that it has far-reaching consequences for many other projects beyond the scope of the third runway. It is also relevant to Austria as a business hub.
The Land and Environment Court of Appeal recently determined a case regarding exemption from national provisions to protect the fungus species Sarcosoma globosum. While the ruling provides some nuance and clarification, the case has since been subject to interesting and varying interpretations by land owners, authorities and law practitioners.
Following the expansion of shale oil extraction projects and the discovery of unconventional hydrocarbon deposits, the National Agency for Industrial Safety and the Protection of the Environment in the Hydrocarbons Sector recently commenced a public consultation process to enact applicable water protection guidelines. The draft guidelines provide a glimpse of the authorities' preliminary approach to shale oil projects with regard to water resources and environmental protection.
President Trump recently followed through on one of his signature campaign promises and announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. This fits firmly within the new administration's agenda to promote domestic fossil fuel development. There has been speculation that some signatories may attempt to use trade, such as a tariff on the carbon content of US exports, to take a tougher stance with the United States, which could result in additional costs for US businesses.
Recent environmental law developments include the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's granting of the Environmental Protection Agency's request to indefinitely hold litigation in abeyance concerning the June 2016 new source performance standards for the oil and natural gas sector while the agency re-evaluates the rule. In addition, New York state recently released its Methane Reduction Plan, a collaborative effort by five state agencies.
As part of its expansion of operational safety and environmental protection guidelines and administrative provisions, the National Agency for Industrial Safety and the Protection of the Environment in the Hydrocarbons Sector turned its attention to oil, gas and petrochemical pipeline transportation activities. Recently issued guidelines complement the environmental legal framework so that both environmental and personal safety are guaranteed during the lifetime of a pipeline project.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently granted industry requests to reconsider certain aspects of its new source performance standards for the oil and natural gas sector, which were issued as a Clean Air Act final rule in June 2016. In response to concerns raised in administrative petitions in August 2016, the EPA has stated that it will reconsider the final rule's fugitive emissions monitoring requirements, alternative emissions limitations and coverage of low-production wells.