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.

Continue Reading Massachusetts Course Corrects on Offshore Wind Transmission

On June 4, 2020, the Massachusetts Attorney General filed a Petition which requested the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to open an investigation into the potential changes to support the Commonwealth’s legislatively mandated greenhouse gas (GHG) emission limit reductions (the Petition). The AG’s Petition follows a similar proceeding begun in March by the New York Public Service Commission. Collectively, these state actions highlight the challenges the states will encounter to meet the requirement of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Continue Reading No Clear Path on the Transition to Net-Zero GHG Emissions

The first comprehensive revision of the NEPA implementing regulations in over forty years goes into effect today. Litigants sought a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the rule nationwide, but their motion was denied by a district court late last week. While litigation is ongoing in three district courts, the new rule will apply to all new NEPA reviews started on or after September 14, 2020, and agencies will have discretion to apply the new rule to ongoing NEPA reviews initiated before September 14.
Continue Reading After Surviving Preliminary Injunction Motion, New NEPA Rule Becomes Effective Today

Regardless of whether Kisor changed principles of deference under Auer, lower courts appear less inclined to find ambiguity in agency regulations after the Kisor decision; and when they do, “unfair surprise” continues to be the most common factor weighing against deference to an agency’s interpretation.
Continue Reading Lower Courts Grappling with Deference Principles Following Kisor

The State of New York has recently proposed revisions to its Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative regulations. These revisions, among other changes, would expand the reach of the program to fossil-fuel-fired electricity generation units with a nameplate capacity equal to or greater than 15 megawatts.
Continue Reading New York Proposes Regional Greenhouse Gas Changes

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

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

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

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 (Guidance), outlining steps employers can take to help protect their workforce. The Guidance focuses on the need for employers to implement engineering, administrative, work practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as considerations for doing so. While there is no specific OSHA standard covering infectious disease or COVID-19 in particular, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to the virus including OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 C.F.R. § 1910.20) Personal Protective Equipment (29 CFR 1910 Subpart I) Hazard Communication (29 C.F.R. § 1910.1200) and Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (29 C.F.R. § 1904). Also, the General Duty Clause of OSHA which requires employers to provide a “place of employment . . . free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
Continue Reading OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

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