CBA Record November-December 2021

would expect significantly greater environ- mental justice activity from the federal EPA (and perhaps from state environmental agencies) than we have seen in the past two decades. This might take the form of increased inspections of, and potential enforcement actions in, areas that are con- sidered especially impacted. The EPA also may start to increasingly consider environ- mental justice concerns in its rulemaking or permitting activities. Time will tell how this priority will play out. How have climate change consider- ations impactedor changedhowU.S. companies operate or do business today, andwhat impacts andchanges do you anticipate in the future? Yearout: In many industries, as we are seeing an increased focus on ESG issues, broader climate change concerns are steadily changing market behavior on a variety of fronts. That includes amplifying initiatives such as reducing waste in opera- tions and adding clean energy capabilities to facilities. I expect that trend to continue ramping up across most industries. Landgraf: Voluntary reporting on climate- change-related matters seems to be growing steadily. On theWest Coast and elsewhere, significant rulemaking activity is underway that is designed to address carbon emis- sions in a multitude of ways. Renewable energy will become more and more of a focus—wind, solar, hydrogen—and carbon

reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, corporate environmental managers still must focus on compliance matters— verifying their company’s compliance with current environmental regulations, reme- diating historic environmental concerns caused by past operations, and anticipating the impact of proposed regulations on their operations. Leen: Some of the biggest environmental challenges relate to the expanding impact of the persistent impacts of climate change, and how business models change to adapt to those impacts. Some of these changes are immediate (e.g., wildfires, flooding, etc.), but many are slow-moving and do not get picked up in the next earnings release cycle. However, shareholders now expect company management teams and boards of directors to anticipate and plan for the very real impacts of climate change. Yearout: In retail, there is a heightened focus on chemical regulation in consumer products, product emissions, and packag- ing content. An underlying expectation is developing that everyone in a product’s supply chain must fully understand what is in the products they make and sell. Cisek: As information travels faster, companies need to be cognizant about how they are handling environmental compliance and the impressions that can be picked up by employees, regula- tors, and citizens in the communities in which they operate. Being cognizant of odors, boundary emissions, or even the appearance of noncompliance can be an issue—especially when everyone has easy access to a camera and social media. Your company’s reputation can be at risk with a single tweet. I encourage our internal team to keep this in mind—the appearance of compliance can sometimes be as important as compliance itself. Whataresomeof thebiggest changes you have seen in recent years in the relationships and interactions between U.S. companies and the U.S. EPA and/or state environmental agencies? Leen: In my mostly limited interactions, I have generally found a varying patchwork of enforcement and strategic regulation. Federal and state regulators appear to have divergent environmental priorities, espe-

cially when it comes to locally supported industries. Changing administrations and divergent state and federal regulations can often combine to create a confusing regulatory environment around which we must continue to adapt as environmental legal advisors. Yearout: Most federal and state regulators are using technology in new ways and with ease. That has been largely helpful to the regulated community in terms of ease of access to agency staff and improved ability to share information. What are your thoughts on the increasing interest and focus on ESG issues by the public and investors? Cisek: It is a necessary element to main- taining checks and balances. Without the voice of the community, how do we help ensure we are operating in a way that supports the areas in which we live and operate? As a community resident, I often support causes that are important to me. Businesses should be just as concerned with supporting the communities where their employees live and where they operate their business. It can strengthen the future of the community and, in turn, hopefully the long-term prosperity of the business. Landgraf: One new development is that under the Biden administration, the federal EPA plans to make environmental justice a top priority. The EPA created its Office of Environmental Justice in 1992, but I

Environmental Law Reading Suggestions

Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago by David Naguib Pellow 2002 MIT Press (Non-Fiction) Published nearly two decades ago, the themes are just as relevant—if not more so—today. The book examines the structural roots of Chicago’s waste disposal conflicts through the lens of environmental inequality. Pellow offers a timely discussion of how race, class, and politics influence decisions about where our garbage goes and

who will bear the cost, and why we must address broader social injustice to ease the heavy environmental burden borne by marginalized communities.


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