Though ESG has been around for a while, with roots that extend back to the environmental sustainability movement, the script for current ESG litigation and investigations is still being written. ESG efforts have expanded to include diversity within companies and an increased focus on compliance and governance within organizations. Regulatory oversight, especially from the SEC, has swiftly come to the fore to monitor those compliance efforts. As with many areas where the precise regulatory and enforcement regime is still coming into focus, it is crucial to recognize the importance of being both proactive and pragmatic.
The Biden Administration plans to require U.S.-made steel and iron for American infrastructure, two major real estate players expand into the metaverse, robotics may be a solution to the construction industry’s labor shortage, and more.
The Metaverse is an immersive world combining virtual reality and augmented reality, where users are represented by avatars and roam virtual spaces. It comprises a variety of platforms and environments that can be explored, experienced, and developed. Online social games like Second Life, Fortnite and Minecraft are among the first wave of successful Metaverse games. Now, Meta and Microsoft see the Metaverse as a place to play, live, and work. A JP Morgan white paper stated that opportunities in the Metaverse seem “limitless.” The bank predicted that virtual worlds will “infiltrate every sector in some ways in the coming years.” A March 31 report by Citi concluded that the Metaverse has the potential to become a $13 trillion opportunity by 2030, with total global users of between one and five billion. According to Citi, the Metaverse will become a significant part of the next iteration of the internet (referred to as Web3) enabled by a variety of existing and emerging technologies, including 5G connectivity, secure blockchain and payment platforms, crypto assets, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, 3D modeling tools and headset devices.
Construction defects emerge in pandemic-era buildings, investor confidence is improving in China’s real estate market, the proptech field continues to show significant signs of growth, and more.
Phishing schemes target the mortgage industry, housing prices rise in Europe as Ukrainian refugees flee from their home country, the SEC announces new climate change regulations that will impact commercial real estate, and more.
As our readers know, any construction project associated with a federal agency such as the Department of Transportation or Federal Transit Administration must comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In Quicker But Less Dirty: The Biden Administration Both Streamlines and Seeks to Expand NEPA Environmental Review, written for the ABA Construction Forum’s Construction Lawyer journal, colleague Elaine Y. Lee provided a high-level overview of NEPA, its origins and current framework, criticisms, and prior administrations’ attempts to reform the law, before proceeding to examine two sets of changes to NEPA proposed by the Biden Administration that are arguably diametrically opposed.
The listing of Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) has the potential to impact any American doing business with a named party, including landlords who lease real estate to sanctioned persons. In “Specially Designated Nationals as Tenants: How Landlords Can Be Impacted by Sanctions Against Russian Nationals,” Nancy A. Fischer, Rachel B. Horsch, Anne C. Lefever, Zachary C. Rozen and Samantha Franks explain how sanctions designations may require U.S. persons involved with sanctioned individuals to terminate existing contracts, including leases, and why it is important for landlords to conduct thorough due diligence on prospective tenants and to negotiate language that enables them to quickly terminate a lease if a tenant becomes subject to sanctions.
Office vacancy rates are on the rise, 3D printing technology will be used to build a portfolio of affordable homes, resources from the Biden Administration’s Infrastructure Bill are projected to speed up the creation of “smart cities,” and more.
The first quarter of 2022 has yielded a number of decisions, reversals and agency adjustments worth note.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit – Food & Water Watch v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
On March 11, 2022, the court decided the FERC case. On December 19, 2019, the Commission issued a Certificate to Tennessee Gas Pipeline and determined that a “modest expansion” and upgrade of the existing 11,000-mile natural gas pipeline would have no significant environmental impact. However, one of the Commissioners filed a partial dissent, arguing that the Commission’s treatment of the climate change impacts was inadequate. A petition for review was filed, and now the court has decided that the Commission erred in not accounting for the indirect effects of the expansion, namely the downstream emissions of greenhouse gas generated by the pipeline’s delivery of the gas to its customers. Consequently, NEPA’s requirement that a rigorous environmental assessment be made before the authorization was granted was violated. However, the court decided against vacating the Commission’s orders, which would have had a “disruptive effect” on the project which is, or soon will be, operational.