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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.

Nanotechnology and Environmental Law- A new blog topic

29 Jun

In light of numerous requests, we are adding nanotechnology as a new topic to our blog.  Please check back frequently for updates, add this blog to your RSS feed (under the favorites tab in Windows Explorer), or subscibe to our weekly e-mail updates (on the right of your screen).

Few new technologies have generated as much attention and buzz as nanotechnology.  The use of nanomaterials is proposed, or already in use, for medicines, electronics, biomaterials, pesticides, and numerous other applications.  While there is no universally accepted definition, nanotechnology or nanomaterials basically refers to ultra-small molecules, typically between 1 and 100 nanometers long in one dimension.  The utility of nanoparticles derives from their extremely small size, low weights, and large surface areas.  Nano-materials may be functionalized much as any other chemical.   (more…)

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.

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