By M. Dwayne Johnson

The D.C. Circuit’s July 7, 2017 decision on EPA’s 2015 definition of solid waste rule (DSW Rule)[1] may change the regulation of hazardous waste in Louisiana. First, some background.

In 2008, EPA promulgated a definition of solid waste rule that was intended to foster waste recycling (2008 Rule).[2] Therein, among other things, EPA provided two exclusions from the definition of solid waste:[3] (a) the generator control exclusion (GCE) for material reclaimed under the control of the generator, and (b) the transfer based exclusion (TBE) where the material is reclaimed by a third party reclaimer that has a RCRA permit or, if the reclaimer has no permit, the generator has made reasonable efforts to ensure that the reclaimer legitimately reclaims the material. The 2008 Rule was not mandatory.[4]

In 2015, EPA promulgated the DSW Rule that likewise was intended to foster waste recycling.[5] Therein, among other thing, EPA revised the GCE and replaced the TBE with the verified recycler exclusion (VRE). Under the VRE, material is excluded from the definition of solid waste if it is reclaimed by a third party reclaimer that has a RCRA permit or that has been approved (via variance) by EPA or a qualified state. EPA also provided 4 factors (Legitimacy Factors) to determine whether material is legitimately recycled and thus not discarded material (ergo solid waste): (1) the material must provide a useful contribution to the recycling process or to a product or intermediate of the recycling process; (2) the recycling process must produce a valuable product or intermediate; (3) the generator and the recycler must manage the material as a valuable commodity when it is under their control; and (4) the product of the recycling process must be comparable to a legitimate product or intermediate[6]. The DSW Rule contained both mandatory provisions (legitimate recycling) and non-mandatory provisions (the GCE and VRE).

Last month, LDEQ revised its hazardous waste regulations to adopt the DSW Rule and those portions of the 2008 Rule that remained in place.[7]

But in its decision, the DC Circuit:  (1) vacated the VRE, except for its emergency preparedness and response requirements and its expanded containment requirements; (2) reinstated the TBE (including its bar on spent catalysts); and (3) generally vacated Legitimacy Factor 4.[8]

The DC Circuit may reconsider its decision, and the Supreme Court may revise the decision on appeal. In the meantime, the decision’s effect is unclear and the Louisiana regulated community needs guidance from EPA and LDEQ.

Until then, it appears the DC Circuit’s decision will have the following effect in Louisiana:

  • The VRE is no longer available.
  • The TBE is not currently available (because it was never adopted in Louisiana).
  • If LDEQ amends its rules to adopt the TBE, spent catalysts will be barred, the generator will need to comply with the VRE emergency preparedness and response provisions, and the VRE expanded containment requirements will apply.
  • Because LDEQ’s hazardous program can be more stringent than EPA’s, until LDEQ amends its rules or otherwise stays enforcement, Legitimacy Factor 4 may remain in place for all recycling (not just under the GCE).

__________________________________
[1] American Petroleum Institute v. EPA, No 09-1038 (D.C. Circuit 2017).

[2] 73 Fed. Reg. 64668 (October 30, 2008).

[3] Fundamentally, for a material to be a hazardous waste, it must first be a solid waste. Or stated differently, if a material is not a solid waste, it cannot be a hazardous waste. Thus, material excluded from the definition of solid waste will not be regulated as a hazardous waste.

[4] That is, qualified states — like Louisiana — that have been authorized by EPA to administer and enforce the state hazardous waste program in lieu of the federal program were not required by EPA to adopt the 2008 Rule in order to maintain their qualification (or delegation).

[5] 80 Fed. Reg. 1694 (January 13, 2015).

[6] Under the DSW Rule, for recycling to be legitimate, all four Legitimacy Factors have to be met.

[7] 43 La. Reg. 1151 (June 20, 2017).

[8] Because the GCE specifically requires compliance with the rule containing all four Legitimacy Factors (40 CFR 260.43(a)), Legitimacy Factor 4 apparently still will have to be met to establish legitimate recycling under the GCE.

 

By Tyler Kostal

Consistent with public comments that it will pursue all available appellate remedies, today the South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, to seek review of the decision in Board of Comm. of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC,  850 F.3d 714 (5th Cir. 2017).

The questions presented focus on claims arising under federal law pursuant to the standard developed in Grable & Sons Metal Prods. v. Darue Engineering & Manufacturing, 125 S. Ct. 2363, 2368 (2005), and succeeding cases.  Specifically, the questions presented are:

  1. Whether the “substantial[ity]” and “federal-state balance” requirements of Grable are satisfied whenever a federal law standard is referenced to inform the standard of care in a state-law cause of action, so long as the parties dispute whether federal law embodies the asserted standard.
  2. Whether a federal court applying Grable to a case removed from state court must accept a colorable, purely state-law claim as sufficient to establish that the case does not “necessarily raise” a federal issue, even if the court believes the state court would ultimately reject the purely state-law basis for the claim on its merits.

It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will accept this case for review.

See prior post on this topic hereClick here for a copy of the petition.

by Carrie Tournillon

The Louisiana Public Service Commission (“LPSC”) and the State Legislature are conflicted over regulation of motor carriers of waste in Louisiana.  While the Louisiana Constitution grants the LPSC the authority to regulate common carriers, and the LPSC oversees the certification and permitting of such carriers, in the 2017 Regular Session the Legislature enacted Senate Bill 50 (Act 278) that changes the statutory requirements for a carrier to become an approved motor carrier of waste in the State.  Act 278 was signed into law by Governor Edwards on June 15, 2017.

