The California Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act (“SB 253”) was recently introduced and passed the state’s Senate Environmental Quality Committee on March 15, 2023. SB 253 aims to broaden Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) state disclosure requirements, targeting high earning companies. A similar emissions disclosure bill, the Climate Corporate Accountability Act, failed to pass the
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…
Two reasons to expect little progress at COP27
We are not expecting further big climate reduction commitments from countries this year at COP27. The leaders of China and Russia (the world’s first- and fifth-largest climate polluters) are not attending the event, nor are officials from many of the largest economies, including India and Australia. U.S. President Joseph Biden will make only a short…
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…
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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California Clean Hydrogen Bill Targets Alternative Energy Sources for Expansion
A new “Clean Hydrogen Bill” (SB 1075, Skinner) has been introduced in the California Legislature as a means of achieving the State’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change. If passed, this bill would significantly increase the emphasis on “green hydrogen” as an alternative fuel in California’s economy, opening up…
EU banking watchdog publishes rules on banks reporting climate-risk data
The European Banking Authority (“EBA”) recently published final rules for lenders on how they must publish data on environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) risks, and how these risks may affect their balance sheets. The watchdog hopes that the proposed rules will help to “address shortcomings of institutions’ current ESG disclosures at EU level by setting …
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pauses certain Section 404 nationwide permits
On November 4, 2021, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) announced that it is pausing all requests for coverage under 12 nationwide permits (NWPs) issued earlier this year, including widely used permits for utility and oil and gas projects, among others. The announcement followed a California district court’s decision vacating the Section 401 Water Quality Certification Rule (2020 401 WQC Rule) adopted by the Trump Administration in 2020. Important questions remain about how ACOE intends to proceed while coverage is paused.
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) authorizes the ACOE to regulate the discharge of dredged and/or fill material into waters of the U.S. The CWA also requires that any person applying for a Section 404 permit also obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification (401 WQC) from the state, confirming that the discharge of fill materials will be in compliance with applicable water quality standards. States must also issue 401 WQCs for all activities occurring in their state per a NWP.
On January 5, 2021 ACOE released the final version of a rule revamping certain NWPs issued pursuant to Section 404. NWP 12 (as it existed prior to January 2021) was a general permit covering a range of activities such as utility line installation, development projects, road crossings, etc. The January rule reissued and modified 12 NWPs and issued four new NWPs, following an April 2020 decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana vacating a prior version of NWP 12. These permits include:…
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Post-COP26: A follow-up briefing on key business issues
Prior to COP26, we published an article that identified several issues being discussed at COP26 that could be of critical importance to business.
|During COP26, we followed the developments of these issues in a special Viewpoints series.
And now that COP26 is concluded, people are asking: What impact did it have? Where does the world stand on these issues?
You probably read the mixed reviews with regard to success of this COP. The New York Times reported Nov. 13 within minutes of the banging of the final gavel: “Global negotiators in Glasgow agreed to do more to fight climate change and aid vulnerable nations, but left crucial questions unresolved.”
What was resolved? For those of us who have studied agreements coming out of the COPs, this agreement, called the Glasgow Climate Pact is notably weak. The parties could only agree to language that “notes” certain issues or “urges” certain actions, as opposed to strong language that “decides” any points or “commits” parties to any defined metric.
The Pact does “reaffirm” the Paris Agreement temperature goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 above pre-industrial levels but that will require all nations to slash their carbon dioxide emissions by nearly half this coming decade to hold warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
However, the Pact merely “emphasizes” the urgent need for parties (as opposed to “the parties agree to…”) to increase their efforts collectively to reduce emissions through accelerated action and implementation of domestic mitigation measures in accordance with Article 4, paragraph 2, of the Paris Agreement and merely “urges” parties that have not yet communicated new or updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to do so as soon as possible in advance of the next session of the Conference of the Parties (as opposed to “the Parties that have not yet communicated new or updated nationally determined contributions agree to submit by [insert date]”).
|It also “urges” wealthy nations (as opposed to “wealthy nations agree…”) to “at least double” funding by 2025 to protect the most vulnerable nations from the hazards of a hotter planet. And it explicitly mentions the need to curb fossil fuel usage, the first time a global climate agreement has done so.|
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