Category Archives: Climate Change

UCS Says to Add More Renewables to the Clean Power Plan; If It’s Better, Does that Make It Best?

The Union of Concerned Scientists today announced release of a report which attempts to document that the renewable energy energy-renewable-two-workers-installing-rooftop-solar-panels“building block” in EPA’s Clean Power Plan is not sufficiently aggressive. The report argues that, just relying on existing trends and compliance with renewable energy standards, renewable energy can supply 23% of electricity sales nationally by 2030, well above the 12% assumed by EPA. This would translate into a 40% reduction in GHG emissions, rather than the 30% that EPA says the proposed CPP would attain.

I don’t know if… More

What a Shock?! Nebraska’s Early Challenge to EPA’s Clean Power Plan Is Dismissed

Opponents of EPA’s Clean Power Plan have not been willing to wait until a final rule has been promulgated before challenging EPA’s authority. On Monday, Nebraska’s challenged was dismissed – not surprisingly – as premature.

Nebraska’s claim was simple – the Clean Power Plan relies in part on technology demonstrated with funding pursuant to the Energy Policy Act of 2005. However, that statute precludes EPA from finding that technologies have been adequately demonstrated for the purposes of § 111 of the Clean Air Act based “solely” on use of the technologies by facilities funded under the Energy Policy Act.

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The Atmosphere Is a Public Trust. So What?

The last frontier of citizen climate litigation has been state-based litigation alleging that states have a public trust obligation to mitigate climate change. As I have previously noted, I’m skeptical that these cases are viable. A decision last month by the Supreme Court of Alaska suggests that such skepticism is well-founded.  Kivalina Aerial View

In Kanuk v. Alaska, a number of minors living in Alaska brought suit, claiming that Alaska had violated its public trust obligation to protect the atmosphere. While finding that the plaintiffs had standing, the Court held… More

Economic Development Is Not an Unqualified Environmental Evil (In Case You Didn’t Know)

I do not want to suggest that most environmentalists are Luddites or that the environmental movement is opposed to economic development. Indeed, hardly a speech is made today that does not tout the economic benefits of environmental protection. Less focus is given, however, to the environmental benefits of economic development.

I therefore thought it worth noting that, according to a recent study published in Environmental Science and Technology, more than 40% of trash disposal world-wide is accomplished through open-air burning. open-air burningIt should be no surprise that the greatest… More

Still Using Economic (and Safety) Arguments to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Massassachusetts Enacts Gas Leak Legislation

As I noted last year, there has been a concerted effort on the part of those fighting climate change to emphasize economic issues in connection with their policy proposals. That post concerned Senator Markey’s efforts to highlight the economic costs resulting from gas leaks. Of course, methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, with a global warming potential of 21.

Now Massachusetts – that leader in all matters progressive – has done something about it. As Governor Patrick announced earlier this week, Massachusetts has enacted H.4164, “An Act Relative to Natural Gas… More

83% of a Loaf Is Better Than None: The Supreme Court Affirms EPA’s Authority to Regulate “Anyway Sources”, But Rejects Regulation of Otherwise Exempt Sources

The Supreme Court today affirmed EPA’s authority to subject 83% of greenhouse gas emissions to its PSD and Title V Operating Permit programs. However, EPA’s rationale for the rule did not fare so well, and EPA does not have authority to regulate GHG emissions from facilities not otherwise subject to PSD review or the Title V program.

To EPA and the court below, the main issue – EPA’s authority – was not difficult. PSD applies to “any regulated air pollutant.” Once EPA issued the tailpipe rule, GHGs became a regulated pollutant. Thus, EPA had not just discretion to regulate… More

Does Offshore Wind Finally Have The Wind At Its Back? DOI Announces Plan For Largest Auction To Date

Earlier this week, DOI Secretary Jewell joined with Governor Patrick to announce plans to auction more than 1,000 square miles on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Massachusetts for wind energy development. The auction, which will be implemented as four separate leases, pretty much will follow the form of earlier lease auctions:

• Bidders will be prequalified to participate in the auction

• The auction will include multiple factors, including non-monetary factors

• The winning bidder or bidders will have one year in which to submit a site assessment for the… More

More on EPA’s GHG Rule: I Am NOT Going To Set Odds on Whether the Rule Would Survive Judicial Review

Last week, in posting about EPA’s Clean Power Plan, I noted that some potential plaintiffs might face standing obstacles in seeking to challenge the rule, assuming it is promulgated as proposed. Today, I take a (very) slightly broader look at potential legal challenges.

First, I still think that the most obvious potential plaintiffs, owners of coal-fired power plants, might indeed have standing issues in challenging a rule which maximizes the options for attaining reductions in GHG emissions. After Massachusetts v. EPA, EPA pretty clearly has authority to regulate GHG emissions from power plants. If EPA did that… More

The RGGI Annual Report for 2013: Do We Finally Have a Real Market for Allowances?

Potomac Economics has released the Annual Report on the Market for RGGI CO2 Allowances for 2013. Based on the data in the report, it appears that a functioning market for CO2 allowances is finally developing. What’s the evidence?

• The share of allowances held by investors as opposed to compliance entities increased from 6% to 24% over the course of 2013.

• The volume of allowance futures trading rose from 2 million in 2012 to 76 million in 2013.

• The number of participants in the RGGI auctions increased by an average of… More

What’s the Difference Between ExxonMobil and Shell When It Comes To Climate Change? What’s A Trillion Tons (or Tonnes) Among Friends?

Earlier this week, I posted about ExxonMobil’s shareholder disclosure.  The bookend to ExxonMobil’s disclosure is the release of the Trillion Tonne Communique by the Prince of Wale’s Corporate Leaders Group.  The Communique calls for total carbon emissions to be capped at one trillion tons, a level at which the signers have confidence that global temperature increases can be kept at or below two degrees Celsius.

In order to attain the one trillion ton cap, the Communique calls for a transition over the course of the century to planet-wide net zero carbon emissions.  In order to reach net zero… More

ExxonMobil Admits Climate Change Is Real. It also Imposes an Internal Cost on Carbon. Still Not Enough to Get Any Love From the Greens (Interesting Reading, Though)

Last week, in response to shareholder requests that it disclose information regarding how climate change might affect it in the future, ExxonMobil released two reports, one titled Energy and Climate, and one titled Energy and Carbon – Managing the Risks.  They actually make fascinating reading and seem to represent a new tack by ExxonMobil in its battle with those seeking aggressive action on climate change.

The reports do not deny the reality of climate change.  Indeed, the reports acknowledge climate change, acknowledge the need for both mitigation and adaptation, acknowledge a need to reduce fossil fuel use (at… More

The Song Remains the Same: Cape Wind Wins Another Case and the Opponents Declare Victory

Late last week, in Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility v. Beaudreu, Judge Reggie Walton gave Cape Wind and its federal co-defendants an almost across the board victory in a series of challenges by Cape Wind opponents to a variety of environmental decisions made by federal agencies.  We’ll see how many more of these victories Cape Wind can take.  Their opponents certainly aren’t going away.  In fact, the opponents declared victory themselves.

Judge Walton agreed with the opponents on two issues.  First, he found that the Fish and Wildlife Service erred in essentially delegating to the Bureau of Ocean Energy… More

Sold-Out RGGI Auction Triggers Cost Containment Reserve (Which Sells Out, Too)

Last week’s auction of CO2 allowances by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was the 23rd in the program’s history, but the first auction under the new RGGI rules and reduced cap.  The new rules undoubtedly explain why the auction yielded the highest sales price in RGGI history — $4 per allowance.  Even more notable, it was the first auction where the clearing price was high enough to trigger the cost containment reserve (CCR).  The CCR, which was intended as a safety valve to keep allowance prices from spiking, was introduced in the 2013 changes to RGGI, and last Wednesday’s auction… More

Investment of RGGI Funds Sees Big Returns for States and Consumers

Through the end of 2012, the nine states remaining in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative invested just over $707 million of the proceeds from the RGGI Auctions.  But the impact this money will have in the future is even more impressive.  According to a report released this week, these investments are projected to return more than $2 billion in lifetime energy bill savings to more than 3 million participating households and 12,000 businesses in the region.  Over the lifetime of these programs the states have funded thus far, they will offset a projected 8.5 million megawatt hours… More

EPA May Rely — In Part — on Projects Funded Under the Energy Policy Act to Justify the Greenhouse Gas NSPS. That’s Its Story and It’s Sticking To It

As those following EPA’s efforts to promulgate NSPS for greenhouse gas emissions from new fossil fuel-fired electric generating plants know, EPA has come under fire for basing its proposal on demonstrations of feasibility at projects that have received federal funding or tax credits under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  Apparently, EPA is sufficiently concerned that they have prepared a Notice of Data Availability to be published in the Federal Register.  The NODA explains why the rule would not violate the Energy Policy Act.

In short (but explained at greater length in its accompanying Technical Support Document):

EPA’s… More

EPA Is Not a “Bogeyman” According to a Sierra Club Poll: I’m Sure That Will Comfort Nervous Senate Democrats

The Sierra Club released a poll yesterday showing substantial support for EPA’s efforts to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.  The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, whose representative, Andrew Baumann, was quoted in E&E News as saying that the poll demonstrates that EPA “is not a bogeyman.”  Indeed, the poll shows 44% of respondents with positive feelings toward EPA and only 27% negative.  I still don’t see Senate Democrats in seats targeted by the GOP running into EPA’s arms as a campaign strategy.

Since the poll is probably right, it is an interesting question why… More

Cape Wind Survives a Legal Challenge to FAA Approval: Is the Opposition Strategy to Play Whac-A-Mole?

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeals rejected a challenge by the Town of Barnstable to the FAA’s “no hazard” determination for Cape Wind.  As background, the same court had determined in 2010 that a prior no hazard determination by the FAA had not been adequately supported.  This time, the FAA did better, in part because the facts on the ground were better.  One significant concern in 2010 had been the potential impact of the turbines on the radar system at Otis Airfield.  However, that concern was largely addressed in the interim by the addition of a digital processor to… More

Governor Patrick Announces Climate Change Preparedness Initiatives: Not Everyone’s On Board

On Tuesday, Governor Patrick announced a series of climate change preparedness initiatives, including about $50 million in funds for a variety of programs.  Before summarizing the plan, I’ll note that Massachusetts appears to have jettisoned “adaptation” as the descriptor for programs designed to mitigate the effects of  climate change.  We are no longer “adapting”.  Now, like the Boy Scouts, we will be “prepared.”  Shrewd call.

The biggest piece of the pie with be $40 million for a municipal “resilience” grant program, the main purpose of which will be to harden energy supply infrastructure, including projects to deploy micro-grids.  There… More

Massachusetts Issues Draft SREC II Regulations: Headed Toward 1.6GW of Solar By 2020?

Last year, Governor Patrick announced a goal of 1.6GW of solar electricity in Massachusetts by 2020; a goal that requires more than 1.2GW of new solar in the next six years.  The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has now issued draft regulations for its SREC II program.  The regulations are too complicated to summarize in a blog post, but you can read the details in our client alert.

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One More Update on the GHG NSPS Rule: EPA Has Improved Its Odds of Surviving Judicial Review, But I’m Still, Still, Skeptical

When EPA’s NSPS Rule for GHGs was published in the Federal Register last week, I noted that the rule might be on shaky ground, because an EPA Science Advisory Board work group had questioned the basis for EPA’s decision that carbon capture and storage is feasible technology.  Now it turns out that EPA has provided the work group with some additional information and the work group issued a memorandum last week stating that further review by the SAB is not required.  The work group concluded that “the agency is using the best available science and has conducted… More

EPA’s Proposed NSPS Rule for GHGs Is Finally Published in the Federal Register; I’m Still Skeptical

EPA’s Proposed New Source Performance Standards for greenhouse gas emissions from new sources was finally published in the Federal Register on Wednesday.  At least fundamentally, it seems unchanged from the proposal released last September.  It is still based on the conclusion that carbon capture and storage is feasible and represents BSER – the best system of emission reduction – for fossil fuel-fired electric steam generating units.

Really?  Does anyone other than EPA think CCS is feasible, at least at this point?  After the September release of the proposal, an EPA Scientific Advisory Board work group stated that:

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Offshore Wind Marches On: Is Momentum Starting To Build?

Those of us with an interest in renewable energy have long wondered if offshore wind would ever reach its promise.  The knots into which Cape Wind has been tied provide an object lesson – and an abject lesson – in how not to incentivize new technologies.  As of now, offshore wind in the United States remains all promise, and no delivery.

Is the future finally around the corner?  Two developments this past week at least give the optimists reason to believe.  First came news that, according the Siemens, Cape Wind’s turbine supplier, construction has in fact begun, allowing Cape… More

RGGI: the Hot New Investment Tip?

In last week’s auction held by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), not only did the allowances sell at $3 — the highest clearing price in four years, other than the June auction’s $3.21 — but a majority of the allowances sold to investors, rather than the large generators of electricity whose carbon dioxide emissions are regulated under RGGI.  Fifty-seven percent of the allowances were bought by commodities firms, traders, and other third parties, marking the first time in RGGI history that an auction garnered such interest and participation from these outside entities. By comparison, 81% of the allowances… More

Just a Hiccup or a Major Obstacle? EPA Science Advisory Board Work Group Recommends that the SAB Review the Science Behind EPA’s Proposed NSPS For Greenhouse Gases

I have posted numerous times in recent years on the importance of the views of EPA’s own science advisors in judicial determinations whether EPA regulatory actions are arbitrary and capricious.  With few exceptions, courts have affirmed EPA when the regulations were supported by EPA’s science advisors, and struck down the regulations when not supported by those advisors.

Now comes word that a work group of EPA’s Science Advisory Board has recommended that the SAB review the science supporting EPA’s proposed New Source Performance Standards for GHG emissions from electric generating units.  In proposing the rule, EPA stated that… More

Cape Cod TMDL Litigation; CLF Is Still In There Swinging

In September, I noted that Judge Mark Wolf had dismissed CLF’s law suit challenging EPA’s approval of the TMDLs for the Cape Cod embayments, ruling that CLF did not have standing.  CLF, as is its wont, is not going gentle into that good night.  It is still raging, raging, at EPA’s decision.  More to the point, it has refiled its complaint.

Presumably, this time around, CLF will be prepared with expert affidavits to address the shortcomings that Judge Wolf identified the last time around.  I’m still skeptical.  The first problem that Judge Wolf identified was that CLF… More

And You Thought Ending Flood Insurance Subsidies Would Be Difficult? Try Persuading a Politician to Support “Managed Coastal Retreat”

Earlier today, I posted about the political difficulties inherent in reforming flood insurance programs to avoid subsidizing those who choose to live in coastal areas subject to flooding.  When even Democratic legislators supportive of efforts to fight climate change oppose such reforms, you know you are in trouble.

Well, when it rains, it pours, as it were.  Just hours later comes news of the release of a report from the Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law on “Managed Coastal Retreat.”  The title pretty much tells it all.  The report discusses “rolling easements,” which expand to follow… More

Yet More on the Adaptation Front: Where You Stand Depends on Whether Your Property Is Underwater

A story in E&E Daily on October 30 highlighted the difficult choices – including political choices – that are going to have to be faced in the process of adapting to climate change.  The story noted that a number of Democratic members of Congress who have supported efforts to address climate change are now opposing efforts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program so that it does not encourage people to locate in areas subject to flooding.

E&E Daily quotes Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club trying to call out those Democrats without spiting his face, as it were:

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More on the Adaptation Front: Comprehensive Climate Planning Is Coming To Boston

If you are still wondering whether municipalities are serious about planning for climate change, the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s announcement this week of its new draft Guidelines for the inclusion of planning for climate change in its Article 80 review (basically the Boston local version of NEPA) might convince you.  While the Guidelines are fairly broad, the accompanying Climate Change Resiliency and Preparedness Checklist gets way down into the weeds.

Over the expected life the of the project, the proponent must analyze how the project is prepared to address extreme weather events, including heat waves, storms, wind, and… More

EPA Issues Revised Draft NSPS for Carbon Emissions From New Power Plants: It’s All About Technology Forcing

Last Friday, EPA reissued its draft NSPS addressing carbon emissions from new power plants.  It’s not actually that different from the prior proposal, which would have required all new fossil-fuel plants to meet a 1,000 lbs CO2/MWh standard.  The new proposal would require new large gas plants to meet the 1,000 lbs/MWh standard, but would relax the standard to 1,100 lbs/MWh for small gas plants and for coal plants.  Coal plants would, in the alternative, have the option of choosing a more stringent 1,000-1,050 lbs/MWh standard, averaged over seven years, if they want the flexibility to attain the more… More

Standing Matters, TMDL Version

Last week, in Conservation Law Foundation v. EPA, Judge Mark Wolf ruled that CLF did not have standing to challenge EPA’s approval of total maximum daily loads promulgated for certain waters in and around Cape Cod.  Given the increasing number of citizen suits involving TMDL promulgation, the decision is important.

CLF asserted two claims.  First, it alleged that EPA wrongly classified certain sources, including septic systems, storm water systems, and waste water treatment facilities as non-point sources, rather than point sources.  Second, it alleged that the TMDLs failed to take into account the need for additional stringency due to… More

Integrated Assessment Models of the Social Cost of Carbon: False Precision Is More False Than Precise

For those who both believe in the reality of climate change and dream of a day when Congress might get past gridlock and address the issue, the critical question is how to price carbon emissions to reflect the external costs that the use of carbon imposes on society:  the “social cost of carbon”, or SCC.  Recently, attention has focused on efforts to develop “Integrated Assessment Models.”  The point of the IAMs is to integrate the scientific analysis of the changing climate with the economic costs that would result from varying degrees of climate change.

Robert Pindyck of MIT just prepared… More

Making Economic Arguments to Reduce GHG Releases: Senator Markey Releases a Report on Methane Leaks From Gas Distribution Lines

Two years ago, when I participated in a D.C. fly-in with a renewable energy group, we were instructed not to use the words “climate change.”  Instead, we were told to focus on “growing the clean energy economy.”  The push to frame the climate debate in economic terms continues.  This week, Senator Markey released a report asserting that, in Massachusetts alone in 2011, 69 billion cubic feet of natural gas was released from gas distribution lines.  The economic cost to consumers of this “lost gas” was put at between $650 million and $1.5 billion from 2000-2011.

Senator Markey is not… More

We Still Don’t Need No Stinkin Cooperative Federalism: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Holds that GHG Sources Require PSD Permits Even Absent a State Implementation Plan

Last Friday, I posted about the limits to EPA’s cooperation with states in the name of “cooperative federalism” under the Clean Air Act.  On the same day, in Texas v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals only emphasized my point, by affirming EPA’s assertion of PSD permitting jurisdiction in Texas and Wyoming in the face of those states’ failure to prepare state implementation plans to incorporate permitting programs to implement EPA’s greenhouse gas rules under the PSD program.

