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Ferrets, “Ipse Dixits”, and “Logical Fallacies”: Fifth Circuit Opinions Shine Light on Messy Citizen Suit Standing Precedents /

Ferrets, “Ipse Dixits”, and “Logical Fallacies”: Fifth Circuit Opinions Shine Light on Messy Citizen Suit Standing Precedents

Facility owners and operators with air permits will want to pay close attention to a recent Fifth Circuit ruling on a private citizen’s ability to seek penalties for/and defenses against alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.  Following a bench trial, an appeal, and another bench re-trial, this decade-old case has again gone up to the appeals court and had the trial court’s judgment vacated and remanded, this time to decide the Plaintiffs’ standing to bring the case in the first place and to judge the viability of two key affirmative defenses. Environment Texas Citizen Lobby, Inc. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 66 F.Supp.3d 875 (S.D. Tex. 2014), vacated and remanded, 824 F.3d 507 (5th Cir. 2016), on remand, No. H-10-4969, 2017 WL 2331679 (S.D. Tex. Apr. 26, 2017), vacated and remanded, slip op. No. 17-20545, 2020 WL 4345337 (5th Cir. Jul. 29, 2020), as revised (Aug. 3, 2020).  According to the majority opinion, the panel gave both the lower court and the regulated community guidelines for when each CAA violation is “fairly traceable” to a plaintiff’s alleged injury to support standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution. According to the concurrence, the Fifth Circuit’s standing precedents are “a mess” that are trending toward the unconstitutional elimination of “but-for” causation; a paradox that should be clarified by the full court en banc to stop a continuing loop of confusion.

COVID-19 Resources

As COVID-19 continues to spread, so does its impact on employers, health care providers, financial institutions, real estate entities, fiduciaries, and small businesses. Spencer Fane has created a COVID-19 Resources page to serve as a resource to all individuals and entities grappling with the consequences of this ordeal, and will be updated as new developments take place.

What to Consider When Your Tenant Wants a Lease Modification

Landlords have several options to keep current tenants intact or reduce the financial ramifications if the tenant needs to step back from its current office footprint.

DOL-WHD Releases FLSA, FMLA, and FFCRA Guidance Relating to COVID-19 and Work From Home Issues

During the week of July 20th, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor published new guidance for employers, focusing on compliance under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) in the midst of the pandemic (See FLSA Q&A, FMLA Q&A, and FFCRA Q&A).

$1,040,000 HIPAA Settlement for Stolen Unencrypted Laptop Breach — Why?

The United States Department of Health and Human Services reached an agreement with Lifespan Health System Affiliated Covered Entity (Lifespan ACE) in which Lifespan agreed to pay $1,040,000 and adopt a corrective action plan in the wake of its data breach that exposed over 20,431 patients’ protected health information. The breach occurred when an employee’s unencrypted laptop was stolen which contained electronic protected health information (ePHI) including: patients’ names, medical record numbers, demographic information, and medication information.

Eighth Circuit Weighs in on North Dakota Law in O&G Case

EIGHTH CIRCUIT BANKRUPTCY MONITOR

In Slawson Exploration Co., Inc. v. Nine Point Energy, LLC (In re Triangle USA Petroleum Corp.), the Eighth Circuit (Judges Shepherd, Smith, Melloy) held that under North Dakota law, an O&G promote obligation does not run with the land, was not an equitable servitude, and was not a real property interest akin to an overriding royalty.  Slawson and the Debtor’s predecessor, TPC, were O&G production companies who teamed up to lease, develop and drill land in North Dakota.  Under the terms of their agreement (the “EDA”), either party that acquired an O&G leasehold in a specified area of North Dakota was required to offer the other an undivided interest at cost in the proportion specified in the EDA: 70% for Slawson and 30% for TPC.  TPC also agreed to pay “an additional 10% of its share of the drilling, completing, and equipping costs for each well in which TPC elect[ed] to participate” – the “Promote Obligation.”

OSHA Fines Healthcare Facilities for Improper Use of N95 Respirators

Employers beware, particularly those in healthcare sectors.  If you provide a NIOSH-approved N95 “respirator” to protect employees from COVID-19, there are a number of OSHA respiratory protection standards that must be followed in a comprehensive Respiratory Protection Program.  The Department of Labor OSHA’s July 21, 2020, national press release makes clear that OSHA will seek the maximum possible penalties for serious violations against companies that do not fully satisfy the respiratory protection standards.

Colorado Passes Paid Sick Leave and Whistleblower Laws

On July 14, 2020, Governor Jared Polis signed the “Healthy Families and Workplaces Act” (“HFWA”).  Several provisions of this law are effective immediately (July 15, 2020), and require paid sick leave specifically for COVID-19 related issues.  Starting January 1, 2021, the HFWA will require that most employers provide their employees with up to 48 hours of paid sick leave per year.  This article is Part 1 of a two-part series, and focuses on the immediately effective laws relating to COVID-19. We will discuss the details of the general paid sick leave in Part 2.  Governor Polis also recently signed the Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Law (“PHEW”), effective July 11, 2020, which we will discuss briefly below.

Guidance for Arizona Banks on the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Arizona banks and their borrowers are facing economic uncertainty. Bankruptcy filings are on the rise, and many eligible borrowers are opting to file under the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 (SBRA), a new fast-track bankruptcy option that alters lenders’ and other creditors’ rights in certain Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases.

Supreme Court Expands “Ministerial Exception” to Employment Discrimination Laws

On July 8, 2020, the Supreme Court expanded the scope of the “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination statutes. This exception is grounded in the First Amendment’s protections for religious institutions. In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, the Court considered two cases involving elementary school teachers in Catholic schools who alleged that they were terminated in violation of federal employment discrimination law. Seven justices joined the majority opinion of the Court, holding that “When a school with a religious mission entrusts a teacher with the responsibility of educating and forming students in the faith, judicial intervention into disputes between the school and the teacher threatens the school’s independence in a way that the First Amendment does not allow.” A link to the full decision of the Court can be found here.

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