Category: Regulation and Legislation

1
COMMERCE EXTENDS INITIATION DEADLINE IN SOLAR CIRCUMVENTION INQUIRIES & USTR TO START TARGETED CHINA 301 TARIFF EXCLUSION PROCESS
2
Distinguished Speaker Series with FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee
3
To Kill a Mockingbird: Federal Court invalidates Department of Interior’s MBTA Opinion Letter
4
FERC Updates PURPA Rules and Dismisses Petition to Declare Jurisdiction over Net-Metering Sales
5
UPDATED July 6, 2020: The Nation Goes the Way Montana Goes? Nationwide Permit 12 Vacatur and Injunction
6
Keeping “PACE” in Commercial Real Estate Improvements: A Primer on the New Washington Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy and Resiliency (C-PACER) Program
7
CLE Presentation: COVID-19: Perspectives for the “Next New Normal” for Renewable and Utility Companies
8
FERC Sets Technical Conference to Assess COVID-19 Impacts on Energy Industry
9
Join Us! Energy Storage Association Webinar: Energy Storage, Trade and China
10
Treasury to Extend Deadlines for Accessing Wind, Solar Tax Credits

COMMERCE EXTENDS INITIATION DEADLINE IN SOLAR CIRCUMVENTION INQUIRIES & USTR TO START TARGETED CHINA 301 TARIFF EXCLUSION PROCESS

By: Stacy J. Ettinger

COMMERCE EXTENDS INITIATION DEADLINE IN SOLAR CIRCUMVENTION INQUIRIES – NEW DEADLINE LATE NOV

On September 29, 2021, Commerce determined to delay a decision on initiation in the solar circumvention inquiries. Commerce instead asked the US solar manufacturers – A-SMACC (the so-called American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention) – for additional information. In particular, Commerce requested additional information related to why the A-SMACC companies have requested anonymity in the circumvention proceeding. Commerce also requested information regarding the A-SMACC companies’ ties to business interests in China or Southeast Asian countries.

At the request of A-SMACC,  Commerce extended the deadline for A-SMACC’s response to the additional questions until October 13. Commerce regulations permit other interested parties to file comments on A-SMACC’s response within seven days.

Commerce has indicated it will make its decision on initiation within 45 days of A-SMACC filing its response to Commerce’s questions. Assuming A-SMACC files on October 13, Commerce’s decision on initiation would be due on or by November 27. If Commerce initiates on November 27, the final results of the full investigation would be due on or by September 23, 2022.

Note that the new Commerce initiation deadline is just past the date the US International Trade Commission is expected to make its decision on the solar safeguard/201 extension (November 24, 2021).

Senate letter. On September 29 (around the time Commerce was initially set to issue its initiation determinations) twelve Senators sent a letter to the Commerce Secretary Raimondo expressing concerns regarding the anonymous petitions alleging illegal trade activity filed with the Department that would have “a devastating impact on the US solar industry and American solar jobs.” The Senators urged Commerce to “carefully assess the validity” of the petitions.

Background. On August 16, US solar manufacturers (the so-called American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention) requested that Commerce launch a circumvention inquiry on imports of solar products produced in Chinese-owned factories in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. If Commerce initiates on November 27, the final results of the full investigation would be due around by September 23, 2022.

A wide range of interested parties have filed comments on A-SMACC’s initial anti-circumvention inquiry request. The parties have raised factual and legal issues related to whether A-SMACC’s inquiry provides sufficient justification for initiation. The parties have also made economic and policy arguments regarding the negative impact if Commerce were to initiate.

In particular, the interested parties argue that initiation of the circumvention inquiry would disrupt solar imports as companies park panels/modules offshore. They also argue that initiation would  undermine the Biden Administration’s push for expansion of US solar installation and capacity. In addition, nearly 200 companies involved in the solar industry, along with solar industry groups, have warned that imposition of tariffs on imported panels/modules from Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand would devastate the industry and threaten US jobs.