The crux of the court’s holding was that § 165(a) of the CAA is self-executing, and requires sources newly… More

One Step At A Time Is Just Too Late: The DC Circuit Strikes Down EPA’s Deferral of GHG Regulation of Biomass Emissions

On Friday, in Center For Biological Diversity v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down EPA’s rule deferring regulation of GHG emissions from “biogenic” sources.  EPA had promulgated the rule, delaying regulation of emissions from biogenic sources from July 20, 2011, to July 21, 2014, on the ground that the carbon cycle is sufficiently complex that EPA is not yet in a position to judge what the actual carbon impact of different biogenic sources might be.  In fact, the record before the Court indicated that EPA believes that some biogenic sources may on net reduce GHG levels… More

The President Issues His Climate Action Plan: Not Much Mention of Congress

President Obama yesterday released his Climate Action Plan, together with a Memorandum concerning EPA’s issuance of rules governing carbon emissions from new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act.  At a certain level, there is not much new here.  The mere existence of the Plan and the commitment to address climate issues is presumably the point.

The Plan does not provide many specifics.  The Memorandum does provide specifics regarding the issuance of new source performance standards.  EPA is directed to issue a new proposal by September 20, 2013.  That’s not a lot of time, so EPA… More

Is the Offshore Wind Market Really Ready to Fly? BOEM Announces First Lease Auction for July 31

On Tuesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that the first auction of leases of offshore wind areas will be held on July 31.  Even though it now looks as though Cape Wind will eventually get to the finish line, this competitive lease auction, for areas off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, can really be seen to mark the true beginning of an offshore wind market.Map of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Lease Areas

The formal notice contains substantial information – much more than can be… More

Which Comes First, Innovation or Regulation?

Two seemingly unrelated stories in Wednesday’s trade press got me thinking – always dangerous – about the relationship between regulation and innovation.  The first story, from Daily Environment Report, noted that House Republicans have introduced a bill which would preclude EPA from promulgating CO2 performance standards for either new or existing fossil fuel power plants until carbon capture and storage systems have been determined to be technologically and economically viable.  I do realize that Republicans can introduce anything that they want and that this bill is unlikely to become law (though it does have two Democrat co-sponsors).

Nonetheless,… More

Not a Good Week for Private Climate Change Litigation: The Supreme Court Denies Review in Kivalina

It has not been a good run for plaintiffs in private climate change litigation.  As we noted last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal in Comer v. Murphy Oil.  Now, on Monday, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Native Village of Kivalina v. Exxon Mobil.  Kivalina ended more with a whimper than a bang, since the simple denial of cert. carries no opinion or precedential weight.

Given the increasing number of expensive disasters, as well as the costs imposed by long-term sea level rise, I actually expect more and more private claims to be… More

Jarndyce v. Jarndyce Has Nothing On Comer v. Murphy Oil: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal

Readers of this blog will recall the bizarre history of Comer v. Murphy Oil.  In 2005, Plaintiffs brought tort claims against major GHG emitters, claiming that those emissions, by causing global warming, led to plaintiffs’ damages from Hurricane Katrina.  The District Court dismissed, ruling both that plaintiffs had no standing and that the claims were really non-justiciable political questions.  The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded.  However, before the mandate issued, six of the court’s nine active, unrecused judges voted to hear the case en banc.  That vote also vacated the panel decision, leaving the District… More

Boston Joins the Building Disclosure Bandwagon: Ordinance Will Require Reporting in 2014

On May 8, the Boston City Council approved an ordinance requiring building owners to report annual energy and water use.  The final ordinance is slightly different from the one about which we posted in February.  Highlights include the following:

Building owners subject to the ordinance will have to report on May 15 of each year:

The previous calendar year’s energy and water use of each building and other building characteristics necessary to evaluate absolute and relative energy use intensity.

Non-residential buildings of at least 50,000 square feet would be required to report beginning in 2014.  Non-residential buildings… More

Not a Shining Moment For Congress: Two Leading Economists Note the “Sordid History” of Cap-and-Trade Legislation

I have previously blogged about how strange our politics has become, when cap-and-trade programs, previously touted by conservatives and viewed skeptically by environmentalists as a “license to pollute,” somehow become for conservatives the poster child of big government programs.  It is nice when economists as respected as Dick Schmalensee and my friend Rob Stavins make the same point.  I’m not sure I can put it much more succinctly than this:

It is truly ironic that conservatives chose to demonise their own market-based creation.

The further irony would be if those opposed to climate change regulation, who have successfully… More

California GHG Auction: Some Anecdotal Evidence of the Cost of Regulatory Uncertainty?

The California Air Resources Board just released the results of its second auction of GHG allowances.  While the auction for vintage 2013 allowances was still healthy, with all allowances sold at $13.62/allowance, the future auction, for vintage 2016 allowances, did not fare so well.  Fewer than half the allowances sold, and the clearing price was CARB’s reserve price of $10.71/allowance.

Why the disparity?  It’s significantly above any reasonable discount rate.  Could it be that uncertainty about the future of the allowance program might depress prices in the out years?  Given the fits and starts with which carbon regulation has… More

Building Energy Reporting Comes To Boston (Almost)

Today, Mayor Menino forwarded to the Boston City Council proposed amendments to the City of Boston Code that would require owners of many city buildings to report their energy and water use annually.  That information would then be made available to the public – presumably so that the market can work its magic and informed consumers can put pressure on building owners to increase the efficiency of their buildings.

Key aspects of the proposal include the following:

Non-residential buildings of at least 50,000 square feet would be required to report beginning in 2014.  Non-residential buildings of at least 25,000… More

Combine New Gas Plants, Lower Gas Prices, and More Stringent Emission Controls and What Do You Get? Lower Emissions

ISO New England has just released its Electric Generator Air Emissions Report for 2011.  The bottom line?

Total emissions of NOx, SO2, and CO2 have decreased by 12.1%, 29.5%, and 10.2% from 2010 to 2011 Emission rates for NOx, SO2, and CO2 have decreased by 8.7%, 25.8%, and 5.9% over the same time period

As our observant readers will have inferred, ISO reports that total energy generation was down by 4.6% from 2010 to 2011.  ISO attributes most of the emissions decrease to an increase in gas-fired generation and a corresponding decrease in coal- and oil-fired generation.  According… More

RGGI Ratchets Down the Cap: We’re Still Going to Have to Adapt

It was a busy week on the climate change front in Boston.  First, RGGI announced a new Model Rule.  Under the new Model Rule, summarized here, the 2014 cap would be reduced by 45%, from 165 million tons to 91 million tons.  Because such a sharp decrease in allowances will be expected to cause an increase in allowance prices, RGGI has now provided a safety valve, known as the cost containment reserve.  The CCR will make additional allowances available – 5 million allowances in 2014 and 10 million allowances thereafter – if the price exceeds a trigger, which… More

Is this the Future of Adaptation? Who Pays to Avoid the Cost of Coastal Flooding?

The New York Times reported today that Governor Cuomo is proposing to spend $400 million to buy out owners of property to avoid a recurrence of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.  I have to say that I have been persuaded over the past few years that we cannot put all our eggs in the mitigation basket, particularly since political gridlock in Washington has prevented much mitigation from occurring.

As a result, adaptation is going to be important and programs at least similar to what Governor Cuomo has proposed are going to be necessary.  The hard question, of course,… More

RGGI Turns 4, Celebrates with its 18th Auction

This week’s auction of greenhouse gas allowances by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) marked the 18th in that organization’s history.  According to the market monitor report published today, only 53% (19.7 million) of the 37.5 million allowances offered for sale by the 9 state group sold at the required floor price of $1.93, all to electric generators regulated by the carbon dioxide-capping program.  Participation in the auction remained low at 29 bidders, consistent with the prior auction held in September, but among the lowest RGGI has experienced in the last 4 years.

Since RGGI’s first auction in… More

The Massachusetts DPU Approves the Cape Wind NSTAR Contract: Do I Feel Wind At The End Of The Tunnel?

On Monday, the Massachusetts DPU gave an early holiday present to Cape Wind, by approving the power purchase agreement it entered into with NSTAR.  When the 27.5% of Cape Wind represented by this PPA is added to the 50% included in the National Grid PPA, it is looking more and more as though Cape Wind will actually make it to the finish line.

Even if Mary Beth Gentleman and Zach Gerson of Foley Hoag had not defended the two… More

Call It a Win: Californa’s First GHG Auction Sells Out

At California’s inaugural auction of greenhouse gas allowances last week, bidders bought all 23.1 million allowances for 2013 emissions sold at $10.09 per ton, a few significant cents above the floor price of $10. The price and relatively high demand for the allowances — with the state receiving three times as many bids as allowances available for sale — bodes well for the fledgling market.   There is clearly more interest in the California market than for RGGI: the $10.09 per ton price is over five times the price garnered at the latest RGGI auction ($1.93), and three times higher than the highest ever… More

Coming (Sort of) Soon To An Ocean Near You: 4 Gigawatts of Wind Power

As a follow-up to my post earlier this month on BOEM’s release of the Environmental Assessment for the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area, I just thought that I would note that, according to Daily Environment Report, Maureen Bornholdt of BOEM announced earlier this week at a public hearing on the EA that BOEM expects to start auctioning leases for the WEA by the fall of 2013. Of course, that’s just when the fun starts. Each lessee is going to have to do a full environmental review before construction even begins, so it will still be some time before we see electrons flow from the… More

Climate Change and Cost Benefit Analysis: Cass Sunstein Is Talking, But Is Anyone Listening?

Sunday’s New York Times had an op-ed piece by Cass Sunstein, recently departed head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, advocating for sensible measures to address global climate change. Sunstein’s argument is that

Economists of diverse viewpoints concur that if the international community entered into a sensible agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the economic benefits would greatly outweigh the costs.

I don’t disagree with anything he says; I only wonder whether anyone is paying attention. On one hand, while Sunstein notes that President Obama supports cost-benefit analysis, Democrats in Congress – and many environmentalists – have long been skeptical,… More

Superfund Meets the Reality of Climate Change

What happens when Superfund runs headlong into Mother Nature?  Hurricane Sandy provides a vivid answer. As the New York Times reports today, Hurricane Sandy had a significant impact on the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site in Brooklyn, NY.  The Canal was completed in 1869 and for over a century was the recipient of industrial discharges from mills, tanneries, and chemical plants resulting in what EPA describes as “one of the nation’s most heavily contaminated water bodies.”  Contaminants include PCBs, heavy metals, and VOCs.

When Sandy’s storm surge arrived, it quickly flooded the the Gowanus Canal, causing the heavily contaminated water in the Canal to rush into basements and first floors of surrounding homes. … More

Another Step Forward for Offshore Wind: BOEM Releases Its EA for the Massachusetts Offshore Wind Energy Area

ma-wea-noaa-06-05-12-12-2On Friday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released its Environmental Assessment for the Massachusetts outer continental shelf offshore Wind Energy Area. The EA does not permit construction of any turbines. It merely provides the basis for issuance of leases, pursuant to which the leaseholders would have the authority to perform the necessary detailed environmental and feasibility studies to determine whether to proceed with construction of turbines.

According to Greenwire, Jack Clarke of Mass Audubon has already pretty much blessed the EA. While BOEM has proposed an alternative that would eliminate approximately 25% of… More

Probably All You Need to Know About the Prospects for a Price on Carbon Any Time Soon

Two trade press reports today make clear how difficult it will be to put a price on carbon in the U.S. any time soon. First, today’s ClimateWire reported that climate skeptics are trying to preempt any effort by conservative budget-balancers to use a carbon tax to accomplish budget goals while still cutting income taxes. ClimateWire quotes Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute as saying that

We have to make the idea of a carbon tax toxic.

Then, GreenWire reported that the American Enterprise Institute (a more old-line conservative think tank) announced that it would hold a forum on the economics of a carbon… More

Accidental Success? Even Without National Climate Policy, US Emissions May Fall Enough To Avoid Failure

In 2009, at the international climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, President Obama pledged that the US would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. Since then, national efforts toward comprehensive climate legislation, or even making concrete strides to intentionally reduce emissions on a national scale have been, let’s say… lackluster. But even so, a recent report by Resources for the Future predicts that the US will hit 16.3% reductions over a 2005 baseline by 2020.  Moreover, because the report is intentionally conservative, and downplays the future impacts of investments in efficiency and other reductions in demand, the 17% goal… More

FTC’s New Guidance Has Teeth to Go After Greenwashing

Companies who want to market their products as being good for the environment will need to back up their claims more carefully, in light of the Federal Trade Commission’s new environmental marketing guidelines, released this week. The “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims,” or Green Guides, updated for the first time since 1998, discourage companies from using broad claims like “green,” “eco-friendly”, or “environmentally preferable” that are difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate. Although the guidelines are not formal rules, they do specify how FTC will enforce US marketing laws.

Instead, environmental claims should be clear,… More

Another Nail in the Public Nuisance Litigation Coffin: The 9th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of the Kivalina Claims

On Friday, in Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals may have sounded the death knell for public nuisance litigation concerning the impacts of climate change, affirming dismissal of the damage claims brought by the City of Kivalina and the Native Village of Kivalina against major greenhouse gas emitters.

kivalina(1)As most readers will know, last year, in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court determined that public nuisance claims for injunctive relief have been displaced by the comprehensive federal regulatory scheme embodied in… More

RGGI’s Sweet 17th: Cumulative Proceeds Top A Billion Dollars

Last week marked the 17th Auction in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The number of bidders who went through the process of qualifying to participate in the auction is the lowest it has been in the program’s history — 29, down from 35 from the last auction in June, and well below the high of 84 in the first auction involving all member states, held in December 2008. Only 24.5 million allowances (65%) of the nearly 38 million offered for sale by the now-9-state organization (sans New Jersey) sold at the floor price of $1.93… More

No Early Appeal on the New Mexico Public Trust Climate Case

For those of you following the public trust climate litigation in New Mexico, Judge Sarah Singleton has now issued a written decision denying the state’s motion to dismiss the case. There is no discussion of the issues, but it did seem worth noting that Judge Singleton also denied the state’s request for immediate interlocutory appeal (though providing that the request could be renewed after summary judgment), so there will be no early appellate decision on this issue in New Mexico.

The Tailoring Rule Requires No Alterations: EPA Leaves GHG Permitting Thresholds Unchanged

Last Friday, Lisa Jackson signed “Step 3” of the Tailoring Rule. In what was probably not a surprise to many, EPA determined

that state permitting authorities have not had sufficient time to develop necessary permitting infrastructure and to increase their GHG permitting expertise and capacity. By the same token, EPA and the state permitting authorities have not had the opportunity to develop and implement streamlining approaches.

In other words, subjecting more facilities to the GHG rule would still pose a risk of tying the system in knots, so EPA’s not going there – at least not yet.

EPA also promulgated… More

More Developments in Off-Shore Wind: BOEM Releases ENF for Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Last week, I noted that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that it had identified an area for commercial wind energy leasing offshore Massachusetts. This week, BOEM announced the availability of an Environmental Assessment to support commercial leases in an adjoining parcel offshore both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  (Couldn’t find a photo with good resolution.  The figure is obviously in the EA, but you can find a stand-alone map here.)

The scope of the EA is limited. Separate analysis, almost certainly to require preparation of environmental… More

Public Trust Climate Litigation: On Life Support, But Still Breathing For Now

Last month, Judge Robert Wilkins dismissed the federal public trust climate change law suit, Alec L. v. Jackson. Judge Wilkins ruled on two alternative grounds. First, he held that there was no federal public trust doctrine. Second, he held that, even if there ever had been, such public trust doctrine had been displaced by the federal Clean Air Act.

However, according to E&E News, Judge Sarah Singleton has just denied a motion to dismiss a public trust law suit brought in New Mexico state court under New Mexico law, in Sanders-Reed v. Martinez. E&E News did… More

Easy Cases Make No Law (We Hope): The D.C. Circuit Upholds EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations

Yesterday, in Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected all challenges to EPA’s GHG rules. The decision is a reminder that important cases, or those with big stakes, are not necessarily difficult cases. Anyone reviewing the decision will quickly see that, to the court, this was not a hard case. Indeed, the tone of the opinion has the feel of a teacher lecturing a student where the teacher has a sense that the student is being willfully obtuse.

The bottom line is that EPA not only had authority to issue the regulations; it had a legal… More

In RGGI News: Compliance is Up, Emissions are Down, Sales are Flat, and New Jersey and New Hampshire are Either In Or Out

There have been a number of news stories about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the last few weeks.  First, nearly all of the 211 power plants subject to the requirements of RGGI’s first compliance period met their compliance obligations for 2009-2011.  Only five facilities failed to hold enough allowances in their compliance accounts to cover their emissions from this period — four plants from New York, and one from Connecticut.   The report also found that aggregate emissions from these plants were, as expected, far below the allowance cap set for the first 3… More

BOEM Identifies a Wind Energy Area offshore Massachusetts: Will the Next Project Take Less Time Than Cape Wind?

offshore wind areasLast Wednesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that it has identified an area offshore Massachusetts for commercial wind energy development. BOEM narrowed the area somewhat from what had been proposed, based on certain wildlife concerns. Although the identification of the area as part of the Department of the Interior’s Smart from the Start program will allow expedited permitting, individual projects by lessees would be subject to NEPA.

One can only hope that this process will indeed result in the successful siting of large-scale commercial wind projects offshore. Solar energy… More

Two Strikes Against Common Law Approaches to Climate Change: The Atmosphere Is Not A Public Trust

Yesterday, the District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the so-called “public trust” climate change law suit. I will certainly give the plaintiffs in these cases credit for both originality and persistence. Legal merit and good public policy are another matter.

In any case, the plaintiffs sued EPA and various other federal agencies, seeking a finding that the agencies have failed adequately to protect a public trust asset, also known as the atmosphere, from climate change. The plaintiffs requested an injunction requiring that the agencies take actions necessary to reduce CO2 emissions by 6% yearly, beginning in 2013.

It did not… More

Repeat After Me: There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported that MassDEP is considering promulgating new regulations to manage noise from on-shore wind turbines. I sympathize with my friends at MassDEP, who are trying to implement a clean energy agenda and ensure that Massachusetts meets the aggressive carbon reduction targets in the Global Warming Solutions Act. This is no easy task in a home rule state that would have a fighting chance to win any national NIMBY championship competition. 

