Launch of UK “Food Crime Confidential” Whistleblower Facility Is Reminder to Food Businesses to Ensure Integrity of Supply Chains

On 28 November 2016, the National Food Crime Unit launched ‘Food Crime Confidential’, which is a phone and email reporting or ‘whistleblowing’ facility. Anyone can use the service, but it is targeted mainly at those working in or around the food industry, to allow them to report suspicions in confidence. Food Crime is defined by the Food Standards Agency (“FSA”) as ‘Financially motivated dishonesty relating to food production or supply, which is either complex or results in serious detriment to consumers, businesses or the overall public’. The Unit in particular want to hear about suspicions in relation to:

  • food or drink that has potentially been adulterated or substituted;
  • methods used in workplaces for producing, processing, storing, labelling or transporting food that appears illegal or substandard; and
  • companies or businesses that are selling items of food or drink that purport to be of a certain quality, suggest health benefits or claim to be from a specific place or region, but do not appear genuine or are suspected to be fake.

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US EPA Identifies First 10 Chemicals For Risk Evaluations Under Amended TSCA

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On November 29, US EPA announced the first 10 chemicals it will evaluate for potential risks to human health and the environment under the recently amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  US EPA will evaluate the 10 chemicals to determine whether they “present an unreasonable risk of injury” to health or the environment “under the conditions of use.”  Within six months, US EPA must release a scoping document for each of these 10 chemicals, which includes the hazards, exposures, conditions of use and the potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations that US EPA plans to consider in the risk evaluation. US EPA must complete the risk evaluations within three years (although the Agency may extend the deadline for up to six months if additional data or testing is needed). Details on this announcement and its implications can be found here.


Western US Water Managers Move Towards Collaborative Approaches to Water Management

The completion of the state of Colorado’s Water Plan on November 19, 2015, reflects a growing trend in western water management away from conflict and towards collaborative and inclusive discussion. Increasingly, western water managers are opting, or perhaps feeling obliged, to pursue more creative and coordinated solutions to complex water issues, built on broad-based stakeholder participation.

In an article published by Water World magazine, Jonathan S. King explains how western water management discussions have historically been handled – a confrontational, divisive, and often exclusive affair. Over the past year decades, however, water management in western watersheds has shifted focus toward collaboration – which can provide its own challenges, as developing binational (Minute 319) and multi-stakeholder interstate water sharing agreements (Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan) can require lengthy, sensitive, and complex discussions. Continue Reading

Addressing Environmental, Safety & Health Management Risks in Nanotechnology

In a recent presentation at the Fifth Annual International Conference NANOSAFE 2016 in Minatec-Grenoble, France, Anthony Bochon explored how companies should address Environmental, Health & Safety Management risks in relation to nanomaterials. He discussed existing employment and consumers safety legal instruments that can be used in Belgium and abroad.

A leading expert in this emerging legal area of nanotechnology, Anthony has written extensively on this topic and has presented in various conferences on this field, including EuroNanoForum last year. He is serving as legal expert in the Horizon 2020 project EC4SafeNano, which is aimed at creating the first European nanosafety center.

NANOSAFE is Europe’s leading event on nanosafety sciences and regulation, bringing together top world experts in the field. The conference is attended by European Union officials, top researchers and industry representatives in the chemicals, pharmaceuticals and electronics sectors. Other speakers included Georgios Katalagarianakis, Scientific Officer of the European Commission, Alexnadre Ceccaldi, General Secretary of the European Technology Platform on Nanomedicine, and Dr Daniel Bernard, Senior Scientific Advisor for the Union des Industries Chimiques (Association of Chemical Industries).

Recent Developments in Oil Pollution Act Litigation

Congress enacted the Oil Pollution Act in 1990 following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in order to strengthen the federal government’s ability to prevent and respond to oil spills. As this law continues to evolve, particularly in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, the Environmental Law Institute convened a panel of experts to discuss recent events in oil pollution law, including the resolution of Deepwater Horizon civil penalties and developments regarding natural resource damage assessments and liability. Washington DC environmental partner Russ Randle served as moderator. A transcript of that discussion, edited for clarity and readability, is available here.

