Archive: August 2020

1
U.S. Army Corps Proposes Two New Nationwide Permits for Utility Lines and Revises Additional Nationwide Permits Impacting Utility-Scale Wind and Solar Infrastructure
2
U.S. ENERGY STORAGE ASSOCIATION RECOGNIZES K&L GATES WITH BRAD ROBERTS OUTSTANDING INDUSTRY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
3
To Kill a Mockingbird: Federal Court invalidates Department of Interior’s MBTA Opinion Letter

U.S. Army Corps Proposes Two New Nationwide Permits for Utility Lines and Revises Additional Nationwide Permits Impacting Utility-Scale Wind and Solar Infrastructure

Authors: Ankur K. Tohan, Robert M. Smith, and Natalie J. Reid

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has proposed revisions to its Nationwide Permits (NWPs) that will significantly change to how utility lines will be treated under the NWP program. Currently, only one NWP exists to address the construction of all utility lines: NWP 12. The USACE proposes to add two new utility line permits: NWP C: Electric Utility Line and Telecommunications Activities and NWP D: Utility Line Activities for Water and Other Substances. The USACE further intends to limit existing NWP 12 to only oil and natural gas activities. Finally, the USACE has proposed to further reduce the regulatory obstacles faced by wind and solar project developers by modifying additional NWPs.

The key changes relevant to wind and solar developments are the creation of NWP C, the elimination of many Pre-Construction Notification requirements, and the removal of the 300 linear foot limit for losses to stream bed in NWP 51. To read the full alert CLICK HERE.

U.S. ENERGY STORAGE ASSOCIATION RECOGNIZES K&L GATES WITH BRAD ROBERTS OUTSTANDING INDUSTRY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

The U.S. Energy Storage Association (ESA), the national trade association for the American energy storage industry, will recognize K&L Gates with the Brad Roberts Outstanding Industry Achievement Award at the 2020 ESA Annual Awards taking place during the association’s virtual conference next week.

The award recognizes K&L Gates for “its tremendous contributions that have advanced the industry forward including nurturing early storage developers, hosting an annual conference, and developing the widely circulated Energy Storage Handbook.” The ESA determines this award by surveying its members and past award recipients each year to identify a member organization that has made significant contributions in the storage industry.  

Read more about the award in the ESA press release

To Kill a Mockingbird: Federal Court invalidates Department of Interior’s MBTA Opinion Letter

Authors: Ankur K. Tohan and Gabrielle E. Thompson

In her opening statement to an August 11 opinion, United States District Court Judge Valerie Caproni writes:

“It is not only a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is also a crime.”

Judge Caproni’s literary reference is the launching point for addressing the matter at hand: the validity of the Department of Interior’s December 22, 2017, Memorandum M-37050, which concludes that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) prohibition on the “taking” or “killing” of migratory birds applies only to deliberate acts intended to take a migratory bird. The M-Opinion announced the Trump administration’s view of the take prohibition in the MBTA, and states that the Trump administration will not seek criminal penalties against individuals and industries —such as oil and gas, as well as renewable energy— for incidentally taking migratory birds. The M-Opinion significantly limited the scope of the take prohibition in the MBTA, reducing the potential liability for development of infrastructure and renewable energy projects.

Judge Caproni writes that Interior’s opinion violates the letter of the law for the past century and contradicts Interior’s long held position that even incidental take or kill of a migratory bird violated the MBTA “irrespective of whether the activities targeted birds or were intended to take or kill birds.” Now, Judge Caproni stated,

“[I]f the Department of the Interior has its way, many mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems throughout the country will be killed without legal consequence.”

Judge Caproni devotes the remainder of her ruling explaining why the M-Opinion violates the Administrative Procedures Act as contrary to law. Judge Caproni rejected Interior’s narrow reading of the statute as lacking support in the plain language of the MBTA. As Judge Caproni explained,

“There is nothing in the text of the MBTA that suggests that in order to fall within its prohibition, activity must be directed specifically at birds. Nor does the statute prohibit only intentionally killing migratory birds. And it certainly does not say that only ‘some’ kills are prohibited.”

While Judge Caproni acknowledged that in drafting the MBTA Congress may have been “principally concerned” about over-hunting, Congress chose not to narrowly draw the prohibition in the statute to intentional take or kill of birds.

The August 11 order vacates the M-Opinion.

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