Category Archives: GHG

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

Let the Environmental Trade Wars Begin!

While speculation is rampant regarding just far President Trump will go to roll back progress on climate change in the United States, Nicolas Sarkozy has fired what might be called a metaphorical shot across Trump’s bow.  In a recent interview, Sarkozy, who is running once again in the French presidential race, stated that, if the United States jettisons the Paris agreement, Europe should impose a carbon tax of 1%-3% on goods from the United States.… More

Transportation CO2 Surpasses Power Sector CO2: Good News or Bad?

Last week, DOE announced that transportation sector CO2 emissions in the US exceeded power sector CO2 emissions for the first time since 1978.  co2-sources-since-1973Why?  The combination of increasing vehicle miles traveled in the transportation sector and the decreasing use of coal in the power sector is certainly most of the answer.

The real question is whether this is good news or bad news.… 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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DOE and DOI Release the New National Offshore Wind Strategy: Perhaps Prosperity Is Finally Just Around the Corner

Last Friday, DOE and DOI issued an update of their National Offshore Wind Strategyoffshore-windIt’s a moderately aggressive strategy, seeking to deploy at least 86 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2050.  The report highlights both the significant opportunities and potential for growth and also some of the remaining potential roadblocks.

On the plus side:

  • The combination of fossil retirements and demand growth provide significant incentive for offshore wind development.…
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A Lumber Mill Biomass CoGen Need Not Consider Other Fuels In Its BACT Analysis. Other Sources Should Be So Lucky.

Ever since EPA began considering how BACT analysis would be applied to greenhouse gas emissions, there has been concern that EPA would use its BACT authority to “redefine the source” – with the particular concern that BACT for a coal plant would now be to burn natural gas instead.  In Helping Hands Tools v. EPA, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this week gave some protection to biomass plants biomassfrom such redefinition of the source. … More

The Social Cost of Carbon Passes Its First Judicial Test

Earlier this week, the 7th Circuit affirmed the Department of Energy’s new energy efficiency requirements for commercial refrigeration equipment.  This is a big deal in its own right, simply because the numbers are really large – according to DOE, the rule will save 2.89 quadrillion BTUs over the lifetime of equipment purchased under the rule.  It’s a reminder that energy efficiency remains a key to reducing carbon emissions.… 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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Minnesota May Not Prohibit Power Sales That Would Increase Statewide CO2 Emissions. Why Not? Pick Your Reason.

If you needed any further proof that energy elec_mag_fieldlaw is very complicated, Wednesday’s decision in North Dakota v. Heydinger should convince you.  The judgment is simple – the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Minnesota statute which provides in part that:

no person shall . . . (2) import or commit to import from outside the state power from a new large energy facility that would contribute to statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions;… 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

EPA’s Final Methane Rule: Fighting Climate Change Up to January 20, 2017 — And Beyond

Dylan Thomas dylan-thomas-chair_2891799csaid “Do not go gentle into that good night.”  Obama’s EPA is taking that advice to heart, pushing forward aggressively on its climate change agenda, even as January 2017 approaches.  On Thursday, EPA issued its final rule promulgating New Source Performance Standards for methane emissions from oil and gas facilities.  The lengthy and complex rule is too long to summarize here, but you can find the Cliff Notes version in EPA’s fact sheet.… More

Coming Soon To A Roof Near You: Solar Panels (At Least If You Live in SF)

This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance that will require that the developers of all new buildings of 10 floors or less that apply for building permits after January 1, 2017 install solar PV or solar thermal systems.  solar_homes_310x224I’m not an expert in the California Code of Regulations, so I’m not familiar with all of the potential exemptions, but the only one stated in the new ordinance is for buildings (residential or non-residential) with a “solar zone” of less than 150 contiguous square feet.… More

Big Changes With Little Fanfare: The FHWA Proposes to Use GHG Emissions as a Performance Measure

This week, the Federal Highway Administration issued a Noticed of Proposed Rulemaking to promulgate performance measures to be used in evaluating federal funding of transportation projects.  The requirement for performance measures stems from the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, aka MAP-21.  MAP-21 requires the FHWA to establish performance standards in 12 categories, one of which is “on-road mobile source emissions.”  MAP 21

