Articles Posted in Infrastructure

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On June 21, 2019, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued draft guidance clarifying the treatment of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in environmental impact reviews of federal projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Those wishing to comment on the draft must submit comments within 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

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On April 10, President Trump issued two Executive Orders (EO) relating to the revision of some aspects of federal energy policy and development.

1. The first EO is very comprehensive, affecting many federal agencies and departments, and is entitled “Promoting Federal Infrastructure and Economic Growth.” The EO emphasizes its concern with the need for infrastructure that “ is capable of safely and efficiently transporting these plentiful resources to end users.” To that end, the EO:

(A)     states the general policy that the U.S. Government is to promote private investment in the Nation’s infrastructure by establishing efficient permitting processes and procedures that avoid duplication and result in increased regulatory certainty;

(B)     reviews and revises existing federal guidance and regulations regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), with particular emphasis on EPA’s guidance document, CWA Section 401 Water Quality Certification, and actions will be taken in accordance with a regulatory schedule set forth in the EO which has as its objective a notice of proposed rulemaking on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Section 401 regulations to be published in 12 months, with the final rules to be issued by May 2020;

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On February 26, 2019, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a joint memorandum (Memo) clarifying how state transportation departments that have been delegated responsibility under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) should implement federal directives to streamline the environmental review and approvals of major infrastructure projects. While the Memo establishes no new affirmative duties on these state agencies, it reflects yet another step in the Trump administration’s continued efforts to ensure collective adherence to its goal of expediting environmental review under NEPA.

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On February 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decided Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. City of Roanoke, et al.; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was an Intervenor-Defendant. The Fourth Circuit held that a large stormwater management fee (stated to be $417,000.00 for the year 2017) levied by the City of Roanoke against the railroad to assist in the financing of the City’s permitted municipal stormwater management system was a permissible fee and not a discriminatory tax placed on the railroad.

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President Trump signed an Executive Order yesterday January 31, calling on executive branch departments and agencies to encourage recipients of defined types of new federal awards to use cement, iron, steel, aluminum and certain manufactured products produced in the United States. The order builds on prior authority (Executive Order 13788 (April 18, 2017)) focused on procurements by the departments and agencies themselves. The new order extends the “Buy American” conversation to private parties that receive new support, to promote the use of domestic sources in their onward purchases.  It addresses programs that receive Federal financial assistance, 2 C.F.R. § 200.40, for creation, maintenance or repair of infrastructure projects.

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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.