Analysis of new CEQ interim guidance on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change under NEPA
US offshore wind supply chain road map
announced
EPA proposes additional national enforcement and compliance initiatives
Climate advocates call for increased engagement with disadvantaged communities
How to ensure offshore wind development benefits tribes and indigenous people
More stringent carbon offset standards needed
Texas environmentalists take action against methane in oil and gas production
Wind energy project faces pushback from environmental groups
Farmers must reduce Colorado River's lower basin consumption
Arizona's new governor takes on water crises


This article outlines pertinent legal and policy climate change developments in the United States during the past week.(1)

Analysis of new CEQ interim guidance on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change under NEPA

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change. This guidance serves as the most recent action in a slew of federal policies regarding the NEPA's environmental regulations for agencies targeted toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change. The guidance is already effective, although the CEQ is soliciting public comments by 10 March 2023.

US offshore wind supply chain road map announced

The National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium issued a report detailing how the United States can "develop a robust and equitable domestic supply chain required to achieve the national offshore wind target of 30 gigawatts by 2030". Specifically, the report identifies how the United States can develop an offshore wind supply chain and describes how barriers to supply chain expansion can be addressed. Additionally, the document explains manufacturing capabilities and estimates of required major component facilities that must be developed to meet the 2030 wind power goal.

EPA proposes additional national enforcement and compliance initiatives

As it updates its National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comments on including environmental justice, climate change and polyfluoroalkyl substance contamination in its top initiatives. Moreover, the EPA is pursuing the continuation of four of its six current national initiatives, including:

  • creating cleaner air for communities by reducing pollutants;
  • reducing the risk of accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities;
  • reducing non-compliance in the national pollutant discharge elimination system; and
  • reducing non-compliance with drinking water standards within community water systems.

Climate advocates call for increased engagement with disadvantaged communities

With historic funding allocated towards environmental justice efforts and the republicans' recent control of the House, climate activists are expected to focus on getting results from the Biden administration's environmental justice promises. Specifically, advocates are calling for increased engagement with disadvantaged communities, local groups and workers, as well as strong regulations that take into account cumulative impacts from air, chemical and other pollutants in disadvantaged communities.

How to ensure offshore wind development benefits tribes and indigenous people

To further collaboration between the Biden-Harris administration and tribal communities, the Center for American Progress called on Biden to improve tribal and indigenous knowledge considerations in the administration's offshore wind deployment efforts. As such, the organisation suggested that the administration:

  • develop robust community and workforce benefit agreements;
  • bolster indigenous-serving educational institutions;
  • strengthen registered apprenticeship programs for indigenous communities in economies experiencing impacts of the energy transition; and
  • utilise indigenous knowledge to ease environment-related impacts of development.

More stringent carbon offset standards needed

The chair of the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market, Annette Nazareth, explained that the body is developing new standards to protect consumers and the environment. Economists have stressed the need for more stringent carbon offset standards to ensure that voluntary carbon markets play a vital role in assisting companies to offset residual emissions that are unavoidable in their strategy to reach net zero emissions.

Texas environmentalists take action against methane in oil and gas production

In a three-day public hearing, the EPA heard from stakeholders across the country regarding its proposed rulemaking seeking to reduce methane in oil and natural gas production. Throughout the hearing, Texas environmentalists argued that Texas's Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) "greatly failed" them. Explaining that the political environment in Texas is not favourable to such regulations, activists stressed that federal oversight is necessary to address methane emissions. While TCEQ previously submitted comments questioning the EPA's authority to enforce such rules, it is currently reviewing the supplemental proposal and is slated to submit further comments.

Wind energy project faces pushback from environmental groups

MidAmerican Energy Co's almost $4 billion wind energy project is facing pushback from environmental groups. While climate activists support more wind energy production, they argue that the money could be better spent, particularly in light of the Inflation Reduction Act's tax incentives encouraging investment in solar energy and battery storage. Regulators are slated to consider the Wind Prime project next month – which is expected to produce 2,042 megawatts of wind and 50 megawatts of solar energy by 2025.

Farmers must reduce Colorado River's lower basin consumption

With federal calls for seven western states to develop a plan to reduce their water supply by 30% by 31 January 2023, California's Imperial Valley is bracing itself to cut back on its imported water. Having consumed more water in 2022 than Arizona and Nevada combined, Imperial Valley is the greatest user of the Colorado River's lower basin. As such, its agricultural production is expected to take a hit with farmers, who must reduce their consumption by about 10%.

Arizona's new governor takes on water crises

Following the Arizona Department of Water Resources' analysis of the Lower Hassayampa sub-basin – which concluded that one of the state's fastest-growing communities cannot develop further without new water sources – Governor Katie Hobbs signed an executive order. The executive order called for the establishment of the governor's Water Policy Council to expand and modernise a 1980 regulatory law – the Arizona Groundwater Management Act. Local water policy experts expressed hope that the order will indicate a change in how Arizona water usage regulation, given the crisis on the Colorado River and the state's depleted groundwater resources.

For further information on this topic please contact Kenneth J Markowitz, Stacey H Mitchell, Dario J Frommer or Christopher A Treanor at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP by telephone (+1 202 887 4000) or email ([email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]). The Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP website can be accessed at www.akingump.com.

Leila Fleming, public policy specialist, assisted with the preparation of this article.

Endnotes

(1) For further updates, including upcoming congressional hearings, federal agency climate news and events, click here. For the previous week's update, click here.