The NPRM addresses this criterion,… 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

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

Does the Paris Agreement Provide EPA With Authority Under the CAA To Impose Economy-Wide GHG Controls? Count Me Skeptical

In a very interesting article, Michael Burger of the Sabin Center and his co-authors suggest that, following the Paris climate agreement, § 115 of the Clean Air Act provides authority for EPA to develop economy-wide GHG emissions reduction regulations that would be more comprehensive and efficient than EPA’s current industry-specific approach.  And what, you may ask, is § 115?  Even the most dedicated “airhead” has probably never worked with it.… 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

I’ll Go Out On A Limb; The CPP Will Not Be Stayed

I finally caught up with the brief filed by the government last week, opposing the motion to stay the EPA Clean Power Plan rule, pending full judicial review.  I just don’t see the stay being granted (of course, I did not see it coming with the WOTUS rule, either, so I’m not quite infallible).  The motion should fail on both the irreparable injury and public interest prongs of the test for issuance of a stay.… More

What Success Means For COP21

If you want to know what how a rational optimist defines success for COP21, cop21-label_reduit_transparenttake a look at Rob Stavins’s latest post.  Here’s his “Paris Scorecard” for what success will look like:

  • Include approximately 90% of global emissions in the set of INDCs that are submitted and part of the Paris Agreement (compared with 14% in the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol).…
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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

Perhaps Massive Purchases of Canadian Hydropower Would Not Be a Panacea

Governor Baker recently submitted Senate Bill No. 1965 to the Legislature.  It calls for utilities to solicit long-term purchases of renewable energy.  We are talking about as much as 1/3 of Massachusetts’ annual electricity use over a 15-25 year period.  Two rationales are often provided to justify the large purchase of Canadian hydropower.  First, cheap hydropower will ameliorate the high cost of electricity.  Second, it will help Massachusetts attain its initial Global Warming Solutions Act goal of reducing GHG emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. … More

Chicken Little Cannot Compare to the Opponents of the Clean Power Plan

Yesterday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the latest effort to stay EPA’s Clean Power Plan before it has even been promulgated in the Federal Register.  The Court simply stated that “petitioners have not satisfied the stringent standards that apply to petitions for extraordinary writs that seek to stay agency action.”

Really?  Tell me something I did not know.

I’m sorry.  The CPP is a far-ranging rule. … More

Stop the Presses: RGGI Works

When the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative RggiLogo2was first implemented, there were questions regarding how much of an impact it would actually have on GHG emissions.  I recall Ian Bowles, then Secretary of Environmental Affairs in Massachusetts, saying that, while reductions would happen, the main purpose was to provide a template and to demonstrate that an emissions trading program could be implemented successfully.

Those doubts were only heightened when a combination of cheap gas and the Great Recession were understood to have caused low allowance prices in the RGGI auction. … More

The Baker Administration looks to Hydropower to meet GHG goals

The Baker Administration announced on July 9 that it filed a bill for sourcing long-term hydroelectric power in the Commonwealth.  Hydroelectric power currently provides a small portion of electricity consumed  in Massachusetts. According to the Energy Information Administration, it ranks behind natural-gas, nuclear, coal and other renewable energy sources.

The bill, titled “An Act Relative to energy sector compliance with the Global Warming Solutions Act,” would require the State’s electric distribution companies  to solicit proposals for hydroelectric contracts spanning 15 to 25 years. … More

The Problem With Relying on Energy Efficiency to Reduce Emissions? People

The connection between energy use and emissions of air pollutants, including GHGs, is uncontroversial.  It is also widely, if not universally, accepted that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit in energy efficiency.  I agree completely with both propositions.

Nonetheless, a recent article in Energy Research & Social Science (fee required for full article), reported in Tuesday’s Washington Post, provides a useful —… More

Do Climate Change and Same-Sex Marriage Have Anything in Common?

