On September 21, 2023, the Biden administration outlined plans to expand federal agencies’ consideration of the social cost of carbon—a metric for the economic cost of each additional ton of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere. This announcement tilts the balance of cost-benefit analyses in favor of activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it could have widespread effects for entities that receive federal funding or are subject to federal regulation.… More
Category Archives: Climate Change
Energy Department Launches Hydrogen Interagency Task Force, But Few Details Emerge on Status of Federal Hydrogen Programs
[This post is part of our Hydrogen Blog Series. Read the rest of the series here.]
The Department of Energy (“DOE”) held a webinar on Friday, August 18, 2023 on the U.S. government’s national hydrogen strategy. The main announcement was the formation of the Hydrogen Interagency Task Force, or “HIT,” but the webinar was otherwise light on details regarding the status of key federal hydrogen programs,… More
Anticipating the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s ESG Disclosure Rules and Guidelines: How to Stay Ahead of the Game
As more advisory services, investment companies, and public companies have publicized their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed a set of new rules intended to create a consistent, comparable, and reliable source of information regarding climate change impacts and sustainability efforts to inform and protect investors while facilitating further innovation in this evolving area.
The SEC’s proposed new rules have,… More
Yesterday, the plaintiffs prevailed in the Montana climate litigation. Time will tell whether the decision will end up being seen as a watershed moment or just a blip. In trying to answer that question, it does seem worth briefly reviewing what the case was actually about and what the decision says.
First, it’s important to acknowledge that the decision’s formal reach is limited. … More
On July 31, 2023, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu signed an executive order ending the use of fossil fuels in new construction and major renovations of city-owned buildings. Although city buildings comprise a small percentage of overall carbon emissions in Boston, the new executive order aligns with larger efforts to decarbonize both publicly and privately owned buildings throughout Boston.
The executive order covers both new city buildings and renovation projects affecting 75% or more of a city building’s square footage.… More
Proposed NEPA Rules Address Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and Efficiency of Environmental Reviews
On July 28, 2023, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) proposed reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations governing how federal agencies review the environmental effects of major federal projects. The proposed rules follow amendments to NEPA itself that were enacted in June 2023 through the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, which addressed, among other things, the federal debt ceiling.… More
I’ve posted previously about the importance of extreme heat among the impacts of climate change. Much of the popular literature focuses, rightly, on the public health impacts. Without at all minimizing the public health impacts, I thought it worth noting that there is an increasing scientific literature on the impacts of extreme heat on economic productivity.
Spoiler alert – the news isn’t good.… More
The Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases Is Increasing — But Is Uncertainty Over the Measurement of Climate Impacts Artificially Depressing the Number?
Yesterday, Climatewire (subscription required) released a peer review letter on EPA’s Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (SC-GHG), which got a fair bit of press last year, because EPA’s metric was $190/ton, even though the Biden administration was using the $51/ton figure originally developed by the Obama administration. The peer reviewers’ views can be distilled down to two major points:
- It’s a really solid piece of work that provide a solid technical foundation for the SC-GHG.…
The Wharf District Council recently released its “District Protection and Resiliency Plan.” My immediate reaction is just a quiet OMG regarding the size of the task. Of course, that’s no excuse for inaction and I found the plan to be quite compelling.
The Wharf District runs from Christopher Columbus Park to the Congress Street bridge. Its landward boundary is basically Congress Street. … More
Greenwire (subscription required) reported yesterday that more than 150 wildfires in Quebec have blanketed large swaths of the United States with unhealthy levels of particulate matter. Indeed, as of 9:00 AM on Thursday, June 8, New York City has the worst air quality of any metropolitan area in the world. Some businesses are advising workers to stay home.
Scientists are generally in agreement that climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of wildfires. … More
EPA Proposes New Power Plant Rule That Promises Major Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions in the Coming Years
After weeks of hints and leaks, yesterday morning (May 11, 2023), EPA proposed a new rule regulating emissions from power plants. The proposed rule would apply to new and existing gas plants and existing coal plants—new coal plants are separately regulated—and promises to significantly cut carbon and other harmful air pollutant emissions from fossil plants over the next two decades and beyond.
EPA’s accompanying Fact Sheet spells out the proposed rule’s emissions reductions estimates:
EPA has evaluated the emissions reductions,… More
We’re launching this blog series to help readers keep pace with the fast-moving world of clean hydrogen. Each week or so we’ll post an article on different legal, regulatory, and technical opportunities and challenges facing companies who are developing or exploring clean hydrogen projects.
We need a comprehensive approach to tackling climate change, one that targets all sectors of the economy. Wind, solar, and electric vehicles are undoubtedly important,… More
Berkeley’s Ban on Natural Gas in New Construction is Preempted: What Will Happen to Other Local Bans?
On Monday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the City of Berkeley ordinance entitled “Prohibition of Natural Gas Infrastructure in New Buildings” was preempted by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The relevant language in the EPCA provides as follows:
no State regulation concerning the energy efficiency, energy use, or water use of such covered product shall be effective with respect to such product.… More
Yesterday, the Bureau of Land Management announced that it has given final approval to the TransWest Express transmission line, a 732-mile project that will move electricity from a large wind farm in Wyoming to an interconnection point near Las Vegas. Most of the electrons will ultimately provide power to California.
Today, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed for lack of standing claims by a number of states challenging the Biden Administration’s Interim Estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon. The Court had telegraphed this outcome last spring when it vacated a District Court injunction against use of the Interim Estimates, noting that:
The Government Defendants are likely to succeed on the merits because the Plaintiff States lack standing.… More
Last week, Judge Donald Malloy vacated the Environmental Assessment for the Bull Mountains Mine No. 1 in central Montana. Judge Malloy had already vacated the EA once; when the 9th Circuit affirmed Judge Malloy’s decision that the EA violated NEPA, it remanded the case for new findings as to whether vacatur would be appropriate.
The default rule is that when agency action has been struck down,… More
Does Environmental Review of Projects Needed for a Net-Zero Economy Lead to a Death By a Thousand Cuts?
Earlier this week, the decision in Bartell Ranch v. McCullough generally supported the Bureau of Land Management’s review under NEPA and related statutes of a lithium mine near Thacker Pass, Nevada. If approved, Thacker Pass would be the largest lithium mine in the United States. The decision and the entire review of the mine are important, given how controversial large mining projects can be and how important lithium and other minerals are to building a zero-emission economy.… More
This past year represents a real turning point in the transition to electric vehicles, demonstrated by new major incentives and regulatory activities at both federal and state government levels and several notable accomplishments in the private sector. First, the U.S. government approved EV Infrastructure Deployment Plans for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico with an estimated $4.155 billion in funding going to states in the next five years to build out EV infrastructure.… More
The new year brings new NEPA (interim) guidance on climate change. It recommends several ways that federal agencies should consider climate change impacts for projects subject to NEPA review. The guidance is effective immediately but is subject to a 60-day comment period that could lead to revisions. Comments on the guidance are due to CEQ on March 10, 2023.
All projects that are federally funded or need federal permits,… More
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a $3.5 billion funding opportunity to create regional Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hubs. The DAC Hubs program is one of four new programs announced by the Biden-Harris administration aimed at building “a commercially viable, just, and responsible carbon dioxide removal industry,” in the U.S. with funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).
Under the DAC Hubs program,… More
The International Energy Agency has released its 2022 Coal analysis and forecast. It is sobering. By the time 2022 is over, world-wide coal consumption will have exceeded 8 billons tonnes for the first time. In other words, 2022 was a record year for coal. It is true that demand was largely flat compared to 2021 and there were some extraordinary reasons – such as a war in Ukraine – for even the moderate increase.… More
This week, the Massachusetts Commission on Clean Heat released its final report. The report seeks to establish a framework for a long-term reduction in emissions from heating fuels, to align with the Commonwealth’s emissions reduction target of net zero by 2050 and the 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap.
According to the 2050 Roadmap, on-site combustion of fossil fuels in the residential and commercial building sectors presently accounts for about 27% of statewide greenhouse gas emissions,… More
Following an announcement at COP27 by President Biden, the EPA issued a supplemental proposal to reduce methane and other harmful emissions from new and existing sources in the oil and gas industry. In its regulatory impact analysis for the supplemental proposal, EPA included a sensitivity analysis detailing a revised methodology and new estimates for social cost of greenhouse gases (SC-GHGs), including carbon, methane,… More
Earlier this Month, The Boston Foundation released its “Inaugural Boston Climate Progress Report.” Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to do. The Report identifies four “Big Lifts” necessary to attaining our climate goals. It defines a Big Lift as:
a multidecade mega-project that seeks to improve the city to align with its climate and equity goals.
The four Big Lifts are:
- Retrofitting the small building stock
- Local energy planning for an electrified city
- Building a resilient coastline through improved governance
- Prioritizing reparative planning for Boston’s frontline neighborhoods
All of these are important and each is worth its own post. … More
On November 4, 2022, the White House announced a new initiative to support research and development projects on 37 “game-changing” technologies to advance the Biden Administration’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Led by an interagency working group, the “Net-Zero Game Changers Initiative” will direct billions of dollars under the bipartisan infrastructure law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act toward five initial priorities:
- Efficient Building Heating and Cooling,…
I’ve written previously about the urgency associated with the problems caused by waste plastic. However, there’s a big difference between me blogging about it and Michael Bloomberg opening his wallet to try to do something about it. And the news this week was that Michael Bloomberg is putting $85 million into a new “Beyond Petrochemicals” campaign.
What’s really interesting is that Bloomberg has taken a substantially different tack than most of those who have been trying to address the problem of plastic pollution. … More
Earlier this week, the Senate ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. The amendment, which has already been ratified by most other countries, will result in the phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons, a group of potent greenhouse gases. Substantively, this is a big deal. Estimates are that it will prevent about ½ a degree Celsius in global warming. That’s a meaningful impact.
