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…
RMP and PSM highly hazardous chemical regulations are back on the agenda
The agencies regulating industrial chemical processes are taking a second look at modernizing regulations aimed at preventing chemical accidents in the near future. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Process Safety Management (PSM) standard and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Risk Management Program (RMP) rule were practically identical for processes containing threshold levels of…
Scope 1 and 2 Emissions Attestation Requirements under SEC’s Proposed Climate Disclosure Rule
We previously reported on requirements for Scope 3 emissions in the proposed climate disclosure rule released by the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) on March 21, 2022 (“Proposed Rule”). In addition to Scope 3 emissions, the Proposed Rule would also require a registrant to disclose information about its direct GHG emissions (Scope 1) and indirect emissions from purchased electricity or energy sources (Scope 2). This post focuses on attestation requirements in the Proposed Rule for those Scope 1 and Scope 2 disclosures.
Who is subject to Scope 1 and Scope 2 attestation requirements and when is compliance required?
Section 229.1505 of the Proposed Rule would require a company that is an accelerated filer or large accelerated filer to include an attestation report in its Scope 1 and 2 disclosures. The attestation requirement also applies to foreign private issuers.
The Proposed Rule does not make compliance with Scope 1 and 2 disclosure and attestation requirements immediate. Instead, subject companies are provided a grace period to achieve compliance with Scope 1 and 2 disclosure requirements. The Proposed Rule would also provide a transition period for the assurances required for the Scope 1 and 2 disclosure attestations (see further discussion below). The proposed compliance timeframes are as follows:
|Filer Type||Scopes 1 and 2 GHG Disclosure Compliance Date||Limited Assurance||Reasonable Assurance|
|Accelerated Filer||Fiscal year 2024 (filed in 2025)||Fiscal year 2025 (filed in 2026)||Fiscal year 2027 (filed in 2028)|
|Large Accelerated Filer||Fiscal year 2023 (filed in 2024)||Fiscal year 2024 (filed in 2025)||Fiscal year 2026 (filed in 2027)|
Who prepares the attestation report?
Under the Proposed Rule, a GHG emissions attestation provider would be required to prepare and sign the attestation report. The attestation provider would not need to be a registered public accounting firm. However, the Proposed Rule includes characteristics of acceptable attestation providers including:
- Expertise in GHG emission based on significant experience in measuring, analyzing, reporting, or attesting to GHG emissions.
- Independence from the reporting company and any of its affiliates.
According to the agency, the proposed expertise requirement is intended to ensure that the attestation provider is sufficiently competent to perform the attestation engagement. With respect to independence, SEC states that emissions disclosures by independent attestation providers should improve the reliability of the disclosure.…
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Lithium Mining Around the Salton Sea: The Case for a “Win-Win” Outcome for Energy and the Environment
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries increasingly power electric vehicles and a wide range of consumer electronics, and are a critical component of President Biden’s national strategy to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the US economy. To ramp up the domestic industry, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor and the AFL-CIO, recently announced the launch of a national workforce development strategy for lithium battery manufacturing. While a trained workforce is a necessary component of a lithium manufacturing strategy, the U.S. has historically been dependent upon overseas sources for lithium – but that could change with a new potential lithium source located around California’s Salton Sea.
Most of the world’s lithium supply is either mined from open pit mines, which are common in China and Australia, or extracted from salt lake flats (evaporative ponds) in South America. Both of these methods have serious environmental issues associated with them, or in the case of the evaporative ponds, are slow and economically inefficient. Extensive lithium deposits have been identified in Afghanistan and in parts of Africa, but those resources are limited for either geopolitical or environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) reasons.
The US has its own sources of lithium, but they too come with developmental concerns. New lithium mine proposals in the United States, including a site located on federal land in Nevada and a site outside Death Valley National Park, have triggered opposition from conservationists and Native American tribes.
But could the U.S. find an untapped source somewhere else that has far less environmental concerns? Enter California’s Imperial Valley and its troubled Salton Sea region.…
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The SEC’s proposed climate change rule: impact on private companies
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently proposed amendments to their existing disclosure policy that would require publicly traded corporations to disclose more information regarding climate change related risks, and how those risks may impact the company’s business and outlook (read, “bottom line and stock value”). While the SEC regulates publicly traded corporations, privately held companies need to also track these proposed rule amendments:
- The SEC has been requiring reporting on climate change / greenhouse gas emission information since 2010, so this overall concept is not new. However, the proposed disclosures would expand these obligation by requiring the publicly traded corporation to disclose (among other things):
- The company’s process for identifying, managing, measuring and managing climate change risks;
- If the company uses (“best,” “worst” and “most-likely” case) scenarios to assess risk, what assumptions and analytical choices the company uses to reach these outcomes;
- The Company’s “direct” and “indirect” emissions (the latter, from purchased electricity or other forms of energy); and, of particular significance; and – possibly of greatest significance,
- The Company’s indirect emissions from upstream and downstream activities.
