August 16, 2017

Notice & Comment: The Latest at DOJ and OSHA

Beyond the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) both enforce laws that affect the environmental sphere. In Episode 5 of Notice & Comment, Greg Dale, J.P. Hanlon and Julian Harrell explore significant Obama-era policies at these agencies and what’s expected under the Trump administration.


During President Obama’s terms, OSHA focused on many aspects of occupational health/safety including: reporting of injury and illness incidents; issuance of guidance on changes in hazard communications; the release of regulations on recordkeeping; an increase in penalties for violations; developing the severe violator enforcement program; and entering into a new memorandum of understanding pursuant to which OSHA and DOJ cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of alleged violations.

The Obama administration also implemented a policy at the end of its term that EPA inspectors will be on the lookout for occupational safety issues during inspections, which could lead to increased OSHA enforcement.

Changes are already being seen under the Trump administration; for example, recently rescinding allowing union and community representatives to take part in workplace walkthroughs of non-union employers. And, President Trump revoked the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order that had barred some companies from receiving federal contracts. The president has not yet filled the position of Assistant Secretary – OSHA, and the agency has a number of other positions open. Filling these roles could further reveal and affect the agency’s direction.

At the DOJ

Legacies of the Obama administration’s DOJ include greater focus on corporate compliance, increased use of deferred and non-prosecution agreements, and seeking to hold individuals accountable for criminal violations in the context of corporate misconduct. These issues all impact how corporations should approach compliance programs, internal investigations and government investigations.

While the Trump administration’s DOJ has not declared any intention to discontinue these initiatives, its focus on “Making America Safe Again” signals a strong commitment to using federal resources to combat violent and drug-related crime. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo directing prosecutors to charge the serious, readily provable offenses, including those that carry the most substantial sentences.

While several individuals have been nominated to fill some of the 94 open U.S. Attorney positions, filling these positions is likely a high priority for the White House, with the administration recently announcing its nominees for U.S. Attorney positions for the Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana.

Faegre Baker Daniels’ monthly podcast, “Notice and Comment: Faegre Baker Daniels Environmental Podcast” showcases attorneys from Faegre Baker Daniels’ offices nationwide and guests as they discuss cutting-edge issues in environmental law. Topics cover the spectrum of federal and state environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, NEPA, SDWA, CERCLA, RCRA and TSCA – all from a practitioner’s perspective.

Note: The opinions expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect the views of Faegre Baker Daniels or our clients.

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