On June 4, 2020, the Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) filed a Petition which requested the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to open an investigation into the potential changes to support the Commonwealth’s legislatively mandated greenhouse gas (GHG) emission limit reductions (the Petition). Specifically, the AG’s Petition seeks to evaluate the industry, regulatory and policy adjustments necessary to meet the state GHG limits, and to “determine what near and long-term adjustments are necessary to maintain a safe and reliable gas distribution system and protect consumer interests as the Commonwealth transitions” to carbon neutrality by 2050. Continue Reading Key Northeastern States Take Steps to Study the Transition to Net-Zero GHG Emissions
On June 22, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“Commission”) issued an Order on Petition for Declaratory Order finding that it has concurrent jurisdiction with bankruptcy courts to review and address the disposition of Commission-jurisdictional natural gas transportation agreements sought to be rejected through bankruptcy. Specifically, the Commission found that, “Where a party to a Commission-jurisdictional agreement under the [Natural Gas Act] seeks to reject the agreement in bankruptcy, that party must obtain approval from both the Commission and the bankruptcy court to modify the filed rate and reject the contract, respectively.” This is the first time the Commission has made such a finding with regard to jurisdictional agreements pursuant to the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) and it did so in a well-supported, clear and convincing way.
On May 30, 2020, for the first time in nine years, a manned spacecraft launched from American soil and ultimately docked at the International Space Station, just under a day later. This launch, which marks a significant step in the development of reusable rocket technology, will undoubtedly inspire a new generation of astronauts, astrophysicists, engineers, and others who are interested in sustainable space exploration. It has been reported that spacecraft launches of this nature burn approximately 400 metric tons of kerosene and leave behind a trail of carbon dioxide (“CO2”) exceeding two centuries worth of CO2 emissions from those of an average car.
Yesterday, on June 1, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, signed a final rule seeking to increase predictability for applicants by clarifying the regulations that govern the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 water quality certification process.
On May 21, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“Commission”) issued a Policy Statement on Determining Return on Equity for Natural Gas and Oil Pipelines in Docket No. PL19-4-000, that revises its policy for analyzing the return on equity (“ROE”) for interstate natural gas and oil pipelines based on the methodology established for analyzing electric utility ROEs in Opinion Nos. 569 and 569-A, with certain exceptions to account for the “statutory, operational, organizational and competitive differences among the industries.” Specifically, the Commission stated that it will: (i) determine just and reasonable natural gas and oil pipeline ROEs by averaging the results of the Discounted Cash Flow (“DCF”) model and the Capital Asset Pricing Model (“CAPM”) analyses, giving equal weight to both models; (ii) retain the existing two-thirds/one-third weighting for the short-term and long-term growth projections in the DCF model; (iii) exclude the Risk Premium model as modified in Opinion No. 569-A; (iv) consider using Value Line data as the source of the short-term growth projection in the CAPM; (v) consider proposals to include Canadian companies in pipeline proxy groups while continuing to address outliers in pipeline proxy groups on a case-by-case basis, refraining from applying specific outlier tests; and (vi) encourage, or perhaps require, oil pipelines to file updated FERC Form No. 6, page 700 data for 2019 to reflect the revised ROE policy established in the Policy Statement. Importantly, parties are not permitted to seek rehearing of the Policy Statement because it is only a statement issued to provide guidance and regulatory certainty.
Yesterday, the Railroad Commission of Texas voted by a 2-1 margin to dismiss the request that had been filed in late March of this year by two producers to determine reasonable market demand for oil and the need for curtailment of oil production in Texas.
In the midst of an oil market experiencing an extraordinary downturn but citing a need for further review and coordination with other states and the federal government, the Railroad Commission of Texas delayed a vote on oil production cuts at an open meeting held yesterday. Although no decision on proration was made, the establishment of a Blue Ribbon Task Force for Oil Economic Recovery was announced. The Task Force will be comprised of various Texas oil and gas trade associations charged with expeditiously exploring options that can be undertaken at the state level to assist operators and save jobs. During the meeting, a number of initiatives undertaken to date that provide relief to oil and gas operators were also highlighted, including those involving extensions of deadlines for various requirements and the consideration of enforcement discretion under certain circumstances.
With oil prices plummeting and markets battered by the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, two oil and gas producers filed a joint motion late last month for the Railroad Commission of Texas to consider curtailing oil production, an extraordinary remedy that has not been employed since the 1970s. In response, the RRC convened an initial public meeting yesterday to consider the request and comments filed by more than 50 stakeholders with, not surprisingly, wide-ranging views on the subject. Due to the significance of the issues under discussion and the potential impact on not only oil and gas producers, but also the midstream and downstream sector, the ten-hour long meeting drew a substantial audience across the country and the globe.
Facing growing criticism that they impede sustainable development goals, investment protections afforded by traditional international investment agreements (IIAs) are steadily eroding. Increasingly, the trend is toward provisions allowing host states greater flexibility to regulate environmental, transparency, human rights and other social impacts. At the same time, enhanced corporate social responsibility (CSR) obligations have become more common in recent IIAs.
Even as COVID-19 is altering daily routines and operations within the federal agencies, all indications are that natural resource agencies continue to work on agency priorities and to advance the regulatory agenda. Agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), Natural Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) have not indicated any plans, at this point, to delay their efforts on the Administration’s key initiatives. Public interest groups and organizations representing state and local officials have asked the White House to freeze rulemakings that are not directly related to the COVID-19 response effort. EPA has responded to these requests by noting that it continues to be open for business and is fully functioning.