Under the LPSC rules, carriers of waste must prove “public convenience and necessity,” which requires contracts with shippers for contract carrier permits and testimony or affidavits from shippers for common carrier certificates, in support of need for the requested new or expanded authority.  An applicant also must prove fitness to operate.

However, Legislative Act 278 eliminates the requirement to prove “public convenience and necessity” to obtain authority from the LPSC to operate as a common or contract carrier of waste within the state.  An applicant only must prove fitness to operate.

At the LPSC’s Business & Executive Session last month, there was much discussion regarding whether the new legislation is an unconstitutional infringement on the jurisdiction of the LPSC over common carriers. Ultimately, the LPSC directed its Staff to file suit challenging Act 278 and to take all action necessary to protect the LPSC’s jurisdiction.

At the same meeting, the Commissioners also considered but declined to adopt new rules for obtaining authority to haul waste within Louisiana. The LPSC Staff’s proposed rules would have set forth guidelines for certification of common and contract carriers and created a rebuttal presumption that granting the certificate was in the public interest if the applicant met the application requirements.  While considered to be an improvement over current LPSC rules, the Staff’s proposed rules still required applicants to prove “public convenience and necessity,” including having shippers provide affidavits in support of the need for the certificate.

The LPSC Commissioners disagreed over whether the Staff’s proposed new rules went far enough to change the standard for obtaining authority to haul waste within the state.  One Commissioner offered a motion to approve the Staff proposal, supporting it as an industry solution developed with stakeholders in the trucking business.  Another Commissioner argued extensively in favor of opening up the market for hauling waste in Louisiana and urged as a substitute motion that the LPSC adopt new rules based on the Legislative Act 278, which would eliminate the “public convenience and necessity” requirement.  Both motions failed 2-2.

While the LPSC Staff’s proposed rules were not adopted by the LPSC in June, it is expected that there will be additional discussion of changes to the rules, and that the constitutional issues raised by Act 278 will be pursued by the LPSC in the courts.

For more information, contact a member of the Kean Miller Utilities Regulatory Team.

 

By Tod J. Everage

The US Fifth Circuit recently published an opinion in Feld Motor Sports, Inc. v. Traxxas, LP, recognizing that it had jurisdiction to review a district court’s denial of a motion for summary judgment on a legal issue. This ruling was the first of its kind in the 5th Circuit, who now joins the 1st, 4th and 8th Circuits to acknowledge this exception to the general rule.

The case involved a fight over allegedly unpaid royalties in a licensing agreement between a monster truck show promoter and an RC car maker. During the case, both parties filed motions for summary judgment advancing their own interpretations of the subject licensing agreement. The district court denied both motions, concluding that the contract was ambiguous and the case proceeded to trial. After a seven-day trial, the jury found Traxxis owed FMS the unpaid royalties. Traxxas then filed a combined renewed motion for summary judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b), motion for new trial under Rule 59, or alternative motion to modify the judgment. The district court denied the motions and Traxxas appealed. FMS argued that the 5th Circuit did not have jurisdiction to hear Traxxas’s appeal, among other things.

The 5th Circuit analyzed its recent jurisprudence on the issue of jurisdiction and Rule 50 motions. In 2014, the Court recognized the long-standing general rule that “an interlocutory order denying summary judgment is not to be reviewed when final judgment adverse to the movant is rendered on the basis of a full trial on the merits.” See Blessey Marine Services, Inc. v. Jeffboat, LLC, 771 F.3d 894, 897 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Black v. J.I. Case Co., 22 F.3d 568, 570 (5th Cir. 1994)). Before now, the 5th Circuit had recognized only one exception to that rule. In Becker v. Tidewater, Inc., the Court held that it could review “the district court’s legal conclusions in denying summary judgment,” but only when “the case was a bench trial.” 586 F.3d 358, 365 n.4 (5th Cir. 2009). The Court reasoned in Becker that “because Rule 50 motions are not required to be made following a bench trial, it is appropriate to review the court’s denial of summary judgment in this context.” In Blessey, the 5th Circuit noted (in dicta) that it may have jurisdiction to hear an appeal of the district court’s legal conclusions following a jury trial, but only if the party restated its objection in a Rule 50 motion.

For clarification, Rule 50 governs motions for a judgment as a matter of law in a jury trial. Rule 50(a) allows a party (usually the defendant) to move for a judgment as a matter of law in a jury trial against the other party if the other party has been fully heard on an issue, arguing that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue. If the Court denies the Rule 50(a) motion, a defendant has 28 days after entry of judgment to renew its motion under Rule 50(b).

Here, the 5th Circuit held that “following a jury trial on the merits, this court has jurisdiction to hear an appeal of the district court’s legal conclusions in denying summary judgment, but only if it is sufficiently preserved in a Rule 50 motion.” In doing so, the Court joined the 1st, 4th, and 8th Circuits.

While technically plowing new ground, the 5th Circuit very directly reminded practitioners to make sure to renew their Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as matter of law after an adverse jury verdict or risk waiving their right to appeal the Court’s adverse legal finding. This issue is much more prevalent in contractual interpretation disputes, but can arise in casualty litigation should a defendant be unsuccessful asserting a legal defense on a dispositive motion or Rule 50(a) motion at the close of Plaintiff’s case.