The circumvention action is tied to the AD/CVD orders on Chinese CSPV cells. The petitioners in the circumvention case are arguing that imports of solar panels/modules produced in Chinese-owned factories in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, with Chinese wafers and other Chinese components, should be subject to current antidumping and countervailing duty orders on Chinese cells/modules.

Commerce (or CBP) could act to make the circumvention findings retroactive, which means there is the potential that importers could be on the hook for payment of additional duties on previous imports.

USTR TO START TARGETED CHINA 301 TARIFF EXCLUSION PROCESS

On October 8, USTR published notice that it will consider requests to reinstate previously-granted China 301 tariff exclusions. The catch is: (1) only previously-granted exclusions that were subsequently extended through the end of 2020 are up for consideration; and (2) the reinstated exclusions would only apply to merchandise entered into the US on or after October 12, 2021 (the date USTR opens the public docket for filing reinstatement requests).

USTR intends to evaluate the possible reinstatement of each exclusion on a case-by-case basis. The public docket opens on October 12, 2021. The deadline for filing comments is December 1, 2021. Parties seeking to comment on more than one exclusion must submit a separate comment for each exclusion.

USTR has provided a list of the 549 previously-extended product exclusions up for consideration, on its website.[1] In addition, comments need to be filed using the form provided by USTR on its website.[2] The form contains specific requests for information regarding the company, many of which will look familiar from the original exclusion and exclusion extension process.   

A key factor in USTR’s evaluation will be whether the particular product remains available only from China. USTR is requesting that commenters address the following issues—

  • Whether the particular product and/or a comparable product is available from sources in the United States and/or in third countries.
  • Any changes in the global supply chain since September 2018 with respect to the particular product or any other relevant industry developments.
  • The efforts, if any, the importers or US purchasers have undertaken since September 2018 to source the product from the United States or third countries.
  • Domestic capacity for producing the product in the United States.

In addition, USTR will consider—

  • Whether or not reinstating the exclusion will impact or result in severe economic harm to the commenter or other US interests, including the impact on small businesses, employment,  manufacturing output, and critical supply chains in the United States, and
  • The overall impact of the exclusions on the goal of obtaining the elimination of China’s acts, policies, and practices covered in the section 301 investigation.

Exclusion track record. From 2018 to 2020, US stakeholders submitted about 53,000 exclusion requests to USTR for specific products covered by the section 301 China tariffs. A US Government Accountability Office report found that the agency denied 46,000 of those requests (87 percent) while approving about 2,200. Of the approvals, just 549 saw their tariff breaks extended – and it is these 549 previously-extended product exclusions that are up for consideration and possible reinstatement.


[1] https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/Notices/Section 301 China Request for Comments/Annex of Previously Extended Exclusions for Website.pdf.

[2] https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/Notices/Section 301 China Request for Comments/Facsimile of Data Requested.pdf.

Distinguished Speaker Series with FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee

Tuesday
26 January 2021
3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. ET

Please join K&L Gates for an open conversation with FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, as we discuss energy market trends, infrastructure development, renewables, and the energy transition.

Commissioner Neil Chatterjee was nominated to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by President Donald J. Trump in May 2017 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August 2017. He served as Chairman from August 2017 to December 2017. He was again named Chairman on October 24, 2018, and served in that role through November 5, 2020.

Since joining the Commission, Chatterjee has championed strategic initiatives reflecting his firm commitment to ensuring that FERC regulations and actions reflect changes in today’s energy landscape. Additionally, Chatterjee has made energy infrastructure a top priority. 

Prior to his tenure at the Commission, Chatterjee served as an advisor to Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), where he played an integral role in the passage of major energy, highway and agriculture legislation. Chatterjee previously worked as a principal in government relations for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and as an aide to House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (R-OH). He began his career in Washington, D.C., as a staff member on the House Committee on Ways and Means.

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Chatterjee is a graduate of St. Lawrence University and the University of Cincinnati, College of Law. Chatterjee resides with his wife and three children in Virginia.

The program will be moderated by K&L Gates’ Policy & Regulatory Practice Area Leader, David Wochner, and Power Practice Group Coordinator, Elizabeth Crouse.

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.

