Category Archives: Legislation

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

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

The Final Nail In the Coffin on EPA’s Enforcement Initiative Against Historic PSD Violations? The Third Circuit Agrees That PSD Violations Are Not Ongoing

Only last month, the 7th Circuit ruled that alleged violations of the Clean Air Act’s PSD requirements are not ongoing.  On Wednesday, in United States v. EME Homer Generation, the 3rd Circuit agreed.  Like the 7th Circuit, the 3rd Circuit did not really even view the question as difficult, finding the statute unambiguous and never reaching the second step of traditional Chevron analysis.

In short, the statute simply provides that:

[n]o major emitting facility . . . may be constructed [or modified] . . . unless” it meets various PSD requirements.…

Because this language does not say “constructed,… More

The Atomic Energy Act Preempts Vermont’s Efforts To Close Vermont Yankee: Sometimes, Legislative Intent Is Just Too Clear To Ignore

Last week, in Entergy v. Shumlin, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals largely struck down Vermont’s efforts to close Vermont Yankee.  Although three separate Vermont statutes were at issue, and Entergy made both preemption and dormant Commerce Clause arguments, the essence of the case was simply that Vermont sought to require explicit legislative approval for Vermont Yankee’s continued operation.  Dismissing various proffered rationales for Vermont’s scheme, the Court concluded that the legislation was a poorly veiled attempt to end nuclear power generation in Vermont in response to public concerns about reactor safety and environmental issues.

At some level, the… 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

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

City of Arlington v. FCC: Did the Supreme Court Just Expand the Scope of Chevron Deference? No.

On Monday, in City of Arlington v. FCC, the Supreme Court made clear that agency interpretations of ambiguous statutes are entitled to deference even where they involve questions relating to the scope of an agency’s authority or jurisdiction.  Greenwire seems to think that this is a big deal and even speculated today that City of Arlington may have altered the decision in a case challenging EPA’s determination that it does not have authority under TSCA to regulate lead ammunition.

I’m skeptical.  The decision seems plainly right to me.  As both Justice Scalia’s majority opinion and Justice Breyer’s… 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

The Actual to Projected Future Actual Test: When Does EPA Get to Review Generators’ Projections?

On Thursday, in United States v. DTE Energy Company, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals revived EPA’s enforcement action against DTE energy for alleged NSR violations at DTE’s Monroe Power Plant.  As the dissent notes, it may be a hollow victory. 

The facts trace a familiar NSR enforcement case trajectory.  In 2010, DTE commenced a $65 million maintenance project at Monroe, involving tubing, the economizer, and reheater piping, among other elements of plant equipment.  Under EPA’s NSR regulations, DTE had determined, once demand growth was excluded,… 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

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

Ban the Bottle or Preserve Our Liberty? Concord Bans the Sale of Certain Plastic Water Bottles

This may not be the most earth-shattering stories reported in this space, but it is a Massachusetts story, and the rhetoric surrounding the issue is sufficiently noteworthy that I thought I would, er, note it. Concord, Massachusetts, has apparently become the first community in the nation to ban the sale of certain plastic water bottles.

According to the Boston Globe, the ban was championed by Concord resident Jean Hill, who was quoted as saying “I hope other towns will follow. I feel bottled water is a waste of money.” Actually agree with Ms. Hill that bottled water is a waste… 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

What’s the Future for Multi-Day Fines in Environmental Criminal Cases? The Supreme Court Rules That Juries Must Decide the Facts Supporting the Fines

The Supreme Court ruled today, in Southern Union v. United States, that juries must decide facts supporting the imposition of criminal fines.  To this non-criminal lawyer (in more ways than one, I hope), the decision did not seem particularly difficult in light of Apprendi v. New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean that the decision won’t be significant in some environmental cases.

Southern Union was a RCRA case involving allegations that Southern Union had stored a hazardous waste without a permit.  Specifically, the indictment alleged that Southern Union had done so "[f]rom on or about September 19, 2002 until… More

Do I Detect a Pattern? Congressional Inaction on TSCA Leads to Scattershot State Regulation

Yogi Berra is credited with the phrase “déjà vu all over again.” Today’s environmental law manifestation of Yogi’s phenomenon stems from the current gridlock in Congress. A story last week in the Daily Environment Report noted that, following Congressional failure to enact TSCA reform, 30 states (give or take, apparently) have either passed some kind of chemical management law or issued an executive order addressing the issue of toxics control.

