In the midst of an oil market experiencing an extraordinary downturn but citing a need for further review and coordination with other states and the federal government, the Railroad Commission of Texas delayed a vote on oil production cuts at an open meeting held yesterday. Although no decision on proration was made, the establishment of a Blue Ribbon Task Force for Oil Economic Recovery was announced. The Task Force will be comprised of various Texas oil and gas trade associations charged with expeditiously exploring options that can be undertaken at the state level to assist operators and save jobs. During the meeting, a number of initiatives undertaken to date that provide relief to oil and gas operators were also highlighted, including those involving extensions of deadlines for various requirements and the consideration of enforcement discretion under certain circumstances.
Continue Reading Railroad Commission of Texas Delays Vote on Oil Production Cuts

In a COVID-19 world, I’ve found that “have a nice day” has been supplanted by “stay safe.” In just a few weeks, our focus has shifted from a desire for a pleasant experience to a safe one, which recognizes that something many people simply have taken for granted, our health and safety, is not a given in our current world. 
Continue Reading “Stay Safe” – Is it the New “Have a Nice Day”?

With oil prices plummeting and markets battered by the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, two oil and gas producers filed a joint motion late last month for the Railroad Commission of Texas to consider curtailing oil production, an extraordinary remedy that has not been employed since the 1970s. In response, the RRC convened an initial public meeting yesterday to consider the request and comments filed by more than 50 stakeholders with, not surprisingly, wide-ranging views on the subject. Due to the significance of the issues under discussion and the potential impact on not only oil and gas producers, but also the midstream and downstream sector, the ten-hour long meeting drew a substantial audience across the country and the globe.
Continue Reading Railroad Commission of Texas Considers Oil Production Cuts

Building on a host of renewable and alternative energy portfolio programs that have incrementally worked to decarbonize the electric sector, Massachusetts is poised to launch a Clean Energy Peak Standard (CPS) in the summer of 2020. The pivotal distinction between the CPS and other Massachusetts programs is that programs to date have incentivized renewable and alternative energy sources to simply “show-up,” while the CPS takes aim at incentivizing new and existing generation resources to “show-up at the right time” in order to further reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Continue Reading Massachusetts Races to Decarbonize the Peak

Facing criticism that they impede sustainable development, traditional cross-border investor protections are eroding. More balanced stabilization and equitable treatment provisions allow greater discretion to regulate environmental and social impacts. Enhanced due diligence, focused on project impacts, international standards, CSR obligations and regulatory discretion in applicable treaties or investment contracts, can help offset this increased risk.
Continue Reading Eroding Investor Protections: Managing CSR and Political Risk in the Sustainable Brave New World

Following Governor Abbott’s recent proclamation of a state of disaster in Texas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) have issued guidance for regulated entities relating to environmental compliance concerns as well as other useful information relative to agency operations during these uncertain times.

Continue Reading TCEQ and RRC Issue COVID-19 Regulatory Guidance

On the morning of March 16, 2020, we first caught wind of impending Shelter-in-Place orders in Northern California, which began taking effect in several counties, encompassing much of the San Francisco Bay Area, on Tuesday. Next, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued his March 19, 2020 “stay-at-home” order to try to slow COVID-19’s spread throughout the state.
Continue Reading Socially-Distant Operation of California Infrastructure

The Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak is affecting virtually every sector of society and the economy. The healthcare sector and government agencies are on the front lines of the response. Providing support to these critical response activities as well as striving to maintain the strength of the overall economy by continuing regular business operations is vitally important. The private sector has important roles to play. The purpose of this blog post is to briefly outline some practical and legal tools available to help provide both direct support and maintain broader economic activities while ensuring environmental protection and compliance with natural resource laws.

This blog post will be updated as new or relevant information becomes available.


Continue Reading Tools for Navigating Natural Resource Laws During a National Emergency

All three branches of the federal government are currently considering the question of whether the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) prohibits the take of protected birds that is incidental to some otherwise lawful activity. The latest development is a proposal by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) to issue a regulation expressly defining the scope of the MBTA to exclude take “that results from, but is not the purpose of, an action (i.e., incidental taking or killing).” 85 Fed. Reg. 5915 (Feb. 3, 2020). This proposal is the latest effort by the USFWS to bring clarity and certainty to a question that has been the subject of dispute for years and is currently both the subject of pending lawsuits and proposed legislation before Congress. If adopted, the rule should bolster the current administration’s effort to defend its interpretation of the statute, but the question is likely to be litigated further, assuming Congress does not intervene (seemingly unlikely for now).
Continue Reading USFWS Makes Another Move to Exclude Incidental Take from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act