Congress takes aim at climate change in massive relief bill
Associated Press – December 21
The pandemic relief and spending package that President Donald Trump signed into law on Monday includes billions of dollars to promote carbon capture technology and clean energy such as wind and solar power, as well as dramatic reductions over time of the use of hydrofluorocarbons, potent coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators that are considered a major driver of global warming. The relief package also includes passage of the Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes $9.9 billion in federal funds for 46 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, including those that achieve flood control, environmental restoration, coastal protection, and other water infrastructure goals, as well as 27 feasibility studies. The energy and climate provisions, supported by lawmakers from both parties, were hailed as the most significant climate change law in at least a decade.
EPA ordered to close asbestos reporting loopholes
Courthouse News Service – December 22
Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California last Tuesday ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to start collecting more data on how much asbestos is made, imported, and put into U.S. products. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by 10 states, including California, the District of Columbia, and five public health advocacy groups, challenging EPA’s refusal to close asbestos-reporting loopholes. The Trump administration had argued that voluntary reporting by manufacturers, processors, and importers provided adequate data for a required chemical risk review that started in 2016. Judge Chen found, however, that “EPA has not articulated a satisfactory explanation for its decision not to use its significant enforcement powers to collect information from companies concerning asbestos-related health risks.”
Five states sue EPA over rule limiting pesticide safety enforcement
The Hill – December 18
Five states, including California, sued the EPA this week over a rule that narrows the areas where farmers are required to limit human presence during the application of pesticides. Under the agency’s rule, finalized in October, the standards governing areas near pesticide applications can only be enforced on a farmer’s property and not in surrounding “off-farm” areas. The EPA argued that it was hard for farmers to enforce rules off of their property, but opponents of the move say that the changes risk exposing more people to harmful chemicals that can drift into nearby areas.
Walgreens to pay L.A., other jurisdictions for waste disposal violations
Los Angeles Daily News – December 23
Prosecutors announced last week that Walgreens will pay the city of Los Angeles and 44 other local jurisdictions $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit connected to improper waste disposal and mishandling of customers’ records in violation of an injunction issued as part of a prior settlement. Walgreens had been sued in early 2020 over numerous alleged instances of dumping over-the-counter and prescription medications and other hazardous waste into receptacles bound for landfills, instead of separate collection locations. The alleged negligent acts of hazardous waste disposal and recordkeeping violations breached a compliance program established in 2012 under a $16.57 million settlement reached between Walgreens and 42 jurisdictions.
Judge rejects bid to stop Alameda County housing development next to wetlands
The Mercury News – December 29
A controversial development plan to build 469 large homes on the edge of Newark’s wetlands can proceed, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled on December 24. The court rejected a lawsuit filed against the city of Newark by two environmental groups seeking to block the project, the plans for which have been roughly 30 years in the making. Project opponents now must pin their hopes on regional regulatory agencies. The lawsuit contended the city relied on outdated information about sea level rise when it approved the project. In his ruling, Judge Roesch found that issue was not relevant to the environmental analysis because potential flooding events in the area would be “issues of impact of the environment on a project and not issues of the project’s impact on the environment.”
EPA finalizing first-ever airplane emissions rules
Reuters – December 28
The EPA this Monday said it was finalizing the first-ever proposed standards regulating greenhouse gas emissions for commercial airplanes and large business jets to align the United States with international standards. The EPA said it expects “airplanes that are non-compliant [with the new standards] will either be modified and re-certificated as compliant, will likely go out of production before the production compliance date of January 1, 2028, or will seek exemptions.” As a result “EPA is not projecting emission reductions associated with these GHG (greenhouse gas) regulations” nor is it projecting the rule “will cause manufacturers to make technical improvements to their airplanes that would not have occurred” otherwise. In October, a group of 11 states led by California and the District of Columbia urged the EPA to strengthen these standards. The airplanes covered by the proposed rule accounted for 10% of all U.S. transportation greenhouse gas emissions and 3% of total U.S. emissions. They have been the largest source of transportation greenhouse gas emissions not subject to greenhouse gas emissions standards.