And thus we have a result that pleases no one. Environmentalists are upset because there is still no comprehensive reform – 20 states (give or take!) do not have toxics regulation. Manufacturers… More

EPA Loses — Unanimously — In Sackett: How Broadly Does It Sweep?

For once, speculation about oral argument proved solid. The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling today in Sackett v. EPA means that EPA must allow judicial review of enforcement orders issued pursuant to its authority under the Clean Water Act. The question now is what the true scope of the decision will be. That question really has two parts.

The first is what will happen to CWA enforcement. On that score, I actually largely share Justice Alito’s view:

The Court’s decision provides a modest measure of relief. At least, property owners like petitioners will have the right to challenge the EPA’s jurisdictional determina­tion under 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

Democracy In Action: Environmental Legislation Edition

What follows is the full text of Bill S.325, introduced in the Massachusetts legislature this term. 

SECTION 1. LIABILITY RELIEF In the event an individual or group of individuals unknowingly purchase contaminated residential land that does not qualify for Brownsfield funding and are not the polluter, they must be relieved of liability and fines in connection with said pollution. The Department of Environmental Protection(DEP) must be proactive in balancing public safety with feasibility. Specifically, where you have residential land that naple is present on part of the land. And, the innocent land owner wants to build over the area… More

Who’s Afraid of Cost-Benefit Analysis?

Cost Benefit Analysis(1)E&E Daily reported this week that Congressional Democrats are opposing the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011. H.R. 3010 would codify a requirement for cost-benefit analysis of major regulations in the Administrative Procedures Act. According to the report, John Conyers, ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee stated that the RAA

would amend the Administrative Procedure Act in ways that would effectively halt agency rulemaking and undermine public health and safety rules.

Excuse me?

The guts of the RAA would be to:

Require cost-benefit analysis for all rules expected to cost… 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

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

Of Texans and Light Bulbs. And Unconstitutional Laws.

What is it with Texans and light bulbs lately?  The gradual increase in energy efficiency requirements of light bulbs required under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 survived Congressman Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) challenge last week when the Better Use of Light Bulbs (BULB) Act, which would have repealed the standards, failed to pass the House by a vote of 233-193.  But on Friday, an amendment attacking the same requirements, introduced by another Republican Texan, Michael Burgess (representing my old hometown), was added to the House bill governing the Department of Energy’s 2012… 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

EPA Finalizes the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule: Who Needs CAIR or the Transport Rule?

Yesterday, EPA finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or CSAPR, which was the Transport Rule, which had been the Clean Air Interstate Rule. (EPA must have decided that CSAPR results in a more mellifluous acronym.)

The rule is almost too big to describe, except in its broadest terms. EPA has provided a summary of costs and benefits, but even EPA’s summary does not really explain how the rule will be implemented.

The rough numbers at least give some idea of the scope of the rule and the problem it is addressing. EPA estimates that the rule will reduce SO2 emissions by… 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

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

Does the Wisdom of An Idea Depend on Its Source? Senate Republicans Propose Merging EPA and DOE

E&E Daily reported today that Senate Republicans are preparing legislation to combine EPA and the Department of Energy. The list of Senators identified as supporting the proposal is a virtual who’s who of conservatives, including Jim DeMint, a favorite of the Tea Party. Accordingly to Richard Burr (R. N.C.), the measure would reduce waste by eliminating duplicative programs in EPA and DOE.

Why is this even a story? Perhaps because Democratic Governor Deval Patrick did the same thing in Massachusetts in 2007, forming what has been considered a very successful Executive Office of Energy and Environment. Perhaps because newly elected Democratic Governor Dannell… More

With Friends Like These, Cost Benefit Analysis Doesn’t Need Enemies: North Carolina Bars New Regulations Costing More than $500,000

I’ve spent a lot time in this space arguing for increased use of cost-benefit analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis before environmental regulations are promulgated. As difficult as it can be, there’s simply no avoiding it. If we don’t do so explicitly, we do so implicitly – and I vote for explicitness, every time.