Recent events have me pondering this question.

Most notably, in two court decisions last week, courts ordered the State of Washington and the government of the Netherlands to take more aggressive action against climate change.  In the Washington case, in response to a complaint from eight teenagers, a trial court judge has ordered the Washington Department of Ecology to reconsider a petition filed by the teenagers requesting reductions in GHG emissions. … More

The Second Installment of our Paris Climate Change Negotiations Tracker

As the date for the Paris climate talks logomoves closer, we have our second installment of our climate negotiations tracker.  This episode discusses the concept of “dynamism” – being able to adjust over time just how ambitious the mitigation goals will be; the mechanism for assessing the Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs; the role of non-state actors; and how to differentiate among developed and developing countries.… More

MassDEP Has A Lot of Discretion in Implementing the Global Warming Solutions Act

Unsatisfied with the pace of the administration’s implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, progress-on-2020-planthe Conservation Law Foundation sued the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, seeking a court order requiring MassDEP to:

promulgate regulations establishing a desired level of declining annual aggregate emissions limits for sources or categories of sources that emit greenhouse gas emissions.

The Court did not oblige. … More

EPA Is Not an Expert in Determining Electric System Reliability

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals just reversed and remanded EPA’s rule allowing backup generators to operate for up to 100 hours per year as necessary for demand response.  demand responseIt’s an important decision that could have lessons for EPA and the regulated community across a wide range of circumstances, including eventual challenges to EPA’s proposed GHG rule.

EPA said that the rule was necessary to allow demand response programs to succeed while maintaining grid reliability.  … More

Majority Support for a Carbon Tax?

What are the politics of climate change?  A new poll done by Stanford University and Resources for the Future suggests that the public may be more ready to regulate carbon carbon taxthan has previously been thought.  When asked if “the federal government should or should not require companies to pay a tax to the government for every ton of greenhouse gases the companies put out,” 61% of respondents said yes. … More

Here’s Another Nice Mess: Executive Order 562 Claims Its First Victim

Last Friday, I posted about Governor Baker’s Executive Order 562, which requires cost-benefit analysis, cost effectiveness analysis – and more – before state agencies can promulgate regulations.  It took less than a week before it became clear that EO 562 has real teeth.  Yesterday, MassDEP sent out a one-paragraph notice delaying hearings on its proposed Clean Energy Standard, citing EO 562 as the reason:

MassDEP is postponing the hearings and comment period on the proposed Clean Energy Standard rule until it has completed the reviews required under the recent Executive Order 562.… More

Conservative Support for a Carbon Tax? Hope Springs Eternal

I have long thought that the best argument for market-based approaches to climate change scientists-clues-printmitigation was the clunkiness of the alternative.  However much time EPA has spent trying to make the GHG regulations efficient, no one can say that EPA’s proposal is elegant.

Although it is at best a dim glimmer of hope on the horizon, it was nonetheless comforting to see Jerry Taylor of the Libertarian Niskanen Center make “The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax.”  While I don’t agree with every aspect of his proposal,… More

Is a Clean Energy Standard Coming to Massachusetts? We’ll See What the New Governor Thinks

Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection proposed to implement a “Clean Energy Standard,” which would require that, by 2020, at least 45% of electricity sales come from sources which have “clean energy attributes.”  The required percentage would increase to 49% by 2024, and MassDEP would then have to define percentages going forward at least 10 years in advance, with the caveat that the required percentage can never decrease.… More

EPA Extends The Schedule For Issuing Its Power Plant Carbon Rules

As most readers know, EPA has extended its schedule for issuing its rules addressing GHG emissions from both existing, and new and modified, power plants.  EPA expects to issue the rules in the Summer of 2015.  Only time will tell whether the agency makes the new date.

For those looking for a handy summary of actions to date and EPA’s schedule going forward, EPA has provided a short Fact Sheet which sets out the relevant dates for the various rules.… More

I’m Still a Cockeyed Optimist When It Comes to Climate Change

Last week, NRG Energy announced plans to reduce CO2 emissions 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.  And this reduction is not from a 1990 or 2005 baseline; it is from 2014 emissions.  NRG’s statement indicated that it had already reduced emissions by 40% since 2005.  By my math, that means that the 2030 and 2050 reductions would be 70% and 94%, respectively, below 2005 emissions.

