As the first day of summer begins this week, The Way reviews environmental risk concerns and proposed regulations.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service is proposing revisions on how the agency performs environmental analysis and makes decisions. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires agencies to analyze the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. On average, an environmental assessment takes 687 days to complete and the proposed revision would cut the average to 206 days. The Forest Service said millions of acres are in need of treatment to protect people and infrastructure from catastrophic wildfire. Public comments are open until August 12.
Firefighting foam was accidentally discharged into the Farmington River in Windsor, Conn. The foam contains hazardous chemical compounds known as perfluorinated compounds, or PFAS. PFAS are in a class of pollutants called “forever chemicals,” because of their persistence in the environment. Ground and water pollution from PFAS has led to lawsuits and legislation in states all over the U.S., including Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Leading Democratic presidential candidates have different strategies to combat climate change but almost all agree that companies need to disclose the risks they face from climate-related risks. Proposed plans would strengthen the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) climate-related disclosure requirements. An investor group, representing nearly $10 trillion in funds, urged more than 700 companies to disclose their environmental risks in a standardized format, focusing on risks around climate change, deforestation and water scarcity. The group said the disclosures would help investors better manage environmental risk and opportunities. Environmental-related risks dominated the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Risk Report, accounting for three of the top five risks by likelihood and four by impact.
Red Light, Green Light on Autonomous Vehicles
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that would allow self-driving vehicles to operate in Florida without a human on board. The new law takes effect July 1 and will allow self-driving cars without humans on all roads as long as the vehicles meet insurance and safety requirements outlined in the new legislation. Gov. DeSantis stated this bill paves the way for Florida to continue as a national leader in transportation innovation and technological advancement.
Sen. John Thune said he is looking to reintroduce legislation for federal regulations on self-driving cars. The AV START Act would put in place federal regulations and preempt individual states from creating their own laws around self-driving cars, a problem that could make it more difficult for vehicles to travel between states. Originally introduced last Congress, the AV START Act would need to overcome significant opposition from consumer groups and legislators with safety concerns.
Making Our Way Around the Country
Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a compromised workers’ compensation bill, which makes a few significant changes. The new law will increase the maximum weekly benefit from 100% to 125% of the state’s average weekly wage starting Jan. 1. It also adds annual cost-of living adjustments of up to 5% for injured workers on full disability after a five-year waiting period. It also doubled the allowable period to file a workers’ compensation claim from 30 days to 60 days following an on-the-job injury.
Starting in 2020, Nevada employers cannot refuse to hire a job applicant for failing a marijuana screening test. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed AB 132 into law and is the first state to pass a law regarding drug screening tests. The law does not apply to firefighters, EMTs, employees who operate a motor vehicle, or those who, in the determination of the employer, could adversely affect others’ safety. Nevada voters approved legalized recreational marijuana in 2016 for adults 21 and older, and sales began a year later.
BEES & BOURBON
A truck carrying more than 130 million bees overturned in Montana causing a unique situation as first responders tried to stabilize the truck and stop the leaking fuel. On the other side of the country, part of a bourbon warehouse in Kentucky collapsed during a thunderstorm. This is the second bourbon warehouse collapse in a year in Kentucky. The first one contaminated two nearby creeks and killed almost 1,000 fish. Environmental risks are everywhere.