UPDATED July 6, 2020: The Nation Goes the Way Montana Goes? Nationwide Permit 12 Vacatur and Injunction

By: Ankur K. Tohan, Buck B. Endemann, and Tad J. Macfarlan

On April 15, 2020, the Montana federal district court issued an Order in Northern Plains Resource Council v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, No. 4:19-cv-00044-BMM (D. Mont.) (NPRC v. Corps) that may have far reaching implications for energy development projects across the United States.

In a case involving the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, the Montana court vacated the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12. The Court concluded that because the Corps failed to consult under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 when it reissued NWP 12 in 2017, the permit is not valid and the Corps may not authorize work under the terms and conditions of NWP 12.

Background, Key findings, and Order

The Corp’s 2017 Reissuance of NWP 12. When the Corps reissued NWP 12 (along with all other NWPs) in 2017, it determined that ESA consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (the “Services”) was not required because the reissuance of NWPs has “no effect” on ESA-listed species or critical habitat.

Court’s Key Findings. The court held that the Corps’ “no effect determination and resulting decision to forego programmatic consultation proves arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Corps’ obligations under the ESA.” The court concluded that the Corps cannot circumvent ESA Section 7(a)(2) consultation requirements by relying on project-level review (e.g., by non-federal entities) under NWP General Condition 18’s preconstruction notification (PCN) requirement. The court reasoned that (1) General Condition 18’s PCN requirement fails to ensure that the Corps fulfills its obligations under ESA Section 7(a)(2) because it delegates the Corps’ initial effect determination to non-federal permittees.

Court’s Order. Based on the court’s findings, the Order (1) vacated NWP 12; (2) remanded NWP 12 to the Corps to initiate consultation now; and (3) enjoined the Corps from authorizing work under NWP 12 until consultation is completed.

Potential Implications if a Motion for Reconsideration or Stay is not Granted

Immediate Impact on Projects with NWP 12 Authorization. The Order creates immediate uncertainty for project proponents needing NWP 12 authorization. If the Order is not stayed or appealed, the Corps could reopen programmatic consultation with the Services, which could take several months or longer to complete and, once completed, may be subject to further litigation. In addition, the Order could be leveraged by other plaintiffs targeting the Corps’ other NWPs that rely on General Condition 18. Given the uncertainty, developers will need to consider their current permitting options, which may include other NWPs, individual 404 permits (which trigger NEPA, NHPA, and ESA), or project redesign to avoid impacts to regulated waters.

Current Status

On April 27, 2020, the Corps filed motions for expedited briefing and consideration for a partial stay of the Order pending an appeal. The Corps’ motion asks the Court to stay “those portions of its April 15, 2020, Order that vacate NWP 12 and broadly enjoin the Corps from authorizing any dredge or fill activities under the permit”; or at “the very least, the Court should stay its vacatur and injunction as they relate to anything other than the Keystone XL pipeline.”

**UPDATE**:    On April 28, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris denied the Corps’ motion for a temporary administrative stay of the court’s vacatur, injunction, and remand orders.  Judge Morris ordered Plaintiffs and the Corps to complete briefing on an expedited basis by May 8, however, on the Corps’ broader request for a stay pending appeal, which should give permit-seekers and holders additional insight into the immediate future of NWP 12.

**UPDATE May 7, 2020**: On May 7, 2020, Plaintiffs filed their opposition to the Corps’ Motion for Partial Stay Pending Appeal. Significantly, Plaintiffs agree with the Corps to ask the Court to revise the remedy that the was ordered on April 15, 2020.  Specifically, Plaintiffs propose that the Court modify these remedies as follows.

(1) narrowing the vacatur of NWP 12 to a partial vacatur that applies to the construction of new oil and gas pipelines, thereby keeping NWP 12 in place during remand insofar as it authorizes non-pipeline construction activities as well as routine maintenance, inspection, and repair activities on existing NWP 12 projects; and

(2) narrowing the injunction to enjoin the Corps from authorizing any dredge or fill activities for Keystone XL under NWP 12. This relief would afford appropriate protection for endangered and threatened species and their critical habitats while minimizing any potential disruption claimed by Defendants.

