Ship owners face increased compliance costs with lowering of sulphur oxide limit for shipping fuels.

By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

January 1, 2020 marked the implementation of the new sulphur oxide limit for shipping fuel imposed by the International Maritime Organisation under the MARPOL Convention, often referred to as IMO 2020. IMO 2020 intends to improve global air quality and protect the environment through these measures, but concerns have been raised regarding the increased expenses that the maritime sector will face in order to comply with the new standards. This blog post considers the requirements under IMO 2020, how they will be enforced, and the solutions companies may utilise to ensure compliance.

MEE declares full steam ahead on China’s environmental initiatives, including an NGDF, private sector finance, Yangtze River conservation, and the social credit system.

By Paul A. Davies and Zoe Liu

Xu Bijiu, director general of the general office of China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), has given the clearest signal to date that China’s environmental ambitions will not be impeded by the projected slowdown of the Chinese economy.

Dismissing suggestions that increased environmental protection had led to downward pressures on the economy in recent years, Xu stated that China has, in fact, benefitted from a “harmonious, win-win relationship” between economic development and increased environmental protection. Xu confirmed that the pollution targets MEE set last year for the end of 2020 would not be altered, despite the fact that some areas of the country (such as Hunan in south-central China) missed their PM 2.5 air quality targets in 2019.

The Bill proposes a post-Brexit system of environmental governance to oversee new powers and regulations in four environmental law areas.

By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

On 15 October 2019, the UK government published the final draft of Environment Bill 2019–20 (the Bill), which aims to set out the government’s environmental priorities post-Brexit. The Bill covers a broad range of topics ― from air quality to England’s future environmental governance — and gives a legal footing to several policy commitments that the government has made in recent years. This blog post will consider the Bill’s content, and the potential impact that the Bill may have on environmental regulation in England.

The Committee has recommended that the UK government take the lead in reaching net-zero, through social, financial, and policy change.

By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), a statutory body that advises the UK government on carbon budgets, has recommended that the UK government should commit to cutting greenhouse gases (GHGs) to net-zero by 2050 in an attempt to meet its commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Financial Times described the proposed goal as the “toughest binding target of any big economy.”[i] To meet this ambitious net-zero target, the UK government would need to employ technologies such as carbon capture, utilization, and storage to curtail the volume of GHGs entering the atmosphere. Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, remarked that the UK’s bid to reach net-zero will be a “powerful signal to other countries”[ii] to take action.

Decision may significantly impact active and inactive unlined and clay-lined coal ash impoundments, likely requiring closure or retrofit.

By Claudia M. O’Brien and Stijn van Osch

The D.C. Circuit this week struck down parts of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rule for not being sufficiently protective of the environment. The decision in Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG) et al. v. EPA, No. 15-1219 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 21, 2018) will have a major impact on both active and inactive coal ash impoundments used by coal-fired power plants. Although the timing is uncertain, the Court’s opinion will likely require closure or retrofitting of all unlined and clay impoundments, unless EPA is able to address the Court’s concerns on remand.

By Joel C. Beauvais and Stacey L. VanBelleghem

On August 21, 2018 the Trump administration released its proposed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule to replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). Both rules would regulate CO2 emissions from existing electric generating units (EGUs) pursuant to Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The ACE proposal includes three elements:

  • Replacing the CPP with new emission guidelines for CO2 emissions from existing EGUs
  • Revising implementing regulations to guide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and states on this and future Section 111(d) rulemakings
  • Revisions to the New Source Review (NSR) program for power plants

Here are six key points stakeholders should know about EPA’s proposed ACE rule.

CEQA Case Report: Understanding the Judicial Landscape for Development[i]

By Christopher W. Garrett, Daniel P. Brunton, Diego Enrique Flores, and Samantha K. Seikkula

In an unpublished opinion issued May 18, 2018, Responsible Development for Water Tank Hill v. County of San Mateo, Case No. A150883, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment denying Responsible Development for Water Tank Hill’s (Petitioner’s) petition for writ of mandate, finding that the County of San Mateo (County) had properly analyzed the potential environmental impacts of San Mateo Real Estate, Inc.’s (Developers’) proposed housing development (Project) and that the County’s determinations were supported by the substantial evidence. In summary, the court determined:

  • An EIR’s analysis of noise impact should be site-specific and should consider qualitative factors as well as technical factors
  • When an EIR finds, based on substantial evidence, that an impact would be less-than-significant, further mitigation is not required.
  • An agency may rely on statewide emissions-reduction goals when determining mitigation measures to reduce a project’s significant GHG impacts.

Background for Appeal

After several rounds of public comment, the San Mateo County Planning Commission (Commission) approved the Project. The County Board of Supervisors denied an appeal of the approval and upheld the Commission’s decision. Petitioner then filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to set aside the Project approvals as inadequate under CEQA. Petitioner argued that the approvals were inadequate because:

  • The environmental impact report (EIR) failed to adequately analyze impacts
  • The County failed to adopt feasible mitigation measures
  • The County’s findings were not supported by substantial evidence
  • The County failed to recirculate the final EIR after making changes that constituted significant new information

The trial court rejected Petitioner’s specific challenges to the County’s environmental analysis of air quality, aesthetics, hydrology, and noise, finding that the County had properly analyzed the potential environmental impacts of the Project and that the County’s determinations were supported by substantial evidence. Petitioner appealed the decision with respect to air quality and noise.

Webcast addresses recent EPA and DOJ policy developments with important implications for permitting, enforcement, and litigation.

By Joel C. Beauvais, Julia A. Hatcher, Karl A. Karg, Claudia M. O’Brien, and Stacey L. VanBelleghem

Latham’s Environment, Land & Resources Department hosted a 60-minute webcast on March 29, “New Trump Administration Policies on Environmental Enforcement, Settlements, and Clean Air Act Implementation.” Partners provided an overview of important policy clarifications and changes arising in recent months — including the

Webcast addresses recent developments involving the California Environment Quality Act.

By Marc Campopiano, Chris Garrett, and Winston Stromberg

The Project Siting & Approvals Practice hosted a 60-minute webcast on February 21, “CEQA Developments: How New Proposed Regulations and Streamlined Legislation Will Impact California Projects.” Speakers provided an overview of the proposed updates to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines, the implications of new proposed legislation to streamline CEQA (including S.B. 827), and the impact of the California