The opposition to cost-benefit analysis usually comes from the left, based on concerns that the cost-benefit requirement will hamstring regulators and that the benefits will be understated. The right is normally seen as a fan of cost-benefit analysis.  Now, however, the notion of cost-benefit analysis is being challenged from… 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

Muddling Through: Clean Water Act Edition

Last week, I discussed EPA’s efforts to “muddle through” on climate change in the absence of comprehensive legislation. This week, I think it’s the Clean Water Act’s turn. If there were any regulatory situation which required some serious muddling through at the moment, interpretation of the Supreme Court’s Rapanos decision almost is a match for the current climate mess. As most of my readers know, Rapanos was a 4-1-4 decision which left EPA, the Corps, developers and environmentalists fairly equally perplexed

Most stakeholders have assumed that Kennedy’s concurring opinion, requiring a “significant nexus” between wetlands and traditional navigable waters before those… More

Deja Vu All Over Again: Time For Another Rant About Guidance

As readers of this blog know, the question of guidance v. regulation is one near and dear to my heart. I generally disfavor guidance, because I think it offers none of the protections of the regulatory process and almost none of the flexibility that guidance is supposed to provide. Two issues are of particular concern. First, guidance is not supposed to announce new rules – only clarifying interpretation of existing rules. However, we all know what a slippery slope that can be. Second, notwithstanding the purported flexibility of guidance, how often do regulators on the street – those actually using the guidance, rather than… More

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

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

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:

More

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

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

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

Yes, Virginia, You Can Estop the Government

One of the first lessons I learned as a summer associate, more years ago than I care to remember, is that the probability of a successful estoppel claim against the government is approximately the same as the probability that there is a Santa Claus. After the recent decision from the District of New Jersey in FMC Corporation v. American Cyanamid, the probability of a successful estoppel claim may still be low, but it isn’t zero.

FMC involves claims concerning the Higgins Farm Superfund Site, in Franklin, New Jersey. According to the decision, FMC contacted the State of New Jersey in 2001… 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

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

Massachusetts Legislature End of Session Scorecard: One Good, One Bad

As the Massachusetts legislative session wound down, there was the usual last-minute scramble – heightened, this time, by the Legislature’s focus on casino gambling. Notwithstanding the preoccupation with gambling, the Legislature did manage to enact the Permit Extension Act, which developers have been pushing for some time. Briefly, permits in effect at any time between August 15, 2008 and August 15, 2010, will be extended for two years. To read more, check out our client alert.

The Legislature was not able to get wind siting legislation enacted. The House passed the bill at midnight on the last day, but it… 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Pollutant Legislation: Very Much In Play?

A few weeks ago, I queried whether three pollutant legislation might be back in play, particularly given the current rough sledding for broad climate change legislation. Now, it certainly appears that way. The bill has been formally introduced. In addition to Alexander, there are now three other GOP co-sponsors (Gregg, Graham, and Snowe), not including Senator Lieberman, who is also a sponsor. There will be a hearing on March 4.

The basic provisions are as follows:

Reduction in SO2 emissions of 80% by 2018

Statutory authorization of the CAIR rule through 2011

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

Three Pollutant Legislation: Back in Play?

While Congress may be fiddling on climate legislation, Senators Carper and Alexander are attempting to put three pollutant legislation back on the congressional agenda. Yesterday, they introduced an aggressive three pollutant bill. Here are the highlights. The bill would:

Codify the CAIR program through 2011

Gradually reduce the cap on SO2 emission allowances to 1.5 million tons by 2018 – substantially more stringent than the CAIR would have imposed.

Reduce NOx caps to 1.6 million tons by 2015.

