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For bid requests issued on or after July 1, 2016, California school districts, with approval of their governing board, Schoolmay procure design-build contracts for projects in excess of $1M, awarding the contract to either the low bid or the best value. The threshold currently is $2.5M. The new threshold was enacted as part of Assembly Bill 1358 (Dababneh) and will remain in place until January 1, 2025, unless a later enacted statute deletes or extends that date. As those in the industry already familiar, “design-build” refers to “a project delivery process in which both the design and construction of a project are procured from a single entity.” Design-build contractors should also take note that the new law will require that certain information is verified under penalty of perjury.

Photo:  Alan Levine, School, Taken May 24, 2012 – Creative Commons

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Public works contracts awarded on or after July 1, 2016 will be subject to the more expansive definition of public works added by California Assembly Bill 219 (Daly). For purposes of Article 2 of California’s Labor Code, commencing with Section 1770, the term “public works” will include “the hauling and delivery of ready-mixed concrete to carry out a public works contract, with respect to contracts involving any state agency, including the California State University and the University of California, or any political subdivision of the state.” Those who will be encompassed within the new definition will be required to pay the applicable prevailing wage rate, which will be the rate for the geographic area in which the concrete factory or batching plant is located, and to provide employee payroll and time records, as specified.

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In A New Cybersecurity Regime and a New Regulation to Mandate Secure Information Systems for Government Contractors, Cybermy colleague Travis Mullaney and I discuss Congress’ recent enactment of a wave of legislation to address ongoing cybersecurity threats, the Executive Branch’s recent adoption of new cybersecurity regulations, and other Federal initiatives that are underway and that will bring additional promised change requiring enhanced cybersecurity protections. In our Advisory, we discuss what government contractors need to do to prepare for these changes.

Photo:  Intel Free Press, Computer Security, Taken Sep. 4, 2012 – Creative Commons

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On May 20, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in Ebert, et al., v. General Mills, Inc., reversed the federal district court’s decision to grant class certification in an environmental contamination lawsuit. The district court had found that the requisites of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 had been satisfied with respect to the proposed class of “all persons and non-governmental entities that own residential property within the ‘Class Area.'” The proposed class members were expected to assert five legal claims: (1) violation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); (2) common law negligence; (3) private nuisance; (4) willful and wanton misconduct; and (5) violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The Eight Circuit disagreed with the district courts findings, instead concluding that the proposed class lacks the requisite commonality and cohesiveness to satisfy Rule 23.

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In U.S. Department of Labor More Than Doubles Minimum Salary Levels for FLSA Overtime Exemptions, Pillsbury attorneys Julia Judish, Rebecca Carr Rizzo and John Scalia discuss the U.S. Department of Labor’s much-anticipated Final Rule amending the Fair Labor Standards Act regulations implementing the exemption from minimum wage and overtime pay for executive, administrative, and professional employees (EAP) and for highly compensated employees (HCE). A projected 4.2 million exempt employees may be impacted by the new rule. Employers have six months to come into compliance with the new rule.

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On May 17, 2016, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, in Isabel Kain & Others v. Department of Environmental Protection, held that the various existing greenhouse gas rules and initiatives promulgated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) did not satisfy the strict requirements of the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. The purpose of the Act “is to attain actual, measurable, and permanent emissions reductions in the Commonwealth.” According to the Court, the unambiguous language of Section 3 (d) of the Act “requires the department to promulgate regulations that establish volumetric limits on multiple greenhouse gas emissions sources, expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents, and that such limits must decline on an annual basis.” DEP’s duty under the law was described by DEP as being mostly aspirational, but the Court held this was insufficient.

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According to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Ash Grove Cement Co. v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., an unpublished opinion applying Oregon law, an insurer’s duty to defend begins with a “104(e) letter” from the EPA and continues for the duration of the regulatory process. In A “Suit” by Any Other Name: Ninth Circuit Rules CERCLA 104(e) Letter Triggers Duty to Defend, Pillsbury attorney discusses the Ash Grove ruling.

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A recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruling is an important decision for corporations with foreign operations. In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 642 F.3d 591 (2nd Cir. 2011), held that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) does not regulate corporate conduct because customary international law does not recognize corporate liability, and therefore the litigation against the defendant could not proceed in the federal courts on the basis of the ATS.  The defendant was alleged to have violated environmental human rights in the Nigeria. That ruling was very controversial, and  an appeal was made to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld that ruling, but on different grounds. The Court held that the ATS is subject to a presumption against the extraterritorial application of domestic statutes, and that presumption had not been overcome by the plaintiffs. Other circuit have issued rulings which disagreed with the Second Circuit, but the original Kiobel decision is still the law of the circuit.

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This blog, although not brief, is a brief report on some of the significant environmental law and administrative cases decided in late December and the first quarter of 2016.

U.S. SUPREME COURT

FERC Final Rule re Demand Response Valid. On January 25, the Court, in FERC v. Electric Power Supply Assoc., reversed the D.C. Court of Appeals which had held that a final rule of FERC governing the “demand response” in which operators of wholesale electricity markets (regulated by FERC) pay electricity consumers (arguably subject only to state regulation) for commitments not to use electricity at certain times (such as those times when the demand for this power is greatest) was invalid. The Court held that the rule does not cross the lines setting the boundaries between the states and the federal government regarding the exercise of regulatory power over the sale of electricity.

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In Implications for the Power Sector of Recent Rulings by U.S. Supreme Court and FERC, Pillsbury attorneys Michael Hindus, Andrew Weissman, and Katherine Vorhis discuss an important issue the power industry is currently facing — the tension federal and state roles in power supply planning. Of note, is the U.S. Supreme Court’s April 19 decision in Hughes v. Talen Energy Marketing LLC et al. wherein the Court struck down on federal pre-emption grounds a Maryland program intended to support construction of a new 725 MW natural gas-fired generating plant in Maryland after concluding that the program invaded “FERC’s [exclusive] regulatory turf” over determination of wholesale rates for electricity. This was followed within days by FERC blocking the implementation of two Purchase Power Agreements approved by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission just days later. The tension likely will continue, and the sparring over this issue could intensify, given the states’ efforts to support continued operation of existing generating units and construction of new plants.