On August 18th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rule governing methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from oil and gas operations. According to the EPA, oil and gas operations are the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases (which includes methane and VOC), after fossil fuel-fired power plants. If you recall, at the beginning of August 2015, the EPA issued its final rule on CO2 emissions (another greenhouse gas) from existing fossil fuel-fired electricity generators. By coming out with the proposed rule, the EPA has begun the process of eliciting comments from the public, with an eye to have the final rule published by 2016. With this latest rulemaking process seeking to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the Obama-era EPA appears to be making its final push to leave a lasting mark on US clean air/climate policy before the end of his term.
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West Virginia and fourteen other states filed a pair of petitions at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on August 13th, connected to their challenge of the recently announced Clean Power Plan (In re West Virginia, et al., No. 15-1277). (If you need a refresher on the 1,560-page rule that regulates CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants, see this primer I recently wrote.) In the first filing, an Emergency Petition for Extraordinary Writ, the petitioners ask the court to impose an emergency stay, which would absolve states of the requirement to comply with the rule until the court case is resolved. In the second, an Emergency Motion to Consolidate and for Expedited Treatment, the petitioning states request the court to combine their latest challenge with three cases that were initiated after the Clean Power Plan was first proposed in 2014 (In re Murray Energy Corp., No. 14-1112; Murray Energy Corp. v. EPA, No. 14-1151; and West Virginia, et al. v. EPA, No. 14-1146). While the fact that many states that rely heavily on coal-fired power plants are challenging the rule is hardly surprising, the petitions are novel in several respects.
On August 7th, the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amended the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) (15 CFR §§ 730–780) to include Russia’s offshore Yuzhno-Kirinskoe oil and gas field in the Entity List. The Entity List specifies companies and persons that the government believes “pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.” The EAR imposes additional licensing requirements on exports, re-exports and transfers to entities and persons on the list.
On August 3rd, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final rule on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs), commonly referred to as the “Clean Power Plan.” Specifically, the rule sets state-specific goals regarding the allowable amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-fired and natural gas-fired combined cycle turbines as well as establishes the guidelines governing the development and implementation of state plans formulated to reach those goals. The final rule is no light read (1,560 pages in all), so I thought I would offer a brief summary of (1) the rule’s history, (2) what the final rule entails, (3) how the final rule differs from the rule proposed in 2014, in response to which the agency received some 4.3 million comments, and (4) the potential legal challenges the rule is likely to face.
On July 30th, it was reported that Ukraine’s largest group of private creditors had finally conceded that some haircut to the principal of their debt holdings may be required in any restructuring. According to Bloomberg, the Franklin Templeton-led group was only willing to contemplate a 5% write-down to their $7 billion investment. However, given that Kyiv needs to squeeze some $15 billion in savings from roughly $21 billion of debt, the offered haircut is likely to fall well short of what’s ultimately needed to put Ukraine back on a sustainable financial path.
The fact that relations between the US and Russia remain in the doldrums is likely no surprise to most. However, recent moves by the US Department of the Treasury and Russia’s threatened responses thereto indicate that any hope for improved ties in the near future seems totally baseless. While the US agency’s actions are designed to keep up pressure on the Russian government for what most Western nations see as serious violations of international law, the moves have done nothing but elicit the threat of tit-for-tat responses from the Kremlin.