As previously reported by my colleague Lynn Grayson, ExxonMobil has faced a recent onslaught of scrutiny over allegations that fossil fuel companies had committed fraud by downplaying the effect of climate change on their businesses. These matters include a subpoena issued by the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Attorney General’s office related to allegations of violating two state laws by obtaining money under false pretenses and conspiring to do so; and New York Attorney General Schneiderman’s investigation where documents have been subpoenaed to determine whether the company misled investors about the dangers climate change posed to its operations.
Two events last week suggest that this fight will not end anytime soon.
- ExxonMobil filed suit in the Northern District of Texas, seeking an injunction barring the enforcement of a civil investigative demand issued by the Massachusetts Attorney General to ExxonMobil, and a declaration that this demand violates ExxonMobil’s rights under state and federal law, including the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, as well as the Dormant Commerce Clause.
- The Attorneys General of 13 states wrote a sharply-worded letter to their colleagues, noting that “this effort by our colleagues to police the global warming debate through the power of the subpoena is a grave mistake” and “not a question for the courts.” The letter outlines how this investigation is in fact “far from routine” because of its following three characteristics: “1) the investigation targets a particular type of market participant; 2) the Attorneys General identify themselves with the competitors of their investigative targets; and 3) the investigation implicates an ongoing public policy debate.”
We will continue to monitor developments on this heated situation.
Jenner & Block Partners E. Lynn Grayson and Gabrielle Sigel have been named “Energy & Environmental Trailblazers” by The National Law Journal. The list honors people who have “made their mark in various aspects of legal work in the areas of energy and environmental law.”
The profile of Ms. Grayson notes that she was appointed general counsel for the Illinois Emergency Services and Disaster Agency soon after the agency took over enforcement responsibility for the state’s Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. When she moved into private practice in Chicago, she became involved in the first REIT case involving environmental issues; since moving to Jenner & Block, she has done a great deal of international due diligence. Ms. Grayson observes that the future of environmental law will involve international transactions as well as domestic work, particularly around energy and renewable energy.
The profile of Ms. Sigel notes that she focuses on the intersection of workplace health and the environment. The profile highlights one of her cases in which the water supply in retail and medical offices became contaminated, and a number of state agencies became involved. As for the future, Ms. Sigel observes that the lines between organizations will increasingly blur. “Whether it’s business, regulatory agencies, community groups or NGOs, you have to look at issues holistically, and not in a superficial way,” she says.
Actions launched by extreme anti-oil and gas activists claiming Exxon Mobil engaged in an alleged cover-up of climate change risks have taken another interesting turn. This week House Republicans initiated a probe into New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigative efforts as well as those of his colleagues. The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology plans to investigate Attorney General Schneiderman and several other attorneys general alleged by House Republicans to be working at the behest of environmental activists to silence critics of global warming possibly resulting in an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.
Recent efforts by environmentalists and governmental authorities include: a notice from the Conservation Law Foundation in Massachusetts of its intent to sue Exxon for allegedly engaging in a deliberate, decades-long cover-up of climate change—it will be the first lawsuit by an environmental group against a petroleum company for climate change matters; a subpoena issued by the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Attorney General’s office related to allegations of violating two state laws by obtaining money under false pretenses and conspiring to do so; and New York Attorney General Schneiderman’s investigation where documents have been subpoenaed to determine whether the company misled investors about the dangers climate change posed to its operations.
Last week the Regional Body for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact agreed that the City of Waukesha, WI met the compact exception criteria—moving one step closer to approval for a diversion of Great Lakes water outside of the boundaries of the river basin. Many are concerned that this move may establish a bad precedent for others seeking diversion of water from the Great Lakes to address growing water quality and quantity challenges.
The City of Waukesha, located in southeast Wisconsin 17 miles west of Lake Michigan, seeks an exception from the prohibition of diversions under the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement. The Compact and Agreement prohibit diversions of Great Lakes water, with limited exceptions. One exception allows a “community within a straddling county,” such as Waukesha, to apply for a diversion of Great Lakes water.
On January 7, 2016, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources forwarded the City of Waukesha’s diversion application to the other Great Lakes states, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec for regional review. On May 18, 2016 the Regional Body approved a Declaration of Finding concluding that, with conditions, the City of Waukesha’s diversion application meets the Compact exception criteria. Conditions included a reduced maximum diversion volume of 8.2 million gallons per day and a reduced area the diverted water can be served. The Compact Council will make the final decision with a vote on whether to approve, approve with conditions, or deny the City of Waukesha’s diversion application. The Compact Council is scheduled to meet June 21, 2016 in Chicago, IL.
The Compact was passed in 2008 to protect the Great Lakes from attempted water grabs. The Waukesha, WI proposal to pump water from Lake Michigan, 15 miles to the east, as a replacement water supply for its radium-contaminated wells is the first such application under the compact. The proposal has been the subject of critical review as environmental groups and others worry about setting an inappropriate precedent for access to water from the Great Lakes.