I hope against hope that the Department can take some action that will not unduly obstruct construction of wind projects, but that will, if not… More

EPA Defends the Biomass Deferral Rule — It Feels More Like Rube Goldberg Every Day

On Tuesday, EPA filed its brief in support of its rule deferring regulation of GHG emissions from biomass facilities until 2014. I have two immediate reactions.

The first is that, as a policy matter, the deferral was absolutely the right thing to do. The science remains complex and not fully understood. Any regulations promulgated now are likely to be revised at some point. That kind of regulatory uncertainty is not any way to run an agency.

On the other hand, I find EPA’s legal justification less than fully convincing, to say the least. In fact, the more EPA defends its overall approach to… More

Low Carbon Prices Don’t Mean Cap-and-Trade Systems Are Failing

For those who think that low allowance prices mean that RGGI and the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme are failing, I recommend this post last week by my friend Rob Stavins. Money quote:

RGGI may not be particularly relevant, but it is not thereby a flawed system; surely it is not a failure.  Rather, a great environmental success has been achieved by the “fortunate coincidence” of low natural gas prices, economic recession, and mild weather.  This is hardly something to be lamented…. The low allowance prices are evidence of a success outside of the RGGI market, not evidence of… More

This Is Why I Remain An Optimist on Climate Change

One of my favorite rants concerns the pessimism of most environmentalists. It’s probably a pointless rant, both because one cannot control whether one is an optimist or a pessimist and because very few people, and almost none of the environmentalists I know, will ever admit to being a pessimist. Nonetheless, it’s a real issue, because the point of the Cassandra myth wasn’t just that she could predict the future, but that she was cursed never to be believed. I am firmly convinced that environmentalists’ pessimism is self-fulfilling, because it is part of the reason why they are often ignored.

In any case,… More

Massachusetts’ Climate Change Efforts: Nation-Leading, But Still Not Good Enough?

Massachusetts was one of the first states to launch an ambitious greenhouse gas reduction program, setting a 2020 goal of cutting emissions 25% from 1990 levels and a 2050 goal of an 80% reduction.  With less than eight years to go before 2020, is the Commonwealth on track to measure up?  According to a report released this week by think tank MassINC and the Clean Energy States Alliance, maybe not.

The report concludes that, although Massachusetts has implemented many effective programs — notably the renewable portfolio standard, energy efficiency programs, and Green Communities program, all of which… More

Still No Insurance Coverage for Climate Change Nuisance Litigation — At Least in Virginia

kivalina(1)Last week, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled (for the second time) that a CGL policy issued to AES Corporation did not require Steadfast Insurance to provide a defense to AES for claims brought again AES in Kivalina v. Exxon Mobil. The decision, in AES Corporation v. Steadfast Insurance, held simply that, based on the “eight corners” of the complaint and the insurance policy, the claims against AES did not allege an “occurrence” under the CGL policies at issue.

Obviously, if climate change is real, and at least unless and until courts… More

Dog Bites Man, Greenhouse Gas NSPS Edition

Yesterday, Greenwire reported about speculation regarding what impact EPA’s proposed New Source Performance Standards for greenhouses gases would have on potential regulation of existing sources. As Greenwire noted, while EPA sought to downplay the impact of the NSPS on regulation of existing sources, both environmentalists and industry representatives think that regulation of existing sources is pretty much inevitable.

My favorite bit from the story is that OMB apparently deleted the following language from EPA’s proposal:

At a future date, EPA intends to promulgate emission guidelines for states to develop plans reducing CO2 emissions from existing fossil-fuel-fired” power plants.

I… More

EPA Issues Its GHG NSPS: Cap and Trade Never Looked So Good

On Tuesday, EPA announced release of its proposed New Source Performance Standards for carbon pollution from new power plants. I’m feeling like a broken record here. Everyone’s acting on rational motives (if not rationally), but the result remains, to put it mildly, suboptimal. On the paramount environmental issue of the day, we’re going about it all wrong, when we know that there is a better way.

I cannot really blame EPA or the environmentalists.  Indeed, at a certain level they cannot be faulted unless you don’t believe in climate change, and I am not in that camp. Since climate change is real,… More

RGGI’s First Auction of the Second Compliance Period

The auction held last Wednesday, March 14th, by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was the fifteenth held so far — making it seem far from novel —  but as we highlighted in January, this first auction of RGGI’s second compliance period could provide interesting insight into the future of the program.   

According to the market monitor report, 21.5 million (62%) of the 34.8 million allowances offered for sale by the 9-state group sold at last week’s auction, with the 20 participating bidders paying $1.93 (the new floor price).  Although two of the entities who submitted bids for… More

The Geneva Association Warns Governments To “Wake Up”: Have They Too Drunk The Koolaid?

Last week, the Geneva Association, which describes itself as “the leading international insurance think tank for strategically important insurance and risk management issues,” issued a report entitled “Extreme events and insurance: 2011 annus horribilis.” Quick take-away? Insurance losses are growing. Why? While there were large earthquakes in 2011, the bigger long-term concerns are extreme weather events and an increasing number of people and resources located in areas subject to such events.

What’s my primary response to reports such as this, other than that dog is biting man again? It’s to wonder what climate skeptics think of all this. I understand the inclination of conservatives… More

Shocking News: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Is Not Going to Overturn Massachusetts v. EPA

Since I already violated my rule against speculating on the outcome of a case based on oral argument, I might as well do it again. I have always said that EPA’s endangerment finding would survive judicial review and that conclusion seems only more likely to prove correct following yesterday’s oral argument before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Both the Daily Environment Report and GreenWire noted in their reporting on the argument that the groups challenging the rule emphasized that EPA had not considered the policy implications of making the endangerment finding. Of course. Precisely. That’s because the Clean Air… More

EPA Issues Step 3 of the Tailoring Rule: Did Anyone Hear the Tree Fall?

On Friday, EPA released “Step 3” of the GHG Tailoring Rule. The big news is no news at all. EPA left the GHG permitting thresholds unchanged, at 100,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent for new facilities and increases of 75,000 tpy of CO2e for existing facilities. In a phrase repeated in EPA’s fact sheet, keeping the thresholds unchanged is part of EPA’s “common sense … approach” to GHG permitting.

The proposal does include two options to allow GHG sources to streamline permitting, both of which may be of real value to some sources:

Provisions to “improve the usefulness of… More

Self-Inflicted Wounds: Climate Change Edition

Two years ago, in posting about the brouhaha over the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, I noted that self-righteousness among climate advocates does not help their cause. I harbor no illusions about how widely this blog is read, but the more recent foolishness committed by Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, in impersonating a board member of the Heartland Institute in order to obtain internal emails about their anti-climate change strategy, demonstrates that climate change advocates have not lost any of their self-righteousness.

At a certain level, I sympathize with Gleick. After all, I too… More

Does Energy Efficient Technology Make Buildings More Energy Efficient? The Answer May Not Be So Obvious

ClimateWire had a fascinating story on Monday about federal efforts to increase the energy efficiency of buildings, which are estimated to consume about 40% of our nation’s energy. The story concerns the less than inspiringly-named Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy-Efficient Buildings, which is seeking to substantially alter how building owners think about energy efficiency and the use of technology.

The problem facing GPIC, as it is known, is one with which I confess I was not familiar. According to the statistics from the Energy Information Administration:

Over the past 20 to 30 years, every… More

One Small Step Forward For Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind Development

offshore-wind-power-7259Yesterday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a notice of availability for the Environmental Assessment it prepared in connection with the issuance of leases for wind energy development off the coast of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The EA includes a Finding of No Significant Impact, or FONSI. In other words, BOEM concluded that the issuance of leases does not require a full blown Environmental Impact Report.

The EA also addresses the individual site assessment plans, or SAPs, that will have to be performed by… More

RGGI Makes Some Changes, But Not the Overall Cap. Yet.

The nine states still participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are getting ready for the first auction of RGGI’s second compliance period, scheduled for March 14th.  In the auction notice released last week, they announced 4 changes to the program, and analysts are predicting there are far more significant changes to come — namely adjustments to the total emissions cap. 

The first change: which we knew was coming; New Jersey is officially out.  The second:  the reserve price, the lowest price at which allowances may sell, has been increased by 4 cents to $1.93, in line with… More

This Just In: EPA’s Utility MACT Rule Will Not Cause the Lights to Go Out.

As readers of this blog know, the impact of EPA air rules, including in particular the Utility MACT rule, on the reliability of the nation’s electric grid has been the subject of much speculation. Last week, the Congressional Research Service weighed in, with the exciting headline: EPA’s Utility MACT: Will the Lights Go Out?” Of course, notwithstanding the sexy title, the CRS conclusion can be summarized pretty simply: the MACT rule will not cause the lights to go out. Money quote:

although the rule may lead to the retirement or derating of some facilities, almost all of the capacity reductions will occur in areas… More

Is Massachusetts the NIMBY Capital of the World? What Will Be the Impact of the Wind Turbine Health Impact Study?

Yesterday, the “Independent Expert Panel” convened by MassDEP to review whether wind turbines cause any adverse health effects issued its report. I was pleased that the headline in the Boston Globe was that “Wind turbines don’t cause health problems.” Similarly, the Daily Environment Report headline was that “Massachusetts Study Finds ‘No Evidence’ of Health Impacts from Wind Turbines.” 

I hope that that’s the way the report will be read, but I’m worried. Perhaps I just have too many NIMBY-related scars. Whatever the reason, I am worried about the report’s statements that there

is limited epidemiologic evidence suggesting an association between exposure… More

More on the Frontlines of Adaptation

Last Friday, noting a story about the extent to which concerns about sea level rise from climate change might affect development in East Boston, I wondered whether battles over whether and how to adapt to climate change might be moving from the realm of the hypothetical to the realm of the real. Climate Wire has now begun a series of stories on how cities are planning for climate change. This week, there have been stories about Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Hallandale Beach, Florida

The long-term picture in these cities is no prettier than that of East Boston. The specifics don’t… More

Has the Battle Begun? A Look at One of the Front Lines of the Adaptation Issue

A story in today’s Boston Globe makes clear that, at least in states where it is permissible to use the words “climate” and “change” in the same sentence, the battle over adaption may no longer be hypothetical. The neighborhood known as East Boston is one that might appropriately be described as having unfulfilled potential. Last month, at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Mayor Menino pledged to revive East Boston, specifically calling out five projects that have been on the drawing board for some time.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that East Boston is a waterfront community. Indeed, arguments have long… More

Will Slow But Steady Win the Race? Cape Wind Clears One More Hurdle

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today affirmed the decision by the Department of Public Utilities to approve the power purchase agreement, or PPA, between Cape Wind and National Grid. (Full disclosure: Foley Hoag represented the Department of Energy Resources in support of the contract before the DPU.) The decision doesn’t mean that Cape Wind will now get built. Given the (one hopes) temporary problems with the federal loan guarantee program and Cape Wind’s failure thus far to sell the rest of the power from the project, the SJC decision is more of a necessary than sufficient condition to construction.

On the… More

The Economics of RGGI: A Net Positive, Particularly For New England

With the first compliance period in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) coming to a close in December, it seems an appropriate time to look back at what we can learn from the country’s first market-based program aimed at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants. A report released Tuesday by the Analysis Group analyzed the economic impacts of RGGI – how the program impacted electricity prices, power producers’ costs, and consumers’ electric bills, and what effect the millions in quarterly auction proceeds has had, and will have, on the region’s economy.

The report does not try to… More

Building Efficiency — Everyone Is In Favor, But How Do We Get There?

Yesterday, the Daily Environment Report noted the formation of the Coalition for Better Buildings, or C4BB, an alliance of environmental, business, and real estate interests intended to increase the incentives to make buildings more energy-efficient. Its members include real estate trade groups such as the Real Estate Roundtable and the Building Owners and Managers Association, as well as some heavyweight companies, such as Vornado. It also includes environmental groups such as the NRDC and companies who will look to profit from investments in building efficiency, such as Siemens and Johnson Controls.  

The C4BB’s mission is to:

Propose policy solutions from… More

GHG Protocol Finalizes Scope 3 and Product Life Cycle Methodology

The most popular suite of tools to measure and manage greenhouse gases just got a lot more complete — allowing companies to track the impact of their products from natural resources and raw materials, through manufacturing, use and disposal, and providing a detailed framework to measure companies’ “everything else” Scope 3 emissions.   

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative (a collaboration between the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development) finalized its two newest global greenhouse gas standards on October 4. The GHG Protocol are the most widely used suite of accounting tools for measuring,… More

Inspector General’s Evaluation of EPA’s Endangerment Finding: Form over Function?

As Greenwire reported, the Inspector General of the EPA recently released a report criticizing how the agency followed (and deviated from) procedures in publishing the Technical Support Document that underpinned its December 2009 Endangerment Finding.  The IG was instructed to conduct this review at the order of Senator Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.  The review, which cost nearly $300,000, examined only whether EPA followed its own procedures and those of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and did not analyze the validity of the scientific or technical information used… More

Coming Soon to Massachusetts: Adaptation to Climate Change

The abandonment of any discussion of climate change in Washington has not been followed in Massachusetts. Yesterday, Rick Sullivan, the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, released the Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Report, providing the fruits of a lengthy process in Massachusetts to look at the impacts of climate change on five areas: Natural Resources and Habitat; Key Infrastructure; Human Health and Welfare; Local Economy and Government; and Coastal Zone and Oceans.

Certainly, the summary of potential impacts in Massachusetts is not a pretty picture – speaking metaphorically, anyway; many of the pictures in the report actually are pretty cool. For those… More

Virginia Court Finds for Insurer in the First Climate Change-Related Insurance Coverage Case

The Virginia Supreme Court decided on Friday that an insurer does not have a duty to defend its insured in the face of a climate change nuisance case, because intentional emissions, even if they have unintended results, are not an “accident” under the insurance policy.  The case, AES Corp v. Steadfast Insurance Company, had been closely watched as the first of its kind, pitting the new breed of climate change defendants against their insurers.

AES Corporation is a defendant in Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corp., which alleges that the utility’s emissions contributed to the rising sea levels that are endangering the… More

The Carbon Disclosure Project 2011: Big Business Finds Big Returns In Managing Carbon

In the Carbon Disclosure Project’s 2011 analysis of the largest 500 companies, the Global 500, there is a very interesting statistical trend — the companies who were the most strategically focused on accelerating low-carbon growth had returns from January 2005 to May 2011 that doubled the Global 500 as a whole, with returns totaling over 85%, compared to the 42.7% returns for the index.  Even more amazingly, the 13 companies that had been recognized by CDP for this strong focus for the last 3 years outperformed the Global 500 by over 60 percentage points over the same period.  Does monitoring and disclosing a company’s carbon footprint and incorporating the risks… More

Thirteen Proves to Be A Somewhat Unlucky Number for RGGI

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) celebrated its third anniversary by holding its 13th quarterly auction of carbon dioxide allowances on Wednesday.   As today’s Market Monitor report highlights, although the number of bidders was up, the percentage of allowances purchased was down.  Thirty-one bidders purchased just under 18% of the 42,189,685 current compliance period allowances offered for sale by the 10-state group (including New Jersey).  These allowances, with vintage dates from 2010 and 2011, can be used by electric generators in the current compliance period, which will end in December.  The previous low for demand for these allowances dates… More

Where You Stand Depend on Where You Sit: Utility MACT Edition

As the deadline passed last week for submitting comments on EPA’s Utility MACT rule, it’s worth taking a big picture look at how the commenters line up. Big utility groups, such as the Edison Electric Institute and the American Public Power Association are looking for EPA to delay the rules. The basic argument is that it is going to take a long time to comply. EEI states that so many facilities will require extensions that the number of requests will create a backlog that will itself essentially create compliance problems.

However, it is not just environmental and public health… More

Carbon Capture & Seriously Need a Price on Carbon Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule yesterday that would exempt carbon dioxide injected into underground carbon capture & storage (CCS) wells from regulation as hazardous waste, so long as the CO2 is held in wells designated for that purpose under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  In its press release announcing the program, EPA noted that the purpose of the regulation — as well as its prior rulemakings under the Clean Air Act to require emissions reporting by CCS facilities, and the Safe Drinking Water Act to require appropriate siting, construction and monitoring of CCS wells — was… More

Among Cap and Trade, RES, and CES, Which Would Work Best? The One That’s Not Currently Under Consideration

After the death of Waxman-Markey, and given the current political climate, cap and trade is the Legislation Which Shall Not Be Named. Instead, there is discussion of either a renewable electricity standard (RES) or clean electricity standard (CES), and the talking points for supporters concern energy security and the growth of a clean energy economy, not climate change (also known as the Reality Which Shall Not Be Named).

Either an RES or an CES would spur use of alternatives to fossil fuels in electricity generation and would… More

AEP Pulls the Plug on CCS

Last week, AEP announced that it was putting on hold its plans to develop commercial scale carbon capture and storage technology at its Mountaineer plant in New Haven, West Virginia. As explanation, AEP cited the uncertain status of U.S. climate policy. More specifically, AEP CEO Michael Morris noted that it is difficult to get regulatory approval to recover CCS capital costs until GHG reductions are required. 

Well, duh. 

It’s understandable that, in a world where putting a price on carbon emissions has become The Policy Which Shall Not Be Named, those who are trying… More

EPA Is Required to Make An Endangerment Finding Concerning Airplane Engines

Last week, in Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, Judge Henry Kennedy reminded us that, in thinking about whether the existing Clean Air Act requires EPA to address climate change, the actual words of the statute matter. The scope of the climate problem does not obviate the need to parse individual provisions of the CAA and Massachusetts v. EPA did not resolve all issues. 

CBD petitioned EPA to regulate GHG emissions from nonroad engines and vehicles, under § 213 of the CAA, and from aircraft engines, under § 231 of the CAA. EPA did issue advanced notices of proposed rulemakings… More

Important Decision; No Surprise — The Supreme Court Bars Federal Climate Change Nuisance Claims

Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced its decision in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, holding that EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act displaced federal common law nuisance claims. I have always thought that the displacement argument was correct, so the decision is not really a surprise (and the 8-0 decision and crisp opinion only confirm that view). The decision is nonetheless important and, notwithstanding a few limitations, rather sweeping.

The Court’s analysis was straightforward. The creation of federal common law by courts is “unusual” and

[W]hen Congress addresses a question previously governed by a decision… More

This Week’s Air/Climate Smorgasbord

After a relatively quiet period, there were a number of items of interest on the air/climate front this week. First, AEP announced that upcoming pollution controls would result in shutting down 6,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity, or 25% of its coal fleet. AEP also announced that it would spend $6 billion to $8 billion in bringing the rest of its fleet into compliance.

