BOEM Leases Wind Energy Area Offshore Massachusetts

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In late November of 2014, as part of President Obama's comprehensive Climate Action Plan to create American jobs, develop domestic clean energy resources and cut carbon pollution, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, then Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Acting Director Walter Cruickshank announced that more than 742,000 acres offshore Massachusetts would be offered for commercial wind energy development in a January 29, 2015, competitive lease sale. On January 29, 2015, the BOEM held the competitive lease auction, which reportedly lasted two rounds, and RES America Developments, Inc. was the winner of Lease Area OCS-A 0500 (approximately 187,523 acres) and Offshore MW LLC was the winner of Lease Area OCS-A 0501 (approximately 166,886 acres). Lease OCS-A 0502 (248,015 acres) and Lease OCS-A 0503 (140,554 acres) did not receive bids. BOEM signed the commercial wind energy leases on March 23, 2015, and the Commercial Lease OCS-A 0500 and Commercial Lease OCS-A 0501 will go into effect on April 1, 2015.

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Non-hazardous Coal Combustion Rules Finally Published In Federal Register

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The Final Rule: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities was signed by EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, on December 19, 2014 and a pre-publication copy of the Final Rule was released several weeks ago, but the Final Rule is only now appearing in the Federal Register at 80 F.R. 21302, with an effective date of October 14, 2015. The EPA summarized the Final Rule as providing a comprehensive set of requirements for the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCRs), commonly known as coal ash, from coal-fired power plants. It is purportedly the culmination of extensive study on the effects of coal ash on the environment and public health. The Final Rule establishes technical requirements for CCR landfills and surface impoundments under subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the nation's primary law for regulating solid waste. The Final Rule makes a number of changes from the proposed rule, including providing greater clarity on technical requirements in response to questions received during the comment period on the proposed rule. The EPA states that any major enforcement of these new rules will primarily be the responsibility of the states and through RCRA's citizen suit authority. The Federal Register version of the Final Rule is almost 200 pages.

Additional Source: Redline Version of the Final Rule: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities

Compliance Alert: California's Transparency in Supply Chain Act of 2010

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Recently, we learned that the California Department of Justice is sending out notices to entities that self-reported in their California tax return that they are a retail seller or manufacturer in connection with what the DOJ is referring to as its compliance review of disclosures required by California's Transparency in Supply Chain Act of 2010 (Act). The Act requires retail sellers and manufacturers doing business in the California and having $100,000,000 or more in annual worldwide gross receipts to disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chains for tangible goods offered for sale, as specified. The Act was effective on January 1, 2012.

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April 28: CSLB Training On New Public Works Registration And Related Requirements Imposed by SB 854

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Recently, the California Contractors State License Board announced that it will be hosting a seminar/webcast to help contractors to comply with the new requirements imposed by Senate Bill 854, including the requirement that contractors register with the Department of Industrial Relations in order to bid or be listed on a bid for a public works project and to work on a public works project awarded on or after April 1, 2015.

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Louisiana Contractor Licensing Board Updated Guidance On Reciprocity And Endorsement Agreements

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Recently, the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors updated its publication titled Important Information Regarding Reciprocity (Revised 3/17/2015). Like many other states, Louisiana may give an applicant for a contractor's license credit for having a contractor's license in another state in which Louisiana has a reciprocity or examination endorsement agreement, and vice versa. In order to qualify for reciprocity in Louisiana, the qualifier for the license application submitted to the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors must be the qualifier on the contractor's license in the reciprocal state. Louisiana has a reciprocity or examination endorsement agreement with Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

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Supreme Court Allows Changes to Agencies' Interpretive Rules without the Notice-and-Comment Rulemaking Process

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By Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Today, Pillsbury attorneys Ken Quinn, Jennifer Trock and Graham Keithley published their client alert titled Supreme Court Allows Changes to Agencies' Interpretive Rules without the Notice-and-Comment Rulemaking Process. The Alert discusses the Supreme Court's recent order in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association, upholding an agency's reversal of its own regulatory interpretation without requiring notice-and-comment rulemaking. It cautions that regulated entities now face considerable uncertainty in relying on agencies' regulatory interpretations, even during enforcement actions. While the Court cautioned agencies from arbitrarily and capriciously changing their interpretations, particularly when the exiting interpretation is heavily relied upon, courts will likely continue to defer to the agency's new interpretation.

Enhanced Infrastructure Districts: A Flexible New Tool for Local Governments

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By Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Today, Pillsbury attorneys Glenn Snyder and Matt Valdez published their client alert titled Enhanced Infrastructure Districts: A Flexible New Tool for Local Governments. The Alert discuss the developments occurring after the dissolution of California redevelopment agencies (RDAs) in 2011. In particular, many local governments desired a tool to raise capital to invest in infrastructure and community revitalization. On September 29, 2014, Senate Bill 628 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. SB 628 grants cities and counties the power to create Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts (EIFDs) in order to finance public capital facilities or other specified projects of communitywide significance that provide significant benefits to the district or the surrounding community; and expands on the powers granted to cities and counties pursuant to Infrastructure Financing Districts (IFDs) and Community Facility Districts (CFDs). In turn, the EIFDs provide greater flexibility to local governments seeking to invest in infrastructure and community revitalization, including a lower voter approval threshold to issue bonds and a wider range of infrastructure investments.