The underlying documentation is available from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as well as more detail about the upcoming meeting of the Compact Council in Chicago.
Jenner & Block CLE Webinar: "Climate Change Law at the Close of the Obama Administration: Understanding the Past and Implications for the Future"
Jenner & Block Partner Gabrielle Sigel will discuss the development of climate change law under the Obama Administration and how that law may affect future efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. She will provide a framework for understanding some of the most complex and dynamic legal decisions regarding administrative and environmental law since the Clean Air Act was enacted. Titled “Climate Change Law at the Close of the Obama Administration: Understanding the Past and Implications for the Future,” this CLE webinar will be held from 12:00 noon to 1:30 pm on May 12, 2016, at the firm’s Chicago office, 353 N. Clark Street.
Ms. Sigel is co-chair of the firm’s Climate and Clean Technology Law Practice and a founding member of the firm’s Environmental and Workplace Health & Safety Law Practice. She publishes extensively and is a frequent speaker on environmental law, climate change, and workplace health and safety issues.
Please click here to RSVP for attend the program in person or via a webinar.
Approximately 700 participants, including leaders from government, business, finance, academia, philanthropy and civil society, will meet in Washington, DC on May 5-6, to attend the Climate Action 2016 Summit. Seven organizations have come together to jointly co-host the summit, providing this diverse group with the information, connections and tools they need to lead effective implementation in a new climate regime.
The co-hosts of the Summit are:
- E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
- Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group
- Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change; Founding Partner, Compact of Mayors
- Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Officer, Global Environment Facility
- Judith Rodin, President, Rockefeller Foundation
- Peter Bakker, Chief Executive Officer, World Business Council on Sustainable Development
- Nigel Topping, Chief Executive Officer, We Mean Business
- Wallace Loh, President, University of Maryland
The goal of the Summit is to strengthen the multi-stakeholder approach to climate implementation. The summit will address how to deliver on climate commitments and embed the transformation agenda across the globe in government, key sectors and among the general population. At the same time, the summit will focus on near-term implementation actions and long-term implementation needs. These will focus on City and Sub-national implementation; Transport; Land-use; Energy; Resilience/Adaptation; and Analysis and Tools to Support Decision Making.
More information about Climate Action 2016 is available here.
On April 22, more than one billion people every year celebrate Earth Day in more than 190 countries. According to the Earth Day Network, it is the largest civic observance in the world. Here are some interesting insights about Earth Day this year:
- It’s going to be more important than ever because at last count 155 countries, including the U.S., have agreed to sign the Paris agreement on climate change during a special ceremony at the United Nations in New York.
- This year’s celebration is a lead up to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, and the Earth Day Network has pledged to plant 7.8 billion trees worldwide to account for every single person living on Earth.
- Learn more about Earth Day by viewing Google’s latest Doodle with fascinating paintings and pictures from around the world.
The United Nations has announced that up to 155 countries, including the United States, are planning to sign the Paris Climate Agreement at the Ceremony for Opening Signature, on Earth Day, April 22, 2016. The ceremony will take place at UN headquarters in New York. With over 150 world leaders set to sign the Paris Climate Agreement, the signing is expected to be the largest single signing of an international agreement in world history.
For more information about the signing ceremony and the Paris Climate Agreement, visit the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change website.
As part of our ongoing focus on Earth Day 2016, I found an interesting tool that allows one to measure one’s global footprint. The Earth Day Network has put together a Ecological Footprint Calculator that allows one to input specific parameters and determine how much of an impact each one of us has on the planet as a whole. At least for me, the results were somewhat sobering. Please click here to use the calculator to measure your impact.
In the U.S., water scarcity often seems a non-issue when you turn on a faucet and receive plentiful, clean, and sometimes even free water. Water is fundamental to business to heat, cool, clean, and manufacture goods. More so than oil, increasingly water is a limited natural resource with supplies adversely impacted by quality, pollution, insufficiency of infrastructure, drought, and flooding. PwC’s 17th Annual Global CEO Survey reveals interesting insights into the views and perceptions of business leaders regarding water.
- Water crisis was identified as the #1 global business risk in terms of impact in 2015.
- 46% of CEOs surveyed believed that resource scarcity and climate change will transform their business in the next five years.
- According to the World Resource Group, the world will face a 40% global shortfall between forecast demand and available water supply by 2030; moreover, in 2030, 47% of the world population will be living in areas of high water stress and a significant percentage of businesses will be operating there too.
- A 2014 survey of the FTSE 500 companies noted that 68% believed water was a substantive risk to business up from 59% in 2011.
- The Global Water Intelligence suggests that $84B has been spent by business around the world to conserve, manage, or obtain water.
Water-related risk poses differing challenges for business, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Business Development identifies the following broad categories of risks: financial, operational, market, reputational, and regulatory.
Does your business understand its water footprint, where water stresses exist, or have back up plans to address insufficient availability of water?
PwC’s recent publication Collaboration: Preserving Water Through Partnering That Works provides a good overview of water challenges as well as success stories focused on the water needs of business.