On the flip side of this issue, the Bipartisan Policy Center issued a report concluding that compliance with the various EPA rules in the works (Clean Air Transport Rule, Utility MACT Rule, coal combustion ash rule, Clean… More

RGGI Auction #12: Demand Crashes, 70% of Current Allowances Go Unsold

Demand for allowances in the nation’s only cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide emissions fell sharply last week.  At the 12th Quarterly Auction of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), held on June 8th,  70% of the current compliance period allowances went unsold.  As the RGGI Market Monitor Report highlights, with only 25 bidders participating in the auction of the 2009-2011 compliance period allowances, only 30% of the 42 million allowances offered for sale by the 10-state group (including New Jersey) were actually purchased at the floor price of $1.89.  Demand for future allowances, good for the 2012-2014 compliance period,… More

The Next State to Threaten to Dump RGGI? New Jersey!

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) took a bit of a blow today when Governor Christie of New Jersey, the second-largest of the 10-state group, announced that the state was leaving the organization.  This comes only a few weeks after the narrow defeat of bills to repeal RGGI in New Hampshire, Delaware and Maine.  However, RGGI announced on its website that the participating states would proceed with their 12th quarterly auction as scheduled on June 8th. 

Despite Governor Christie’s announcement, official withdrawal from RGGI requires legislative action, namely repeal of the provisions of New Jersey’s Global Warming… More

Almost-Final: Massachusetts’ Biomass Regulations

Late last week, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) filed with the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy of the state legislature proposed final amendments to the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) regulations governing the eligibility of woody biomass facilities and fuels to qualify to earn renewable energy credits (RECs).  DOER originally issued a draft of these regulations in September 2010, and made revisions after receiving written comments and holding 2 public hearings.  In addition to the revised regulations, DOER issued a regulatory package containing two sets of guidance in the forms of Excel spreadsheets, the More

Conventional Pollution Is Still Where It’s At: EPA Releases the Power Plant MACT Rule

If anyone had any doubts about the significance of the conventional pollutant regulations that EPA would be rolling out, even in the absence of a full cap-and-trade program for GHG, Wednesday’s release of EPA’s revised power plant MACT proposal should go a long way towards eliminating those doubts. As most readers know, the rule replaces the Bush-era MACT rule that would have created a trading program.

The rule poses a problem for critics of EPA. While arguments can be made about the feasibility of some of the standards and the cost to comply, they cannot credibly allege that it is a… More

What Does It Take to “Displace” Federal Common Law? The States Have Their Say

Last month, in discussing the Administration’s brief in the American Electric Power case, I praised the nuanced and persuasive approach that the Administration took in seeking reversal of the 2nd Circuit opinion allowing the states’ public nuisance climate litigation to go forward. The states seeking to prosecute the law suit have now filed their brief and it turns out that they also do nuance. I still think that the Supreme Court will reverse, however.

I’m not going to get into the standing issue. I don’t believe that the states should have standing, but… More

While the GOP Attacks EPA, Coal Remains Under Siege

While EPA remains under attack by the GOP-majority House, that doesn’t mean that coal is off the hook. To the contrary, coal remains under attack itself. A number of recent stories demonstrate the multi-pronged effort by those who want to reduce or eliminate use of coal. For example, the Environmental Integrity Project and two Texas-based NGOs just filed suit against the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Fayette Power Project, alleging violations of NSR/PSD requirements and exceedances of particulate limits in the plant’s permit. There is no doubt that there is a concerted effort by NGOs to make life difficult for coal. Thus, even if… More

Federal Agency Adaptation Plans – A New Route for Climate Regulation?

With cap and trade legislation dead in Congress, and the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations under siege in both the legislature and the courts, the Obama Administration is doing just about the only thing left to address climate change: adapt.

Actually, the science indicates that adaptation will be necessary regardless of how aggressively we are able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s only a matter of how much adaptation. A recent report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program found that the average air temperature in the continental U.S. has already risen by more than 2ºF over the last 50 years,… More

Climate Risks & Opportunities in SEC Filings

 A year has passed since the SEC issued an interpretive release describing the kinds of climate change related disclosures that the Commission believes should be reported by all publicly traded companies, but many questions still remain regarding how to comply.  With annual 10-K filings due at the end of this month, concrete examples of best practices in disclosures could be very helpful.  Potentially useful is a new report by Ceres that examines the state of disclosures in FY 2009 SEC filings to identify specific examples of how well companies are disclosing information that is important to investors. 

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NSPS, CAMR, CATR, BACT, PSD, UGH (The Last One’s Not an Acronym)

Back in my public policy days, there was much discussion of “muddling through.” When I look at recent developments on the climate and air regulation front, I just see a muddle. First, we have Gina McCarthy, saying that EPA wants to walk before it runs, and assuring utility executives that New Source Performance Standards for GHG emissions will not have a “dramatic effect.” McCarthy further said that EPA will take a “common sense approach,” comparing it to EPA’s approach to the GHG BACT guidance, which she described as “not overly ambitious.”

At the same time, the first PSD permit for… More

This Administration Does Nuance: The US Files Its Brief in the American Electric Power Case

This week, the United States filed its brief in American Electric Power v. Connecticut. The brief is a nicely nuanced and persuasive argument for dismissal of plaintiffs’ public nuisance claims against five large power generators. The brief is nuanced in that it acknowledges that plaintiffs have Article III standing – allowing the Court to avoid reaching a constitutional standing issue – and provides a vehicle for the Court to avoid reaching the political question doctrine issue.

Instead, the brief makes two fairly simply points – and makes them convincingly. First, the brief argues that plaintiffs’ lack “prudential standing,” because their complaint raises… More

Is NSR Enforcement A Subterfuge For a Carbon Policy — Or Just a Happy Coincidence?

Last month, I noted that, in the absence of comprehensive climate legislation, U.S. carbon policy would be a mish-mash of several elements – including more NSR enforcement. In fact, Phillip Brooks, director of EPA’s Air Enforcement Division, had just told an ALI/ABA forum that EPA’s NSR enforcement initiative is alive and well and he predicted more closures of old coal plants as a result of EPA’s NSR enforcement. Earlier this month, proving that Brooks meant what he said, the United States sued Ameren Corporation, alleging NSR violations at Ameren’s Rush Island facility in Festus, Missouri.

More

Federalism Today: Biomass Edition

Justice Brandeis famously suggested that states may “serve as a laboratory” for the rest of the country. If this is so, I think it is fair to say that U.S. EPA has not accepted the results of the biomass experiment conducted in Massachusetts. Last year, following receipt of a study regarding the GHG emission implications of various types of biomass fuels, Massachusetts decided to severely restrict the circumstances in which biomass would be considered a renewable fuel.

Earlier this week, EPA decided not to go along with the restrictive approach taken by Massachusetts, and granted a petition to… More

Would CES Legislation Be Like Half a Loaf of Cap-And-Trade?

With everyone in agreement that cap-and-trade legislation is dead in Congress for the near term, attention is now turning to whether Congress might be able to pass some kind of renewable or clean energy standard. In fact, even Thomas Donahue, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sworn foe of cap-and-trade legislation, is saying that the Chamber could support some kind of climate change legislation – presumably a CES including nuclear power – as long as the legislation precludes EPA regulation of GHG under existing authority. 

For those who are taking the half a loaf approach to climate legislation, I… More

Want to Know Why Congress Can’t Pass Climate Legislation? Here’s Your Answer

And you thought that the explanation was just partisan gridlock in Washington? According to a study that has been accepted for publication in Environmental Research Letters, it will be somewhere between 120 years and 550 years before losses caused by Atlantic tropical storms can be statistically attributed to anthropogenic climate change. It’s important to note that this study is not by climate skeptics; nor are the authors opposed to Congressional action. They are simply pointing out that it’s damn hard to attribute causation to specific storms or on short time scales. As they note in their conclusions:

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The Next Big Thing for the Future of Everything

In what might not be an overstatement, Seth has described Massachusetts’ Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), as "the future of everything".  If so, welcome to the future of the future of everything.  The GWSA requires the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to set a 2020 goal for state-wide reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, and, before January 1, 2011, to create a plan outlining how to get there.  Just in time, EEA yesterday released the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, which sets the 2020 emissions goal at 25% below 1990 levels (the maximum reductions… More

EPA Delivers an Early Christmas Present to Electricity Generators and Refiners — New Source Performance Standards for GHGs

Today, EPA announced settlements of litigation with states and environmental groups which will require EPA to promulgate New Source Performance Standards for greenhouse gas emissions from electric generating units and refineries. EPA will thus give those of us who practice in this area an opportunity to decide which program we find more cumbersome and ill-suited to regulate GHGs, the PSD/NSR program or the NSPS program.

As with the PSD/NSR regulations, I remain sympathetic to EPA in that, once you take Massachusetts v. EPA as a given, and if you accept the logic of the Endangerment Finding,… More

Is the Republican Party In Favor of Sulfur Emissions? Senator Graham Wants To Know

It says something about where our politics are today when Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has to ask that question. Of course, there’s reason to wonder what the answer is. It was certainly not intentional irony when, shortly after this story appeared about Senator Graham, Senator Rockefeller announced that he has given up on legislation that would delay implementation of EPA GHG rules because the bill has lost Republican support. The reason? It’s not that the Republicans are opposed to the delay; it’s just that it’s more important to the Republicans that they be able to make… More

Carbon Policy When There Is No Carbon Policy

As a follow-up to last week’s post, if you want a handy-dandy rundown of what U.S. carbon policy looks like in the absence of comprehensive federal legislation, take a look at the presentation I gave last week to the Harvard Electricity Policy Group, which summarizes federal, regional, and state regulatory efforts – many of which are not explicitly directed at CO2 – that are likely to have significant impacts on U.S. CO2 emissions. Thanks to Amy Boyd, who did the lion’s share of the work on this one.

How Is Carbon Policy Like Anatevka? A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

anatevkaBill Hogan at the Kennedy School (shameless plug for alma mater) kindly asked me to speak at a meeting this week of the Harvard Electricity Policy Group. I’ve titled my talk “Carbon Policy When There Is No Carbon Policy.” Several items that came across the wires in the past few days buttress the theory behind my presentation, which is that our current carbon policy really is “A little bit of this, a little bit of that.”

First, Phillip Brooks, director of EPA’s Air Enforcement Division, told an ALI/ABA forum that… More

Top 10 Fun Facts About the 10th RGGI Auction

The 10th auction in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was held on December 1st.  In honor of this significant round number, I give you the top 10 interesting facts about the 10th RGGI Auction, all of which are based on today’s market monitor report:

10)  In the Auction, 24,755,000 allowances from the 2009-2011 compliance period sold for $1.86 each (the floor price);

9)  That amount is only 57% of the 2009-2011 allowances offered for sale, the lowest yield from a current compliance period auction;

8)  38 entities bid on these current compliance period allowances, down from 45 in… More

EPA Releases Rules for Carbon Capture and Storage

One thing supporters of coal will be thankful for tomorrow is this week’s announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it has finalized two rules governing the underground sequestration of carbon dioxide.  Both rules are designed to support and facilitate the commercial development of safe, large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, perceived by many to be the best hope for the future use of coal.

The first rule creates a new "Class VI" injection well under EPA’s Underground Injection Control Program through the the Safe Drinking Water Act.  Elements of the rule are based on the existing… More

Forthcoming Changes to RGGI? Let’s Start with the Big Cap.

The cap in the nation’s first mandatory cap-and-trade system is probably set too high.  As reported by ClimateWire this morning, it seems increasingly likely that participants in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will easily meet and beat RGGI’s ultimate goal, even without any changes or reductions actually caused by the program.

RGGI’s initial aim was to cut CO2 emissions from large power plants in the 10-state region to 10% below 2005 levels by 2018.  This plan involved two stages: one with the cap stabilized at 180 million tons CO2e from 2009-2014, and the second, from 2015-2018, with a cap… More

EPA Finally Issues GHG BACT Guidance: Now Everything Will Be Smooth Sailing

EPA has finally released it long-awaited PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gases, also known as the GHG BACT Guidance. E&E News quoted Gina McCarthy as saying that GHG permitting would be “business as usual” and that the transition to issuing PSD permits for GHGs would be relatively smooth.

Not.

It’s certainly true that the GHG BACT Guidance says nothing particularly new about how permitting agencies should perform BACT reviews. Giving credit where credit is due, I’ll complement EPA for using plain English and describing the basic BACT process about as cogently and concisely as I’ve… More

Post-Election Climate Wrap-Up: Anxious Days Ahead For EPA

I’ve always thought that implementation of EPA’s GHG rules for stationary sources was inevitable in the absence of climate change legislation. The Supreme Court told EPA that GHGs are a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Given the decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, EPA’s subsequent regulatory moves have been pretty much unavoidable. 

Since the statute seems to mandate GHG regulation, only Congressional action could block the rules. While a House majority seemed plausible, even before the election, getting 60 votes in the Senate always seemed a much stiffer proposition. Moreover, one could always expect an Obama veto, if legislation precluding EPA’s rules somehow… More

Dog Bites Man: NEPA Reviews Are Getting More Complex

Stop the presses: According to the Daily Environment Report, EPA’s director of the Office of Federal Activities, Susan Bromm, has acknowledged that concerns about climate change and environmental justice are “contributing to the size, cost, and time-consuming nature of environmental impact statements….” Nonetheless, Ms. Bromm apparently asserted that these "analyses do not have to be overwhelming,” and she blamed, at least in part, agencies which “overreact to the fear of litigation.”

Not surprisingly, a speaker on the same panel from DOT felt otherwise. According to Helen Serassio, an attorney at DOT:

We’ve gotten to the point where they’re kind of out… More

The GHG Scope 3 Protocol: With Nearly Everything, There’s Something For Everyone

The world of greenhouse gas reporting just got a little more interesting. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative (a collaboration between the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and involving the participation of hundreds of companies around the world), released their draft Scope 3 Accounting and Reporting Protocol on November 5th for stakeholder review. The Scope 3 protocol takes the form of two documents – the Product Accounting & Reporting Standard and the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard. The two sets of calculations from the two guidance documents… More

For Coal, It’s Not All About Climate Change: Credit Suisse Predicts New Air Rules to Close 60 Gigawatts of Coal Capacity

Last March, I noted that Gina McCarthy’s belief that, in the near term, the biggest impact on GHG emissions would come from EPA’s traditional regulatory programs, rather than through GHG regulation. A report recently released by Credit Suisse indicates that she might be right. Looking at EPA’s upcoming promulgation of the Clean Air Transport Rule and the mercury MACT rule, Credit Suisse predicts that between 50 and 69 gigawatts of old coal plants will be retired between 2013 and 2017 as a result of implementation of the two rules. Credit Suisse also predicts that approximately 100 gigawatts of capacity… More

S&P to Add Carbon to Credit Rating Analysis for 2011?

Could carbon-intensive industries and businesses overlooking sustainability soon see their credit ratings fall as a result?   Perhaps. According to an article in yesterday’s Daily Environment Report, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) is working on ways to integrate the risks of greenhouse gases into its corporate credit ratings system. The move seems to be driven by factors such as tightening of the EU emissions trading scheme in its third phase, beginning in 2012, but might apply to US companies as well.  The article reports that S&P could include carbon in their credit rating analysis on a global scale, as early as the first… More

High Stakes and Embryonic Law: FIELD Paper Analyzes Prospects for International Climate Change Litigation

With Kyoto Protocol commitments expiring in 2012, will international climate change litigation be used to push governments towards a binding international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? Does a country like Bangladesh, threatened with almost total submersion due to the impacts of sea level rise, have a case under public international law against major emitters such as the United States or China? These are some of the questions addressed in a working paper entitled International Climate Change Litigation and the Negotiation Process, recently released by the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development.

Certainly, the… More

Just in Case You Thought EPA Could Go On Its Merry Way in the Absence of Climate Legislation

Earlier this week, I posted about the dire prospects for climate change legislation following the fall elections. The alternative to legislation has always been regulation under existing Clean Air Act authority, so it’s appropriate as a follow-up to briefly examine the pressures on EPA as it moves forward with its stationary source GHG regulations. Two headlines from the trade press today brought home just what a tightrope EPA is walking.

The first headline, from the Daily Environment Report, was to the effect that a “Ban on New Source Construction [Is] Possible In States Without Greenhouse Gas Permitting.” Specifically, Raj Rao, of… More

Just In Case You Hadn’t Realized That Climate Legislation Will Be An Uphill Battle In The Next Congress

It’s been obvious for some time that Republican victories in next month’s elections will only make it more difficult to pass climate legislation. However, perhaps the most telling reminder of the difficulty in passing climate legislation came last week from the Democrats, not the GOP. Governor Joe Manchin, running for Senator Byrd’s seat, was endorsed by the West Virginia Coal Association. Among the bullets noted in the press release, the WVCA noted that:

Governor Manchin opposes any form of Cap & Trade legislation that threatens the jobs that our coal mining families depend on for their livelihoods. 

The press release also notes… More

EPA’s Mandatory Reporting Rule Adds New Disclosures of Corporate Ownership and Cogeneration

A recent amendment to the EPA’s Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule (40 CFR part 98) requires companies that report their emissions to also provide information on corporate ownership, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, and whether any of the emissions come from a cogeneration unit. The goal behind collecting this information is to gain a better understanding of the aggregate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from corporations and specific industry sectors, and identify potential differences in emissions between otherwise similar facilities due to cogeneration. Such information can be used to guide future GHG regulations and mitigation strategies…. More

Is EPA Treading On Thin Ice With Its Climate Change Regulations?

On a day when ClimateWire reported that thousands of walruses are stuck on land because their usual summer home – sea ice – has disappeared, I’m beginning to wonder whether EPA’s stationary source GHG rules are similarly at risk. It may not be difficult for EPA to brush off a fairly over the top letter from Texas which basically asked EPA “What part of ‘hell no” don’t you understand?”

However, today Greenwire reports that Governor Freudenthal of Wyoming – a Democrat – is asking EPA to defer enforcement of GHG stationary… More

RGGI Auction #9: The Floor Price is Right

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auction program celebrated its second birthday this week by holding the 9th regional auction of CO2 allowances.  As today’s report highlights, the auction brought a bittersweet first for the 10-state program: unsold allowances from both the current and future regulatory periods.  Bidders bought only 75% of the 45.6 million 2010-vintage allowances offered and just 61% of the 2013-vintage allowances, with both auctions closing at the mandatory floor price of $1.86.   Not surprisingly, given these results, participation in the auction was down — the 2010 auction garnered bids from 45 entities, 92% of… More

Has The Bell Tolled For GHG Public Nuisance Litigation? The United States Government Thinks So

I have previously expressed my distaste for public nuisance litigation to require reductions in GHG emissions. It cannot be more than a tactic in a war to the plaintiffs, because the chaos resulting from regulation of a global problem through a series of individual law suits has to be obvious to everyone. Now, apparently, that chaos is also obvious to the Obama administration, because it has filed a brief with the Supreme Court, asking the Court to accept a certiorari petition filed by the defendants in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, the 2nd Circuit case in which the Court… More

DOE Gives A Good News Cycle for Natural Gas

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced two items in the last week that, while not related, could both spell large changes in the US energy future and create huge boon to the natural gas industry, if they pan out.

