Posts from August 2020.
Time 6 Minute Read

In March of this year, we provided an update regarding how lower courts were applying the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Kisor v. Wilkie, 139 S. Ct. 2400 (2019), which addressed the question of whether the Court should overrule the Auer doctrine, named after the 1997 Supreme Court case Auer v. Robbins.  The Auer doctrine rests on the premise that agencies are in a better position than courts to interpret their own regulations.  Under the doctrine, courts generally defer to an agency’s reasonable readings of its own “genuinely ambiguous” regulations.  In a 5-4 decision, the Court declined to abandon the Auer doctrine on grounds of stare decisis but seemed to outline restrictions on the scope and applicability of the doctrine, including the rule that deference to an agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous regulation is not appropriate if the interpretation does not reflect the “fair and considered judgment” of the agency.  This means that deference may not be appropriate if the interpretation creates “unfair surprise,” such as when the agency’s interpretation conflicts with a prior interpretation or upends a party’s reliance on established practices.  Kisor, 139 S. Ct. at 2417-18.

Time 6 Minute Read

On August 11, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) released a new report that promotes constructive recommendations to modernize and improve the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).  In 1946, Congress enacted the APA to establish procedures as a check on administrative power, and to provide the public with some degree of due process in the face of regulatory action.  As it relates to the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, and other relevant environmental regulatory programs, the APA provides the framework under which federal agencies develop and promulgate regulations to implement these programs.  Since Congress passed the APA over 70 years ago, the size and scope of federal regulatory authority has ballooned in size, leading at times to inefficiencies in the rulemaking process and a lack of accountability.  To address these shortcomings, DOJ hosted a summit in December 2019 that brought together leading regulatory practitioners, scholars, and policymakers to discuss possible reform.  Although legislative action in the near future is unlikely given the polarized political climate in Congress, the report puts forward a “rich menu of options” for Congress to revise the APA.

Time 8 Minute Read

Flaring has the attention of RRC, Producers and Stakeholders

Flaring has the attention of the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), oil and natural gas companies and stakeholders such as royalty owners, investors and environmental groups. Requests for RRC authorization of flaring has been on the increase in the Permian Basin. As a result, a number of interested parties are looking at regulatory changes. Some interested parties voice concern that a valuable resource is being wasted, others state that the definition of natural gas 'waste' is too limited, still others are concerned about methane emissions and some all of the above. Though the interested parties may not always be aligned, there is a general sense that regulatory amendments are needed.


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