Earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit held that sovereign immunity protected a number of state agencies and universities from Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) liability. Generally stated, sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that prohibits private individuals from bringing civil lawsuits or criminal prosecutions against the state. State immunity from lawsuits is provided by the Eleventh Amendment, while the Supreme Court has established a similar rule for suits against the federal government. Sovereign immunity is not absolute, of course. The states and federal government may waive immunity or consent to the lawsuit. Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Holds Sovereign Immunity Bars CERCLA Action Against State Agencies and Universities

On August 21, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) proposed a new rule which would replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (“CPP”) and establish new emissions guidelines for states to address greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from electric-generating power plants. As background, the CPP was stayed by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision in February of 2016 before the rule ever went into effect. More recently, in October 2017, the EPA announced its intention to effectively repeal the CPP because it “exceeded” the EPA’s authority. Now, the EPA is proposing to enact the Affordable Clean Energy rule (“ACE Rule”) to reduce GHGs while giving states more flexibility to achieve that goal. Continue Reading EPA Proposes to Replace Clean Power Plan with Affordable Clean Energy Rule

Last Thursday, Basil Seggos, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYSDEC”) announced the first major update to New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) regulations in over 20 years. SEQRA establishes a process to systematically consider environmental factors early in the planning stages of actions that are directly undertaken, funded or approved by local or state agencies. Seggos believes the updates will “streamline the environmental review process and encourage sustainable development and renewable energy development without sacrificing SEQRA’s integrity or the environmental protection it affords.” Continue Reading New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Announces the Adoption of Revisions to the Regulations that Implement the State Environmental Quality Review Act

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) recently issued an enforcement discretion letter stating that it will exercise its enforcement authority with respect to certain provisions of the recently revised Solid Waste Management Program. As we previously reported, the final version of the comprehensive revisions, codified in Title 6 of New York Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations (“6 NYCRR”), took effect in November 2017. Continue Reading DEC to Exercise Enforcement Discretion over Problematic Part 360 Provisions