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Ethanol gas standard in jeopardy?

7 Sep

This summer’s drought has caused livestock feed prices to soar and livestock producers are feeling the heat on their bottom lines as well.  In order to lower feed prices, producers are asking the U.S. EPA to waive the Renewable Fuels Standards, which requires 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol to be added to gasoline this year.  If past years are any indication, they shound not expect any action from the agency.  For example, in 2008 the EPA did not issue a waiver even though corn prices rose due to increased fuel, fertilizer and other costs.

If you have questions about the Renewable Fuels Standard, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

So you think you know what is biomass?

5 Sep

At its most basic level biomass is usually considered organic material that may be burned to generate heat/electricity or converted to a liquid or solid fuel.  Biomass may be plant material: crops grown specifically to be a fuel (e.g., switchgrass and various prarie grasses); “waste” components of a plant (e.g., corn stover or sawdust); or plant derived products that no longer serve their original purpose (e.g., waste pallets or wood from demolished building stock).  Biomass may also be animal waste, aquatic plants or municipal wastes.

Anyone contemplating a biomass project is most likely doing so with the intent of receiving (state or federal) funding or inclusion in a certain government program and should pay attention to how biomass is defined in that program.  On the federal level alone, biomass has over a dozen different definitions and several statutes actually have multiple definitions (the Energy Policy Act of 2005 has 6 different definitions).  These statutory definitions include and exclude various of the above mentioned biomass categories.  Several of the federal statutes also distinguish between biomass located on federal and private lands. 

Biomass energy also faces an uncertain future as US EPA determines whether to consider biomass energy as carbon neutral.

If you have questions about biomass and whether your project complies with a specific program, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

Section 1603 Cash Grant Application Tips

5 Sep

Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides a cash grant in lieu of ITC or PTC for renewable energy projects put into service on 2009, 2010 and 2011 or which commenced construction in 2009, 2010, or 2011.  The deadline for applications is the end of this month.  Needless to say “put into service” and “commenced construction” are both terms which the Treasury Department has fleshed out in respect to Section 1603 or during the course of other programs.

Here are some tips to maximize the likelihood of having a successful application and minimizing the stress of completing the paperwork:

1) Check both the actual phyiscal construction and 5% construction commencement boxes even if you are not absolutely sure you can support the claim at this time.  The Treasury Department will follow up for further information if your submission is incomplete, but the Treasury Department will not let you retroactively amend your application to check both boxes.

2) The 4B Narrative Box unnecessarily scares many applicants.  There are no magic words and the information included in the narrative box does not directly contribute to the success of an application.  The Treasury Department can use the information to help it get a better sense for the overall project, but the primary purpose appears to be to provide the department with descriptions of successful projects for agency reports.  Treasury officials have also recommended applicants include any other unique information about the project that cannot be included anywhere else.  

3) You do not need a SAM account to apply (the Treasury Department has been experiencing technical glitches with SAM as they migrate to a new system) for a Section 1603 Cash Grant.  You do need a SAM account to receive the grant once it is awarded.

4) If you do not receive your full award, you may choose to refuse the grant and opt for the ITC instead.

If you have questions about Section 1603 cash grant applications, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

Appealing Clean Air Act Title V permits

26 Mar

It goes without saying that the content of a new Title V permit or a Title V permit renewal can have a dramatic impact on a business.  Thus, the ability to appeal the provisions of a Title V permit is of the utmost importance.  In order to be best  prepared to appeal a Title V permit, a regulated entity needs to have its appeal team assembled and taking action even before the final permit is available.  Why?  The biggest issue is time.  While the federal regulations (4o CFR Part 70) suggest that a state permit program should allow an appeal to be filed within 90 days after issuance, states are allowed to have more strict time deadlines.  Most states require an appeal to be filed within 30 days, although some states only allow 15 days to file an appeal.  In Illinois an appeal must be filed within 35 days pursuant to 415 ILCS 5/40 .

