Furthering the Biden Administration’s Environmental Goals Using the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Advisory Committee

AgricultureRecently, in celebration of National Agriculture Day, US EPA Administrator Regan announced that US EPA had rechartered its Farm, Ranch & Rural Communities Advisory Committee (FRRCC).  Administrator Regan simultaneously announced a new charge topic for the FRRCC as well.

The FRRCC was developed in 2007 and focuses on providing policy advice, information, and recommendations to the US EPA Administrator on a variety of environmental issues and policies relating to agriculture and rural America.  Charge topics are announced approximately every two years, with the FRRCC’s newest charge topic set for years 2022–2024.

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Environmental Justice Consideration in Affordable Housing

JusticeEnvironmental justice has a natural connection to affordable housing programs.  It remains, however, a broad and somewhat elusive term.  There is no formal definition of environmental justice in US federal law.  However, relevant agencies have developed working descriptions for the term.  US EPA generally defines it as “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies,” while the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) describes the term as “ensuring equal protection from environmental and health hazards and providing equal and meaningful opportunity to participate in the decision-making process to achieve a healthy environment.”

The underlying concepts of fairness and equal protection adopted by these agencies originate in a number of civil rights statutes and subsequent legal mechanisms.  In particular, Title VI to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 established a federal benchmark for non-discrimination and it prohibits recipients of federal funding from discriminating based on race, color, or national origin in any program or activity.  A few years later, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 expanded upon this mandate.  The Fair Housing Act (Titles VIII and IX to the 1968 Act) prohibits discrimination as to the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and sex. Continue Reading

Still Time To Have Your Voice Heard In The UK COVID-19 Public Inquiry

With just under a week remaining on the Cabinet Office’s online consultation process into the COVID-19 Public Inquiry, we explore the current stage of the Public Inquiry process, the next steps, and the importance of ensuring organisations and individuals have their say in the draft Terms of Reference (“TORs”) by 7 April 2022, which will shape the future for the Inquiry process.

In May 2021, the Prime Minister announced a Public Inquiry to examine the UK’s preparedness and response into the COVID-19 pandemic and to identify lessons to be learned, including a promise to put the “state’s actions under the microscope”. The Inquiry will be chaired by the Rt Hon Baroness Heather Hallett DBE, former Presiding Judge and Vice-President of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division, who has significant experience in dealing with a range of complex Inquests and Inquiries, including acting as the Coroner for the Inquests into the deaths of the victims of the London 7/7 bombings and chairing the Iraq Fatality Investigations, which inquired into allegations of unlawful killing by British Forces.

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Crunch Time for Critical Minerals in the US

MiningFollowing up on Squire Patton Boggs’s continuing coverage of the critical minerals industry, we examine some recent reforms in the federal permitting process which aim to ease supply-side constraints by expediting the development and exploitation of critical minerals. Rapidly mounting geopolitical tensions, East/West decoupling, and longstanding supply chain stresses underlie a new reality—global logistics now operates less like a fine tuned watch and more like a game of Calvinball, where delays, ever-changing rules, and black-swan shocks are the norm.  But this disruption only goes so far—some things remain largely unchanged.  One certainty in this uncertain time is that the demand for critical minerals will continue to increase in the coming years as countries push a green transition to meet Paris Accord targets.  Countries and companies remain laser-focused on the need to obtain reliable sources of critical minerals needed to fuel this transition.

Although the demand for critical minerals is robust and largely insulated from the current political climate, critical minerals supply faces significant hurdles including both short- and long-term capacity strains given political instability in key regions, an uncertain trade outlook, and—most of all—skyrocketing demand.  The International Energy Agency reports that demand for critical minerals related to electric vehicles and battery storage will soar by orders of magnitude in the coming years, to say nothing of critical minerals’ increasing use as the United States and European Union attempt to develop independent chip/high-tech manufacturing bases and redundant critical mineral supply chains. Continue Reading

UK Calorie Labelling for Food and Drink in Restaurants, Takeaways, Deli Counters and Other ‘Out of Home’

Kcal iconThere is less than a month to go before the UK’s new Calorie Labelling (Out of Home Sector) (England) Regulations 2021 (the “Regulations”) come into force (6 April 2022). The Regulations include obligations for calorie labelling for ‘non-prepacked foods’ in England, which are sold in a form suitable for ‘immediate consumption’. They will require businesses of a certain size (250 or more employees) to provide details of the energy value for meals and other foods served on site to customers in restaurants, cafes, pubs, workplaces and in canteens; for meals and other foods sold for consumption off-site, from shops, delicatessens, sandwich bars and takeaways; and for ‘distance sales’ over the internet or the phone  (the ‘out of home’ sector).

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The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) Publishes Enforcement Data (UK)

Product Safety RecallThe OPSS has published details of its enforcement actions during the six months from 1 April 2021 to 30 September 2021. Actions related to product safety included orders for forfeiture and destruction, compliance notices and the issue of mandatory withdrawal and recall notices. Relevant businesses included businesses based in Great Britain, but also a significant number of online sellers based in China. The data shows that the actions related to breaches of the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 and also, in some cases, of specific legislation relating to electrical equipment and toys. In addition to product safety, there was enforcement action taken in relation to heat networks and timber.

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A “Made in America” Supply Chain for Critical Minerals

White HouseThe Biden administration recently announced major investments in the domestic production of key critical minerals and materials.

The minerals targeted by the Administration are the rare earth elements, lithium, and cobalt—found in products from personal rechargeable electronics and television screens, to household appliances, as well as those used in clean energy technologies like batteries, electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels.  The administration has framed its push as essential given the world’s transition to a clean energy economy, and the global demand for these critical minerals, the processed versions of which the U.S. has increasingly become dependent on foreign sources for.  The administration particularly noted the anticipated demand for minerals such as lithium and graphite used in electric vehicle batteries, which it anticipated will increase by as much as 4,000 percent. Continue Reading

February 2022 Update: EU Sustainability Outlook: Key Developments In EU Sustainability Law and Policy

Our European Public Policy team is pleased to share with you our monthly newsletter, Sustainability Outlook – European Union which looks at key developments in EU sustainability law and policy. This month’s edition includes the following: Continue Reading

Biden EPA Backtracks on Trump-Era Water Policy – Will the New Stance Lead to Efficiency or Add to Administrative Backlog?

Water treatment plant

US EPA recently issued two memoranda announcing a more flexible timeline for its review of state and tribal water quality standards (WQS), replacing a Trump-Era policy that set defined deadlines for these reviews.  On February 4, 2022, US EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox issued a memorandum entitled “Rescission of Memorandum Titled: ‘Policy for the EPA’s Review and Action on Clean Water Act Program Submittals’” (the Fox Memo), rescinding a Trump-era water office memorandum from June 3, 2019 (the Ross Memo). On the same day, Deborah G. Nagle, Director of the Office of Science and Technology (OST), issued a memorandum entitled “Decision-Making Principles for EPA Headquarters’ Concurrence on Water Quality Standards Decisions” to all Water Division Directors (the Nagle Memo). Continue Reading

Consultation is opened on the Office for Environmental Protection’s (OEP) draft strategy and enforcement policy (UK)

Environment Strategy PlanningThe consultation seeks views on the new regulator’s plans, which set out how it will protect and improve the environment by holding public authorities to account.

The draft strategy defines what the OEP considers to be a “public authority” and this includes the government, government agencies, local authorities and similar organisations, and private companies carrying out public functions (e.g. water companies). It also sets out four strategic objectives: sustained environmental improvement; better environmental law that is better implemented; improved compliance with environmental law; and organisational excellence and influence.

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