The first is an announcement on Wednesday that the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has developed a method of freezing natural gas which could both lower the cost of transportation of natural gas and allow access to vast amounts of the world’s gas resources. NETL has created a special nozzle technology that rapidly traps natural gas in ice to… More

What’s Next for Carbon Capture and Storage?

In February, President Obama tasked the Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage with the ambitious goal of overcoming the barriers to widespread, cost-effective deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) within the next 10 years.  As the first bold step, the 14-agency and executive department group released its findings in a report on August 12.

The report concludes that widespread cost-effective deployment of CCS will only occur if the technology is commercially available (i.e. scale-able and cost-effective) and a supportive national policy framework is in place to both fund and regulate it.  The task force believes… More

From Tailoring To “FIPping” – More GHG Action From The EPA

With the abandonment of federal climate change legislation by the Senate last month, EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act (CAA) have taken on even greater importance for the estimated 15,500 emission sources nationwide expected to be affected by the new rules. Yesterday, the U.S. EPA announced a pair of proposed rules to help ensure the implementation of permitting requirements for GHGs, set to take effect in January 2011. In May, EPA issued the Tailoring Rule, which “tailored” the CAA threshold for GHGs to ensure that only large emitters would be… More

New Developments In The Underground

What do a coal-fired power plant in Meredosia, Illinois and a National Park in Ecuador’s Amazonian jungle have in common? Carbon sequestration — albeit of two very different kinds. Last week, while the U.S. government made a major funding commitment to a project aimed at capturing carbon dioxide emissions from the stack of a coal fired power plant in the Midwest, the government of Ecuador took steps towards preventing the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels in the first place by signing an agreement that would keep a significant chunk of its oil reserves locked underground.

The U.S…. More

EPA’s NSR Enforcement Initiative Marches On

EPA shows no signs of slowing down in its efforts to use the Clean Air Act’s PSD/NSR provisions as an enforcement club. The latest target in EPA’s crosshairs is the Detroit Edison Monroe Power Plant. Late last month, DOJ filed a complaint alleging violations of PSD/NSR requirements in connection with a project to replace the high temperature reheater and the economizer at Monroe Unit 2. Aside from the broad sign that EPA remains committed to these cases, the most recent action is notable for at least two reasons:

The suit names both… More

Well, I Know I Feel Endangered…

The good news is that EPA is relying on good science. The bad news is that the science says things will keep getting worse.

After several months of review, on July 29, EPA denied 10 petitions to reconsider its 2009 Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. The petitions, which were filed by, among others, the attorneys general of Texas and Virginia and the US Chamber of Commerce, pointed to errors in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the University of East Anglia “Climategate” email scandal as examples of how the… More

The Western Climate Initiative Moves Forward

Now that the Senate has put an end to speculation about a federal cap-and-trade program, the laboratory of the states and patchwork of regional regulation seem even more important.  The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) will likely involve a little of both.

Yesterday, the WCI Partner Jurisdictions (seven US states and four Canadian provinces) unveiled their comprehensive strategy for a cap-and-trade program with the goal of reducing regional greenhouse gas emissions by 15% below 2005 levels before 2020. The program is planned to begin in 2012, although apparently only California, New Mexico, Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia are on track… More

Climate Legislation Is Dead (For Now): Long Live Conventional Pollutants

Climate change legislation is dead for now. I won’t pretend it’s not depressing, even though I avoid the political channels and ignore the rhetoric. For those of us who haven’t refudiated climate change science, it’s a victory for the pessimists and evidence that Congress has a hard time addressing long-range problems, even if consequential.

With respect to regulation of GHG, it’s the worst of both worlds and no one should be happy (which is why I held out hope until the end that cooler heads would prevail). We’re still going to have regulation of GHG, the mechanism being EPA’s recently promulgated More

RGGI Allowances on the Secondary Market: Slow but Steady?

Not surprisingly, the secondary market price for Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) allowances fell for the 4th quarter of 2009, as noted by RGGI Market Monitor Potomac Economics in their recent report.  Trading in RGGI allowances futures declined from 319 million allowances in the third quarter of 2009 to 127 million in the fourth quarter, despite the number of firms participating remaining the same.  Futures prices also declined 8% — from $2.45 to $2.25.   Even so, futures prices remain notably higher than the clearing prices of the RGGI auctions, which were $2.19 and $2.05, respectively, in the September and… More

EPA Issues Its Final Set of Mandatory GHG Reporting Rules

When we blogged about the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program regulations last fall, we noted that the EPA had excluded from the final regulations emission source categories such as wastewater treatment plants and underground coal mines that were initially included in the draft rules.  No longer. Yesterday, EPA finalized regulations requiring an estimated 680 facilities in the four sectors of underground coal mines, industrial wastewater treatment systems, industrial waste landfills and magnesium production facilities to begin collecting emissions data on January 1, 2011, and submit their first annual report in March 2012. Despite being few in number, these facilities, which… More

Coal Still in the Crosshairs

Two seemingly unrelated reports last week serve as a reminder that coal remains very much under siege. First, Earthjustice, on behalf of a number of environmental organizations, filed a petition with EPA under § 111 of the Clean Air Act requesting that EPA identify coal mines as an emissions source and, consequently, establish new source performance standards for coal mine emissions of methane and several other categories of pollutants. 

Second, as Daily Environment reported, the Army Corps of Engineers suspended use of Nationwide Permit 21 for the six states in the Appalachian region, covering Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and… More

Taking it to the Streets: the East Coast’s Newest Climate Initiative

It may be time to learn a new acronym.  The 10 RGGI states, plus Pennsylvania and Washington DC have banded together to create the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) — a group that has pledged to create a plan to address the estimated 30% of greenhouse gas emissions on the eastern seaboard caused by the transportation sector. 

In a Declaration of Intent released Wednesday, the leaders of the environmental, transportation and energy agencies of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington DC, pledged to develop and implement a three-year work… More

After Murkowski, What Now For Climate Change in Congress?

A week after the Senate’s rejection of the Murkowki resolution last week, where does climate change stand in Congress? The defeat of the resolution is not the end for those who don’t want EPA to regulate under existing authority. Senator Rockefeller hopes to get to the floor a bill that would delay EPA regulation of stationary sources for at least two years, but keep in place the mobile source compromise reached last year. Rockefeller has stated that he hopes to get the votes of some Senators who opposed Murkowski’s resolution.

What about cap-and-trade legislation? Notwithstanding the President’s stated commitment to getting it… More

RGGI Auction #8: Even Cheap Allowances Add Up to Big Investments

In the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) eighth auction of CO2 credits on June 9th, the clearing prices were the lowest yet – $1.88 for 2009-2011 credits and the auction floor of $1.86 for 2012-2014 allowances.  Despite these low prices, the auctions still brought in some $80 million.  In total, cumulative RGGI proceeds to be used by the 10 participating states for renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-income energy assistance programs now total $662.8 million.

RGGI’s announcement of the auction results highlights some of the specific programs in which the states have invested, and the returns we are already… More

Disapproving the Disapproval

As you might have heard, late yesterday afternoon, the Senate voted 53-47 to reject a procedural motion that would have allowed a vote on Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution: a long-winded way of saying that, for now, the EPA maintains its authority and scientific finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. 

As Seth noted a few weeks ago, the political dynamics of this vote are complex, bringing together strange bedfellows and inviting interesting predictions about what happens next.  On the one hand, environmental groups are claiming victory in the resolution’s failure, which breaks down pretty… More

Livable Communities — And How to Achieve Them

With work on financial reform almost complete, Senator Dodd announced this week that his remaining legislative priority is the enactment of the Livable Communities Act, S. 1619. There is a companion house bill, H.R. 4690. A hearing on the Senate bill will be held tomorrow.

It’s hard to be against livable communities and I may just be getting crotchety, but this legislation seems some combination of pointless and misguided. The legislative findings discuss traffic congestion, the percentage of oil used for transportation and CO2 generated from transportation, and the need to encourage and sustain compact development and historical town centers…. More

Due Process? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Due Process.

Last Friday, the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued an order – boggling the minds of lawyers and non-lawyers alike – dismissing the plaintiffs’ appeal in Comer v. Murphy Oil, one of the climate change nuisance cases. As the order and dissents make clear, it’s quite a set of circumstances. The District Court dismissed the case. A panel of the 5th Circuit reversed. A request to rehear the case en banc was made. Seven out of 16 judges recused themselves. Of the nine remaining judges, six voted to rehear the case en banc.

Three… More

Regional GHG Programs Share Consensus Views on “High Quality Offsets”

By now we are all familiar with the criteria for robust carbon offsets:real, additional, verifiable, enforceable, permanent.  But what exactly do those criteria mean?  And how should a cap-and-trade program be designed to ensure that they are met?  

Earlier this month the three regional U.S. greenhouse gas programs released a white paper which sets out their answers. In Ensuring Offset Quality: Design and Implementation Criteria for a High-Quality Offset Program, representatives of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Western Climate Initiative, and the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord provided their consensus view on key offset policy design and… More

If Trees Have Standing, Can We Sue Kudzu For Violating the Clean Air Act?

In 1972, Christopher Stone published his seminal book “Should Trees Have Standing?” That same year, Justice Douglas posed essentially the same question in his dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton, in which he argued that inanimate objects should have standing “to sue for their own preservation.”

I hadn’t thought of this for some time, but was reminded of the issue by an article in GreenWire this week, reporting on a study which has concluded that kudzu, an invasive species which is, one might say rhetorically, taking over the southeastern United States, increases NOx levels and thus leads to… More

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows: Climate Change Edition

It now appears that Senator Murkowski’s resolution disapproving EPA’s endangerment finding will come to a vote in the Senate sometime in June. The complexity of the political dynamic is highlighted by the speculation regarding what such a vote will mean. On the one hand, there are those who argue that a significant number of votes for the resolution will mean that climate change legislation is dead. On the other hand, Senator Graham has now predicted that the resolution will pass precisely because most Senators do want to pass a climate bill.

As a logical matter,… More

Time to See if the Suit Fits: EPA Releases the Tailoring Rule

First Kerry-Lieberman, then the Tailoring Rule – a busy week for climate change. Senator Kerry certainly did not miss the coincidence. He called the release of the Tailoring Rule the “last call” for federal legislation. I’ve noted before the leverage that EPA regulation would provide, but this is the most explicit I’ve seen one of the sponsors on the issue.

As to the substance, there are not really any surprises at this point. EPA is certainly working to soften the blow of GHG regulation under the PSD program. Here are the basics (summarized here):

January 2, 2011 – Facilities obtaining… More

Kerry Lieberman Is Here: Now What?

So, Kerry Lieberman (Graham?), also known as the American Power Act, is here. What does it mean?

My immediate reaction is that, in a big picture sense, they got it just about right. The fundamental issue, which was previously acknowledged by Senator Graham (can we start calling him “he who must not be named?”), is that we’re not going to solve the energy independence or climate change problems unless we put a price on carbon. This bill does that.

Frankly, the rest of the issues really only matter either to particularly constituencies or, as a related concern, to particular members of… More

No News Is Good News: Massachusetts Updates Its MEPA Greenhouse Gas Policy

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs released its Revised MEPA Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policy and Protocol. For those who cannot get enough of this stuff, they also released a summary of revisions to the policy and a response to comments. On the whole, EEA took an appropriately moderate, incremental approach to revising the GHG policy. Indeed, it’s telling that the very first “change” identified by EEA in its summary is not a change at all – it’s EEA’s decision to retain the current case-by-case approach to determining appropriate performance standards and mitigation requirements. EEA decided not to… More

Which is Going to Be More Difficult? Getting a Climate Bill or Getting a Climate Bill Right?

There has been a fair bit of evidence in recent weeks that getting a climate bill through Congress remains a difficult task. It is a sign of just how perfectly aligned the stars will need to be that the two recent problems for the bill were either completing unrelated to climate change or at best tangential.

First, as everyone knows, Senator Graham got annoyed that Senator Reid (locked in a tough reelection battle and needing Hispanic votes) suggested that he might move an immigration bill before the climate/energy bill. Senator Graham, as about the only Republican willing to work with Democrats, and… More

Patchwork or Preemption, Redux

Yesterday, Senator Lieberman (I -CT) confirmed that the climate bill that he, Senator Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Graham (R-SC) plan to announce next week will include preemption of state and federal initiatives, including EPA’s Clean Air Act authority.  Leaving aside the potential in his statement for the bill to also preempt state renewable energy and efficiency programs, the goal of predictability and one nationwide cap-and-trade system is an approach that we endorsed a few weeks ago, and one that H.R. 2454 also contained, albeit with a 5 year moratorium, rather than a complete preemptive ban.

But this stance on preemption is drawing fire from both sides… More

Western Climate Initiative or Mid-Canada Initiative?

The Western Climate Initiative is scheduled to begin its cap-and-trade program in 2012.  But as ClimateWire highlighted today, the number of states who will be ready and willing to participate in the program is quickly dwindling.  Utah is the latest member of the seven-state, four-Canadian-province agreement to announce that it will not have the state authority needed to actually implement a cap-and-trade program in 2012.  Montana, Washington and Oregon will also probably miss the 2012 start date, and Arizona’s governor withdrew from the cap-and-trade program entirely in February.  … More

Another Climate Update: Are Moderates Coming Aboard?

As Senators Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham get ready to release their version of a climate bill, negotiations with moderate Democrats are heating up. Ten Democrats, apparently let by Sherrod Brown and Debbie Stabenow released a letter outlining what they call “key provisions for a manufacturing” package as part of an overall bill. Here are some highlights the Senators’ wish list:

Investments in clean energy manufacturing and low carbon industrial technologies.

Ensuring law energy costs for manufacturers, including a “firm price collar”

A phase-in for regulation of GHG emissions from manufacturing

Allowance rebates for… More

Patchwork or Preemption? Or Maybe Both

What will happen to state and regional energy and carbon-related regulations if (perhaps when) federal climate legislation is enacted?  If the Attorneys General of California and 6 New England and Mid-Atlantic states have anything to say about it, very little.  

As E&E reported last night, the Attorneys General of Massachusetts, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont and California sent a letter this week to Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman in which they urge the Senators to incorporate provisions in the climate bill expected to be announced later this month, which save existing state initiatives.  Drawing a parallel… More

Accounting for the Financial Impacts of Climate Change: ASTM Releases a New Standard

Now that the SEC has indicated that public companies should be considering climate change in evaluating financial risks, the pressing questions include what should be evaluated and how it should be reported.  ASTM’s newly released standard on Financial Disclosures Attributed to Climate Change, E2718-10 may be just the thing.  The standard, which has been under development for the last 2 years, provides guidance on processes for identifying, quantifying and disclosing potential material impacts related to climate change, both the benefits and liabilities. 

The standard does not set out specific measurements, but rather guidelines.  The degree and type… More

Insurance Regulators Vote to Weaken Climate Disclosure Rules

Just over a year ago, we noted the surprising, unanimous decision by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to adopt rules requiring insurers to publicly disclose the impacts of climate change on their business decisions, to begin May 1, 2010.  Well, not so fast.   As Climate Wire reported, at Sunday’s NAIC meeting, a the commissioners voted 27-22 to make the disclosure rules optional for states to adopt, submissions to be voluntary, and insurers’ survey answers to be kept confidential.

The revised questionnaire adopted by NAIC includes the same 8 questions that were endorsed at last year’s meeting, but… More

EPA Finalizes Reconsideration of Johnson Memo: Confirms No Stationary Source GHG Regulation Before January 2011

EPA has finally issued its formal reconsideration of the Johnson Memo. As EPA had telegraphed, it confirms that a pollutant is only subject to PSD permitting requirements when that pollutant is subject to “a final nationwide rule [that] requires actual control of emissions of the pollutant.”

As EPA had also already indicated, the reconsideration states that PSD permitting requirements are triggered, not when a rule is signed or even on the effective date of the rule, but instead when the nationwide controls actually take effect under the rule. In other words, assuming that EPA finalizes the mobile source GHG rule… More

Bad Day at Black (Coal) Rock

Last week, I noted that Gina McCarthy, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, suggested that, in the short run, the most significant pressure on inefficient energy sources would come, not from climate change legislation or from EPA GHG regulations, but instead from all of the conventional pollutant regulations that EPA expects to promulgate that will make use of coal much more expensive. While Gina was referring to a variety of air regulations, such as CAIR, MACT rules, and SIP revisions following a more stringent PM standard, even Gina may have been too narrowly focused. Today, EPA announced that it… More

Today’s Climate Change Forecast

Now that health care legislation has passed, the question is whether passage of the health care bill will unleash a cascade of other legislation, including a climate change bill, or whether Congress will be so exhausted and so polarized that nothing else will happen. I lean to the former position, but only time will tell. One positive indication was Senator Graham’s statement that, notwithstanding his views on the health care bill, he will continue to work towards passage of a climate change bill. Another shout out seems in order for Senator Graham.

The second positive indicator is the chorus of concern recently… More

RGGI’s 7th Auction Brings Total Proceeds to Over a Half Billion Dollars for RGGI States’ Projects

Despite the relatively low clearing prices in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) seventh auction of CO2 credits on March 10th — $2.07 for 2009-2011 allowances, and the auction floor price of $1.86 for 2012-2014 allowances – cumulative RGGI proceeds to be used by the 10 participating states for renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-income energy assistance programs now total $582.3 million.

As reported in today’s announcement of the auction results, this half billion dollars is being funneled into state-run programs that make investments in energy efficiency, accelerate the deployment of renewable energy, and, at the bottom line, create… More

Traditional Pollutants Definitely Still Matter: EPA’s Draft Review Recommends More Stringent Particulate Standards

Last week, I posted about improvements in air quality since 1990. It’s a good thing air quality is improving, because, at the same time, the science keeps suggesting that ever lower pollutant levels pose risks to public health. The latest news was EPA’s draft review of the appropriate level at which to set the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for particulate matter.

