DC Circuit ruling overturns longstanding FERC practice of delaying through tolling orders

An en banc decision from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that “prevents federal regulators from delaying decisions on whether to build out gas infrastructure indefinitely” could have “major consequences for stakeholders,” Utility Dive reports. The court ruled in Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “does not have the authority to postpone decisions on requests for rehearing” from landowners indefinitely, according to the article. 

Under the current process, “an individual has 30 days to file a request for rehearing after FERC issues an order,” then FERC has 30 days to respond. FERC “commonly responds to such requests through delaying or tolling the order,” which prevents the parties seeking a rehearing from pursuing litigation. 

Jeff Dennis, managing director and general counsel at Advanced Energy Economy, said the most severe impacts from that approach were on landowners; the “factual circumstances of the Allegheny Defense Project case were kind of the most extreme examples of how that policy could create real, lasting, irreparable harm on parties who are seeking rehearing and ultimately plan to seek judicial review.” For more, read the full article.

Federal Updates

$1B Gemini Solar Project will be largest solar project in U.S. history

The Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved a proposal to construct and operate a 690-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic solar energy facility about 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, greenlodgingnews.com reports. The estimated $1 billion Gemini Solar Project “could be the eighth-largest solar power facility in the world when finished and is expected to generate enough electricity to power 260,000 homes in the Las Vegas area and potential energy markets in Southern California,” according to the article. Project construction “is anticipated to average 500 to 700 construction workers” at a time, “supporting up to an additional 1,100 jobs in the local community and injecting an estimated $712.5 million into the economy in wages and total output during construction.” For more, read the full article.

Environmental, Federal Updates, Renewable Energy

Renewables could overtake coal generation in 2020 as COVID-19 accelerates transition

The latest short-term energy outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows renewables generation “is set to outpace coal generation in 2020,” amid “shrinking electricity demand caused by COVID-19 response measures as well as low natural gas prices,” Utility Dive reports. Coal consumption “is expected to decrease by nearly a quarter to 453 million short tons this year” due to competitive gas prices and lower power consumption, according to the article. Renewable generation, on the other hand, has been “following an upward trend” and is projected to grow by 11% this year, “despite COVID-related impacts to new generation capacity builds in the coming months.” For more, read the full article.

Environmental, Federal Updates, Renewable Energy

CARES Act “filled with options” to help small businesses, MAGNET says

The Cleveland-based Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) is working with several groups to help manufacturers navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, CantonRep.com reports. Their efforts include studying the CARES Act recently passed by Congress “to find the changes that can benefit small businesses,” according to the article. MAGNET says the CARES Act “is filled with options to assist small business owners,” including “a loan of up to 2.5 times a company’s average monthly payroll,” deferment of the 6.2% Social Security tax for 2020 until the end of 2022, and options “for expanding and paying for unemployment.” For more, read the full article.

Federal Updates, Miscellaneous

Opportunity Appalachia forum features ideas for attracting community investment

The Opportunity Appalachia forum, held in Marietta, Ohio, on January 14, brought together approximately 75 local leaders in southeastern Ohio to learn more about the federal Opportunity Zone program. Created as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones allow investors with significant capital gains to make investments in eligible areas in Ohio to delay and/or reduce their federal tax obligations. Bricker & Eckler was represented by Public Finance attorney Jeff Harris as one of many state and national speakers addressing the audience on how to attract investments to their communities. Harris specifically talked about how to create an Opportunity Zone prospectus, to be published online and in print form, to highlight eligible investment projects in one’s local community. For more, read the full story.

Economic Development, Federal Updates, Financial Incentives, State Updates

Senate bill proposes federal standard for U.S. renewable electricity generation

The recently introduced Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) Act of 2019 would put the United States “on a trajectory to decarbonize the power sector by 2050,” nawindpower.com reports. The Senate bill “is proposing a target of at least 50% renewable electricity nationwide” by 2035, by requiring electricity providers to increase their supply of renewable energy “by a percentage of total retail sales each year, starting in 2020,” according to the article. Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, said the RES would “drive investment in our nation’s power generation infrastructure, improve affordability and reliability for our customers, and accelerate the ongoing transition to America’s renewable energy economy.” For more, read the full article.

Federal Updates, Renewable Energy

DOE funding projects to develop next-gen wind turbine drivetrain technologies

Four projects that “will develop more efficient, smaller and lighter-weight generators” for wind turbines “to lower costs and make wind power more affordable” will receive funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), nawindpower.com reports. The DOE has “selected four projects totaling up to $8 million to develop next-generation wind turbine drivetrain technologies for onshore and offshore applications,” according to the article. Two projects, by ABB Inc. of Raleigh, NC, and WEG Energy Corp. of Duluth, GA, “are developing direct-drive permanent-magnet designs.” The other two, by American Superconductor Corp. of Ayer, MA, and GE Research of Niskayuna, NY, “will develop superconducting generators.” The DOE will select one project “to receive up to $6.4 million to build and test a scaled prototype of the generator on a wind turbine.” For more, read the full article.

Federal Updates, Project Finance, Renewable Energy

First quarter of 2019 propels U.S. wind power construction to record level

U.S. project developers announced new wind farms with a total capacity of 6,146 megawatts (MW) in the first quarter of 2019, propelling “the total volume of U.S. wind power construction and development activity to a record level,” nawindpower.com reports. The article cites American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)’s newly released “U.S. Wind Industry First Quarter 2019 Market Report,” which shows this additional capacity brings the United States to “a new record of 39,161 MW” in development. Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, said, “America’s largest source of renewable energy generating capacity is on a path to grow by 40 percent in the near term. In doing so, we’ll create thousands of additional American jobs and new economic opportunities for factory towns and rural communities across the country.” For more, read the full article.

Economic Development, Federal Updates, Renewable Energy