Read a LawFlash published by our colleagues in the tax practice, explaining the implications of the new Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021—which includes the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020—on various industries, including the “green” energy and technology industries.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, signed into law on December 27, includes the Energy Act of 2020 (Energy Act) and the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 (Taxpayer Act), which contains tax provisions important to the energy sector.
The Energy Act, which is divided into 11 titles, establishes and funds programs that promote energy efficiency, carbon reduction, and grid modernization; supports research and development of new energy technologies, renewable energy, and electric vehicles; funds research and development for carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration; and includes initiatives that promote nuclear energy, reductions in industrial emissions, and other innovations through the US Department of Energy (DOE).
The Taxpayer Act extends the sunset or phasedown periods of federal tax credits related to the development and operation of certain renewable energy electric generating facilities, and provides new tax credit extension rules specifically applying to offshore wind power electric generating facilities. The Act also provides eligibility extensions for tax benefits applying to other “green” technologies, including the carbon capture and sequestration tax credit.
For more details concerning the implications of the Energy Act and Taxpayer Act, read the full LawFlash.
An order issued from the US Department of Energy on December 17 prohibits the installation of Chinese equipment or components in facilities providing power to designated “Critical Defense Facilities.” The order discusses threats to the electric supply chain from China.
Electric utilities that fall within the scope of the order should consider leveraging all available tools to achieve compliance with this new directive, including independent supply chain controls and verifications, contractual provisions, and regulatory protections.
Under the substantial weight of industry, state, and public pressure, the NRC today published a notice in the Federal Register (85 FR 81960) announcing its withdrawal of its proposed highly controversial reinterpretation of its low-level radioactive waste disposal regulations. The NRC concluded, after consideration of comments, that the proposed changes would not benefit the overall LLW regulatory framework.
Is it science fiction to consider living on the moon or traveling to Mars in only a few months? Maybe not. The US government is promoting technologies to place nuclear reactors in space to power human existence on the moon and to propel spacecraft to Mars.
In July 2020, the US National Space Council released a strategy for deep space exploration. The strategy includes developing a power reactor to produce electricity to support a long-term human presence on the moon and exploring nuclear propulsion to decrease deep-space travel time. Current nuclear power space systems rely on radioisotope decay to provide small amounts of power to operate systems on spacecraft. Those systems are inadequate for larger missions. A fission reactor is needed to support long-duration lunar exploration, and it is needed soon—the United States wants to land Americans on the moon’s South Pole by 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028!
Congratulations to our colleagues in the project finance, infrastructure, and natural resources practice for being named a Law360 Project Finance Group of the Year. The Law360 article profiling the team’s accomplishments highlights the diversity and depth of the practice, as well as the fact that Morgan Lewis lawyers tend to “stickwith a project for its entire lifespan.” The article also notes that successful deals often rely on the strength of other Morgan Lewis practices such as regulatory, environmental, real estate, tax, and antitrust.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently issued a change notice to summarize revisions to its Enforcement Manual, which was finalized on December 1, 2020. The Enforcement Manual provides the guidelines for how NRC Staff should implement the NRC’s Enforcement Policy.
In addition to removing 12 Enforcement Guidance Memoranda (EGMs) from Appendix A of the Manual, which lists active EGMs and is posted on the NRC’s website, the NRC made the following changes:
Changes to Part I (NRC Enforcement Process)
- Addition of Section 1.3.7, Documentation of Security-Related Information in Publicly Available Cover Letters, which incorporates guidance from EGM 15-001, Rev. 1.
- Reorganization of guidance on protecting SUNSI and predecisional enforcement information, which was moved to Section 1.3.8.
- Revisions to Sections 3.6, Use of Discretion in Determining the Amount of a Civil Penalty and 3.7, Exercise of Discretion to Issue Orders, to “align existing Manual guidance on the use of enforcement discretion with its corresponding section in the [Enforcement] Policy.”
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted to send S. 4897, the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020, to the Senate floor on December 2. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) sponsored the bill, with Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) as bipartisan cosponsors.
The bill, which was introduced in the Senate on November 16, is divided into five titles, each poised to accomplish important objectives. These include reestablishing international competitiveness and global leadership in the nuclear industry; expanding on advanced nuclear technologies; preserving existing nuclear energy generation; revitalizing America’s nuclear supply chain infrastructure; and implementing several incentives and requirements related to the nuclear energy workforce, nuclear waste in the United States, and environmental cleanup programs.
The NRC Staff recently issued SECY-20-0098, which provides the Staff’s recommendation to consolidate two low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) disposal rulemakings. Specifically, the Staff supports combining the draft final rule revising 10 CFR Part 61, “Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal” (Part 61 Rule), with a proposed rulemaking to promulgate requirements for near-surface disposal of greater-than-Class C waste (GTCC Rule). The combined rule would be “based on expected cost savings, consideration of stakeholder input, and efficiencies.”
10 CFR Part 61 governs the land disposal of LLRW. Section 61.55 characterizes LLRW on a scale, ranging from “Class A” waste, which is the least hazardous waste that can be disposed of in a near-surface disposal facility, to “Class C” waste, which is the most hazardous. Waste that exceeds the Class C limits is characterized as “greater than Class C” (GTCC) waste, and must be disposed of in a geologic repository unless the NRC approves other methods of disposal. If finalized, the following two rulemakings (or proposed consolidated rulemaking) could amend requirements for near-surface disposal of LLRW and GTCC waste in Part 61.
The NRC held a public meeting with industry on November 2 to discuss approaches for performing supplier oversight during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Although utilities generally audit their suppliers every 36 months, many utilities have an NRC-approved “grace period” of nine months beyond the 36-month limit to complete the audits. Even with the nine-month grace period, however, utilities have struggled to complete audits during the pandemic.