A dramatic and surprising turn of events on Friday, September 9, 2016 created significant uncertainty for the Dakota Access Pipeline Project (Dakota Access), and may have shifted the landscape for other infrastructure projects involving National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106 tribal consultations.  On Friday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg issued a 58-page Memorandum Opinion (Opinion) denying the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s motion for preliminary injunction filed against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).  That motion challenged whether the Corps complied with NHPA Section 106 consultation requirements in connection with a July 25, 2016 verification letter permitting  Dakota Access to engage in certain... READ MORE
Last week, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”) Director Brian Salerno issued a sharply-worded memorandum warning that the offshore oil and gas industry “has not taken action to aggressively address” safety issues raised in a December 2014 technical report on seal assemblies and cement failures, and highlighting unresolved issues that “require expeditious follow-up due to their serious nature.”  This follow-up includes: determining to what extent elastomeric seals may “introduce[] an element of uncertainty for verifying the integrity of the well containment system, as it can mask the underlying quality of the cement job;” a more thorough review of applicable industry standards and regulations; and a study to determine the... READ MORE
Next week, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”) will host a forum on critical offshore connector equipment failures, including connector bolts used in blowout preventers (“BOPs”) currently deployed on the U.S outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”) and worldwide.  The forum follows a flurry of recent activity by BSEE to address potential safety and environmental risks associated with faulty subsea connector bolts. To illustrate the importance of these seemingly basic BOP components, BSEE Director Brian Salerno, in a July 2016 “Director’s Corner” blog post, detailed two reported failures of connector bolts that have occurred over the past six years.  Director Salerno warned that “[w]ith so much at stake during these operations, we... READ MORE
Michael Pincus and Bryn Karaus will both be featured speakers at EBA's upcoming Primer: An Introduction to Federal Regulation of the Natural Gas Industry.  The goal of the primer  is to provide an overview of the federal regulation of the natural gas industry by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Mike will lead a session on constructing and abandoning pipelines under the Natural Gas Act and Bryn will be speaking on pipeline safety regulation. For more information and to register, please visit EBA's website. READ MORE
Jay Derr will be presenting “Energy on the Columbia River” at The Mighty Columbia Conference, Friday, Oct 28th in Seattle, WA. The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, and the 4th largest river in the United States. It drains an area the size of France, and extends into seven states and British Columbia. The River serves as critical habitat for 13 ESA-listed species of salmon and steelhead, and is of paramount importance to Native cultures, serving as a bountiful source of tribal subsistence. The River is also home to 14 Federal hydroelectric dams on the mainstem, providing 44% of hydropower consumed in the U.S. It is of critical importance to navigation interests, providing a navigable highway for the transportation of... READ MORE
Susan Olenchuk and Bob Christin will be featured instructors at New Mexico State University's The Basics of FERC Ratemaking for Interstate Pipelines course being held in Albuquerque October 10-13th.   The three day course is designed to capture the nuances of the natural gas pipeline industry and includes an overview of topics such as FERC ratemaking authority under the Natural Gas Act and FERC regulation of pipeline construction.  For more information and to register, please click here. READ MORE
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Van Ness Feldman LLP is pleased to announce that Michael D. Farber, a former senior official from the U.S. Department of the Interior, has joined the firm as a partner, specializing in strategic advice, investigations, and litigation.  Mr. Farber brings twenty years of experience rapidly assessing, investigating, and resolving compliance issues across a wide variety of industries. As a partner with Van Ness Feldman,  Mr. Farber will collaborate across multiple practice areas, with a special focus on investigation-related matters, as well as regulatory and oversight matters and litigation, particularly those in the oil, gas, and natural resources sectors. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Farber served as the Senior Advisor to the... READ MORE
Doug Smith, Coordinator of Van Ness Feldman's electric practice, testified at the U.S.House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Power's recent hearing entitled,  “Federal Power Act: Historical Perspectives.” The hearing explored the evolution of the Federal Power Act, with special emphasis on electricity markets over the past twenty years. This is the first in a series of expected hearings on the Federal Power Act. Doug was featured among several witnesses was consisting of industry experts and thought leaders, including: Clifford M. (“Mike”) Naeve, former Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP Linda Stuntz, Deputy Secretary... READ MORE
Van Ness Feldman LLP is pleased to announce that Patrick Daugherty and R. Scott Nuzum have been named Of Counsel to the firm. Both Mr. Daugherty and Mr. Nuzum will continue to work with the firm’s Pipeline, Oil & Gas Development and Compliance teams in their new roles. Firm Chairman, Richard Agnew congratulated the pair on their new promotions, stating, “Patrick and Scott’s work embodies the quality for which the firm is known.  Their promotions are a result of their exemplary dedication, in depth knowledge, and service to their colleagues and clients.  We look forward to their continued success and accomplishments.” Mr. Daugherty works with clients in all phases of civil and administrative litigation and has counseled companies facing inquiries... READ MORE
IN BRIEF  CEQ Releases Final Guidance on Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change in Environmental Reviews On August 1, 2016, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Reviews. Draft guidance documents were issued for public comment and feedback in 2010 and 2014. The guidance is intended to provide a level of predictability and certainty by outlining how federal agencies can describe these impacts by quantifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when conducting NEPA reviews in order to provide a better understanding of the potential climate impacts of... READ MORE
PHMSA Rulemakings Update.  The tables below summarize the status of PHMSA’s rulemakings as reported in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) September Significant Rulemaking Report and by OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Spring 2016 Unified Regulatory Agenda.  Revised dates appear in bold.   Pending Final Rules Proceeding DOT Estimated Submission to OMB* DOT Estimated Publication OIRA Estimated Publication  Expanding the Use of Excess Flow Valves in Gas Distribution... READ MORE
NERC NERC Announces New Reliability Assurance Senior Director - September 12 - NERC announced that Andrea Koch will become  Senior Director for Reliability Assurance, effective September 19.  Currently, Koch serves as the Senior Director of ERO Enterprise Operations and Strategic Planning.  In her new role, Koch will be responsible for monitoring and oversight of the Regions and core operational activities associated with risk-based compliance and reliability assurance. NERC to Present AC Circuit Outage Paper - September 8 - NERC staff prepared a technical paper, entitled “"North American AC Circuit Outages Initiated by Transmission Equipment Failures and Human Error,” which presents a statistical analysis of forced AC outages initiated by... READ MORE