If NRG can do it,… More

Massachusetts Climate Adaptation Policy: How Broad Will It Be?

Yesterday, I suggested that Massachusetts EOEEA may not have authority to issue its “MEPA Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency Policy.”  However, since I also conceded that Massachusetts courts are unlikely to agree with me, it’s probably worth taking a look at what the Adaptation Policy would require.  As with any MEPA (or NEPA) analysis, it has two parts:  identification of impacts and discussion of mitigation measures.… More

EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Potentially New and Improved?

On Tuesday, EPA issued a Notice of Data Availability, requesting further comment on some specific issues that have been raised since it published its draft Clean Power Plan in June.  My immediate reaction?  My head hurts.

I don’t mean to trivialize the implementation issues that would likely arise if Congress enacted either a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax, but they’ve got to pale in comparison to the Rube Goldberg-like 2014-09-08-401kfeedisclosuresystem that’s going to be in place once EPA promulgates a final rule. … More

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.… 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.… More

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,… More

You Can’t Estop the Government — Even When It Wants to Be Estopped

Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision that arguably explains everything from why the Tea Party exists to why otherwise calm and sane executives suddenly lose all their hair. Perhaps most astounding, the decision is clearly correct. Perhaps the law is an ass.

In 2008, Avenal Power submitted an application to EPA for a PSD permit to construct a new 600 MW natural gas-fired power plant in Avenal,… 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.… 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.… 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,… 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.… 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.… 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.… 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.… 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). … 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. … 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. … More

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. … 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.… More

Is Renewable Energy At Parity With Fossil Fuels? Not Quite, But Certainly Closer

According to ClimateWire on Tuesday, a Minnesota state administrative law Judge’s recommendation to the state Public Utility Commission may be the first time that a solar project has been declared cost-competitive against natural gas in an open bidding situation.  That might be a little bit hyperbolic, given that Xcel Energy, which would be purchasing the power, has an obligation to significantly increase its solar portfolio and the decision recognized the economic value of the solar renewable energy credits that the recommended winner,… More

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? … 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. … More

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.… 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.… 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. … 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. … More

MassDEP Proposes Amendments to CO2 Budget Trading Regs to Implement RGGI Program Changes

On Friday, MassDEP released for public review and comment draft amendments to the CO2 Budget Trading Program regulations.   These amendments are designed to implement the changes to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) agreed to by the RGGI states earlier this year as part of the 2012 Program Review.

As Seth previously discussed, the major change is a new cap that reduces the baseline budget of allowances for 2014 by 45%,… 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. … 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.… 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.… 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. … More

Can Wind Energy Serve As Baseload Power? The First Circuit Agrees with the NRC That, For Now, The Answer Is “Not Yet.”

In an interesting decision issued last Friday, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Beyond Nuclear v. NextEra Energy Seabrook, affirmed the decision by the NRC rejecting a challenge to Seabrook’s relicensing posed by a coalition of environmental groups.  The decision seems clearly correct, but raises an important policy issue that is likely to recur as renewable energy technologies advance,… 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 PPAs on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources,… 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),… More

Clean Air Grab Bag

There have been so many developments recently on the air front (and I’m so far behind due to an appellate brief) that I thought I would combine a few recent items.

First, oral arguments were heard Monday on the challenges to the Bush EPA ozone NAAQS of 0.075 ppb. As I have previously noted, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has made pretty plain that EPA cannot ignore the recommendations of the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee in setting the NAAQS. … 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;… 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. … 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”… 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,… More

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.… 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.… 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. … 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,… 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,… 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. … 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.… 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,… 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.… 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 –… 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.… 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. … 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 will require significant additional investment to comply with the rules.… 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,… 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,… 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,… 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,… 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,… 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”… 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,… 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.… 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 –… 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,… 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.… 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,… More