On October 8, 2020, Wyoming federal district court Judge Skavdahl struck down the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “Waste Prevention Rule,” otherwise known as the “Venting and Flaring Rule,” which had been promulgated on November 18, 2016, in the closing months of President Obama’s second term (“2016 Rule”). See Order on Pets. for Review of Final Agency Action, Wyoming v. U.S. Dep’t of Interior, No. 2:16-CV-0285-SWS (D. Wyo. Oct. 8, 2020) (Order vacating 2016 Rule). The detailed fifty-seven-page decision concludes that in issuing the 2016 Rule, BLM exceeded its statutory authority and acted arbitrarily. The core of the court’s holding was that the 2016 Rule was grounded in air quality motivations, which was the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and, therefore, beyond BLM’s statutory authority to promulgate.
In this article, the authors discuss the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) and environmental justice review requirements for federal agency actions, recent challenges and court decisions showcasing the increased scrutiny and focus on environmental justice reviews for project permitting, recent NEPA regulation and other environmental justice developments, and what the recent cases and other recent regulatory and political developments may mean for project permitting and environmental justice.
In the age of COVID-19, demand for surface wipes, sprays and similar products is at record levels. Retail stores have struggled to keep supplies stocked and shelves may once again be emptied when the winter flu season arrives. If schools and businesses reopen concurrently, the prospects of securing these products becomes even bleaker, which may re-fuel consumer stockpiling. To meet this surging demand, manufacturers have ramped up production and new entrants are pouring into this market space in unprecedented numbers. Supply chains are already stressed and further straining is expected to continue.
Continue Reading Got COVID-19 “Claims”: Recent US EPA Enforcement under FIFRA Emphasizes Compliance Demands on Pesticide Product Supply Chains, especially for Products Claiming to be Effective against Coronavirus
On October 19, 2020, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYSDEC”) will begin enforcing the state’s ban on single-use carryout plastic bags. Enforcement was delayed from earlier this year due to a legal challenge, which has since been resolved. Those persons found to be in violation of the ban face a range of consequences from a simple warning for a first offense and civil penalties thereafter. Grocery stores, retailers, and other establishments in New York that may be the target of enforcement will want to carefully review the provisions of this ban and their obligations going forward.
On October 14, 2020, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) issued an enforcement alert entitled “Self-Disclosure of Non-Compliance Software and Other Violations by December 31, 2020.” The alert states that ARB will provide up to a 75% reduction in penalties for timely self-disclosed violations where the company “expeditiously” settles the matter.
Following a public review process, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) recently found, among other factors, that the costs of a solicitation for independent offshore wind energy transmission outweigh the potential benefits. Accordingly, the agency decided not to require the Massachusetts Electric Distribution Companies (“EDCs”) to pursue a joint competitive transmission only solicitation. The DOER’s findings were presented in a letter to the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy, as a supplement to the DOER’s prior findings in its Offshore Wind Study, which was published just over a year ago. This action appears to close the latest chapter in a several year effort to advance a coordinated transmission for offshore wind resources. How this fits into the Commonwealth’s long term energy strategy remains an open question, which may need to be revisited as the Commonwealth aims to keep pace with its Global Warming Solutions Act greenhouse gas emissions limits.
“Decommissioning” is the process of terminating oil and gas operations at offshore platforms. It includes dismantling and removal of platforms and related infrastructure to restore the ocean and seafloor to pre-lease conditions. As elaborated in a prior post, decommissioning may involve partial structure removal or toppling in place, including the creation of artificial reefs. The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) estimates that about 3,700 active oil and gas platforms are under its jurisdiction, 40 percent of which are over 25 years old and likely to require decommissioning soon.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1371 nearly six years ago, directing the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Air Resources Board to work together to further the dual goals of minimizing safety hazards associated with gas pipeline leaks and reducing pipeline greenhouse gas emissions.
On June 4, 2020, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) filed a Petition requesting the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to open an investigation into potential changes to natural gas distribution operations to support the Commonwealth’s legislatively mandated greenhouse gas (GHG) emission limit reductions (the Petition).
On September 6, Assistant Secretary of Energy for Electricity Bruce Walker issued an order under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act declaring an emergency shortage of electric generation and directing the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to require the dispatch of electrical output from specified electric generating units, if the CAISO determines the generation is necessary to meet demand. The order applies during afternoon and evening hours from September 6 through September 13, 2020.