Articles Posted in Infrastructure

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The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) recently posted final adopted text for amendments to the CEQA Guidelines.  The result of over five years of development efforts by the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research and CNRA, the amendments are the most comprehensive update to the CEQA Guidelines since 1998.  In “Natural Resources Agency Finalizes Updates to the CEQA Guidelines,” Pillsbury environmental attorneys Norman F. Carlin, Kevin Ashe and Eric Moorman explore the wide range of issues covered in the amendments, including the new Vehicle-Miles-Traveled (VMT) methodology for analyzing transportation impacts; use of regulatory standards as significance thresholds; environmental baselines; and numerous procedural and technical improvements.

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On October 29, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) published a final rule in the Federal Register which amends and revises the environmental National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures rules employed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). There is a renewed interest in transportation infrastructure projects, and recent legislation is intended to accelerate required environmental reviews.

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On April 9, 2018, the heads of twelve Federal agencies and departments entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) committing their respective agencies to implement certain concepts and directives from Executive Order (“EO”) 13807,[1] the Trump administration’s effort to streamline environmental review and approval of major infrastructure projects. The signatory agencies are the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”), Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, as well as the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council. These agencies frequently are involved in large-scale, complex infrastructure projects, such as traditional and renewable energy facilities and interstate pipelines; highway and bridge improvements, and transportation projects. While much of the MOU recites requirements previously set forth in the EO, it adds details and deadlines regarding interagency coordination, communication and dispute resolution in order to carry out the EO’s “One Federal Decision” concept and the goal of completing environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) within two years.

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Recently, our colleagues Rob James and Stella Pulman co-authored Getting the Deal Through: Gas Regulation 2018, in which they describe the domestic natural gas sector, including the natural gas production, liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage, pipeline transportation, distribution, commodity sales and trading segments and retail sales and usage.

Reproduced with permission from Law Business Research Ltd. Getting the Deal Through: Gas Regulation 2018 (published in March 2018; contributing editors: David Tennant and Adam Brown of Dentons UKMEALLP). For further information, click here.

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Public discourse regarding climate change is becoming focused less on whether it is occurring, and more on what society can and should do to address or slow its progression. Geoengineering, which involves deliberately modifying the earth’s climate, is gaining traction in the scientific community and may prove to be a useful tool in the future. However, as with many emerging technologies, the legal system is not designed to regulate geoengineering research and testing activities, much less widescale deployment.

In an article recently published in Pratt’s Energy Law Report, Pillsbury partners Norman Carlin and Rob James offer their suggestions on how domestic law can be navigated effectively to facilitate the research of geoengineering technologies.

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On November 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in Detroit International Bridge Company v. Government of Canada, et al., affirmed the ruling of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that a 2012 “Crossing Agreement” between State of Michigan officials and the Government of Canada authorizing the construction of a second bridge to span the Detroit River separating Detroit and Windsor, Canada, was a legal exercise of their legal authority.

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On November 21, the California Fifth District Court of Appeal issued its decision in Association of Irritated Residents v. Kern County Board of Supervisors, 2017 WL 5590096, a challenge to the County’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and approval for modifications at the Alon Bakersfield Refinery. Among other things, the Association of Irritated Residents (AIR) claimed that, since crude oil processing was shut down when work on the EIR began, the EIR should have considered the refinery’s inactive condition as the “baseline,” treating impacts of resuming typical operation as impacts of the new project. Rejecting AIR’s argument, the court held that, since refinery operations fluctuated over time, the use of data from operations in a representative prior year to identify the baseline level of activity was appropriate under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Continue reading

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On October 19, 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released a draft Strategic Plan (the Plan) for public comment. The Plan establishes goals and long-term objectives for increasing investment and streamlining federal environmental review and approval of transportation infrastructure projects over the next five years (Fiscal Years 2018-2022). Comments on the draft Plan are due by November 13, 2017.  Continue reading

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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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