EPA most recently revised the PM standard in 2006, setting it at 15 ug/m3, notwithstanding the staff recommendation to set the standard at between 13 ug/m3 and 14 ug/m3. As I have discussed, EPA’s decision was struck… More

Today’s Climate Change Grab-Bag

It’s difficult to keep up with the various moves in Congress, attempting either to advance climate change legislation or to preclude EPA climate change regulation. On the advance side, E&E Daily had a very helpful summary earlier this week on the various issues affecting those senators that will need to be brought on board to reach 60 yes votes in the Senate. The identified issues include, not surprisingly: (1) coal, (2) nuclear power, (3) trade-sensitive industries, (4) oil and gas drilling, and (5) sector-specific limits. In what is probably a sidelight to the whole debate, Vernon Ehlers, a Republican, but the first… More

More pressure from Congress on EPA GHG Regulation

Late last week, Senate and House Democrats piled more pressure on EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases under existing Clean Air Act authority. Senator Rockefeller and Representatives Rahall, Boucher, and Mohollan introduced companion House and Senate bills to preclude EPA regulation of stationary source GHG emissions for two years. Unlike the resolution sponsored by Senator Murkowski, which would simply overturn the endangerment finding and thus preclude all GHG regulation, the new legislation would specifically allow mobile source regulation to proceed.

As long as the White House and important committee chairs oppose the legislation, it still seems unlikely to pass,… More

Put a Price on It

Seemingly just in time to lend support to the revived idea of a carbon tax that we noted on Monday, an Obama Administration inter-agency workgroup has released a report that attempts to do the critical math necessary to put a price tag on CO2 emissions.

The report sets out four dollar figures that represent the “social cost of carbon,” or the potential damages associated with not stopping the emissions of each incremental ton of CO2. The figures, which differ due to the use of different models and discount rates, designed to capture different views about the impact of climateMore

Trouble for Climate Change Public Nuisance Litigation?

To date, the only circuit courts that have reviewed public nuisance claims related to climate change, the Second Circuit, in American Electric Power, and the Fifth Circuit, in Comer v. Murphy Oil, have ruled that such suits can proceed. However, last week the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided to hear Comer v. Murphy Oil en banc, which certainly has to give the plaintiffs pause. While I am not fully versed in this issue, a quick glance at the web indicates that statistical analysis confirms one’s naïve assumption, i.e., that a full appellate court often decides… More

Climate Legislation: Still Breathing?

Since I did a post earlier today indicating the cap-and-trade legislation is unlikely to become law in the near term, it’s only fair that I also do a post on efforts by Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman to resuscitate the legislation. The bill’s prospects are too uncertain to spend too much time on the details. In short, it would include a phased-in approach to regulation, starting with the biggest emitters, such as utilities, combined with a carbon tax on transportation fuels that has been supported by several major oil companies.

To me, the most notable statements come from Senator Graham,… More

An Update On EPA GHG Regulation Under Existing Authority

The uncertainty surrounding EPA regulation of GHG emissions under existing Clean Air Act authority was driven home for me last week when the same conference resulted in two diametrically opposed headlines in the trade press. Regarding a forum held by the International Emissions Trading Association, the Daily Environmental Reporter headline was “Existing Law Too Inflexible to Accommodate Market-Based Emissions Cuts, Executives Say.” Over at ClimateWire, the headline was “Some Companies Want EPA to Establish a CO2 Cap-and-trade System.”

Of course, in fairness to the two publications, both headlines are true – and that’s the problem with the current EPA efforts. Notwithstanding… More

One Small Step For EPA Greenhouse Gas Regulation?

Yesterday, EPA Administrator Jackson issued a letter to Senator Jay Rockefeller responding to certain questions regarding EPA regulation of GHGs under existing Clean Air Act authority, including promulgation of the so-called “Tailoring Rule”, describing how stationary source regulation under the existing PSD program would be phased-in once GHGs are subject to regulation. Here are the highlights:

EPA still expects to promulgate the Tailoring Rule by April 2010.

The GHG permitting threshold will be “substantially higher than the 25,000-ton limit that EPA originally proposed.”

No permits will be required until 2011. Initially, only facilities otherwise subject… More

More Suits Filed on EPA’s Endangerment Finding

The grand total is 16 separate challenges to EPA’s endangerment finding, according to Greenwire. I’m not one of those lawyers who regularly bash the legal profession. I still recall my law school professor, Henry Hansmann, stating that the role of lawyers is in fact to be transaction-cost minimizers, and I think that that is largely true. That being said, I am certainly wondering what all of this litigation is about.

The endangerment finding is basically a scientific determination. As I have previously noted, EPA discretion in this area is substantial and the likelihood that a court would reverse EPA’s scientific determination… More

The CEQ Issues Draft Guidance on Consideration of Climate Change Under NEPA

Late last week, the CEQ issued its long-awaited draft Guidance on how to factor climate change into NEPA reviews. CEQ explicitly stated the draft is not effective at this time. CEQ will take comment for 90 days and “intends to expeditiously issue this Guidance in final form” after close of the comment period. Assuming CEQ does so, it will join several states, including California, New York, and Massachusetts, which already require that climate change be addressed in their state NEPA analogues.

The draft is very limited in scope at this point; CEQ may have decided that what is most… More

Dog Bites Man, February 12 Edition: Law Suit Filed to Challenge Endangerment Filing

Earlier this week, the Southeastern Legal Foundation filed a petition for review of the EPA Endangerment Finding with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. It’s not really surprising that someone filed suit, but the list of plaintiffs is interesting – though more for who is not on it than who is. There is not a single Fortune 500 company on the list of plaintiffs. Whether that speaks to the larger corporations doubting the merits of the challenge or simply making a strategic decision that it is not worth it to be associated with the litigation, I leave for them to… More

SEC Issues Climate Change Disclosure Interpretive Release

For those of you who missed it, the SEC finally issued an interpretive release last week clarifying public company disclosure obligations concerning climate change. Rather than rehash it here, I am instead linking to the client alert that we did on the topic.

It is worth noting that, as mentioned in the alert, the release has engendered significant political controversy. Indeed, ranking member Spencer Bachus sent a letter to the SEC questioning the appropriateness of the release. My favorite question in the letter:

Do you believe the Commission’s role is to promote a social policy agenda through the securities laws… More

Message to Environmentalists: Self-Righteousness Is Not the Way To Sell Climate Regulation

Until now, I haven’t posted about the climate change email brouhaha. I haven’t thought it mattered. I didn’t think it affected the underlying validity of climate change science and I still don’t. That science seems overwhelming to me. 

However, I have concluded that the email issue matters.  Yesterday’s ClimateWire reported that climate scientists had repeatedly ducked Freedom of Information Act requests, in ways that demonstrate an astounding degree of arrogance. Here’s the money quote from Phil Jones, the head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia:

When the FoI requests began here, the FoI person said we had to… More

EPA “Furious”: GHG Rules to Be Promulgated in March

Given the stories this week of continuing efforts in Congress to preclude EPA from regulating GHGs under existing Clean Air Act authority, I couldn’t resist this headline. 

The first story is that three House members, including two Democrats (House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson and Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton) have followed the lead of the Senate – where there are also Democratic sponsors – and introduced legislation preventing EPA regulation. According to Representative Skelton, the bill would “get the EPA under control.”

In light of the efforts in Congress, it just seemed too perfect not to note that EPA’s… More

Coming Soon to a 10-K Near You: Climate Risks

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued interpretive guidance yesterday which requires publicly traded companies to consider the impacts of climate change – both the physical damage it could cause, as well as the economic impacts of domestic and international greenhouse gas emissions-reduction rules – and disclose those risks to investors. As we noted when discussing the potential for this announcement in October, the disclosure requirements are likely to affect companies in a wide range of industries.

In its press release announcing this decision, the SEC said that this interpretive guidance neither creates new legal requirements… More

Will We Have Neither Climate Change Legislation Nor Regulation?

Last month, I noted with some trepidation that EPA Administrator Jackson had stated that "I don’t believe this is an either-or proposition," referring to the possibility that there could be both climate legislation and EPA regulation of GHGs under existing EPA authority. Today, it’s looking more like a neither-nor proposition.

First, with respect to the prospects for climate change legislation, Senator Gregg was quoted in ClimateWire as saying that “the chance of a global warming law passing this year was ‘zero to negative 10 percent.’" Whether Senator Gregg has the odds pegged exactly right, legislation certainly seems less likely than… More

Tailoring Rule Update: Just the Mess Everyone Expected

Last April, I noted that the one certainty associated with EPA regulation of greenhouse gases under existing Clean Air Act authority was that there would be unintended consequences. If anyone doubted that this would be so, they might want to read some of the comments submitted to EPA in connection with EPA’s proposed Tailoring Rule, which would exempt facilities emitting less than 25,000 tons per year of CO2e from the PSD provisions of the Clean Air Act after CO2e becomes a regulated pollutant under the CAA.

Greenwire has a helpful collection of some of the more notable comments. What… More

When Do EPA BACT Requirements “Redesign the Source”? Not When EPA Says They Don’t

Shortly before the holidays, EPA Administrator Jackson issued an Order in response to a challenge to a combined Title V / PSD permit issued by the Kentucky Division for Air Quality to an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, or IGCC, plant. The Order upheld the challenge, in part, on the ground that neither the permittee nor KDAQ had adequately justified why the BACT analysis for the facility did not include consideration of full-time use of natural gas notwithstanding that the plant is an IGCC facility. 

The Order may not be shocking in today’s environment – all meanings… More

Climate Change Legislation Makes Strange Bedfellows: Environmentalists for Nuclear and Coal

Yesterday, Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman sent to President Obama a “framework” for Senate climate change legislation. The framework is short on details and does not contain many surprises. For example, it proposes “near term” – near team is undefined – reductions of 17% from 2005 levels and “long-term” – also undefined – reductions of 80%. 

The framework is nonetheless noteworthy, particularly for its inclusion of strong support for both the coal and nuclear industries. Senator Kerry was must have loved writing “Additional nuclear power is an essential component of our strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” And this: “We will commit significant resources… More

There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch: You Choose, Renewable Energy or Endangered Bats

On Tuesday, District Judge Roger Titus issued an injunction against the construction of the Beech Ridge Energy wind project – 122 wind turbines along 23 miles of Appalachian ridgelines – unless the project can obtain an incidental take permit, or ITP, under the Endangered Species Act. Judge Titus concluded, after a four-day trial, that operation of the turbines would cause a “take” of the endangered Indiana Bat.

I’m not going to get into the details of the decision, though it certainly… More

So We’re Endangered by GHGs: Now What?

As anyone not hiding under a rock has by now probably realized, EPA officially announced Monday that it has concluded that GHG from human activity threaten public health and the environment. Since the announcement was not exactly a surprise, the question remains what impact it will have.

In the short run, the timing certainly seems intended to coincide with the Copenhagen talks and help to demonstrate to other nations that the U.S. is taking concrete steps to address climate change. We’ll see shortly how successful the endangerment finding is in that respect.

Since I spend most of my time down… More

RGGI’s 6th Auction: For 2012, Supply Outnumbers Demand

The states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) announced the results of their 6th quarterly auction, held on December 2nd, which brought in the lowest prices for carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances yet. Wednesday’s auction also marks the first time that RGGI allowances offered for sale outnumbered demand. Only 1.6 million of the roughly 2.1 million allowances for the 2012 vintage sold at RGGI’s required price floor of $1.86. Depending on each state’s regulations, these unsold allowances may be sold in future auctions, or a state may choose to retire them. Although retirement this early in the… More

Another Rant Against NSR: Why the Continued Operation of Old Power Plants Is Bad News for GHG Regulation Under the Current Clean Air Act

According to a report released last week by Environment America, power plants were responsible for 42% of the CO2 emitted in the United States in 2007, substantially more than any other sector, including transportation. What’s the explanation? Largely, it’s the age of the United States power plants. The report, based on EPA data, states that 73% of power plant CO2 emissions came from plants operating since prior to 1980.

What’s the solution to this problem, in the absence of cap-and-trade legislation enacting? EPA’s already told us, and we shouldn’t be surprised – promulgation of EPA’s “Tailoring Rule,” subjecting existing facilities emitting more… More

More on Building Standards; Client Rant Edition

Following my post yesterday about the E.U. construction standards directive, I received the following two emails from my friend and client Lydia Duff.

Given what people until very recently were paying for in their home purchase decisions, and builders were providing — e. g. Cathedral ceilings, minimal insulation, no double paned windows, huge foot prints and cheap construction — it seems that rulemaking to impose more energy efficient building prototypes is just what we deserve. Zero will be hard to get to but I think we’re a long ways from technical impracticability at this point. 

Why can’t they make as… More

I Have Seen the Future and It Is Zero-Energy Buildings

I spoke a few weeks ago at a NAIOP event concerning implementation of the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act. During that talk, I described the GWSA as “the future of everything.” Why? Because to achieve even medium-term greenhouse gas emission targets in 2020 or 2030, let alone the 2050 target of an 80% reduction, is going to require significant changes throughout the economy. Even substantial reductions in the power plant or transportation sectors alone are not going to be enough.

Need more evidence? How about this story from yesterday’s Greenwire. The E.U. has reached agreement on a directive that will require almost all large… More

Today’s Betting Line: EPA Regulation Before Legislation is Enacted

Boston Celtics’ fans know the phrase “fiddlin’ and diddlin.” Well, the Senate continues to fiddle and diddle over climate change legislation. Those who have worked with Gina McCarthy, current EPA air chief, know that she has probably never fiddled or diddled in her life, and I certainly don’t expect her to do so with respect to GHG regulation under existing Clean Air Act authority in the absence of comprehensive legislation. As a result, it now seems likely that EPA will be issuing climate change regulations before any legislation is enacted.

What’s the basis for this conclusion? First,… More

More on Local Climate Regulation

My post on the Portland Climate Action Plan has gotten some reaction, which I take as a good thing. For as reasoned a defense of local climate action as is possible in the space of a blog post, take a look at Holly Doremus’s response in Legal Planet, the Law and Environmental Policy Blog. If the Portland plan really were just about filling in the interstices and addressing local issues, I would be more inclined to agree. However, that’s not how I see the plan. We won’t know the details of how the plan will be implemented for some time, but much… More

Another Corner Heard From: Portland (Oregon) Releases a New Climate Action Plan

Last week, the City of Portland, Oregon (together with Multnomah County) released an updated Climate Action Plan. The Plan presents a number of aggressive goals and targets, with ultimate goals of GHG reductions of 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

The details of the Plan are obviously only relevant to those in the Portland area, but for those anticipating what regulation might look like in California, Massachusetts, and other states that have enacted or will soon enacted some version of a Global Warming Solutions Act, the Plan provides a helpful catalogue of the types of changes that might… More

SEC Reverses Bush Policy on Climate Risk in Shareholder Resolutions

The US Securities and Exchange Commission released a staff bulletin yesterday that reverses a Bush administration policy that excluded shareholder resolutions which asked companies to disclose their climate-related financial exposure. While not the rule-making we discussed last week, this could be a significant change for the boards of large companies who may now be forced to respond to shareholder concerns about the risks that greenhouse gases and climate change can create.

The Bulletin states that going forward, the Corporation Finance Division will no longer automatically allow the exclusion of proposals that deal with the evaluation of risk,… More

Senate Climate Bill, Now Fortified with Numbers

The Chairman’s Mark of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), released late Friday night by Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer, fills in some of the details left out of the earlier-introduced Boxer-Kerry bill, notably identifying which sectors will get CO2 allowances allocated to them for free. The bill largely follows the lead of the House-passed ACES, and in some areas uses identical language. For instance, as in ACES, the largest share of allowances (30%) is allocated to state-regulated local electric-distribution companies, who are instructed to use any revenue from the allowances to… More

Another Front in the Climate Change Battle: NEPA Reviews

Waxman-Markey. Boxer-Kerry. Public nuisance litigation. EPA regulation under existing authority. What’s next in the arsenal of weapons against climate change? How about including climate change impacts in reviews under NEPA?

In February 2008, the International Center for Technology Assessment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club petitioned the CEQ to “clarify” its regulations to require the assessment of potential climate change impacts in environmental reviews performed under NEPA. CEQ has not yet formally responded to the petition, but that hasn’t stopped noted environmentalist Senator James Inhofe (R. Okla.) from weighing in preemptively. Calling NEPA a “bedrock environmental statute,” Senator Inhofe has informed Nancy… More

Climate Risk Disclosures — Coming Soon to a 10-K Near You?

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is re-examining its rules regarding whether companies should or must disclose climate change related risks. According to an article in ClimateWire, revisions could be issued by the end of October. On Friday, SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter said that SEC staff are working on preparing recommendations, and two options are still on the table. One option is a rule-making that would set specific rules for disclosing climate risks. The other would be a re-interpretation of Form 10-K disclosure rules to require companies to disclose and comment on operations tied in with mitigating climate-change risks.

More

GHG Nuisance Claims? Yes? No? Maybe?

Two more decisions were released last week concerning whether nuisance claims could be brought with respect to harm alleged to have resulted from private conduct contributing to climate change. First, in Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corporation, the District Court dismissed nuisance claims. Second, in Comer v. Murphy Oil, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a District Court dismissal of nuisance claims related to damage resulting from Hurricane Katrina.

Village of Kivalina first. In this case, an Inupiat Eskimo village claimed that global climate change traceable to the defendants has essentially made their village uninhabitable. Notably and, I think, shrewdly, they… More

It Happened With Tobacco, Why Not RGGI? New York Proposes to Divert RGGI Funds to Deficit Reduction

New York Governor Patterson last week announced a plan to divert $90 million in funds raised from New York’s share of RGGI auctions to deficit reduction. The reaction was not positive from environmental NGOs, who are understandably concerned about the “precedent-setting nature of this move.”

It shouldn’t really be surprising in these times of fiscal challenge for state governments. It’s no different than what happened with the diversion of money from tobacco settlements away from smoking prevention programs to deficit reduction.

The interesting questions will be whether other states follow New York’s lead and whether this has any effect on… More

Senate Energy and Climate Legislation: The Nuclear Option

Environment & Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) announced Tuesday that committee hearings on the Boxer-Kerry climate bill, S. 1733, will begin on October 27 and that a mark-up will be planned for early to mid-November. Meanwhile, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee is continuing its hearings on emission allocations, with the next hearing scheduled for Oct. 21.

After announcing the hearing, Boxer said she would try to win over all of the Environment & Public Works Committee Democrats, including coal-state Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Arlen Specter (D-PA). Boxer said she does not expect to… More

GHG Regulation under the Existing CAA: Coming Soon to a [Large] Stationary Source Near You

On Thursday, EPA issued its long-awaited proposed rule describing how thresholds would be set for regulation of GHG sources under the existing Clean Air Act PSD authority. Having waded through the 416-page proposal, I’m torn between the appropriate Shakespeare quotes to describe it: “Much ado about nothing” or “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”

First, notwithstanding its length, the proposal is quite limited in scope. In essence, it has three parts:

Establishment of an applicability threshold for PSD and Title V purposes of 25,000 tons per year of CO2e.