**UPDATE May 12, 2020**: On May 11, 2020, the Montana District Court issued its ruling on the Corps’ motion to stay the court’s original Order issued on April 15, 2020. 

The Court denied the motion to stay Order pending an appeal to the 9th Circuit.  However, the Court adopted Plaintiffs’ proposal that the Court revise the scope of remedy in the original Order to apply only to new and gas construction projects. The Court narrowed the scope vacatur and injunction as follows:

  1. NWP 12 is vacated as it relates to the construction of new oil and gas pipelines pending completion of the consultation process and compliance with all environmental statutes and regulations. NWP 12 remains in place during remand insofar as it authorizes non-pipeline construction activities and routine maintenance, inspection, and repair activities on existing NWP 12 projects.
  2. The Corps is enjoined from authoring any dredge or fill activities for the construction of new oil and gas pipelines under NWP 12 pending completion of the consultation process and compliance with all environmental statutes and regulations. The Corps remains able to authorize dredge or fill activities for nonpipeline construction activities and routine maintenance, inspection, and repair activities on existing NWP 12 projects.

**UPDATE June 17, 2020**: On June 15, 2020, the US Solicitor General, on behalf of the US Army Corps of Engineers, filed an application for a stay with the US Supreme Court.

The application seeks a stay of the April 15, 2020, order issued by the United States District Court for the District of Montana (as amended May 11), pending an appeal of that order to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and, if necessary, pending a future appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The Solicitor states that the district court “had no warrant to set aside NWP 12 with respect to Keystone XL, let alone for the construction of all new oil and gas pipelines anywhere in the country.”

The Solicitor points to the fact that when plaintiffs brought the original lawsuit to challenge the Corps’ alleged use of NWP 12, they limited their claims and relief to the use of NWP 12 to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. According to the filing, plaintiffs expressly disclaimed any request for vacatur of NWP 12, or an injunction, extending beyond Keystone XL itself; and made no “meaningful effort to establish Article III standing to challenge the potential application of NWP 12 to crossings by any other specific proposed pipelines.” Despite these facts, the Solicitor argues, the district court first vacated NWP 12 on a nationwide basis, and then in an amended order narrowed the scope of vacatur to all new oil and gas projects.

The Solicitor argues that a stay is appropriate because the district court order went well beyond what the plaintiffs original sought, is inconsistent with Article III and traditional principles of notice and equity, and was wrongly decided on ESA grounds. The Solicitor argues that the “Corps reasonably determined that merely re-issuing NWP 12 would have no effect on listed species or critical habitat — and therefore did not trigger any consultation requirement under the ESA — because the regulatory scheme and conditions in NWP 12 ensure that any necessary consultation occurs on an activity-specific basis.”

The US Supreme Court is evaluating the application.

**UPDATE July 6, 2020**: On July 6, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Montana District Court Order (as amended on May 11) is stayed, except with regard to the Keystone XL pipeline. Until the Ninth Circuit issues a ruling on the appeal — and any subsequent appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court — of the District Court Order by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the order remains in effect for Keystone XL but does not apply to other entities or parties.

Keeping “PACE” in Commercial Real Estate Improvements: A Primer on the New Washington Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy and Resiliency (C-PACER) Program

Authors: Rhys W. Hefta, Craig S. Trueblood, David L. Benson, Kari L. Larson

Commercial property owners in the state of Washington may soon have access to a new source of funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and resiliency improvements to their buildings. Washington’s C-PACER legislation (House Bill 2405), passed by the legislature during the 2020 regular session, went into effect 11 June 2020. The C-PACER program aims to address the significant needs for property owners to finance energy efficiency upgrades, renewable energy improvements, stormwater management, water conservation, and resiliency retrofits to address vulnerabilities to earthquakes and other natural disasters.

The state and many local governments across the country are imposing new requirements on the owners of existing buildings to reduce water and energy consumption, control stormwater runoff, minimize damage from earthquakes, and convert to renewable sources of energy. These types of building improvements often have high up-front capital costs and long cost-recovery periods. This combination has inhibited investment by property owners who may not plan on holding an asset long enough to see the benefit of these improvements.

