Environmental Law Portal

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Beveridge & Diamond’s 100 lawyers in seven U.S. offices focus on environmental and natural resource law, litigation and dispute resolution. We help clients around the world resolve critical environmental and sustainability issues relating to their products, facilities, and operations. 

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China’s International and Domestic Climate Change Policies: An Overview Leading up to Paris

In June, China submitted its climate policy pledges to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC” or “Convention”) for the December 2015 Paris Climate Conference (“COP 21” or the “2015 Paris Conference”).  These pledges, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (“INDCs”), are the vehicle through which the Parties submit their intended commitments for the post-2020 period.  Significantly, the 2015 Paris Conference may well generate the first binding international climate commitments for China.  This article provides an overview of China’s stance coming into the Paris talks as well as its domestic climate change policies, which together represent China’s efforts to enact a comprehensive national climate change policy. Read More ›

D.C. Circuit Reaffirms Previous Conflict Minerals Decision: Disclosure Requirement Violates First Amendment

In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reaffirmed its previous decision striking down a narrow portion of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) conflict minerals rule.  See NAM v. SEC, No. 13-5252 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 18, 2015).  The D.C. Circuit again concluded that the rule’s requirement that companies describe their products as “not found to be DRC conflict free” violates the First Amendment, but left intact the rule’s other requirements.  The Court distinguished previous cases involving compelled disclosures from this case, and found that requiring the use of the phrase “not found to be DRC conflict free” does not pass Constitutional muster, nor does it materially advance the government’s interest in reducing conflict in central Africa.  Read More ›

EPA Proposes New Clean Air Act Standards for Methane and VOC Emissions by the Oil and Natural Gas Sector

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has released the text of a draft proposed rule that seeks to amend the new source performance standards (“NSPS”) addressing methane and volatile organic compounds (“VOC”) from new sources across the oil and gas industry (i.e., production, processing, transmission, and storage).  This proposed rule is a part of the Obama Administration’s “Climate Action Plan,” and its particular focus on methane as a potent greenhouse gas (“GHG”).  Earlier this year, the Administration committed to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Read More ›

Court Strikes Down FWS Rule for 30-Year Eagle Incidental Take Permits

In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) issued a rule increasing the maximum duration from five to 30 years of programmatic permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act to “take” bald or golden eagles incident to otherwise lawful activities.  That rule was challenged by environmentalists in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.  On August 11, 2015, the court granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs and remanded the rule.  As a result, for now, 30-year incidental take permits are no longer available to wind energy and other projects under the Eagle Act. Read More ›

Multi-Sector General Permit for Stormwater Discharges – Newly Issued and Newly Challenged

U.S. EPA issued a new Multi-Sector General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Industrial Activities on June 4, 2015, replacing the 2008 general permit, which expired in September 2013 and had been administratively continued for covered facilities pending reissuance.  Shortly after issuance, the new permit was challenged by several environmental groups, which filed separate petitions for review in three different U.S. Courts of Appeals. Read More ›

Massachusetts Issues Guidance on Addressing 1,4 Dioxane Sites

MassDEP issued a fact sheet in June identifying special considerations for responding to releases of 1,4-dioxane (“dioxane”), which was primarily used as a stabilizer and corrosion inhibitor as an additive to chlorinated solvents but can also be erroneously detected because of its use in environmental sampling.  Read More ›

RMP and General Duty Clause Enforcement Continues at EPA Region 1

As we reported last year, the U.S. EPA has stepped up its enforcement activity under the risk management provisions of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”), Section 112(r), focusing on both the Risk Management Plan (“RMP”) program rules and the General Duty Clause (“GDC”). The RMP requirements help prevent accidental releases of substances that can cause serious harm to the public and environment from short-term exposures and also help reduce the severity of releases that do occur.  Background on these programs is available in our prior article. Read More ›

Public Records in Massachusetts: Legislature looks to Improve Access and Top Court Clarifies Attorney-Client and Work-Product Protections

The combined efforts of Massachusetts’ highest court, its legislature, and the Governor’s office are clarifying and modernizing Massachusetts public records law, which is considered by some to be one of the weakest in the country.  Pending legislation could change that, making it easier to obtain records and enforce the law’s provisions.  At the same time, a recent decision of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts clarifies the scope of the “policy deliberation” exemption to Massachusetts’ public records law and the applicability of the attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine.  Governor Charlie Baker recently weighed in as well, with new procedures aimed at increasing transparency and streamlining responses to public records requests.  These developments may have a significant impact on citizens, businesses, municipalities, and litigants. Read More ›

Massachusetts Issues Draft Interim Policy on Re-Use of Soil for Large Reclamation Projects

After nearly a year of evaluation, MassDEP has issued a draft policy requiring an Administrative Consent Order (ACO) for large-scale projects that fill or reclaim quarries, sand pits, and gravel pits.  Comments on the policy were due June 17, 2015.  This effort has been driven by a requirement in the fiscal year 2015 budget that required MassDEP to develop a policy for such projects by June 30, 2015.  Large fill projects that do not involve quarries, sand pits and gravel pits are not covered by this draft policy.  Read More ›

Flushing Out the Safe Harbor: “General Land Area Minimum” Offers Newton No 40B Shelter

Municipalities long unable to achieve ten percent affordable housing are now turning more frequently to a different Safe Harbor to block development of low and moderate income housing – compliance with the “General Land Area Minimum” of Chapter 40B’s affordable housing regulations. In its first detailed ruling on the topic, the Housing Appeals Committee (HAC) expanded the denominator (municipality’s total land area) and shrank the numerator (total land area occupied by eligible affordable sites) leaving the City of Newton floating outside of this 40B Safe Harbor and facing a Comprehensive Permit application for a 135-unit affordable housing project. As demonstrated in In the Matter of Newton Zoning Board of Appeals and Dinosaur Rowe, LLC, HAC No. 15-01, with the burden of proof squarely on municipalities to prove compliance with the “General Land Area Minimum,” cities and towns face significant challenges qualifying for this Safe Harbor. Read More ›