Latham's Clean Energy Law Report

New Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Policy Statement Potentially Expands Revenue Opportunities for Electric Storage Resources

Posted in Energy regulatory

By Michael Gergen and David E. Pettit

On January 19, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) issued a new policy statement entitled “Utilization of Electric Storage Resources for Multiple Services When Receiving Cost-Based Rate Recovery” (Storage Policy Statement or Policy Statement), which clarifies that electric storage resources may receive cost-based recovery for certain services, such as transmission or grid support services, while also receiving market-based revenues for separate services, such as selling electric energy, capacity and ancillary services in the organized wholesale markets, so long as adequate protections are in place to address potential abuses. The Storage Policy Statement suggests potential new revenue opportunities for electric storage resources that can provide multiple or stacked services, some of which are cost-based and some of which are market-based.

Storage Policy Statement Clarifies Prior Precedent

The Storage Policy Statement specifically aims to clarify questions left open by FERC’s prior decisions in Nevada Hydro[1] and Western Grid.[2]  In Nevada Hydro, the Commission rejected a proposal by The Nevada Hydro Company, Inc. to treat an advanced pumped hydroelectric storage project as a transmission facility and allow its costs to be recovered through the California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO) transmission access charge. The company also proposed to have CAISO assume operational control over the project such that CAISO would have to determine when and how to charge and discharge electric energy from the storage project.  Continue Reading

Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board Approves Second Extension to Malibu Septic Prohibition Deadlines

Posted in Environmental and approvals

By John Heintz, Lucas Quass, and Steven Mach

On February 2, 2017, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (the Regional Board) approved a Revised Memorandum of Understanding (the 2017 MOU) between the City of Malibu (the City), the Regional Board, and the State Water Resources Control Board (the State Board) to extend the compliance deadlines for the Los Angeles Region Basin Plan amendment prohibiting new discharges from or construction of septic systems in the Malibu Civic Center area (the Basin Plan Prohibition). The 2017 MOU is the second amendment to an MOU initially entered in 2011[i] between the City and the Regional Board that, among other things, adjusted the timing of compliance with the Basin Plan Prohibition.

Background

On November 5, 2009, the Regional Board passed the Basin Plan Prohibition. The Regional Board justified this controversial prohibition by citing the alleged contribution of on-site wastewater discharges to the impairment of water resources in and around Malibu’s Civic Center. The State Board approved the Regional Board-adopted Basin Plan Prohibition on September 21, 2010, and it became effective in December 2010. In addition to prohibiting the development of any new on-site wastewater disposal systems (OWDSs), the Basin Plan Prohibition requires the phasing-out of discharges from existing OWDSs in the Malibu Civic Center area by November 5, 2015 (for commercial dischargers), or by November 5, 2019 (for residential dischargers). Continue Reading

Supreme Court Grants Certiorari in Clean Water Rule Case Jurisdictional Challenge

Posted in Energy regulatory, Environmental and approvals

By Andrea Hogan, Lucas Quass, John Morris and Steven Mach

On January 13, 2017, the US Supreme Court granted certiorari for an appeal that will allow the Court to determine the proper jurisdiction for litigation challenging the Clean Water Rule (the Final Rule).[1] The federal Clean Water Act (CWA) provides for original jurisdiction in the Circuit Courts of Appeal for certain categories of actions taken by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By accepting review of the appeal, the Court will now decide whether to affirm the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal’s assertion of original jurisdiction over litigation challenging the Final Rule, and in doing so, the Court will set the stage for consideration of Final Rule litigation on the merits. As a result of the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari, on January 25, 2017, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal granted a motion to hold in abeyance the litigation over the Final Rule until the US Supreme Court reaches a decision regarding jurisdiction.

Clean Water Rule’s Broad Application

EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jointly issued the Final Rule to define “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), a threshold term that delimits CWA’s scope and application. The Final Rule has broad application. It defines jurisdictional waters not only for Section 404 of the CWA (permitting for dredge and fill operations) but also under Section 303 (addressing water quality standards and maximum daily loads); Section 311 (relating to oil spill prevention and response); Section 401 (concerning state water quality certifications); and Section 402 (establishing the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program). Critics of the Final Rule argue that it expands federal jurisdiction significantly beyond the bounds of court precedent interpreting the CWA’s statutory mandate. We previously published a Client Alert that discusses the Final Rule’s scope and implications in greater detail. Continue Reading

National Academy of Sciences Recommends Updated Framework for Social Cost of Carbon Calculations

Posted in Energy regulatory

By Stacey VanBelleghem and Benjamin Lawless

On January 11, 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) released a report, “Valuing Climate Damages: Updating Estimation of the Social Cost of Carbon Dioxider,” recommending an updated framework for how the Federal government calculates the social cost of carbon (SCC) in regulatory rulemakings and other economically significant regulatory actions. The SCC is a cost-benefit analysis tool designed to estimate “the net damages incurred by society from a 1 metric ton increase in carbon dioxide emissions in a given year.”

Federal agencies first began engaging in ad hoc efforts to develop SCC estimates following the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s 2008 decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2010, the U.S. Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon (IWG) issued the first formal, government-wide SCC estimates. The US Government Accountability Office reports that SCC has been used in more than 150 regulatory actions since 2008.  The SCC has been revised in 2013,  2015 and 2016, to reflect new versions of the models upon which the estimates were based. The current SCC estimates a cost of $36 per ton of carbon dioxide for 2015, at a 3 percent average discount rate, with projected increases to $50/ton in 2030 and $69/ton in 2050. Continue Reading

Environmental Protection Agency Adopts National Limits on Formaldehyde Exposure for Composite Wood Products

Posted in Environmental and approvals

By Michael Feeley, Winston Stromberg, Ann Claassen, Lucas I. Quass, John Morris, and Samantha Seikkula

On December 12, 2016, EPA published the final Formaldehyde Standards For Composite Wood Products Rule (the Rule) in the Federal Register. The compliance date for most aspects of the Rule is December 12, 2017, with a sell-through provision for wood composite products manufactured or imported prior to that date. The Rule limits formaldehyde emitted into the air from certain composite wood products, which are products made by binding strands, particles, fibers, veneers, or boards of wood together with adhesives.  Domestic and foreign companies operating in the U.S. use composite wood products to manufacture a wide variety of consumer products such as furniture, flooring, cabinets, children’s toys, and more.

