Tesla Bringing Supercharger Stations to Boston and Chicago

On September 11th, Tesla announced the opening of Supercharger stations in downtown Boston and Chicago, representing the first step in the company’s effort to expand its Supercharger network into urban areas. The company currently operates 951 Supercharger stations worldwide, primarily along major highways to provide quick recharging on long trips. By bringing the network of charging stations into city centers, Tesla hopes to service growing demand among urban dwellers without immediate access to home or workplace charging.

Unlike the Destination Charging connectors at hotels and restaurants meant to replicate the longer home-charging process, Superchargers quickly deliver 72 kilowatts of power to each car for short-term boosts, resulting in charging times around 45-50 minutes. The new stations will be installed near supermarkets, shopping centers, and downtown districts, making it easy for drivers to charge their car while running errands. The Boston Supercharger station will be located at 800 Boylston Street and include 8 charging stalls.

Tesla announced plans to double its national charging network to 10,000 stations by the end of 2017. The company is bringing urban Superchargers to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Los Angeles, and Austin by the end of this year. The expansion accompanies Tesla’s release of the Model 3 this summer, which boasts a lower starting price of $35,000 that is expected to bring more buyers to the brand.

A spike in Tesla sales would fall in line with the trend of increased demand for electric vehicles (EV) across the country. The year 2016 saw EV sales in the United States increase by 37% over 2015. Total EV sales topped out at roughly 160,000, with five different models (Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Ford Fusion Energi) selling at least 10,000 units. These sales, coupled with the expanding ease of access to charging station’s like Tesla’s, bode well for continued innovation and growth in the electric auto sector.

This post was written by Thomas R. Burton, III of  Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. All Rights Reserved. ©1994-2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

DOE Announces $8.8 Million In Funding For Algae Technology Innovation Projects

On September 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected an additional four Productivity Enhanced Algae and Toolkits (PEAK) projects to receive up to $8.8 million.  The projects aim to develop high-impact tools and techniques that will increase the productivity of algae organisms to reduce the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts.  In total, DOE has awarded over $16 million in funding to the initiative.

The project winners include:

  • Colorado School of Mines, in partnership with Global Algae Innovations, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Colorado State University, which will use advanced directed evolution approaches in combination with high-performance, custom-built, solar simulation bioreactors to improve the productivity of robust wild algal strains;
  • University of California, San Diego, which will work with Triton Health and Nutrition, Algenesis Materials, and Global Algae Innovations on the development of genetic tools, high-throughput screening methods, and breeding strategies for green algae and cyanobacteria, targeting robust production strains;
  • University of Toledo, in partnership with Montana State University and the University of North Carolina, which will cultivate microalgae in high-salinity and high-alkalinity media to achieve productivities without needing to add concentrated carbon dioxide, and deliver molecular toolkits, including metabolic modeling combined with targeted genome editing; and
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which will ecologically engineer algae to encourage growth of bacteria that efficiently remineralize dissolved organic matter to improve carbon dioxide uptake and simultaneously remove excess oxygen.
This post was written by  Kathleen M. Roberts of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. ©2017
For more Environmental & Energy legal analysis go to The National Law Review

EPA Ready to Support FEMA, State Efforts on Hurricane Harvey

EPA has an organized emergency response program for responding to man-made and natural disasters and is positioned to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state, local, and tribal partners in response to Hurricane Harvey.

“I am in regular contact with EPA Region 6 and want to commend them for their leadership and preparation,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA is closely coordinating with state and regional partners, and we have teams standing by to support FEMA.  EPA is ready to respond to anything that may occur due to Hurricane Harvey.”

EPA headquarters emergency operations center is monitoring the storm closely and making preparations to activate in order to support states and regions affected by the storm.

EPA’s Region 6 office in Dallas is taking action to ensure that Superfund sites are secured in advance of the storm, to assist approximately 300 public drinking water system rapid assessments, and to seamlessly integrate emergency response activities with Texas, Louisiana, and other federal response agencies.

