The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is poised to outline its planned steps to achieve the goals of its climate change-focused policies.  On December 7, 2020, the Massachusetts Executive Office for Energy and  Environmental Affairs (“EOEEA”) hosted a webinar to discuss the development and pending release of the Massachusetts Decarbonization Roadmap to 2050 (the “Roadmap”), which EOEEA indicates it will publish this month. The Roadmap constitutes the plan of the Commonwealth to identify cost-effective and equitable pathways and strategies for Massachusetts to reach Net Zero emissions by 2050, and the priorities to achieve an on-pace interim goal by 2030. In addition to the development of the Roadmap, the Commonwealth is in the process of preparing the 2020 update to the Clean Energy and Climate Plan (“CECP”), which is mandated to receive updates every five years under the Global Warming Solutions Act (“GWSA”).

Continue Reading Pulling on the same oar? Federal, State, and Local Measures Need Alignment to Achieve Climate Goals

Before yesterday only two states had received approval to administer the Clean Water Act (CWA) section 404 program (Michigan and New Jersey), and no state had received approval since 1994.  Now, for the first time in over 25 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the formal transfer of section 404 permitting authority to a third state: Florida.  Once EPA’s approval is published in the Federal Register, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) will “assume” 404 permitting authority from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in certain waters, significantly altering the 404 permitting process in Florida.  EPA’s decision has broader implications for the 404 program on a national scale, as other states, including Oregon and Minnesota, consider whether to pursue assumption.

Continue Reading Florida Receives EPA Approval to Assume Clean Water Act Section 404 Program

On November 19, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“Commission”) issued Opinion No. 569-B, its latest order addressing evaluations of whether a public utility’s return on equity (“ROE”) is just and reasonable under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”). [1]  As described herein, the Commission largely reaffirmed the methodology established in its prior related opinions.  See here.

Continue Reading FERC Affirms ROE Methodology for Public Utilities

On November 9, 2020, EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) released its long-awaited draft handbook that details the office’s process for developing chemical hazard assessments for its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program. The ORD Staff Handbook for Developing IRIS Assessments (IRIS Handbook) gives useful insight into ORD’s process to develop its IRIS assessments, which provide important toxicological information that federal and state environmental agencies consider when making regulatory and cleanup decisions under multiple statutory programs. EPA will accept comments on the draft handbook and charge questions until March 1, 2021.

Continue Reading EPA Releases Long-Awaited IRIS Handbook, But has Anything Changed?

Last month, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”) launched a temporary “Find It and Fix It” program effective through January 31, 2021 to facilitate air quality compliance for companies with oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin.  Regulated entities that comply with the requirements of the temporary program may be eligible for enforcement discretion.  Continue Reading TCEQ’s Permian Basin “Find It and Fix It” Program Underway

On November 24, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Prepublication Notice finalizing its proposed decisions to not impose Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Section 108(b) financial assurance requirements on three industries (Industries):

  • Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution;
  • Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing, and
  • Chemical Manufacturing.

EPA’s final rules neither remove any existing requirements nor impose additional, new requirements.  The final rulemakings will not affect EPA’s authority to take CERCLA response or enforcement action with respect to any particular facility or industry, nor will they affect EPA’s authority under other environmental statutes that may be applicable to the facility.  The final rules also will not affect EPA’s existing practice of imposing financial assurance requirements in CERCLA settlements and orders, which already provide protection against bankruptcies and other financial calamities that may impact performing parties at Superfund sites. [1]

Continue Reading EPA Declines to Impose CERCLA Financial Assurance Requirements on Three Industry Sectors

One of the most frequent terms heard in conjunction with President-Elect Biden’s energy and environmental agenda is “environmental justice,” which is often described as an overarching objective as well as a key component of the incoming administration’s climate agenda.  This post looks at how the Biden Administration may translate environmental justice principles into concrete executive actions, and how project proponents can prepare for increased focus on environmental justice in their permitting.

Continue Reading Preparing for Increased Focus on Environmental Justice Issues in a Biden Administration

On November 29, Voters in Switzerland narrowly rejected the “Responsible Business Initiative” (RBI), which would have extended liability to multinational corporations and their subsidiaries and suppliers for noncompliance with international environmental and human rights standards, not just in Switzerland but also when doing business abroad. The majority of Swiss voted in favor of the RBI, but the referendum failed due to unique requirements associated with Switzerland’s direct democracy.

Continue Reading Switzerland Narrowly Rejects Novel ‘Responsible Business Initiative’ on Multinational Corporation Environmental- and Human Rights-Based Liability

While the election results are not yet final, this article will proceed from the assumption that former Vice President Biden will become President in January and that Republicans will win at least one of the two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia to be decided by runoff, and thus will have a majority in the U.S. Senate.

Continue Reading Energy and Environmental Legislation in the 117th Congress

In challenges to California development projects, the “usual suspects” typically include environmental NGOs or neighborhood organizations.  However, that’s not always the case, as illustrated by a new lawsuit filed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (“SCAQMD”) against the Port of Los Angeles. Continue Reading With ZEVs and Air Toxics in Mind, CARB Seeks to Inject Itself into SCAQMD’s Lawsuit Against Port of LA