*Article first appeared in Bloomberg Law on June 18, 2020.
A new executive order seeks to accelerate federal approvals of infrastructure and development projects, relying on various emergency authorities in environmental statutes. The authors of this article say the scope of these provisions, as well as their interaction with other laws, is uncertain, and investors and developers should be cautious of potential judicial challenges.
Earlier this week President Trump issued an executive order aimed at bolstering economic recovery as businesses reopen. This has potential for marked effects on environmental enforcement in light of how the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice have already been adapting environmental priorities in the face of the pandemic. (more…)
Three new rules issued by the Trump Administration may allow project developers to better plan future projects, and may encourage preservation and conservation efforts for both private and federal landowners. These rules, issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, revise how the federal government will address critical habitat designations, protections for threatened species and interagency coordination under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (the Agencies), have issued three rules revising how the federal government will address critical habitat designations, protections for threatened species and interagency coordination under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Agencies’ decisions have not yet been published in the Federal Register, but prepublication versions can be found here. The regulations will become effective 30 days after publication.
On June 4, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) offered non-binding advice to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) on how it should perform environmental reviews of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions when it considers new natural gas pipeline projects. While the opinion in Birckhead v. FERC ultimately upheld FERC’s order permitting a new natural gas compressor station near Nashville, Tennessee, the court devoted several pages of dicta on what upstream and downstream GHG emissions data FERC should be gathering to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).
Regulations issued Monday could create a faster, less duplicative environmental review process for transportation infrastructure projects. Under the rule, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will share a single set of Section 4(f) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, with minor differences. 83 Fed. Reg. 54,480 (Oct. 29, 2018). The agencies explain that the changes “will provide a more consistent and predictable process for potential project sponsors, especially those that engage in environmental reviews for more than one mode of surface transportation.” Id. at 54,482. By joining the 23 C.F.R. part 771 regulations, FRA also fulfills its obligation under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The regulations go into effect November 28. (more…)
Topics discussed this week include:
- Environmental group brings Clean Water Act citizen suit against Shell and Motiva that alleges climate change-related harms.
- District court stays CERCLA unilateral administrative order.
- District court overturns Department of the Interior stay of rule governing royalties for oil, natural gas and coal production on federal and Indian lands.
- Second Circuit upholds New York State’s decision to deny Clean Water Act certification to proposed pipeline.
- C. Circuit holds that FERC should consider power plant emissions in pipeline environmental impact statement.
- Hurricane Harvey affects Gulf Coast energy and chemical resources.
In a 2-1 decision that issued today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) in Sierra Club et. al v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Sierra Club) vacated and remanded a Natural Gas Act (NGA) Section 7 certificate of public convenience and necessity granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to the Southeast Market Pipelines Project (Project) in 2016. The Project comprises three natural gas pipelines currently under construction in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida that, once built, will transport over 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day over 500 miles to feed new and existing natural gas-fired electric plants in Florida and to serve the growing natural gas demand of Florida utility customers. (more…)
On July 19, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a pair of bills aimed at reforming natural gas and oil pipeline permitting, and granting additional authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”). Both bills passed on largely party-line votes. The two bills are H.R. 2883, Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, and H.R. 2910, Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act. H.R. 2883, removes the current requirement that gas and oil pipelines, as well as electric transmission projects, obtain a Presidential Permit to cross an international border. Instead, pipelines would obtain a certificate of crossing from FERC and transmission projects would obtain such a certificate from the Department of Energy. If enacted into law, this change would mark a significant change for oil pipeline projects. FERC currently has no authority over any aspect of interstate oil pipeline siting. Currently, all siting decisions not on federal lands are handled at the state level, with international border crossings overseen by the State Department through the presidential permit process. FERC does, however, oversee the siting of interstate natural gas pipelines, including Presidential Permits for international border crossings, under current law.
This week’s enforcement update covers:
- CFTC enters into non-prosecution agreements with former Citigroup Global Markets Inc. traders in spoofing case;
- CFTC orders $5.2 million in civil penalties for wash sales designed to generate exchange rebate fees;
- FERC hosts technical conference on developments in natural gas index liquidity and transparency;
- Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee releases new energy bill;
- President Trump announces intent to nominate Richard Glick as FERC Commissioner;
- FERC Enforcement and City Power file status report on settlement; and
- Judge grants Kraft Foods motion to compel discovery from the CFTC.