Establishment of… More

I’m Not Dead Yet: Still Hope For a Climate Change Bill?

After a number of stories indicating that the prospects for climate change legislation were dimming for 2009, the convergence of a number of factors suggests that legislation may still be possible.

Yesterday, Senator Boxer and Senator Kerry released a draft of climate change legislation. This doesn’t mean that Senate passage is imminent. The bill has not been formally introduced and, like the early drafts of the Waxman-Markey bill, leaves some sections blank. Senator Boxer apparently intends to issue a mark-up of the bill sometime in October. One note for the politically-minded readers of this blog – just don’t call the… More

EPA Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule is Final, Reporting Begins in 2010

EPA released its final version of the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule today.  The Rule (which we blogged about in its draft form here) will require large emitters of greenhouse gases to begin collecting emissions data on January 1, 2010 and file their first self-certified reports in March 2011.  The EPA will then verify the data, as in other Clean Air Act programs. The new program will cover approximately 85% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and apply to roughly 10,000 facilities, down from the 13,000 that EPA had predicted in its draft rule in March.

The rule has changed… More

Another Nuisance For the Generating Industry: The 2nd Circuit Reinstates the GHG Public Nuisance Suit

On Monday, the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit finally issued a decision in Connecticut v. American Electric Power Company, reversing the District Court decision which had dismissed this public nuisance law suit against six large generating companies. The decision is notable in a number of different respects and may have far-reaching implications

Standing. Following Massachusetts v. EPA, it is not really surprising that the plaintiffs were able to establish that they have suffered injuries sufficient to provide standing. The more questionable point is redressability. The Court acknowledged that it must be “likely” that the injury will be redressed… More

Another Bullet Aimed at Coal; Another Argument For Multi-pollutant and Multi-media regulation

On Tuesday, EPA announced its intention to issue new effluent guidelines for the Steam Electric Power Generating industry by sometime in 2012. The announcement follows an EPA study in 2008 which indicated that toxic metals, particularly those collected as part of flue gas desulfurization processes, can pose a problem in facility effluent. EPA’s announcement is not particularly surprising, given the ongoing study and given that EPA has not revised the guidelines since 1982. Indeed, notwithstanding EPA’s announcement, Environmental Integrity Project, Defenders of Wildlife and Sierra Club announced that they would still sue EPA over its failure to timely update the guidelines.

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New England Governors Adopt Renewable Energy Blueprint

As BNA reported this morning, at yesterday’s Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in New Brunswick, the six New England governors adopted The New England Governors’ Renewable Energy Blueprint.  Through this plan, the governors of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont agreed to speed regional development of renewable energy by coordinating state reviews of proposed interstate transmission lines and synchronizing solicitation and decisions on power procurement and long-term energy contracts.  The blueprint calls for states to hold joint hearings and coordinate decisions when appropriate, but even using common applications and timelines could have… More

Climate Change: An Update on Legislation v. Regulation

The silence from Congress recently concerning climate change legislation has been deafening. The continued health care debate does not bode well for early passage of the Waxman-Markey bill. Meanwhile, EPA is not sitting on its hands.

Daily Environment Report noted last week that EPA has sent to the OMB a proposal to reverse the Agency’s policy that CO2 is not a pollutant subject to the PSD provisions of the Clean Air Act. Also last week, Greenwire reported that: “As Hill debate flounders, EPA plows ahead on emissions rules.” [And for those of you who can’t get enough of the debate between “founder” and… More

RGGI Prices Fall Again in 5th Auction: $2.19 and $1.87

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has released the clearing prices from its 5th quarterly auction of CO2 allowances, held on September 9, 2009.  Prices for the 28.4 million 2009 vintage allowances sold fell sharply from the June auction’s clearing price of $3.23 to $2.19, and the 2.1 million 2012 vintage allowances sold for only $1.87, just one cent above the market floor of $1.86, and well below the $3.05 that they earned at the March 2009 auction, which was the first at which these later vintage allowances were offered for sale. 

Interestingly, while the number of participants in… More

Senate Climate Bill Pushed Back to Late September

Although we had earlier predicted that comprehensive climate legislation could reach a floor vote in the Senate as early as October, that deadline is likely to move to November or later.  As reported by BNA this morning, the lead democratic authors of the bill, Senators Boxer and Kerry, announced yesterday that they need more time to craft the Senate bill and will put off introduction until the end of September. 

The plan had been to introduce the bill on September 8th, when the Senate returns from its month-long August recess.  The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, of which… More

EPA Might Take Another Step Towards Regulating Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act

According to an article by BNA published this morning, EPA may soon act to apply the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) provisions of the Clean Air Act to facilities that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.  Presumably, EPA’s action is either an effort to exert leverage on Congress to pass pending climate change legislation or to ensure that GHG are regulated in the event that legislation doesn’t pass — or both.  

Under the Clean Air Act, PSD applies to major new sources, which are defined by their emissions level — for pollutants in identified industrial sources… More

Senate Energy and Climate Change Legislation: Perhaps a Floor Vote by October

Comprehensive Energy and Climate legislation is moving along through the Senate, and could come to a floor vote by October. Six Senate committees – Agriculture, Commerce, Energy & Natural Resources, Environment & Public Works, Finance and Foreign Relations — have jurisdiction over portions of the bill, a tactic that Senate leadership hopes will give a number of influential, but as yet undecided, Senators input and a stake in the bill’s passage. Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will go first with a draft, and plans to unveil her climate bill September 8th, following the Senate’s… More

New York Joins the Bandwagon: Incorporating GHG Analysis Into Reviews of New Project Development

As most readers know, Massachusetts and California have been leading the pack in requiring analysis of greenhouse gas impacts in connection with reviews of new development. Now, New York State is catching up. This week, the Department of Environmental Conservation, or DEC, released its Policy on Assessing Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Environmental Impact Statements. The policy is certainly similar to the Massachusetts Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policy and Protocol. Nonetheless, the DEC Policy has a few items worth noting.

DEC has provided that, with respect to indirect GHG emissions from: (1) off-site energy generation and (2) vehicle trips,… More

Is CO2 a Regulated Pollutant Under the Clean Air Act? Not Yet, At Least in Georgia

Earlier this week, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a decision of the Superior Court in Georgia that would have required Longleaf Energy Associates, developer of a coal-fired power plant, to perform a BACT analysis of CO2 emissions control technologies in order to obtain an air quality permit for construction of the plant. The case is a reprise of the Deseret Power case regarding a coal-fired plant in Utah.

The court in Longleaf Energy concluded that CO2 is not yet a regulated pollutant under the CAA, and thus that no BACT analysis… More

Massachusetts Finalizes Global Warming Solutions Act Reporting Regulations

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) yesterday published a final amendment to the first set of Global Warming Solutions Act regulations, 310 CMR 7.71.  These regulations set a baseline for Massachusetts’ 1990 emissions and create a reporting system that will track emissions going forward, providing a framework for economy-wide reductions of 10% to 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.  The regulations are the first phase of implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, passed last August, which, at the time, called for the largest cuts in greenhouse gas reductions seen in the nation.

In short, the reporting regulations… More

The House Climate Bill: at 1,428 Pages, Nearly Something for Everyone

The House of Representatives narrowly passed H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 by a vote of 219-212 on Friday, June 26.  The bill, the first piece of major legislation on global warming that has passed either house of Congress, is 1,428 pages long, and includes 5 titles covering everything from renewable energy and efficiency to adaptation and transitioning to a clean energy economy.  While it retains many key concepts from the draft introduced by Representatives Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, some of revisions and additions that ensured its passage were significant and have generated… More

EPA Finally Grants the California GHG Waiver

In the category of dog bites man, EPA today announced it was granting the State of California a waiver that will allow California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The granting of the waiver was expected after Obama’s election and became pretty much inevitable after the administration announced in February that it was reconsidering the waiver request.

Substantively, it is not clear that the waiver matters that much, given the announcement on May 19 of the “grand bargain” among California, the federal government, and automakers to improve fuel economy nationwide. The real significance of today’s notice is… More

RGGI’s 4th Auction: Allowance Prices Decrease for Both 2009 and 2012 Allowances

At the fourth auction of CO2 allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) on June 17, participation was certified as robust by market monitor Potomac Economics, but auction prices decreased. Last week’s clearing price for 2009 vintage CO2 allowances was $3.23 per allowance, only slightly above the clearing price of $3.07 at RGGI’s initial auction in September 2008, and below March’s clearing price of $3.51.  The 2.1 million 2012 vintage allowances offered for sale in last week’s action sold for $2.06, almost one-third below the $3.05 price that they earned at the March auction, which was the first at which… More

RGGI Releases Model Applications for Offsets: Can Anyone Qualify?

Thinking about how to take advantage of funding for energy efficiency retrofits from the federal stimulus package, state-level programs like Massachusetts’ Green Communities Act, or even utility-funded programs?  You should also think about whether your actions will create another income stream – offsets under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – and whether taking funds will prohibit the creation of offsets when the project is finished.

RGGI, Inc. this week released model applications for offset projects which could create interesting incentives if implemented by each of the RGGI states. Unlike some of the offset provisions proposed under ACES, all of the… More

(Possibly) Coming Soon: House Floor Vote on Waxman-Markey Energy Bill

According to a quote from House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman in an E&E article this morning, the Waxman-Markey bill could reach a floor vote inside of 3 weeks.  Speaker Pelosi had set a deadline of next Friday, June 19, for the 8 House Committees still evaluating HR 2454 to conclude their review, but has not indicated when Democrats will bring the legislation to the House floor.  Waxman said yesterday that he wants debate to begin on June 22 and the bill to go to a vote before the July Fourth recess — "I think the speaker and the majority… More

Distribution of Allowances Under Waxman-Markey

For those of you looking for a cogent and concise economic analysis of the current debate regarding the distribution of allowances in the Waxman-Markey bill, take a look at this post from Rob Stavins.  Rob makes several important points, but I think that two are most fundamental.  First, with some caveats, how allowances are distributed does not affect the environmental results attained by the program.  Second, the allocation proposed in the Waxman-Markey bill is by no means a “give-away” to industrial interests. 

Secret Winner from ACES: Coal-Fired Power Plants?

As highlighted in yesterday’s issue of Greenwire, one of the controversial aspects of the  American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) passed by the House Energy & Commerce Committee last night is that 35% of the allocated allowances created in the cap-and-trade program will go for free to the electric power industry.  30% will go to Local Distribution Companies, or LDCs, traditional regulated utilities who sell power directly to consumers, and 5% will be allocated to independent merchant energy generators that sell power to wholesale power markets, primarily in the Northeast, Great Lakes, California and Texas.

Not surprisingly,… More

A Late Entry Into the Climate Change Sweepstakes: The Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord Cap-and-Tax Approach

Apparently in an effort to demonstrate to Congress that coal states also support greenhouse gas regulation, the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord last week released draft design recommendations for a GHG program. Several facets of this announcement are interesting:

The Waxman-Markey bill would basically preclude the MGGRA from implementing its program. If the point of the effort is to demonstrate to Congress that coal states indeed do support GHG regulation, they might be more successful if they had managed to bring Indiana and Ohio into the fold. The program as tentatively proposed would include a cap-and-tax approach, in… More

Are You a Member of a Protected Class? Who Is Going to Get Free Allowances Under the Climate Bill?

Congressmen Waxman and Markey today released their proposal for allocating allowances under a cap-and-trade program. At least 15 different categories of entities will receive a piece of the allowance pie. Here’s the list:

Local Distribution Companies –                           30%

Merchant Coal and PPAs –                                      5%    

Natural Gas Distribution Companies –                   9%

States (for home heating oil users) –                     1.5%

Low/moderate income households –                   15%

Energy intensive / trade-exposed industries –    15%

Domestic oil refiners –                                          2%                                                     

Carbon capture / sequestration –… More

Massachusetts Still Moving Aggressively on the Green Building Front: Now a Stretch Building Code

The competition between the states on who can move more aggressively in regulating greenhouse gases continues. Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards voted to approve a “Stretch” Building Code. The Stretch Code can be adopted locally by municipal option. Where adopted, buildings will have to be 20% more efficient than what would be required under the ASHRAE 2007 standard.

Since there was some ambiguity previously, let me be clear: I’m not a supporter of the stretch code. It’s one thing for states to regulate greenhouse gases in the absence of an active federal program. Even state and interstate… More

Nearing Agreement on a House Climate Bill?

Are Representatives Waxman and Markey near settling on language that will get a majority in Committee for the climate change bill?  The tenor today was significantly more positive than in the past few weeks.  An update seemed worthwhile, given the number of specific provisions on which agreement has apparently been reached.

The initial CO2e reduction goal will be 17% over 2005 levels by 2020.  This compares to 14% sought by the President and 20% in the original draft bill. 35% of allowances would be distributed to local distribution companies and 15% of allowances would be distributed to industries subject… More

More Forecasting for Climate Change Legislation

It seems that news on the behind-the-scenes dance in the House in an effort to bring major energy and climate change legislation to a floor vote by Memorial Day emerges every few hours, changing pundits’ predictions and analysis.  Even so, this morning’s article by E&E contained enough interesting tidbits to warrant highlighting it here.  

In short, Energy & Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman has set his goal to produce an amended draft of ACES this week, and intends to stick to his Memorial Day deadline, although it remains unclear whether the markup will begin in the full committee or… More

This Week’s Climate Legislation Forecast

Based on the current pace of developments, weekly updates on climate change legislation seem to be about the right frequency. This week’s forecast is bullish on more free allowances.

The news this week has centered on the delay in scheduling a mark-up on the Waxman Markey bill in the house. It has been widely reported that the mark-up has been delayed because the sponsors don’t yet have enough votes to pass the bill in committee. I wouldn’t read too much into the difficulty at this point. It doesn’t mean that a bill won’t get out of committee or won’t get passed. It just means… More

An EPA Cap and Trade Program Without Legislation?

For those of you who aren’t convinced that Senator Specter’s defection to the Democrats will be the savior of cap and trade legislation, and who are concerned by Senator Durbin’s recent pronouncement that, at this point, there are not 60 votes in the Senate, the question as to how EPA might regulate greenhouse gases under existing authority has taken on greater importance.

The traditional assumption, and the basis for the doom and gloom scenarios projected by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has been that EPA would regulate greenhouse gases under the NSR program. While there have been arguments… More

Today’s Climate (Change Legislation) Forecast

I’ve made a conscious decision not to blog about every twist and turn in the climate change legislation debate. While a blogger can’t quite take a “wake me when it’s over” position, I think that periodic updates are going to be more than sufficient. That being said, in the wake of EPA’s issuance of its endangerment finding last week, a brief update seems appropriate.

What’s clear at this point is that at least everyone in the political center favors a legislative approach and hopes that the endangerment finding will ultimately have no practical impact, other than serving as an incentive… More

Today’s the Day: EPA Releases Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act

This morning, EPA issued a proposed finding that greenhouse gasses contribute to air pollution and may endanger public health or welfare. The proposed finding comes almost exactly two years after the Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA, ordered the agency to examine whether emissions linked to climate change should be curbed under the Clean Air Act, and marks a major shift in the federal government’s approach to global warming.

The finding, which now moves to a 60-day public comment period, identifies the six greenhouse gases that pose a potential threat as a set, a… More

A Dose of Reality for the Climate Change Legislation Debate?

Now that the initial euphoria following the introduction of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill  has passed, this past week may have reminded supporters of climate change legislation just how difficult it will be and what sort of compromises may be necessary to get it done. First, Greenwire reported again on the difficulty that senators and representatives from coal states will have supporting climate legislation that would increase electricity rates. This was consistent with the recent Senate action that seemingly put the final nail in the coffin on the idea of using the budget process as a… More

New Development on the Climate Change Legislation Front: Is a Zero Emissions Home in Your Future?

I previously noted that some of my friends in the development community were concerned that I seemed to be too welcoming of certain moves by the Patrick administration related to energy efficiency and climate change.  If, as is often the case, developments in California are a harbinger of things to come in Massachusetts, now I am in a position to really give Massachusetts developers something to worry about.

San Diego Congresswoman Lori Saldana, who is part of the Democratic leadership in the California Assembly, has introduced legislation that would require all new residential construction in California to… More

The House Climate Bill: Details on the Energy Provisions

 As we have already noted, Representatives Waxman and Markey released a 648-page discussion draft energy bill last week that provides the first comprehensive look at how Congress may approach the nexus of energy, job creation, and the environment. Although this bill is only being released in discussion draft form, as the first major energy volley by Congressional Democrats, it will undoubtedly have a major influence on the debate in Washington. 

In addition to the global warming provisions that we posted about last week, clean and renewable energy occupies a significant place in the draft bill.  The… More

The House Climate Bill: More Details on Federal Cap and Trade

As we mentioned yesterday, the discussion draft of the Waxman-Markey “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” which was released on Tuesday is notable both for what it includes and the significant portions it leaves to be decided at a later date.

In summary, the bill contains four titles:

a “clean energy” title, which promotes renewable energy through a portfolio standard of 6% in 2012 rising to 25% by 2025, additional funding for carbon capture and sequestration, a low-carbon transportation fuel standard, and authorization for federal agencies to enter into long-term contracts with renewable energy providers; an… More

Waxman and Markey Release House Climate Bill: Some Details, But a Long Way From the Finish Line

I finally found time to review the 648-page “discussion draft” of the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” released by Representatives Waxman and Markey this week. It is fair to way that, though release of the draft may be an important way-station on the road to a climate change bill, there remains a lot of work to do. While the draft includes some important markers that are likely to set boundaries on what might be included in the final bill, it is at least as notable for what is omitted than for what is included. Here are some highlights… More

SO2 Allowance Prices Drop: Is There a Lesson Here?

The results of EPA’s annual auction of sulfur dioxide (SO2) allowances under the acid rain program provide empirical support for a proposition that the regulated community repeatedly advances – certainty is critical to the success of complex regulatory regimes. Prices for 2009 allowances fell from last year’s average of $380/ton to $70/ton, or more than 80%. Prices in the 7 year advance auction fell even more dramatically, from $136/ton in 2008 to $6.65/ton, or more than 95%.

The short explanation for the crash in prices? Uncertainty over the fate of EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule. Although there may be a number of… More

Local Opposition to Energy Projects? The Chamber of Commerce Takes the Fight to the NIMBYs

The Empire Strikes Back? Revenge on the NIMBYs? Whatever you want to call it, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce now has a great new web site, called Project No Project, which lists energy projects which have been stalled by local opposition.  The site lists project by state and by type, and explains the status of the project, who the opponents are, and what its prospects seem to be.