Lost amid the more high profile items in Massachusetts’ recently enacted Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind is a requirement that the Department of Energy Resources establish a program requiring large buildings across the Commonwealth to report energy usage on an annual basis. The requirement goes into effect on July 1, 2024, but DOER has an additional year (until July 1, 2025) to draft implementing regulations and establish the parameters of the reporting program. … More
As we’ve discussed before, multiple cities and towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have tried to ban fossil fuel hookups for new buildings by zoning or other ordinance over the past few years. But in July 2020, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Municipal Law Unit struck down the first such ban that came across its desk as inconsistent with other state law. As we noted then, in order for municipalities to restrict or ban fossil fuel connections,… More
On Friday, I posted about a decision invalidating BLM Resource Manage Plans for failure to comply with NEPA. My caption was “NEPA Is Still Going to Pose an Obstacle to Leasing Public Lands for Fossil Fuel Extraction.” Little did I know how prescient I was, because later on Friday, Judge Brian Morris – the same judge who invalidated the RMPs – went farther and reinstated the moratorium on leasing of public lands for coal mining that had been implemented by then-Secretary Jewell in 2016. … More
Earlier this month, Chief Judge Brian Morris made clear that NEPA remains a powerful weapon against the leasing of public lands for fossil fuel extraction. It’s déjà vu all over again for the projects at issue. In 2018, Judge Morris ruled that two resource management plans (RMPs) prepared by the Bureau of Land Management concerning potential expansions of coal mines in Wyoming and Montana violated NEPA for a variety of reasons,… More
Massachusetts Clean Energy Bill Turbocharges the Adoption of Zero Emission Vehicles and Clean Transportation
Based on numerous sources, Governor Baker has now signed an Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind. This bill includes a number of key advancements for increased adoption of zero emission vehicles and clean transportation throughout the Commonwealth. The law:
- Outlaws the sale of internal combustion vehicles by any dealership after January 1, 2035 by making it an unfair or deceptive act or practice under Chapter 93A;…
The Inflation Reduction Act looks to accelerate the adoption of clean vehicles by reforming the related tax credits in a number of key ways. Specifically, the bill does the following.
- Eliminates the 200,000 clean vehicles sold quota per manufacturer.
- Previously, Tesla, GM, and Toyota were all over the 200,000 vehicle threshold and thus ineligible for the tax credit.
- Preserves the existing up to $7,500 tax credit for new qualified vehicles including electric,…
Those wondering what states can do to at least partially ameliorate the impacts of West Virginia v. EPA need look no farther than Massachusetts, which issued its Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030 the same day that the Supreme Court extended its crusade against the modern world by limiting EPA’s authority to regulate in the absence of a clear delegation by Congress.
EPA, States, and the auto industry are again ratcheting up the battle over California’s authority to set vehicle GHG and Zero Emission Vehicles program.
The Clean Air Act generally prohibits a state from adopting its own motor vehicle emission standards. However, since its inception, the CAA granted California the authority to request a waiver of preemption from EPA for setting these emission standards. Specifically:
(1) The Administrator shall … waive application of this section to [California] …,… More
I’m not much for apocalyptic thinking. I don’t think it’s productive. I have to confess, though, that this story about the Great Salt Lake got me thinking about whether human nature is such that the apocalypse is not that far away. It makes compelling reading. And viewing – do check out the video of what used to be Owens Lake, which could be described as a cautionary tale for Salt Lake City,… More
Finding the Path to a Necessary Future: CARB Chair Liane Randolph and ELI President Jordan Diamond Share Their Vision for California, Climate, and Energy in the Coming Decades
Join the California Air Resources Board (CARB), Environmental Law Institute (ELI), Foley Hoag LLP, and Baker Botts LLP for an intimate discussion with CARB Chair Liane Randolph and ELI President Jordan Diamond, two leaders in the field of environmental law and policy. Both are tackling significant and pressing environmental and public health challenges from different perspectives. Our moderator will lead a conversation about how these two women got to this distinguished point in their careers,… More
Last month, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf wrote to the Federal Highway Administration, stating that Oakland “is suffering from a crippling housing and homelessness crisis.” Furthermore, she complained that:
Addressing this crisis requires flexibility and creativity. … Federal environmental responsibilities, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), can slow, discourage, or prevent these creative solutions. We must streamline the NEPA process as much as possible,… More
Take my predictions with a grain of salt, because I still remember saying that Ronald Reagan would never fool enough voters to get elected, but it seems very likely at this point that Maura Healey will be the next Governor of Massachusetts. That makes her release of a climate plan a matter of some significance.
My take is that it is extremely ambitious,… More
Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. As all IPCC reports are, it’s a serious piece of work and not easily summarized at blog length. Nonetheless, here are some of what seemed to me to be important takeaways:
- Firstly, and most importantly, we’re not doing a very good job at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. …
Last week, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee formally transmitted its recommendations to EPA Administrator Regan regarding the PM2.5 NAAQS. Consistent with trade press reporting over the past few months, the majority of CASAC members recommended that the PM2.5 NAAQS be set between 8-10 ug/m3. A minority recommended the range be set between 10-11 ug/m3. I’d be surprised if the revised NAAQS is set above 10 ug/3.
For me,… More
Today, the Securities & Exchange Commission voted 3 to 1 in favor of adopting a long-awaited set of proposed revisions to SEC regulations concerning the disclosure of climate risks and related financial impacts, as well as data on greenhouse gas emissions in certain SEC filings. The recommendation to adopt the new set of rules was not unanimous, with Commissioner Hester Peirce voting against the measure, arguing that the new set of rules is at best unnecessary,… More
The Boston Air Pollution Control Commission has formally adopted its “Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance Phase 1 Regulations.” The Phase 1 regulations are really all about the “disclosure” side of BERDO. The “reduction” side will be addressed by the Phase 2 regulations, which at this point are scheduled to be completed by the winter of 2023.
The final Phase 1 regulations largely track the draft released late last year. … More
The Fifth Circuit has stayed an order blocking Biden administration use of the “Interim Estimates” of the social cost of greenhouse gases. The Court did not leave much doubt that the administration will prevail on the merits.
Issuance of a stay is based on criteria very similar to those regarding entry of an injunction. The two most important are the likelihood of success on the merits and whether the person requesting the stay will suffer irreparable harm if a stay is not granted. … More
The D.C. Circuit Again Requires FERC to Consider the Environmental Impacts of Downstream Use of Gas: How Big a Deal Is It?
Last week, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals again rejected a FERC NEPA review for failure to assess the climate impacts resulting from the downstream use of natural gas supplied by a gas pipeline upgrade project approved by FERC. The Court found that FERC was too quick to conclude that those downstream impacts could not reasonably be evaluated.
How big a deal is this? … More
EPA Restores the California Advanced Clean Car Program; GHG Emissions From Transportation Will Continue For Some Time
EPA has now formally restored its waiver under § 209(b) of the Clean Air Act that allows California’s greenhouse gas emissions standards and Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, notwithstanding the preemption of state vehicle emission standards contained in § 209(a) of the CAA. EPA also restored the authority of other states under § 177 of the CAA to adopt the California standards.
In what we lawyers might describe as pleading in the alternative,… More
AIG Integrates Climate Into Its Investment and Underwriting Decisions: It’s Progress, But Is It Enough?
Last week, AIG significantly restricted its underwriting of and investment in fossil fuel projects. Specifically, it announced the following actions:
- With immediate effect, committed to no longer invest in or provide insurance for construction of any new coal-fired power plants, thermal coal mines or oil sands;
- With immediate effect, committed to no longer invest in or underwrite new operation insurance risks of coal-fired power plants,…
The Boston Globe reported yesterday that the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board approved investment guidelines that would have the Board vote against directors of companies in which the Board invests where the company does not have a plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
As the Globe notes, there is something of a debate among climate activists whether it is better to support divestment or the kind of activism represented by the Board’s action yesterday. … More
For those of you who don’t think that worrying about climate change is enough to keep you busy, you might want to take a look at this study commissioned by the WWF, Impacts of Plastic Pollution in the Oceans on Marine Species, Biodiversity and Ecosystems.
The report estimates that approximately 20 million metric tons of plastic find their way into the world’s oceans annually. … More
In the first appellate decision to decide the issue since the Supreme Court decision in BP P.L.C. v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, the 10th Circuit ruled this week that climate damage claims brought by several Colorado counties should nonetheless still be heard in state court. The most important issue in the case was whether the Clean Air “completely preempted” state law claims. … More
As everyone knows, the Supreme Court has teed up West Virginia v. EPA, which challenges EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and Sackett v. EPA, which challenges EPA’s authority to define what constitutes a water of the United States. Betting money does not favor EPA in either case.
I don’t have any inside authority on what will happen and I don’t really have thoughts that haven’t been expressed by others,… More
The White House has taken a strong stance in expanding the production and use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to reduce carbon emissions in the aviation industry. SAFs are liquid hydrocarbon fuels that are blended into the existing fuel supply using materials like waste, fats, cooking oils and corn. The Administration has identified the aviation industry as a climate priority in its push to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.
White House SAF Initiative
The President issued an announcement on September 9,… More
Believing in the importance of aggressive action to address climate change is something of a recipe for bipolar disorder. Trump – depression. Biden first 90 days – elation. News today from ClimateWire (subscription required) that power plant GHG emissions increased by more than 3% in both 2020 and 2021 – depression.
ISO New England attributes most of the increase to the shutdown of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station and replacement of Pilgrim’s generation by natural gas generating facilities. … More
BOEM Announces Upcoming Wind Energy Lease Auction in the New York Bight; New York’s Next Offshore Wind Solicitation to Follow
Today, January 12, 2022, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that on February 23, 2022 it will hold a wind energy lease auction for six areas in the New York Bight (NY Bight), the coastal area between Long Island and the New Jersey coast. BOEM’s issuance of the Final Sale Notice (FSN) for the wind energy lease areas comes just days after New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced in her State of the State address that the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will issue its next offshore wind solicitation following BOEM’s lease sale in the NY Bight.… More
Each year since 1995, with the exception of 2020, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has hosted a Conference of Parties (COP), where members of the UNFCCC negotiate issues relating to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other matters relating to climate change. The 26th COP concluded in Glasgow on November 13 with a Climate Pact that continues the evolution of global climate policy over the past 30 years.… More
On January 12 and 13, Foley Hoag attorneys will lead a series of discussions about the significance of New York Climate Action Council’s recently-released draft Scoping Plan to the state’s continuing clean energy transformation. Richard Kauffman, Chairman of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, will provide keynote remarks. The draft Scoping Plan, which we discussed in a recent blog post, describes the market-based solutions and government actions that will be needed to achieve the ambitious climate goals set forth in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.… More
The first phase of the regulations is focused only on reporting issues. It will address
- Reporting Requirements
- Third-Party Data Verification Requirements
- Preservation of Records
The rationale for this narrow focus is that the City wants these regulations in place promptly,… More
New York Climate Action Council Approves Draft Scoping Plan to Achieve the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions
On December 20, 2021, the Climate Action Council (“Council”) approved the release for public comment of its draft Scoping Plan, which describes how New York can achieve the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (“CLCPA” or “Climate Act”): 70% renewable electricity consumption by 2030, 100% zero-emission electricity consumption by 2040, a 40% reduction in statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030, an 85% reduction in statewide GHG emissions by 2050,… More
Can New York State satisfy nearly 30 percent of its electricity needs with solar projects less than five megawatts in size by the year 2030? In September of this year, Governor Hochul announced a framework to do just that, setting 10 gigawatts (GWs) of deployed distributed solar by 2030 as the goal, enough to power 700,000 New York homes – even more than the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s (CLCPA) six-GW deployment requirement.… More
Yesterday, the Baker administration announced that the Transportation Climate Initiative is dead in Massachusetts, at least for now. This is not a surprise, particularly after Governor Lamont’s statement that there is no political support for TCI in Connecticut. It is difficult to implement a region-wide program to reduce carbon emissions from transportation fuels when only one state in the region is prepared to do so.