Industrial Strength Graphic Only

By Jaye Calhoun, Phyllis Sims, Willie Kolarik, and McClain Schonekas

Despite consideration of an Ohio-style gross receipts tax, a Michigan-style single business tax and various versions of flat taxes, the 2017 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature ended on June 8, 2017, without the enactment of any significant tax reform. Because the Legislature neglected to compromise on the budget issues raised in the Session, Governor John Bel Edwards called a Special Session to convene half an hour after the regular session ended. The issues that could be addressed in the Special Session, however, were limited to budget issues pursuant to the Special Session Call.

Nevertheless, some tax legislation of note squeaked out and will become law if either signed by the Governor or after the expiration of the requisite passage of time if the Governor takes no action (or, in at least one instance below, if the voters approve a Constitutional amendment). Please note that, for those pieces of legislation below identified by Act Number, the Governor has signed the legislation. As of this client alert, the remaining items have not yet been acted upon by the Governor so they are not final. The Governor has, at latest, until June 27, 2017 to act upon (sign or veto) the legislation, or to allow the legislation to go into effect without signature.

In the meantime, here are some relevant tax provisions that made it out of the 2017 Regular Session:

Sales and Use Tax

Establishing the Louisiana Uniform Local Sales Tax Board and the Louisiana Sales and Use Tax Commission for Remote Sellers and creating an optional concurcus proceeding for certain taxpayer’s involved in multi-parish audits

Act No. 274 (HB601), enacted June 16, 2017.

Act No. 274 creates two new entities: the Louisiana Uniform Local Sales Tax Board (the “Board”) and the Louisiana Sales and Use Tax Commission for Remote Sellers (the “Commission”). The Board, consisting of eight members and domiciled in East Baton Rouge Parish, is established for purposes of creating uniformity and efficiency in the imposition, collection, and administration of local sales and use taxes. Among its powers and duties, the Board may issue policy advice and private letter rulings on local sales and use tax issues. The Commission, composed of eight commissioners and domiciled in East Baton Rouge, is established for the administration and collection of sales and use tax imposed by the state and political subdivisions for remote sales. The Commission will have the power, duty, and authority to serve as the single entity within the state responsible for all state and local sales and use tax administration, return processing, and audits for remotes sales.

Act. No. 274 also amended La. R.S. 47:337.86 to create an optional concurcus proceeding for a taxpayer that has received a formal notice of assessment from two or more Louisiana local collectors that have a competing or conflicting claim to sales and use tax on a transaction. In that instance, the taxpayer or dealer may file a concurcus proceeding before the Local Tax Division of the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals. If a concurcus is filed, the taxpayer or dealer, as applicable, shall pay the amount of sales tax collected or, if no tax was collected, the amount of tax due at the highest applicable rate, together with penalty and interest into an escrow account for the registry of the Board of Tax Appeals. The proceeding shall name as defendants all parishes that are parties to the dispute. Special rules for appealing a decision of judgment of the Board of Tax Appeals in the concurcus proceeding are also provided. Any taxpayer involved in a multi-parish audit should consider whether it is appropriate to file a concursus proceeding.

Act No. 274 became effective on June 16, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Addition of Certain Construction Contracts Excluded from New Sales and Use Tax

Act No. 209 (HB 264), enacted June 14, 2017.

Act No. 209 amends and reenacts La. R.S. 47:305.11(A) to provide that no new or additional sales or use tax shall be applicable to sales of materials or services involved in fixed fee and guaranteed maximum price construction contracts. The current law excludes any new sales tax levy on materials and services for a lump sum or unit price construction contract.

The provisions of Act No. 209 are applicable for purposes of any additional state sales and use tax enacted on or after July 1, 2017. Therefore, it appears that fixed fee and guaranteed maximum price construction contracts may not be excluded from the levy or a new or additional state or local sales and use tax enacted before July 1, 2017.

Act No. 209 became effective on June 14, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Medical Devices Exemption

SB 180, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

SB 180 creates a sales and use tax exemption, beginning July 1, 2017, for medical devices used by patients under the supervision of a physician.

You can view the legislation here.

Income/Franchise Tax Credits

2015/2016 Reductions to Certain Income & Corporate Franchise Tax Credits Made Permanent & Restoration of Tax Credit for State Insurance Premium Tax Paid

SB79, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

SB 79 provides that certain tax credit reductions will no longer sunset on June 30, 2018, making the reductions permanent. Specifically the tax credit for employee and depend health insurance coverage, the tax credit for rehab of residential structures, the tax credit for qualified new recycling manufacturing or process equipment and service contracts, the tax credit for donations made to public schools, the angel investor tax credit program, the digital interactive media and software tax credit, the musical and theatrical production income tax credit, the green jobs industries tax credit, the technology commercialization credit, and the modernization tax credit. The majority of the changes are minor, mostly reducing certain income and corporation franchise tax credits. The bill does, however, restore the corporate income tax credit for state insurance premium taxes paid.

You can view the legislation here.

Modifications to Inventory Tax Credit

SB 182, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

SB 182 changes the limitation on refundability of excess inventory tax credits for local ad valorem taxes paid on inventory to clarify that only taxpayers included on the same consolidated federal income tax return shall be treated as a single taxpayer, i.e., related or affiliated taxpayers that are not included on the same consolidated federal return are not regarded as a single taxpayer.

