Lewis Roca Releases First-of-its-Kind Report Analyzing State-By-State Requirements for Decommissioning Renewable Energy Projects
DENVER (July 25, 2023) – More than two-thirds of the country has state requirements for decommissioning end-stage renewable energy projects, according to a new report released today by law firm Lewis Roca. The report, State Requirements For Decommissioning End-Stage Renewable Energy Projects, is believed to be the first legal analysis that compiles and assesses renewable energy decommissioning requirements on a state-by-state basis.
Utility-scale wind and solar power projects were first developed in the United States in the early 1980s. Now more than 40 years later, early-generation renewable projects have begun to reach the end of their useful lives. This report outlines the current statutes and/or regulatory codes regarding decommissioning requirements for each party involved in constructing and operating a wind or solar energy facility, including landowners, lessees, municipalities and state governments. It also details common decommissioning requirements found in state statutes and codes.
“In recent years, state legislatures have begun to impose specific decommissioning requirements for existing and new renewable energy projects, recognizing the need for formal rules and regulations in an industry that has grown exponentially over the last 40 years,” said Tom Dougherty, partner at Lewis Roca, co-lead of the firm’s Renewable Energy End-of-Life Planning Group and co-author of the report. “It is important for industry participants to be aware of the existing and upcoming regulatory requirements to ensure they avoid costly missteps, while also reaping all potential rewards of end-of-life planning.”
State and local governments’ experiences with the oil and gas industry are informing aspects of their approaches to renewable energy end-of-life and decommissioning regulations. States have consistently demonstrated an interest in ensuring project applicants have effective and responsible project decommissioning plans, reasonable estimates of the costs associated with decommissioning, and the financial capability to implement the decommissioning plan.
“Some states focus exclusively on financial assurance requirements to ensure that end-of-life obligations are funded, while others also mandate specific regulatory standards for decommissioning efforts,” said Dietrich Hoefner, partner at Lewis Roca, co-lead of the firm’s Renewable Energy End-of-Life Planning Group and co-author of the report. “Some states require the submission of detailed decommissioning plans, some provide for government monitoring and approval of decommissioning efforts, and some focus heavily on land reclamation.”
Key findings and statistics found in the report include:
• Popular decommissioning requirements imposed by states, such as:
o The development (and updating) of decommissioning plans;
o Land restoration requirements; and
o Bonding requirements to ensure the payment of decommissioning.
• Of the 36 states with available information on statutes, pending legislation, or regulations that address the decommissioning:
o 20 have decommissioning legislation mentioning solar and wind;
o Nine have decommissioning legislation mentioning only solar;
o Four have decommissioning legislation mentioning only wind; and
o Three either have made no specific mention of wind or solar, have pending legislation, or allow counties to address the topic.
• Iowa and Kansas – two states that rank among the top 10 in renewable energy production – have no decommissioning legislation.
To read the report and its complete findings, click here.
Lewis Roca’s Renewable Energy End-of-Life Planning Group, launched in late 2021, helps project developers, landowners, and state and local governments navigate the hurdles that abound in this largely unmapped terrain. Its lawyers draw on extensive experience in the energy and utilities sector to advise on a broad spectrum of regulatory, business, litigation, and intellectual property issues, from facility permitting and planning to contract management and government relations. As one of the only law firms in the country with a practice group dedicated to this emerging market, it is uniquely positioned to chart a successful path forward for clients that seek to minimize risk while maximizing their investments.
About Lewis Roca
Lewis Roca is an Am Law 200 law firm serving clients globally in complex litigation, intellectual property, business transactions, gaming, government relations, labor and employment, and regulatory counseling. Its offices are located in Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Reno, San Francisco, and Tucson. To learn more about the firm, please visit us at www.lewisroca.com.