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Chris Bell represents clients in civil and criminal enforcement and investigations, litigation, compliance counseling, emergency incident response, and legislative and regulatory advocacy (including appellate challenges to rulemakings) under all of the major environmental, health, safety and natural resource laws. His enforcement experience includes internal investigations, responding to grand jury investigations and agency information requests, and negotiating consent, probation, and debarment agreements. He is currently the EPA Independent Monitor overseeing the nation’s largest investor-owned energy company’s compliance with complex debarment and probation agreements arising from the resolution of a criminal enforcement case brought under the Clean Water Act.

Chris assists buyers, sellers, investors and financial institutions on the environmental aspects of transactions, including conducting due diligence, negotiating the environmental provisions of transactional documents, and identifying and executing insurance-based risk management opportunities. His transactional experience has included upstream, midstream and downstream energy projects, alternative energy projects, and transactions in the manufacturing, logistics, consumer products and chemicals sectors.

He helps clients evaluate and implement compliance and ethics programs (e.g., under the Sentencing Guidelines), and environmental, health and safety management systems (including based on ISO 14001). Chris advises clients on sustainable development, climate change, product and chemical stewardship and regulation, and value chain management. He recently served on an independent committee advising the senior management of a Fortune 50 company on its global sustainability strategy and reporting.

The incoming Biden Administration intends to take many major environmental policy actions   aimed at climate change, enforcement, environmental justice, and several other issues, many of which entail reversing actions taken
Continue Reading TRANSITION THOUGHTS: What Clean Air Act Permittees Should Track in the Biden Administration

In addition to causing infection and illness, the COVID-19 pandemic is creating challenges for organizations contending with employee quarantines and isolation, supply chain and logistics disruptions, and other operational changes.

While environmental compliance may not be top-of-mind right now for most Americans, it still is a critical consideration for organizations with environmental compliance or cleanup obligations.

Many environmental laws and settlement agreements provide relief valves in certain emergency or force majeure situations. But given that the regulators themselves may be quarantined or teleworking in the coming weeks and months, organizations can take certain steps now to ensure they are able to maintain environmental compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic or to obtain relief based on force majeure, impossibility or impracticability of performance, compliance-with-all-laws clauses, enforcement discretion, or emergency relief provisions.
Continue Reading Meeting Environmental Compliance and Cleanup Requirements During the Pandemic

The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a final rule rescinding major amendments to the Clean Air Act §112(r) Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations that were promulgated at the end of


Continue Reading EPA’s Final Risk Management Program Reconsideration Rule More In-Step with OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standards

On November 4, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”) proposed to amend the 2015 coal combustion residuals (“CCR”) rule. The proposal is part of a multi-step effort by
Continue Reading Is the Clock Ticking on Coal Ash?: Key Deadlines and Takeaways from EPA’s Recent CCR Rule Revisions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to increase its enforcement role in industrial accidents, at times overshadowing the role traditionally played by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Continue Reading United States Indicts Facility Owner Under Clean Air Act General Duty Clause

In a 5 to 4 split decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday, June 29th, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) unreasonably interpreted the federal Clean Air Act (“CAA”) when EPA decided deemed that costs were irrelevant in deciding whether to regulate hazardous air emissions from electric utility sources under section 112 of the CAA.  Michigan v. EPA, No. 14-46 (U.S. June 29, 2015): SCOTUS MATS Decision The majority opinion was authored by Justice Scalia and was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas, Kennedy, and Alito.  Specifically at issue was whether the EPA was required by section 112(n)(1), 42 U.S.C. § 7412(n)(1), to consider compliance costs in determining that it was “appropriate and necessary” to regulate toxic air emissions from fossil fuel-fired utilities. (See section 112 here.) Due to issues such as grid reliability, Congress did not initially list electric utilities as a source category to be regulated under the air toxics provisions of the 1990 CAA amendments.  Instead, Congress ordered EPA to study the hazards to public health that could reasonably anticipated to occur as a result of such emissions and then to regulate electric utilities if it found that regulation was “appropriate and necessary” after performing the study.

In addressing the question of whether regulation was appropriate and necessary, EPA focused only on health impacts and did not consider compliance costs.  The agency found that regulation was appropriate because the power plants’ emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants posed risks to human health and the environment, and that controls were available to reduce these emissions.  In 2012, the EPA issued its final electric utility mercury and air toxics standards (“MATS”) rule.   A history of that rulemaking may be found here. EPA noted that during the rulemaking it did consider costs in deciding what level of emissions reduction should be achieved by the affected sources. Thus, EPA asserted that it had taken costs into account consistent with the statute’s requirements.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Reverses and Remands MATS to D.C. Circuit for EPA Failure to Consider Costs