While coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, the administrations of US President Donald Trump and Mexico’s recently elected chief executive, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (commonly referred to as “AMLO”), have each heralded significant policy shifts with potential to affect bilateral relations as well as international energy markets. Continue Reading US-Mexico Energy & Environmental Policy Transition: Opportunity Amidst Uncertainty?

EPA has shown a little love for states wanting action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). On February 14, 2019, EPA announced its PFAS Action Plan, calling it “the most comprehensive, cross- agency action plan for a chemical of concern ever undertaken by the Agency.” The Action Plan consists of 23 priority action items with the majority identified as short-term or generally taking place or expected to be completed in the next two years. Continue Reading PFAS: States Not Waiting For EPA

An interesting confluence of issues may facilitate the creation of an improved regulatory framework for the beneficial use of produced water from oil and gas operations. Water supply and produced water management have the attention of many oil and gas companies for a variety of reasons. Concern over water supply and severe drought has lead a number of states and municipalities to look for sources of water outside the traditional sources of groundwater and surface water. At the same time, environmental groups are concerned over drought impacts to surface water and wildlife. Given the abundance of produced water in some formations, it may be possible to reuse produced water within oil and gas operations and beneficially use produced water outside of oil and gas operations. What are the issues surrounding produced water and how are they impacting the development of regulatory programs governing the use of produced water? Continue Reading Will Confluence of Produced Water Issues Yield More Beneficial Use?

Last week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual enforcement results for the 2018 fiscal year (ranging from October 1, 2017, to September 30, 2018). The report, prepared by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), highlights the results of the agency’s civil and criminal enforcement of the nation’s federal environmental laws over the past year. The 2018 results mark the first full fiscal year of enforcement results, including inspections and compliance evaluations, under the Trump administration. A statement in the report from Susan Bodine, the Assistant Administrator for OECA, summarizes EPA’s enforcement priorities, explaining, “[i]n fiscal year 2018, we continued our focus on expediting site cleanup, deterring noncompliance, and returning facilities to compliance with the law, while respecting the cooperative federalism structure of our nation’s environmental laws.” Continue Reading EPA’s 2018 Environmental Enforcement Results Released

On Wednesday, February 7, Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced a federal resolution to recognize a “duty” of the federal government to create a Green New Deal (GND). This blog discussed the GND in a post on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on January 31.

Addressing climate change may be a primary focus of the resolution, but “green” is perhaps a misnomer, as the resolution calls for action on issues well beyond climate or the environment generally. Continue Reading Green New Deal Goes Beyond Green

Energy companies may not be thinking much yet about federal legislation to regulate the consumer data they hold, but they should be. Privacy is shaping up to be a key legislative topic this year.

Why would an energy company need to care about privacy legislation? Because lots of different energy companies have extensive consumer data. Oil companies’ service station loyalty programs, electric utilities’ customer data—these are among the many types of consumer data that might end up being regulated under legislation Congress is expected to consider. Any company with large amounts of consumer data should pay attention to the issue. In addition, HR data may also be covered by privacy legislation, affecting every US company whether or not they hold consumer data. Continue Reading Issue Spotting: How Privacy May Impact the Energy Sector

“According to FERC, it is now commonplace for states to use Section 401 to hold federal licensing hostage.”

These are the words the DC Circuit used in Hoopa Valley Tribe v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, No. 14-1271, p. 10 (D.C. Cir., Jan. 25, 2019), to describe the state of play on § 401 certifications affecting hydroelectric facility licensing or re-licensing applications. CWA § 401(a)(1) requires, as a prerequisite for federal permits for activities that may result in a discharge into the navigable waters, that affected states certify that any such discharge will comply with applicable, enumerated provisions of the Clean Water Act. But, if a state fails or refuses to act on a request for certification within “a reasonable period of time (which shall not exceed one year) after receipt of such request,” the statute deems the certification requirements waived. Continue Reading Act or Waive: DC Circuit Construes CWA § 401’s One-Year Deadline for State Action Applications

One of the first orders of business for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was to reinstate the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. This committee previously existed from 2007-2011 as the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming but was not renewed by Republicans when they gained control of the House in the 112th Congress. The new Select Committee will be chaired by Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-FL). Continue Reading House Democrats Unveil the New Select Committee on the Climate Crisis

On January 17, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) held its monthly open meeting. The first half of the meeting was dedicated to remembrances of Commissioner McIntyre, who passed away earlier this month. The Commission elected to name the Commission meeting room in his honor.

Highlights of the second half of the meeting included:

  • Investigation on Rates Charged by Three Interstate Pipeline Companies: Chairman Chatterjee highlighted the Commission’s initiation on January 16 of investigations pursuant to Section 5 of the Natural Gas Act of three interstate natural gas companies to determine if they are substantially over-recovering their costs of service, resulting in unjust and unreasonable rates. The investigations result from the Commission’s review of information submitted by these companies via FERC Form 501-G in response to the Commission’s Order No. 849 concerning the companies’ return on equity before and after the passage of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 and changes to the Commission’s tax allowance policies in response to the DC Circuit’s United Airlines decision. The Commission simultaneously terminated nine natural gas rate proceedings finding that the pipelines complied with the Commission’s filing requirements. Chairman Chatterjee emphasized his commitment to ensure that the benefits of reduced taxes flow to consumers and to resolve the matters as soon as possible.

 

 

According to the dictionary, a phrase is “ambiguous” if it has more than one meaning.
Chevron[1] is frequently cited for the proposition that the presence of “ambiguity” gives an agency the authority to interpret the statute to eliminate the ambiguity. A better view of Chevron is that only the Courts may resolve statutory ambiguity through interpretation. When faced with statutory terms that may be given more than one meaning, courts must determine, applying canons of statutory construction, what Congress has resolved, what Congress has given the Agency discretion to resolve, and what ascertainable standards have been established by Congress to govern the exercise of discretion by the Agency. In other words, Chevron contemplates that the Court declare what the law requires, including the scope of discretion afforded an agency to make policy choices that give content to broad statutory terms. Continue Reading The Time Has Come to Overrule Auer