Renewable Energy & Clean Fuels

On June 6, 2022, President Biden declared a national emergency (the “Declaration”) in relation to energy resources and temporarily extended the time of duty-free importation of solar panels and parts from Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. This declaration comes in response to industry concerns over the implications, for ongoing solar energy projects, of the anti-circumvention inquiry by the U.S. Department of Commerce that was initiated on April 1, 2022. The Declaration permits the Secretary of Commerce to waive the collection of duties and other estimated duties on imported solar cells and modules from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Cambodia for the next twenty-four months, regardless of the outcome of the anti-circumvention inquiry.

On December 7, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released its proposed 2020, 2021, and 2022 Renewable Volume Obligations (“RVOs”). RVOs determine the amount of renewable fuel (typically, ethanol) certain fuel refiners and others involved in the transportation fuel supply chain (“Obligated Parties”) are required to blend into their own fuel production during a given year. Obligated Parties failing to meet their RVOs for any year must buy Renewable Identification Numbers (“RINs”) or other credits, or risk default under the Renewable Fuel Standard (“RFS”).

Pursuant to the Renewable Fuel Standard (“RFS”), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“U.S. EPA”) issues annual renewable volume obligations (“RVOs”), which set the minimum aggregate volume of renewable fuel that refiners must blend with transportation fuel for the following calendar year.

Refineries producing transportation fuel meet their RVOs by blending the required volume of renewable fuel into gasoline or diesel fuel or by acquiring credits (called renewable identification numbers, or “RINs”). The RFS permits “small” refineries – those producing fewer than 75,000 barrels of fuel per day – to claim an exemption by showing that meeting their RVOs would cause them “disproportionate economic hardship.”

Companies with ESG policies – including financing parties investing in renewable energy projects – should assess the impact of Texas Senate Bill 19 on their government contracting opportunities, and should expect and prepare for heightened state regulation of corporate firearm policies in the future.

Effective September 1, 2021, Texas Senate Bill 19 prohibits government entities from contracting with companies that have policies that restrict business with the firearms industry. The bill specifically targets banks and other financial institutions that have at least ten employees and are seeking government contracts of at least $100,000. Under the bill, such institutions are required to provide written verification that they do not have practices, policies, guidance, or directives that “discriminate” against a firearm entity or firearm trade association.

In the weeks that followed a ransomware attack on a domestic pipeline company, the federal government’s efforts to shore up the cybersecurity posture of America’s critical infrastructure and supply chains, including the oil and gas industry, have garnered increased attention.  Historically, the oil and gas sector has not been subject to mandatory cybersecurity regulations, but rather was encouraged to follow voluntary security guidelines that were initially published by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in 2011 and revised in 2018. Yet, the industry sector’s geographic size, number of operators/stakeholders within the sector, and its importance to the national economy make the oil and gas industry an attractive target for cyberattacks.

Each of these factors begs the question whether voluntary cybersecurity measures are sufficient to protect this critical infrastructure component? Based on the TSA’s decision to publish the very first Pipeline Security Directive (“Directive”) three weeks after Colonial Pipeline was victimized by a ransomware attack, the answer to this rhetorical question appears to be an emphatic “No.”

Senior Counsel Coty Hopinks-Baul has published an article in Coal Age titled “CWA’s Permit Shield Spans SMRCA”.

In the article, Coty details a recent decision in the case of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards v. Red River Coal Co. Inc., where the Fourth Circuit upheld a district court’s dismissal of a citizen suit to enforce

In a move to provide relief for taxpayers developing renewable energy projects and producing electricity from sources such as wind, biomass, geothermal, landfill gas, trash, and hydropower, the IRS has issued Notice 2020-41 which adds an extra year to the four year “Continuity Safe Harbor” for certain projects that began construction in 2016 or 2017.

The Texas legislature recently passed House Bill 2845 (“HB 2845”) imposing specific requirements on wind energy leases and wind developers’ decommissioning obligations for wind energy projects. While wind leases typically impose obligations on project companies relating to the removal of wind projects, HB 2845 mandates that wind leases must include specific provisions describing such obligations.

By the time the March 8, 2019 bill filing deadline for the 86th Texas Legislature passed, many bills concerning the electric industry had been filed. Storage, cybersecurity of the electric grid, and capital project tax abatements are among the energy issues Texas lawmakers are considering. This reviews the major filed bills before the current Texas Legislature.