One Year Later: The Clean Power Plan

It has been one year since the Clean Power Plan was published in the Federal Register, and the oral arguments for the rule in the D.C. Circuit have been concluded for about a month now. In this relative “calm before the storm,” as we wait for the D.C. Circuit decision, the 2016 Presidential Election, and the result of the Clean Air Act Section 111(b) litigation, it is a good time to take a step back and review what has happened and what is yet to come. Continue Reading

Ohio Appellate Court Affirms Appropriation of Private Land for Propane/Butane Pipeline

Late last month the Seventh District Court of Appeals in Ohio upheld the appropriation of private land for a pipeline that will carry pure propane and pure butane, ruling that such fractionated natural gas liquids still constitute “petroleum” under Ohio’s eminent domain laws.  The case is now on appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, but if left undisturbed, the Court of Appeals decision will provide significant flexibility to developers of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Ohio. Continue Reading

Preparing for Revised Warning Requirements Under California Proposition 65

Yellow road warning sign , Are You Ready ? , 3d render

On August 30, 2016, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) adopted revised warning requirements under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65 and codified at California Health and Safety Code section 25249.5.  The new regulations take effect on August 30, 2018.

Proposition 65 requires the State of California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.  Any business with 10 or more employees doing business in California is prohibited from knowingly or intentionally exposing any individual to a listed chemical without giving a “clear and reasonable” warning.  The new regulatory revisions modify the warning method and content deemed by OEHHA to be de facto “clear and reasonable” under the statute’s safe harbor provisions.  The revisions also clarify which entities have responsibility for providing a warning. Continue Reading

MSHA Releases “Safest Year in Mining History” Stats and Vows to Keep Inspector Boots on the Ground to Stave Off October’s “Deadliest Month” Trend

According to data released on October 11, 2016 by the US Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the fiscal year of 2016 was the “safest year in mining history.” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, Joseph A. Main, announced at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, West Virginia that between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016, the mining industry experienced a historic low of 24 deaths across the nation’s more than 13,000 mines – down from 38 mining deaths in FY 2015 and 30% below the next lowest annual total of 34 deaths in FY 2013.  This historic safety milestone included a 133-day stretch in late 2015 without a single metal/non-metal (MNM) (i.e., non-coal mine) mining death, and the first time in MSHA’s recorded history with no MNM fatalities in the traditionally “deadliest” month of October.

MSHA attributes this reduction in fatalities to a combination of aggressive enforcement efforts at MNM mines over the past 18 months, enhanced outreach and training opportunities in both divisions, including an increase in onsite “walk and talks” and the initiation of quarterly, national conference calls for stakeholders with Mine Safety trainers, and cooperation from industry.  In spite of the positive safety trend, the Agency does not intend to rest on its laurels, as Assistant Secretary Joseph Main has made clear in recent stakeholder meetings.  Referring to the four fatal mining accidents that occurred in September 2016 (three in MNM, one in coal), Secretary Main cautioned that the safety gains made in FY 2015 are beginning to erode and called on all industry stakeholders, including mine operators, miners’ organizations, associations and trainers, “to increase their attention to the conditions and hazards that are leading to fatalities.”  Together, said Main, the Agency and industry “can – and must – strive to reach zero mining deaths.” Continue Reading

SPB Attorneys Address Bankruptcy and Successorship Issues Related to Mine Safety and Health (MSHA) Enforcement

As the mining industry continues to feel the impacts of low commodity prices, bankruptcy and successorship issues have become increasingly relevant.  Historically, bankruptcy has provided for the purchase of an insolvent entity’s assets without the third-party purchaser incurring the undue risks of taking on the debtor’s liabilities.  Indeed, this very mechanism has allowed for new operators to continue mining operations that may otherwise fold completely, with potentially devastating effects on the economies of local mining communities.  However, recent case law coming out of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission—the independent agency tasked with adjudicating claims under the Mine Act—demonstrates that at least some administrative law judges are in disagreement with the typical bankruptcy process and may attempt to hold companies who purchase mining assets out of the bankruptcy process liable (in some form or another) as successors in interest.  This potentially includes liability for events that occurred well before bankruptcy and which were disposed of or settled during bankruptcy proceedings and in the face of bankruptcy court orders to the contrary.

Squire Patton Boggs attorneys Peter Gould and Matthew Cooper recently spoke on this new topic at the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation’s (EMLF) annual mining conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, in conjunction with MINExpo 2016. The topic sparked great interest from the mining community.  Although legal questions surrounding this topic are far from settled, this issue warrants close attention as the law continues to develop.  Slides from the EMLF presentation are attached here: EMLF Successors, Bankruptcy, and MSHA.