EPA Denies Petitions to Review Startup and Shutdown Issues under MATS and Utility NSPS

On August 5, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied two petitions by environmental and industry groups to reconsider startup and shutdown issues under the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule and the Utility New Source Performance Standards (NSPS). These regulations, finalized in February 2012, impose operational requirements to minimize emissions during periods of start-up and shutdown in lieu of numeric limits. Continue Reading

EPA Must Regulate Airplane Greenhouse Gas Emissions

As we wrote about previously, in February 2016 the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) proposed international standards to limit the emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from airplane engines.  Last week, the EPA finalized the first step to create domestic emissions standards for airplanes when it officially found that GHG emissions from certain types of aircraft engines contribute to climate change.  Now that EPA has issued this determination — known as an “Endangerment Finding” — it is required to regulate these emissions under the Clean Air Act.  EPA may propose new domestic emissions rules before the end of President Obama’s term and it has announced the limits will be at least as stringent as the international standards ICAO proposed in February. Continue Reading

FERC Issues Orders Concerning NERC Critical Infrastructure Protection Reliability Standards

On June 21, 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) issued three orders related to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC) critical infrastructure protection reliability standards (CIP reliability standards). The Commission issued a final rule directing NERC to develop a new or modified reliability standard, an Order Denying Rehearing and a Notice of Inquiry. Continue Reading

FERC Issues NOPR on Information Collection, Rescinds Previous Iterations of Rule

On July 21, 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) in Docket No. RM16-17-000 to revise regulations regarding the collection of data for analytics and surveillance purposes from market-based rates (MBR) sellers and entities trading virtual products or holding financial transmission rights (Virtual/FTR Participants). FERC also withdrew two earlier NOPRs in Docket Nos. RM15-23-000 and RM16-3-000. FERC indicated that the newly-issued NOPR would address many of the issues in the withdrawn NOPRs. Continue Reading

Recap: Climate Action Plan Nears Completion

In 2013, President Obama issued the Climate Action Plan. Its goal: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from a broad range of economic sectors. Moreover, the Climate Action Plan is the key set of initiatives necessary to achieve the United  States’ GHG reduction commitment set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international accord.

We covered the initiation of a wide range of rulemakings in a blog post dated September 28, 2015, and, as the Obama Administration comes to a close, climate change rulemakings continue to move forward. The most contentious rule—the Clean Power Plan—has moved from rulemaking to litigation. Many other rules (e.g. new rules limiting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry and the renewable fuel standards) have moved from proposal to final rules. We summarize the status of 10 different rules, standards, or programs meant to implement the Climate Action Plan below. Continue Reading

Toxic Substances Control Act Revised for the 21st Century

On June 22, 2016, President Obama signed the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act into law.  The Act is the first significant change to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act in 40 years and amends the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) methods for reviewing chemical substances before they are marketed and allowed to be used in consumer products.

The Act has several new key features: Continue Reading

FAA Eases Opportunities for Utilities to Use Drones

In a long awaited release, on June 21, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Final Rule to allow for increased commercial operation of small, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) in the National Airspace System (NAS).[1]  Existing regulation mandated that commercial users of UAS apply to the FAA for a case-by-case review for permission to use drones deterring widespread use of emerging drone technologies.  The Final Rule tracks the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in February 2015[2] and closes the regulatory gap that thwarted the use of drone technology by many utilities. Continue Reading

Eighth Circuit Rejects Class Certification in Environmental Contamination Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has reversed class certification in a case involving claims of alleged environmental contamination. Ebert v. General Mills, Inc.[1] illustrates that class action requirements, like predominance of common issues and cohesiveness of claims, can be difficult to establish in the environmental context because issues of liability, causation, and damages are individualized. Ebert may pose a significant obstacle for class certification in future environmental cases. Continue Reading

Corps v. Hawkes: Supreme Court Rules Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Determinations are Final and Appealable Agency Actions

In this much-anticipated decision, on May 31, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously sided with the property owner companies over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”). The Court held that a Corps’ jurisdictional determination as to whether a property contains a jurisdictional wetland is immediately appealable because it constitutes a final agency action. This decision resolves a split among federal circuits and provides a remedy for property owners that receive an unfavorable jurisdictional determination (“JD”) without forcing them to first suffer potentially costly consequences. The Fifth and Eighth Circuits had been split on the issue.   Belle Co. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng’rs, 761 F.3d 383 (5th Cir. 2014); Hawkes Co. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng’rs, 782 F.3d 994 (2014) (please see our April 21, 2105 blog post for a summary of the Eighth Circuit decision). Continue Reading

FERC Issues Policy Statement Clarifying Hold Harmless Commitments Under FPA § 203

On May 19, 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) issued a Final Policy Statement clarifying FERC’s implementation of hold harmless commitments in Federal Power Act (FPA) Section 203 applications seeking change of control authorization. The Final Policy Statement largely tracks a Proposed Policy Statement that was issued in January of 2015.

For FERC approval under Section 203, a transaction must be “consistent with the public interest.” The Commission considers three factors in determining whether a transaction meets this requirement: the effect of the transaction on (1) competition; (2) rates; and (3) regulation. The Policy Statement relates to the second prong of FERC’s analysis (the effect on rates). Continue Reading

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