If enacted, SB 182 would apply to all claims for credits authorized pursuant to La. R.S. 47:6006 on any return filed on or after July 1, 2017, regardless of the taxable year to which the return relates, but would not apply to an amended return filed on or after July 1, 2017, if the credits authorized pursuant to La. R.S. 47:6006 were properly claimed on an original return filed prior to July 1, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Goodbye Tax Credits

SB 172, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

SB 172 terminates certain tax credits such as the tax credit for contributions to education institutions and the tax credit for employment of first-time nonviolent offenders, among others, as of January 1, 2020. The tax credits for expenses incurred for the rehabilitation of historic structures and for the conversion of vehicles to alternative fuel usage would terminate beginning January 1, 2022. The final bill did not impact the inventory tax credit.

You can view the legislation here.

Say Goodbye to Even More Tax Credits

Act No. 323 (SB 178) effective June 22, 2017

Act No. 323 sets termination dates for various tax credits and incentive programs, including programs administered by the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, specifically: the Corporate Tax Apportionment Program (July 1, 2017), the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program (July 1, 2021), the Sound Recording Investor Tax Credit (July 1, 2021), and the tax credit for “Green Job Industries” (July 1, 2017). At this time, the termination dates are not intended to be hard dates for termination, but are intended to be review dates for these programs, such that the programs should be up for review at the Legislature prior to being terminated. These programs will be up for review prior to their sunset and could be legislatively renewed.

You can view the legislation here.

Extension of Enterprise Zone Tax Exemption

Act No. 206 (HB 237) , enacted June 14, 2017.

Act No. 206 extends the sunset for the Enterprise Zone Tax Exemption Program from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2021.

Act No. 206 became effective on June 14, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Modifications, Terminations, and Extensions of Various Tax Incentives & Rebates

SB 183, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

SB 183 modifies, terminates, and extends various tax incentives and rebates. Some of the highlights include the following:

  • University Research and Development Parks: No new contracts to be entered after July 1, 2017.
  • Enterprise Zone Program: No new advance notifications shall be accepted after July 1, 2021.
  • Mega-Project Energy Assistance Rebate: No cooperative endeavor agreements shall be entered into after July 1, 2017.
  • Quality Jobs Program: No new advance notifications shall be accepted after July 1, 2022.
  • Competitive Projects Payroll Incentive Program: No new contracts shall be approved after July 1, 2022.
  • Quality Jobs Program: Minimum benefit rate was lowered to 4% from 5% and per-hour compensation required by employers to receive benefit was increased to $18.00 per hour from $14.50 per hour; per-hour compensation to receive 6% benefit rate is now $21.66 per hour; employer must be located in parish within the lowest 25% of parishes based on income; added to the list of professions and services not eligible for the rebate; and increased gross payroll to $625,000 and new direct jobs to 15 for the third year rebate for large employers.

You can view the legislation here.

Changes to Solar Tax Credit

HBHB 187, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HBHB 187 reduces the eligible time period for tax credit claims paid for solar energy systems purchased and installed in a new home from before January 1, 2018 to January 1, 2016. It also adds a three-year structured payout provision that authorizes tax credit claims on systems purchased on or before December 31, 2015 and caps the maximum amount of credits paid out at $5M each fiscal year, exclusive of interest. HB 187 also increases the amount of tax credits for leased solar energy systems installed on or after January 1, 2014 and before July 1, 2015 to 38% of the first $25,000 of the cost of purchase, from 30% of the first $20,000 of the cost of purchase.

You can view the legislation here.

Research and Development Tax Credit Changes

HB 300, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 300 makes a number of changes to the research and development tax credit program including extending it for three years, reducing the amount of the credits, and allowing for transferability of the Small Business Innovation Research Grant credit.

You can view the legislation here.

Inventory Tax Credit for Movables Held by Persons Engaged in Short-term Rentals

HB 313, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 313 addresses, in part, the duplicative (triplicative) tax burden on lessors and lessees of heavy equipment, making changes to the tax credit for local inventory taxes paid by expanding the definition of inventory to include any item of tangible personal property owned by a retailer that is available for or subject to a short-term rental that will subsequently or ultimately be sold by the retailer. “Short-term rental” is defined as a rental of an item for a period of “less than three hundred sixty-five days, for an undefined period, or under an open-ended agreement.” The bill also adds to the definition of retailer to include a person engaged in short-term rental of tangible personal property classified under NAICS codes 532412, e.g., a person in the construction, mining, oil field or oil well rental industry, and 532310, e.g., general rental centers and rent-all centers, and that is registered with the Department of Revenue.

In enacted, HB 313 would be effective retroactively to tax periods beginning on and after January 1, 2016.

You can view the legislation here.

Changes to Rules Regarding Tax Credits Concerning vessels in OCSLA Waters

HB 425, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 425 takes away the restriction that taxes paid under protest were ineligible for the tax credit for ad valorem taxes paid with respect to vessels in Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Waters. The bill requires that a taxpayer who pays ad valorem taxes under protest provide notification to the Louisiana Department of Revenue, including copies of the payment under protest and the filed lawsuit and provides a mechanism for the Department to recapture the a credit related to an amount paid under protest if the taxpayer does not prevail. Special rules apply to challenges to the legality, as opposed to the correctness, of the property tax on vessels in Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Waters.

