The Biggest Environmental News Stories of 2015

One of the new features of our blog this year has been a bi-monthly edition of Environmental Insurance News. This consists of aggregated news alerts that provide the latest information on current events related to environmental exposures, regulations, and other happenings related to environmental risk. As this year comes to a close, we are looking back over the year at some of the topics that appeared to be the most significant or recurrent:

The first topic that garnered a lot of attention this year was Legionella. From the time when Legionella was first named after an outbreak at a Philadelphia hotel during an American Legion Convention, to the most recent outbreaks in New York City, Atlanta, and Pittsburg, these outbreaks have become problematic for establishments such as hotels, resorts, hospitals, cruise ships, and other real estate entities. In addition to a recent article written by our own Mike Tighe, the following news events were included on our website:

City Council To Debate Bill To Register, Regulate NYC Cooling Towers

NYC institutes new requirements for cooling towers in wake of Legionnaires’ disease deaths

NYC Investigates New Outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had a busy year in 2015. Changes in regulations related to waste management could affect pharmaceutical/healthcare entities and retailers:

EPA proposes rules governing disposal of certain pharmaceuticals as “hazardous wastes”

RCRA and the Retail Sector: Regulators are Taking a Look at Stores’ Waste Management Practices

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The EPA also moved forward on the expansion of regulations affecting the oil & gas sectors by establishing new restrictions on emissions from oil and gas plants (See this website for more information on the Clean Power Plan http://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan). The EPA set a goal of reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sectors by up to 45% of 2012 levels by 2025 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by regulating fossil fuels:

EPA Proposes to Expand Regulations of Oil and Gas Industry

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In addition to these changes, any sector could be affected by a new public screening and mapping tool, EISCREEN was released this year by the EPA, as well as new enforcement initiatives the EPA has proposed:

EPA Releases EJSCREEN, An Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool

EPA Proposes New Enforcement Initiatives

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Last, but not least, there appeared to be an uptick in news stories related to citizen suits for environmental concerns. Some of these may be the result of increased public information released by the EPA (see Environmental Justice and Mapping Tool above) as well as the increased use of mobile technology. Many of these suits may result in additional environmental regulatory scrutiny, regulations, and enforcement:

Beware of citizen suits for storm water violations

Crowdsourcing Pollutant Detection: A Look at the Promise & Perils of Citizen Science

RCRA Citizens Suits and the Clean Water Act

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The news events that we track throughout the year are designed to alert our agents and their insureds to activities that could increase their environmental and energy risk profile. In many instances, environmental insurance may be a useful tool to address the concerns that these articles uncover. If you have questions about how news stories like these can impact your clients and their coverage, please contact us. Check back frequently for updates or click here to be added to our newsletter list.