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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.

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 to encourage certified recycling of electronic waste

25 Jul

On July 20, EPA administrators and executives from major consumer electronics companies jointly announced EPA’s commitment to encourage environmentally safe management of used electronics. The agency will take actions to promote eco-friendly design of electronics, promote recycling of used electronics and improve the US market for recycled electronics components.

According to the press release, Americans generate almost 2.5 million tons of e-waste annually. This waste contains plastic, glass, precious metals and rare earth metals. This presents an enormous economic opportunity. (more…)

Regulation of Hazardous Waste in Academic Laboratories

21 Jun

In December 2008, the EPA promulgated specific regulations that cover the hazardous waste used by academic laboratories. The regulations can be found at 40 CFR 262 Subpart K. These regulations provide alternative accumulation opportunities for qualifying entities. Specifically, the regulations exempt a qualifying institution from satellite accumulation area generator regulations. Under Subpart K, all wastes must be identified by a trained professional and must be removed every six months. In addition, the institution must create a Laboratory Management Plan, which describes its waste disposal policies.

Subpart K provides many potential advantages over the traditional RCRA scheme. For example, Subpart K provides labs with incentives to “clean-out” stockpiles of old chemicals by exempting these materials from the facility’s total generation of hazardous waste for purposes of determining generator quantity. (more…)

Using Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) to settle cases

20 Jun

Instead of simply paying a penalty to settle a matter with EPA, a facility can propose one or more supplemental environmental projects (SEPs). The cost of the SEP is used to offset part of the proposed penalty. Furthermore, since EPA issues press releases for all complaints and settlements, a SEP that benefits the surrounding community can reduce any public relations outfall associated with the enforcement.

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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.

Environmental Audits and Self-Disclosure: Two powerful tools to maintain compliance and avoid agency penalties

17 Jun

Too often companies believe they are in compliance with environmental regulations only to find out after an inspection that they had serious compliance problems and are now faced with large penalties and hefty legal bills.  Unfortunately, much like doctors, attorneys and environmental consultants are often consulted after a problem has arisen.  At that point, the primary option is damage control and not preventative maintenance.  Environmental audits, either comprehensive or taken over select statutes, amount to a check-up that is a cost-effective way of preventing environmental releases and government enforcement.

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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…)

The Illinois Safe Pharmaceutical Disposal Act

11 May

On August 4, 2009, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Safe Pharmaceutical Disposal Act (the Act). The Act became effective on January 1, 2010 and is codified at 21 ILCS 150/ et seq. The act prohibits any healthcare institution from disposing of any unused medication into the public wastewater collection system or sewage system. 210 ILCS 150/10(a). All medical facilities are required to update their protocols for the disposal of unused medication. 210 ILCS 150/15.

Under the Act, “unused medications” is defined as “any unopened, expired, or excess medication that has been dispensed for patient or resident care and that is in a solid form.” 210 ILCS 150/10. These medications can be pills, tablets, capsules, and caplets. Id. Medication that is in fluid form, such as intravenous fluids, syringes or transdermal patches are not covered by the ban. Id. (more…)

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