Prior to the final Title V permit being issued by the state, the company should be able to review the proposed permit that was released for public comment and/or the the proposed permit that the state has sent US EPA for the 45 day review.  This affords the appeal team to review the permit to determine which terms may need to be appealed and even to begin preparing an appeal if it appears that important issues will be contested.  That being said, there is no guarantee that the final permit won’t vary from the proposed permit.  The final permit should be reviewed in depth.  The state permitting authority may alter the terms of the permit pursuant to comments from the business or the public (or may fail to address comments that should have been addressed).  Moreover, the permitting agency is not precluded from altering terms of the permit that received no comment.  As a result, all provisions of the permit must be reviewed, regardless of whether they were commented upon.

If you have any questions regarding the Clean Air Act or Title V permits, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

Illinois Renewable Energy Production Districts

2 Sep

Illinois recently passed the Renewable Energy Production District Act (PA 97-0265).  Upon petition by voters and a subsequent hearing, a county may create a renewable energy production district.  The district would be governed by a board of trustees who would be empowered to construct, operate and maintain a renewable energy facility; contract for the construction operation and maintenance of the facility; and sell the renewable energy producced by the facility.  Under the act, a renewable energy facility includes a generator attached to a building or parcel of land that is powered by solar energy or wind, dedicated crops grown for electricity generation, anaerobic digestion of livestock or food processing waste, fuel cells or microturbines powered by renewable fuel or hydroelectric energy.

If you have any questions regarding this act or the eligible technologies, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

EPA proposes to exempt captured CO2 storage from hazardous waste regulations

17 Aug

Under a recent proposed rulemaking, EPA has manifested its intent to exclude captured and sequestered CO2 from regulation under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Assuming that the CO2 injection wells meet stringent conditions, EPA concluded that the sequestered carbon would not pose a risk to human health or the environment. The rulemaking falls under the interagency task force on carbon capture and storage (CCS), which was developed to provide a consistent national framework for CCS development.

Injection wells will still be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). In another recently finalized rule, the EPA designated a new class VI of underground injection wells. The permitting process for Class VI wells is intended to insure that the wells are properly sited and will not pose a threat to the environment or nearby drinking water sources. Overall, this represents fewer regulatory barriers for a CCS developer. (more…)

Grants for Illinois Green Manufacturers

11 Aug

The department of Commerce and Economic opportunity is tasked with promulgating guidance for the distribution of Green Manufacturing grants. In general, applicants can receive a grant of up to $250,000 for projects intended to have positive environmental benefits, such as improving air quality, waste reduction or the addition of renewable energy generation to a manufacturing facility. The goal of the grants is to reduce the overall manufacturing footprint and achieve cost savings at the facility. The regulations can be found at 20 ILCS 605/605-524.

Generally manufacturers with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to apply for a grant.  If you have any questions regarding the Green Manufacturing Grants or would like assistance applying for a grant, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

The Carbon Disclosure Project

1 Aug

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is a not-for-profit company created for collecting data on carbon emissions. The goal is then to have this data available for investors, who can use it when making financial decisions. At this time there are about 3,000 organizations involved in the CDP. Generally, the reports made the DCP are available to the public at the CDP’s website.

The CDP provides a consistent, global reporting framework. The advantages to this program are its comparability and credibility due to the amount of organizations participating. The major disadvantages of the program are its costs and the potential to disclose some of your company’s confidential business information. However, both of these drawbacks can be minimized. (more…)

Stephen Thorn joining Chicago-Kent as adjunct law professor

30 Jul

Stephen Thorn is joining the Chicago-Kent School of Law as an Adjunct Law Professor.  He will be teaching the Advanced Legal Writing: Environmental Law course.

RE-Powering America: EPA’s guidance on the use of contaminated properties for renewable energy development

20 Jul

Under the RE-Powering America’s Land: Siting Renewable Energy on Potentially Contaminated Land and Mine Sites Initiative, the EPA intends to take some of the ambiguity out of the redevelopment of contaminated properties for use as utility-scale renewable generation facilities. EPA’s guidance Siting Renewable Energy on Contaminated Properties: Addressing Liability Concerns provides important information on how to limit potential liability when entering into a lease contract. Several of the key takeaways are as follows: (more…)

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