Blank Rome Launches Biometric Privacy Team

Blank Rome LLP is pleased to announce the formal launch of our Biometric Privacy Team. Composed of multidisciplinary attorneys from across our Firm’s offices, this dedicated team draws talent from our Cybersecurity & Data PrivacyPrivacy Class Action DefenseArtificial Intelligence Technology, and Labor & Employment groups to help clients address and minimize the risks associated with biometric privacy regulatory compliance, enforcement, and litigation.

“We are thrilled to launch this important and timely initiative,” said Jeffrey N. Rosenthal, who leads the Firm’s Biometric Privacy Team. “Our team includes both highly experienced compliance counsel and seasoned privacy class action defense litigators. Collectively, we are well positioned to help clients navigate today’s myriad biometric privacy laws. Whether proactively developing comprehensive compliance/risk management programs or aggressively defending clients in state and federal courts across the country, our Biometric Privacy Team possesses the technological savvy, industry knowledge, and battle-forged litigation skills needed to counsel and defend our clients as consumer privacy laws continue to expand and evolve.”

Recent advancements in technology and artificial intelligence have led companies to utilize biometric data—such as fingerprint scans, facial recognition, voice prints, and DNA scans—in an ever-increasingly broad number of ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. This, in turn, has brought about significant legal risk as legislatures across the country implement laws to tightly regulate the use of this technology, such as the now well-known Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act and California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. The commercial use of biometric data has also led to a wave of bet-the-company class action litigation for alleged technical statutory violations, often involving hundreds of millions of dollars in potential exposure.

“Our biometric privacy trial attorneys are frequently retained to litigate high-exposure, high-profile disputes. Due to this demand, we have developed reputations for achieving superior results against challenging odds using novel and creative strategies,” stated Ana Tagvoryan, Vice Chair of the Firm’s Corporate Litigation group and Co-Chair of Blank Rome’s Class Action Defense Team. “Our multidisciplinary team develops winning litigation strategies and formidable defenses against all manner of claims involving allegedly improper biometric data practices.”

Blank Rome’s biometric privacy attorneys are also thought leaders in this space, having extensively published and presented on compliance best practices, emerging legal trends involving biometric laws and technology around the country and the world, risk mitigation, and litigation strategy.

Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Team

Blank Rome’s Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Team (“SWERT”) helps those impacted by natural disasters like recent powerful hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico, and by wildfires and mudslides in California and Colorado. We are an interdisciplinary group with decades of experience helping companies and individuals recover from severe weather events. Our team includes insurance recovery, labor and employment, government contracts, environmental, and energy attorneys, as well as government relations professionals with extensive experience in disaster recovery.

Learn more:
blankrome.com/SWERT

Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) is impacting businesses and public life around the world. From supply chain disruption, government-ordered closures, and event cancellations to employee safety concerns and social distancing recommendations, every company is facing its own unique challenges in the face of the uncertainties surrounding this global pandemic.

Blank Rome’s Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force (“Task Force”) is monitoring this ever-changing situation and is here to help. The Task Force is an interdisciplinary group of the Firm’s attorneys with decades of experience helping companies and individuals respond to the legal fallout from disruptive crises and disasters. Our multifaceted team includes insurance recovery, labor & employment, maritime, litigation, corporate, real estate, and cybersecurity & data privacy attorneys prepared to analyze your issues from every conceivable angle to ensure a holistic, complete, and comprehensive approach to your specific needs and issues. With offices across the United States and in China, we are ready to assist businesses that must respond and prepare for an evolving public health emergency.

To access all of our Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force resources, please visit our website.

Blank Rome’s Maritime Industry Team

Our maritime industry team is composed of practice-focused subcommittees from across many of our Firm’s offices, with attorneys who have extensive capabilities and experience in the maritime industry and beyond, effectively complementing Blank Rome Maritime’s client cases and transactions.

Maritime Emergency Response Team (“MERT”)
We are on call 24 / 7 / 365
In the event of an incident, please contact any of our MERT members listed in red below.

