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Showing 15 posts by John G. Cossa.

Interior Department Reorganizes into 12 “Unified Regions” – To What Effect On The Ground?

Department of the Interior (“DOI”) Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on August 29, 2018, DOI’s “final” version of its new reorganization plan, which creates 12 new “Unified Regions” primarily intended to coordinate and expedite decision making related to the land, water, resource management, and permitting functions of the various DOI bureaus, including the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”), National Park Service (“NPS”), U.S. Geological Survey (“USGS”), Bureau of Reclamation (“BOR”), and Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (“OSMRE”).  The Bureau of Indian Affairs will not be affected. Read More ›

Major Offshore Wind Projects Advance in Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Commercial-scale offshore wind power may soon become a reality in New England. On May 23, Massachusetts electric distribution companies selected Vineyard Wind, a subsidiary of Avangrid Renewables, LLC, as the preferred provider of 800 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind generation to the Massachusetts power market, and Rhode Island selected Deepwater Wind as the preferred provider of 400 MW of offshore wind generation to the Rhode Island power market. Both companies propose to generate the electricity from wind projects they intend to construct on federal leases on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Read More ›

Is Offshore Wind Power Riding a Rising Tide?

Recent Offshore Wind Developments in the Northeast

State action in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maryland may help to advance offshore wind projects in those states, while a new federal proposal would extend the investment tax credit for offshore wind through 2025, improving the outlook for offshore wind projects on the eastern seaboard.    Read More ›

Maryland Takes Key Step for Offshore Wind

On May 11, the Maryland Public Services Commission (PSC) issued $1.9 billion in Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Credits (ORECs) to two prospective offshore wind developers, effectively ensuring a market for any electricity generated from their federal wind leases off Ocean City, Maryland.  If constructed, the planned projects, capable of generating 248 megawatts (MW) and 120 MW, would dwarf the capacity of the 30-MW capacity Block Island project off the coast of Rhode Island, which is the only current offshore wind facility in the United States.  Maryland’s issuance of ORECs is the first in a long line of necessary state and federal regulatory approvals, but signals Maryland’s commitment to generating energy from offshore wind and is regarded as essential to project planning and finance. Read More ›

Executive Order Charts New Path For Offshore Energy Development

On April 28, 2017, the Trump administration issued an Executive Order entitled “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.”  This EO calls for expanded oil and gas leasing in areas of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) that were recently placed off-limits to energy development, and instructs several federal agencies to reevaluate and possibly reverse recent regulations imposed on the offshore oil and gas industry.  If fully implemented, the EO would clear the way for expanded and expedited development of OCS energy resources.   Read More ›

Interior Secretary Immediately Implements President’s Executive Order on Energy and Climate

New Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke wasted no time implementing the mandates of the Trump Administration’s most recent Executive Order (EO), “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” which was issued on March 28.  For a summary of that EO, click here.  On March 29, the Secretary issued two Secretarial Orders (SO) implementing the March 28 Order, and took additional administrative action consistent with its mandates.  Separately, the Secretary has reinstated a public-private advisory committee to address royalty issues. Read More ›

DOT/PHMSA Proposes to Harmonize U.S. Lithium Battery Transport Requirements With International Standards

Summary:  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a proposed rule that would harmonize U.S. hazardous materials regulations with international hazardous materials transport standards.  Among other things, the proposal would change certain proper shipping names, hazard classes, packing groups, special provisions, packing authorizations, air transport quantity limitations, and vessel stowage requirements and incorporate by reference various international technical standards.  Significantly, PHMSA proposes to adopt into binding U.S regulation the updated hazard communication requirements for the transport of lithium batteries (including equipment containing such batteries) contained in the 19th Revised Edition of the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods Model Regulations.  Once finalized, these requirements will be mandatory for all U.S. shippers and transporters of lithium batteries.  Although PHMSA has for the moment declined to incorporate into the U.S. Hazardous Materials Regulations the enhanced safety provisions for lithium batteries transported by aircraft contained in the 2015-2016 Edition of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (“ICAO”) Technical Instructions as of April 1, 2016, the preamble to the proposed rule indicates that the Agency is considering adopting these provisions in a separate rulemaking.  Comments on the proposed rule are due November 7, 2016. Read More ›

BLM Proposes to Restrict Methane Releases from Oil and Gas Leases

After five years in the making, the federal Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) has proposed a rule to reduce the waste of natural gas from operations on federal and Indian oil and gas leases and to clarify when royalties apply to lost gas volumes. Read More ›

National Park Service Proposes Sweeping Changes to Oil and Gas Regulations

The National Park Service (“NPS”) today proposed a major overhaul of its regulations for non-federal oil and gas operations in National Park units.  See 80 Fed. Reg. 65,572 (Oct. 26, 2015).  Although the NPS press statement downplayed the significance of the proposal, the new rule would remake a regulatory system that has been in place for almost 40 years. The costs of compliance, particularly to existing oil and gas operations, could be substantial. Read More ›

Prudence Prevails: Fifth Circuit Supports Narrow Reading of Liability under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently ruled that the criminal prohibition on killing or injuring birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (“MBTA”) “only prohibits intentional acts (not omissions) that directly (not indirectly or accidentally) kill migratory birds.”  The appellate court reversed a criminal conviction under the MBTA for the deaths of migratory birds that had become trapped in uncovered equalization tanks containing oil and wastewater.  In so doing, the Fifth Circuit solidified the split among federal courts over the appropriate interpretation of an unlawful “taking” under the MBTA when commercial operations inadvertently impact birds.  In the process, it significantly increased the likelihood of the Supreme Court taking up the issue in the not-too-distant future.  And it further cast doubt on a recently-announced regulatory initiative of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (“FWS”) to create “incidental take permits” under the MBTA covering commercial operations’ impacts on migratory birds. Read More ›