It is good to see the Chamber join the digital age and adopt some of the methods of those on the other side of these battles.

Of course, one person’s NIMBY is another’s… More

More on Energy Efficient Building Codes

A recent post of mine concerning Congressional testimony by Phil Giudice, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, in support of a national building code requiring significant improvements in energy efficiency, has apparently caused heartburn among some of my friends in the development community in Massachusetts. Some folks have asked if I have “drunk the kool-aid.” My selfish responses to these comments are, first, that I’m glad some one is reading the blog and, second, that I’m sorry they are not commenting directly. I really do want discussion.

My third reaction is that a point of clarification seems in order. No, I… More

RGGI’s Third Auction Brings In Divergent Bids of $3.51 and $3.05

RGGI, Inc. the operators of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) today announced the results of its third auction of CO2 allowances, held on March 18, 2009.  The auction offered allowances from all ten states participating in RGGI — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. 

 As we noted earlier, new for RGGI’s third auction was that the states offered just under 2.2 million allowances for the 2012 vintage, providing a first-look at future market prices for RGGI allowances. These 2012 allowances sold at a clearing price of $3.05, while the 31.5 million… More

Insurance Regulators Unanimously Approve Climate Risk Survey

An update to a development we noted a few weeks ago —  as reported by Climate Wire today, at the national meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) yesterday, regulatory officials from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) unanimously voted in favor of rules requiring insurers to disclose the impacts of climate change on their business decisions. 

The mandatory survey’s adoption comes shortly after Maplecroft, a British risk management firm, reported that, although third world… More

Greenhouse Gas Endangerment Finding Out Soon: Will Regulations Be Far Behind?

Greenwire reported yesterday that EPA plans to issue its endangerment finding on emissions of greenhouses gases, in response to Massachusetts v. EPA, by the end of April. Greenwire also released EPA’s internal presentation regarding its recommendation to the Administrator.

Although EPA’s anticipated decision is not a surprise, it is still noteworthy. Among the highlights:

The finding will conclude that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health (the proposed endangerment finding that the Bush administration EPA had prepared, but then withdrew, was limited to public welfare issues. The finding will apparently note that there are environmental justice implications associated with climate… More

EPA Unveils Nationwide Greenhouse Gas Reporting Regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed regulations which create the first nationwide system for reporting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted by major sources in the US.  The proposed regulations are promulgated pursuant to the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act  which was signed into law in December 2007, and instructs the EPA to require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors of the economy.  Approximately 13,000 facilities will be subject to the rule, accounting for 85% to 90% of greenhouse gases emitted in the U.S.   Despite this large number, EPA believes that most small… More

100% Auction For CO2 Allowances Takes A Hit

As the New York Times reported on Friday, New York Governor David Paterson may increase the number of carbon allowances that New York gives to power plants for free, creating a significant policy departure from New York’s earlier approach to RGGI.   New York, together with seven other RGGI states, had earlier committed to auction nearly 100% of its allowances.  As such, New York gave away only a small portion of its allowances this year (1.5 million out of 62 million) through a program designed to lessen the impact of RGGI on the price of electricity. Paterson’s proposed adjustment would increase that number four-fold, giving away 6… More

Energy Efficient Building Codes: What’s Sauce for the Massachusetts Goose is Sauce for the National Gander

We previously noted efforts by Massachusetts to require greater energy efficiency in new construction through revisions to the state building code. The Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act requires adoption of a more energy efficient code. Massachusetts is also pursuing an even more aggressive “Stretch” code, that municipalities would have the option of adopting.

Yesterday, Massachusetts took this green building message to Washington. The Environment Reporter states that Phil Giudice, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in favor of Congressional action to require states to require at… More

Cap-and-Trade Allowances: The Auction v. Allocation Debate Begins to Heat Up

As we noted last week, President Obama’s budget includes revenue from auctioning 100% of allowances under a cap-and-trade system. ClimateWire today reports two competing versions of the prospects for a 100% auction approach. First, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy signed up a number of economists, including Franklin Fisher of MIT, in support of the President’s plan to auction all allowances from the get-go. Part of the argument reflects environmental justice concerns, stemming from the recognition that a cap-and-trade program will increase utility costs. The Southern Alliance… More

Obama Budget Proposal Includes Revenue From Auctioning 100% of CO2 Allowances Under a Cap and Trade Plan

In the budget proposal that President Obama will send to Congress today, the administration has included revenue from auctions of 100% of allowances that will be issued as part of an economy-wide, mandatory cap-and-trade program. It’s a lot of money and the administration has big plans for it.

As highlighted in the President’s joint address to Congress on Tuesday night, the cap-and-trade program is expected to bring in billions of dollars per year. Today’s budget proposal adds the detail that the President intends to direct $15 billion per year from these funds towards renewable and alternative sources of energy… More

Insurance Goes Green. Yes, Really

Strange as it sounds, the next industry group to take substantive action on climate change might just be insurers.  In Tuesday’s key vote by the Climate Change and Global Warming Task Force of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 18 state insurance commissioners voted to approve rules requiring insurers to disclose the impacts of climate change on their business decisions. If the rules are approved by the full committee in March, and each state adopts them, reporting could begin as early as May 2010.

The survey approved by yesterday’s vote asks insurers to annually answer eight questions involving what the company… More

Cap and Trade or Carbon Tax? How About Both?

As Congress considers approaches to climate change legislation, with pragmatists seeming generally to support a cap and trade system, while purists support a carbon tax, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has now weighed in with a new approach: How about both?

Although Massachusetts dithered a bit at the end of the Romney administration, it rejoined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Emission under Governor Patrick in time to participate in the first auction under the RGGI cap and trade program. Last week, the Governor balanced the scales, announcing a proposal for a 19-cent increase in the gas tax. Now, to be fair to the Governor,… More

Today’s Forecast: More Climate-related Litigation on the Horizon

We posted recently about the revival of EPA’s NSR enforcement program. Now, yet another shoe has dropped. The Center for Biological Diversity has announced the creation of the Climate Law Institute, the purpose of which is to use citizen law suits under existing laws to advance regulations intended to address climate change. The press release states that the Institute has $17 million in funding with which to pursue its mission.  

While that mission will focus on climate change, as its name implies, it will not be limited to litigation under the Clean Air Act. It was the CBD which led the… More

Will Decoupling Advocates Find a Dance Partner in Congress?

Among energy efficiency advocates, “decoupling” is the word of the day. Last year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued an order decoupling utility rates from sales volume, joining California on the front lines of this issue. The point of decoupling is to eliminate utilities’ rate-based incentive simply to sell more and more power, thus making it easier for utilities to get behind demand management measures.

Congress is now grappling with the decoupling issue as it considers whether to require that states implement decoupling as a quid pro quo for stimulus money related to energy efficiency and conservation. Last week, both the… More

The Economy and the Environment; I’m Shocked, Shocked, to Find Tension Between Them

Recently, I posted about Governor Schwarzenegger’s efforts to suspend the California version of NEPA with respect to economic stimulus infrastructure projects. Today’s news concerning the impact of the current economic downturn on an ambitious environmental agenda comes from the other coast. Massachusetts has been attempting to rival California in its commitment to a green energy economy, but the Boston Globe today reported on concerns about the Commonwealth’s ability to achieve its green energy goals. My friend Rob Stavins of Harvard is quoted in the Globe as saying that the factors affecting the Commonwealth’s ability to achieve its goals — including the… More

How Do I Regulate Carbon Emissions? Let Me Count the Ways

While Congress considers climate change regulations, and states pursue regional cap and trade plans, it becomes apparent that the number of different ways to regulate carbon emissions is limited only by the creativity of those doing the regulating. Last week, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a certificate of need for the construction of transmission lines necessary to carry power from a new coal-fired plant, known as Big Stone II, to be built in South Dakota.

The certificate of need includes several provisions affecting CO2 emissions by the utilities. It requires that an older coal plant be closed by 2018… More

Finally, Some Good News for Coal

Sometimes it seems as though the days for coal are short. With a new administration that seems truly committed to addressing climate change, it can be difficult to envision a long-run future. 

Other days, coal, like Citigroup, seems too big to fail. Today, I’m in the latter camp. Yesterday, Zurich Financial Group announced that it would provide insurance to cover risks associated with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects. It’s one thing for Congress, where climate change advocates may need votes from coal-state legislators, to support CCS projects, but when the market starts suggesting that CCS projects are viable, it’s time to sit… More

So, You Liked NSR Enforcement? How about State Public Nuisance Claims?

In a decision that could have significant impact on states’ efforts to limit cross-border pollution, Judge Lacy Thornburg of the District Court for the Western District of North Carolina issued an affirmative injunction against the TVA this week, requiring it to install pollution control equipment at its facilities located nearest to North Carolina and imposing specific emissions limits from those facilities. The basis for the injunction was a finding, after trial, that the facilities created a public nuisance as a result of the air pollution transported from those facilities to North Carolina.

The decision is notable for… More

RGGI’s Third Auction Looks Into the Future

RGGI, Inc. announced today that its third auction of CO2 allowances will be held on March 18, 2009, and will offer allowances from all ten states participating in RGGI – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. The sealed bid format and the reserve price of $1.86 remain the same as the previous two auctions, but one big change is in the works.

New for this auction: the participating states will offer approximately 2.2 million allowances from vintage 2012, in addition to the 31.5 million CO2 allowances from 2009. These… More

Is There a Conflict Between Environmental Protection and Economic Growth? Could Be.

It’s now de rigueur to say that there is no conflict between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. President-elect Obama said so himself as recently as December 15, when he introduced members of his environmental and energy team. Certainly, in a perfect world, where information is free and everyone agrees on the economic value to be placed on protecting environmental interests, that would be true as a matter of definition.

Unfortunately, we live in the real world and in the real world, there are often trade-offs to be made between economic growth and environmental protection. This critical tension was brought home… More

Getting Out Ahead of the Curve on the Green Building Front: EPA Announces Voluntary Agreement With Cushman & Wakefield

We have previously noted that efforts to achieve economy-wide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will necessarily go beyond the electricity generating sector. One obvious target will have to be greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, which EPA estimates account for 17 percent of U.S. carbon emissions.

Although there have been efforts, particularly in California and Massachusetts, to use state NEPA analogues to control carbon emissions from new projects going forward, and there have been similar efforts to build energy efficiency into state building codes, existing buildings will inevitably become a focus, simply because their carbon emissions are too big to ignore.

Yesterday,… More

Leakage: RGGI’s (not so little) Problem

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report on Friday that concludes that the cuts in emissions from power plants within the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) region may be compromised by power generated outside the RGGI region and imported into the region. This problem is called "leakage" in carbon-capping jargon, and it is a problem for which RGGI, Inc. has never found a satisfying solution.

The UCS report highlights that although RGGI caps the emissions of power plants in 10 Northeastern states, ratcheting down emissions to 10% below 2005 levels by 2018, it does not preclude utilities… More

Is CO2 a Regulated Pollutant for PSD purposes? Not for the Next 28 Days, At Least

As we previously noted, the recent Environmental Appeals Board decision in the Deseret Power matter raised the possibility that CO2 and other greenhouse gases need to be considered in PSD reviews. On December 18, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson issued an interpretation which concluded that GHG still do not need to be considered in PSD reviews.

Senator Boxer, not always known for her restraint, has already asked Attorney General Mukasey to reverse the interpretation, calling it “illegal.” Illegal or not, I’d guess that Senator Boxer will get her wish soon after January… More

RGGI’S Second Auction: Prices Rise to $3.38

RGGI, Inc., the operators of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) announced today that the second auction has proceeded smoothly and as planned.  All 31,505,898 allowances offered for sale at Auction 2 on December 17 were purchased at a clearing price of $3.38 per allowance.  This price is above the first RGGI auction’s clearing price of $3.07, and in line with recent prices for RGGI futures on the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange, which traded Monday at the same price. Auction 2 was the first to feature allowances from Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York, a factor which might have caused… More

Get Ready for Carbon Reporting in 2 weeks!

Massachusetts and California seem to be neck-and-neck in the race to be the first state to cap greenhouse gases economy-wide.

Massachusetts issued emergency regulations last week which create the first phase of a mandatory reporting program, thus taking the title of first state to implement the beginnings of an economy-wide cap and trade plan.   The regulations commence January 1, 2009, so Massachusetts facilities that might need to report should read Foley Hoag’s Client Alert on the new regulations very soon.

Not to be outdone, California also released big news last week.  With the Air Resources Board’s approval of the Scoping… More

Trends in CO2 Emissions in RGGI States

On the eve of the second RGGI auction, it is reasonable to ask what the trend is in CO2 emissions in the RGGI states. Environment Northeast just issued a report which seeks to answer that question. According to ENE, which utilized data from EPA and the RGGI states, CO2 emissions in the RGGI states through the third quarter of 2008 are trending 16 percent below the RGGI cap.

As ENE notes, both oil and coal prices were extremely high during this period, so there is no guarantee that these low emission levels will be reflected in data for the fourth… More

The Sky is Falling. No, It’s Not. Regulation of Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act

As we have noted, there have been a number of arguments regarding the implications of a decision by EPA to utilize current Clean Air Act authority to regulate greenhouse gases. The Chamber of Commerce has been in the “sky is falling” camp. Nonetheless, environmentalists are already pressing President-elect Obama to regulate greenhouse gases under the CAA, without waiting for what could be a lengthy legislative process.

According to a story in the Daily Environment Report, at a recent forum held by the American Law institute and the American Bar Association, the prevailing view was… More

Accounting for the Financial Impacts of Climate Change: ASTM Steps Into the Breach

As the reality of climate change begins to hit home – and as the economy continues to weaken – one issue that may ultimately prove critical in how we respond may be how corporations account for the financial impacts of climate change. Now ASTM is getting into the act. ASTM is working on a standard, titled “Financial Disclosures Attributed to Climate Change,” to provide guidance on the issue.

ASTM has something of a track record in setting environmental standards. Its guidance on doing Phase I site assessments has dictated practice in that area to the point that it was essentially written… More

The Massachusetts GHG Policy Expands Its Scope

In October 2007, the Massachusetts MEPA office issued its Greenhouse Gas (“GHG”) Policy, requiring certain limited categories of projects subject to MEPA to assess the GHG impacts of those projects and include mitigation of those impacts in the environmental impact review. In short, projects with obvious traffic or air emissions impacts were subject to the policy.

On August 8, 2008, Governor Patrick signed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008. Among other provisions, the Act provided specific statutory authority for the MEPA GHG Policy and provided that greenhouse gas emissions should be addressed in any state permits.

As a result of… More

Not Really So Bad; More on Revisions to the State Building Code

That did not take long. When I first drafted the introduction to this blog, I included text inviting people to notify us if, God forbid, I made a mistake. The powers that be vetoed that language, apparently on the basis that it was not possible for a Foley lawyer to make a mistake.

Well, the blog’s been up for less than a week, and I have received my first such notice. In my post yesterday about the Governor’s announcement regarding changes to the state building code, I noted that developers would be concerned about a multiplicity of building codes in different municipalities. The Commonwealth’s… More

The Massachusetts Move Towards Sustainability Gathers Steam

In Massachusetts, officials are continuing to try to walk the climate change walk as well as talking the talk. Today, Governor Patrick and Secretary of Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles announced a program to encourage installation of solar panels on roofs and big box stores and other commercial buildings with flat roofs that are larger than 50,000 square feet.

Initially, the program will be voluntary, but there is no question that this is part of a broader effort by the administration to make energy efficiency a central issue in building design and construction. It is of a piece with the issuance of… More

Which Comes First, the Chicken or the Egg? Innovation and Regulation in the Climate Change Debate

In the struggle to control greenhouse gases, one debate has been which should come first, innovation or regulation. The Bush administration, of course, came down firmly on the side of innovation. It invested money – though many argued, not enough – in developing energy efficient technologies or means of controlling greenhouse gas emissions, but it fought to end against regulation of CO2 as a pollutant.

From a theoretical point of view, the Bush position was certainly inconsistent with traditional economic theory – as well as with off-stated conservative positions on issues. Once one accepts that greenhouse gas emissions lead to climate change, i.e.,… More

Is CO2 “Subject to Regulation” under the Clean Air Act? Time Will Tell (We Think).

In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court concluded that greenhouse gases, including CO2, are “air pollutants,” the it left (barely) open the question whether CO2 is “subject to regulation” under the Clean Air Act (“CAA”). 

Following Massachusetts v. EPA, there have been a number of cases in which advocates of climate change regulation have sought to require EPA to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. One of those cases, In re Deseret Power Electric Cooperative, was just decided by the EPA Environmental Appeals Board. In Deseret Power, the Sierra Club had challenged issuance of a PSD permit issued by EPA Region… More

EDF Targets EPA Landfill Methane Regulations

Opening yet another front in the effort to force EPA to take more aggressive action to combat global warming, the Environmental Defense Fund recently announced its intent to sue EPA for its failure to update emissions standards with respect to emissions of methane from landfills. As EDF has alleged, Section 111 of the Clean Air Act requires that EPA update its New Source Performance Standards every eight years. EPA last updated the landfill NSPS in 1996.

Of course, at the time EPA last promulgated landfill NSPS, climate change was not part of the equation. Now, it… More

RGGI Announces Results of First Auction of CO2 Allowances

The operators of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, announced today that all of the 12,565,387 CO2 allowances offered for sale at the first RGGI auction on September 25 have been purchased at a relatively low price of $3.07 per allowance. This is only marginally above the auction reserve price of $1.86 per allowance, and below recent prices on the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange.

RGGI did not announce the names of the winning bidders, but did note that there were 59 participants in the auction, from the “energy, financial and environmental sectors.” In total, the bidders sought… More

Is CO2 a Pollutant? What Does EPA Really Think?

EPA has publicly taken the position that the current Clean Air Act is ill-suited to regulation of CO2 as a pollutant. In an advance notice of proposed rulemaking. EPA stated that regulation of greenhouse gases “could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land.” (Of course, proponents of regulation of greenhouse gases under the CAA might say that that is precisely what is needed to address the problem of global climate change.)

Given EPA’s stated reluctance to regulate CO2… More

Regulating CO2: How Big An Impact?

Since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, Congress, EPA, state regulators, environmentalists, and industry groups have been trying to determine what it would mean to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act. While both presidential candidates are on record as supporting some kind of climate change legislation, the currently proposed legislation is extraordinarily complex and there are certainly no guarantees that legislation will in fact be enacted any time soon.

In the meantime, Massachusetts v. EPA does not seem to leave EPA much wiggle room, notwithstanding the agency’s current unwillingness to move forward on CO2… More