EPA promulgated the Rule to implement the 2010 Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act (the Act), which Congress enacted as Title VI of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Act established emission standards that mirror the California Air Resource Board’s (CARB) Phase II standards for composite wood products—including hardwood plywood (HWPW), medium-density fiberwood (MDF), and particleboard (PB).[1]  Similar to the California requirements, the new federal Rule regulates composite wood products from initial manufacture to final sale by (1) imposing emissions restrictions; (2) regulating product labeling, chain of custody, non-compliant product sell-through, recordkeeping and enforcement; and (3) requiring certification by EPA-approved third-party certifiers (TPC) that conduct quality assurance activities, emissions testing, inspections and auditing services. Continue Reading

US Fish and Wildlife Service Finalizes Eagle Rule Revision

Posted in Environmental and approvals, Permitting

By Sara Orr, Jennifer Roy and Francesca Bochner

On December 14, 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finalized its proposed revisions to the Eagle Rule (Final Rule) and released its Record of Decision (ROD). The Final Rule allows companies and others to obtain 30-year incidental take permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 (the Act) in exchange for committing to conservation measures designed to reduce impacts to eagles.

As discussed in our previous articles (here and here), this is FWS’ second attempt at revising the Eagle Rule to allow for 30-year permit terms. The draft version of the revisions and the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (DPEIS) were originally released on May 2, 2016. FWS accepted public comments on the proposed revisions and DPEIS until July 5, 2016, receiving over 700 comments from other agencies, public interest groups, industry organizations, and private citizens. Continue Reading

The Department of Energy’s Simplified IIP Process Goes Into Effect in November

Posted in Energy regulatory, Finance and project development, Permitting

By Sara Orr, Bobbi-Jo Dobush and Francesca Bochner

On November 28, 2016, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) simplified Integrated Interagency Pre-Application (IIP) Process will go into effect.[i]

The IIP is a voluntary, pre-application process intended to streamline and improve the permitting and siting process for qualifying electric transmission projects. In an effort to increase efficiency, the IIP allows DOE to coordinate with applicable federal and non-federal entities to identify issues early in the process and before the developer submits a formal application.

Under the IIP, DOE is responsible for overseeing the IIP Process, coordinating the roles of other Federal entities and maintaining a consolidated administrative record. Developers may participate in two meetings with DOE and other federal and non-federal agencies (local, regional, and tribal stakeholders) to discuss potential issues with a project. While developers must still obtain all other necessary permits, the process is intended to minimize delays by involving all applicable parties from the outset. When the IIP process is complete, developers may submit their formal permit applications to agencies that have already had an opportunity to air concerns and suggest changes. Continue Reading

US Fish and Wildlife Service Moves Forward With Proposed Eagle Rule Revision

Posted in Environmental and approvals, Permitting

By Sara Orr, Jennifer Roy and Francesca Bochner

On July 5, 2016, the public comment period closed for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) proposed revisions to the rules authorizing eagle take permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act) and accompanying Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), paving the way for FWS to complete and release a final rule, possibly as early as the end of this year.

FWS originally released the revised proposed rules on May 6, 2016, as discussed more fully in our previous post. FWS received over 700 comments on the proposed revisions and Draft PEIS from other agencies, public interest groups, industry organizations, and private citizens. Continue Reading

BLM Moves Forward with Phase I of Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan

Posted in Permitting

By Marc Campopiano, Josh Bledsoe, Jennifer Roy, and James Erselius

Phase I of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) has now been approved, paving the way for streamlined permitting and environmental review of qualified renewable energy projects on Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered lands in the Mojave and Colorado/Sonoran desert regions of Southern California.

As discussed in a previous post, the four lead agencies responsible for preparing the DRECP introduced a phased approach to implementing the DRECP in March 2015. After receiving public comments, BLM released a Proposed Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA) and Final Environmental Impact Statement for Phase I—the DRECP’s federal land component—in November 2015. On September 14, 2016, BLM signed the Record of Decision (ROD) approving the LUPA. Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Addresses Subsequent Review Under CEQA; Rejects Lishman “New Project” Test

Posted in Environmental and approvals, Finance and project development

By Christopher W. GarrettDavid Amerikaner, Lucas I. Quass and Samantha Seikkula

In an opinion by Justice Kruger, the Supreme Court of California unanimously reversed the Court of Appeal in Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo County Community College District, Cal. Supreme Court, Case No. S214061 (September 19, 2016). The Court concluded the Court of Appeal erred in its application of a “new project” test in determining whether a subsequent or supplemental environmental impact report (EIR) is appropriate.

The Court held that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) does not authorize courts to invalidate an agency’s CEQA action when it proposes changes to a previously approved project, based solely on the court’s own independent evaluation of whether the agency’s proposal is a new project, rather than a modified version of an old one. Instead of focusing on a possibly abstract characterization of whether the project is “new” or “old,” the court must evaluate the lead agency’s determination of whether the previous environmental document retains any relevance in light of the proposed changes, and if any major revisions to the document are required due to the involvement of new, previously unstudied significant environmental effects. Importantly, the Court clarified Continue Reading

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