On May 21, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) issued Opinion No. 569-A1 – the latest step in the recent evolution of FERC’s policies governing the determination of public utilities’ base return on equity (“ROE”) under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”). In recent years, FERC has been revising its long-standing policies when addressing complaints challenging the base ROEs of transmission-owning, FERC-jurisdictional public utilities in the ISO New England, Inc. (“ISO-NE”) and Midcontinent Independent System Operator (“MISO”) regions. In particular, FERC has modified its policies regarding the use of various models to estimate ROE to account for various changes in capital market conditions since the 2008-09 recession.
Continue Reading FERC Again Revises Methodology Governing Public Utility Return on Equity: Opinion No. 569-A

Agency guidance will be subject to certain standards and procedures under a proposed rule published by EPA in the Federal Register on May 22, 2020.  According to EPA, the proposed rule is “intended to increase the transparency of EPA’s guidance practices and improve the process used to manage EPA guidance documents.”  EPA will accept written comments on the proposed rule until June 22, 2020.
Continue Reading A Rule on Guidance: EPA to Propose Rule Establishing Procedures and Requirements for Issuing and Managing Guidance Documents

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) issued its final report addressing the input received by various stakeholders relating to the management of wastewater from the oil and gas industry.  The report entitled Summary of Input on Oil and Gas Extraction Wastewater Management Practices Under the Clean Water Act is the culmination of a stakeholder engagement process that began in 2018 (“Final Report”).
Continue Reading EPA Issues Final Report on Oil and Gas Extraction Wastewater Management

On May 19, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) intended to combat the unprecedented effect COVID-19 has had on the American economy, by directing agencies to remove or ease regulatory barriers to spur economic growth.  In general, the EO directs agencies to ease regulatory and enforcement burdens that may inhibit economic recovery, provide guidance on what the law requires, recognize the efforts of regulated industries to comply with the law, and ensure fairness in administrative enforcement and adjudication. Perhaps most notably, the EO is written broadly enough that agencies may look beyond COVID-19-related impacts when considering how to implement the EO.
Continue Reading The President’s COVID-19 Executive Order Easing Regulatory Burdens

The largest market for CO2 captured from industrial sources through carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) is enhanced oil recovery (EOR), using the CO2 to produce oil.  Captured CO2 can be used for cement, algae production, and other uses, but EOR has vast potential.  Moreover, it has a nearly 50-year track record in the US, where it was pioneered.  Carbon dioxide injected into oil formations becomes permanently stored as part of the process. 
Continue Reading CCUS After the Pandemic

Yesterday, the Railroad Commission of Texas voted by a 2-1 margin to dismiss the request that had been filed in late March of this year by two producers to determine reasonable market demand for oil and the need for curtailment of oil production in Texas.
Continue Reading Railroad Commission of Texas Votes Against Mandatory Oil Production Cuts

Massachusetts has now doubled the size of its Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (“SMART”) incentive program, along with new performance standards for the siting of these renewable generating resources. While these changes to the SMART program were adopted as emergency regulations—making them effective immediately—the Commonwealth will go through the notice and comment rulemaking process over the next few months to provide for continued input from stakeholders on the new regulations and associated guidance.
Continue Reading Massachusetts Doubles Size of “SMART” Solar Program

Uncertainty. Today nearly everything we thought we knew is uncertain. It’s good, then, that at least one regulatory program in California remains certain: Proposition 65. Plaintiffs continue to serve 60-day notices alleging violations, and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) continues to tinker with safe harbor warning requirements. (Maybe certainty isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be).
Continue Reading Prop 65: Certainty in Uncertain Times

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