The administration tried to put the best face on the failure of TCI,… More
This is the second post in our series on the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, covering how the Act invests in strengthening our electric grid, which could better prepare us for the shift from fossil fuel generated electricity to renewable power.
To decarbonize our energy system, electrify transportation and buildings, and drastically reduce our contribution to climate change, we’ll need to develop and deploy significant wind,… More
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law today not only makes critical investments in our core infrastructure, it creates several new programs to support the increasing electrification of the transportation sector.
Especially notable in the $1.2 trillion package are the investments in electric vehicle charging stations, clean-powered buses, and electric-powered ferries. These investments include:
- Creating new grants to build out electric vehicle charging station networks
- Funding to modernize the primarily diesel-fueled fleet of school buses with electric or alternative fuel buses
- Funding to state and local governments to procure electric or low emissions ferries
Electric Vehicle Charging / Fueling Infrastructure
To support the nationwide buildout of electric charging and alternative fueling stations,… More
Earlier this week, Greenwire (subscription required) had an interesting story about the role that EPA’s estimate of the cost to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule played in the politics and judicial review of the rule. It turned out that compliance costs were much less than originally estimated by EPA – let alone by industry. Unfortunately, the $9.6 billion price tag originally put on the MATS rule lived on,… More
With all the attention focused on the Keystone pipeline and the disputes over local regulation of fracking, it’s easy to overlook the small city of South Portland, Maine (population 26,000), which just prevailed in the First Circuit in a challenge to its regulation of an international oil pipeline that originates in Montreal and ends in South Portland Harbor. (Full disclosure: I represented the city in this case.)
When Portland Pipeline Corporation (“PPLC”)(whose parent company was owned at the time at the time by ExxonMobil,… More
With the third quarter coming to a close and year-end reporting just around the corner, public companies should be giving careful thought to the evolving landscape for climate-related disclosures. While it did not promulgate any new rules in 2021 regarding these disclosures, the SEC has been actively commenting on climate change disclosures, and new rules are almost certainly on the way.
Last week, the Boston City Council approved amendments to the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance. The changes are being referred to as “BERDO 2.0”, which almost understates the scope of the revisions. As indicated by its name, since its original enactment, BERDO only dealt with reporting and disclosure. Now, however, Boston will be imposing limits on GHG emissions from large buildings.
The limits will first be effective in 2025,… More
The IPCC has released its Sixth Assessment Report on the physical science basis of climate change. I would say that it makes sobering reading, except any sane person’s immediate response to AR6 would be to go out and have any number of stiff drinks. Here are a number of the lowlights:
It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.… More
On August 3, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that FERC could not avoid use of the social cost of carbon in assessing the impacts of natural gas projects by arguing that “there is no universally accepted methodology.” Given the growing recognition of the significant role FERC is going to have in combatting climate change, it’s an important decision.
FERC acknowledged that construction and operation of the projects under review would “contribute incrementally to future climate change impacts.” However,… More
Will More Money Managers Start Voting Shares Based on Climate Issues? Fidelity International Gets in the Game
In the wake of Engine No.1’s successful effort to elect more climate-friendly directors at Exxon and the increasingly aggressive action by BlackRock to take climate into account in its investment management decisions, the whole world is watching for further evidence of capitalism’s efforts to save the world from, well, capitalism.
The latest news is from Fidelity International (not to be confused with Fidelity Management and Research),… More
At What Level of Government Are We Going to Regulate Climate Change? (Hint — It Is a Global Problem.)
Last week, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that the Berkeley ordinance essentially banning use of natural gas in new construction was not preempted by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. I’m not here to opine on the legal merits of the decision. I will note note that the Judge’s reliance on textual analysis and the asserted federalist bent of SCOTUS’s conservative wing might give this opinion more life than one would otherwise expect – though I’ll also note that the conservative wing’s federalist proclivities often seem to turn on whether they agree with the underlying policy at issue. … More
This week, Judge Karen Green denied Exxon Mobil’s motion to dismiss claims brought by Massachusetts under its Consumer Protection Act. The complaint alleges that Exxon Mobil both mislead Massachusetts investors in its marketing to them of Exxon Mobil securities and mislead Massachusetts consumers in its marketing of its products to those consumers. Judge Green rejected Exxon Mobil’s arguments that it was not subject to jurisdiction in Massachusetts with respect to these claims. … More
Amid renewed national ambitions to tackle climate change, electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as a promising way to reduce emissions in the transportation sector, which accounts for nearly a third of greenhouse gas emissions. This approach has garnered support even from private industry, as evidenced by the flurry of car manufacturers who recently committed to all-EV fleets in the coming decades.… More
On June 10, 2021, the Transportation Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) states released a final model rule creating a regional cap-and-trade-program to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. We wrote about the draft model rule and its implementation challenges when it was released at the beginning of March. Now, after a two-month stakeholder engagement process, the jurisdictions working to implement the program ask stakeholders to weigh in on the guidance documents,… More
New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting Sets Precedent in Section 94-c Permit Proceedings: When Major Renewable Energy Projects Need Not Comply with Local Laws
In its first such determination, on June 4, 2021, the newly formed New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting (“ORES”) determined that several provisions of the Town of Barre’s (Orleans County) local law are “unreasonably burdensome” in light of the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) goals and the environmental benefits of the proposed 185 megawatt Heritage Wind Project, and therefore declined to apply them. This determination sets a precedent under the State’s Executive Law Section 94-c permitting regime for major renewable energy facilities,… More
EPA announced yesterday that it will “reconsider” the Trump EPA’s decision not to change the PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standard. I’ve blogged numerous times about the growing body of evidence that exposure to concentrations of PM2.5 below the current NAAQS causes significant additional mortality and morbidity. The evidence is clear.
I certainly agree that climate change is an existential threat and that’s where our emphasis needs to be. … More
Late last month, the Washington Legislature passed the “Climate Commitment Act”, a piece of sweeping climate legislation that includes, among other provisions, an economy-wide cap-and-trade system. Washington was not far behind Massachusetts, which enacted its “next generation roadmap” bill in late March. This friendly competition among states to move towards net zero economies as aggressively as possible is certainly a good thing.… More
I’ve frequently discussed in recent years the mounting evidence for the need to lower the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM2.5. There is also substantial evidence that PM exposure is an environmental justice issue. In this context, electrification of our transportation system is seen as having a substantial co-benefit in the reduction of vehicle-related PM emissions, particularly in EJ communities.
Two recent stories both confirmed the validity of these issues and made manifest the complexity of the problems we are trying to solve. … More
The Other Shoe Drops — EPA Formally Announces Its Reconsideration of the Withdrawal of the California Preemption Waiver
I noted in yesterday’s post about the NHTSA proposal to withdraw the SAFE I Rule that EPA was expected to follow the NHTSA action by restoring the Clean Air Act Section 209 waiver for California’s Advanced Clean Car program. The ink was barely dry on the post when EPA released a Notice that was considering doing just that.
Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed to withdraw Part I of the Trump Administration’s SAFE Rule, in which EPA had concluded that California’s regulation of motor vehicle GHG emissions was preempted by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. It’s not a surprise, given that Executive Order 13990 specifically directed NHTSA to revisit the SAFE I Rule.
It is interesting, if not ironic,… More
The President today formally announced that the United States was pledging to reduce its emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030. The announcement isn’t a surprise, but that doesn’t lessen its importance. So large a reduction will be a heavy lift, particularly in a federal system where many states are still not exactly with the program.
So how will this Administration get us on a path to 50%?… More
At a press briefing in India yesterday, John Kerry, President Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate was asked by an Indian journalist about carbon pricing. Here’s part of his response:
President Biden believes that at some point in time we need to find out a way to have a price on carbon that’s effective. He hasn’t decided or made an announcement about it,… More
As President Biden announces his blueprint for expanding the use of offshore wind (OSW) power, Massachusetts hopes to become an industry hub. Those plans will certainly be facilitated by the new federal OSW policies.
On March 29, the Biden administration published a major plan to mobilize offshore wind development, particularly along the East Coast. The plan aims to construct 30,000 megawatts of OSW generation by 2030,… More
The White House this morning released a fact sheet on “The American Jobs Plan,” also known as President Biden’s infrastructure plan. There’s a lot in here (as there should be for a couple of trillion dollars!), so today I’ll focus on energy infrastructure. Here are the highlights:
- $100B to “build a more resilient electric transmission system.” This includes “the creation of a targeted investment tax credit that incentivizes the buildout of at least 200 gigawatts of high-voltage capacity power lines.”
- Creation of a “Grid Deployment Authority” within DOE to facilitate transmission line siting.…
It’s not always the case, but my speculation about the Massachusetts climate bill was correct. On Friday, Governor Baker signed it into law. If I haven’t succeeded in making this clear previously, I want to emphasize that this is a really far-reaching piece of legislation. It commits Massachusetts to a very aggressive timetable for reducing GHG emissions. It species a number of specific policies,… More
In January, when Governor Baker vetoed the Legislature’s effort to go big on climate, my colleague Zach Gerson made clear that the bill was not even “mostly dead.” I am pleased to say that Zach’s diagnosis was correct. The climate bill is very much alive.
According to E&E News (subscription required), FERC yesterday, for the first time, assessed the impacts of a gas pipeline’s downstream GHG emissions. (As of this writing, the decision is not yet available on FERC’s web site.)
Former chair James Danly was unhappy, calling the decision “legally infirm.” I question Commissioner’s judgment on this one.
