Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly referred to as Superfund, was enacted in December 1980, and Section 108(b) provides that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shall promulgate, no later than December 11, 1985, financial responsibility requirements for classes of facilities—designated by EPA—consistent with “the degree and duration of risk associated with their production, transportation, treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous substances.” Despite this directive, EPA has not issued any financial responsibility rules under Section 108(b). This record of inaction prompted a lawsuit demanding compliance with the law.
On November 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decided the case of Cox, et al., v. Duke Energy, Inc. et al., affirming the ruling of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina’s grant of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights lawsuit, holding
“(1) that Fleming had validly waived his right to sue the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office, the Sheriff, and the deputies; (2) that Duke Energy and its vice president were private actors not operating “under color of” state law as required for liability under § 1983; and (3) that Fleming’s remaining state law claims were preempted by federal law’s exclusive regulation of nuclear safety.”
In compliance with the March 28, 2017 Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth (EO 13783), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its Final Report on Review of Agency Actions that Potentially Burden the Safe, Efficient Development of Domestic Energy Resources Under Executive Order 13783. EPA describes its efforts to reform the New Source Review (NSR) review process, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)process and how it plans to assess the economic consequences of actions taken under the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA or Superfund).and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
On August 15, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13807 (EO 13807), which seeks to streamline federal environmental review and approvals of major infrastructure projects by imposing new timelines and procedures. The EO aims to hold federal agencies accountable to a two-year deadline for all federal authorizations for infrastructure projects, including highways and transit, airports and ports, fossil, nuclear and renewable energy, pipeline and water projects.
EO 13807 defines “major infrastructure projects” as those which require both a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and multiple permits, approvals and/or other forms of authorization from federal agencies, and for which sufficient and reasonably available funding has been identified. The EO requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish a federal goal of completing NEPA review and permitting in “not more than an average of approximately two years” from the notice of intent to prepare an EIS. The goal must be incorporated in each federal agency’s strategic and annual performance plans and progress must be reviewed by agency leadership.
On August 2, 2017, the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (“OPR”) released its first update to the General Plan Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) since 2003. The Guidelines provide guidance to cities and counties throughout California on the preparation and content of their General Plans, which govern land uses and zoning within their jurisdictions. The updated Guidelines contain new recommended policies, information resources, and reflect recent legislation regarding General Plans.
On July 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided an important case involving oil and gas producers, intermediaries, and the ultimate purchasers of the oil and gas. The case, a bankruptcy matter, is In re: SemCrude, LP, et al.
The appellants, many oil and gas producers located in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, sold their product to SemCrude, L.P. (SemCrude), a “midstream” oil and gas service provider, who then sold oil to and traded oil futures with downstream oil purchasers. SemCrude’s unsuccessful futures trading activities cause the company to become insolvent and enter into bankruptcy. However, the producers had taken no steps to protect themselves in case SemCrude went bankrupt in contrast to the downstream purchasers. As a result, when SemCrude filed for bankruptcy, the downstream purchasers were paid in full, and more than a thousand producers were unpaid.
In a breakthrough for offshore wind energy in the United States, construction of the Block Island Wind Farm, the first U.S. offshore wind farm, was completed in August 2016 about 30 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. The project began delivering power to the New England grid on May 5 of this year. While Block Island is a big step forward for the industry, broad public support for offshore wind farms in the U.S. has been lacking due in large part to concerns about aesthetics when the turbines are visible from land. As demonstrated by the collapse of the Cape Wind project in 2014 off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, failure to get public buy-in can be fatal to a project.
For builders working in California—already one of the most expensive states for new construction—a new bill winding its way through the legislature could add yet more costs. For this reason, Senate Bill 71 (SB 71) should be on the radar of developers and construction companies that do business in California. SB 71 would require all “solar-ready buildings” constructed on or after January 1, 2018, to include a solar electric or solar thermal system on their roofs. “Solar-ready buildings” include single-family residences in subdivisions with 10 or more single-family residences with an approved subdivision map; low-rise multi-family buildings; high-rise multi-family buildings and hotel/motel occupancies; and all other non-residential buildings. The solar systems would be required to be installed during construction because, as the bill explains, installing systems at that stage is more cost effective.
In Potentially Costly Nuclear Rulemaking Proposed, NRC targets include oil & gas industry, cancer treatment providers, sterilization facilities and radiographers, Pillsbury attorney Jay Silberg discusses the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff’s recent recommendation that the NRC undertake a rulemaking requiring licensees to provide financial assurance (or set aside funds) to cover the cost of the disposition of certain Category 1 & 2 sources.
California Assembly Bill 2699 (Gonzalez) is a bill to watch if you are a home improvement contractor that installs solar energy systems or, for that matter, a contractor in California. AB 2699 would, among other things, require the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to develop a “solar energy system disclosure document” and, in turn, require solar energy systems companies to provide this document to its customers prior to the completion of a sale, financing, or lease of a solar energy system.
AB 2699 would also require the CSLB to establish through regulation requirements for a contractor to maintain a blanket performance and payment bond for the purpose of solar installation work and, of particular note, even with this bond, the contractor will be subject to the down-payment restriction set forth in California Business & Professions Code § 7159.5(a)(8). If this bill is signed into law, this latter requirement will certainly translate into increased costs for contractors that currently do not have in place a blanket performance and payment bond. In turn, as a practical matter, this lIsley will translate into higher costs for consumers who want to install a solar system because such costs will trickle down to them. There may also be pressure put on others in the industry to reduce costs to make up for this increase in costs.