An estimated 15,000 people, including officials and environmental leaders from 194 countries, will attend the UN's Climate Change Conference starting today at the Moon Palace Hotel in Cancun, Mexico. The 12-day conference and associated meetings will seek to revive international efforts to slow global warming.
On November 15, 2010, Jenner & Block Partner Steven M. Siros and Associates Katherine M. Rahill and Genevieve J. Essig published a guest column in Law360 discussing information disclosure issues related to efforts to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act ("TSCA"), 15 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., which governs the manufacture, distribution, and use of chemical substances in the U.S. The article provides a brief overview of existing TSCA chemical reporting requirements, examines the current efforts to reform the TSCA both via congressional action and EPA and state efforts, and provides practical tips to companies on how to best comply with TSCA reporting requirements while still shielding themselves from unforeseen liabilities associated with misinterpretation of information.
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Green and sustainable remediation is a rapidly growing field of interest to all stakeholder groups including governmental agencies, corporations, environmental consultants and public interest groups. According to EPA, green remediation is the practice of considering all environmental effects of cleaning up a contaminated site and incorporating options to minimize the environmental footprint of cleanup actions.
One such organization, The Sustainable Remediation Forum (SURF), started in 2006 to promote the use of sustainable practices during remedial action activities with the objective of balancing economic viability, conservation of natural resources and biodiversity and the enhancement of the quality of life in surrounding communities. SURF's primary objective is to provide a forum for various stakeholders in remediation – industry, government agencies, environmental groups, consultants, and academia – to collaborate, educate, advance, and develop consensus on the application of sustainability concepts throughout the lifecycle of remediation projects, from site investigation to closure.
Advocates agree that standards are needed in this area to promote and encourage more green cleanup. The ASTM is working to develop the Guide for Green and Sustainable Site Assessment and Cleanup which may be available as early as 2011. SURF also is working on its SURF Framework for Integrating Sustainability Into Remediation Projects also anticipated in mid-2011.
Significant information about green remediation can be found at EPA's Contaminated Site Clean-up Information website, commonly referred to as CLU-IN. SURF's 2009 White Paper on sustainable remediation also provides helpful insight into this developing field and is available at http://sustainableremediation.org/.
A new report developed by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) recommends government action in response to climate change impacts on the Great Lakes including higher temperatures, lower water levels and changes in wildlife migration patterns. In its report titled Improving the Odds: Using Climate Change Readiness to Reduce the Impacts of Climate Change on the Great Lakes Ecosystem, the NWF concludes that being ready for and coping with the inevitable effects of climate change is emerging as the next step for Great Lakes protection.
These efforts are referred to by NWF as climate change adaptation or climate-readiness. NWF identifies the following opportunities in the report for climate-ready action.
- Taking adaptation from the planning stage to on-the-ground action. One way to act on-the-ground is via "climate-smart" restoration practices.
- Funding sources for effective adaptation and/or innovative ways to budget that allow for adaptation.
- Integrate climate change into all issues and sectors and weave it into everything we do.
- Perhaps knowledge sharing could be a role of or by the U.S. Interagency Adaptation Task Force.
According to the NWF, to provide the best possible chance of conserving Great Lakes resources in a rapidly changing climate and in the context of other stressors, it is important for managers, planners and policy makers to have the ability to both identify what we need to do differently as well as understand which strategies and activities continue to make sense from a climate adaptation perspective.
To learn more about NWF's work related to global warming concerns, visit http://www.nwf.org/.
In response to a 2005 report issued by the Government Accountability Office that criticized existing U.S. EPA policies concerning the implementation, monitoring and enforcement of institutional controls at contaminated properties, U.S. EPA is expected to release a draft guidance for public comment. The 2005 GAO report noted that approved institutional controls were often not implemented and that no established procedure existed for verifying that approved institutional controls, once implemented, remained in place.
According to Elliott Gilberg, the director of U.S. EPA's Office of Site Remediation Enforcement, the draft guidance is intended to provide clarification on the roles and responsibilities of government agencies and private parties in implementing and maintaining institutional controls at contaminated properties. The draft guidance will also provide recommendations for evaluating the capacity of private parties to implement and manage the institutional control as well as establishing procedures for the verification that these institutional controls remain in place over the life of the project. We will provide a summary of the draft guidance once it is published in the Federal Register.
A new report by Ceres finds that water scarcity may present a hidden financial risk for investors who buy water and electric utility bonds. The report titled The Ripple Effect: Water Risk in the Municipal Bond Market, evaluates and ranks water scarcity risks for public water and power utilities. According to the report, the most stressed areas include Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas and Atlanta.
"Water scarcity is a growing risk to many public utilities across the country and investors owning utility bonds don't even know it," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, which authored the report. "Utilities rely on water to repay their bond debts. If water supplies run short, utility revenues potentially fall, which means less money to pay off their bonds. Our report makes clear that this risk scenario is a distinct possibility for utilities in water-stressed regions and bond investors should be aware of it."
This research follows an earlier report issued by Ceres titled Water Scarcity and Climate Change: Growing Risks for Business and Investors (February 2009, Ceres and Pacific Institute). In that report, Ceres identified water scarcity as a potential financial risk to companies who have historically taken clean, reliable and inexpensive water for granted.
Water scarcity is continually emerging as a critical climate change-related impact that businesses, governmental authorities and the public need to address now. While water scarcity is a concern now in many areas, such risks will be exacerbated around the U.S. by climate change warming trends. The Natural Resources Defense Council in its recent report, Evaluating Sustainability of Projected Water Demands Under Future Climate Change Scenarios (July 2010), predicts over 1,100 U.S. counties will see greater risks of water shortages due to climate change.
On November 10, 2010, Jenner & Block, in cooperation with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, will host a special program featuring guest speaker, Cameron Davis, Senior Advisor to the U.S. EPA Administrator. The program titled "The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: A Year of Progress and the Mission Ahead" will address the latest developments and updates on the Agency's work with the Great Lakes. Joel Brammeier, President and CEO, of the Alliance for the Great Lakes will provide the opening remarks for this special program.