With the enactment of the C-PACER program, Washington joins 36 other states that have enacted some form of property assessed clean energy legislation (20 of which have current active programs). Washington’s C-PACER program, like some other states, relies on private rather than public financing. Unlike traditional private financing models, C-PACER loans are not personal debt obligations. Rather, the C-PACER loan is repaid through a voluntary assessment on the improved property that runs with the land and is secured by a super-priority lien. Accordingly, the obligation to repay the C-PACER loan remains with the property regardless of any transfer of ownership. Because of this unique structure, C-PACER loans can allow for a much longer repayment period than traditional financing options. In addition, the super-priority of the lien allows for lower interest rates. In theory, the longer term and beneficial rate will improve the ability of the owner to repay the C-PACER loan, as the owner actually accrues the benefit of savings on utility bills, lower insurance premiums, and other operating cost reductions from the improvements.

The following is a brief summary of the key information to know about the C-PACER program.

Is the C-PACER Program Available Statewide?

The C-PACER program is a voluntary program that is to be managed on a statewide basis by the Washington Department of Commerce (though a C-PACER program guidebook is not expected this year as a result of COVID-19). Once established, each county must opt into the program on a voluntary basis. However, counties are not required to wait for the statewide program. Each county is empowered to establish its own program in compliance with the requirements of the state legislation. Accordingly, availability will vary by jurisdiction. No counties have yet adopted a program.

What Properties Qualify?

Under the C-PACER program, owners of agricultural, commercial, and industrial properties are eligible to obtain financing for qualifying projects. The C-PACER program also applies to owners of multifamily residential properties with five or more dwelling units. Eligible property may be owned by any type of business, corporation, individual, or nonprofit organization permitted by state law. However, as noted above, individual counties have broad discretion to establish their own program within the parameters of the state legislation and could limit the types of properties that qualify.

What Projects Qualify?

C-PACER financing is available both for qualifying improvements to existing commercial buildings and new construction. Qualified improvements include, among others, solar panels, high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, insulation and other improvements that address safe drinking water, or those that decrease energy or water consumption or demand through efficiency technologies, products, or activities. Improvements that support the production of clean, renewable energy, including a product, device, or interacting group of products or devices on the customer’s side of the meter that generates electricity, provides thermal energy, or regulates temperature, would also be deemed qualifying improvements. Likewise, improvements that increase resilience are also qualified improvements. Examples of resilience improvements include seismic retrofits, flood mitigation, stormwater management, wildfire and wind resistance, energy storage, and microgrids. The inclusion of resiliency improvements is a feature of the Washington legislation that is not found in other jurisdictions and may be of particular interest for owners of unreinforced masonry buildings and other properties in need of seismic improvements.

How Is the C-PACER Loan Repaid?

As discussed above, C-PACER loans are repaid by a voluntary assessment on the improved property, secured by a lien in favor of the county, which is then immediately assigned to the C-PACER lender. The lien is second only in priority to the lien for unpaid taxes. Once a C-PACER loan is advanced, the administration of the C-PACER loan (including enforcement) is done by the private lender. After the adoption of a C-PACER program, a county’s role is limited to the approval of an assessment and recordation of a C-PACER lien, as well as to the administration of the C-PACER program (which may be contracted out to a private third party).

Who Makes the C-PACER Loans?

Subject to compliance with generally applicable licensing requirements, any private entity can make a C-PACER loan.

What Is the Impact for Holders of Mortgages on the Property?

Because the lien of a C-PACER loan is superior to all other debt obligations other than unpaid taxes, written consent of any existing mortgagee or other holder of a security interest in the real property is required before an owner can obtain a C-PACER loan. Note that the super-priority nature of C-PACER loans may be objectionable to mortgage lenders (and, in fact, some lenders expressly prohibit borrowers from obtaining any such loans).

How Is the C-PACER Lien Enforced?

The private lender is responsible for collection and enforcement of delinquent C-PACER liens or C-PACER loan installment payments. The C-PACER lien is enforced by the lender in the same manner that the collection of delinquent real property taxes is enforced by the county under chapter 84.64 RCW, including the provisions of RCW 84.64.040, with minor exceptions.