Neil Chatterjee provided the Republican vote in favor, saying that he made a pragmatic decision,… More
On March 1, the Transportation Climate Initiative jurisdictions released a draft “model rule” that would provide a template for individual state rules governing the operation of the TCI Program. Although only three states and the District of Columbia committed in December 2020 to implement TCI-P, the announcement on Monday indicated that the model rule “was developed by twelve” TCI jurisdictions.” I guess that eight states like the model rule – just not enough at this point to commit to implementing it.… More
Climate risk is investment risk.
So says BlackRock. And when you manage $8.7 trillion, people tend to listen to what you say. I’ve been noting for some time that BlackRock’s statements seemed to presage increasing shareholder activism with respect to climate. And yet there have been skeptics. As noted in ClimateWire last week, BlackRock’s actions have not always seemed to match its rhetoric.… More
Last month, I posted about the Biden administration’s effort to develop a new estimate of the social cost of carbon. The EO requires a new interim SCC within 30 days and a new longer-term SCC by January 2022. Earlier this week, Joseph Stiglitz and Nicholas Stern – it doesn’t get more impressive than a Nobel prize winner and an actual Lord – released a National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper (non-academics can download up to three papers free per year) in which they argue that,… More
Yesterday, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. It’s even more comprehensive than last week’s order. Indeed, my main reaction to the order isn’t to any of the specific provisions. It’s one simple realization – he really means it. And I think that’s the point. There is no question at this point that President Joseph Robinette Biden,… More
Among the important provisions of President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis is the requirement to review and revise estimates of the social cost of carbon (and nitrous oxide and methane). The order establishes a working group, co-chaired by the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, the Director of OMB, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. … More
Yesterday, President Biden hit the ground running on environmental policy, issuing an Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis. There’s a lot in it, so I think I’m going to have to take it in blog-sized bites. Let’s start with Section 6, in which he revoked the Presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
Why start here?… More
Yesterday was the last full day of President Trump’s term. On environmental issues, it closed on a fitting note – another major judicial defeat. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals vacated EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule. In doing so, the Court – thanks to what appears to have been a misguided strategic decision by EPA – confirmed EPA’s authority to use a range of tools to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.… More
Sometimes, “mostly dead” is just a pause before successfully storming the castle. On January 14, Governor Baker vetoed the climate bill that passed the Massachusetts Legislature on January 4 with overwhelming support (see our posts here, here, and here). I couldn’t resist the Princess Bride reference, but despite the veto, it is probably a stretch to refer to the bill as even “mostly dead.”
Over the past four years, while the Trump Administration did everything possible to ignore climate change, optimists continued to find progress at the state level. And while President-elect Biden has put together an A-team on climate, Massachusetts, at least, seems determined to show that the states will continue to lead – even if they now have a partner at the federal level.
Two weeks ago,… More
Yesterday, Massachusetts released its “2050 Decarbonization Roadmap.” I’m tempted to call it a tour de force. At the very least, it’s jam-packed with important issues. One of the most valuable aspects of the Roadmap is its discussion of the potential tradeoffs among the different paths towards a decarbonized economy. Acknowledging that the Roadmap contains much more good stuff than can be summarized in a single post,… More
Today, three of the states participating in the Transportation Climate Initiative – Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island – and the District of Columbia released a Memorandum of Understanding describing a “cap and invest” program intended to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels and raise money “to accelerate the transition to an equitable, safe, and affordable low-carbon transportation sector.” Here are the big takeaways:
- The four participating states are eight short of full participation among the TCI states. …
The Lancet’s Countdown on Health and Climate Change for 2020 offers a pretty sobering assessment of the impacts of climate change. As I noted the last time I posted about one of these reports, it’s important to remember that, while flooding and sea level rise get much of the attention, heat waves cause much of the harm to public health.
I found this statistic particularly sobering.… More
According to ClimateWire (subscription required), Miami Beach is planning an underwater park just off the coast. Not that I would ever be snarky, but given how often parts of Miami Beach are now under water during high tides, even in the absence of extreme weather, I think that they could save some money by just waiting a few years. At some point in the not too distant future,… More
Since I noted earlier this week the announcement by ConocoPhillips that its “ambition” is to reach net-zero carbon for its own operations by 2045-2055, it seemed appropriate also to note that BLM has now approved the Willow Master Development Plan, which will authorize ConocoPhillips to produce almost 600 million barrels of oil over 30 years in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.
Last week, ConocoPhillips announced a goal of reducing its emissions to net-zero by 2045-2055. It’s a significant step and so it is important to note both what is in the plan and what is not.
First, what is in the plan?
- ConocoPhillips has set a 2030 target of reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 35%-45%
- It has an “ambition” to be net-zero by 2045-2055
- It has signed on to a World Bank initiative to eliminate routine flaring by 2030
- It will implement continuous methane emissions detection
- It addresses emissions from the use of its products by supporting the Carbon Leadership Council – which presumably means supporting the CLC proposal for a “Carbon Dividends Plan”
All of these are good steps. … More
Last week, Judge Scott Skavdahl vacated BLM’s 2016 methane Waste Prevention Rule. The Judge spends 10 pages documenting the “loopty-loops” of the litigation surrounding the 2016 Rule and the Trump administration’s efforts to rescind the rule. Here, I’m with him. It’s difficult to review the tangled process of judicial review of this rule without being embarrassed for our judicial system.
Judge Skavdahl then spent 47 pages on the merits. … More
Last week, EPA finalized its rollback of Obama administration regulations governing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The move is not exactly a surprise. Regarding the purpose of the rollback, I stand by my take on the proposed regulations. This regulation was promulgated for two purposes. First, it provides generic red meat to those who think government regulation is inherently a bad thing. … More
In 2015, I noted that the then-Governor of Alaska had decided that it was necessary to increase drilling for oil in Alaska to raise the money necessary to cope with the impact of climate change. I suggested that Governor Walker’s solution to the problem of funding climate adaption might be considered ironic.
Welcome to the Department of Irony Department, also known as Alaska Climate Adaptation Rev 2.0.… More
Just over a year ago, the city of Berkeley, California, became the first City in the United States to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings. The trend of municipalities enacting fossil fuel bans, driven by a desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change, has spread across California and a few other states and has now reached the east coast. Yesterday, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Municipal Law Unit struck down the first such municipal fossil fuel ban to come across its desk as inconsistent with the general laws of the Commonwealth.… More
BLM Rescission of the Methane Waste Prevention Rule Has Been Vacated; Two Thoughts About the Implications
Last week, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers vacated BLM’s rescission of the 2016 methane “Waste Prevention Rule.” Although Judge Rogers found many flaws in the rescission rule, I think that two are key.
Last week, Judge William Shubb of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled that the Agreement between California and Quebec to jointly operate a GHG cap-and-trade market did not violate either the Foreign Affairs Doctrine. Judge Shubb had previously ruled that the Agreement did not violate either the Treaty Clause or the Compact Clause.
CEQ has finalized revisions to the NEPA regulations. I don’t have too much to add to my post on the proposed rule back in January. NEPA needs reform. These regulations, however, are not the reform NEPA needs.
The rule largely tracks the proposed rule. It is worth noting, however, that, contrary to this administration’s frequently cavalier attitude toward judicial review, they have made a few tweaks to increase the likelihood that the rule will survive review. … More
There are few people left, at least in my orbit, who don’t share the goal of prompt decarbonization of the economy. The quaintly named $64,000 question ($64 trillion question?) is how we get from here to there.
Today, the New England Power Generators Association released a report prepared by Analysis Group that explains how an economy-wide price on carbon can help New England do just that. … More
State Climate Suits Really, Really, Belong in State Court When They Allege Misleading Statements To Investors
On Thursday, there was yet another opinion addressing whether state and local climate suits belong in state or federal court. This time, Judge William Young issued an opinion explaining his March bench decision to remand Massachusetts’ case against ExxonMobil to state court.
The Massachusetts case for remand was easier than in the cases seeking a remedy for climate change. The Massachusetts case does not make nuisance claims or seek a substantive remedy for the impacts of climate change. … More
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued two rulings that, combined with the recent 4th Circuit ruling in the Baltimore case, makes it more likely that state and local public nuisance climate cases will be heard in state courts, rather than federal courts. The two California cases got to the 9th Circuit via different routes.
Earlier this month, I reported on a study showing that methane emissions from Permian Basin fracking operations were quite high. Since that study acknowledged that there are reasons to think that methane emissions from the Permian Basin may be higher than from fracking elsewhere, it seemed worth noting that an EDF study published last week indicated that methane emissions from oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania (from both fracked wells and conventional wells) are 16 times greater than what has been reported to the Pennsylvania DEP. … More
It is generally understood that the shift from coal to gas has helped, at least in the short run, to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. It is certainly true that combustion of natural gas releases less CO2 per unit of energy than combustion of coal. Unfortunately, that’s not the entire answer. A recent study published in Science Advances indicates that 3.7% of natural gas produced in the Permian Basin ends up in the atmosphere.… More
EPA and the NHTSA have finally released Part 2 of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicle Rule. Most readers will know that Part 1 of the SAFE rule revoked California’s waiver authorizing it to impose more stringent mileage standards. Part 2 substantially rolls back the federal fuel-efficiency standards promulgated by the Obama Administration.
In order to distract your attention from the end of the world as we know it resulting from COVID-19, I thought I would direct your attention to further evidence of the end of the world as we know it resulting from climate change. In a very interesting article published earlier this month in Nature Communications, the authors examined the pace of “regime shifts” in critical ecosystems,… More
Last week, Judge William Shubb of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled that the Agreement between California and Quebec to jointly operate a GHG cap-and-trade market did not violate either the Treaty Clause or the Compact Clause. These are not parts of the Constitution that are normally a focus of environmental law classes, so take what follows with an appropriately sized grain of salt.… More
This week, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office released a white paper documenting the results of a symposium convened last fall to discuss how electric markets should be organized to manage the transition to a “low / no-carbon future.” Policy wonks, such as myself, will find it fascinating reading, though it is moderately dense stuff.
Seriously, it is important to acknowledge that these issues are as complex as they are important. … More
Last week, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court decision remanding Baltimore’s climate change litigation to state court. I wouldn’t read too much into the decision, which is founded on the niceties of federal law governing removal of cases to federal court.
Basically, federal law severely limits courts of appeal authority to reverse erroneous remand orders:
An order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed is not reviewable on appeal or otherwise,… More
This post was previously published on ACOEL.org.
