Ben Cowan, a Partner in the Firm’s Environmental Section, provided commentary to Law360 on U.S. District Judge Brian Morris’ ruling that narrowed the applicability of his prior decision vacating Nationwide Permit 12. While the amended order still presents significant problems for the oil and gas pipeline industry, Cowan acknowledged that Judge Morris' tailoring of the order will provide regulatory comfort to renewable and other non-pipeline industries that worried their projects would not be able to proceed based on the vacatur of NWP 12. "We have more clarity on what is and isn't affected, and that's helpful," Cowan noted.
Cowan elaborated that renewable energy developers dodged a major bullet with the amended order and noted that wind projects in particular install numerous utility lines for which they rely upon NWP 12. Before the ruling was amended, wind energy developers would have been forced to find alternative permitting pathways, and the ability to secure clean permitting opinions for projects already under construction would have been compromised, creating a major hurdle to project financing. "It was a big problem for the wind industry, and so it's a giant relief for them," Cowan said.
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