Regional San Approves Sacramento Region’s Largest Public Infrastructure Project
By Kelley M. Taber, Somach Simmons & Dunn
The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (Regional San) approved the region’s largest public infrastructure project, a nearly $2 billion upgrade to the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant that will improve water quality in the Sacramento River and Delta, and expand opportunities for recycled water use. Regional San’s approval of the EchoWater Project marks the end of more than a decade of conflict and negotiation between south of Delta water agencies, state agencies and Regional San over the water quality effects of the regional plant’s discharge to the Sacramento River. Designed to comply with strict new water quality permit requirements, the EchoWater project will add new tertiary treatment processes that will more effectively remove ammonia, nitrates and pathogens from the plant discharge.
Update: Florida air issues, including U.S. Supreme Court decision on greenhouse gases
The past six months have seen significant developments in the regulation of air quality and emissions. What follows is a summary of those developments, as they affect Florida and companies doing business in the state.
How Absolute is the “Absolute Pollution Exclusion?”
By Ronald Ragatz, DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C.
Most comprehensive general liability insurance policies include an “absolute” (or “total”) pollution exclusion. Courts across the country have struggled with the issue of just how “absolute” that exclusion really is. The Nevada Supreme Court is the latest court to grapple with the issue in the May 29, 2014 decision of Century Surety Co. v. Casino West, Inc., 2014 WL 2396085 (Nev. 2014). In that case, four people died from carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping in a room above a pool heater in the Casino West Motel.
Methane Emissions Regulations on the Horizon for the Oil and Gas Industry
by Jane Montgomery, environmental law partner at Schiff Hardin LLP.; Ashley Thompson, environmetal law associate at Schiff Hardin LLP.; and Alex Garel-Frantzen, a 2014 summer associate at Schiff Hardin LLP
The Methane Strategy announced by the Obama Administration in March as part of its Climate Action Plan calls for the reduction of methane emissions in key sectors, including the oil and gas industry. In April, five technical white papers were released discussing possible remediation measures for the industry. The authors discuss the possibility that the administration will seek to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector despite years of voluntary federal-industry and international partnerships that have reduced U.S. methane emissions by 11 percent since 1990.
Supreme Court Limits USEPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations, Refuses to “Wave Goodbye” to Separation of Power Principles
By Jane E. Montgomery, Andrew N. Sawula, Bina R. Joshi, and Amy Antoniolli, Schiff Hardin LLP
In a major reversal for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the Supreme Court on June 23, 2014, limited USEPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, holding that USEPA did not have the authority to change a statutory applicability term of the Clean Air Act.
USEPA’s Clean Power Plan: Proposed Rule For Existing Power Plants
By Jane E. Montgomery and Amy Antoniolli, Schiff Hardin LLP
On June 2, 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) released the most sweeping component of President Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan. USEPA’s 650-page proposed Clean Power Plan states that carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels at existing power plants is the single largest category of stationary source Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions in the United States, accounting for about one-third of all GHGs emitted.
The U.S.-China Greenhouse Gas Agreement: Five Things You Need to Know
By Sidley Austin LLP
On November 11, 2014 President Obama announced an agreement with China’s President Xi Jinping setting targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. President Obama announced a new target to cut net U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China announced targets to cap CO2 emissions around 2030, with the intention of peaking early and then reducing emissions as 2030 neared. China also intends to increase the non-fossil fuel share of energy consumed to around 20 percent by 2030.
By Kenneth M. Kulak, partner in the Energy Practice of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
Recent focus on distributed generation has not addressed how companies will fully meet increasing sustainability commitments, including goals of being “100% powered by renewable energy.” Customers and utilities are exploring new approaches that may close the gap between corporate sustainability commitments and energy offerings.
Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rules: Current Headaches and Future Migraines
By Mureen Gorsen and Geoff Rathgeber, Alston & Bird
Greenhouse gas reporting programs at the state and federal level are becoming increas- ingly important as their output can form the basis for future regulations. The authors of this BNA Insight look at two such programs in California and one from the EPA. Compliance is critical, they argue, as penalties can quickly mount and enforcement activity is likely to rise in the coming years.
EPA’s Revised Renewable Fuels Standard Creates New Markets for Old “Waste”
By McGuireWoods LLP
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule that is likely to substantially increase production of certain kinds of valuable renewable fuels and create new markets for materials previously regarded as waste.