I read an article last week in Fortune magazine (free registration required) about the large amount of energy actually consumed by cloud storage and thought that must only apply if you are actively uploading, changing, or downloading documents and pictures. But I was wrong. With a little digging, I was able to determine that all of those family photos and videos of your cats (not to mention huge folders of environmental analyses) automatically uploaded to iCloud,… More
On October 24, 2019, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a 200-page complaint against Exxon in Suffolk Superior Court, alleging violations of G.L. c. 93A, the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act. The lawsuit is the culmination of a three-year long investigation that has been contested in state and federal courts in both Texas and Massachusetts.
The core legal theories espoused in the complaint resemble and also build upon allegations made by the New York Attorney General,… More
Led by California, 23 states, including Massachusetts, have sued the Trump administration challenging new federal regulations that strip the states’ authority to set their own vehicle emissions standards. On December 3, 2019, the administration moved to dismiss on procedural grounds, arguing that the D.C. District Court was the wrong venue, and that the case should have been brought before the D.C. Circuit for its direct review.… More
A Carbon Fee on Transportation Fuels Is Not Coming Your Way Any Time Soon If You Live In New Hampshire
Yesterday, I noted with enthusiasm the announcement that the states participating in the Transportation and Climate Initiative had released a new draft Memorandum of Understanding outlining the framework of what “RGGI for cars” might look like. I also provided a cautionary note that the politics of TCI would be tricky and that imposing a carbon fee sufficient to attain the goal of funding an effective, low-carbon, transportation system for New England in the 21st Century might prove difficult. … More
The 12 states and the District of Columbia participating in the Transportation and Climate Initiative announced today the release of a new draft Memorandum of Understanding that outlines the framework of what they are calling a cap and invest program for cars and trucks. In short, it will require persons selling gasoline and on-road diesel at the wholesale level to hold allowances – which will be auctioned – in order to continue to sell such on-road fuels. … More
The New York Citizens Budget Commission has released a report regarding the state’s ability to meet its ambitious GHG reduction targets. It’s sobering reading. The CBC states that it is “uncertain” whether New York can meet those goals. It identifies four reasons:
Immense scaling up of renewable generation capacity is necessary and is likely infeasible by 2030.
The focus on building renewable resources,… More
Last week, Pope Francis announced that the Catholic Church was considering introducing into the Catechism “the sin against ecology, the ecological sin against the common home.”
My immediate question on seeing this statement was whether it would have any impact on the fight against climate change or other environmental degradation. After all, the Vatican estimates that there are more than 1.2 billion Catholics world-wide. … More
Last week, BioScience published the “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency.” It’s actually a nice piece of work – short, readable, to the point. In barely 4 pages, it concisely summarizes the fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. It also provides suggestions for actions to take to “lessen the worst effects.” The suggestions also pull no punches:
- quickly implement massive energy efficiency and conservation practices and replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables and other cleaner sources of energy….…
Last week, Boston released its Climate Action Plan 2019 Update. The Update identifies “priority actions” for the next five years necessary to put Boston on a trajectory towards carbon neutrality by 2050. There’s a lot in the Update, but because it states that 71% of Boston carbon emissions come from buildings and it thus leads with its discussion of buildings, I’m going to focus there.… More
Yesterday, EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the “Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Program,” more succinctly known as the withdrawal of the California’s § 209 waiver under the Clean Air Act. As part of that announcement, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was quoted as saying that “California has the worst air quality in the United States.”
And why is this ironic? … More
The Carbon Leadership Council, everyone’s favorite group of former grand poohbahs, is still working at building support for its “carbon dividends” plan. Hope springs eternal. And I don’t mean to make light of the CLC’s efforts. We can use all the hope we can get.
The CLC has not make any huge changes to the plan, but they have tweaked it a bit and run numbers again. … More
Earlier this week, the Department of Energy withdrew definitions of “general service lamps” and “general service incandescent lamps” promulgated under the Obama administration. The effect is to eliminate requirements that such lamps move to more energy-efficient bulbs. Examples include recessed fixtures, referred to, at least in my house, as “cans,” and chandeliers.
On this one, I’ll leave the legal issues to others. To me, the noteworthy aspect was that DOE is defending the rule,… More
Those seeking to address climate change through litigation have taken two different paths. Some cases, probably best represented by Juliana v. United States, have plaintiffs who are swinging for the fences. These are stereotypical examples of impact litigation; the plaintiffs are hoping to change the world. Other cases involve plaintiffs who are just hoping – for now, at least – to hit a few singles. … More
I’ve always understood that heat causes more fatalities than other weather-related phenomena. It’s only going to get worse with climate change. If you thought that climate change was all about rising sea levels, think again. Earlier this week, the Union of Concerned Scientists released “Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days.” I’d like to say it makes chilling reading. … More
I’ve posted a number of times about the coming wave of efforts to reduce or eliminate GHG emissions from buildings. Notwithstanding Washington’s current intransigence, the electric sector is now decarbonizing. With that under way, attention next focused on the transportation sector. That’s moving along with efforts in California and the northeast and mid-Atlantic states pursuing the Transportation Climate Initiative.
However, it’s very clear that addressing the electric sector and the transportation sector still isn’t going to be enough. … More
ClimateWire (subscription required) reported today that Russia plans to join the Paris Agreement. Apparently, Russia is doing so because it sees a global move to a low-carbon economy and it doesn’t want to be left behind.
So, if Putin manipulated the 2016 elections to make Donald Trump president, did he do so to make it easier for Russia to get a leg up on the US in building the low-carbon economy of the future?… More
Bloomberg Environment (subscription required) is reporting this morning that Senator Chris Coons is trying to persuade Democrats that they should agree to limit EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases in return for GOP support for a carbon tax. As regular readers will know, I’ve supported for years the idea of a grand bargain such as Senator Coons is now proposing.
I have never understood environmentalists’ opposition to such a deal. … More
Here’s my take on the Affordable Clean Energy Plan.
On the merits, it does almost nothing. It requires only that states impose heat rate improvement requirements on coal-fired power plants. It’s not going to meaningfully lower emissions. Administrator Wheeler has trumpeted that emissions will be 35% lower in 2030 than in 2005, but the ACE rules contribute almost nothing to that result.… More
Yesterday, EPA finalized its Affordable Clean Energy rule, which will replace the Obama Clean Power Plan. More on ACE later. For now, I just want to use the ACE roll-out to contrast what’s happening at the federal level with what’s happening in the rest of the world – specifically, in this case, in Boston.
While President Trump is throwing coal a “lifeline,” the Carbon Free Boston: Transportation Technical Report is discussing banning internal combustion automobiles from the City of Boston by 2050. … More
Greenwire (subscription required) reported today that the White House blocked testimony by Dr. Rod Schoonover of the State Department to the House Intelligence Committee on “The National Security Implications of Climate Change.” This by itself might be unsurprising, if nonetheless depressing. What’s truly amazing, however, is that Greenwire contains a link to the draft testimony, together with the NSC comments.
As regular readers of this blog have probably figured out,… More
The public-private partnership Louisiana Strategies for Future Environments just released a report so stark in its conclusions that, were it not for all of the maps and figures its contains, one would have assumed that it had to be written in a blue state such as Massachusetts or California, rather than deep red Louisiana. It’s sad that we’ve come to this point, but it does appear that Louisiana at least is taking the fact of climate change seriously. … More
On Monday, District Judge Haywood Gilliam imposed a schedule on EPA for review of state plans under EPA’s 2016 rule for emissions from municipal solid waste landfills. The ruling is notable for two reasons.
Because EPA did not dispute that it had missed certain deadlines, its first line of defense wasn’t that it complied with the statute; it was that the states challenging EPA’s delay did not have standing. … More
After receiving an analysis showing that shutting the Jim Bridger and Naughton coal-fired electric generating plants in Wyoming would save ratepayers money, PacificCorp, the owner of the plants, announced that it would shut the plants and the mines that supply them as early as 2022. Mark Gordon, the Republican Governor of Wyoming is not happy.
According to Greenwire (subscription required), Gordon said that:
I will advocate for a positive path where this utility and others are part of developing solutions rather than destroying communities and delaying progress on meaningful technological advances that keeps coal as part of a diverse energy portfolio and also address climate change. … More
In 2016, DOI Secretarial Order 3338 imposed a moratorium on new coal leases on federal land until BLM prepared a programmatic environmental impact statement intended to address, among other issues, the impact of coal leasing on climate change.
Times do change. In 2018, DOI Secretarial Order 3348 eliminated the moratorium and the requirement to prepare a PEIS. Litigation ensued.
Last week,… More
I don’t work in the oil and gas industry. This lede from Bloomberg Environment (subscription required) may not be news to anyone in the industry, but it absolutely blew me away:
America’s hottest oil patch is producing so much natural gas that by the end of last year producers were burning off more than enough of the fuel to meet residential demand across the whole of Texas.… More
The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has released its Clean Peak Standard Straw Proposal, providing its thinking on the implementation of that part of An Act to Advance Clean Energy, from 2018. As a reminder, the basic idea is that a “Qualified RPS Resource,” installed after January 1, 2019, may obtain “clean peak certificates” for energy generated during seasonal peaks. Existing Qualified RPS Resources may obtain CPCs if they are paired with battery storage installed after January 1,… More
Governor Baker addressed a room full of offshore wind stakeholders at “The Future of Offshore Wind” Forum hosted by the Environmental League of Massachusetts on Wednesday morning. He applauded the developers, environmental groups, legislators and local students for the progress made in recent years which has led to a dramatic decrease in the price of offshore wind energy to ratepayers in recent years.
Thanks to a bill Governor Baker signed into law in 2016,… More
Yesterday, Judge Paul Diamond dismissed climate litigation brought by the Clean Air Council and two minor plaintiffs. Like the Juliana case in Oregon, the plaintiffs argued that the government had violated the their rights by failing to take robust action against climate change. Here are some of the failures that Judge Diamond identified in the complaint.
Last week, a federal judge once more rejected the Environmental Assessment for the expansion of the Spring Creek Mine in Montana. The case does not really break any new ground, but it does add to the growing number of cases in which courts have rejected federal action approving a variety of large facilities related to energy production in one way or another. The crux of this case was the failure of the EA to consider downstream,… More
Yesterday, Ed Markey and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released a proposed congressional resolution providing a framework for the so-called Green New Deal. I am pleased to note that it would not exclude use of nuclear power or large-scale hydropower. Neither would it preclude use of market-based approaches towards regulating carbon. Of course, it also doesn’t advocate for putting a price on carbon.