EPA supports hurricane preparedness and response in a number of ways, including:
•    Addressing Fuel Shortages: The Clear Air Act allows EPA Administrator Pruitt, in consultation with Energy Secretary Perry, to waive certain fuel requirements to address shortages that occur as a result of the storm. If Administrator Pruitt determines that extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstances exist in a state or region as a result of the hurricane, a temporary waiver can help ensure an adequate supply of gasoline is available in the affected area, particularly for emergency vehicles. EPA has an experienced team standing by to expedite handling of any fuel waiver requests by the states.

•    Monitoring Public Water Systems: Water systems can be severely impacted during hurricanes due to storm surge, flooding, or loss of power. EPA Region 6 has developed a tracking system for us to identify systems in the storm’s pathway. About 300 public drinking water systems are in the path (red zone) of hurricane Harvey in Texas. Both Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Louisiana Department of Hospitals have uploaded their potentially impacted systems into Response Manager, which enables planning for rapid assessments to restore water systems after the storm passes and flood waters recede. Following the storm, and if the state requests federal assistance, EPA conducts damage assessments of both drinking water and wastewater systems to identify impacts to critical assets and assist in the recovery.

•    Securing Superfund Sites: EPA assesses conditions at the NPL Superfund sites in the storm’s pathway and tasks each Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) remedial site manager to assess conditions and make on-site preparations for high winds and heavy rainfall.  Following the storm and receding floodwaters, EPA conducts rapid assessments to identify damage at sites and initiate cleanup plans if necessary. Any on-site activities at sites located in the storm’s path are ceased until the all clear is given and on-site equipment is secured.  In addition, freeboard for lagoons or ponds is increased to accommodate forecasted rainfall if possible. After a hurricane makes landfall and any flooding recedes, the EPA remedial managers will conduct assessments of each Superfund NPL site to ensure no damage has occurred.

•    Assessing Conditions at Major Industrial Facilities: EPA assesses conditions at the major industrial facilities in the storm’s pathway to identify potential impacts and countermeasures. Following the storm and receding floodwaters, spills and releases are reported to the National Response Center. NRC notifies US Coast Guard or EPA based on preapproved jurisdiction boundaries. EPA conducts follow up inspections and damage assessments in response to reports within EPA jurisdiction.

As EPA prepares to support FEMA and its local and state partners, it continues to focus its message on the importance of public safety. For information and updates from EPA, please visit EPA’s emergency response website, www.response.epa.gov/Hurricaneharvey2017.

This post was written by the United States Environmental Protection Agency © Copyright 2017
For more Environmental Law analysis, go to The National Law Review

U.S. Court of Appeals Rules on Renewable Fuel Standard Battle

In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of renewable fuels advocates, including the Americans for Clean Energy and the National Corn Growers Association, agreeing with the petitioners that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) erred in how it interpreted and used the “inadequate domestic supply” waiver in the Renewable Fuel Standard law in setting low renewable fuel volumes for 2014-2016.

The National Corn Growers Association stated that the “court decision is a win for farmers, the biofuels industry, and consumers. This ruling affirms our view that the EPA did not follow the law when it reduced the 2014-2016 renewable fuel volumes below levels intended by Congress. The court held that EPA was wrong to interpret the phrase ‘inadequate domestic supply’ to mean ‘inadequate domestic supply and demand.’ We agree with the Court that effectively adding words to the law through this interpretation simply exceeds EPA’s authority.”

U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote that the EPA isn’t allowed “to consider the volume of renewable fuel that is available to ultimate consumers or the demand-side constraints that affect the consumption of renewable fuel by consumers.”

The court ruling is a blow to oil refiners, who have argued that there are constraints to blending the fuels into petroleum. The American Petroleum Institute said in a statement it was “disappointed” with the court’s decision, which the trade group said highlighted the need for congressional action to reform the renewable fuel standard – a move congressional analysts have said is unlikely to happen.

This post was written by Aaron M. Phelps of Varnum LLP.
For more Environmental & Energy Legal News go to the National Law Review.

USDA Announces $15.1 Million In Grants For Bioenergy and Bioproducts

On July 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded 34 grants totaling $15.1 million for research on renewable energy, biobased products, and agroecosystems.  The grants, which are funded through the agency’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), are expected to help develop the next generation of renewable energy, bioproducts, and biomaterials; protect the ecosystems that support agriculture; and improve the agricultural systems and processes that help feed the nation.

