Fines for Record-keeping Failures Key to Continual Success of RCRA

Recently, Whole Foods, a health foods grocery chain was fined $3.5 million for violating hazardous waste reporting requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The company failed to adequately record and catalog its hazardous waste in stores in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. The store issued a statement explaining that it failed to properly report some of the returned products, which qualify as hazardous waste (nail polish, bleach, hand sanitizer, etc.). The company has agreed to pay the fine, in addition to implementing training and providing funding to educate other businesses.

Although this fine may seem harsh or unwarranted, given that the company was not accused of improperly disposing of hazardous waste, and the violation was limited to inadequate record keeping, the fine is warranted nonetheless given how the hazardous waste statute was designed to work. In order to protect human health and the environment from improper treatment or illegal dumping, as well as to reduce the amount of hazardous waste that is generated nationwide, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) gives the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) the power to regulate hazardous waste “from cradle-to-grave.” This means that hazardous waste is tracked throughout its life-cycle, primarily by way of record keeping by multiple parties, including generators and transporters of the hazardous waste.

For this tracking safeguard to work effectively against illegal dumping or other improper disposal, fines must be sufficiently serious to ensure compliance and to discourage a company’s choice to simply opt for paying the fine. Otherwise, RCRA’s “cradle-to-grave” approach would fail. In the Whole Foods case, the substantial fine issued unambiguously signals to other entities the importance of record-keeping and the significant costs they may face if they do not comply with RCRA’s reporting requirements.

Courtney Eggleston, 3L

Santa Clara University 2016 Fall Lecture Series: What is at Stake for Environmental Justice in 2016? The Elusive Role of Race and Equity in Environmental Regulation

Tseming Yang, Christopher Bacon

October 11, 2016 | 4 – 5:15pm
St Clare Room, Library/Learning Commons, Santa Clara University

Almost 35 years have passed since protests in Warren County, NC against the siting of a toxic waste disposal facility in a predominantly African-American community trained nationwide attention on the emerging environmental justice movement.  Even as the term of the country’s first African -American President comes to an end, however, the goal of environmental justice remains unfulfilled.  The talk will review the history of the movement, how it has changed perspectives on the role of race and equity in environmentalism and regulatory policy, and some of the remaining key challenges that face the next Administration.

The 2016-2018 Bannan Institute: Is There A Common Good in Our Common Home? A Summons to Solidarity will explore pressing issues of racial and ethnic justice, economic justice, gender justice, and environmental justice facing our world today, and advance the Jesuit, Catholic vocation of SCU, building a more humane, just, and sustainable world.   


Crossing of Second (and Final) Key Threshold of Paris Climate Agreement has Triggered the Thirty-day clock for Entry-into-force

04-21-unfccc-parisYesterday, Wednesday October 5, was a big day for the Paris Climate Agreement.  With 10 countries and the European Union depositing instruments of ratification , the Agreement’s second key threshold for entry-into-force has now been satisfied. The 10 countries were Austria, Bolivia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Nepal, Portugal and Slovakia. Per the UNFCCC website, the Agreement’s current total number of 74 parties now account for 58.82% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, more than the 55% threshold for entry-into-force under Article 21.  (The first key threshold, 55 parties, was crossed a couple of weeks ago.)

Just as a point of general interest: for purposes of satisfying the entry-into-force threshold, the EU’s ratification does not count, though it was critical for allowing the EU member countries to ratify the Paris Agreement (here Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia).  The simple reason for that is to avoid double-counting.  At the same time, EU ratification of (and membership in) the Paris Agreement is necessary per the internal structure of the EU and the types of government authorities that have been transferred from the member states to the EU.

Crossing the second and final threshold also means that the 30-day countdown to the entry-into-force, i.e. the legal effectiveness of the treaty, has now been triggered.  The Agreement’s provisions will become legally effective on November 4, just in time for the next scheduled international climate change meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, starting November 7 (referred to as COP 21 because it will also serve as the 21st annual meeting of the original UN Framework Convention on Climate Change parties).

And finally, it also means that the United States and all other current parties are now locked into the Paris Agreement for at least three years, starting November 4, 2016 (per Article 28).  [Edit:  As it was kindly pointed out by Steve Wolfson and others, Article 28.3 provides that withdrawal from the underlying UN Framework Convention on Climate Change automatically also withdraws a party from the Paris Agreement. (“Any Party that withdraws from the Convention shall be considered as also having withdrawn from this Agreement.”)  The Convention only has 1 year waiting period for withdrawal.  Hence, using the Convention’s  withdrawal process could allow a country to withdraw from the Paris Agreement within 1 year, rather than 3 years.]

Hip hip hooray for the Paris Agreement!

Summer Clerkship: Environmental Law Institute, Law Clerk (Deadline: Oct. 14, 2016, Washington, DC)

Law Clerk

In accord with our mission to build the skills and capacity of tomorrow’s leaders, ELI provides opportunities for law students to join us at the Institute. We welcome applications from current law students interested in working as a law clerk either over the summer (10 weeks or more) or during the school year (12 hours or more per week). Additional opportunities, including financial support, are available during the summer for law students from traditionally underrepresented perspectives.

Law clerks work closely with ELI experts on domestic and international research projects spanning ELI’s full range of program areas. Law clerks may also assist in the editing and production of ELI publications, such as the Environmental Law Reporter. Law clerks provide crucial support for ELI projects and publications by conducting legal and policy research, drafting memoranda, attending and reporting on briefings and current events, and assisting in the preparation of reports and other published materials.

We encourage law clerks to supplement their work experience by attending the lunchtime seminars and events that ELI hosts, as well as social and networking opportunities provided by ELI and our partners.

To Apply: Interested candidates should submit an application to Please include a cover letter, resume (including law school and undergrad GPAs), references, law school transcript, and writing sample. Cover letters should address the candidates’ personal goals and interests, as well as their experience and interest in environmental law and policy.

Deadline: Applications for the 2017 summer are due October 14; applications for spring and fall positions are accepted on a rolling basis.

Click here for information about the Henry L. Diamond B&D Law Clerk position.

Fellowship: Environmental Law Institute, Public Interest Law Fellowship (Deadline: Nov. 1, 2016, Washington, DC)


The Environmental Law Institute (ELI), based in Washington, DC, is accepting applications for several positions that may be of interest to law students considering careers in environmental law and policy. Please feel free to share this information broadly.

Public Interest Law Fellowship. Each year, ELI hires one or more recent law school graduates to work closely with the Institute’s attorneys and other professionals to advance environmental protection through the effective use of law and policy. Successful candidates for the one-year fellowship will have a strong academic background, superior legal research and writing skills, and a demonstrated interest in environmental issues. Applications for 2017-18 are now being accepted through November 1, 2016.

Law Clerkships. ELI offers clerkship positions for law students during the summer as well as during the spring and fall semesters. Law clerks work closely with ELI experts on domestic and international research projects spanning the Institute’s full range of program areas. The position involves conducting legal and policy research, drafting memoranda, attending and reporting on briefings and current events, and assisting in the preparation of reports and other published materials. Acceptance for the spring is rolling, and we will begin reviewing applications for the summer on October 14, 2016. Additionally, Beveridge & Diamond PC provides financial support for one ELI law clerk during the summer. This Henry L. Diamond B&D Law Clerk position is open to students from traditionally underrepresented perspectives, including minority students and students from disadvantaged households. The deadline for applications is October 14, 2016.

For more information about any of these positions, or to apply, please visit:

The Environmental Law Institute is strongly committed to providing equal employment opportunity and to achieving an inclusive, diverse workplace that values every individual.