If enacted, the HB 425 would apply to income tax periods beginning on and after January 1, 2017, and corporation franchise tax periods beginning on and after January 1, 2018.

You can view the legislation here.

Changes to Angel Investor Tax Credit

HB 454, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 454 extends the sunset for the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program until July 1, 2021. The bill sets the rate of the credit at 25% of the amount of investment divided equally over three years and reduces the overall limit per business to $1.44 million.

If enacted, the effective date for the extended sunset of the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program would become effective on July 1, 2017. The remaining portions of HB 454 would become effective July 1, 2018.

You can view the legislation here.

Oil and Gas Fees/Taxes

Changes to Oilfield Site Restoration Statute

HB 98, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 98 decouples the definitions of “oil,” “condensate,” and “gas” in the Oil Field Site Restoration Fund fee statute from the severance tax statutes. Currently, in addition to severance taxes, there is a set fee on the production of oil, condensate, and gas. The proceeds of that fee are to be used for the oilfield site restoration program in the Department of Natural Resources. The bill states that the full production rate fee shall include all production from oil and gas wells except for production from reduced rate production wells. The bill also repeals the provision that sets the fee for full-production wells in proportion to the rate of severance tax collected. The bill does not change the proportional fee for reduced rate production wells (i.e, stripper wells and incapable wells).

If enacted, the provisions of HB 98 would become effective on July 1, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Changes to Severance Tax Exemptions for Bringing Inactive and Orphan Wells back into Production 

HB 461, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 461 changes the length and amount of severance tax exemptions for bringing certain inactive and orphan wells back into production. The bill changes the exemption from a 5-year exemption to a 10-year exemption. Bringing back inactive wells will entitle the taxpayer to a 50% rate reduction and bringing back an orphan well will entitle the taxpayer to a 75% reduction on the severance tax. To qualify for the reduced rate, the production must be produced from the same perforated producing interval or from 100 feet above and 100 feet below the perforated producing interval for lease wells, and within the correlative defined interval for unitized reservoirs, that the formerly inactive or orphaned well produced from before being inactive or designated as an orphan well. The bill caps the program at $15 million per fiscal year.

If enacted, the provisions of HB 461 would become effective August 1, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Other Tax Updates

Electronic Filing of Tax Returns

Act No. 150 (HB HB 333), enacted June 12, 2017.

Act No. 150 authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Revenue to require that tax payments be made by electronic funds transfer and that returns be filed electronically. It also contains a penalty for failure to comply with electronic filing requirements equal to the greater of $100 or 5% for the tax.

Act No. 150 became effective on June 12, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment: Property Tax Exemption for Property Delivered to Construction Site

SB 140

SB 140 is a proposed constitutional amendment to exempt from ad valorem tax all property delivered to a construction project site for the purpose of incorporating the property into any tract of land, building, or other construction as a component part, including the , including the type of property that may be deemed to be a component part once placed on an immovable for its service and improvement. This exemption would apply until the construction project is completed (i.e., occupied and used for its intended purpose). The exemption would not apply to (1) any portion of a construction project that is complete, available for its intended use, or operational on the date that property is assessed; (2) for projects constructed in two or more distinct phases, any phase of the construction project that is complete, available for its intended use, or operational on the date the property is assessed; (3) certain public service property.

A constitutional amendment does not require action by the Governor. This constitutional amendment will be placed on the ballot at the statewide election to be held on October 14, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

For questions or additional information, please contact: Jaye Calhoun at (504) 293-5936, Phyllis Sims at (225) 389-3717, Jason Brown at (225) 389-3733, Angela Adolph at (225) 382-3437, Willie Kolarik at (225) 382-3441 or McClain Schonekas at (504) 620-3368.

 

A tow is pushing a barge up the Mississippi River. This single barge will be connected with others for a longer haul.

By McClain R. Schonekas

The M/V HANNAH C. SETTOON, owned and operated by Settoon Towing, L.L.C. (“Settoon”), was towing two crude oil tank barges on the Mississippi River when an attempted passage around the M/V LINDSAY ANN ERICKSON and its tow went badly resulting in a spill of 750 barrels of crude oil. The spill closed a 70-mile stretch of the river to vessels for 48 hours for cleanup and recovery. The United States Coast Guard named Settoon the strictly liable Responsible Party under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA 90”) (codified at 33 U.S.C. §§ 2701–2762), requiring it to carry out the cleanup and remediation. Settoon subsequently filed a Limitation of Liability proceeding seeking to limit its civil liability to the total value of the vessel and its freight. Marquette Transportation Company, L.L.C. (“Marquette”), owner of the M/V LINDSAY ANN ERICKSON, filed a claim. Settoon filed a counterclaim against Marquette seeking contribution under the OPA, general maritime law, or both.

Following a four-day bench trial on liability, the district court found both parties at fault for the collision, apportioning 35% of fault to Settoon and 65% to Marquette. The district court also found that Settoon, the Responsible Party, was entitled to contribution for purely economic damages from Marquette, in proportion to its liability. Marquette appealed, arguing that OPA 90 does not allow a Responsible Party to obtain contribution from a partially-liable third party, and even if it does, the district court clearly erred in its allocation of fault. A unanimous panel anchored by an experienced admiralty jurist affirmed the district court.

