When the UK finally left the EU on 31 January 2020, it kept virtually all EU laws on the UK statute book. This was not straightforward and a detailed set of provisions was fought over in the withdrawal agreement with the EU and in the UK’s domestic withdrawal legislation. This left a great deal of
Emerging Legislation and Regulation
EPA bets on CCS in proposed regulations under Clean Air Act
The Biden administration just announced draft regulations that would require most coal-fired and gas power plants to capture and sequester up to 90 percent of their carbon emissions by the middle of the next decade, a move with the potential to transform the U.S. electricity sector and perhaps offer a boost to the fledgling domestic…
A new item on the Renewable Fuel Standards menu—eRINs
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a significant addition to its Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) program—the renewable electricity RIN (eRIN). The eRIN is a new kind of renewable identification number (RIN) obligated parties could obtain to meet their renewable volume obligations and comply with the RFS program.
Under the current RFS program, obligated…
California Green Hydrogen Update
As we previously covered, California has been working towards the development of “green hydrogen,” i.e., hydrogen fuel produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity. Most stakeholders acknowledge that green hydrogen is a critical (but predominantly untapped) resource that offers many climate and energy benefits. In a significant…
California’s new carbon capture and storage laws
California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed three bills addressing carbon capture, utilization and storage (“CCUS”) and carbon dioxide removal (“CDR”). Collectively, these bills create a pathway for new regulation of CCUS and CDR projects, enabling them to become part of a solution for the State to meet aggressive carbon reduction / neutrality goals in 2030…
Sixth Circuit’s Interlocutory Order Reviewing PFAS Class Action Highlights Issues With Certifying Class
The Sixth Circuit issued an order on September 9, 2022 granting review of a class certification from March 7, 2022 that certified a class of roughly 11.8 million Ohio residents claiming injuries from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
Filed in 2018 in the Southern District Court of Ohio, the lawsuit alleged the named…
Environmental aspects of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022
President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (the Act) into law on August 16, 2022. The Act represents an expansive investment in the energy industry, with many provisions targeting clean energy and climate change issues through funding and tax credits. However, several notable provisions from an environmental permitting and compliance standpoint are buried amongst the financial and tax provisions. These environmental provisions relate to permitting and compliance that the regulated industry, especially energy companies, should watch closely.
Funding for Permitting and Programmatic Development
The Act provided significant funding to regulatory authorities for a number of permitting-related activities.
For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) received $20 million to assist with permitting and project review. The funds are meant to result in more efficient, accurate, and timely reviews for planning, permitting and approval processes through hiring and training personnel and obtaining new technical and scientific services and equipment.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) received $40 million for its permitting and project review efforts. The funds will be utilized to develop efficient, accurate, and timely reviews for permitting and approval processes through hiring and training of personnel, development of U.S. EPA programmatic documents, procurement of technical or scientific services for reviews, development of environmental data and new information systems, purchase of new equipment, developing new guidance documents, and more.
The Act provided over $62.5 million to the Council on Environmental Quality to develop programmatic documents, tools, guidance, and improvement engagement. These funds will also support collection of data regarding environmental justice issues, climate change data, development of mapping/screening tools, and tracking and evaluation of cumulative impacts.
Several other federal agencies received millions in funding for review and planning of electricity generation infrastructure, like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, and the Department of the Interior. Funding will be used to facilitate timely and efficient reviews, as well as generate environmental programmatic documents, environmental data, and increase stakeholder and community involvement.
In sum, regulators involved in environmental and energy permitting received a substantial boost in funding targeting the permitting process, including supporting the development and build out of programmatic documents and capabilities. The funding could improve the timing of the permitting processes for these agencies, but it could also lead to additional administrative burdens in the form of new application and compliance materials and increased regulatory scrutiny where a regulator has more time and money to invest in the regulatory process.…
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EPA Proposes Expansive Changes to EPA RMP Rule
As anticipated, on Friday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed Risk Management Program (RMP) Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention rule pursuant to the Clean Air Act. The proposed rule would reinstate certain provisions newly introduced to the RMP rule (originally promulgated in 1991) late in the Obama administration and subsequently removed by the Trump administration in 2019. The EPA has additionally added significant new requirements not originally in the 2017 draft RMP rule, including provisions aimed to further current policies on environmental justice and climate change. The proposed RMP rule also appears to draw influence from recommendations made by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) as well as state updates to process safety regulations in the past decade, most notably the California Accidental Release Prevention Program (CalARP) and the California Refinery Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard.
These changes, including the addition of requirements regarding employee participation, public availability of information, inherent safety, third party auditing, facility siting and natural hazards consideration, as well as emergency response planning, will result in covered RMP facilities having to significantly revisit and revise their RMP programs and plans. Certain requirements also appear to be directly aimed at limiting stationary sources’ ability to privately manage their internal risk management decisions. For example, covered facilities would now be required to document any revisions between draft and final compliance audits and provide justifications for rejected RMP program recommendations.
According to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, “protecting public health is central to EPA’s mission, particularly as we adapt to the challenges of climate change, and the proposal announced today advances this effort, especially for those in vulnerable communities. This rule will better protect communities from chemical accidents, and advance environmental justice for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by these facilities.” EPA estimates the rule will cost approximately $77 million a year.
Comments on the proposed rule are due to EPA within 60 days of its publication in the Federal Register and may be submitted online, via mail, or hand-delivery.…
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The crypto carbon market: where next?
Over the last year, we have seen the emergence of a new carbon market based on the tokenisation of voluntary carbon credits. It represents a new, decentralised approach towards scaling up the carbon market, and it has seen very rapid growth since its inception.
The reasons for that growth are clear: it allows anyone with access to cryptocurrency software to instantly buy and sell tokenised carbon credits, without needing to hold an account in the underlying carbon credit program registry or undergo the usual KYC checks that come along with that. In that sense, it has the potential to unlock a huge segment of the carbon credit consumer market.
Like any new technology, it can be both a force for good and bad; the other side of the (digital) coin is that the proliferation of carbon credit-backed cryptocurrencies represents a threat to the integrity of the whole carbon market; it reality, a tokenised carbon credit is completely disconnected from the underlying carbon credit: it gives no right to the underlying credit, only a contractual right (as against the token issuer) to the environmental claims attached to it; and it is not controlled or backed by the carbon credit program provider. There is obvious scope for greenwashing and fraudulent schemes, which we have already seen happening.
It is clear that if the crypto carbon market is to have a future as a credible part of the wider carbon market, rather than as a marginal, high-risk product, it must be subject to controls to ensure that tokenised carbon credits possess the same fundamental attributes/qualities as the underlying carbon credits themselves, i.e. that the claimed carbon offsets must be real, additional, permanent, robustly quantified, independently verified, and uniquely claimed.…
Supreme Court Rejects Obama-Era EPA Plan to Regulate Existing Power Plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act
In a highly anticipated decision, the U.S. Supreme Court (Court) rejected U.S. EPA’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan in West Virginia v. EPA on June 30, 2022. Relying upon the “major questions doctrine,” the Court found that Congress had not intended to authorize EPA to regulate emissions using “generation shifting” (i.e., requirements that power production be…