Energy & Environmental Law Blog

Energy & Environmental Law Blog

Analyzing the critical energy and environmental issues of the day

Category Archives: Federal

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On Remand from Supreme Court, Hawkes Wins Challenge to Army Corps’ Wetland Determination

Posted in Federal, Water Law
As described on this site  last year, the Supreme Court first affirmed the right to challenge wetlands jurisdictional determinations by the Army Corps of Engineers.  On remand, plaintiff Hawkes Company, a peat mining company in Minnesota, defeated the Corps’ wetland determination.  In granting summary judgment  to Hawkes, the district court applied the “significant nexus” test… Continue Reading

The (much!) Higher Cost of Non-Compliance: Federal Civil Penalties Increase

Posted in EPA, Federal
EPA has released an interim final rule with penalty adjustments mandated by a new law (“Interim Rule” or “Rule”). Most importantly, the “catch up” adjustments under the Interim Rule carry quite a wallop for those subject to any of a wide variety of violations (rule available here). For example, the maximum daily penalty for violating… Continue Reading

FERC Seeks Comments on Potential Changes to Review of Mergers and Acquisitions

Posted in Federal, FERC
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) has asked for comments on procedures established for its review of mergers and acquisitions pursuant to section 203 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”). In a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) issued on September 22, 2016, the Commission explained that it is seeking to “harmonize” its analysis of… Continue Reading

Senate Approves $4.9 Billion for Drinking Water

Posted in Federal, Water Law
Congress in recent years has not really been in the business of solving core public welfare problems like safe drinking water.  Today the Senate, however, has taken a major step forward by passing the 2016 Water Resources and Development Act, S. 2848.  WRDA bills are the annual appropriations bills to shore up the nation’s water… Continue Reading

CPUC Hosts Workshop for New Safety Intervenor

Posted in California, Electric Power, Federal, Rulemakings
Earlier in 2016, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) received approval from the Legislature to establish its own Office of Safety Advocates (OSA) as an effort to expand the participation of safety related intervenors in relevant CPUC proceedings.  This month, the CPUC is hosting a workshop to: (i) allow stakeholders to brainstorm an effective way… Continue Reading

CPUC Cracks Down on Secrecy of Utility Data

Posted in California, Electric Power, Federal, Rulemakings
For California utilities, ensuring their information stays confidential just got harder. On August 25, 2016, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a decision updating the process for submitting potentially confidential documents to the Commission. The Commission intended for this process to ensure consistency across industries and to expedite Commission review of California Public Records Act… Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Rejects Application of CERCLA to Aerial Emissions

Posted in CERCLA, Federal, Litigation
In the long-running saga of efforts by the State of Washington and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation to attach CERCLA liability to a smelter in British Columbia, the smelter owner, Teck Industries, won a significant ruling. In Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected plaintiffs’ efforts to expand their… Continue Reading

Whither WOTUS?

Posted in EPA, Federal, Water Law
In June 2015, EPA and the Corps of Engineers released a rule to define “waters of the United States,” affectionately referred to as WOTUS.  This definition goes to the scope of federal jurisdiction over wetlands and other waters that are not obviously free flowing and navigable.  An in-depth analysis of the rule can be found… Continue Reading

Fish and Wildlife Service Supports Renewable Developers and Proposes Revised Eagle Incidental Take Permit Reviving 30-Year Duration

Posted in Federal, Renewables, Rulemakings
On May 4, 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released a draft rule and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) analyzing the impact of the proposed rule on eagles, and extending the duration of permits from 5 years to up to 30 years. This continues the agency’s effort to support wind farms and… Continue Reading

When is a reward a bribe? OSHA policy limits workplace safety incentive programs

Posted in California, Federal, Health and Safety, Northwest
Years ago, my employer gave employees a coaster every quarter that the group had no OSHA reportable incidents. Now it would have been in violation to have such a program. Despite criticism from workers compensation carriers who recognize the benefits of incentive programs, OSHA has reiterated its policy and it continues to enforce against companies… Continue Reading

FERC to Streamline Its Decisions on Rehearing

Posted in Federal, Rulemakings
At its monthly public meeting earlier today, FERC announced the formation of a new Rehearings Group, under the direction of Office of the General Counsel attorney Robert Kennedy.  This group will focus exclusively on drafting rehearing orders and will be taking a much more streamlined approach in doing so, eliminating from such orders the recitation… Continue Reading

Could the US Be “Aiding and Abetting” Cape Wind MBTA Violations?