Judge Southwick, writing for the panel, methodically analyzed the applicable provisions of OPA 90 and dissected Marquette’s statutory argument, ultimately disposing of it. Simply stated, Marquette argued that the right to contribution from a jointly negligent party did not arise under OPA 90. Instead, Marquette contended that any contribution it owed was based on general maritime law and therefore limited by the Robins Dry Dock bar to purely economic damages.[1]

Highlighting the relevant section of OPA 90, at 33 U.S.C. §§ 2709,[2] the panel held “that contribution is available under the OPA.” Despite its clever argument, the panel rebuffed Marquette’s invitation to apply general maritime law and the Robins Dry Dock bar to purely economic damages. The Court stated,

We conclude that the most reasonable interpretation of the language of the OPA, as confirmed by the Act’s legislative history, grants to an OPA Responsible Party the right to receive contribution from other entities who were partially at fault for a discharge of oil. Specifically, a Responsible Party may recover from a jointly liable third party any damages it paid to claimants, including those arising out of purely economic losses.[3]

Unsurprisingly, the panel also quickly disposed of Marquette’s argument that the district court clearly erred in its allocation of fault. AFFIRMED.

*******************************

[1] In Robins Dry Dock & Repair Co. v. Flint, 275 U.S. 303 (1927), a time-charterer of a steamship brought an action against the Dry Dock Company to recover for loss of use of the steamer whose delivery was delayed by the Dry Dock Company’s negligence. The Court found that the time-charter had no cause of action against the Dry Dock Company for the loss of use of the vessel because, among other reasons, the docking contract between the vessel owner and the Dry Dock Company was not for the time-charterer’s direct benefit.

[2] This Section states, “A person may bring a civil action for contribution against any other person who is liable or potentially liable under this Act or another law. The action shall be brought in accordance with section 2717 of this title.”

[3] In re Settoon Towing, L.L.C., No. 16-30459, 2017 WL 2486018, at *10 (5th Cir. June 9, 2017).

california

By Lee Vail

New projects require air permits and projects at major stationary sources that will emit (or increase) a significant amount of a regulated NSR pollutant, must conduct a control technology review.  In order to receive a permit, the applicant must determine the level of control considered Best Available Control Technology (“BACT”) and the permit issuing authority must agree.  This has been the rule for a long time and nothing is new.

As it relates to greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions, facilities that have a significant increase of a non-GHG and a significant increase in GHG must conduct a GHG BACT review.  Typically these reviews conclude that add-on controls, such as Carbon Capture and Sequestration (“CCS”), are infeasible. As a result, BACT may be a combination of good-engineering/good-combustion practices, low carbon fuels, or an emission limit.  The lack of feasible add-on controls is typically based on the high associated cost, the lack of controlling legal mechanisms, and the dearth of actual experience.  California has started a process that may start to address the last two issues.  As for the excessive cost of CCS, that will likely remain.  However experience usually results in some reduction of cost.

A little over a year ago, The California Air Resource Board (“CARB”) initiated a series of public workshops[1] with the goal of better understanding of “the ability of CCS to contribute to climate goals, the limitations or advantages of the technology, and the innovation and incentives necessary for adoption.”[2] Six additional “Technical Meetings” have occurred since that time and on May 8, 2017, CARB conducted a public workshop where CARB staff presented “an initial concept of a Quantification Methodology (QM) and Permanence Protocol for CCS.”[3] CARB is signaling the intent to establish QM and permanence requirements into California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) in the near term with possible inclusion into the California Cap-and-Trade (“C&T”) regulation sometime in the future.

Following the May 8, 2017 workshop, CARB has received multiple substantive comment letters.  Many of these comments were from industry groups that provided significant positive technical comments.  That said general concerns with the current proposal were expressed:

  • Inability of moving carbon dioxide from one well to another (i.e., reuse carbon dioxide used for enhanced recovery).
  • Post-closure should not prohibit future activity in an oil reservoir if it can be shown that carbon dioxide is not released.
  • Well construction (cemented to the surface) will not allow use of existing wells and may be counterproductive with leak monitoring and mitigation.
  • Inclusion of QM for C&T should occur expeditiously.

California has unique laws concerning GHG control that create incentives to investigate CCS as an add-on technology.  CARB’s development of protocols (and eventually regulations) is clearly intended to spur activity along CCS activity.  Whereas, non-California projects are not constrained with C&T requirements, prolific expansion of CCS in California may make the infeasible argument more difficult. Close attention should be paid to this process.

________________________________________

[1] CARB, Carbon Capture and Sequestration Meetings, found at https://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/ccs/meetings/meetings.htm.

[2] Workshop Notice and Draft Agenda, from Elizabeth Scheehle, Oil and Gas and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Branch, CARB (January 21, 2016); found at https://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/ccs/meetings/Workshop_Notice_1-21-16.pdf.

[3] Workshop Notice and Draft Agenda, from Elizabeth Scheehle, Oil and Gas and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Branch, CARB (April 18, 2017); found at https://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/ccs/meetings/Workshop_Notice_5-8-17.pdf

This is a horizontal, color, royalty free stock photograph shot with a Nikon D800 DSLR camera. The sky at dusk reflects pastel colors on the tranquil water's surface. Lilly pads float on this wetland landscape. Trees fill the background.