I realize that this is simply a resolution and not proposed legislation. … More
A few weeks ago, a coalition of 626 groups sent a letter to Congress, setting forth some principles concerning what should and should not be part of a Green New Deal. Among the policies that apparently should not be part of a Green New Deal are nuclear power, large-scale hydropower and –wait for it – any use of market-based mechanisms. … More
Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission has just released Carbon Free Boston, which outlines a pathway to a carbon-free city by 2050. It’s a thoughtful and careful report. My immediate reaction was two-fold. Of course we have to do all this and of course this will be nearly impossible.
The transmittal letter to Mayor Walsh acknowledges the immensity of the undertaking:
The report’s analysis makes clear the great magnitude of the change needed to achieve carbon neutrality.… More
Two reports crossed my desk this week that, together, made me wonder if we’re finally nearing the tipping point on climate change belief in the United States. First, Yale and George Mason released Climate Change in the American Mind. The report shows that almost 75% of Americans think global warming is happening and more than 50% are very sure that it’s happening. More than 60% of Americans think it’s mostly caused by human activity.… More
Governor Baker announced today that, as part of his FY 2020 budget, he would be proposing to increase the real estate excise tax in order to fund the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund. The Governor stated that, in the long run, the tax increase would provide $137 million annual to fund adaptation efforts.
Though my friends in the real estate industry may not be happy,… More
On Tuesday, nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Transportation Climate Initiative – notably not yet including New York – announced that they:
will design a regional low-carbon transportation policy proposal that would cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels through a cap-and-invest program or other pricing mechanism.
It’s a major development. Electric sector emissions have dropped substantially in recent years and now account for less than half the GHG emissions resulting from transportation. … More
Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources released its Comprehensive Energy Plan. It’s a generally solid piece of work, even if it doesn’t say anything hugely surprising. Its various policy recommendations can be summarized fairly easily: electrify and conserve.
Two seemingly unrelated adaptation stories caught my eye last week. The first involved efforts by the California Coastal Commission to provide guidance on “Residential Adaptation” to climate change. The primary reason why the draft guidance is getting so much attention is that the Commission raised the possibility of “managed retreat” in some situations.
I get the point of managed retreat. It seems preferable to repeatedly bowing to political pressure and bailing out coastal property owners who ignore the risks associated with climate change. … More
Members of the New York City Council have introduced a proposal to impose mandatory building energy efficiency standards. The standards, which vary by building type and use, would apply to buildings greater than 25,000 square feet, though rent-regulated buildings would be exempt.
The real estate industry is a powerful force in New York City and I believe that our current President may have some views on this legislation. … More
The National Climate Assessment Projects Major Economic Impacts. The President Doesn’t Believe It. Must Not Be True.
Last week, the government released the Fourth National Climate Assessment. Not surprisingly, it’s largely consistent with the prior assessments. As other commenters have noticed, the primary difference from prior reports is one of emphasis; the Assessment now includes substantial information about the likely cost to the economy if we fail to address climate change.
I had been wondering whether it was worth doing a post about the assessment – and then I saw that the President,… More
Deja Vu All Over Again — The Trump Administration Refuses to Provide “Good Reasons” For Its Change in Course on Keystone XL
Yesterday, Judge Brian Morris granted summary judgment to plaintiffs on some of their claims challenging the State Department’s new Record of Decision for the Keystone XL project. Whatever our Tweeter-in-chief may say, it’s actually a fairly balanced decision, which ruled in the Administration’s favor on a number of issues.
The most noteworthy part of the decision takes the State Department to task for failing to provide “good reasons” for the change in the ROD concerning climate change. … More
The UCS Wants to Preserve Existing Nuclear Plants — You Know that Means the Climate Situation Must Be Dire
calls for proactive policy to preserve nuclear power from existing plants that are operating safely but are at risk of premature closures for economic reasons or to ensure that lost nuclear capacity is replaced with carbon-free sources.… More
Last week there were two court decisions on cases in which groups of citizens are seeking court orders requiring the government to act on climate change. The biggest news was that the Supreme Court denied the stay requested by the United States in Juliana v. United States. This “Case of the Century” was supposed to go to trial on October 29.
If I were the plaintiffs,… More
I gave up some time ago on the idea that focusing on adaption was just a means of weaseling out of necessary measures to mitigate climate change. As the extraordinary becomes commonplace, it’s evident that we’ve ignored the externalities of carbon longer than was prudent.
The Energy Information Administration today released CO2 emissions numbers through 2016. While I could rant about the 21.4% increase in GHG emissions in Florida since 1990, as compared to the 23.7% decrease in Massachusetts over the same period, when Florida faces even great climate risk than Massachusetts, I won’t do that.
Today’s rant is about transportation GHG emissions. While there’s a lot of fun data in the EIA report,… More
It’s probably not news that the immediate prospects for a carbon tax aren’t great. I still think that it’s going to seem impossible until, fairly suddenly, it actually happens. Hope springs eternal.
In any case, there has been some news on the carbon tax front this month. Here’s the quick summary. The Climate Leadership Council, everyone’s favorite collection of Republicans who used to matter, released The Dividend Advantage,… More
As Carol Holahan discussed, the 7th Circuit last month affirmed the Illinois zero emission credit program. Now the 2nd Circuit has weighed in, agreeing with the 7th Circuit and affirming the similar New York State ZEC program. Whatever one’s views on the merits, it seems pretty clear at this point that state programs to encourage generation of renewable or zero-emissions energy will be upheld by the Appeals Courts,… More
Earlier this week, the Climate Leadership Council released an analysis demonstrating that the “Baker Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan” would result in greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions than the US committed to attaining under the 2015 Paris agreement. I don’t doubt that the CLC analysis is right. If I had to guess, I’d predict that they probably underestimate the reductions that would be reached with a robust carbon tax.… More
On Friday, Judge John Woodcock held that an ordinance enacted by the City of South Portland, Maine, that prohibited loading crude oil from a pipeline terminating in South Portland onto tankers in South Portland Harbor, in order to prevent certain adverse local impacts, did not violate the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. It’s potentially a very important decision in this area. Congratulations to my partner Jonathan Ettinger and our entire team that worked on the case. … More
EPA has finally released its proposed replacement for the Clean Power Plan, dubbed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule. More affordable than clean, I’d say.
What’s really telling is that EPA’s own analysis shows that the CPP would have delivered significantly more benefits than ACE. And that goes for both direct benefits in GHG emissions reductions and indirect benefits related to reductions in traditional criteria pollutants.… More
- Europeans (Failed to pay their share of fire defense costs).
- Hillary Clinton
- Robert Mueller
- Elizabeth Warren
- John McCain
- Climate Change
Never mind. There are only nine. More
So the Trump administration has formally proposed to roll back CAFE standards for model years beginning in 2021. And California has announced its intention to start separately enforcing its own standards if the federal standards are weakened. Trying to sort it all out, I was somehow reminded of the famous Winston Churchill statement:
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe.… More
According to Greenwire (subscription required), EPA has acknowledged that it possesses no records providing a factual basis for claims made by Scott Pruitt that GHG emissions are not a primary contributor to global warming.
As we noted in June, EPA opposed a FOIA request seeking documents supporting Pruitt’s statements, and the Court ordered EPA to provide responsive documents. Except that, apparently, there aren’t any.… More
On Thursday, Judge John Keenan dismissed New York City’s climate damages law suit against five oil majors. The basis for the decision was the same as in last month’s decision dismissing similar claims in California:
- Because climate change is an interstate and international problem, such claims cannot be resolved under state law; if such claims are valid, they must be brought under federal common law.…
Late last month, when I reported on the dismissal of the California climate change public nuisance litigation, I stated boldly that we should not expect advocates to stop trying. I did not really think I was going out on a limb with that prediction, but I also did not know that I’d be proved correct so quickly. Less than a week later, on July 2, the State of Rhode Island brought its own public nuisance claim.… More
As a follow-up to my June 27 post about the dismissal of public nuisance claims brought by the City of Oakland and the State of California against five oil majors concerning their contribution to climate change, I note that ClimateWire (subscription required) is reporting that the Dutch government is appealing a court order that would require it to cut carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2030. … More
On Monday, Judge William Alsup dismissed the public nuisance case brought by the City of Oakland and the State of California against five major oil companies. The suit sought payment of damages into a fund to be used for necessary adaptation expenditures to deal with sea level rise.
Why did he dismiss the case? Simple. The courts are not the right forum in which to address the problems of climate change. … More
EPA Must Produce Any Agency Records Supporting Administrator Pruitt’s Statement that Human Activity Is Not the Largest Contributor to Climate Change
Last Friday, EPA was ordered to produce documents, in response to a FOIA request, on which Administrator Pruitt relied in stating on CNBC that: “I would not agree that [carbon dioxide] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” and “there’s a tremendous disagreement about of [sic] the impact” of “human activity on the climate.”
I’ve done a fair number of FOIA requests in my time. … More
Last week, FERC rejected arguments that the Environmental Assessment for the New Market Project should have considered upstream and downstream climate impacts. It also announced as policy that it would not in the future analyze:
the upstream production and downstream use[s] of natural gas [that] are not cumulative or indirect impacts of the proposed pipeline project, and consequently are outside the scope of our NEPA analysis.… More
On April 13, 2018, Massachusetts’ highest court ended a significant chapter in Exxon’s long-running dispute with Attorney General Maura Healey. In 2015, Healey issued a Civil Investigative Demand regarding Exxon’s knowledge of the effects of fossil fuels on climate change. Exxon then undertook what a federal judge in New York last month called “a sprawling litigation involving four different judges, at least three lawsuits, innumerable motions and a huge waste of the [New York and Massachusetts] AGs’ time and money.” (You can read a full analysis of that decision by my colleague Seth Jaffe here.) Exxon’s actions in Massachusetts’ courts have been mercifully compact,… More
There’s been a lot of discussion regarding EPA’s decision to withdraw EPA’s Mid-term Evaluation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Model Year 2022-2025 Light-duty Vehicles. After pondering for a while, my question is how much deference courts will give to EPA’s decision.
BLM Loses Another One: Resource Management Plans for Coal Leasing Areas Are Sent Back to the Drawing Board
Late last month, Judge Brian Morris granted summary judgment to plaintiffs on three claims alleging that the environmental impact analysis supported BLM’s Resource Management Plans for managing coal leases in the Powder River Basis were flawed. It’s a very thoughtful decision. Judge Morris rejected three of plaintiffs’ claims and did not provide the injunctive relief that they sought. Nonetheless, it’s an important setback for BLM and further evidence that courts are going to require more of BLM in assessing climate impacts associated with energy resource development.… More
Yesterday, Judge Valerie Caproni dismissed claims brought by ExxonMobil against New York Attorney General Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Healey. Boiled down to their essence, ExxonMobil’s claims were that investigations by Schneiderman and Healey into the possibility that ExxonMobil had committed fraud by misleading investors regarding the risks that climate change poses to ExxonMobil’s business were politically motivated and in bad faith.
