Photo of Ben H. Patton

After the Sixth Circuit was selected via a lottery in November to hear the consolidated challenges made against the recent OSHA emergency temporary standard (the “ETS”), there has been a flurry of activity in the case.  There are currently two main issues pending before the court, which will certainly shape the dispute: (1) several petitioners

On October 21, 2021, we published an article called “Waiting for OSHA: pending vaccine ETS and increased enforcement.” In the article, we discussed the then-pending Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) regarding vaccinating the workforce OSHA was tasked with developing by President Biden in his “Path Out of the Pandemic” memorandum. The ETS is scheduled

Since President Joe Biden issued his “Path Out of the Pandemic” memorandum and Executive Order 14042 on September 9, 2021, employers have had to navigate piecemeal instructions on vaccine mandates.  For example, federal contractors and subcontractors received vaccine mandate guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force on September 24, 2021.  However, employers should not grow too comfortable with the current status of pandemic regulations, which continue to change in various jurisdictions and will again on a federal level soon.

OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard

In his “Path Out of the Pandemic” memorandum, President Biden specifically tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with developing a rule to encourage vaccinations among the workforce – the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).  The ETS will require employers with over 100 employees to do the following:

  1. either (a) ensure all employees are fully vaccinated, or (b) require any employees who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work; and
  2. provide paid time off for any time to get vaccinated and/or to recover if they are ill post-vaccination.

State plans will be required to implement equally protective rules within 30 days.  Though not yet available for review, the status of the pending ETS remains under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Continue Reading Waiting for OSHA: pending vaccine ETS and increased enforcement

The first installment of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed in 2022, was released on August 9, 2021.  As it has in the run up to previous important Conferences of the Parties (COPs) under the UNFCCC, the IPCC released an updated report in the middle

On Friday, June 25, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a Tenth Circuit Court decision that had vacated an Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) exemption relieving small refineries from the fuel blending requirements of the Renewable Fuel Program (“RFP”), codified by 42 U.S.C. § 7545(o). The decision represents a huge victory for small refineries.

In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce America’s dependence on imported oil, Congress created the Renewable Fuel Program in 2005, and expanded it in 2007, to require gasoline sold in the United States to contain a certain blend of renewable fuels. However, Congress created a temporary small refinery exemption to avoid disparately impacting small refiners (defining a “small” refiner as one with an average daily crude oil throughput of 75,000 barrels or less). Although the exemption applied through 2011, any small refinery could petition the Department of Energy for a two-year extension of the exemption. After two years, Congress permitted small refineries to petition for additional extensions of the exemption in circumstances of “disproportionate economic hardship,” as determined by the EPA.

The Court’s decision in HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC, et al. v. Renewable Fuels Association et al. considered whether the EPA could grant an extension to small refineries that did not continuously receive a hardship exemption each year since 2011. Renewable fuel producers argued that small refineries must have a continuous, unbroken exemption to be eligible for an extension. However, the Court held that the statutory language of the RFP, under 42 U.S.C. § 7545(o), imposed no continuity requirement upon small refineries, confirming that a small refinery that previously received a hardship exemption may obtain an extension even if it did not continuously receive the exemption.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Update: Supreme Court reaches decisions on HollyFrontier and PennEast Pipeline cases

On Friday June 11, 2021, the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) published new proposed text for re-adoption of the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).  After previously voting against adopting Cal/OSHA’s initial revised ETS during a highly contentious public meeting earlier this month, during which critics vehemently objected to the rule’s continuation of

Late last week, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“Standards Board”) reconvened in a public meeting to consider the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) revised COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).  The new proposed ETS was developed to replace the existing ETS that has been in place since December 1, 2020.

A prior draft of the ETS was initially to be considered in a May meeting, but it was tabled to allow Cal/OSHA the opportunity for revisions to align with State and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance.  Cal/OSHA made a few revisions to the prior draft of the ETS, the most important of which are detailed below:

  • The physical distancing section has been simplified.  As was the case with the prior version of the ETS, physical distancing is still only required for all employees until July 31.  From the passage date until July 31st,  employers have the option to: (1) ensure distancing; or (2) provide unvaccinated employees with respirators for voluntary use.  The distancing requirements (if that option is selected) are similar to the previous requirements.
  • There is a requirement to maintain physical distancing when a face covering is required but not worn, but only if the face covering is not worn for either of two very specific reasons, (1) where an employee cannot wear a face covering due to a medical condition or (2) where specific tasks cannot feasibly be performed with a face covering.  The other exceptions to the face covering requirements do not trigger this physical distancing requirement.
  • The requirement to evaluate the need for respiratory protection when distancing cannot be maintained prior to July 31 has been removed.
  • Cal/OSHA has added “outdoor mega events” as a defined term and has added new requirements for outdoor mega events that are similar to those for employees working indoors with a few notable exceptions.  An outdoor mega event is defined as an outdoor event with 10,000+ participants (g., theme parks, concerts, etc.).
  • The exception that previously excluded fully vaccinated individuals from becoming COVID-19 cases has been removed.  Importantly, however, the exception from excluding fully vaccinated individuals who have had close contact remains unchanged.


Continue Reading Cal Safety Standards Board approves second COVID-19 ETS