This last bullet is far-reaching and likely to be controversial due to its impact on upstream privately held companies that sell products or services to publicly traded companies. Should this proposal be promulgated:
- Publicly traded companies will be obliged to make heightened demands upon their upstream vendors and suppliers to measure and disclose information re carbon dioxide (or other greenhouse gas) emissions associated with the sourcing, manufacture and transport of products to the SEC-regulated customer;
- Commercial counter-parties should anticipate new terms in contracts that would require such disclosures from private companies – including possibly indemnification for misstatements about carbon emissions;
- Small and medium-sized enterprise are likely not going to have in-house capabilities to perform such assessments, so an increased potential for out-sourcing this would be necessary if vendors want to remain on their customers’ “preferred provider” lists.
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Understanding the Scope of the SEC’s Proposed Scope 3 Emissions Reporting Mandate
On March 21, 2022, the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) approved and released a proposed rulemaking package (the “Proposed Rule”) that would enact sweeping changes to climate-related disclosures. One key component of the Proposed Rule is a reporting requirement for certain Scope 3 emissions.
What are Scope 3 Emissions
Scope 3 emissions are “all other indirect emissions not accounted for in Scope 2 emissions.” These emissions relate to emissions from sources outside a company’s control – for example, Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by a company, and Scope 2 emissions are emissions primarily resulting from the generation of electricity consumed by the company. While companies generally can calculate Scope 1 and 2 emissions without significant difficulty, estimating Scope 3 emissions presents additional challenges, as Scope 3 emissions occur from other entities not owned or controlled by the company that serve the company’s value chain.
Who Must Report
The Proposed Rule requires non-smaller-reporting-company (“SRC”) registrants to disclose Scope 3 emissions and intensity: (i) if material or (ii) if the registrant set a GHG emissions reduction target or goal that includes Scope 3 emissions. Thus, the Proposed Rule does not require reporting of all Scope 3 emissions, and a company’s obligation to report would depend on company-specific factors, discussed below.
First, the Proposed Rule exempts SRCs from disclosing Scope 3 emissions. The SEC defines SRCs as an issuer that is not an investment company, an asset-backed issuer, or a majority-owned subsidiary of a parent that is not a smaller reporting company and that: (1) had a public float of less than $250 million; or (2) had annual revenues of less than $100 million and either: (i) no public float; or (ii) a public float of less than $700 million.
Second, the Proposed Rule applies a materiality qualifier to Scope 3 emissions that companies must report. SEC regulations and Supreme Court precedent define “material” emission as emissions with a “substantial likelihood that a reasonable investor would consider them important when making an investment or voting decision.” The SEC provides several examples of material Scope 3 emissions. Generally, the SEC advises that Scope 3 emissions may be material where they assist investors to understand transaction risks. Companies with significant Scope 3 emissions could face disruptions in cash flow and business models to the extent new laws or policies encourage changes to products, suppliers, distributors, or other commercial providers in a company’s value chain. Moreover, consumer demand could influence a shift to less carbon-intensive products and services. Conversely, companies sourcing materials and products with lower emissions compared to competitors may see cost savings and higher demand from consumers. Thus, the SEC’s materiality approach is quite broad and requires companies to understand their company’s value, risks, and opportunities in deciding whether to report Scope 3 emissions.
Third, even if Scope 3 emissions do not represent material emissions, a company must report Scope 3 emissions if it adopted emissions targets. The Proposed Rule requires a company to disclose whether its emissions targets include Scope 3 emissions, and if they do, report such emissions. This requirement allows investors to track a company’s compliance with its emissions targets and gauge what potential additional investments a company might need to implement to meet its targets.…
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EPA Proposes Rulemaking to Update All Appropriate Inquiry Standards for Phase Is
On March 14, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published (1) a direct final rule and (2) a proposed rule that would update the standard that consultants follow to ensure Phase I reports satisfy the All Appropriate Inquiry standard (“AAI”).
To qualify for certain defenses under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability (“CERCLA”)…
DOJ Officials Signal Increased Collaboration with DOL and Re-Implementation of Worker Endangerment
In the initial months of 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicated that it will increasingly pursue cases relating to worker safety and safe working conditions through formal collaboration with the Department of Labor (DOL), as well as its subsidiary agencies including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
In January 2022, former Reed…
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…