On Friday, October 27, 2023, the White House announced an effort to utilize over $35 billion in federal assistance for affordable housing projects using funding appropriated under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act and Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing programs. The White House, through the Department of Transportation, is now seeking to use these programs, which provide lending support for transit-oriented development projects at below-market interest rates, to convert properties no longer needed for transit into residential properties and develop residential properties near public transportation hubs. The White House suggests that these conversions and development projects will not only provide necessary affordable residential housing capacity but also reduce greenhouse gas emission by repurposing existing structures and siting residential housing projects near public transportation hubs.
On October 5, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule restricting the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in new aerosol, foam, and refrigeration, air conditioning, and heat pump (RACHP) products and equipment. The rulemaking is part of the phasedown of HFCs under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020. The final rule also establishes a process to submit technology transition petitions to restrict the use of HFCs in industry sectors in which they are used.
On September 28, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) issued a memorandum outlining a Climate Enforcement and Compliance Strategy, identifying several steps the office plans to take to address climate change (the Strategy Memo). As part of the strategy, EPA plans to expand its efforts to address climate change by increased enforcement of rules governing greenhouse gas–forming pollutants and incorporating climate-related mitigation efforts, including renewable energy projects into settlements as mitigation or supplemental environmental projects. The Strategy Memo comes only a month after EPA issued its first-ever national enforcement and compliance initiative on climate change.
On September 21, 2023, Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas rejected a challenge by 26 states and upheld the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rule that permits fiduciaries of plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to consider environmental, social, or governance (ESG) considerations under certain circumstances when making investment decisions. By upholding the rule, the court rejected the states’ contention that by allowing ESG considerations, financial interests would be subordinate to nonpecuniary interests. Stakeholders interested in ESG should continue to track this ruling, which may be appealed.
On September 21, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice of a proposed rule, “Review of Final Rule Reclassification of Major Sources as Area Sources Under Section 112.” The proposal adds requirements for regulated sources of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) to reclassify from major source status to area source status under the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) program. Stakeholders who qualified under the revised policy adopted by the Trump administration should particularly take note of this further change by the Biden administration’s EPA. Comments are due by November 13, 2023.