William R. Bennett III – NYC
CO-CHAIR, BLANK ROME MARITIME

Jeanne M. Grasso – WAS
CO-CHAIR, BLANK ROME MARITIME

Keith B. Letourneau – HOU
CO-CHAIR, BLANK ROME MARITIME

Richard V. Singleton, II – NYC
CO-CHAIR, MARITIME INDUSTRY TEAM

Jeremy A. Herschaft – HOU
CO-CHAIR, MARITIME INDUSTRY TEAM

Matthew J. Thomas – WAS
CO-CHAIR, MARITIME INDUSTRY TEAM Continue reading “Blank Rome’s Maritime Industry Team”

New Legislation to Apply the Jones Act to Offshore Renewables

Jonathan K. WaldronJoan M. Bondareff, and Stefanos N. Roulakis

Jonathan K. WaldronJoan M. BondareffStefanos N. Roulakis





Stakeholders in offshore wind construction projects, including vessel owners and operators, project developers, and equipment manufacturers, should ensure that their plans for offshore wind development comply with the Jones Act. While most stakeholders already assume in their planning that the Jones Act applies, new pending legislation, if enacted, would confirm that the Jones Act does indeed apply to offshore wind construction.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS

The House of Representatives passed legislation, H.R. 4447, the Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy Act of 2019, on September 24, 2020, which included a provision from Representatives Garamendi and Lowenthal (“Amendment 33”) to amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”) that would confirm the Jones Act applies to all offshore energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”), including wind energy. While most projects were planned with Jones Act compliance in mind, this is a welcome development for all stakeholders, as it will bring needed clarity to renewable energy development offshore.

BACKGROUND

The Coastwise Merchandise Statute, commonly known as the Jones Act, has evolved over time. The U.S. cabotage laws date back to the founding of the Republic and were enshrined in their current form in the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. These were originally laws that dealt with transportation issues for domestic voyages. However, as time progressed and production of marine resources became feasible, the U.S. Congress passed OCSLA, which extended federal law to installations on the OCS.

Please click here for the full client alert.

EPA’s Long-Anticipated VIDA Proposed Rule Now Available

Jeanne M. Grasso and Dana S. Merkel

NEW DEVELOPMENT

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) made available its long-anticipated standards for discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels pursuant to the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (“VIDA”) on October 6, 2020. Signed into law on December 4, 2018 as part of the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, VIDA established a new framework for the regulation of discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels in an attempt to bring consistency and certainty to the regulation of discharges from U.S.- and foreign-flag vessels.

The first step in implementing VIDA requires EPA to develop federal performance standards for “marine pollution control devices,” which includes any equipment or management practice (or combination thereof) to manage incidental discharges from vessels. After some delays, EPA posted its notice of proposed rulemaking on October 6, available here, to set standards for 20 types of vessel discharges incidental to normal operations. The program implemented under VIDA will replace EPA’s Vessel General Permit and certain U.S. Coast Guard (“USCG”) regulations for ballast water a few years from now, after the USCG finalizes regulations to implement EPA’s standards, including compliance, monitoring, inspections, and enforcement.

BACKGROUND

VIDA was the culmination of years of discussion, debate, and litigation concerning discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels. Although back in the 1970s EPA initially exempted these discharges from the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting program due to the burden of permitting every vessel entering U.S. waters, a federal court ruled in 2006 that EPA must issue permits for vessel discharges. In response, EPA developed the 2008 Vessel General Permit (“VGP”). The 2008 VGP was eventually replaced by the 2013 VGP, which contained some more stringent requirements, such as numeric limits on ballast water discharges, a requirement to use environmentally acceptable lubricants, and new monitoring requirements for ballast water, bilge water, and graywater.

Please click here for the full client alert.

Electronic Recordkeeping—The Maritime Industry, Including in the United States, Sails Forward

Jeanne M. Grasso and Dana S. Merkel

NEW DEVELOPMENT

Long-awaited amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (“MARPOL”) entered into force on October 1, 2020, which expressly permit the use of electronic record books for certain MARPOL required logs. Although the United States reserved its decision regarding adoption of the amendments when they were approved by the International Maritime Organization (“IMO”) in May 2019, the United States ultimately accepted their adoption in accordance with the tacit acceptance procedure. Nonetheless, it is yet unclear how the amendments will be implemented in the United States or what additional security safeguards the United States may require. Bottom line, this is a significant and welcomed development.

BACKGROUND

Electronic record books have been the subject of much debate and consideration at the IMO and within the United States for a number of years. During MEPC 74 in May 2019, amendments were approved, revising MARPOL Annexes I, II, V, and VI to allow the use of electronic record books approved by the vessels’ Administration for the Oil Record Book (“ORB”), Cargo Record Book, Garbage Record Book, and Annex VI air pollution prevention recordkeeping requirements. In adopting the amendments, the IMO stated the use of electronic record books “should be encouraged as it may have many benefits for the retention of records by companies, crew, and officers.” These amendments entered into force on October 1, 2020, although a number of flag States believed the previous MARPOL language provided them with the discretion to allow the use of electronic record books and had already approved their use on vessels for some years. Even so, the permissibility of using electronic record books to meet MARPOL requirements is now clear.

Please click here for the full client alert.

