Environment, Health & Safety regulatory compliance

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

On 31 May 2021 the EU Commission opened up the public consultation period for its dual proposal for regulations on mobile phones and tablets.

As we discussed in our earlier blog post “EU EHS and Product Compliance laws: what to look out for in 2021”, at the end of 2020 the Commission announced

The regular session of the Texas Legislature came to a fraught end on May 31, 2021. The political spectacle in recent days capped off a legislative session dramatically interrupted by a winter storm in February that crippled much of the state with snow, ice, and power outages. That natural disaster led to intense scrutiny of the state’s power distribution infrastructure and calls to weatherize the power grid.

In response, the Texas Legislature approved legislation aimed at addressing some of the infrastructure issues caused by the storm. The Legislature’s response to the storm understandably received much attention. Perhaps this allowed another energy infrastructure bill—one that makes a big statement in terms of energy and climate policy—to pass without similar attention.

House Bill 17 passed the Texas Legislature earlier this year and was signed into law by Governor Abbott on May 18, 2021. The law prohibits Texas localities from restricting or discriminating against utility infrastructure based on the type or source of the energy delivered to the end-use customer. The law also prohibits Texas localities from imposing additional charges on development and building permit applicants that encourage or discourage the installation of infrastructure based on the type or source of energy. While not expressly stated, the intent of the bill is to prohibit localities from phasing out natural gas and its infrastructure.Continue Reading Texas keeps the gas taps flowing, but will others do the same as energy infrastructure takes center stage?

New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Bill (EJ Bill) applies to Facilities located in Overburdened Communities (OBC). N.J. Stat. § 13:1D-157 – 13:1D-161.  A Facility includes any: 1. Major source of air pollution; 2. Resource recovery facility or incinerator; 3. Sludge processing facility, combustor, or incinerator; 4. Sewage treatment plant with a capacity of more than 50 million gallons per day; 5. Transfer station or other solid waste facility, or recycling facility intending to receive at least 100 tons of recyclable material per day; 6. Scrap metal facility; 7. Landfill; or 8. Medical waste incinerator.   An OBC is one in which: 1. At least 35 percent of the households qualify as low-income households; 2. At least 40 percent of the residents identify as minority or as members of a State recognized tribal community; or 3. At least 40 percent of the households have limited English proficiency.  The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has compiled a list of overburdened communities.

If a Facility is located in an OBC, the EJ Bill requires that when the Facility submits an application for a permit for a new Facility, an expansion of an existing Facility, or an application for renewal of an existing Facility’s major source permit, the Facility must:

  1. Prepare an environmental justice impact statement (EJIS) to assess the potential environmental and public health stressors associated with the application;
  2. Transmit the EJIS at least 60 days in advance of the public hearing to the NJDEP, the governing body, and the clerk of the municipality in which the OBC is located; and
  3. Organize and conduct a public hearing in the OBC. The applicant must publish a notice of the public hearing in at least two newspapers circulating within the OBC (including one non-English language newspaper, if applicable), not less than 60 days prior to the public hearing.  The permit applicant shall provide a copy of the notice to the NJDEP and the NJDEP will publish the notice on its website.  The notice shall include the date, time, and location of the public hearing, a description of the proposed new or expanded Facility or existing major source, as applicable, a map indicating the location of the Facility, a brief summary of the EJIS, information on how an interested person may review a copy of the complete EJIS, an address for the submittal of written comments to the permit applicant, and any other information deemed appropriate by NJDEP.  At least 60 days prior to the public hearing, the notice shall be sent to the NJDEP, the governing body, and the clerk of the municipality in which the OBC is located.  At the public hearing, the permit applicant shall provide clear, accurate, and complete information about the proposed new or expanded facility, or existing major source, as applicable, and the potential environmental and public health stressors associated with the Facility. The permit applicant shall accept written and oral comments from any interested party, and provided an opportunity for meaningful public participation at the public hearing. The permit applicant shall transcribe the public hearing and, no later than 10 days after the public hearing, submit the transcript along with any written comments received, to NJDEP. Following the public hearing, NJDEP shall consider the testimony presented and any written comments received, and evaluate the issuance of, or conditions to, the permit, as necessary in order to avoid or reduce the adverse environmental or public health stressors affecting the OBC.

Continue Reading New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Bill and its effect on Title V facilities

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (“CSB”), the federal agency created under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and charged with investigating industrial chemical releases, has announced that it will draw up a new board following a recommendation to do so by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”). The CSB

As we reported last year, the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) adopted the Advanced Clean Trucks regulation to support its efforts to reduce air pollutants and meet state climate change targets.  The regulation has a one-time reporting requirement for large entities that operate or dispatch vehicles in California with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (“GVWR”) greater than 8,500 lbs.  That includes medium duty vehicles like vans and ¾-ton pickups (i.e., the F250 or Ram 2500) and heavier vehicles of all configurations and fuel types.  However, the regulation does not apply to lighter vehicles such as cars and light duty pickups, among other exemptions.

This regulation applies to a wide range of businesses.  Examples include entities that meet any of the following criteria:

  • Had gross annual revenues greater than $50 million in the United States for the 2019 tax year, and had one or more vehicles over 8,500 lbs. GVWR under common ownership or control that were operated in California in 2019; or
  • Any fleet owner in the 2019 calendar year that had 50 or more vehicles over 8,500 lbs. GVWR under common ownership or control; or
  • Any broker or entity that dispatched 50 or more vehicles over 8,500 lbs. GVWR into or throughout California, in the 2019 calendar year.

Continue Reading Advanced Clean Trucks Rule — California announces extension of large entity reporting deadline