8th Cir.: Corps of Engineers' CWA Jurisdictional Determination Is Subject To Immediate Judicial Review

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On April 10, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in a very important ruling, held that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Jurisdictional Determination ("JD") that the property under review was a wetland that constitutes "waters of the United States" and thereby subject to the permitting and enforcement authority of the Corps, can be reviewed by the federal courts on an immediate basis. The case is Hawkes Co., Inc. v. US Army Corps of Engineers. The Court of Appeal's approach was influenced by the Supreme Court's approach in Sackett v. EPA, 132 S. Ct. 1367 (2012)., and the Eighth Circuit held that this JD was indeed a final agency action subject to judicial review, particularly when the choices confronting a property owner who wishes to develop his property are so unappealing.

The Court of Appealst reviewed a long list of federal administrative actions whose serious consequences triggered judicial review, and took issue with the Fifth Circuit's recent in Belle Co., L.L.C., v. US Army Corps of Engineers, 761 F. 3d 383 (2014). There's now a conflict in the circuits, and an appeal to the Supreme Court may be in the offing.


Federal Court Refuses to Enjoin Renovation of Historic Railroad Tunnel in Washington, DC

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The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has denied a request for a preliminary injunction to stop the U.S. Department of Transportation from granting necessary permits to begin the reconstruction and repair of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, a tunnel which for 111 years has facilitated rail transportation through and under the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC. The case is Committee of 100 on the Federal City v. Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the US Department of Transportation, and it was decided on April 7, 2015.

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EPA Revises its RCRA Rules to Accord with DC Circuit Rulings Vacating Two Solid Waste Regulatory Exclusions

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Following two adverse rulings by the DC Circuit, issued in 2014 and reported at Sierra Club v. EPA, 755 F.3d 968 (D.C. Cir. 2014) and Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA, 755 F.3d 1010 (D.C. Cir. 2014), EPA has removed two exclusions from the list of regulatory exclusions located at 40 C.F.R. Section 261.4(a). This action was made effective on April 8, 2015.

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Are "Narrative Water Quality Standards" Incorporated into NPDES Permits and Enforceable as Permit Conditions?

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Federal district courts are often confronted with the issue of whether "Narrative Water Quality Standards" are incorporated into National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)permits and enforceable as permit conditions as they preside over citizen suits filed under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Two District Court's recently weighed in on this issue.

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House Small Business Bill Could Have a Large Impact on Small Businesses

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Yesterday, we published our client alert titled House Small Business Bill Could Have a Large Impact on Small Businesses. The Alert discusses the House Small Business Committee's recent approval of The Small Contractors Improve Competition Act of 2015 (H.R.1481) ("SCICA"). SCICA would amend the Small Business Act and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, and is intended to increase the number of awards made to small businesses by addressing several perceived obstacles that inhibit opportunities to increase small business participation in Federal contracting.

Is FOIA A Tool In Your Tool Belt? District Court Weighs In With Long Opinion On FOIA Obligations

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The Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (FOIA), is a federal law that allow for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. FOIA defines agency records that are subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure procedures and grants exemptions from disclosure. Many states similar laws governing the disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the state and its agencies. The theory is that the government should be open and transparent unless the government has a good reason to withhold the information sought. On March 31, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a long opinion in Sea Shepherd Conservation Society v. Internal Revenue Service, regarding the IRS's response to Sea Shepherd's FOIA request seeking information from the IRS about its investigation of Sea Shepherd.

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Smith versus Swampbuster

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The implementation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Compliance provisions (aka "Swampbuster") program, designed to protect wetlands located on farming property, was the focus of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. On April 1, 2015, the Court of Appeals decided the case of Maple Drive Farms Limited Partnership, et al., v. Tom Vilsack, Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed the District Court's ruling and remanded the matter, holding that the proceedings conducted by the agencies of the Department, described by the District Court as a "bureaucratic labyrinth" were inconsistent with the Department's own regulatory framework, and were arbitrary and capricious.

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TX Court of Appeals Issues Ruling re Environmental Indemnities

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A state Court of Appeals sitting in Houston, Texas, on March 26, 2015, ruled that environmental indemnities, which were a component of an exchange of Louisiana oil and gas properties in 1994, could be enforced today by and against the corporate successors to the original companies that negotiated these provisions. The case is ConocoPhillips Company v. Noble Energy, Inc., No. 14-13-00884-CV. The decision is significant because ConocoPhillips settled a claim for environmental damages associated with these swapped properties filed by the State of Louisiana and the Cameron Parish School Board for $63 million, and had made a demand for defense and indemnity that was denied.