With the recent Gulf Auction falling short of expectations and projects on the East Coast faltering, many have adopted a bearish stance on the U.S. offshore wind sector. However, California recently passed two new bills to support the state’s burgeoning offshore wind industry: the Offshore Wind Advancement Act (AB 3) and the California Offshore Wind Expediting Act (SB 286). These bills, which take effect January 1, 2024, have the potential to significantly impact offshore wind development in California.Continue Reading New Bills Advance California’s Offshore Wind Strategy
Keith Garner is a partner and Practice Group Leader of the Real Estate, Energy, Land Use & Environmental Practice Group in the firm's San Francisco office.
In a long-anticipated decision on the reach of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), the Supreme Court significantly narrowed the scope of the wetlands and other waters subject to the CWA’s protections. The Court’s opinion in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, released May 25, 2023, limits waters of the United States (“WOTUS”) to “relatively permanent” water bodies such as streams, oceans, rivers and lakes, and to wetlands with a “continuous surface connection” to those water bodies. The Court’s holding removes a wide swath of previously-protected wetlands from the CWA’s permitting requirements, likely eliminates jurisdiction for many ephemeral and intermittent streams, and spells all but certain doom for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent rulemaking adopting a new definition of WOTUS for CWA purposes.Continue Reading Supreme Court Narrows Scope of Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act in Sackett v. EPA
The Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) and Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (the “DOJ”) (together the “Agencies”) continue to carry out the Biden Administration’s stated mission to reinvigorate antitrust enforcement to “Promote Competition in the American Economy.”Continue Reading Restrictive Covenants in Real Estate: Next Antitrust Enforcement Target?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday published a final rule defining “Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, which determines the extent of federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. 88 Fed. Reg. 3004-3144 (Jan. 18, 2023). The new rule largely reinstates the longstanding definition of WOTUS first adopted in 1986, as modified by the Supreme Court’s opinion in Rapanos v. United States,547 U.S. 715 (2006). But the final rule comes as the Supreme Court again considers the proper scope of WOTUS in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, which will likely determine the viability of the new definition.Continue Reading Turbulence Ahead for the Clean Water Act: Agencies Redefine “Waters of the United States” as SCOTUS Prepares to Rule in Sackett v. EPA
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently published a proposed rule revising regulations that authorize permit issuance for eagle incidental take and eagle nest take under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (the “Act”). In addition to retaining the individual permits already available under the Act, the new rule proposes creation of a “general” permit for qualifying wind energy and power line infrastructure projects.Continue Reading U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Proposes New Regulations Creating General Eagle “Take” Permits for Certain Wind Energy and Power Line Infrastructure Projects
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “Service”) published a proposed rule listing the tricolored bat as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). The tricolored bat occurs in portions of 39 states, including Texas, Iowa, and Oklahoma, which contain a significant concentration of utility-scale wind projects. In combination with the Service’s proposed “endangered” designation for the northern long-eared bat, the new proposed rule could complicate wind energy project permitting across the country.Continue Reading U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Listing Tricolored Bat as Endangered Under Endangered Species Act
Offshore wind development off the California coast took another step closer to reality on August 10, 2022 with the California Energy Commission’s release of a report setting maximum feasible capacity and megawatt goals for 2030 and 2045. The report constitutes a milestone in the planning process prescribed by AB 525, which requires that the Commission “evaluate and quantify the maximum feasible capacity of offshore wind to achieve reliability, ratepayer, employment, and decarbonization benefits” for 2030 and 2045.Continue Reading California Energy Commission Releases Milestone Offshore Wind Energy Report and Sets Maximum Feasible Capacity and Megawatt Planning Goals for 2030 and 2045
The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on August 30 vacated the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) that redefined “waters of the United States” for purposes of Clean Water Act jurisdiction, effectively reinstating the definition in effect prior to 2015. Under that prior definition, many ephemeral streams and isolated wetlands that were not subject to federal jurisdiction under the NWPR will again be subject to case-by-case determinations of their status. The case, Pasqua Yaqui Tribe v. EPA, CV-20-00266-TUC-RM (D. Ariz.), is one of several challenging the NWPR, and the outcome leaves unanswered questions about the scope of the court’s ruling and the potential for inconsistent regulations across the nation.
Continue Reading Uncertainty Over ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Definition Continues, as Federal Court in Arizona Vacates 2020 Rule
On September 15, 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers published proposed revisions to a wide range of Nationwide Permits (NWP) issued under the Clean Water Act. The revisions respond to Executive Order 13783, directing heads of federal agencies to review existing regulations that potentially burden development or use of domestically produced energy resources. Accordingly, the proposed revisions affect NWPs commonly utilized by utility-scale wind and solar energy projects throughout the country. The Corps will accept comments on the proposed revisions until November 16, 2020. Here are highlights from the proposed revisions.
Continue Reading Army Corps of Engineers Proposes Revising Broad Range of Clean Water Act Nationwide Permits
The Clean Water Act sometimes requires a permit for the indirect discharge of pollutants from a point source to navigable waters, but only when the discharge is the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge, the Supreme Court held on April 23. The Court’s 6-3 opinion in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund (No. 18-260) addresses a circuit split regarding whether indirect discharges to navigable water via groundwater are subject to the Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting program, but it has implications for other types of indirect discharges as well. Although the Court identified some factors that may help determine when a discharge is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge—especially the time and distance between the discharge of a pollutant from a point source and the pollutant’s arrival in navigable waters—its opinion is likely to create substantial uncertainty for the regulated community as the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), litigants, and the courts attempt to apply the Court’s multi-factor test to a variety of factual scenarios.
Continue Reading Clean Water Act Permit Required for “Functional Equivalent” of Direct Discharge, Supreme Court Says
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) published a rule on October 23, 2019, repealing the Clean Water Rule promulgated by the Obama administration in 2015. The rule, which goes into effect on December 23, 2019, puts the pre-2015 regulations governing areas subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act back into place nationwide. Environmental groups and state attorneys general have vowed to challenge the repeal in court.
Continue Reading EPA and Army Repeal Clean Water Rule and Move Forward with Plan to Redefine Waters Subject to Federal Regulation under Clean Water Act