By Lauren J. Rucinski

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has an opportunity to rule on controversial Clean Water Act wetlands jurisdictional requirements through the appeal of a Montana man’s conviction for polluting a navigable waterway. US v. Joseph Robertson, No. 16-30178 (C.A. 9). The timing of the appeal could affect the Trump administration’s efforts to take a second look at the Obama-era “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) rule.

Joseph Robertson was convicted by a jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in April of 2016 for unauthorized discharge of pollutants into waters of the US and malicious mischief for injury or depredation of US property. The charges arose from Robertson’s excavation and construction of 9 stock ponds after being told by the government that he could not do so. The activities caused the discharge of dredged and fill materials into a tributary of the neighboring navigable river and also caused damage to nearby wetlands. Robertson was sentenced to 18 months prison and ordered to pay $129,933 in restitution for ponds dug on Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest land and on private property near his mining claim. Robertson now argues that the District Court did not have jurisdiction to hear his case because the government failed to articulate a lawful standard for what qualifies as “waters of the United States.” United States v. Robertson, No. CR 15-07-H-DWM, 2015 WL 7720480 (D. Mont. Nov. 30, 2015).

The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of any pollutant without a permit into “navigable waters,” which it defines, in turn, as “the waters of the United States.” 33 U.S.C. §§ 1311(a), 1362(7), (12). The term “waters of the US” has always included certain wetlands within federal jurisdiction, but the scope of that jurisdiction has been controversial.  The U.S.  Army Corps of Engineers administers the program which issues permits for dredge and fill activities affecting waters of the US. However, for a certain waterbody to be subject to permitting requirements, it must be a “water of the United States.”

Over the years, the primary issue concerning which wetlands are subject to regulation was the degree of their connectedness with a “real” navigable water. The current seminal cased interpreting “waters of the United States” is a split 4-1-4 opinion from the US Supreme Court in Rapanos v. US, 547 U.S. 715 (2006). Justice Scalia wrote the plurality opinion which held that the term “waters of the United States” requires wetlands to maintain a “continuous surface connection” to navigable waters. Justice Kennedy wrote a separate concurring opinion with a relatively wider view of jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, requiring only that the wetland maintain a “significant nexus” to navigable waters. Confusion has ensued, with courts applying the Clean Water Act to any water that satisfied either the Kennedy or Scalia tests. However, the Seventh Circuit, and relevant to the Robertson case, the Ninth Circuit have held that the Kennedy test alone is controlling. N. Cal. River Watch v. City of Healdsburg, 496 F.3d 993, 999-1000 (9th Cir. 2007).

The Corps and EPA sought to resolve the ambiguity created by the Rapanos decision by issuing guidance in 2007, then revising it in 2008.  However, the regulated community found the guidance equally ambiguous and many requested promulgation of rules rather than guidance. The Obama administration promulgated a regulation, referred to as the WOTUS rule, in 2015.[1] The rule used Kennedy’s test only, but that regulation was challenged in a number of federal district courts and courts of appeal.  The litigation has been consolidated nationwide in the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where the rule has been stayed pending review.[2]

In the meantime, the Corps permitting and enforcement programs continue under the prior rules, with only Rapanos as guidance. The jury in the Robertson case was instructed to use the Kennedy “significant nexus” test in determining that the tributary Robertson polluted was in fact regulated by the CWA. Two months after Robertson’s conviction, the Ninth Circuit decided United States v. Davis, 825 F.3d 014 (9th Cir. 2016). In Davis, the Ninth Circuit held that a split Supreme Court decision should only bind the federal courts of appeal when a majority of the Justices agree upon a single underlying rationale and one opinion can reasonably be described as a logical subset of the other. Id.at 1021-22. Robertson argues on appeal that the ruling in Davis effectively overturns prior Ninth Circuit precedent applying the Kennedy test as the sole test, teeing up the question of which Rapanos test should be applied, if any, for the Ninth Circuit.

The Ninth Circuit will hear the Robertston case amid a slew of other legal battles over the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. For example, a case pending in the Eastern District of California for over a year pivots around the same arguments on the breadth of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction. See Duarte Nursery Inc. v. Army Corps of Engineers, et al., 17 F. Supp. 3d 1013 (E.D.Cal. 2014). The plaintiffs in that case have filed a motion to stay the case until the Robertston decision.

Further, a Supreme Court case, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, challenges whether law suits over the WOTUS rule should be heard in the federal district courts or federal appellate courts (currently pending in 6th Circuit). If the Supreme Court decides that the district courts should hear these types of cases, it could revive a waterfall of stayed or dismissed district court cases over the WOTUS rule. The Supreme Court decided to take up the case in January, but the Trump administration subsequently asked the Court to stay the case following a February 28, 2017 executive order[3] compelling U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to take another look at the WOTUS rule. On the same day, EPA and the Corps announced that their intent is to repeal the WOTUS rule and to propose a new rule.[4] A proposed revision to the rule has been sent to the Office of Management and Budget, but has not yet been released to the Federal Register for proposal.[5] It is widely anticipated that the proposed rule will adopt the Scalia test.