CLE Presentation: COVID-19: Perspectives for the “Next New Normal” for Renewable and Utility Companies

Join us on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, for a CLE presentation on “COVID-19: Perspectives for the “Next New Normal” for Renewable and Utility Companies.”

Companies are seeing unprecedented legal and business impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  These impacts are bringing about changes in strategy and how many companies approach their day-to-day business operations to adapt to this new business environment. This one-hour session will involve a presentation by the following K&L Gates attorneys sharing their perspectives on what to consider during the “next new normal.”

Moderator: 

Panelists:

This presentation will include the evolving legal and business impacts of COVID-19 in connection with:

  • Contract Issues
  • Insurance Issues
  • Potential Work Issues
  • Litigation Trends

This webinar will contain a chat feature in which you can submit questions so that we may tailor this presentation to address your concerns.

To register, please click here.

FERC Sets Technical Conference to Assess COVID-19 Impacts on Energy Industry

By: William Keyser, Sandra Safro, Patrick Metz and Abraham Johns

On May 20, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or the “Commission”) announced that it will hold a technical conference to discuss the impact on the energy industry of emergency conditions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.  The conference will take place July 8-9, 2020 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Preregistration for the conference is available at: http://www.ferc.gov/whats-new/registration/07-07-20-form.asp.  FERC will issue a supplemental notice that includes the conference agenda in a proceeding opened in Docket No. AD20-17-000.

The Commission plans to use the conference to assess the ongoing impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on parts of the U.S. energy industry.  While the Commission already enacted short-term regulatory relief actions for regulated entities, the conference will explore long-term options for safeguarding the nation’s energy markets, electric transmission system, natural gas and oil transportation, and future operation of energy infrastructure. 

In addition, FERC intends for the event to serve as a public forum for the Commission and stakeholders to address the recovery of the industry from the COVID-19 pandemic.  The event will afford the public an opportunity to receive high-level information about how COVID-19 may change the energy industry moving forward. 

Among the topics the Commission plans to cover in panels and discussions are: (1) ongoing and future operational and planning challenges due to COVID-19; (2) operations, planning, and infrastructure development impacts anticipated due to the effect of COVID-19 on electric demand; (3) operations, planning, and infrastructure development impacts anticipated due to the effect of COVID-19 on natural gas and oil demand; and (4) anticipated issues related to access to capital, such as credit, liquidity, and return on equity.

Further information about the event will be posted on the Calendar of Events webpage for the event.  K&L Gates will continue to monitor for updates from the Commission about the conference.

Join Us! Energy Storage Association Webinar: Energy Storage, Trade and China

Please join K&L Gates’ Elizabeth Crouse on the Energy Storage Association’s upcoming webinar, Energy Storage, Trade and China, on Thursday, May 21 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 CDT.

This webinar will explore the key trade and national security policies that currently impact the ESS market in the U.S. and assess their potential impacts on future deployments, including:

• How might regulatory developments under the Executive Order impact storage?
• What might the future hold for tariffs?
• How do these processes play out in an election year?

For more information and to register, please click here.

Treasury to Extend Deadlines for Accessing Wind, Solar Tax Credits

Author: Elizabeth Crouse

This afternoon, the Office of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Treasury, issued a letter to Charles Grassley, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, indicating that Treasury intends to issue administrative relief to the solar and wind industries regarding certain investment tax credit (“ITC”) and production tax credit (“PTC”) deadlines. Although the letter does not provide any details as to the nature of this relief, Chairman Grassley’s April 23, 2020 letter to Treasury requested that the four-year safe harbor for the continuous construction and continuous efforts test for the PTC and ITC be extended to a five-year safe harbor period.

Chairman Grassley did not request administrative relief concerning the impact of COVID-19 related measures taken by manufacturers and shipping companies on a customer’s “reasonable expectation” that materials purchased in 2019 would be delivered within 3.5 months after payment. This latter provision is important for purposes for establishing beginning of construction of solar projects in 2019.

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