Category Archives: Climate Response

If the Apocalypse Approaches, But the Administration Ignores It, Will It Make a Sound?

Last week, the government released the Climate Science Special Report, the first volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment.  It makes grim reading – or perhaps more accurately, grim reaper – reading.  Here’s what we might call the executive summary of the Executive Summary.  First, the bottom line:

This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases,… More

How Imminent Are the Impacts of Climate Change in Everett?

Yesterday, Judge Mark Wolf dismissed part of the Conservation Law Foundation’s claims in its litigation against ExxonMobil concerning ExxonMobil’s Everett Terminal facility.  The opinion is both interesting and pleasurably concise – a rare combination!

Judge Wolf found that CLF had credibly alleged that the Terminal is violating its NPDES permit.  Importantly, he also found that CLF stated that there is:

substantial risk”… More

If China Can Cap-and-Trade Auto Fuel, Why Can’t We?

Bloomberg reported earlier this week that:

China will soon unveil a mandatory cap-and-trade credit program for electric cars, starting the countdown for carmakers to be in compliance with stricter rules on emissions and fuel economy.

It’s pretty well known that China is not the world’s most transparent government.  Thus, I won’t fully believe until I see it.  On the other hand, it does seem pretty clear that China is intent on cracking down on motor vehicle pollution. … More

State Street Global Advisors Gets on the Climate Disclosure Express — In a Big Way

Earlier this month, State Street Global Advisors joined the chorus of money managers urging corporate boards, particularly those in “high-impact sectors” – meaning “oil and gas, utilities and mining” – to do a better job reporting risks related to climate change.  SSGA’s recent “Perspective on Effective Climate Change Disclosure” is a serious document.  To put it in formal technical jargon, SSGA whacks the heck out of most companies in high-impact sectors,… More

Attorneys General Continue to Battle the Trump Administration Over Environmental Regulations

Democratic Attorneys General have continued their efforts to combat the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back environmental regulations developed under the Obama administration in two recent actions. Thirteen AGs, including Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, sent a letter last week to Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, threatening legal action if the agency takes steps to weaken or delay the greenhouse gas emissions standards that were established in 2012 for cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2022-2025.… More

Shareholders at ExxonMobil Vote in Favor of Climate Change Reporting

On May 31, shareholders at Exxon Mobil Corp. (“ExxonMobil”) voted in favor of a climate change resolution asking the company to publish an annual report on the business impact of measures designed to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees centigrade, the target set by the Paris Agreement.

The non-binding resolution passed with more than 62% of the votes cast. Specifically, the resolution asks that,… More

Shareholders Are Getting Restless; Climate Change Resolution Passes at Occidental

In March, I noted BlackRock’s increasing concern over climate.  One element of its statement was “potential support for shareholder resolutions on climate risk”, where “management’s response to our prior engagement has been inadequate.  Turns out that they meant it.

Earlier this month, shareholders at Occidental Petroleum approved a climate reporting proposal – over the directors’ opposition – proposed by CalPERS and supported by BlackRock,… More

Will There Be a Trial on Climate Change Public Trust Claims? It’s Looking that Way.

Last November, the District Court of Oregon denied the motion of the United States to dismiss claims that the United States had violated a public trust obligation it owes to US citizens to protect the atmosphere from climate change.  Not surprisingly, the government sought interlocutory appeal.  On Monday, Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin issued a Finding and Recommendation that the request for interlocutory appeal be denied. … More

South Florida — The Front Lines of Climate Change?

Two related items about climate change resilience and adaptation caught my eye this week.  First, the American Academy of Actuaries issued a report on “The National Flood Insurance Program: Challenges and Solutions.”  Those wild and crazy actuaries at the AAA certainly have a gift for understatement:

Increased flooding due to higher sea levels can only increase the amount of loss from storms absent expensive investment in coastal defenses.… More

The Latest Executive Order: Any Kind of Consistency Is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Make no mistake, the Executive Order signed by President Trump at EPA yesterday is a big deal.  Time will tell whether the Administration’s U-turn on the Obama rules currently in litigation, such as the Clean Power Plan and the rule on fracking on federal lands will make any difference to judicial review of those rules.  There are plenty of states and NGOs ready to step into EPA’s and BLM’s shoes to defend those rules.… More

Climate Change Will Increase Peak Energy Demand By More Than We Thought: More Storage, Perhaps?

