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D.C. battle over EPA Administrator nomination & the future of the D.C. Circuit

10 Jun

Gina McCarthy was nominated to take over as US EPA Administrator over three months ago. Last month her nomination passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to the full Senate for a vote. Needless to say, the leadership of EPA is a source of contention between Republicans and Democrats. As a result Republican senators have been delaying McCarthy’s confirmation vote.

Another set of less obvious nominations that may have even more significant environmental repercussions was made last week. President Obama nominated Robert Wilkins, Nina Pillard, and Patricia Millett for the US D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Since federal agencies are typically sued over proposed regulations in the D.C. Circuit, the D.C. Circuit is a prime battleground for US EPA regulations. In fact, these appointments may be especially important as federal judges are appointed for life, unlike agency administrators who typically last only as long as the President who nominates them, if that long. The judges whose change to Senior Status in the Court of Appeals created two of the three vacancies served for 25 and 26 years. The third vacancy was created when John Roberts was elevated to the Supreme Court. Currently, the D.C. Circuit has four judges selected by Republic Presidents (three judges selected by George W. Bush and one by George H.W. Bush and four judges selected by Democratic Presidents (three by Bill Clinton and one by Barack Obama).

If you have questions about these appointments or how to make your voice heard, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

What to do when EPA has sent you a violation notice.

31 Aug

During the course of my environmental practice, both at EPA and in private practice, I’ve seen too many regulated companies mishandle a violation notice, notice of violation, or finding of violation (terminology varying by agency and the division of an agency).  Companies have failed to respond, have provided an incomplete response, or have provided inaccurate information.  I have seen all of these permutations lead to administrative penalties (and associated legal and consulting costs) when no penalty was necessary.

Many regulated companies are under the mistaken impression that a violation letter is the end of the enforcement process.  That is incorrect.  In truth, EPA is still in the information gathering stage and has not made a decision whether to pursue an administrative penalty.  In addition, the agency enforcement team has a significant amount of enforcement discretion in determining whether the violations observed during an inspection warrant formal enforcement (i.e., a penalty).  Thus, the response to the violation notice is of crucial importance to the agency’s decision whether to pursue enforcement and should be treated as such.

Due to the significant legal and financial impact stemming from the response to a violation notice, this is the optimal time to engage an environmental attorney.  As an environmental attorney, we are best suited to understand how given facts do or do not constitute violations and can word responses most appropriately.  Furthermore, as a former EPA attorney, I have an excellent sense for how the agency decides to pursue formal enforcement and for which violations the agency decides to pursue a significant penalty.  As a result, I can tailor a response to a violation notice such that it minimizes the risk of formal enforcement.

If you have any questions regarding EPA violation notices, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

 

 

Stephen Thorn joining Chicago-Kent as adjunct law professor

30 Jul

Stephen Thorn is joining the Chicago-Kent School of Law as an Adjunct Law Professor.  He will be teaching the Advanced Legal Writing: Environmental Law course.

EPA Penalties- How did they calculate up with that number?

22 Jun

An article of ours discussing some of the methods used by EPA to calculate penalties was published in the April issue of the Illinois Association of Environmental Professionals Network.  In particular, the article covers the RCRA Subtitle C (hazardous waste) penalty policy, the hazardous substance release enforcement response policy (covering EPCRA Sections 304, 311, and 312 and CERCLA Section 103), and the Clean Air Act Stationary Source Civil Policy.

EPA Penalties- How did they come up with that number

If you have any questions regarding EPA enforcement and the penalty policies, contact us at 773-609-5320 or info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

Stephen Thorn appointed to ISBA Environmental Section Council

18 Jun

Stephen Thorn has been appointed to the Environmental Law Section Council of the Illinois State Bar Association.  The Council evaluates and makes recommendations regarding existing and proposed legislation and regulations in the environmental law field.  The Council also monitors developments in the environmental law field and disseminates relevant information to other attorneys and business, industrial, government, and agricultural interests.

If you have any questions regarding the Council, contact us at 773-609-5320 or info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

How does EPA calculate its penalties?

10 Jun

While it varies by statute, the maximum penalty for most statutes is $37,500 per violation occurring after January 12, 2009.  Needless to say, imposing the maximum penalty possible for every violation does not accurately reflect a violation’s relative threat to the environment or degree of noncompliance with the regulatory program.  In order to differentiate between violations and to allow for the uniform assessment of penalties throughout the United States, U.S. EPA has devised penalty policies for its enforcement programs.

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Household Waste Drop-off Points and One-day Collection Events Under the Illinois Environmental Protection Act

12 May

The purpose of 415 ILCS 5/22.55, Household Waste Drop-off Points, is to improve the collection of waste from households by diverting certain wastes from the general household waste stream. The act provides for collection centers that can be located at commercial establishments, as well as allowing for the collection of waste in one-day collection events. Both types of collection are discussed in this post.

The first major section of the act allows retail establishments to collect certain types of household wastes from their customers. A household waste drop-off point is defined as “the portion of a site or facility used solely for the receipt and temporary storage of household waste.” 415 ILCS 5/22.55(b). A drop-off point is limited to accepting “pharmaceutical products, personal care products, batteries other than lead-acid batteries, paints automotive fluids, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, mercury thermometers, and mercury thermostats.” 415 ILCS 5/22.55(c)(1). However, the types of waste collected must be the same as those sold, distributed or dispensed by the facility. 415 ILCS 5/22.55(c)(2). By way of example, (more…)

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