Habitat for Humanity builds the nation’s first 3D-printed house, the White House announces infrastructure spending plans for 2022, commercial real estate firms are left to determine their vaccination mandates, and more.
In a mixed decision for international investors, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) recently published a tribunal’s award finding that the Republic of Colombia breached its obligations under the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement when it blocked Eco Oro Minerals Corporation’s mining project in an effort to protect a high-altitude wetland known as the Santurbán Páramo but held that Colombia did not indirectly expropriate Eco Oro’s concession contract with the government pursuant to which Eco Oro’s investment was made because its actions were a legitimate exercise of Colombia’s right as sovereign state to protect its environment. ICSID arbitration, as its name implies, exclusively deals with international commercial disputes, where “investors” (as defined by applicable treaties and include both companies and individuals) submit claims under international treaties against foreign governments. The Eco Oro decision and its underlying analysis are not unique to investor-state arbitration and illustrate how domestic policy concerns, such as the protection of the environment, may result in States acting against the interests of foreign commercial investment.
Investment firms turn their attention towards acquiring digital land, China works to manage its real estate debt, the European Union announces a multibillion-euro infrastructure bill, and more.
Amenity-rich buildings become a key focus in enticing employees back into the office, supply chain links are strained by a lack of storage capacity in warehouses and port areas, green lease signings are on the uptick, and more.
The new infrastructure bill proposes regulations for the cryptocurrency industry, the demand for logistics rental space increases, the Supreme Court ends the eviction moratorium, and more.
Diversity and inclusion efforts increase in the infrastructure industry, a recent United Nations report on climate change highlights its potential effects on real estate, construction projects fall behind schedule due to labor shortages, and more.
Presidential Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis,” a long and unusually detailed Executive Order published in the Federal Register on February 1, 2021 (see 86 FR 7619), has generated considerable discussion and commentary. Below, I briefly outline its provisions.
What follows is a brief account of some of the notable U.S. environmental and administrative law cases recently decided.
THE U.S. SUPREME COURT
Nestle USA, Inc. et al. v. Doe, et al.
The Supreme Court has decided another important case interpreting the Alien Tort Statute. Released on June 17, 2021, this decision reverses the Ninth Circuit which had ruled that the respondents—six individuals who alleged they were child slaves employed on Ivory Coast cocoa farms, could sue the American-based companies for aiding and abetting child slave labor. Without dissent, the Court rejected this reading of the ATS and affirmed its own recent rulings on the scope of the ATS.
In a previous post, we described how the New York City Climate Mobilization Act, 2019 (the CMA, or Local Laws 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, and 147 enacted in 2019) was passed with the goal of reducing New York City’s carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050 (as against a 2005 baseline as provided for in item 3 of Local Law 97). It is the most ambitious building emissions law to be enacted by any city in the world. The CMA impacts “Covered Buildings” (described below) and, besides contemplating the retrofitting of Covered Buildings to achieve energy efficiency and establishing a monitoring program for Covered Buildings, the CMA contemplates compliance by means of the purchase of carbon offset credits or renewable energy. (Note the new NYC Accelerator program, launched in 2012 by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, provides guidance regarding energy-efficient upgrades to properties and emission reductions.)
Environmental Justice, as an urgent priority of the Federal Government, dates back to 1994, and President Clinton’s issuance of Executive Order 12898. This order directed federal agencies to identify and address, as appropriate, the disproportionately high and adverse human health and environment effects of its many programs, policies and procedures on minority populations and low-income populations. The primary legal basis for this order was Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in particular, Sections 601 and 602, which prohibit discrimination in programs and activities receiving federal financial aid and assistance. Over the years, the Supreme Court has reviewed the scope and importance of Title VI. In Alexander v. Sandoval, decided in 2001, the Court concluded that while private parties could sue to enforce Section 601 or its implementing regulations, as written, Section 601 only prohibits intentional discrimination. Noting that disproportionate impact is not the sole touchstone of invidious racial discrimination. Moreover, the Court also ruled in Sandoval that private parties cannot sue to enforce regulations implementing Section 602. Perhaps as an acknowledgement of these shortcomings, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established an administrative system to process environmental justice complaints at 40 CFR Part 7. Without strengthening the statutory base of environmental justice, the program may continue to be the subject of countless symposiums and seminars. However, this may change soon.