In an interesting study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors predict that climate change will have a more significant impact on peak energy demand than had previously been understood.  They conclude that, in a business as usual case, peak demand will increase 18%, leading to a need to spend $180B (in current dollars) to meet that increased peak demand.

The authors acknowledge that their estimates are based on current infrastructure and that the development of energy storage could play a role in mitigating the need for new generation sources to meet peak demand.… More

Does MassDEP Have Authority to Regulate Electric Generating Emissions Under Section 3(d) of the GWSA? I’m Not So Sure.

As I have previously noted, I sympathize with the difficulties faced by MassDEP in trying to implement the SJC decision in Kain.  However, that does not mean that MassDEP can simply take the easy way out.  After rereading Kain, I have come to the conclusion that DEP’s proposal to limit GHG emissions from electric generating facilities in Massachusetts would in fact violate Kain,… More

DEP Is Trying to Implement Kain. How Are They Doing?

When the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in Kain that § 3(d) of the Global Warming Solutions act requires MassDEP to promulgate emission limits for multiple source categories, requiring declining annual emissions enforceable in Massachusetts, I sympathized with the difficult task MassDEP was given.  To DEP’s credit, they are working hard, determined to get draft regulations out by mid-December.

I still sympathize, but evidence to date only demonstrates further that Kain was a mistake and it’s forcing a waste of resources at MassDEP and a misallocation of attention if we really want to attain further significant GHG reductions in Massachusetts. … More

FWS Goes Back to Square One On Listing the Wolverine. It’s Not Going to Be Any Easier This Time Around.

As we noted in this space in April, Judge Dana Christensen vacated the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to withdraw its proposed listing of a distinct population segment of the North American wolverine WolverineSnowas threatened under the ESA.  Bowing to the inevitable, the FWS has now published in the Federal Register a formal acknowledgement that the Court’s vacatur of the withdrawal of the proposed listing returns the situation to the status quo.… More

RGGI Is a Success Story. When Will It Be Obsolete?

When RGGI rggilogo2was first implemented, I heard Ian Bowles, then Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs in Massachusetts, say more than once that the purpose of RGGI wasn’t really to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or jump start the clean energy economy.  Instead, the goal was much more modest; it was simply to demonstrate that a trading regime could work.  The RGGI states were to serve as a model,… More

Governor Baker’s Executive Order on Change: Good News; Still Work To Be Done By MassDEP

Last Friday, Governor Baker issued Executive Order 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth.”  tide-surgeEO 569 will advance climate policy in Massachusetts in a number of important ways.  It also leaves much to be accomplished by MassDEP.  Here are the highlights:

  • EOEEA and MassDOT are instructed to work with other New England and Northeastern states to develop regional policies to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector.…
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Massachusetts Legislature Enacts Significant Energy Bill in Support of Offshore Wind and Hydro Procurement, Storage and Transmission

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Late last night, the Massachusetts legislature enacted House Bill 4568, an act to promote energy diversity (the “Act”). Overall, the Act marks a compromise between the House’s original procurement-only legislation and the Senate’s more comprehensive “omnibus” bill. It is expected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will sign the legislation shortly. After that, regulations will be required to be implemented and other regulatory actions will need to be taken by Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities,… More

Exxon Sues Massachusetts AG to Block Civil Investigative Demand

Fuel StationOn June 15, 2016, Exxon sued Massachusetts AG Maura Healey in federal court in Texas, seeking to bar the enforcement of AG Healey’s April 19, 2016 civil investigative demand, issued pursuant to M.G.L. c. 93A, the Commonwealth’s unfair and deceptive practice statute.  Under c. 93A, § 6, the AG may issue investigative demands “whenever [s]he believes a person has engaged in or is engaging in any method, act or practice” prohibited by c.… More

Massachusetts Energy Bill Emerges from Senate Committee on Ways and Means

windmill-640x426-1Last Friday, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its version of the energy bill that passed the House earlier this month. Whereas the House bill would require distribution companies to procure 1,200 MW of offshore wind power by 2027 and 9,450,000 MWH of hydroelectric power by 2022, the Senate’s version would require 2,000 MW of offshore wind by 2030 and 12,450,000 MWH of “clean energy generation” by 2018.… More

