Author: Lauren Jacobs

1
Ensuring Energy Security Section in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022
2
Declaration Of Emergency And Authorization For Temporary Extensions Of Time And Duty-Free Importation Of Solar Cells And Modules From SE Asia
3
We Have ESG Down to the Letter
4
Join Us for a Webinar: The Promise of Fusion Energy May Be Closer Than You Think
5
Join Us at Solar Power International
6
Join Us: PV Magazine Webinar – Is your company capturing the 2020 safe harbor?
7
U.S. ENERGY STORAGE ASSOCIATION RECOGNIZES K&L GATES WITH BRAD ROBERTS OUTSTANDING INDUSTRY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
8
To Kill a Mockingbird: Federal Court invalidates Department of Interior’s MBTA Opinion Letter
9
FERC Updates PURPA Rules and Dismisses Petition to Declare Jurisdiction over Net-Metering Sales
10
K&L Gates Advises Unico Solar Investors on Commercial and Industrial Solar Projects Joint-Venture Partnership

Ensuring Energy Security Section in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022

By Laurie B. Purpuro

On 27 July, Senators Manchin and Schumer announced a deal on the successor to the Build Back Better Act, which is expected to pass in the Senate on Saturday (6 August 2022) and the House the following Friday. This new legislation, called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, includes US$370 billion in programs and tax credits to boost renewable energy production in the United States. 

That said, page 644 of the draft includes language that ties federal solar, wind and offshore wind development to federal lease sales for oil and gas. 

The Details

The section of the bill titled “Ensuring Energy Security” prohibits the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from issuing rights-of-way (ROW) for wind or solar development on federal land unless an onshore oil and gas lease sale has occurred within 120 days before the wind or solar lease issuance. In addition, these wind and solar ROWs would not be allowed unless, in the previous year, BLM completed onshore oil and gas lease sales covering 2,000,000 acres or 50% of the acreage in which interested parties have expressed interest, whichever is lower. (Note: Wind and solar projects that impact federal land are authorized by ROWs.)

Offshore wind (OSW) is similarly impacted by this provision, as it prohibits the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) from issuing an OSW lease unless an oil and gas offshore lease sale of at least 60 million acres is held during the year before the OSW lease issuance.

The Impact

This section of the agreement is intended to force the Biden Administration to restart the regularly scheduled oil and gas lease sales that it has been cancelling since 2021, while at the same time allowing the Biden Administration to conduct fewer annual oil and gas lease sales than currently required.   

The Mineral Leasing Act requires four onshore oil and gas leases per year; the language in this bill requires three onshore oil and gas leases per year, as a prerequisite to solar and wind development on federal land. BOEM offshore oil and gas five-year leasing programs require two offshore oil and gas lease sales in most years; this bill requires one sale per year, in order to allow solar and wind development on federal land. 

Furthermore, the acreage requirements for oil and gas sales outlined in the bill are in line with previous sales. And for the onshore oil and gas lease sales, just in case BLM falls shore of the 2,000,000 acre requirement, they can sell leases for 50% of the acreage that parties are interested in.

The Compromise

This Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is a compromise forged by Senate Democrats with the slimmest of majorities. The Ensuring Energy Security section is Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Joe Manchin’s way of requiring an all of the above energy policy for the country.

Declaration Of Emergency And Authorization For Temporary Extensions Of Time And Duty-Free Importation Of Solar Cells And Modules From SE Asia

By Stacy J. Ettinger

On June 6, 2022, President Biden issued a declaration of emergency and authorization for temporary extensions of time and duty-free importation of solar cells and modules from SE Asia under 19 USC 1318(a). The basis for the declaration of emergency is the need to ensure electric resource adequacy and address the unavailability of solar cells and modules that is jeopardizing new, planned solar installations.

In short, there is an emergency because the US is unable to import solar modules in sufficient quantities to ensure solar capacity additions necessary to achieve US climate and clean energy goals, ensure electricity grid resource adequacy, and help combat rising energy price.

Statutory authority. The statutory authority cited in the declaration (19 USC 1318(a)) is a catch-all provision that allows the president to authorize CBP to permit duty free entry of certain items if the president declares the existence of an emergency.

Specifically, the statute provides for “the importation free of duty of food, clothing, and medical, surgical, and other supplies for use in emergency relief work.” Expect arguments from stakeholders that solar products don’t fit within the list, but this law is about as good as gets if you want to find a way to stop the application of antidumping and/or countervailing duties (“ADCVDs”).

Here’s how this is going to work—

New Commerce regulation. Commerce likely will publish an interim final regulation – before the date of the preliminary determination in the solar circumvention proceedings – that will allow Commerce to instruct CBP to not collect duties on cells/modules from the four SE Asian countries for a period of 24 months (starting from the date of the proclamation). The new regulation will not apply to the current ADCVDs on imports of Chinese or Taiwanese solar cells/modules.

Current regulations (19 CFR Part 358) set forth the procedures for importation of supplies for use in emergency relief work free of ADCVDs, as authorized under 19 USC 1318(a). These regulations were published in 2006 (71 FR 63230 (October 30, 2006)). 

