On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit vacated and remanded the Trump administration’s 2019 Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. The ACE rule was intended as a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP). ACE was viewed as a significant rollback, especially since the CPP was one of the first major initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Court’s decision will send the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back to the drawing board, opening the door for the Biden administration to pursue its own rule-making agenda.

Section 7411 of the CAA

The ACE rule repealed the CPP and severely limited the ways in which greenhouse gas emissions could be regulated based on a new interpretation of Section 7411 of the Clean Air Act (CAA). Under the ACE rule, EPA interpreted Section 7411 of the CAA as requiring the agency to consider only control methods that could be applied at and to a stationary source, such as heat rate improvement technologies, when determining the best system of emission reduction. This interpretation was directly at odds with the CPP, which utilized control methods that were not applied at or to a physical source such as generation shifting.
Continue Reading DC Circuit Court vacates and remands the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule

On Friday, May 1, 2020, President Trump issued a new Executive Order (the Bulk-Power Order) to prohibit transactions within the U.S. for the acquisition or installation of certain “bulk-power system electric equipment” which is sourced from foreign adversaries. In the Bulk-Power Order, President Trump expressed a determination that “the unrestricted foreign supply of bulk-power system

Earlier this month, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held hearings on the recently proposed Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2019, S.2666 (“PLREDA”). Although similar to the House resolution proposed last summer, PLREDA is the most recent bi-partisan effort to promote wind, solar, and geothermal development on public lands.  Its ultimate objective is to permit at least 25 gigawatts of renewable power projects on public lands by the end of 2025.
Continue Reading Renewed commitment to renewables: Senate bill hopes to foster renewable development on public lands

A new legislation signed into law in August, the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (FIRRMA), will expand vastly the types of foreign investment transactions that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) may review. Under the new law, a wide range of foreign investments affecting the U.S. energy sector

The announcement of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) on January 22, 2018, that the Trump Administration is granting relief for the domestic solar panels and modules industry under section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, confirmed the fears of many consumers that substantial additional duties would be imposed on those products. USTR announced that the relief would come in the form of a tariff increase of 30% in the first year, decreasing to 25% in year two, 20% in year three, and then to 15% in year four. On January 23, 2018, President Trump signed the Proclamation implementing the relief. The relief will go into effect on February 7, 2018.

Despite the above tariffs, the relief announced provides that the first 2.5 gigawatts of imported cells are excluded from the additional tariffs. The use of the exemption for the first 2.5 gigawatts makes the relief a form of a “tariff rate quota,” meaning that tariffs only apply if imports rise above a certain quota amount. This type of relief has been imposed in the past, including on certain steel products. The ITC Commissioners made various recommendations to the President in this case, some of which included types of tariff rate quotas.

The nature of the relief will mean that exporters now are likely want to rush to import their products in order to be within the 2.5 gigawatt exclusion. The Proclamation states that the quota of 2.5 gigawatts “shall be allocated among all countries except those countries the product of which are excluded from such tariff rate quotas…” While this statement seems to imply that there will be a base time period used to determine different market shares within the total quota for different countries, our discussions with government officials indicate that this was not what was intended. Instead, the intention was to have one worldwide quota of 2.5 gigawatts that will apply to all countries, without any allocation among countries. Regardless of whether allocations are made among countries or there is just one overall quota, if shipments are made in the hope that they will fall within the exclusion but the 2.5 gigawatt quota already is filled at the time of entry, the 30% tariff that then will be applied may change the economics of a deal if the possibility of a tariff has not been taken into account. It is not clear at this time whether there will be some kind of pre-clearance for such imports before the time of exportation, or whether there will be a free-for-all at the time of entry.
Continue Reading Solar Panels and Modules Trade Decision Creates New Uncertainty for Purchasers

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Fulfilling repeated campaign pledges to roll back the Obama administration’s climate change initiatives, President Trump signed a sweeping executive order yesterday targeting key Obama-era regulations, including the Clean Power Plan and emission standards for the oil and gas industry. The executive order states that it is in the interest of the nation to promote development of energy resources “while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation.” The multi-faceted approach taken by the order makes it clear that this Administration views any regulation of climate change or carbon pollution as “unnecessary.” 
Continue Reading Trump’s Executive Order Takes a Multi-Faceted Approach to Eliminating Climate Change Regulation

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Robert Horn
Adam Sachs
Adam Sachs

During his confirmation hearing to become Secretary of Energy, former Texas Governor Rick Perry sensibly walked back his 2011 recommendation that the Department of Energy (DOE) be eliminated. After a few weeks on the job, it is now apparent that the secretary not only thinks the DOE should continue to exist but recognizes it’s an essential element of our national security.

President Trump’s inaugural address called for an “America First Energy Plan.”  Although admittedly short on details, the Trump plan seems to
Continue Reading Around the Horn: Perry, Policy & Politics