Latham's Clean Energy Law Report

CEQA Case Report: 2021 Year in Review

Posted in California, CEQA, Environmental and approvals, Environmental Litigation, Environmental Regulation

Public agencies prevailed in 71% of CEQA cases analyzed.

By James L. Arnone, Daniel P. Brunton, Nikki Buffa, Marc T. Campopiano, Peter J. Gutierrez, John C. Heintz, Lauren E. Paull, Aron Potash, Lucas I. Quass, Natalie C. Rogers, Jennifer K. Roy, and Winston P. Stromberg

Latham & Watkins is pleased to present its fifth annual CEQA Case Report. Throughout 2021 Latham lawyers reviewed each of the 51 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) appellate cases, whether published or unpublished. Below is a compilation of the information distilled from that annual review and a discussion of the patterns that emerged.

In 2021, the California Courts of Appeal issued 51 opinions that substantially considered CEQA while the US District Court for the Northern District of California issued one opinion. Notably, 2021 saw an increased focus on CEQA wildfire analysis. In cases like Sierra Watch v. County of Placer, the Court of Appeal ruled that the County of Placer failed to adequately analyze wildfire risks by wrongly assuming first responders would provide traffic control in the event of an emergency. And in Newtown Preservation Society v. County of El Dorado, the Court upheld a mitigated negative declaration in the face of public concerns that a bridge reconstruction project would result in significant impacts on resident safety and emergency evacuation in case of a wildfire.

Also notable in 2021 was the rare occurrence of a Court of Appeal partially affirming the denial of an anti-SLAPP motion following a CEQA lawsuit. In Dunning v. Johnson, the Court found that a project developer had established a probability of demonstrating lack of probable cause for the underlying CEQA petition, as well as a probability of demonstrating that the petitioners pursued the CEQA litigation with malice. Continue Reading

California Coastal Commission Concurs With BOEM’s Consistency Determination for Morro Bay WEA

Posted in California

The action marks the clearance of another significant hurdle toward BOEM’s offshore wind lease sales in federal waters offshore California, anticipated to occur this fall.

By Nikki Buffa, Jennifer K. Roy, Janice M. Schneider, Brian McCall, and Julie Miles

In the first half of 2022, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has moved swiftly toward the first offshore wind lease sales in California, currently anticipated to occur in the fall. BOEM has identified a total of five proposed leases across two areas — the Humboldt Wind Energy Area (WEA) and the Morro Bay WEA. In April 2022, BOEM issued a Consistency Determination for the Morro Bay WEA — as required by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Federal Consistency Regulations — and, just last week, the California Coastal Commission (the Commission) conditionally concurred with this determination. Continue Reading

Interior Proposes First Renewable Energy Lease Sale in Federal Waters Offshore California

Posted in California

The proposal would auction off almost 375,000 acres of the Outer Continental Shelf offshore California for wind energy development.

By Nikki Buffa, Janice M. Schneider, Nathaniel Glynn, and Brian McCall

On May 31, 2022, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) published a Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) for a pair of renewable energy lease sales offshore California. The PSN — which is the third offshore wind auction under the Biden-Harris Administration — represents a major inflection point in the complex and sometimes contentious process to bring wind power to the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore California. The timing of the PSN also dovetails with the California Energy Commission’s May 2022 announcement of the nation’s most ambitious target for offshore wind development: the state is seeking to construct 3 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030, with the potential for 10 to 15 gigawatts by 2045. Continue Reading

California Air Resources Board Releases Draft Scoping Plan Update (Part 4)

Posted in California

CARB addresses California’s increasingly severe climate impacts.

By Joshua T. Bledsoe and Kevin Homrighausen

On May 10, 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its Draft 2022 Scoping Plan Update (Draft Scoping Plan) for public review and comment. Assembly Bill 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, requires CARB to develop and update every five years a scoping plan that describes the approach California will take to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to achieve the goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Senate Bill 32 subsequently strengthened the state’s GHG emissions reductions target to at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Latham & Watkins’ first post in this series discusses CARB’s Proposed Scenario to achieve the state’s GHG targets, which adopts a carbon neutrality target for 2045. The second post discusses how the Cap-and-Trade Program features in the Draft Scoping Plan. The third post discussed how California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Program factors into the state’s GHG reduction goals and how the LCFS Program may be amended in the near future. This fourth and final post describes how the Draft Scoping Plan responds to some of California’s most significant climate impacts, like wildfires, drought, and extreme heat. Continue Reading

California Air Resources Board Releases Draft Scoping Plan Update (Part 3)

Posted in California

CARB doubles down on LCFS Program and liquid transportation fuels.

