The White House Council on Auto Communities and Workers announced this week the largest remediation trust agreement in U.S. history will be invested as part of the federal framework to create momentum to put 90 facilities back into productive use, thus creating jobs and economic growth in communities in 14 states. In total, $836M will be invested to speed the environmental cleanup and redevelopment of these former GM auto facilities shuttered as part of the General Motors Corporation bankruptcy. The plan remains subject to the approval of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
The framework would place more than $800M in federal funding, which had been provided for the wind-down of the Old GM, in an Environmental Response Trust. The proposed allocation would provide $536M for the cleanup of these former sites and approximately $300M will be used to assist the states and communities in dealing with the challenges these properties present, including property taxes, demolition costs, plant security costs and others expenses.
More information is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/council-auto-communities-and-workers-announces-landmark-framework-speed-redevelopme
Gabrielle Sigel and Jennifer Cassel, attorneys in Jenner & Block's Environmental, Energy & Natural Resources Law Practice, recently posted to Jenner & Block's Climate Change Update Resource Center their April 2010 Update of Climate Change developments. Of particular note in this month's update are: (1) on April 1, 2010, EPA and DOT jointly issued issue standards for vehicle fuel economy; and (2) an environmental group and a Texas coal-fired power plant reached an agreement to capture and sequester 85% of the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions. Click here to read the April 2010 Climate Change Update.
On May 17, 2010, Defenders of Wildlife filed a lawsuit against the Minerals Management Service (“MMS”), the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) and Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, in Federal District Court. The lawsuit alleges that MMS, DOI and Salazar violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) when MMS approved BP’s Exploration Plan for the Deepwater Horizon exploratory drilling operation (“Deepwater Horizon Plan”). Deepwater Horizon is the site of the April 20, 2010, explosion and continuing release of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Under NEPA, federal agencies must prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for all “major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C). The NEPA regulations allow for a “categorical exclusion” for categories of actions which “do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment.” 40 C.F.R. § 1508.4. Defenders of Wildlife is alleging that MMS violated NEPA by granting a categorical exclusion from NEPA review to BP’s Deepwater Horizon Plan, thereby bypassing the EIS requirement. Defenders of Wildlife also alleges that since the explosion at the BP Deepwater Horizon site on April 20, 2010, MMS has granted over twenty categorical exclusions from NEPA review for other exploratory wells and drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
Click here to view the Defenders of Wildlife complaint.
By Steven Siros
On May 17, 2010, U.S. EPA announced that it was adding more than 6,300 chemicals and 3,800 chemical facilities regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) to U.S. EPA public database “Envirofacts”. The Envirofacts database is a publicly available database that provides a single point of access for information concerning environmental activities affecting air, water and land at facilities throughout the United States. http://www.epa.gov/enviro/. Information available on the database includes facility names and addresses, aerial facility images, and links to other U.S. EPA databases such as the Enforcement Compliance History Online database. These steps are being taken by U.S. EPA as part of Administrator Jackson’s commitment to increase public access to information on chemicals. See http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/enhanchems.html for further information concerning this U.S. EPA initiative.
On May 14, 2010, the Department of Transportation issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would impose new packaging requirements on the transport of liquids by air. Packing Group I liquids would require a secondary means of closure, absorbent materials and a rigid, leakproof liner or intermediate packaging. Packing Groups II and III liquids would be able to satisfy the secondary closure requirements through use of a leakproof liner if it can be demonstrated that a secondary closure cannot be applied or is impracticable. Comments on the notice must be submitted by July 13, 2010.
Click here to see Federal Register Rule-Making Notice.
Gabrielle Sigel and Genevieve Essig, attorneys in Jenner & Block's Environmental, Energy & Natural Resources Law Practice, recently posted to Jenner & Block's Environmental Cost Recovery & Lender Liability Update Resource Center their April 2010 Update of Environmental Cost Recovery developments. Of note in this month's update are "Third Circuit Addresses 'Still Developing' Relationship Between CERCLA Cost Recovery and Contribution Actions" and "City’s RCRA Lawsuit Against United States Defense Agency Barred by CERCLA § 113(h)."
Click here to read the April 2010 Environmental Cost Recovery & Lender Liability Update.
On May 13, 2010, U.S. EPA announced that it had finalized its “Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule,” which prescribes how Clean Air Act (“CAA”) permitting requirements are applied to stationary sources of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions. The rule “tailors” the application of the CAA’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (“PSD”) and Title V permitting requirements so that only stationary sources of a large amount of GHG emissions are required to obtain permits. Such permits must demonstrate the use of best available control technologies (“BACT”) applied to GHG emission points. The application of the final rule is more “tailored” than EPA’s original September 2009 proposal, in that the final rule’s triggering emission amount is a minimum of 75,000 tons per year (“tpy”), not the 25,000 tpy trigger originally proposed.
On the afternoon of May 12, 2010, U.S. Senators Kerry (D‑MA), and Lieberman (I‑CT), jointly introduced their “discussion draft” of the American Power Act (“the APA”), as a Senate version of comprehensive climate change regulation. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its comprehensive climate change bill, the Waxman-Markey, American Clean Energy and Security Act, H.R. 2454, in June 2009. The Kerry-Lieberman bill is the result of negotiations ongoing since Fall 2009, attempting to develop a bipartisan climate change bill, with support from both industry and environmental groups. The 987-page bill unveiled on May 12 intends to reduce U.S. industry-wide GHG emissions from a 2005 baseline by 17% in 2020 and by 80% in 2050, through a cap-and-trade scheme. As currently structured, the APA has six substantive, somewhat overlapping, sections.
In an April 28, 2010, memorandum to all OSHA Regional Administrators, Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety & Health, reiterated OSHA’s policy that employee training must be conducted in a manner that employees can understand. Many OSHA standards explicitly require training and some require that employees acquire knowledge about a particular issue, but none specify the language in which the training must be provided.
On April 22, 2010, Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety & Health, after finding that OSHA’s penalties were too low to have an “adequate deterrent effect,” issued a memo to OSHA Regional Administrators implementing changes to the penalty calculation system to be used in OSHA inspections and enforcement actions. The changes will be published in OSHA’s Field Operations Manual and will go into effect over the next several months.
The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (‘OSHA”) announced on May 4, 2010, that it will be holding three stakeholder meetings at various sites in June to promote a discussion by registered participants on OSHA’s development of a proposed Injury and Illness Prevention Program (“I2P2”) rule. OSHA seeks to use these discussions to gather information for an I2P2 rule “that will help employers reduce workplace injuries and illnesses through a systematic process that proactively addresses workplace safety and health hazards.” 75 Fed. Reg. 23638. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety & Health, has stated publicly that an I2P2 rule could be used to ensure that an employer is identifying all hazards, including ergonomic and chemical hazards. Notably, OSHA was prevented by Congressional action from implementing a rule directly regulating ergonomic hazards.
On April 26, 2010, OSHA issued its Spring 2010 semiannual regulatory agenda. The agenda includes announcement of two new actions: development for an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (“I2P2”) rule and modernizing OSHA’s recordkeeping reporting systems, which will include the use of electronic recordkeeping. OSHA’s agenda also schedules that by July 2010, OSHA will issue a final rule on recording musculoskeletal disorders and a final rule on cranes and derricks in construction, including operator training and certification. In this regulatory agenda, OSHA withdrew its rulemaking on hearing conservation for construction workers and delayed or continued its schedule on other potential rules.
Click here for OSHA’s Spring 2010 Regulatory Agenda.