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What Is On the Mind of the DOJ Environmental and Natural Resources Division?

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On July 23, 2015, John Cruden, head of DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, gave this speech to the American Bar Association Litigation Section on the current direction of federal environmental enforcement efforts. It touches upon issues we are consciously or subconsciously managing.  If you do not have time to read the speech, review the summary below with a view toward what you are observing and take note:  

  • Environmental Justice: Concerns over low income communities suffering environmental impacts (think of your regional low income areas);
  • Use of New Technology:  Prosecution of Noble Energy for tank emissions and the use of infrared cameras to detect uncontrolled emissions; 
  • Wildlife Protection:  Wildlife protection (keep an eye on new protected species categories) which DOJ describes as ecological (water quality, species protection, recreation, etc.);
  • Partnering with Local Resources (Citizen and State/Local Governments):   Partnering with local resources, to include citizens conducting their own monitoring;
  • Counselor for State and Local Matters:  ENRD announcement of the newly created role of Counselor for State and Local Matters to facilitate the joint efforts by the division and its environmental partners in state and local governments.  The Counselor for State and Local Matters will work with the National Association of Attorneys General, the Environmental Conference of States and individual attorneys in state and local governments working on environment and natural resource matters.  One important function of the counselor will be to increase collaboration with our state and local partners to achieve shared environmental enforcement goals.  Such collaboration may range from developing and implementing joint training to serving as a resource for state and local counterparts on issues of shared concern.  The counselor also will advise and assist the division regarding litigation, legislation and policy matters affecting state and local governments;
  • Combination of Civil and Criminal Proceedings:  Emphasis on “parallel proceedings” of civil and criminal actions;
  • Municipals:  Completion of enforcement actions involving the operation of municipal sewer collection and treatment systems to include one within Region 3 concerning Washington DC;
  • Garnering Company Wide Solutions:  ENRD seeks to leverage resources by turning violations at one or a few facilities into broader, company – or industry-wide solutions.  See Noble Energy enforcement concerning emissions from tanks setting a new standard for industry practices; and Exxon Mobil pipeline spill in Arkansas. Duke Energy flyash spill case highlights a key federal-state partnership and how ENRD leverages cases to ensure broader, company-wide and regional effects whenever possible;
  • Tank Management with Automated Electronic Release Detection:  Relative to tank management ENRD has gained a commitment to implement company-wide automated electronic release detection with a centralized monitoring capability;
  • Energy Efficiency:  Use of enforcement action settlements to gain commitments to implement energy efficiency goals.

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