I Have Seen the Future and It Is Hot and Wet

The City of Boston has just released its “Climate Projections Consensus.”  It’s not a pretty picture.  Here are the lowlights:

  • Average summer temperatures will be 4-5 degrees F. warmer by 2050 Boston temps
  • Even with “moderate” emissions reductions, see level rise is likely to be between 1.5 feet and 2.5 feet by 2070.
  • The number of “extreme precipitation” events has been increasing and that increase will continue.…
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Draft Released of Highly Anticipated Massachusetts Energy Bill

This week a draft of the long-awaited Massachusetts energy bill was reported out of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The bill would require the Commonwealth’s distribution companies to competitively solicit long-term, fifteen- to twenty-year contracts for large-scale offshore wind and hydroelectric power. Notably absent from the bill are provisions addressing resources such as solar, onshore wind, nuclear, energy storage, and energy efficiency.

The bill seeks to jumpstart the development of offshore wind in federal lease areas by directing distribution companies to enter into contracts for 1,200 MW of offshore wind power before July 1,… More

The Global Warming Solutions Act Requires MassDEP to Promulgate Declining Annual GHG Emissions Limits for Multiple Sources: Yikes!

On Tuesday, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that MassDEP had violated the Global Warming Solutions Act progress-on-2020-planby failing

To promulgate regulations that address multiple sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released, limit the aggregate emissions released from each group of regulated sources or categories of sources, set emissions limits for each year,… More

A Substantive Due Process Right to Climate Change Regulation? What’s a Lonely Apostle of Judicial Restraint To Do?

Late last week, Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin concluded that the most recent public trust Mosaic_of_Justinianus_I_-_Basilica_San_Vitale_(Ravenna) (1)case, which seeks an injunction requiring the United States to take actions to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 350 parts per million by 2100, should not be dismissed.

The complaint here is similar to, but broader than, others of its ilk.  As we noted previously, at least one federal court has already held that there is no public trust in the atmosphere. … More

The Ninth Circuit Approves the FWS Polar Bear Critical Habitat Designation

On Monday, the 9th Circuit reversed a district court decision that rejected the critical habitat designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service for protection of the polar bear, polar-bear-cub-on-momwhich was listed as threatened in 2008.  The case is largely a straightforward application of accepted Endangered Species Act principles, but does make a few important points.

As the 9th Circuit pointed out, the district court’s logic was flawed. … More

Kamala Harris Puts Exxon Under Her Microscope: California AG Reportedly Has Launched Review of Oil Giant’s Statements On Climate Change

Students of history know that fighting a two front war is a hazard to be avoided. According to the L.A. Times, however, that is precisely the dilemma that now faces Exxon Mobil:  dual investigations from attorneys general on each coast of the United States.

Several sources are reporting that California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office is examining what Exxon knew about the science of climate change compared with what the company told investors. … More

Massachusetts Updates Its Climate Song: I Can Get By With A Little Help From My (Canadian) Friends

Earlier this week, Massachusetts released its updated Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020.  The headline for the press release was “Massachusetts on Track to Meet 25% Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target for 2020”.  The slightly more nuanced version is that we can do it, but only with a large dose of Canadian hydropower.

While that’s the main take-away, it really is a useful report,… More

The Paris Agreement: Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive

So COP21 resulted in an agreement.  What’s a poor in-the-trenches lawyer to make of it?  I think it’s pretty clearly a major step forward and reflects much more substantive progress than might have been expected.  For a very helpful summary as to why the Paris Agreement was a success, check out Rob Stavins’s post.  As good as Rob’s summary is, Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker (subscription required) had a slightly more concise explanation why the Paris Agreement is a good thing:

It changes the presumption that carbon emissions will continue to grow to the presumption that they must soon start coming down.… More

Does the Impact of Climate Change on Financial Markets Have Anything In Common with Same-Sex Marriage?

A few months ago, I asked whether climate change nuisance and public trust litigation might have something in common with litigation challenging bans on same-sex marriage.  The idea was that both types of litigation seemed hopeless at the start and received very frosty receptions from the courts.  However, in the case of same-sex marriage, plaintiffs kept plugging away and, much sooner than most people expected, a tipping point was reached. … More