On May 23, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) issued Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. FERC (Riverkeeper).  The decision upholds the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) practice of issuing conditional certificates to natural gas pipelines under section 7 of the Natural Gas Act (NGA), prior to a pipeline applicant’s receipt of a Clean Water Act (CWA) 401 certification.  Riverkeeper rejected the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s (DRN) argument that FERC’s conditional approval of the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC (Transco) Leidy Southeast Project (Leidy Project) violated the CWA's sequencing requirement.  The CWA prohibits federal agencies from authorizing any activity that “may... READ MORE
On April 28, 2017, President Donald J. Trump—flanked by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Representative Donald Young, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and others—signed an Executive Order (EO) intended to fundamentally revise federal offshore oil and gas policies. The EO, entitled “An America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” constitutes a significant first step by the Trump Administration to follow through on the President’s campaign promise to “[o]pen . . . offshore leasing on federal lands,” which, in turn, was part of the President’s broader commitment that the United States “[b]ecome, and stay, totally independent of any need to import energy from the [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] or any nations hostile to our... READ MORE
Conservation easements are legal agreements that restrict property use for ecological, open space, farmland preservation, or other similar purposes, typically “in perpetuity” (which means “forever,” at least in theory). In Washington State, conservation easements may be sold or donated to nonprofit land trusts, counties, cities, tribes, or other eligible entities. As explained below, a landowner can derive a variety of estate planning and tax benefits from the sale or donation of a conservation easement, including a potential reduction in federal income taxes, estate taxes, and/or gift taxes. Income tax.  One of the most important incentives encouraging landowners to donate conservation easements is the federal Conservation Tax Deduction, which... READ MORE
The 21st Annual Mid-C Seminar will cover a wide range of topics including the changing landscape in EIM, regulatory issues, REC's, physical trading, smart grid, and operational issues of changing resources. Van Ness Feldman's Malcolm McLellan will be giving a presentation entitled, "Transmission in the West Update." Van Ness Feldman is a proud sponsor of this year's seminar. Click here for more information and to register. READ MORE
“Development of Washington’s shorelines triggers overlapping and sometimes inconsistent local, state and federal regulations, as well as tribal treaty rights. Proponents of small private projects as well as large public facility projects in shoreline environments can be affected equally by these layers of regulation. Meanwhile, regulators and treaty tribes are tasked with balancing the many legitimate uses of the state’s shorelines and their abundant natural resources." Van Ness Feldman's Tadas Kisielius is speaking on, "Recent Developments in Port Management." Click here for more information. READ MORE
The 2016 election is turning out to have a huge effect on federal energy policy as the Trump administration moves back to policies favoring fossil fuel industries and abandons federal efforts to combat climate change. However, the western states can be expected to continue pursuing their greenhouse gas reduction goals. California now generates excess solar power during the day that needs to get to other markets on the western grid. This two-day conference focuses on the critical roles that electric transmission policy and capacity play in the evolution of power markets in the Western Interconnection.  Van Ness Feldman's Malcolm McLellan is serving as the Program Co-Chair, and Richard Agnew will be presenting on, "The Trump Administration, New... READ MORE
Every year since 1970, the City of New Orleans hosts the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest), a ten day long cultural festival that highlights the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana.  Jazz Fest features thousands of musicians and artisans who gather at the historic Fair Grounds Race Course for a celebration of food, art, and music ranging from Jazz to Blues and Zydeco, and everything in between.  This year, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the non-profit organization who owns Jazz Fest, chose to highlight the influence of Cuban music and culture in Louisiana.  One of the largest groups of Cuban artists and musicians in the United States since the 1950’s, performed as part of the Festival’s... READ MORE
For the 3rd straight year, Van Ness Feldman hosted “Take Your Child to Work Day”. Children of the firm’s employees participated in events aimed at teaching the children about the daily ins-and-outs of working at the firm. Events included a talk with the firm’s founder, Howard Feldman, a discussion on the future of energy with Shelley Fidler, and a mock trial featuring Goldilocks and the Three Bears!   Photos from the event are below.  READ MORE
On Friday, April 14, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued an Emergency Order under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act to the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA), an agency of the state of Oklahoma, to operate Unit 1 at the Grand River Energy Center (GREC) as needed to provide dynamic reactive power support in the GRDA service area until replacement generation capacity at the GREC becomes available.  The Van Ness Feldman team of Janet Anderson, Britt Fleming, Van Smith, and David Yaffe led the effort with GRDA to secure the Section 202(c) emergency order. GRDA had originally intended to retire Unit 1 and replace it with new, natural-gas fired generating capacity by April 16, 2016, which was the extended compliance deadline for the... READ MORE
President’s Proposed FY 2018 Budget Would Reduce PHMSA Funding The President’s proposed budget for FY 2018 would provide a total of $259 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), including $154.3 million to fund pipeline safety programs.  The proposal reflects a reduction of $2 million from FY 2017 and an increase of $8 million over FY 2016.  Up to $132 million would be funded by user fees, including $8 million to be derived from the Underground Natural Gas Storage Facility Safety Account of the Pipeline Safety Fund which was created by section 12 of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act (PIPES) Act of 2016 to fund federal and state oversight activities at underground natural... READ MORE
FERC FERC Approves Power System Stabilizer Regional Reliability Standard - April 28 – FERC accepted via letter order a petition from NERC and WECC seeking approval of proposed regional reliability standard VAR-501-WECC-3 (Power System Stabilizer) and the associated implementation plan. VAR-501-WECC-3 establishes the performance criteria for power system stabilizers to help ensure the Western Interconnection is operated in a coordinated manner under normal and abnormal conditions. The standard would require WECC Generator Owners and Operators to:  (1) provide Transmission Operators with procedures or other documents that inform the Transmission Operator of when a power system stabilizer will be out of service; (2) have the power system stabilizer in... READ MORE
PHMSA Announces Increased Maximum Federal Civil Penalties On April 27, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Final Rule increasing maximum civil penalties for violations of federal pipeline safety laws to account for inflation.  Effective immediately, the maximum civil penalty increases from $205,638 to $209,002 per violation per day, up to $2,090,022 for a related series of violations.  The maximum civil penalty for violating standards for LNG facilities increases from $75,123 to $76,352, and the penalty for violating standards or orders regarding employee discrimination increases from $1,194 to $1,214, in addition to other penalties which may apply. FY 2017 Spending Bill Increases PHMSA Funding The... READ MORE