2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

Todd Kim, the Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) at the Department of Justice (DOJ), addressed the Fall Conference of the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources. DOJ published Mr. Kim’s prepared remarks in a news release.

Mr. Kim highlighted “two of the Administration’s key priorities: furthering environmental justice and combating the climate crisis.”

Enforcement Decisions Will Consider Environmental Justice
Regarding environmental justice, Mr. Kim provided this “takeaway” for those who deal in compliance matters: “Our enforcement decisions take into account the imperative to advance environmental justice.  We are listening to concerns expressed in historically overburdened and underserved communities across the country and are actively seeking to address those concerns. We encourage industry clients to be sure they are listening to neighboring communities and meeting their obligations under federal environmental law.  The failure to do so could result in federal enforcement.”

Three Categories of Climate Cases
For ENRD, “climate” cases come in three broad categories: “first, affirmative litigation to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions; second, affirmative litigation to otherwise protect natural resources and the environment against climate-related threats; and third, climate-related defensive litigation.”

The first category includes enforcement against facilities that release greenhouse gases and against persons that illegally trade or produce refrigerants. This category also includes protecting wetlands and forests, which absorb greenhouse gases, such as ENRD’s efforts to prosecute those who traffic in illegally harvested timber.

Second, ENRD has placed an increased emphasis on protecting wildlife and natural resources damaged or threatened by the effects of climate change.

Third, “ENRD’s docket contains an increasing number of cases defending greenhouse gas emissions regulations and controls; agency actions in support of the conversion to cleaner energy; and various policy and management decisions to protect sensitive resources.”

To see the full text of Mr. Kim’s prepared remarks https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/assistant-attorney-general-todd-kim-delivers-keynote-address-american-bar-association