On March 22, 2018, the Colorado Court of Appeals held that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s authority to undertake unannounced, warrantless inspections (i.e., administrative searches) at oil and gas sites does NOT violate the U.S. or Colorado constitutions.
House Bill 1071, if enacted as written, will obviate the need for the Colorado Supreme Court to resolve the dilemma caused by the Colorado Court of Appeals opinion in the Martinez case. As described in earlier Spencer Fane posts, that appellate decision effectively elevated the protection of public health and the environment over the interests of mineral rights owners and developers. The issue before the Colorado Supreme Court is whether the current statute dictates that the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) implement a statutorily directed balancing act without giving priority to any particular interest.
On February 13, 2018, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved new rules to require the industry to track the location of oil and gas pipelines. The new rules stem from an explosion in Firestone, Colorado caused by a leaking pipeline that destroyed a house and killed two people on April 17, 2017. That disaster triggered a massive public outcry, directives from the Governor, and now significant revisions to state regulations.
On January 29, 2018 the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of the Martinez case. The state’s high court will decide whether, in the agency’s review of oil and gas permit applications, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (“COGCC”) must elevate “public health and the environment” over other factors identified in the agency’s organic statute.
Recently, EPA issued an Interim OECA Guidance on EPA and state roles on managing enforcement and compliance assistance. See, Interim OECA Guidance on Enhancing Regional—State Planning and Communication on Compliance Assurance Work in Authorized States. While EPA is seeking to emphasize cooperative federalism in modifying the emphasis of the 1986 revised policy on state/EPA enforcement agreements, as provided in the first footnote of the Guidance, the policy issued on January 22, 2018, appears to make the states the primary enforcer of environmental laws and provides a secondary role for EPA in that regard.
In January 2018, both EPA and OSHA increased civil penalties for new enforcement cases. These increases are required by the Federal Civil Penalty Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015 (Inflationary Adjustment Act), which directs federal agencies to annually adjust civil penalties for inflation by January 15 of each new calendar year in order to “maintain the deterrent effect of civil penalties by translating originally enacted statutory civil penalty amounts to today’s dollars.” 83 Fed. Reg. 1190, at 1191 (January 10, 2018).
A citizens group cleared the first major hurdle to obtaining a declaratory judgment compelling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider whether to regulate the fluoridation of drinking water supplies under Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)’s Section 6(a) when a federal judge denied the EPA’s motion to dismiss the citizen group’s petition for such a declaration. Consequently, the citizen suit will proceed in evaluating whether EPA must initiate proceedings to decide if it should issue a rule under Section 6 to impose regulatory controls on fluoridation of drinking water.
December 15, 2017, was the deadline for employers to electronically submit information from work-related injuries and illnesses under OSHA’s Electronic Reporting Rule. Nevertheless, OSHA announced on December 18, 2017, that it will continue accepting electronic submittals until midnight on December 31, 2017.
OSHA has delayed the December 1, 2017, deadline for the Electronic Reporting Rule until December 15, 2017. This rule requires a wide range of establishments to electronically submit injury and illness information from their OSHA Forms 300A. The deadline extension was announced via a November 24, 2017, OSHA notice in the Federal Register.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency and United States Army Corps of Engineers last week took another step toward rolling back their 2015 proposed definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). On November 22, 2017, the agencies published in the Federal Register a new proposed regulation to delay the effective date of the 2015 WOTUS rule until two years from the date of final action on the new proposal. The agencies seek comments until December 13, 2017, on their new November 22 proposal, so stakeholders who wish to comment have limited time to do so.