Toward Greener FERC Regulation of the Power Industry
By Christopher J. Bateman and James T.B. Tripp
America’s electricity industry is at the heart of some of the nation’s and world’s biggest environmental challenges, including climate change. Yet the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”), which has regulatory jurisdiction over wholesale sales and transmission of electricity in interstate commerce and is charged with ensuring that rates and other aspects of the industry are “just and reasonable,” has an official policy of excluding environmental considerations from its regulation of the industry. This Article traces the evolution of this policy and argues that it is time for a new and better approach—one that integrates economic and environmental regulation of the industry, helps the United States achieve a clean energy future, and reduces excessive environmental impacts.
Requirements for a Renewables Revolution
By Felix Mormann
This Article identifies and analyzes the obstacles that presently bar the rise of renewables, evaluates the role of the current policy favorite—emission pricing—and offers design recommendations for a comprehensive U.S. renewables policy. In light of the plethora of obstacles to a timely transition to renewables, this Article calls for concerted policy action by scientists, engineers, economists, lawyers, marketers, and educators to fuel the renewables revolution.
This Note posits a framework with which to analyze U.S. fracking development at local and regional scales. It aims to illuminate the ways in which three legal regimes — private rights, public government regulation, and local government law — influence the interactive dynamics between local and regional actors, which in turn determine the distribution of fracking impacts across a regional mosaic of municipalities.
Regulating Pollutants, Negative Externalities, and Good Neighbor Agreements: Who Bears the Burden of Protecting Communities?
By Thalia Gonzalez and Giovanni Saarman
Given the failure of federal, state, and common-law environmental regulation to deal with the external social costs of pollution on human health and the environment, local communities have turned to legal and nonlegal strategies to address their concerns. This Article seeks to address the increased need for the study of community environmental policing and monitoring of air quality.
Building Blocks for Global Climate Protection
By Richard B. Stewart, Michael Oppenheimer and Bryce Rudyk
This article presents an innovative institutional approach to supplement and ultimately strengthen the lagging United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process for negotiating a climate treaty that commits major emitting and developed countries to greenhouse gas emissions limitations. The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action does not aim to have such a treaty before 2020, and there remain very serious obstacles to reaching such an agreement even then. In the interim, the only international global climate regulation in force is a substantially weakened Kyoto Protocol.
In Search of Sustainability: Unraveling the Water Quality and Quantity Impacts of Energy Production
By Megan Galey and Scott Stewart
One of the central policy concerns for current and future energy production revolves around the issue of water use and management. Developing a sound and sustainable energy policy requires addressing the challenges associated with increased competition for water, regional water scarcity, the lack of a robust water market, fragmented and divergent law governing water rights, the impacts of water withdrawals, wastewater management and disposal on groundwater and surface water quality, the reuse of wastewater, permanent sequestration of wastewater, and other water quantity and quality issues. This Article examines how three energy production approaches affect water resources, the current legal framework governing water use and disposal and its limitations, and suggests potential policy changes to address these pressure points.
Led by Michael Pollan, the fast-growing food movement has changed the way many Americans think about what they eat. Increasingly, the movement is focusing on issues of national policy, which makes sense in such a highly regulated field. Yet, to date, legal scholarship has done little to explore how the goals of this nascent movement relate to the current system of food regulation in the United States. This Article begins to fill that void. The Article focuses on one aspect of the greater food movement: the “eat-food movement,” which encourages the consumption of “real,” unprocessed food. Upon juxtaposing the philosophy of the eat-food movement with the structure and mission of FDA and USDA, the Article concludes that certain types of command-and-control regulation pose unique threats to the movement’s integrity.
Why Congress Should Clean Up the Bankruptcy Code to Render Environmental Cleanup Orders into Claims
By Daniel Belzil
The current judicially created legal test for when an environmental cleanup order becomes a claim in bankruptcy fails to give businesses and governments clear legal guidance, and often saddles government agencies with debtors’ environmental obligations. Accordingly, this note proposes to amend the Bankruptcy Code to convert environmental cleanup orders into administrative priority claims in bankruptcy court.
The Sustainable Development Principle in United States Environmental Law
By Michael P. Healy
The American public perceives the principle of sustainable development and sustainability, the shorthand nomenclature, through green-tinted lenses. The international legal understanding of the principle of sustainable development, however, is more ambiguous than this popular American understanding. This summary shows how sustainable development values may be accounted for in the type of regulatory response that is employed.