Create two NOx trading zones. Zone 1 includes 32 Eastern states and the District of Columbia. Zone 2… 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House Energy & Climate Bill: The Renewable Electricity Standard

Congress moved one step closer to adopting a federal renewable electricity standard ("RES") with the narrow passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act by the House.  Twenty-nine states already have adopted some form of renewable energy portfolio standard, but a federal RES is widely thought to be important for creating a national renewable energy and energy efficiency market.  The House RES establishes a national compliance obligation overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) under which large retail electricity suppliers (“Suppliers”) are required to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. For… 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

Sustainable Stormwater Management: The Next Wave in Water Pollution Regulations?

As we previously noted, last fall Massachusetts proposed sweeping new regulations designed to reduce phosphorus discharges in stormwater. In response to a very large number of comments, MassDEP is taking a second look at the regulations, though the bookies in Las Vegas are laying odds against there being any significant changes made when the regulations reappear.

Now Maryland is also getting into the act, although it is taking a slightly different approach. Under a statute enacted in 2007, developers in Maryland must incorporate the concept of “environmental site design” into their plans. ESD means

using small-scale stormwater management practices, nonstructural… 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

Next on the Federal Agenda: Ocean Zoning

I know it’s hard to believe, but some of you may not have realized that today is World Oceans Day. In connection with World Oceans Day, Senator Jay Rockefeller has written a letter to the White House in support of the concept of “ocean zoning.” Senator Rockefeller will also be holding hearings on the issue tomorrow. Among those testifying will be Deerin Babb-Brott, who is the Assistant Secretary in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and is in charge of Massachusetts’ first in the nation ocean zoning effort.

The Massachusetts effort is based on the Oceans Act of 2008,… More

Fixing CAIR; Legislative Help May Be Necessary

In Congressional testimony last month, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson apparently told Congress that amendments to the CAA may be necessary in order to ensure that any revised CAIR rule issued by EPA would be safe from legal challenge.  The testimony is not really a surprise. Anyone reading the decision striking down the original CAIR rule would understand that the Court had concluded that the cap-and-trade program promulgated under CAIR was not authorized by the CAA.

Like the situation posed by EPA’s obligation to address climate change endangerment following the Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, the threat of further… 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. 

Another Rant on Superfund; Federalist Version

Earlier this month, the New Jersey legislature enacted a privatized system, modeled on Massachusetts approach, for cleaning up state superfund sites. Score one for truth, justice and the American Way. If that were all, the NJ legislation might be worth just a brief mention, but I thought it noteworthy that the Greenwire article concerning implementation of the program focused not on the spread of the privatized program approach, but on the outrage being mustered by the environmental community at the sell-out to polluters by the NJ government.

I like to think that I’m not naïve on such matters, but I… More

One Step Closer to a Legislative Fix to Rapanos?

Particularly this week, one needs to make a conscious effort to remember that it is not “all climate, all the time” on the environmental front. While climate change is obviously the President’s top priority at the moment, the administration did take the time this week to send letters to congressional leaders voicing the its support for amendments to the Clean Water Act to eliminate uncertainty concerning the Act’s scope following the Supreme Court decision in Rapanos

While the administration has not provided suggested statutory revisions, the letters state that: “It is essential that the Clean Water Act provide broad… More

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

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

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

More News on Three-Pollutant Legislation

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, Representative John McHugh (R-NY) has introduced legislation that would require significant reductions in emissions of SO2 and NOx, and mercury from power plants. Now, Senators Carper (D-Del.) and Alexander (R-Tenn.) have announced that they will be introducing their own three-pollutant legislation in the Senate. Since they have not yet introduced a bill, we’ll all just have to imagine the specifics for now, but a few interesting nuggets have jumped out of the press releases and news reports.

First, Representative McHugh apparently wants to tie his legislation to the climate bill. However, Senator… 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

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

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

More News From the Coal Front: Mountaintop Mining Takes One Hit — and May Face Another

This week, the practice of mountaintop removal – chopping the tops off mountains in order extract the coal – received two blows: one from EPA and one from Congress. First, EPA offices Region 3 and Region 4 announced that they plans to assess the Central Appalachia Mining’s Big Branch project in Pike County, Ky., and the Highland Mining Company’s Reylas mine in Logan County, W.Va., before permits are issued for those projects.

Although the broad brush is important here, so are some of the details. First, both letters raise concerns… More