Latest Developments on Maritime Legislation in the 116th Congress

Jonathan K. Waldron, Joan M. Bondareff, and Dana S. Merkel

As the 116th Congress begins to slowly come to an end, and Congress leaves town without passing a relief bill during the summer recess, the maritime industry can benefit from several bills that have been added to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”), in particular those on the House side. Following is a synopsis of a few key items to watch for.

NEW DEVELOPMENT

Numerous bills have been added to the NDAA that impact the maritime industry or provide critical COVID-19 relief to the industry. Although each of these bills was proceeding independently, they were recently added to the NDAA, which has passed reliably every year for 56 years, in an effort to move them forward. The maritime industry-related legislation added to the NDAA included:

Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2020

The Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2020 (“CGAA”), which has been in progress for over a year, was attached to the NDAA in full on the House side. The CGAA includes a number of significant authorizations for new cutters and icebreakers, including construction of a new Polar Security Cutter to replace aging icebreakers, acquiring a new National Security Cutter and four Fast Response Cutters, and acquiring a Great Lakes icebreaker. We are monitoring the appropriations bills for FY2021 to determine whether funding is provided for these ongoing and significant procurements.

Please click here for the full client alert.

Customs and Border Protection Revokes New Ruling Regarding Offshore Wind

Jonathan K. Waldron and Stefanos N. Roulakis

Stakeholders in offshore wind, particularly vessel operators and project managers, should ignore a recent U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) ruling on offshore wind. While there had been buzz about this ruling, CBP has revoked the ruling based on a misunderstanding of the facts in question in the ruling request. As such, there are no recent rulings related to offshore wind, and stakeholders should continue to examine their Jones Act compliance plans with experienced counsel and seek rulings as needed.

NEW DEVELOPMENT

A recent CBP ruling, HQ H309672 (July 15, 2020) (the “Ruling”), drew the attention of many in the industry since the last ruling relating to offshore wind was issued approximately nine years ago for the Deepwater Wind project in 2011. The Ruling related to wind farm activities occurring in the territorial sea off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. CBP has since published a revocation notice, HQ H312773 (August 3, 2020) (the “Revocation”), which was published on the CBP website on August 12, 2020, retracting the Ruling. CBP’s stated reason for the revocation was the lack of clarity on whether the “activities would occur in the territorial sea or on the Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”)” and that it would be best to revoke the Ruling “until the coordinates of the installation can be established.”

BACKGROUND

In 2011, CBP issued Blank Rome a ruling on behalf of the Deepwater Wind project that the use of a crane that is aboard a non-coastwise-qualified vessel to load and unload wind turbines in the territorial seas is not prohibited by the Jones Act. No rulings have been issued on an offshore wind project since the 2011 ruling. Since that time, we understand CBP has declined to rule on requests to issue a ruling on the applicability of the Jones Act to offshore wind activities occurring on the OCS and whether a wind farm foundation or other devices attached to the seabed for wind farm purposes would constitute a coastwise point under the Jones Act.

Please click here for the full client alert.

Firm News and Announcements

Chambers USA 2020 Recognizes Blank Rome Attorneys and Practices

Blank Rome’s Maritime practice and attorneys have again been highly ranked by Chambers USA, notably receiving national #1 rankings in the areas of Shipping – Litigation and Shipping – Regulatory. The 2020 edition of Chambers USA recognized Blank Rome in a number of categories across a wide range of practices, and also ranked 69 Blank Rome attorneys as “leaders in their fields.” Read More »

Blank Rome Attorneys and Practices Highly Ranked in The Legal 500 United States 2020

Blank Rome’s Maritime practice and attorneys were again highly ranked and recommended in The Legal 500 United States 2020, notably recognizing Blank Rome as a “Top-Tier Firm” for Shipping – Finance, and Shipping – Litigation and Regulation. Read More »

Blank Rome’s Maritime Industry Team

Our maritime industry team is composed of practice-focused subcommittees from across many of our Firm’s offices, with attorneys who have extensive capabilities and experience in the maritime industry and beyond, effectively complementing Blank Rome Maritime’s client cases and transactions. Read More »

Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus is impacting businesses and public life around the world. From supply chain disruption, government-ordered closures, and event cancellations to employee safety concerns and social distancing recommendations, every company is facing its own unique challenges in the face of the uncertainties surrounding this global pandemic. Blank Rome’s Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force is monitoring this ever-changing situation and is here to help. Read More »

A Message from Blank Rome’s Leadership

We hope it never becomes normal to share a message denouncing acts of discrimination, harassment, or violence against our communities of color. During these upsetting and anguished times, we reaffirm Blank Rome’s dedication to our core value and founding principle—an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Read More »