The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on cover crop systems for biofuel production:

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) received $494,000 for the development of lupin, cereal rye, and carinata winter cover crops for biomass in the southern coastal plain;
  • Purdue University received $498,000 for the development of cover cropping for the development of sustainable co-production of bioenergy, food, feed (BFF) and ecosystem services (ES);
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $498,378 for the development of perennial cover crop systems for maize grain and biomass production;
  • Louisiana State University Agricultural Center received $387,000 to study the feedstock production potential of energy cane-sweet sorghum rotation with a winter cover crop system; and
  • University of Nebraska received $500,000 to assess innovative strategies to maximize cover crop yields for biofuel across a precipitation gradient.​​​

The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on the socioeconomic implications and public policy challenges of bioenergy and bioproducts market development and expansion:

  • Auburn University received $499,886 to identify the economic barriers to biomass production, to evaluate the effectiveness of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in stimulating biomass market expansion, and to explore the economic and ecosystem service implications of biomass production;
  • Colorado State University received $499,000 to produce a unified atlas of marginal lands in the U.S., and provide insight on the costs, potential environmental benefits, and overall practical likelihood of using those lands for biomass feedstock production;
  • Purdue University received $492,099 to develop a dynamic theoretical model on rejuvenating coal-power plants with biomass;
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $499,622 to provide an integrated model-based assessment of the socioeconomic, policy, and market implications of sustainable bioenergy derived from cellulosic biomass; and
  • University of Missouri received $498,441 to evaluate impacts on forest resources surrounding power plants using woody biomass, assess economic impacts of wood biopower systems, and quantify tradeoffs between cost, carbon reductions, and renewable energy generation obtained by the increased use of wood biopower.

More information on the grants is available at the NIFA website.

This post was written by Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D. of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

Read more legal analysis at the National Law Review.

EPA Releases Final Test Guideline for Performance Against Bed Bugs

On June 14, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the availability of a final test guideline, Laboratory Product Performance Testing Methods for Bed Bug Pesticide Products; OCSPP Test Guideline 810.3900, part of a series of test guidelines established by the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) for use in testing pesticides and chemical substances.  82 Fed. Reg. 27254.  EPA states that this test guideline provides “guidance for conducting a study to determine pesticide product performance against bed bugs, and is used by EPA, the public, and companies that submit data to EPA,” and “recommendations for the design and execution of laboratory studies to evaluate the performance of pesticide products intended to repel, attract, and/or kill the  common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) in connection with registration of pesticide products under the [Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)].”  EPA states that this guidance applies to products “in any formulation such as a liquid, aerosol, fog, or impregnated fabric, if intended to be applied to have a pesticidal purpose such as to attract, repel, or kill bed bugs.”  This guideline provides appropriate laboratory study designs and methods for evaluating the product performance of pesticides against bed bugs and includes statistical analysis and reporting.

EPA issued the draft guideline on February 14, 2012.  This original document was the subject of FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) review conducted on March 6-7, 2012.  EPA indicates that the final version of the guideline reflects revisions to the original draft based on comments from the SAP and the public.  EPA states that the revisions include the following:

  • Decreasing the number of individuals and replicates tested;

  • Rescinding the recommendation to test each field strain for its resistance ratio; and including a resistance management statement;

  • Clarifying the agency’s Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) requirements;

  • Reducing the recommended length of time individuals are exposed to insecticides;

  • Recommending individuals to be observed up to 96 hours after treatment; and

  • Revising the statistical analyses recommendations.

EPA has also placed two other relevant documents in the docket:

This post was written by Lisa M. Campbell and Margaret R. Graham of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C..

