The draft comprehensive energy bill released by Senator Murkowski, Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and reflecting her collaboration with Senator Cantwell, the Ranking Member on the Committee, contains a number of provisions relating to hydro. If enacted in anything close to their present form, these provisions would represent the most ambitious reform of the hydroelectric licensing process since the Electric Consumers Protection Act of 1986 (“ECPA”). However, ECPA essentially represented a bargain between owners of existing hydro who were concerned about the possibility of municipal take overs upon relicensing, and the environmental community who wanted to essentially retrofit the National Environmental Policy Act concepts into projects that were developed under the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) and constructed in the early and mid-twentieth century. The most recent draft hydro reform amendments, by contrast, are largely procedural and appear to be designed to make the hydro process ushered in by ECPA actually work more effectively, without the delays, environmental squabbling, litigation and expense engendered by the existing regime. (more…)
WE KNOW ENERGY®
Yesterday, the Obama administration finalized the waters of the US rule it proposed last spring. There’s a lot to be said about the final rule, and so this will be the first in a series of blog posts (just like for the proposal). But because the new rule creates a few immediate obligations, we’ll start this series with the punchline.
The rule remains broad, but is somewhat more clear (more…)
Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and John Hoeven (R-ND) recently introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, legislation designed to streamline the integration of commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the United States. The legislation would establish an interim rule governing small UAS operations, provide the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with some flexibility on issues like visual-line-of-sight (VLOS) operations, reduce the regulatory burden for commercial operators, create a new deputy administrator position at the FAA focused on UAS, and encourage maximum use of current FAA UAS test sites. (more…)
Gregory Bopp, Robert Jacobson, Elizabeth McGinley, Curtis Beaulieu and Elizabeth Behncke
On May 5, 2015, the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued proposed regulations that provide much-anticipated guidance on the scope of qualifying income under Section 7704(d)(1)(E) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) for master limited partnerships (MLPs) engaged in activities with respect to minerals or natural resources. The issuance of the proposed regulations is a significant development because private letter rulings (PLRs) historically have been the primary source of interpretive guidance on whether certain mineral or natural resource activities generate qualifying income.
Activities that Generate Qualifying Income The proposed regulations provide a new term – “qualifying activities” – to define activities relating to minerals or natural resources that generate qualifying income. Qualifying activities include both the activities specifically enumerated in Code Section 7704(d)(1)(E) – exploration, development, mining or production, processing, refining, transportation and marketing of minerals and natural resources (section 7704(d)(1)(E) activities) – and certain limited support activities that are “intrinsic” to the section 7704(d)(1)(E) activities (intrinsic activities). (more…)
By the end of 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had approved less than 15 Section 333 exemptions authorizing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations. Roughly three months later, that number has jumped to over 130 Section 333 exemptions approved. The surge in approvals can be attributed to recent changes in the FAA’s approval process as well as increasing pressure from the White House and industry to speed up UAS integration. A few of the recent changes implemented by the FAA include introduction of a “blanket” COA, reliance on a “summary grant” process, and dialing back of certain prerequisites to approval. (more…)
Jason Hutt and Michael Weller
On March 20, 2015, three years after its initial proposal, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized new regulations applicable to hydraulic fracturing activities on federal and Indian lands. BLM previously released a draft proposed rule in May 2012 and revised draft in May 2013.
Key aspects of the final rule include requirements to: (1) request approval of hydraulic fracturing before commencement of operations; (2) disclose chemicals after completing hydraulic fracturing activities (preferably via FracFocus); (3) perform well integrity and cement evaluation tests and obtain approval if cement remediation is required; (4) use steel tanks for the storage of recovered waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing; and (5) supply information on estimated fractures and existing wellbores to reduce the risk of impacts to existing wells, i.e., “frack-hits.” (more…)