Senate Democrats Release “Climate Roadmap”

On August 25, 2020, U.S. Senate Democrats released a “climate roadmap” detailing their legislative goals if the November elections give the party a majority in the Senate. The report, provided by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, sets out goals to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, globally, by 2050, such as promoting the use of renewable generation, electrified vehicles, and low-emission cement and steel. (more…)

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Judge Defers to Bureau of Land Management on National Environmental Policy Act Analysis of Cumulative Impacts on Climate Change

On August 18, 2020, a U.S. district court judge for the District of New Mexico upheld the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) analysis of climate impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The case concerned BLM’s decision to authorize the lease of 68,000 acres of land in New Mexico for oil and gas development. (more…)

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EPA’s Proposal to Freeze Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards Issued in Anticipation of Criticism

On August 14, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its proposal to retain the existing ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). The proposal sets an October 1 deadline for public comment and schedules two virtual hearings, for August 31 and September 1, 2020. The current ozone NAAQS were established in 2015 and set 70 parts per billion for both primary and secondary standards.

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EPA Revises Oil and Gas Regulations, Spurring Divergent Reactions

On August 13, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed its reconsideration of the agency’s 2016 oil and gas regulations when Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a pair of rulemakings that revise the new source performance standards  for new oil and gas sources. EPA describes the revisions as reducing undue regulatory burdens and providing substantial cost savings without increasing emissions. Several environmental groups argue the revisions unlawfully reduce regulation of methane emissions and immediately pledged to file suit to challenge the new rules.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service Propose Definition for “Habitat”

On August 5, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively the Services) published a proposed rule to define “habitat” as that term is used in the context of critical habitat designations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. One of the tools under the ESA to conserve listed species is the designation of critical habitat to identify areas that are essential to a species’ recovery. (more…)

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U.S. Army Corps Proposes to Reissue and Modify Nationwide Permits

On August 3, 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released a prepublication version of a proposal to reissue and modify its existing 52 nationwide permits (NWPs) and issue five new NWPs. The Corps issues NWPs to authorize categories of activities in jurisdictional waters and wetlands under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act that will result in no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects. The Corps typically updates NWPs every five years, and the current NWPs are scheduled to expire on March 18, 2022. However, in response to President Donald Trump’s March 18, 2017, Executive Order 13783, which directed the heads of federal agencies to review regulations that potentially burden domestic energy production, the Corps identified nine NWPs that could be modified. In addition to revising those nine NWPs, the Corps is proposing to reissue the remaining NWPs so that all NWPs are on the same five-year cycle.

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Environmental Groups Sue White House Over NEPA Rule

On July 29, a number of environmental groups, including Earth Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Wildlife Federation, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) July 15 final rule revising its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing regulations. A similar suit followed on June 30 by a different collection of environmental groups in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The CEQ’s final rule sets forth a significant shift in how the White House views the government’s duties and obligations under NEPA and is the first change its NEPA implementation regulations since 1978. Notably, the final rule expands projects categorically excluded from NEPA review, limits most Environmental Impact Statement reviews to two years, and removes an obligation for an agency to consider impacts that are not reasonably foreseeable or those that are “are remote in time, geographically remote, or the product of a lengthy causal chain.”

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Can the Yellow School Bus Go Green?

The Promise and Regulatory Challenges of Vehicle-to-Grid Technology

The classic yellow school bus is turning green. Electric buses may continue to grow in popularity, and the so-called “vehicle-to-grid” technology enables the new buses to both store and draw power. Listen to our latest episode of The Sidley Podcast for more on the subject, including:

  • How the innovative vehicle-to-grid technology is implemented
  • Who benefits from a business or an operational perspective
  • The regulatory obstacles to setting it in motion around the country

Join host and Sidley partner, Sam Gandhi, as he speaks with one of Sidley’s thought leaders on the subject, Ken Irvin, co-leader of Sidley’s global Energy practice, who represents clients on matters involving the wholesale electricity and gas markets. Ken has extensive experience representing businesses in investigations and regulatory proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

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District Court Imposes Deadline on EPA to Issue “Good Neighbor” Plans for Ozone Compliance

On July 28, Judge John Koeltl of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue Federal Implementation Plans for the 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) that fully address the “good neighbor” obligations under the Clean Air Act by March 2021. The plans will force upwind Northeastern states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) to curb air emissions that otherwise impede the ability of neighboring downwind states (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) from meeting the statutory July 20, 2021 attainment deadline set forth in the 2008 ozone NAAQS.

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