Commerce will continue with the circumvention inquiries. Commerce officials put out a press release on June 6 clarifying that the agency will continue the ongoing circumvention inquiries. The release states that “whatever conclusion Commerce reaches when the [circumvention] investigation concludes will apply once this short-term emergency period [24 months] is over. In accordance with the President’s declaration, no solar cells or modules imported from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam will be subject to new antidumping or countervailing duties during the period of the emergency. Existing duties on Chinese and Taiwanese imports of solar cells and modules remain in effect.”

Commerce could still go negative at the prelim or final. Commerce is proceeding with the circumvention inquiries related to imports of cells/modules from the four SE Asian countries. Commerce’s preliminary determination is due no later than August 29, 2022; Commerce’s final determination is due by January 26, 2023. Commerce could still issue a negative determination at the prelim or final stage of the circumvention inquiries.

What happens if Commerce goes affirmative? If Commerce goes affirmative, per its regulations it must direct CBP to suspend liquidation and require a cash deposit of estimated duties. Pursuant to the emergency declaration and new regulation, Commerce would have the authority to not follow its regulations. In other words, Commerce would instruct CBP to not suspend liquidation or collect cash deposits for imports of solar cells/modules from the four SE Asian countries.

What could go wrong with this plan? Possible risk is that an interested party to the circumvention inquiries (such as the domestic manufacturer that requested the inquiries) will sue on the new regulation and/or Commerce’s application of the current regulation (19 CFR Part 358), arguing duty free treatment of solar cells/modules is beyond the scope of products covered under the statute (19 USC 1318(a)). The litigation could take at least a couple years to play out.

If the plaintiff were to prevail (and assuming an affirmative final regarding circumvention), suspension of liquidation and estimated duty payments would kick in. It is unclear whether suspension/duty payments would be retroactive (ie, to date of affirmative preliminary determination) or prospective (eg, from the effective date of the final court decision). The latter seems more likely.

The bottom line. Implementation of the Declaration should provide a two year window during which developers and other solar system providers should be able to import panels from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam without the risk of retroactive tariffs.

Relevant documents

Declaration of Emergency and Authorization for Temporary Extensions of Time and Duty-Free Importation of Solar Cells and Modules from Southeast Asia | The White House

FACT SHEET: President Biden Takes Bold Executive Action to Spur Domestic Clean Energy Manufacturing | The White House

President Biden Invokes Defense Production Act to Accelerate Domestic Manufacturing of Clean Energy | Department of Energy

Department of Commerce Statement on President Biden’s Proclamation on Solar Cells and Modules | U.S. Department of Commerce

We Have ESG Down to the Letter

Our integrated environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) approach is designed to help our clients navigate ever-evolving standards and add value to their companies. We’ve structured our broad scope of ESG services within coordinated and collaborative areas of focus, including corporate governance, investing, energy, and agriculture. These global teams span regions and industries to address an array of issues, from legislative, regulatory, and policy matters, to fund launches and environmentally responsible corporate initiatives.

We can evaluate and advise your business from E to S to G.

For more on our ESG practice, please click here.

Join Us for a Webinar: The Promise of Fusion Energy May Be Closer Than You Think

Join us on 1 October 2020 for a webinar on fusion energy.

For nearly 100 years, scientists and engineers, as well as science fiction authors and fans, have dreamt of harnessing fusion reactions to power our economy. Despite daunting technical challenges, fusion energy may become a technically viable and economic energy source in the coming years, as an attractive carbon-free baseload alternative to conventional energy sources.

As the energy sector progresses towards commercial fusion, governmental regulators around the world are considering how they should treat fusion facilities. Two of the most active jurisdictions for commercial fusion development are the United States and the United Kingdom. Along with Fire Energy and Prospect Law, members of our K&L Gates fusion energy team will provide an update on the regulatory approaches to fusion that the US and UK are taking, the prospects for differentiating regulations for future fusion facilities from those applicable to existing fission-powered nuclear plants, next steps in developing regulatory certainty for the emerging fusion power sectors in these nations, and include a section on risk and the management of risk through insurance.

For more information and to register, please click here.

Join Us at Solar Power International

Please join K&L Gates Energy, Infrastructure and Resources Practice Area Leader, David Benson, at Solar Power International as he moderates the panel, “The Evolution of Finance in a Changing Offtake Market,” on Friday, September 25, 2020, at 3:05pm EDT.

This panel will discuss new revenue models, such as merchant projects, hedging strategies, and VPPAs, are changing how renewable energy projects are being financed. Topics will include how panelists view projects with these evolving offtake approaches and how they view risk in these markets, taking the audience through transaction structures and what it takes to execute renewable energy deals.

For more information on Solar Power International, please click here.

Join Us: PV Magazine Webinar – Is your company capturing the 2020 safe harbor?

Join K&L Gates partner, Elias Hinckley, as he participates on a webinar with PV Magazine, “Is Your Company Capturing the 2020 Safe Harbor?”

