Articles Posted in Energy

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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.

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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.

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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.

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wind turbinesIn 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.

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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.

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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.

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California Assembly Bill 2699 (Gonzalez) is a bill to watch if you are a home improvement contractor that solarinstalls 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.

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In Sixth Circuit Rejects Clean Air Act Preemption of State Common Law Claims: Four Things to Know, Pillsbury attorneys Matt Morrison and Bryan Stockton explore the Six Circuit Court of Appeals recent rejection of Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401 et seq. (CAA), preemption of state common law claims in Merrick, et al. v. Diageo Americas Supply, Inc. and Little et al. v. Louisville Gas & Electric Company; PPL CorporationThe takeaway is that a facility that is otherwise in compliance with CAA emission requirements can still face lawsuits by neighboring landowners for traditional torts such as nuisance and trespass. Merrick and Little add to the foundation of precedent across the Second, Third, and Sixth Circuits, and Iowa Supreme Court.

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Today, Pillsbury attorneys Jim Glasgow and Elina Teplinsky posted their client advisory DOE Issues the Part 810 Final Rule: Summary and Compliance Steps for Industry. The Advisory discusses the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) final rule amending its regulations at 10 C.F.R. Part 810 on “Assistance to Foreign Atomic Energy Activities” (“Part 810”). The rule takes effect on March 25, 2015. The rulemaking to amend Part 810, which the DOE has been undertaking since it published in the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) seeking to amend Part 810 on September 7, 2011, constitutes the most substantial change to these foreign nuclear assistance regulations since 1986 and, arguably, in the history of Part 810.

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Today, Pillsbury attorneys Daryl Shapiro, Tim Walsh, Rebecca Carr Rizzo and Keith Hudolin posted their advisory titled The Ninth Circuit Provides Clarity on ERA Whistleblower Protections. The Advisory discusses the Ninth Circuit’s November 7, 2014 ruling in Tamosaitis v. URS Inc. In its Tamosaitis ruling, the Ninth Circuit provided clarity on three key aspects of the whistleblower protections afforded under the Energy Reorganization Act (ERA), 42 U.S.C. 5801 et. seq. This decision has important implications for employers facing ERA whistleblower claims.

If you have any questions about the content of this blog, please contact the Pillsbury attorney with whom you regularly work or Daryl Shapiro, Tim Walsh, Rebecca Carr Rizzo, or Keith Hudolin, the authors of this blog.