The government is working hard to achieve its climate goals and has set new milestones to implement a carbon price floor, a climate agreement and the Climate Act. Further, in a landmark judgment, The Hague Appeal Court recently ordered the government to do more to combat climate change. The appeal court's judgment is unprecedented and may serve as a wake-up call for other governments worldwide.
The Federal Supreme Court recently ruled on the allocation of clean-up costs where certain polluters are exempt from liability. For the first time, the court discussed the question of whether a contaminated site owner's exemption from liability leads to a corresponding additional burden on the polluter which, through its own conduct, caused the clean-up measures or whether the additional burden passes to the canton and the municipality.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) criminal office recently announced criminal charges against employees of an oil and gas operation for tampering with and disabling pollution controls and on-board diagnostic (OBD) systems on the company's truck fleet. The EPA and DOJ are expected to continue to shift towards mobile source enforcement, particularly regarding OBD systems.
Article 3 of the Law of Environmental Crimes constitutes Brazil's sole provision regarding legal entities' liability. This clause intended to help to increase legal certainty by restricting the circumstances under which a company may be held criminally liable to those where there is evidence of wilful misconduct by its senior executives or board. However, an examination of court practice shows that many federal and state prosecutors have failed to comply with these legal requirements.
The Constitution provides so-called 'state targets', which are broadly diversified and include state targets on sustainability. The approval procedure for the third runway at Vienna International Airport has prompted the government to strengthen Austria as a business location. This should be achieved by amending the Federal Constitutional Law on Sustainability which, among other things, contains a state target on creating comprehensive environmental protection.
In recent years, Mexico has seen the significant deterioration of its forest resources, making it one of the 10 worst countries in terms of deforestation. To combat this issue, the New General Law for Sustainable Forest Development was recently published in the Federal Official Gazette. The law is an attempt to focus Mexico's forestry regulation on better management of resources, while also safeguarding human rights and social involvement.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recently released a draft toxicological profile for perfluoroalkyl compounds which asserted that they may be harmful to human health at low levels. Due to their non-stick properties, perfluoroalkyl compounds have been used as non-stick coatings for cookware, as paper and cardboard surface coatings and in firefighting foam.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality recently published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register, seeking comment on how best to update its implementing regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act. The Trump administration has identified the National Environmental Policy Act process as a key contributor to slowing down infrastructure projects and has floated changes to it on several occasions.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently approved Oklahoma's proposed permitting programme for the disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR) in landfills and surface impoundments, making the state the first to have a federally approved CCR disposal programme under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
The US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia recently enjoined the Environmental Protection Agency's rule defining the term 'waters of the United States' under the Clean Water Act, which establishes the act's jurisdictional reach. The court determined that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their case and faced a substantial threat of irreparable injury without the preliminary injunction.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) 2016 amended Clean Air Act regional consistency regulations. These regulations state in relevant part that the EPA will apply decisions of the US Supreme Court or DC Circuit on Clean Air Act matters uniformly across its 10 regions.
Farm worker groups recently sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), claiming that the agency had failed to publish national training materials that provide guidance to agricultural field workers on how to best protect themselves against harmful exposure to pesticides. The suit alleges that the EPA's responsibility to develop and publish these materials was triggered by the federal Agricultural Worker Protection Standard.
From July to November 2016, Delaware and Maryland respectively (and together) filed Clean Air Act 126(b) petitions to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging that upwind states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio were significantly contributing to their non-attainment of eight-hour ozone national ambient air quality standards. The EPA recently published its notice of proposed action denying each of these 126(b) petitions.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced his intention to initiate the process to propose to list the fluorochemicals perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate as hazardous substances for the purposes of some federal environmental statutes, including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (or Superfund).
The state of New York recently filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act, asserting that nine upwind states were interfering with New York's compliance with national ambient air quality standards for ground-level ozone. Although the Clean Air Act directs the EPA to respond to Section 126 petitions within 60 days, it allows the agency to extend its time to respond for six months.
California is leading a challenge by 17 states and the District of Columbia claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) revised position on tailpipe exhaust standards for light-duty vehicles for model years 2022 to 2025 was arbitrary and capricious. In its revised mid-term evaluation, the EPA found that new information on fuel prices and technology meant that assumptions underlying its January 2017 evaluation had been unrealistically optimistic.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule which would prohibit the use of scientific studies to support new regulations unless the studies' underlying data is publicly available for independent validation. The EPA asserts that the rule is necessary for more transparent rulemaking and to restore public confidence in how the agency regulates.
The Supreme Court will not review the Second Circuit's decision that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was justified in denying a Clean Water Act Section 401 certification for a proposed natural gas pipeline. Constitution Pipeline, LLC argued that states had abused their Clean Water Act certification authority to block federally approved interstate pipelines, raising national security concerns.
The US Bureau of Land Management has filed an appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse a Northern District of California judge's preliminary injunction staying a final rule to delay compliance dates for the 2016 Waste Prevention Rule. The Waste Prevention Rule imposed methane emission reductions on oil and gas operations on federal and Indian lands.
A coalition of 14 states and two cities has sued the Environmental Protection Agency and Administrator Scott Pruitt, alleging that the agency had violated a non-discretionary duty under the Clean Air Act to promulgate regulations governing methane emissions from existing sources that produce, process and distribute oil and natural gas.