Bracewell & Giuliani



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. A permit system may finally arrive for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act – New Opportunities and Responsibilities

    Wednesday, May 27, 2015 5:06 pm by

    For years, Federal Courts have held that individuals can be held criminally liable under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for the death of birds regardless of whether they intended to harm them. While several courts have recently called into question this precedent, yesterday, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) started a process that could help clarify liability under the Act. However, with this clarity will come additional regulatory obligations and the creation of a bright line between compliance and noncompliance.

    Like the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the MBTA imposes criminal liability for harming specifically-identified birds. Unlike the ESA, however, the MBTA does not currently have an extensive permitting system. As a result, most companies are unable to proactively ensure compliance with the MBTA unless they can avoid harming any migratory birds during their operations – and complete avoidance is extremely difficult when engaging in many industrial activities of any scale. Thus, entities operating wind energy, communication towers, oil and gas production, and electrical transmission facilities, for example, have generally adopted best management practices and hoped that their proactive efforts would result in lenient treatment by FWS if and when their operations accidentally harm migratory birds. (more…)


  2. Commercial UAS Modernization Act Introduced to Streamline Drone Integration

    Tuesday, May 12, 2015 5:16 pm by

    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…)


  3. FAA Continues to Modify UAS Approval Process to Expedite Integration

    Wednesday, April 15, 2015 9:20 am by

    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…)


  4. FAA Announces New Policy to Streamline UAS Integration for Low-Level Flights

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015 2:53 pm by

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced a new policy aimed at reducing the amount of time it takes for companies to deploy unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Specifically, companies that have obtained a Section 333 exemption for a UAS will now receive a “blanket” Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for flights at or below 200 feet. In the past, once the FAA granted a Section 333 Exemption the exemption holder would also have to file for a separate COA to fly the UAS in a particular block of airspace. The COA approval process can take 60 days.   This announcement comes on the heels of the FAA’s release of a proposed rule governing small UAS flights in the United States. A major component of the proposed rule that stakeholders have supported was the FAA’s introduction of alternatives to the COA process. (more…)


  5. 41 Questions the FAA Is Asking in Its ANPR on Small UAS / Drones

    Tuesday, March 10, 2015 1:17 pm by

    drone3Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published in the Federal Register its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking focused on the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or “drones” within the United States. The publication in the Federal Register starts the clock on the 60-day comment period, which at this point ends on April 24, 2015.   My recent blog outlined the FAA’s general framework for the UAS ANPR, including the main operating limitations.

    Today, I’ve listed below some of the major areas where the FAA is seeking input from stakeholders, including Risk Mitigation, Line-of-sight, Payload, International, Size Class, Crewmember, Testing Site, and other issues. Among other things, the FAA is looking for comments on the feasibility of its proposal, alternatives, any new technology that could inform its decision, data and studies.

    The FAA specifically is seeking comment on: (more…)


  6. D.C. Circuit Affirms FERC on Order No. 1000

    Monday, August 18, 2014 5:15 pm by

    On August 15, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (D.C. Circuit) issued an opinion in South Carolina Public Service Authority v. FERC, Case Nos. 12-1232, et al. (consolidated), upholding the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Order No. 1000 in its entirety, giving FERC a major win in a case involving 45 petitioners and 16 intervenors.

    Authority to Require Participation:  In Order No. 888 in 1996, FERC required public utility transmission providers to functionally unbundle their wholesale generation and transmission services and file open-access transmission tariffs to provide non-discriminatory transmission service and to provide the benefits of competitively priced generation.  Previously, the D.C. Circuit upheld Order No. 888 in nearly all respects.  In this opinion, the D.C. Circuit affirmed FERC’s conclusion that transmission planning affects transmission rates and that FERC has authority under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act (FPA) to require transmission providers to participate in a regional planning process.  The Court expressed its view that such a requirement is simply the next step in reforms that began with Order No. 888.  The Court also concluded that the statutory directive for “voluntary interconnection and coordination” found in Section 202(a) of the FPA does not bar FERC from requiring regional planning and that Order No. 1000 does not interfere with traditional state authority. (more…)


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