­This webinar will discuss the current 26% solar investment tax credit that will be reduced by to 22% on January 1, 2021 and steps to take to ensure your project captures the full credit.

The webinar will take place on Wednesday, 23 September, 2020, at 11:00 AM EDT.

For more information and to register, please 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.

FERC Updates PURPA Rules and Dismisses Petition to Declare Jurisdiction over Net-Metering Sales

By Kimberly Frank, Buck Endemann, Abraham Johns

On July 16, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “the Commission”) issued two noteworthy electric power orders: the first is a final rule (“Order No. 872”) that updates regulations implementing the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”);[1] the second dismisses the New England Ratepayer Association’s (“NERA”) petition for a declaratory order on FERC’s jurisdiction over net energy metering sales.[2] 

Final Rule on PURPA Update

In September 2019, FERC issued of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) to significantly change how it implements PURPA, a law that applies to small power producers.[3]  In Order No. 872, FERC largely adopted the NOPR’s proposed revisions to the Commission’s regulations implementing PURPA sections 201 and 210.  Notable changes to the PURPA regulations include: (1)  providing additional flexibility to set “avoided cost” rates for qualifying facilities (“QFs”) sales; (2) modifying the “one-mile rule” to allow for consideration that affiliated QFs more than one mile but less than ten miles apart may be at the same site ; (3) revising procedures to  challenge  initial QF certification and re-certification; (4) revising the threshold from 20 megawatts (“MW”) to 5 MW at which a utility may petition to terminate its obligation to purchase from certain QFs; and (5) requiring states to develop criteria that must be met for a QF to be entitled to a contract or legally enforceable obligation (“LEO”).   

Changes included in Order No. 872 will be effective 120 days from publication in the Federal Register.  When effective, Order No. 872 will not affect existing contracts, LEOs, or existing certifications for facilities, but will be prospective, applying to new contracts or LEOs, and certifications or recertifications for facilities filed after the order’s effective date.

Dismissal of NERA Petition for Declaratory Order

On April 14, 2020, NERA filed a petition for declaratory order, seeking FERC’s declaration that FERC holds exclusive jurisdiction over wholesale energy sales from behind-the-meter generation[4] and requiring that the rates for such sales be priced pursuant to the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) or PURPA, when applicable.  Specifically, NERA asked FERC to declare jurisdiction over energy sales of rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources on the customer side whenever the output exceeds the customer’s demand, or the energy is meant to bypass customer load.  NERA characterized “full net metering,” as “a practice through which an electricity consumer produces electric energy from a generation source (most often solar panels) that is located on the same side of the retail meter as the customer’s load.”[5]  Historically, the Commission sees such transactions as retail in nature and regulated by the states.  NERA argued, however, that the energy exceeding customer demand or bypassing customer load is sold to a utility for resale to customers, making them wholesale sales, and therefore, subject to FERC’s jurisdiction.[6] 

The Commission began its analysis with a reminder: “Declaratory orders to terminate a controversy or remove uncertainty are discretionary.”[7]  The Commission then used its discretion not to address the issues presented, as they did not “warrant a generic statement” from FERC.[8]  The Commission found that NERA never identified “a specific controversy or harm” to be addressed.[9]  Further, the Commission found that to the extent NERA is concerned that certain New England state regulatory authorities are not pricing QF sales in accordance with PURPA, the petition did not meet PURPA’s requirements for enforcement. 


[1] Qualifying Facility Rates and Requirements Implementation Issues Under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, 172 FERC ¶ 61,041 (2020).

[2] New England Ratepayers Ass’n, 172 FERC ¶ 61,042 (2020) (“NERA Order”).

[3] Qualifying Facility Rates and Requirements Implementation Issues Under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, 168 FERC ¶ 61,184 (2019) (“NOPR”).

[4] Behind-the-meter generation refers to energy generated from the customer side of the retail meter.

[5] NERA Order at P 3.

[6] NERA Order at P 4.

[7] NERA Order at P 35.

[8] NERA Order at P 35.

[9] NERA Order at P 36-37.

K&L Gates Advises Unico Solar Investors on Commercial and Industrial Solar Projects Joint-Venture Partnership

Seattle – Global law firm K&L Gates LLP has advised solar energy systems developer Unico Solar Investors on a long-term joint-venture partnership with Excelsior Energy Capital, a leading independent North American renewable energy investor, to build, own, and operate a 250 MW pipeline of commercial and industrial solar projects across North America.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of Unico Investment Group, Unico Solar will develop and manage the portfolio, which will consist of ground-mount, rooftop, and carport solar projects across multiple U.S. states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington, among others. The projects will provide clean electricity to a variety of customers, including commercial businesses, property owners, municipalities, educational institutions, utilities, and others, with construction expected to begin later this year.

The K&L Gates team that advised on the partnership was led by Seattle partner David Benson and included Seattle partner Elizabeth Crouse, Houston partner Edmundo de la Fuente, and Portland partner William Holmes, as well as Seattle associates Adam Heyd and Brad Lewis, Orange County associate Lana Le Hir, Houston associate Olivia Mora, and Boston associate Mike O’Neill.

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