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EPA Will Revise Emission Standards For Cars and Light Trucks for Model Years 2022-2025

On April 2, 2018, the EPA announced the results of its updated Midterm Evaluation (MTE) determination related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2022-2025. The agency stated that the current standards are not appropriate, and that it will work with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set a notice and comment rulemaking to set new standards.

Hazardous Waste Generators, Transporters, and TSDFs Should Plan Now for EPA’s 2018 e-Manifest System

Authorized by Congress in 2012, the EPA’s Electronic Manifest System (e-Manifest) will become effective on June 30, 2018.  When they register, generators, transporters, and receivers of hazardous wastes will be able to use this system to facilitate the electronic transmission of the uniform hazardous waste manifest form.  States must adopt the provisions of the final rule in order to enforce them under state law and to maintain manifest program consistency.

Chapter 9 – More than just Orange County and Detroit

A Chapter 9 bankruptcy offers protection to a financially-distressed municipality so that it may develop a plan for addressing its debts. A product of the Great Depression, bankruptcy protection for municipalities was first enacted in 1934.  However, the Supreme Court held the act unconstitutional as an improper interference with the sovereignty of states. See Ashton v. Cameron County Water Improvement Dist. No. 1, 298 U.S. 513 (1936). Congress subsequently passed a revised Municipal Bankruptcy Act in 1937, which was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court. See United States v. Bekins, 304 U.S. 27 (1938).

Colorado Court of Appeals Upholds Warrantless Inspections at Oil and Gas Sites

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.

Here We Go Again… Fifth Circuit Strikes Down DOL’s Fiduciary Rule

In a significant blow to the Department of Labor’s controversial regulation re-defining what constitutes an investment-advice fiduciary, a split three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on March 15 that the DOL exceeded its authority when creating the rule.  The 2-1 decision of the appellate court strikes down the regulation and its associated prohibited transaction exemptions in their entirety.  (Chamber of Commerce v. U.S. Dept. of Labor (5th Cir. March 15, 2018)).  In its wake, the court’s decision leaves even more of the confusion that has plagued the DOL’s 2016 rulemaking.

Changes to Chapter 12 Bankruptcy May Increase Farmers’ Ability to Reorganize in Bankruptcy

Farmers attempting to reorganize under Chapter 12 of the Bankruptcy Code may propose selling land as a means of generating cash to pay creditors. This sale creates a large capital gains tax, as the cost basis for the land is likely low. That capital gains tax has priority over general unsecured creditors, and the farmer needs to pay that capital gains tax in full to get a Chapter 12 plan confirmed.

DOL Announces “PAID” Program

On March 6, 2018, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it will soon launch a nationwide pilot program for employers to self-report potential overtime and minimum wage violations. The pilot program is called the Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program. The primary objective of PAID, according to the agency, is to “improve employers’ compliance with overtime and minimum wage obligations, and to ensure that more employees receive the back wages they are owed—faster.” Many details are not yet available, but the DOL has announced the broad outlines of the program, which are available here:  https://www.dol.gov/whd/paid/#1

New Chapter 14 Bankruptcy Code Recommended by the United States Treasury Department

Would Handle Liquidation of Failing Financial Firms and Limit the Use of Orderly Liquidation Funds as Established in the Dodd-Frank Act

In February 2018, the United States Treasury Department issued the Orderly Liquidation Authority and Bankruptcy Reform Report (the “Report”) advocating for the enhancement of the Bankruptcy Code, specifically as it applies to financial institutions.  This report is in stark opposition to the CHOICE Act proposed by a conservative group of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives that seeks to undo much of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) and fully repeal the orderly liquidation authority (“OLA”) established in Dodd-Frank.

Investment Advisers and Conflicts Of Interest

The Department of Labor and the Securities and Exchange Commission have expressed concerns regarding potential conflicts of interest that investment advisers do not explicitly disclosed.  Thus, plan fiduciaries may not be aware of such conflicts when they engage and monitor their plan’s investment consultant.  These concerns were recently highlighted when the SEC launched an initiative in connection with investment advisers’ selection or recommendation of a higher-cost mutual fund share class for their clients when a lower-cost share class of the same fund is available.  The SEC’s initiative reminds plan fiduciaries of the importance of obtaining appropriate information to fulfill their fiduciary obligations when engaging and monitoring investment advisers.

Colorado Legislation Could Halt Oil and Gas Production

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.

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