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

Greenwashing is under increased scrutiny at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Greenwashing is clearly damaging to consumers and investors as it imbues purchasing decisions with disinformation.  It “harms innovation, since it makes it more difficult for legitimate, environmentally friendly products to compete with sellers who engage in deception.”[1]As investors and consumers become increasingly sophisticated in environmental issues, it is easier for them to detect greenwash and discount companies that make misleading environmental claims, thereby undermining that company’s public integrity.[2]

In light of increasing investor interest and reliance on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) related disclosures the SEC is pursuing multiple ESG efforts.  For example, the SEC created the Climate and ESG Task Force in its Division of Enforcement.[3]  The Climate and ESG Task Force was created to “develop initiatives to proactively identify ESG-related misconduct.”[4]  The SEC’s Division of Examinations published a Risk Alert on ESG offerings, which states that “rapid growth in [ESG] demand, increasing number of ESG products and services, and lack of standardized and precise ESG definitions present certain risks.”[5]  Additionally, the SEC invited public comments on climate change disclosures. Continue Reading Increased Scrutiny on Greenwashing

The momentum behind offshore wind has continued to grow since our February 2021 post on the topic. Last week, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced plans to open seven more offshore wind leases by 2025 off both coasts of the U.S. These potential leases will cover projects in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Maine, and off the Mid-Atlantic, the Carolinas, California, and Oregon. The agency’s announcement follows a March 2021 commitment by the Biden Administration to deploy 30 gigawatts (30,000 megawatts) of offshore wind by 2030. The agency’s announcement also came on the same day the Department of Energy set aside $13.5 million to support continued research on the impact of offshore wind on birds, bats, and marine mammals. Continue Reading From Sea to Shining Sea, U.S. Continues Renewable Energy Push with Biden Administration’s Latest Commitment to Offshore Wind

As the cold weather season approaches, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) are taking action to prevent a repeat of the devastating electric power outages that rocked Texas and the Midwest at the beginning of this year. Continue Reading FERC and NERC Take Action on Winter Readiness

At the beginning stages of a solar project, developers must be aware of oil and gas operations on or near the project area. However, operations that occur near but not directly on a site plan are often overlooked. If overlooked, these oil and gas operations can cause significant delays and costs when developing and financing a new project. However, some initial research and due diligence at the beginning of a greenfield development project can usually protect the project from the types of issues and costs associated with oil and gas operations located near but not directly on the site plan, which will allow the project to stay on schedule and budget. Continue Reading The Implications of Drilling Units Created by Pooling on Solar Development

During the 87th regular legislative session, the Texas Legislature passed several bills to address energy-related issues resulting from Winter Storm Uri. Together, the legislation required an overhaul of the ERCOT board of directors, expanded the Public Utility Commission of Texas (“PUCT”) from three to five members, imposed weatherization requirements on generation and transmission assets in ERCOT and on certain components of natural gas infrastructure, and directed a redesign of the ERCOT market to ensure grid reliability. As of September 1st , all of these laws were effective. Continue Reading Legislative Check-In on Energy-Related Mandates from the 87th Regular Session

Farm leases are a common occurrence on land being developed for solar and wind energy projects, due to the size and rural nature of land sought for development. While title searches will discover written leases that are made of record with the county clerk, farm leases are often verbal “handshake” agreements, meaning they go undetected during a standard title search. It is always recommended to conduct a site visit and inquire as to the existence of any grazing or crop operations when entering into a real estate contract for land intended for development. If a farm tenant is leasing a portion of the project property, such lease may need to be terminated, particularly in the context of a solar energy project that will require more surface use of the land. Continue Reading Terminating Oral Farm Leases

Renewable energy accounted for 11% of all energy generated in Illinois last year. That may sound low at first glance, but that percentage ranks Illinois second in the Midwest for installed renewable energy power and fifth in the nation for installed wind power with almost 4,000 MW of wind and 60 MW of solar. Nonetheless, the State of Illinois needs to increase the pace of renewable development and generation if it wants to maintain its reputation as a renewable energy leader in the U.S.  The State took steps last week to do just that.  On Wednesday, September 15, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed SB 2408, known as the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (“Act”), establishing one of the most comprehensive state-level renewable energy initiatives to date. The Act’s highlights include $580 million a year for wind and solar development to increase Illinois’ renewable energy standard to 40% by 2030 and 50% by 2045.

Continue Reading New Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act Adds Fuel to Renewable Energy Development in Illinois

Companies with ESG policies – including financing parties investing in renewable energy projects – should assess the impact of Texas Senate Bill 19 on their government contracting opportunities, and should expect and prepare for heightened state regulation of corporate firearm policies in the future.

Effective September 1, 2021, Texas Senate Bill 19 prohibits government entities from contracting with companies that have policies that restrict business with the firearms industry. The bill specifically targets banks and other financial institutions that have at least ten employees and are seeking government contracts of at least $100,000. Under the bill, such institutions are required to provide written verification that they do not have practices, policies, guidance, or directives that “discriminate” against a firearm entity or firearm trade association. Continue Reading The Government Contracting and Energy Implications of Texas Senate Bill 19: Navigating State Regulation of Corporate Firearm Policies

What if you could substitute a renewable battery powered motor for the internal combustion engine just twelve years after its invention? At minimum, we would not be faced with the challenge of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. For all of the benefits the internal combustion engine has brought humanity, its environmental consequences are not among them. Continue Reading The Argument for Mining Bitcoin from Clean Energy and Waste Energy Streams