Week in Review

Font Size:

Navajo Nation sues EPA over toxic spill cleanup, EPA and NHTSA release new rule to reduce emissions from heavy-duty vehicles, and more…

Font Size:


  • The Navajo Nation filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), alleging that the agency was negligent in its handling of cleanup operations for a toxic acid spill that occurred along the Animas River in Colorado last year. The EPA earlier this month acknowledged that an EPA research team had “inadvertently triggered a release of 3 million gallons of acidic, mine-influenced waters” but also emphasized that the agency has provided nearly $29 million “to respond to the release and to provide for continued monitoring in the area,” but the Navajo Nation asserted in its complaint that the EPA caused an “unprecedented environmental disaster” and that, one year later, “the Navajo people have yet to have their waterways cleaned, their losses compensated, their health protected, or their way of life restored.”
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly finalized a new rule to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from medium and heavy-duty vehicles for the 2018 through 2027 model years. The agencies announced that the rule would “substantially reduce GHG emissions and fuel consumption,” and provide as much as $230 billion in “net benefits to society over the lifetime of vehicles sold under the program” and $170 billion in fuel cost savings to consumers.
  • Tyson Foods—the nation’s largest meat and poultry processor—was fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for violating workplace safety laws, after a worker at a Tyson facility in Texas lost a finger, and a subsequent investigation found 15 workplace safety violations, including the exposure of workers to amputation hazards and high levels of carbon dioxide and peracetic acid without proper protection.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published draft guidance designed to help industry comply with requirements imposed by the FDA’s final rule from December 2014 requiring vending machine operators with 20 or more machines “to declare calories for those vending machine foods for which the Nutrition Facts label cannot be examined before purchase or for which visible nutrition information is not otherwise provided.” The guidance provides non-legally binding recommendations on topics including “calorie declaration” and “calorie display” for companies seeking to comply with the rule.


  • In an op-ed for the New York Times, former Attorney General Eric Holder discussed the need to reform the United States’ mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses. In addition to endorsing the U.S Department of Justice’s Smart on Crime Initiative—a program implemented during Holder’s tenure which is intended to reduce mandatory minimum sentencing for low-level drug offenses and shift more resources towards reducing recidivism—Holder urges the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to pass criminal justice reform bills that would limit the use of mandatory minimums.
  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released a Safety Directive and accompanying report sharply criticizing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and requiring it to take eleven actions to correct various deficiencies in the Metrorail system. The report outlined results from an FTA investigation into “stop signal overruns”—incidents in which “a train fails to stop as required in advance of a stop signal, flag, or other indicator,” and that can cause collisions or derailments—and concluded that the WMATA had 68 stop signal overruns between January 1, 2012 and July 31, 2016. Pursuant to the Safety Directive, “WMATA must develop additional corrective action plans to address the findings,” and will be subject to increased monitoring as it does so.