The decision was not difficult. … More
Just a few weeks ago, Federal Judge William Alsup ruled that claims brought by San Francisco and Oakland against certain large oil companies belonged in federal court, because they raise issues of federal common law. Last week, in a similar law suit asserting similar claims, Judge Vince Chhabria remanded the case to state court. Why? Because there is no federal common law applicable to such climate-related claims. … More
Governor Baker has sent some mixed messages to the environmental community in his first term. After promising during the campaign to increase environmental spending to 1% of the state budget, he’s made essentially no progress whatsoever. More recently, the administration’s selection of Northern Pass to provide renewable energy under the so-called “83D” procurement was panned by pretty much everyone who is neither a member of the administration nor a resident of the Sovereign Nation of Eversource.… More
Yesterday, the 9th Circuit rejected the Trump administration’s request for a writ of mandamus ordering the trial court to dismiss litigation brought by 21 children alleging that the government’s failure to address climate change had violated their constitutional rights. It appears that the plaintiffs will get an opportunity to prove their claims.
It’s important to remember that this opinion is not about the merits. … More
Earlier this week, Judge William Alsup denied a motion by Oakland and San Francisco to remand their public nuisance claims against some of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers to state court. However, I’m not sure that this is a victory for the oil companies. This might be more of a “be careful what you wish for” scenario.
As I’ve noted previously, the fight over the Trump Administration’s effort to change course on a number of Obama environmental initiatives is going to focus in significant part on FCC v. Fox Television Stations, in which the Supreme Court stated that agencies are free to reconsider policies so long as:
the new policy is permissible under the statute, there are good reasons for it,… More
Last week, I noted that EPA had been ordered to respond to a petition by Connecticut under § 126(b) of the Clean Air Act. This week, DOE was ordered to promulgate energy efficiency rules under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. My mother used to say that comparisons are odious, but I have to say that DOE’s conduct was even more egregious than that of EPA.… More
Earlier this week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a District Court decision and reinstated the National Marine Fisheries Service’s decision to list the Arctic ringed seal as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The decision was not a surprise, because the 9th Circuit had already affirmed NMFS’s decision to list the bearded seal on identical grounds.
What caught my eye was this language in the opinion – actually a quote from the bearded seal decision.… More
Some Extreme Climate Events Would Not Have Happened But For Climate Change: Lawyers Are Paying Attention
Today’s ClimateWire (subscription required) contained a long summary of evidence that scientists are increasingly able to demonstrate that climate change is what we lawyers would call the “but for” cause of extreme weather events. One of the most interesting is the recent paper “Explaining Extreme Weather Events of 2016: From a Climate Perspective,” from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. It looked at a number of extreme events and found – for the first time –
that some extreme events were not possible in a preindustrial climate. … More
While EPA continues to go backwards on climate, evidence continues to mount that investors are only going to get more aggressive. There were two developments worth noting this month.
First, Bloomberg Markets reported that BlackRock, which seems increasingly willing to put its mouth where its money is, has sent letters to 120 companies, telling them to report climate risks in a manner consistent with the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. … More
The Washington Post reported this week that Utqiagvik, Alaska (formerly known as Barrow), has gotten so warm, so fast, that NOAA’s computers can’t even believe it. The data for Utqiagvik (that’s hard to type!) were so high that the computers determined it must be anomalous and pulled all of the data from Utqiagvik from the NOAA monthly climate report. Only when scientists realized that Utqiagvik was completely missing from the report did they notice what had happened.… More
Earlier this week, Moody’s Investors Service announced issuance of a report (payment required) warning that:
the effects of climate change, including climbing global temperatures, and rising sea levels, are forecast to have an increasing economic impact on US state and local issuers. This will be a growing negative credit factor for issuers without sufficient adaptation and mitigation strategies.
In other words, if you are an issuer of state or local bonds in an area likely to be impacted by climate trends,… More
The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday that electric generation capacity from wind now exceeds that of coal in Texas. That’s not even counting Vistra’s recent announcement that it intends to close three coal-fired plants.
To those who might point out that wind is intermittent and it thus has lower capacity factors, the same Chronicle story reports at least one expert prediction that wind generation will exceed that of coal by 2019.… More
Coming Soon to a Northeast or Mid-Atlantic State Near You: Regulations on Carbon Emissions From Transportation
Yesterday, eight states in the Transportation Climate Initiative issued a joint statement pledging to pursue regional solutions to GHG emissions from transportation. The statement does not identify any specific policy options; instead it simply announced that they are “initiating a public conversation about these opportunities and challenges.”
Even if the statement doesn’t say so, what everyone is hearing from this announcement is simply this: RGGI for transportation.… More
Last week, the government released the Climate Science Special Report, the first volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment. It makes grim reading – or perhaps more accurately, grim reaper – reading. Here’s what we might call the executive summary of the Executive Summary. First, the bottom line:
This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases,… More
On September 28, 2017, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry sent a letter to FERC enclosing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking(NOPR), which Secretary Perry asserts “requires the Commission-approved organized markets to develop and implement market rules that accurately price generation resources necessary to maintain the reliability and resiliency of our Nation’s electric grid.” Both the timing and substance of the proposal have been criticized by energy industry representatives,… More
Yesterday, Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte granted summary judgment to plaintiffs and vacated the Bureau of Land Management’s notice that it was postponing certain compliance dates contained in the Obama BLM rule governing methane emissions on federal lands. If you’re a DOJ lawyer, it’s pretty clear your case is a dog when the Court enters summary judgment against you before you’ve even answered the complaint.
The case is pretty simple and the outcome should not be a surprise. … More
On Monday, EnergyWire (subscription required) reported that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has unveiled a plan to cap fossil fuel use in buildings in New York City. (I haven’t seen the specific plan, but it is referenced in City’s overall plan, “1.5°C: Aligning New York City with the Paris Climate Agreement,” that the City just released.) The building plan is based on data gathered as a result of local ordinances requiring buildings with more than 25,000 square feet to report energy and water use. … More
Last week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a District Court decision approving a decision by the Bureau of Land Management to approve new leases on mines that account for 20% of U.S. coal production. The decision is just the latest in a series of cases making clear that courts will not approve new – or renewed – energy production that does not appropriately address the impacts of a project on climate change.… More
Yesterday, Judge Mark Wolf dismissed part of the Conservation Law Foundation’s claims in its litigation against ExxonMobil concerning ExxonMobil’s Everett Terminal facility. The opinion is both interesting and pleasurably concise – a rare combination!
Judge Wolf found that CLF had credibly alleged that the Terminal is violating its NPDES permit. Importantly, he also found that CLF stated that there is:
substantial risk”… More
China will soon unveil a mandatory cap-and-trade credit program for electric cars, starting the countdown for carmakers to be in compliance with stricter rules on emissions and fuel economy.
It’s pretty well known that China is not the world’s most transparent government. Thus, I won’t fully believe until I see it. On the other hand, it does seem pretty clear that China is intent on cracking down on motor vehicle pollution. … More
Earlier this month, State Street Global Advisors joined the chorus of money managers urging corporate boards, particularly those in “high-impact sectors” – meaning “oil and gas, utilities and mining” – to do a better job reporting risks related to climate change. SSGA’s recent “Perspective on Effective Climate Change Disclosure” is a serious document. To put it in formal technical jargon, SSGA whacks the heck out of most companies in high-impact sectors,… More
We’ll Always Have RGGI: Paris or no Paris, New England and Mid-Atlantic States Continue to Lead on Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions
Yesterday, Massachusetts and the eight other New England and Mid-Atlantic states that participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative announced a proposed plan for the continued implementation of RGGI (the region’s cap-and-trade program) between the years 2020 and 2030. The plan calls for an additional reduction of GHGs by 30% by 2030, beyond the RGGI 2020 levels. Emissions would be capped at about 75 million tons in 2021,… More
Last week, a divided panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that FERC violated NEPA in failing to assess downstream greenhouse gas emissions resulting from construction of the Sabal Trail pipeline, part of the Southeast Market Pipelines Project. If the decision stands, it is going to have a very significant impact on review and development of gas pipelines.
(Full disclosure – Foley Hoag represents NextEra,… More
Earlier this week, the Judge Donald Malloy of the District Court for the District of Montana granted summary judgment to the Montana Environmental Information Center on several of its claims alleging that the Office of Surface Mining had violated NEPA in approving a modification of a mining plan to expand the Bull Mountains Mine No. 1. The decision is important for two reasons.
Earlier this week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down part of an EPA rule promulgated pursuant to the Montreal Protocol. The section that was struck down would have required manufacturers of HFC-134a, which is not ozone-depleting and which had previously been determined by EPA to be an acceptable replacement for ozone-depleting compounds, to find other replacements, because EPA determined in 2015 that HFC-134a did not “reduce overall risks to human health and the environment.” Why? … More
Hard on the heels of decision upholding the Illinois “zero-emission credit” program to prop up nuclear plants in that state, Judge Valerie Caproni of the South District of New York has now upheld a similar ZEC program in New York. There’s definitely a trend here. So long as state programs do not directly interfere with wholesale markets, it looks as though they will be affirmed.
(Renewed caveat: This firm represents,… More
Late last month, the 2nd Circuit Court of appeals rejected a challenge to Connecticut laws intended to encourage use of renewable energy. Earlier this month, Judge Manish Shah, of the Northern District of Illinois, issued a companion decision, rejecting challenges to the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, which grants “Zero Emission Credits” to certain facilities, “likely to be two nuclear power plants owned by Exelon in Illinois.”
(Caveat: This firm represents,… More
In February, I posted about the formation of the Climate Leadership Council and its push for what it calls its “Carbon Dividend” plan. In essence, it’s a gradually increasing carbon tax. The plan would be revenue neutral, with the proceeds being returned to taxpayers. Thus, the name. I loved the idea and I still love it. I particularly love that the tax starts at $40/ton – that’s a serious number.… More
Democratic Attorneys General have continued their efforts to combat the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back environmental regulations developed under the Obama administration in two recent actions. Thirteen AGs, including Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, sent a letter last week to Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, threatening legal action if the agency takes steps to weaken or delay the greenhouse gas emissions standards that were established in 2012 for cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2022-2025.… More
Climate Change Skeptics Occasionally Become Believers, But Believers Don’t Become Skeptics. Why Is That?
