Congress, the media, and the public have given significant attention to remarks this week by a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) indicating that the agency would be considering a federal ban on gas stoves due to their health effects.  The suggestion of a ban on gas stoves has drawn comments from bipartisan policymakers in both chambers, and even the White House has weighed in against the prospect of a potential ban.

The CPSC is unlikely to ban gas stoves in the near future, although it has the authority to ban unreasonably dangerous products that cannot be made safe, and has done so with toxic substances in children’s products and other product categories in the past.   A CPSC rulemaking on mandatory safety standards for gas stoves, however, is a possibility, and that process may drive the establishment of voluntary industry standards by a standards-setting body.  Additionally, other federal and state regulators have recently sharpened their focus on indoor air quality and gas-powered appliances, for both health and environmental reasons.  The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), for instance, is undertaking several activities related to indoor air quality.  And the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) recently adopted a plan that would effectively prohibit the sale of gas-powered space and water heaters in California by 2030.

Particularly with regard to federal regulatory activity on gas stoves and other gas-powered appliances, potentially affected parties will have ample opportunities to help shape the outcome of any mandatory or voluntary product standards put in place or accepted by the CPSC, and to engage with other regulators.  This alert provides an overview of recent and emerging legislative and regulatory activity related to indoor air pollution, focusing particularly on activity by the CPSC and EPA.  Companies—both those with interests in gas stoves and those concerned with indoor air quality issues more broadly—should carefully follow indoor air quality developments, including in their interactions with regulators, given the increased focus on this area.

Continue Reading A Growing Focus on Indoor Air Quality by Regulators and Policymakers

On 6 October 2022, the Council of the European Union adopted a Regulation on an emergency intervention to address high energy prices (the “Regulation”).  The Regulation was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 7 October. The Regulation has three main elements:

  1. A requirement to reduce electricity consumption by 5% in peak hours;
  2. A measure to return the excess revenues or profits of energy companies to the individual Member States; and
  3. The allocation of proceeds to customers to alleviate retail electricity prices and an extension to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) of the categories of beneficiaries of a possible Member State intervention in the retail price.

The Regulation’s market intervention is exceptional (albeit in response to an extraordinary geopolitical market disruption).  It will have widespread positive and negative impacts for energy market sellers and buyers.  These circumstances may provoke a range of disputes, transaction (re)structurings or additional compliance obligations that will require expert advice and understanding of the details of the Regulation.

Continue Reading EU Emergency Action on Energy

As the world struggles to adjust to the harsh new reality of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the most recent instalment of the Sixth IPCC Report slipped out almost unnoticed.  And that is worrying, since the assessment in this section of the Report is even starker than previous assessments – noting in particular that in order to avoid global temperatures increasing by greater than 1.5 degrees C above preindustrial levels, the world needs to halve its emissions this decade: a reduction that the world does not currently appear to be remotely on course to do.

However, whilst the IPCC Report and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are not linked, Russian aggression in Ukraine may serve as a catalyst to speed up the European energy transition and accelerate its retreat from dependency on Russian gas and exposure to volatile international oil markets, which could in turn deliver a more rapid reduction in European emissions.  In the process, perhaps setting the world on a path to achieving an outcome that currently seems unattainable.

Continue Reading The IPCC and The Ukraine Crisis

On February 2, 2022, the European Commission adopted a Complementary Climate Delegated Act (the “CCDA”) listing specific gas and nuclear activities as “environmentally sustainable” for purposes of the EU Taxonomy Regulation, subject to strict criteria. Only certain activities that comply with strict emissions limits and other criteria detailed below may be so designated. Even so, the Commission’s decision to list nuclear and gas activities as “environmentally sustainable” is controversial and may still be blocked by EU Member States and the European Parliament through an upcoming scrutiny period, and may also be legally challenged before the EU Courts. Nevertheless there is a significant chance that the Commission’s criteria to consider the listed gas and nuclear activities as “environmentally sustainable” will enter into force by the beginning of 2023. This would allow such listed gas and nuclear activities to have access to green investors and ear-marked public funds under the EU’s Next Generation EU investment program.

Continue Reading Gas and Nuclear Activities in the EU Taxonomy Regulation: Under What Conditions Does the Commission Deem Them Environmentally Sustainable?

The Department of Energy (“DOE”) is proposing to extend to December 31, 2050 the standard twenty-year term for authorizations to export natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. lower-48 states.  According to DOE, the longer term would better match the operational life of LNG export facilities, provide more security in their financing, and maximize the ability to contract for exports.  This change in DOE policy will be of interest to gas and LNG export authorization holders and their counterparties in sales contracts, and to proposed export applicants that are now seeking or will seek such authorizations from DOE.

Continue Reading DOE Proposes to Lengthen LNG Export Terms

Under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), FERC certificates the construction and operation of pipelines to transport natural gas in interstate commerce if they are “required by the present or future public convenience and necessity.”  For almost two decades, FERC has used a 1999 policy statement’s guidelines to evaluate whether new pipelines meet that statutory standard. 

Recently, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) held that EU Member States are not obliged to require an environmental impact assessment for all exploratory drillings.  However, the Court’s decision can also be interpreted as requiring Member States to demand such impact assessment if the drillings can be classified as “deep drillings” and,

On December 30, 2014, the California Office of Administrative Law approved permanent regulations issued by that state’s Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (“Division”) governing fracking.  The regulations follow the Division’s final interim regulations (effective January 1, 2014), which we discussed here, and further implement California’s fracking statute (SB 4),