Posted in Federal, Litigation, Natural Resources, Renewables
In the latest legal wrangling over the long-delayed Cape Wind Associates’ wind farm off Nantucket, during oral argument judges on the DC Circuit suggested that by permitting the wind farm, the US might be aiding and abetting violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  Whatever the outcome of the particular case, the comments may be… Continue Reading

DOJ Signals More Aggressive Stance On Environmental Crimes

Posted in Federal, Health and Safety
The Department of Justice announced on December 17, 2015, that it would intensify enforcement of environmental and safety laws by adding in environmental criminal counts to worker safety prosecutions.  The worker safety issues are often misdemeanors, so by coupling them with environmental crimes the Department expects it can impose greater penalties and increase deterrence. … Continue Reading

Clean Power Plan Formally Published – Full Steam Ahead for Challengers!

Posted in Climate Change, Federal, Rulemakings
The U.S. EPA formally published the final version of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan on Friday, October 23, an action which starts a 60 day period within which to challenge the rule.  On the same day, 26 challenges were filed, asking the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to invalidate the rule. … Continue Reading

Corporate Wrongdoing: More Civil and Criminal Liability for Individuals?

Posted in Federal
The US Department of Justice has issued a memorandum to all of its prosecuting Divisions, directing changes to the principles applied by DOJ in prosecuting civilly or criminally individuals who engage in corporate misconduct. Press attention to the memorandum has focused on the application of those principles to Wall Street investment and banking firms, due… Continue Reading

Migratory Bird Treaty Act Narrowly Interpreted: the Fifth Circuit Joins the Eighth and Ninth Circuits

Posted in Federal, Litigation, Natural Resources, Rulemakings
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court decision holding CITGO liable for three misdemeanors under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for bird deaths (the opinion lists 35 birds, including “twenty (regular old) ducks”) resulting from uncovered equalization tanks at its Corpus Christi refinery. The court also reversed two Clean Air Act (CAA)… Continue Reading

Creative Lawyering In RCRA Criminal Action Fails to Find Favor with the Ninth Circuit

Posted in Federal, Rulemakings
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the federal law that regulates management of hazardous waste, is complicated and compliance can be tricky . . . but not impossible.  Our experience is that good faith efforts to comply will avoid serious regulatory problems.  A recent decision by the Ninth Circuit proves that the converse is true… Continue Reading

OSHA Rules for Injury Reporting Change

Posted in California, Federal, Northwest, Rulemakings
Starting January 1, 2015, OSHA rules will require companies nation-wide to report all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and eye losses within 24 hours.  Oregon is one of 6 states that already require employers to report single in-patient hospitalizations.  Previously, employers in most other states were only required to report in-patient hospitalizations if three or more… Continue Reading

FERC Announces Technical Conferences Focused on Clean Power Plan

Posted in Electric Power, Federal, FERC
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has announced plans to hold a series of technical conferences around the country to discuss the impact of the proposed Clean Power Plan on electric utilities.  The first of these conferences will be a National Overview technical conference to be held at the FERC on February 19, 2015.  Subsequent regional… Continue Reading

ECOS Releases “Waters of the U.S.” Paper

Posted in EPA, Federal, Water Law
On September 15, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) released a paper produced by the American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL) on the new “waters of the U.S.” rules proposed by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.  The new rules are intended to bring clarity as to the jurisdictional reach of the federal government… Continue Reading

Additional IRS Guidance on Physical Work Test and Facility Transfers for Energy Tax Credits

Posted in Federal, Renewables
The IRS has released additional guidance (Notice 2014-46) on the “beginning of construction” requirement for the renewable energy production tax credit under Code Section 45 (PTC) and energy investment tax credit under Code Section 48 (ITC).  The notice clarifies the application of the Physical Work Test and the effect that certain transfers of a facility… Continue Reading