Nevada OSHA Adopts New, Punitive ”Severe Violators Enforcement Program” by Charles P. Keller, Dawn L. Davis, and Tyler V. Thomas 

Nevada – Federal OSHA has long had a Severe Violators Enforcement Program (“SVEP”), intended to target employers who demonstrate “indifference to their OSH Act obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.” Until recently, many states maintaining their own OSHA plans, so called “State Plan” states, have resisted enforcement of an SVEP program in their own jurisdictions. In October 2022, NV OSHA signaled its intention to implement and enforce an SVEP program into its own state plan. The Nevada SVEP program is identical to that of Fed OSHA, including the requirement that employers placed in the SVEP program have their names published to the public, and are listed in a NV OSHA tracking document as a severe violator. For the full text, click here.

After Years of Decline, the Biden Administration Says Environmental Enforcement is on the Upswing

Associated Press by Michael Daly and Matthew Phillips

Washington, DC – The Environmental Protection Agency conducted more on-site inspections of polluting industrial sites this year than any time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency said Monday as it seeks to reinvigorate its enforcement program after more than a decade of budget cuts. EPA opened nearly 200 criminal investigations this year, a 70% increase over 2022, the agency said in a report. It completed nearly 1,800 civil settlements, a 9% increase over 2022. More than half the inspections and settlements involved poor and disadvantaged communities long scarred by pollution, the agency said, reflecting the Biden administration’s emphasis on environmental justice issues. For full text, click here.

Environmental Justice Defined

Environmental justice (EJ) is the 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. Learn More

DOJ’s Environmental Justice Initiative Comes to Central Illinois

NPR Chicago

Chicago, IL – The top federal prosecutor in central Illinois says his office is ready to bolster enforcement as part of a national environmental justice initiative. U.S. Attorney Gregory Harris, whose central Illinois district include Peoria, Bloomington-Normal and Springfield, said the harmful effects of environmental crimes are “too often borne by our underserved communities.” The majority of the enforcement work will be on the civil side, such as complying with EPA regulations. “But we do have criminal statutes that are going to resorted to, to address environmental crimes. Including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and Asbestos Act, and various other federal statutes already on the books, like mail and wire fraud,” Harris said. For the full text, click here.

Why the Government Fails to Limit Many Dangerous Chemicals in the Workplace

NPR by Sharon Lerner

National – Created in 1970 in response to mounting injuries, illnesses and deaths from workplace hazards, OSHA was supposed to issue regulations based on scientific research conducted by its sibling agency, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. At first, the pair got off to a somewhat promising start, with OSHA using NIOSH research to issue more protective standards for lead, arsenic, benzene, asbestos and several other carcinogens. But within a few years, asbestos, which was already well established as a carcinogen, presented a political challenge. “For asbestos, NIOSH said nothing other than a number approaching zero can be considered safe,” said David Rosner, a historian of public health at Columbia University. “But then they sent that science over to OSHA, and OSHA realized if you do that you’re going to have to shut plants everywhere.”  For the full text, click here.

Massive Amounts of PFAS Waste Go Unreported to EPA

The Intercept
by Sharon Lerner

National – US Ecology, a hazardous waste company with dozens of sites around the U.S., received 11,638,732 pounds of waste containing the firefighting foam known as aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, at its facility in Beatty, Nevada, in 2020, according to public reports filed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The company has also received, and did not report, waste containing AFFF at its facilities in Robstown, Texas, and Grand View, Idaho. It is unclear whether the company’s failure to disclose the waste violated the law or whether it was legal under a loophole in the reporting requirement. For the full text, click here.

Supreme Court Restricts EPA’s Authority in Far-Reaching Decision

NPR by Nina Totenberg

Washington, DC – U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday dealt a major blow to the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions that cause climate change. The decision by the conservative court majority sets the stage for further limitations on the regulatory power of other agencies as well. By a vote of 6 to 3, the court said that any time an agency does something big and new – in this case addressing climate change – the regulation is presumptively invalid, unless Congress has specifically authorized regulating in this sphere. For the full text, click here.

Congress Considering $700,000 OSHA Penalties

National Law Review Washington, DC

A Congressional committee has approved maximum penalties of $700,000 per item for violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. The move would mean more than a fivefold increase of maximum “willful,” “repeated,” and “failure-to-abate” violations from $136,532. Minimum penalty amounts for such infractions would increase from today’s $9,753 to $50,000. “Serious” violations would increase from a current maximum of $13,653 to $70,000. 

Click here for the full article.