In an abrupt departure from long-standing precedent, the D.C. Circuit ruled on August 22, 2017 that, in approving a natural gas pipeline project, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) failed to consider potential “downstream” greenhouse gas emissions from power plants burning natural gas supplied by the pipeline when preparing an environmental impact statement (“EIS”) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). Continue reading “D.C. Circuit Significantly Expands the Scope of FERC Pipeline Reviews”
On August 18, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a long-awaited decision in Constitution Pipeline Company LLC v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation et al., Docket No. 16-1568 (“Constitution”). At issue—once again—was whether a single State (in this case, New York) has the power under §401 of the Federal Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. §1341 (“CWA”), to deny a water quality certification for an interstate pipeline previously certificated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”), when the effect of the denial is to veto a pipeline project that would serve multiple States. In 2008, the 2d Circuit determined that such a veto power exists. Islander East Pipeline Co. v. McCarthy, 525 F.3d 141 (2d Cir, 2008) (“Islander East”). Although the factual situation in Constitution differs in some respects (noted below) from that in Islander East, the end result is the same: if a State determines that a FERC-approved pipeline is not consistent with its water quality standards approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Court finds (as it did here) that the determination was not arbitrary and capricious (i.e., is supported by “sufficient evidence to provide rational support” for the denial, Constitution, sl. op. at 24), the federally-approved interstate pipeline cannot proceed. Continue reading “CONSTITUTION PIPELINE: The 2d Circuit Reaffirms a State’s Right to Veto a FERC-Approved Interstate Pipeline Project”
On June 20, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its opinion in Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (PEDF) v. Commonwealth, 2017 Pa. LEXIS 1393 (Pa. June 20), in connection with the so-called Environmental Rights Amendment or ERA (Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution). Suffice it to say, the opinion has reopened the debate as to the meaning of the ERA, and more importantly, how the ERA is implemented as a practical and legal matter. In brief, the court ruled that amendments to the state’s fiscal code (which sought to address budgetary shortfalls by redirecting money from a fund containing rents and royalties from oil and gas leases on commonwealth land to the general fund) violated the ERA. While the facts before the court were narrowly drawn, the court used the opportunity to revisit the decades old “test” applied in evaluating ERA claims, an issue it first addressed in its 2013 plurality opinion in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth, 83 A.3d 901 (Pa. 2013). It abruptly rejected the well-established Payne v. Kassab test and roughly 45 years of ERA-related case law, thereby placing the ERA, and industry, back into legal limbo. Despite some legal uncertainty, this opinion should not be interpreted as a major stumbling block to key energy and infrastructure projects.
In American Petroleum Institute (“API”) v. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), 2017 WL 2883867 (D.C. Cir. July 7, 2017), the D.C. Circuit upheld, severed, and vacated portions of a 2015 EPA final rule, Definition of Solid Waste, 80 Fed. Reg. 1,694, 1,738/3 (Jan. 13, 2015) (the “Final Rule”). As explained below, the court: 1) upheld “Factor 3” of the “legitimate recycling” test defined in the rule; 2) vacated “Factor 4” of the legitimate recycling test; 3) vacated the Verified Recycler Exclusion (“VRE”), thereby reinstating the Transfer Based Exclusion (“TBE”) while retaining emergency preparedness requirements for generators and expanded containment requirements; and 4) held that the court did not have jurisdiction to review a deferred action by the EPA on containment and notification conditions for materials, products, or processes specifically excluded from the definition of “solid waste.” Continue reading “Recent D.C. Circuit Decision and Definition of Solid Waste”
We are pleased to announce the launch of our new blog, Energy and Environmental Trends Watch, which will provide insight and analysis on the latest developments in energy and environmental law.
“Energy and environmental law are two of the most demanding practice areas for attorneys and clients due to nonstop developments in the energy industry and environmental activism,” said Margaret A. Hill, co-chair of the Firm’s Energy, Environment, and Mass Torts practice group. “Although the ever-changing landscape can be difficult to monitor, our seasoned attorneys have the necessary depth and knowledge to identify issues and cases in our blog that will enable you to better understand significant developments in these industries.”
“There is no question that we live in interesting, yet challenging, times in the energy space and our environmental regulatory scheme,” added Kevin J. Bruno, co-chair of the Firm’s Energy, Environment, and Mass Torts practice group. “We hope our blog can be a useful tool for our clients in being made aware of and understanding the latest trends in these areas.”
Our Energy and Environmental Capabilities
Blank Rome’s energy practice offers a full range of energy industry-specific services. With more than 60 attorneys practicing across the United States, the group provides strategic and forward-looking insight into an ever-evolving industry while also understanding the unique business concerns of our clients. Likewise, Blank Rome’s nationally recognized environmental practice covers every substantive area of environmental law. The group provides counsel to clients in every major business sector, municipal and county governments, and redevelopment authorities. Both groups are comprised of attorneys who bring a wealth of experience from diverse backgrounds in industry and government. The teams include former U.S. Secretary of Energy, former trial attorneys from the Department of Justice, former officials of the Environmental Protection Agency, and former assistant United States attorneys.
Amy L. Barrette
On July 3, 2017, in a 2-1 opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Colombia Circuit granted a petition by several environmental organizations that sought to vacate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) decision to stay the methane rule. In vacating the EPA’s stay, the Court concluded that the EPA lacked authority under the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) to stay the rule. Continue reading “United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Vacates EPA’s Stay of Compliance Deadlines of Methane Rule”