U.S. Warns Iranian Oil Tankers May Be Courting ‘Environmental Disaster’

Radio Free Europe
Radio Liberty

November 8, 2018

The United States is warning other countries not to allow Iranian oil tankers into their ports, saying the tankers not only could incur penalties under U.S. sanctions but may be courting “environmental disaster.”

The State Department warned the global shipping and insurance industries on November 7 that as part of Washington’s “maximum pressure campaign” to get Iran to change its behavior, insuring Iranian tankers will now incur penalties under the sanctions reinstated this week.

Brian Hook, the special U.S. representative for Iran, said that as major insurers withdraw coverage from Iranian vessels, Iran will likely turn to domestic insurance companies that will not be able to cover losses for maritime accidents that could run into the billions of dollars.

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New Law Requires Widespread Testing for Unregulated Contaminants

Jenner & Block LLP
Steven M. Siros

October 26, 2018

On October 23, 2018, President Trump signed into law America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 which, in addition to authorizing federal funding for water infrastructure projects, also requires drinking water systems serving more than 3,300 people to test for unregulated contaminants pursuant to U.S. EPA’s Unregulated Contaminants Monitoring Rule (UCMR). Prior to this new law, only drinking water systems that served more than 10,000 people were required to monitor for unregulated contaminants. Contaminants covered by the UCMR include PFOA, PFOS, 1,2,3-TCP, hexavalent chromium and 1,4-dioxane. This new testing requirement, which goes into effect in 2021, is expected to add more than 5,000 drinking water systems to the list of systems that are required to test for these unregulated contaminants.

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Impact of the 2018 Midterm Elections

Dykema Gossett PLLC
James Brandell, Andrew J. Buczek and Mary Beth L. McGowan

November 8, 2018

With the new Democratic House majority and Republicans maintaining control of the Senate, Washington, D.C., now enters a period of divided government in the run up to the 2020 presidential election. Democrats and Republicans, including President Trump, will have to compromise on a budget and impending debt limit and sequestration, as well as spending levels for the coming fiscal years in order to avoid a government shutdown. In addition, there appears to be a willingness to work together on some big ticket items, like infrastructure investment and drug pricing. The two parties may even be able to advance smaller policy initiatives impacting areas such as energy, financial services, cybersecurity, and trade. Expectations, however, are for a politically-charged and highly partisan environment where both parties will be turning out messaging in preparation for 2020, not only in the form of legislation, but, also through committee hearings and investigations in the House. The Democratic House’s new authority to direct oversight and investigation of the Trump administration could impact the pace of legislative activity if House committees prioritize oversight in favor of turning out legislation. Increased scrutiny of the executive branch may also slow the regulatory process as departments and agencies are bogged down responding to subpoenas and document requests. While the House can be expected to tackle Democratic priorities on issues such as immigration and health care, the Senate will likely continue its focus on confirming judges and executive branch nominees with increasing the ranks of political appointees in the Trump administration becoming increasingly important in light of anticipated House investigations. The enhanced Republican majority in the Senate will make it much easier for President Trump to get his nominees confirmed. With more than 400 nominees currently pending and several senior Administration officials likely to step down in the coming months, this could prove to be one of the most significant impacts of the midterms. Here is a look at the impact of yesterday’s election on a number of major issues confronting Congress.

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The Rule of Law, Agency Enforcement and the Environment

Bracewell LLP
Brittany M. Pemberton and Daniel J. Pope

November 6, 2018

Over the past two years, officials within President Trump’s administration have invoked the rule of law regarding the administration’s enforcement goals on issues ranging from marijuana production to immigration. Late last month, we saw a glimpse into how the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), at the time led by Acting Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Jeffrey H. Wood,[1] views application of the rule of law to environmental and natural resource litigation and enforcement. The Acting AAG presented the keynote speech at the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) Conference. He reflected on his time as AAG with ENRD. (His full remarks are available here.) Acting AAG Wood’s remarks built upon the March 2018 guidance entitled “Enforcement Principles and Priorities.” Bracewell’s Environmental Strategies Group developed a blog series on the guidance, accessible here.

In his remarks at the SEER Conference, Wood emphasized that the impartial rule of law is as much a method of decision-making as it is an outcome. For ENRD, this includes everything from increasing prosecution of wildlife trafficking crimes to defending controversial — but still lawful — projects such as federally permitted pipelines. ENRD continues to defend such projects around the country, consistent with the March 2018 guidance, prioritizing enforcement cases that protect American infrastructure. And, although ENRD and other federal agencies have continued to bring tough enforcement actions against regulated entities for a variety of violations, Wood explained that they should strive for predictability and a fair and neutral reading of environmental laws and regulations. Instead of using enforcement to dictate a preferred policy, Acting AAG Wood asserted that ENRD’s new approach will be to drive straight down the middle: Civil enforcement actions should never be used to convert guidance documents into binding rules, which would violate due process by evading notice and comment requirements. Many regulated entities welcomed this perspective based on their strong preference for a more stable and discernible background of legislation, regulation, and enforcement against which they can plan, invest, permit and comply.

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