This is the third in a series of six Q&As with Baker Botts partners addressing the most significant developments in their practice areas this year, as well as their outlook for 2015. The Q&As will be posted throughout the remainder of the year.
Bill Bumpers is Head of the Global Climate Change practice group at Baker Botts. His practice focuses on the Clean Air Act and climate change issues.
What environmental issues do you expect will be tackled by governing bodies at the federal level in 2015?
BB: Next year, EPA plans to finalize rules setting greenhouse gas standards of performance for both new and existing fossil-fuel fired electric generating units. They are basing the standards for existing units on actions that include end-use energy efficiency measures, the establishment of renewable portfolio standards and other actions that only indirectly affect emissions of any source. This rule has the potential, if up held, to dramatically expand the scope of EPA’s authority to regulate economic activity under the Clean Air Act.
EPA also plans to finalize its definition of “waters of the U.S.,” which will establish the scope of EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate activities affecting even intermittent streams, drainage ditches connected to streams and man-made ponds.
What have been the most significant environmental decisions/announcements this year?
BB: EPA has had a busy year, but the most significant announcements were the plans to finalize the rules for greenhouse gas standards for fossil-fuel fired electric generating units next year and its decision to finalize the definition of “waters of the U.S.”
How will those decisions shape the environmental sector in 2015?
BB: The greenhouse gas rule makings will be challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia Circuit. However, if upheld, the existing source rule will result in the retirement of many coal-fired electric generating units. This could also lead to state-by-state litigation over the liabilities associated with such closures, extensive permitting of new natural gas-fired combined cycle power plants and, likely, enforcement actions.
Stay tuned for next week’s Q&A featuring Baker Botts’ Partner Aaron Davidson discussing patent damages.