By Joshua T. Bledsoe and Jennifer Garlock

On May 10, 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its Draft 2022 Scoping Plan Update (Draft Scoping Plan) for public review and comment. Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), requires CARB to develop and update every five years a scoping plan that describes the approach California will take to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to achieve the goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Senate Bill (SB) 32 subsequently strengthened the state’s GHG emissions reductions target to at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Our first post in this series discusses CARB’s Proposed Scenario to achieve the state’s GHG targets, which adopts a carbon neutrality target for 2045. Our second post explores how the Cap-and-Trade Program features in the Draft Scoping Plan. In this third post, we examine how California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Program factors into the state’s GHG reduction goals and how the LCFS Program may be amended in the near future. The Draft Scoping Plan states that CARB will initiate a rulemaking on the LCFS to ensure it continues to support low-carbon fuels that will displace petroleum fuels.[1] Continue Reading

California Air Resources Board Releases Draft Scoping Plan Update (Part 2)

Posted in California

CARB opts to stay the course on Cap-and-Trade Program.

By Joshua T. Bledsoe, Michael Dreibelbis, and Alicia Robinson 

On May 10, 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its Draft 2022 Scoping Plan Update for public review and comment. Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), required CARB to develop a scoping plan, to be updated at least once every five years, that describes the approach California will take to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions to achieve the goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  In developing the 2022 Draft Scoping Plan Update (Draft Scoping Plan), CARB evaluated four scenarios to identify the most viable path to achieve the state’s 2030 interim GHG reduction and GHG neutrality targets. Our first post on this topic discusses CARB’s ultimate selection of the third scenario, which adopts a carbon neutrality target for 2045 instead of 2035, as the best among the four. In this second post, we discuss how the Cap-and-Trade Program (the Program) features in the Draft Scoping Plan. Continue Reading

California Air Resources Board Releases Draft Scoping Plan Update (Part 1)

Posted in California, Environmental Regulation

The Draft 2022 Scoping Plan Update takes an all-of-the-above approach to decarbonize California.

By Joshua T. Bledsoe and Brian McCall

On May 10, 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its Draft 2022 Scoping Plan Update for public review and comment. Originally, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 required CARB to develop a scoping plan, to be updated every five years, that describes the approach California will take to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions to achieve the goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Subsequently, Senate Bill 32 strengthened the state’s GHG emissions reductions target to at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and former Governor Jerry Brown’s Executive Order B-55-18 established a second statewide goal to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible, and no later than 2045. Recognizing the need to achieve GHG emissions reductions more quickly, in July 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom directed CARB to accelerate efforts to achieve the state’s climate stabilization and GHG reduction goals, including to “identify a pathway for achieving carbon neutrality a full decade earlier than the existing target of 2045.” The Draft Scoping Plan Update identifies CARB’s proposed path for how California can reach both its interim goal of reducing GHGs by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and its ultimate goal of carbon neutrality by 2045 along with pathways that would achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. Continue Reading

White House Announces New Initiatives and Guidance on Clean Energy Transition

Posted in Environmental Regulation

CCUS and clean hydrogen will play a significant role in the Administration’s efforts to address hard-to-decarbonize industries to promote clean US manufacturing.

By Janice Schneider, Nikki Buffa, and Kevin Homrighausen

On February 15, 2022, the White House announced important actions in furtherance of the Biden Administration’s broader decarbonization goals — this time with an eye toward clean domestic manufacturing. Framing the rollout, the White House released a fact sheet highlighting the Administration’s efforts for a “Cleaner Industrial Sector to Reduce Emissions and Reinvigorate American Manufacturing,” including “Buy Clean,” hydrogen, and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) announcements.

These efforts include kicking off multibillion-dollar hydrogen funding opportunities provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) and new draft guidance from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) titled Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration Guidance to assist federal agencies with the regulation and permitting of CCUS projects.

As more companies jockey for position and federal funding on both clean hydrogen and CCUS, the announcements are timed to provide critical guidance on these emerging areas of opportunity. Continue Reading

President Biden Outlines Comprehensive Plan for Federal Sustainability

Posted in Environmental Regulation

The president’s executive order aims to use the US government’s procurement power to achieve “carbon pollution-free electricity” by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.

By Jennifer Roy and Julie Miles

On December 8, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability (EO), which aims to set the federal government — the largest purchaser in the country with an annual purchasing power of $650 billion — on a path to net zero emissions by 2050. The EO establishes the following policies as part of a whole-of-government strategy. Continue Reading

Regional US Transportation & Climate Initiative Program Comes to an End

Posted in Uncategorized

A multistate cap-and-invest program to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector is dead after several participating states pulled out.

By Jean-Philippe Brisson, Joshua T. Bledsoe, Benjamin Einhouse, and Brian McCall

Less than one year ago, the governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, as well as the mayor of the District of Columbia, announced that their respective jurisdictions would establish the Transportation & Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) and released a memorandum of understanding (MOU) describing the agreed-upon principles for adoption and implementation of a regional program aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector. But in the past two weeks, three of the four jurisdictions that signed the MOU have pulled out, effectively terminating the TCI-P. Continue Reading

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