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Powered by the attorneys of Bracewell & Giuliani, Energy Legal Blog® is your resource for updates and analysis on national and global energy issues.
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  1. The FAA Releases First of Its Kind Proposal for Small Drones/Unmanned Aircraft Systems

    Thursday, February 19, 2015 5:08 pm by

    drone1

    On February 15, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) announced the release of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking focused on the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) or “drones” within the United States.  The release of the UAS NPRM is a step in the right direction that many in the industry have been waiting for since the FAA first chartered the small UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”) in 2008.

    While some industries may find aspects of the proposal restrictive, many are pleased with the FAA’s initial UAS regulatory effort, which is focused on small UAS or those that weigh less than 55 lbs.  The UAS NPRM will at least remove some uncertainty for industry and could trigger more investment in UAS technology.  However, the process from release of the UAS NPRM to when a final rule takes effect could take years.  Companies looking to operate UAS in the interim are left to navigate one of many current certification processes, which are limited to specific purposes and still involve a bit of uncertainty.

    In the meantime, companies interested in deploying their UAS technology as well as industries that see an expanded role for the use of UAS (e.g., energy, agriculture, entertainment) should consider commenting on the FAA’s proposal, which will set the stage for future of UAS regulation.  There will be an opportunity to comment for a 60-day period once the UAS ANPR is published in the Federal Register. (more…)


  2. Distressed Opportunity?

    Wednesday, February 18, 2015 3:09 pm by and

    They say “A pessimist finds a problem in every opportunity and an optimist finds an opportunity in every problem”. The recent sharp downturn in the oil price has certainly hurt many parts of the oil and gas sector – and some of the sectors that go with it – and, let’s be honest, there has been no dearth of pessimists. But with every situation of rapid change there will be winners and losers and in the E&P space now the situation will be no different. One of the intriguing things when you examine the debt markets for independent in the US and EMEA is how little they have in common. Some of you may have read our magnum opus “Reserve Based Finance: A tale of two markets” which looks, some would say in excruciating detail, at the differences between the US and International RBL markets. (more…)


  3. Recent Developments in Regulation of Oil and Gas NORM

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015 1:12 pm by and

    Federal and state regulators are considering new rules applicable to naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and technologically-enhanced NORM (TENORM) in oil and gas waste.  We discuss some of the most recent and expected developments below.

    Pennsylvania

    PADEP TENORM Study

    On January 15, 2015, PADEP released the results of its TENORM study, which focused on quantifying TENORM associated with oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania.  PADEP’s study examined the full spectrum of potential exposure pathways, from well sites, to wastewater treatment plants and landfills, to gas distribution and end use.  While PADEP’s overall observation from the study was that there is “little potential” for radiation exposure from oil and gas development, the agency recommends additional study that could lead to additional regulations or a change in practices.  Some of PADEP’s recommendations moving forward are set forth below: (more…)


  4. Sackett Two Years Later: Wetland Jurisdictional Determinations Still Not Appealable

    Thursday, September 25, 2014 10:35 am by

    When the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Sackett v. EPA that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wetland compliance orders were appealable, one question was how far would other courts extend the Supreme Court’s reasoning? Two years later, the answer is becoming clear on at least one front: courts continue to hold that wetland jurisdictional determinations are not appealable.  In Belle Company v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Fifth Circuit was the latest court to say so. (more…)


  5. BOEM Seeking to Overhaul OCS Offshore Financial Assurance Requirements

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014 1:22 pm by and

    On Tuesday August 19, 2014 the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) provided an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) in the Federal Register. BOEM is seeking to update its regulations and program oversight for Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) financial assurance requirements, and has solicited comments from stakeholders to assist its efforts.  A full copy of the ANPR can be found at http://federalregister.gov/a/2014-19380.

    Based on the assumption that existing bonding regulations are outdated and fail to adequately deal with the changed business landscape in which organizations now conduct offshore activities, the BOEM is seeking public input as it seeks to overhaul the current program encompassing risk management, financial assurance, and loss prevention requirements. (more…)


  6. 9th Circuit Appeals Court: Clean Air Act Permits Must Address Latest EPA Requirements

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014 2:58 pm by , , and

    On August 12, 2014, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit issued under the Clean Air Act (CAA) by EPA to the Avenal Power Center.  Sierra Club v. EPA, No. 11-73342 (9th Cir. Aug. 12, 2014).  The PSD permit authorized the construction of a 600 MW natural gas-fired plant located in California’s San Joaquin Valley.  The plant was required to install state-of-the-art pollution controls for all traditionally regulated pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide.  The Court vacated the PSD permit because it found it was improper for EPA to issue a PSD permit that did not address new CAA requirements that were promulgated by EPA after the application was submitted.

    Although EPA has the authority to grandfather pending applications, it must exercise that authority through regulation by setting an effective date for the new regulation which would make the regulation applicable to permit applications submitted after a given date.  When EPA does not address grandfathering in its regulations, the court stated that all PSD permits that are not final prior to the effective date of the new rule must be revised to address any new regulatory requirement, even if the permit had already been through the public comment process.  The Court implied that any new assessment would likely need to go through a separate public comment process.  (more…)


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