President’s FY18 Budget Proposes Historic Cuts to EPA Funding and Staffing

On May 23, 2017, the White House unveiled the full version of President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2018 entitled “A New Foundation for American Greatness.”  As signaled in the President’s “skinny budget” released earlier this year, the proposed budget would fund the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at $5.7 billion — a more than 30 percent decrease from the current funding of nearly eight billion.  EPA’s congressionally enacted budget has remained relatively flat since 2000, other than a significant boost in 2010 to $10.3 billion.  The proposed FY18 budget also calls for an EPA staffing level of 11,611 — a thirty year low.  The proposed decreased staffing level equates to a 20 percent reduction in the overall EPA workforce, which would eliminate approximately 3,000 employees.  A portion of the staff cuts would come from programs proposed for elimination, including the Center for Corporate Climate leadership, the Coalbed Methane Outreach group, and greenhouse gas reporting programs.  Some of the staff cuts may be accomplished by early retirement and lump sum voluntary separation payment incentives.  On June 1, 2017, EPA Acting Deputy Administrator Mike Flynn sent an e-mail to EPA employees providing preliminary details and next steps on early retirement and separation incentive offers.  Employees who accept offers will leave EPA by early September 2017.

Funding for state and tribal assistance grants (STAG) and other funds for state and regional initiatives is markedly decreased or zeroed out in the proposed budget, with cuts totaling $482 million, or 45 percent below the current enacted levels.  According to the Environmental Council of the States, which represents state departments of environment, STAG monies support approximately 27 percent of state departments of environment annual budgets.

In the area of federal enforcement, the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance’s (OECA) budget would decrease by nearly 25 percent below current funding.  This decrease would reduce civil and criminal enforcement by 18 and 16.5 percent, respectively.  Funding for laboratory and forensics costs that support enforcement cases, including monitoring, would decrease by over 40 percent.  The corresponding reduction in enforcement efforts is likely to result in increased litigation from environmental advocates, particularly for matters governed by the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act which authorize citizen suits.

The budget requests $65 million for chemical risk review and reduction efforts under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), an increase of nearly $3.8 million from the current level.  EPA’s budget document notes that TSCA fee collections, set to begin in the second quarter of FY18, will fund approximately 53 full-time employees to support the chemical review process that were previously funded by federal appropriations. This small boost in funding may not be sufficient enough to support the implementation of “new TSCA,” however, and the implementation could still result in delays.

skinny budget donald trumpThe President’s budget provides $99.4 million in appropriated funding to support EPA’s pesticide registration review and registration program, including implementation.  This amount would decrease funding by $20.4 million from current enacted levels.  In addition to budget appropriations, EPA’s pesticide program is supported by Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) maintenance fees and Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) registration application fees.  These fees combined typically generate approximately $40-45 million in additional funding per year. Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of PRIA, which would increase application fees.  Together, however, the total amount of funds available to operate the pesticide program (appropriations and industry fees) have declined over the past years and present a threat to the pesticide program’s ability to meet application review deadlines.

EPA Administrator Pruitt’s Back-to-Basics agenda includes addressing hazardous waste clean-up of the sites that have remained on the Superfund National Priorities List for decades.  In spite of this priority action item, the proposed budget would fund the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account at $762 million, $330 million below the 2017 level.  Instead of relying on the Superfund account to finance remediation, EPA instead would use existing settlement funds to clean up hazardous waste sites.

EPA’s Office of Water’s overall funding would decrease by nearly 20 percent. The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF) funding levels would remain funded at current levels. The SRFs support states’ administration of their drinking water and surface water programs and related infrastructure projects.  Steep cuts to STAG grants, and zeroing out of the Section 319 Nonpoint Source program and regional initiatives like the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay programs will be felt at the state level. The Section 319 program targets nonpoint source pollution, including runoff from agricultural working lands. States use 319 program funds to support watershed improvement projects and incentivize voluntary installation of best management practices on farms (e.g., grass waterways and buffers).

EPA’s FY18 Budget in Brief provides more details on proposed budget allocations and priorities.  The President’s budget is likely to face steep opposition in Congress, which has until September 30, 2017, to pass a budget for FY18, although this timeline will likely be extended through the use of continuing resolutions.  The House is slated to finish its work on appropriation bills before the July 4, 2017, holiday break, which should provide more insights on how much influence the President’s budget will have with appropriations leadership.

This post was contributed by the Government Regulations practice group at Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.