The scope of the Clean Water Act jurisdiction is particularly significant to landowners and industry groups in Louisiana. Obtaining a permit is costly but the penalties for discharging into waters of the United States without one can be rather substantial (criminal conviction and/or civil penalties), and can include an injunction stopping the project. The Trump administration has indicated that it supports the Scalia interpretation which would, to a certain degree, limit the scope the U.S. EPA and Army Corp of Engineers jurisdiction over certain “isolated” waters and wetlands. However, if the Ninth Circuit endorses the Kennedy rule in the Robertson case, it may create more legal hurdles for the Trump administration in overturning the WOTUS rule through rulemaking action.

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[1] 80 Fed. Reg. 32054, June 29, 2015.

[2] In re: United States Department of Defense and United States Environmental Protection Agency Final Rule: Clean Water Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States”, 803 F.3d 804 (6th Cir. 2015).

[3] See: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/28/presidential-executive-order-restoring-rule-law-federalism-and-economic.

[4] 82 Fed. Reg. 12532, March 6, 2017.

[5] For updates on the current WOTUS rulemaking, see: https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule.

Louisiana State Capital

By Matthew C. Meiners

Under Louisiana law, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy that an employee may assert against his employer or fellow employees for work-related injury, unless he was the victim of an intentional act. That exclusive remedy also extends to statutory employers.

Workers’ compensation legislation was enacted to provide social insurance to compensate victims of industrial accidents, and it reflects a compromise between the competing interests of employers and employees: the employer gives up the defense it would otherwise enjoy in cases where it is not at fault, while the employee surrenders his or her right to full damages, accepting instead a more modest claim for essentials, payable regardless of fault and with a minimum of delay. However, due to the fear that employers would attempt to circumvent that liability by interjecting between themselves and their workers intermediary entities which would fail to meet workers’ compensation obligations, the law provides that some principals are by statute deemed, for purposes of liability for workers’ compensation benefits, the employers of employees of other entities. This is what is known as statutory employment, and it is intended to provide greater assurance of a compensation remedy to injured workers.

Under Louisiana law, there are two bases for finding statutory employment:

First Basis: The existence of a written contract recognizing the principal as the statutory employer. A “principal” is any person who undertakes to execute any work which is a part of his trade, business, or occupation in which he was engaged at the time of the injury, or which he had contracted to perform and contracts with any person for the execution thereof. Such a contractual provision creates a rebuttable presumption of a statutory employer relationship between the principal and the contractor’s employees, whether direct or statutory employees. This presumption may be overcome only by showing that the work is not an integral part of or essential to the ability of the principal to generate that individual principal’s goods, products, or services.

Second Basis: Being a principal in the middle of two contracts, referred to as the “two contract theory.” The two contract theory applies when: (1) the principal enters into a contract with a third party; (2) pursuant to that contract, work must be performed; and (3) in order for the principal to fulfill its contractual obligation to perform the work, the principal enters into a subcontract for all or part of the work performed. The two contract statutory employer status contemplates relationships among at least three entities: a general contractor who has been hired by a third party to perform a specific task, a subcontractor hired by that general contractor, and an employee of the subcontractor.

A statutory employer is liable to pay to any employee employed in the execution of the work or to his dependent, any compensation under the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Act which the statutory employer would have been liable to pay if the employee had been immediately employed by the statutory employer. In exchange, the statutory employer enjoys the same immunity from tort claims by these employees as is enjoyed by their direct employer. Additionally, when a statutory employer is liable to pay workers’ compensation to its statutory employees, the statutory employer is entitled to indemnity from the direct employer and has a cause of action therefor.

Statutory employer status can provide very valuable protection to companies who contract for work to be performed in Louisiana; however, you should consult your attorney to make sure you meet the legal requirements, and to properly draft the necessary contractual provisions.

 

BSEE

By Michael J. O’Brien

Scott Angelle, a native of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, has been appointed by the Trump Administration to head the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”).  Mr. Angelle first held public office in the late 1980’s. He has since served as a Parish President, Secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources, and, most recently, as Chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission. Under his leadership as Louisiana’s Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, the state’s coastal permitting system was reformed, providing for efficient permitting while increasing drilling rig counts in Louisiana by more than 150 percent during his tenure. Mr. Angelle has also served as Chairman of the Louisiana State Mineral Board, and as a member of the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors, Southern States Energy Board, and the Louisiana Coastal Port Advisory Authority.

Mr. Angelle will become BSEE’s fourth director since it was established six years ago. BSEE was formed after the Deepwater Horizon explosion to promote safety, protect the environment, and conserve resources offshore through “vigorous regulatory oversight and enforcement.”

BSEE is headquartered in Washington D.C. and supported by regional offices in New Orleans, Louisiana, Camarillo, California, and Anchorage, Alaska.  These regional offices review applications for permits to drill, ensure safety requirements are met, conduct inspections of drilling rigs and offshore production platforms, investigate offshore accidents, issue Incidents of Non-Compliance and have the authority to fine companies through civil penalties for regulatory infractions.

Mr. Angelle’s post does not require Senate confirmation; as such, he will start working as the head of BSEE Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, issued the following statement about Mr. Angelle: “Scott Angelle brings a wealth of experience to BSEE, having spent many years working for the safe and efficient energy production of both Louisiana’s and our country’s offshore resources. As we set our path towards energy dominance, I am confident that Scott has the expertise, vision, and the leadership necessary to effectively enhance our program, and to promote the safe and environmentally responsible exploration, development, and production of our country’s offshore oil and gas resources.”