Environmental Litigation

The court’s decision is the latest development in the litigation over the SEC’s final rules, which have faced numerous legal challenges since their adoption.

By Paul A. Davies, Sarah E. Fortt, and Betty M. Huber

On March 15, 2024, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted an administrative stay of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s recently finalized climate disclosure rules, in response to a March 8 request.[1] Petitioners had requested the stay in light

The agency’s two recent actions introduce enhanced restrictions on hydrofluorocarbons and provide a series of compliance dates for industry stakeholders.

By Stacey VanBelleghem and Jennifer Garlock

On October 5, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two rules, one final and one proposed, to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act). The agency’s recent actions represent major steps in the Biden administration’s goal to significantly reduce HFCs over the next decade.

HFCs are a group of chemical refrigerants and potent greenhouse gasses (GHGs), commonly used in foam products, cooling systems, aerosols, and fire suppressants. International focus on managing these compounds sharpened in the 1980s, when countries agreed in the Montreal Protocol to shift global markets away from the ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — the then dominant strain of refrigerant and aerosol chemicals — toward HFCs. Although HFCs are less damaging to the ozone layer than CFCs, they have global warming potential (GWP) values (a figure that allows comparison of relative climate impact of a GHG) hundreds or thousands times higher than carbon dioxide (CO2), which has a GWP equal to 1. In 2016, nearly 200 countries adopted the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol agreeing to a global phasedown of production and use of HFCs. The US ratified that amendment on October 31, 2022.

Regulators are pursuing steep fines in response to widespread alleged noncompliance with an emissions rule still subject to potential reversal by the courts.

By Joshua T. Bledsoe, James Friedland, and Jennifer Garlock

Key Points:

  • The enforcement action alleges 1,400 warehouses are noncompliant.
  • Noncompliance can result in fines of up to $11,710 per day.
  • Litigation challenging this program remains pending, with no quick end in sight.

On September 20, 2023, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD or the District) announced an enforcement initiative for Rule 2305, also known as the Warehouse Indirect Source Rule (ISR), which is part of the Warehouse Actions and Investments to Reduce Emissions (WAIRE) Program. As described in this June 2021 blog post, the WAIRE Program applies to warehouses in the South Coast Air Basin over 100,000 square feet, with a phased implementation based on warehouse size. The ISR imposes a compliance obligation based on the number of truck visits to that warehouse per year, which warehouse operators can meet through emissions-reducing actions, either from the “WAIRE Menu” or through a custom plan approved by the District.

The Court’s decision has prompted the US Army Corps of Engineers to freeze jurisdictional determinations for permitted activities pending additional guidance.

By Michael G. Romey, Lucas Quass, and Peter R. Viola

On May 25, 2023, by a narrow 5-4 majority, the US Supreme Court ruled in Sackett v. EPA that the Clean Water Act (CWA) only extends to wetlands that have a “continuous surface connection” with “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) — the term in the CWA’s definition of “navigable waters” that determines the jurisdiction of the US Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (together, the Agencies) over projects and other activities requiring permits to dredge, fill, or discharge into federally protected waters.[1]