For the first time since 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is proposing to modernize rules promulgated by its predecessor, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), facilitating the development of wind energy resources on the outer continental shelf (OCS). The 93-page proposed rule, published in the Federal Register Monday, covers decommissioning, geophysical and geotechnical survey submission requirements, approval of meteorological (met) buoys, project verification procedures, and BOEM’s renewable energy auction process, among many others. A related, final rule codifies the division of responsibility between BOEM and another MMS successor, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, as set forth in a December 2020 memorandum of understanding.
On January 19, 2023, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a final rule (RM22-3) (the Rule) directing the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to develop and submit for approval reliability standards that require internal network security monitoring (INSM) within a trusted Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) networked environment for all high-impact bulk electric system (BES) cyber systems and medium-impact BES cyber systems with external routable connectivity. FERC also directed NERC to study all low-impact BES cyber systems and medium-impact BES cyber systems without external routable connectivity (Other BES). NERC has 15 months to submit its proposed reliability standards for approval and 12 months to submit a report on its study of the Other BES.
On January 18, 2023, the Biden administration published its Final Rule revising the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Wetlands and waterways that meet the definition of WOTUS are protected by the CWA and subject to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and Army Corps of Engineers’ jurisdiction. However, the term is not defined in the statute. As such, the federal agencies’ interpretation of WOTUS determines which waters are subject to the CWA permitting requirements.
On January 10, 2023, the Department of the Interior (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) signed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) regarding an update to the regulations governing the development of offshore wind energy on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in an effort to modernize the existing regulations and facilitate development to meet the U.S. climate and renewable energy objectives. The existing regulations for leasing and managing OCS renewable energy activities were promulgated by the Minerals Management Service (BOEM’s predecessor) on April 29, 2009 (as authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the OCS Lands Act).
On January 19, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Notice soliciting public comment on its proposal to add environmental justice, climate change, and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination to its National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (NECIs) for the 2024–2027 fiscal year cycle.
Former U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) Chairman Richard Glick has officially departed the independent Commission after failing to secure a reconfirmation hearing before the Senate in December 2022. Glick’s departure leaves the Commission with a 2–2 split between Democrats and Republicans that could stall a number of major initiatives that were ongoing under the former Chairman and the Commission’s Democratic majority.
On January 11, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued guidance on the agency’s legal tools to address cumulative impacts. In “EPA Legal Tools to Advance Environmental Justice: Cumulative Impacts Addendum,” (“Cumulative Impacts Guidance” or “Cumulative Impacts Addendum”), the agency set forth a host of legal authorities that it believes it and other stakeholders can use to address the cumulative effect of pollutants on overburdened communities. While EPA was careful to note that the guidance does not have any legal force, the document suggests numerous ways that EPA might seek use legal process to address cumulative impacts. Stakeholders need to be aware of this guidance because EPA’s broad interpretation of its authority to address cumulative impacts could affect the full range of agency action from permitting to enforcement to project siting to cleanup decisions and more.
On January 6, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected several challenges to a consent decree (CD) originally entered in 1996. United States v. Brace et al. involved conduct on defendant’s farm that allegedly violated the 1996 consent decree. Defendant argued that the CD was unenforceable because it was ambiguous and that a government official had approved of the allegedly violative actions. The Third Circuit rejected these arguments and upheld the district court’s ruling that defendant had violated the CD.
On December 22, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA or the Agency) Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) published a memorandum, which outlines “an interim operating framework” to OAR division directors in all EPA regions “for identifying, analyzing, and addressing environmental justice concerns in Clean Air Act (CAA) permitting” (Guidance).