The Texas Supreme Court (“TXSC”) recently confirmed what many already know: the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”) has only administrative authority related to water rights in Texas. This means that water rights ownership disputes must utilize Texas courts to adjudicate water rights ownership.
Continue Reading Texas Supreme Court Water Law Verdict Highlights Lack of TCEQ Authority Over Water Rights

The already-complicated relationship between wind energy and eagles has taken center stage recently. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is ramping up its efforts to protect bald and golden eagles at development projects across the country, with a massive settlement and plans to revamp the eagle take permitting process by the end of this year.
Continue Reading U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Makes Clear Its Commitment to Eagle Protection with a $35 Million Eagle Death Settlement and Upcoming Changes to Eagle Take Permitting Program

Recently, there has been an uptick in Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) factors being considered and incorporated into commercial real estate transactions. As the focus on mitigating climate change has risen, the commercial real estate industry has seen an increase in green buildings and clean energy infrastructure. The desire to incorporate ESG factors in the industry has even trickled down into commercial real estate leases. Leases, which include various provisions to promote energy-efficiency and environmental sustainability, are often referred to as “green leases.” Green leases can be tailored to meet landlord and tenant requirements, as well as building specific needs. Here are some common ways landlords and tenants can incorporate green leasing provisions into commercial real estate leases.
Continue Reading Incorporating Environmental Sustainability Concepts into Commercial Real Estate Leases

On March 21, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued a highly-anticipated Proposed Rule that proposes to require public companies to disclose climate-related risks in their registration statements and annual reports filed with the SEC. The Proposed Rule, titled The Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors, will mark a watershed moment for ESG transparency and corporate compliance if finalized.
Continue Reading The SEC Proposes Mandatory Climate-Related Disclosures

2021 witnessed a new but familiar competition among stakeholders for the use and enjoyment of the Outer Continental Shelf.  Last year, interested parties initiated five lawsuits against the first federally approved offshore wind farm, Vineyard Wind I (located off the coast of Nantucket).  And 2022 has so far continued the trend with a new challenge to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) designation of Wind Energy Areas in the New York Bight in late January.  These legal challenges echo the arguments marshaled in numerous lawsuits across the Nation to delay or prevent oil and gas development on public lands.  Developers seeking to participate in the energy transition can learn from the experience of oil and gas development on federal lands.
Continue Reading Legal Challenges to Renewable Energy Development, and How NEPA Can Help

On February 17, 2022, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an updated policy statement on the certification of new interstate natural gas facilities (Updated Policy Statement). This Updated Policy Statement replaces the Commission’s previous policy statement issued in 1999, which relied primarily on the existence of precedent agreements between the pipeline applicant and its shippers to establish evidence of need for a proposed interstate natural gas facility. Under the previous policy statement, if a proposed natural gas pipeline project was able to establish through precedent agreements with shippers that there was demand for the increased capacity, the Commission generally found that the proposed project was in the public interest and issued the certificate.
Continue Reading FERC Updates Gas Pipeline Certificate Policy Statement and Issues Interim Policy Statement on GHG Emissions

The American Society for Testing and Materials (“ASTM”) is expected to release a revised international standard for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (“ESAs”) in December of 2021 that will clarify a number of key components of the standard and elevate the importance of per/poly-fluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”).

Phase I ESAs are conducted by many parties when they become involved in the sale, acquisition, development, or financing of a piece of land, including developers, owners, and parties who provide loans for or serve as tax equity investors on renewable energy projects.  The Phase I ESAs allow those parties to get a glimpse into the environmental condition of the land and identify any potential contamination on-site.  Some of those parties – by acquiring an ownership or leasehold interest in the land, or by becoming an operator of the site – take on potential environmental liability if there have been releases on-site, including liability under the strict liability scheme of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”).  A defense to CERCLA liability is available if the party conducted certain diligence that complies with the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s All Appropriate Inquiries (“AAI”) standard, and if the party exercises appropriate care with respect to issues identified.  Environmental consultants prepare those Phase I ESAs and use the current ASTM standard as a guideline to prepare a thorough report and comply with AAI.
Continue Reading A Revised ASTM Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Standard is Coming

Since the 1970s, the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA” or the “Act”) has required federal agencies to evaluate the environmental impacts of their proposed actions. Although NEPA was widely criticized from both sides, it remained largely unchanged over the last 50 years. Recently, the Trump administration made significant revisions, the first such changes since its enactment. Now the Biden administration is pushing back and seeking to undo some of the Trump era revisions and possibly add a new twist of its own.
Continue Reading A More Stringent NEPA May Be on the Horizon: Implications for Renewable Energy Developments