On Friday, Greenwire published a very interesting interview with Jerry Taylor, every climate advocate’s favorite Libertarian. The interview chronicles Taylor’s journey from climate skeptic to climate believer. For those of you who don’t know his story, Taylor left the Cato Institute to found the Niskanen Center, where he works on promoting Libertarian solutions to climate change.
I’ve seen stories about Taylor before and Greenwire’s piece is an excellent interview (and thanks to Greenwire for taking this out from behind its pay wall and making it available for free!). … More
We previously noted BlackRock’s recent shareholder votes in favor of increased reporting of climate risks by ExxonMobil and Occidental. Now, BlackRock has stepped it up a notch by including “vote bulletins” on its investment stewardship web page. The bulletins will be provided:
in relation to certain high profile proposals at company shareholder meetings. Although we currently explain many of these votes in our quarterly reports,… More
Back in September and February, we wrote about MassDEP’s Proposed Interpretation of Chapter 91 regulations, which attempted to provide guidance to the regulated community on the conditions under which a historic pile field can contribute to the “project shoreline” — the outer boundary of a development proposal. Triggered by proposed redevelopment of Lewis Wharf, the proposed interpretation essentially stated that if the piles comprising a pile field were no longer visible at “Extreme High Water”,… More
On May 31, shareholders at Exxon Mobil Corp. (“ExxonMobil”) voted in favor of a climate change resolution asking the company to publish an annual report on the business impact of measures designed to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees centigrade, the target set by the Paris Agreement.
The non-binding resolution passed with more than 62% of the votes cast. Specifically, the resolution asks that,… More
In March, I noted BlackRock’s increasing concern over climate. One element of its statement was “potential support for shareholder resolutions on climate risk”, where “management’s response to our prior engagement has been inadequate. Turns out that they meant it.
Last November, the District Court of Oregon denied the motion of the United States to dismiss claims that the United States had violated a public trust obligation it owes to US citizens to protect the atmosphere from climate change. Not surprisingly, the government sought interlocutory appeal. On Monday, Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin issued a Finding and Recommendation that the request for interlocutory appeal be denied. … More
Two related items about climate change resilience and adaptation caught my eye this week. First, the American Academy of Actuaries issued a report on “The National Flood Insurance Program: Challenges and Solutions.” Those wild and crazy actuaries at the AAA certainly have a gift for understatement:
Increased flooding due to higher sea levels can only increase the amount of loss from storms absent expensive investment in coastal defenses.… More
Earlier this week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected challenges to the Federal Implementation Plan EPA promulgated after finding that Arizona’s regional haze State Implementation Plan was inadequate. I think that the result is both correct and unsurprising.
However, one part of the opinion – a recitation of black-letter law – caught my eye. In discussing the standard of review, the court noted that the arbitrary and capricious standard is “highly deferential.” No surprise there. … More
On Wednesday, Judge Ed Kinkeade ordered that Exxon Mobil’s suit against NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey be transferred to the Southern District of New York. The AGs must be breathing sighs of relief this morning.
It’s a very curious order. It’s 12 pages long, yet contains just one sentence explaining why the case is being transferred:
The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York is the proper venue for this case because “a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred” in New York City,… More
Make no mistake, the Executive Order signed by President Trump at EPA yesterday is a big deal. Time will tell whether the Administration’s U-turn on the Obama rules currently in litigation, such as the Clean Power Plan and the rule on fracking on federal lands will make any difference to judicial review of those rules. There are plenty of states and NGOs ready to step into EPA’s and BLM’s shoes to defend those rules.… More
This week, the National Academy of Sciences Committee tasked with reviewing the Climate Science Special Report, issued by the Obama administration, basically blessed it. They had some comments, but I’ve been through the NAS review process; they always have comments. Their top line?
The Committee commends the CSSR authors for producing an impressive, timely, and generally well-written draft report and was impressed with the breadth,… More
BlackRock, which manages more than $5 trillion in assets, has released a statement on how it “engages with climate risk.” The statement has three main elements.
- Support for the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures
- Engagement with companies over assessment on climate risks
- An indication of potential support for shareholder resolutions on climate risk,…
In an interesting study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors predict that climate change will have a more significant impact on peak energy demand than had previously been understood. They conclude that, in a business as usual case, peak demand will increase 18%, leading to a need to spend $180B (in current dollars) to meet that increased peak demand.
The authors acknowledge that their estimates are based on current infrastructure and that the development of energy storage could play a role in mitigating the need for new generation sources to meet peak demand.… More
Earlier this week, the Climate Leadership Council rolled out The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends (note the absence of the “T” word in that title!). It’s a serious proposal and, if we lived in a world of facts, rather than alternative facts, it would be a useful starting point for a discussion.
Here are the highlights:
- A gradually increasing carbon tax,…
This week, the Department of Energy finalized regulations to increase energy efficiency for central air conditioners and heat pumps. The regulations apply to products manufactured or imported into the United States beginning in 2023. DOE estimates that, over the following 30 years, the regulations will reduce GHG emissions by 188.3 million metric tons, and will also result in similarly substantial reductions in emissions of conventional pollutants.… More
Does MassDEP Have Authority to Regulate Electric Generating Emissions Under Section 3(d) of the GWSA? I’m Not So Sure.
As I have previously noted, I sympathize with the difficulties faced by MassDEP in trying to implement the SJC decision in Kain. However, that does not mean that MassDEP can simply take the easy way out. After rereading Kain, I have come to the conclusion that DEP’s proposal to limit GHG emissions from electric generating facilities in Massachusetts would in fact violate Kain,… More
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
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
Last week, DOE announced that transportation sector CO2 emissions in the US exceeded power sector CO2 emissions for the first time since 1978. Why? 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
The drumbeat of cases, either approving agency action under the ESA – or reversing agency refusal to act – due to habitat alteration resulting from climate change continues to grow. In February, the 9th Circuit reversed a district court decision and approved the Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of critical polar bear habitat. In April, Judge Christensen of the District of Montana vacated FWS’s decision to withdraw a proposed listing of the wolverine. … More
FWS Goes Back to Square One On Listing the Wolverine. It’s Not Going to Be Any Easier This Time Around.
As we noted in this space in April, Judge Dana Christensen vacated the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to withdraw its proposed listing of a distinct population segment of the North American wolverine as threatened under the ESA. Bowing to the inevitable, the FWS has now published in the Federal Register a formal acknowledgement that the Court’s vacatur of the withdrawal of the proposed listing returns the situation to the status quo.… More
Yesterday, the Energy Information Administration reported that “Energy-related CO2 emissions for first six months of 2016 are lowest since 1991.” The EIA gave three reasons for the drop in CO2 emissions.
- Mild weather. Of course, if global warming is our solution to reducing CO2 emissions, we better come up with something that works in the summer as well as the winter.…
As an MIT grad and loyal resident (Go Sox!), I’m always happy to see stories about Massachusetts’ role in the innovation economy. Last week, news arrived of more innovation in Massachusetts – this time on the legal front. CLF sued Exxon Mobil for not adapting its Everett storage terminal to harden it against the effects of climate change.
On Monday, the TVA announced that Watts Bar Unit 2 had successfully completed what is known as its final power ascension test. It is now producing 1,150 MW of power in pre-commercial operation. Though EnergyWire did report it (subscription required), I would have thought this would have received more coverage. It’s been 20 years since the last nuclear facility came online in the United States.… More
Does a pile field exist if it’s covered at high tide?
MassDEP seems to think not.
Through the Commonwealth’s Chapter 91 program, MassDEP regulates what can be built over tidelands. In last week’s Environmental Monitor, MassDEP announced a “Proposed Interpretation” that would prescribe the way a proponent seeking a Chapter 91 license to authorize development should define a “Project Shoreline”… More
When RGGI was 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
Last Friday, Governor Baker issued Executive Order 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth.” EO 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.…
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 Strategy. It’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.…
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 from such redefinition of the source. … More
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
Massachusetts Legislature Enacts Significant Energy Bill in Support of Offshore Wind and Hydro Procurement, Storage and Transmission
Late last night, the Massachusetts legislature enacted House Bill 4568, an act to promote energy diversity (the “Act”). Overall, the Act marks a compromise between the House’s original procurement-only legislation and the Senate’s more comprehensive “omnibus” bill. It is expected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will sign the legislation shortly. After that, regulations will be required to be implemented and other regulatory actions will need to be taken by Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities,… More
On June 15, 2016, Exxon sued Massachusetts AG Maura Healey in federal court in Texas, seeking to bar the enforcement of AG Healey’s April 19, 2016 civil investigative demand, issued pursuant to M.G.L. c. 93A, the Commonwealth’s unfair and deceptive practice statute. Under c. 93A, § 6, the AG may issue investigative demands “whenever [s]he believes a person has engaged in or is engaging in any method, act or practice” prohibited by c.… More
Last Friday, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its version of the energy bill that passed the House earlier this month. Whereas the House bill would require distribution companies to procure 1,200 MW of offshore wind power by 2027 and 9,450,000 MWH of hydroelectric power by 2022, the Senate’s version would require 2,000 MW of offshore wind by 2030 and 12,450,000 MWH of “clean energy generation” by 2018.… More
The City of Boston has just released its “Climate Projections Consensus.” It’s not a pretty picture. Here are the lowlights:
- 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.…
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 law 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
This week a draft of the long-awaited Massachusetts energy bill was reported out of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The bill would require the Commonwealth’s distribution companies to competitively solicit long-term, fifteen- to twenty-year contracts for large-scale offshore wind and hydroelectric power. Notably absent from the bill are provisions addressing resources such as solar, onshore wind, nuclear, energy storage, and energy efficiency.
The bill seeks to jumpstart the development of offshore wind in federal lease areas by directing distribution companies to enter into contracts for 1,200 MW of offshore wind power before July 1,… More
The Global Warming Solutions Act Requires MassDEP to Promulgate Declining Annual GHG Emissions Limits for Multiple Sources: Yikes!
On Tuesday, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that MassDEP had violated the Global Warming Solutions Act by 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
Dylan Thomas said “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
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. I’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
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.”
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 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.
Water Turning To Blood; Flies; Hail? How About Water-borne Illness, Extreme Weather, and Actual Plague?
Passover starts later this month. Just in time, the U.S. Global Change Research Program has given us an updated list of plagues. What’s fascinating is that the new list actually bears a certain similarity to the biblical list.
Why has the U.S. updated the list of plagues? It’s actually part of a report on “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment.” What’s climate change going to do to us? … More
Under the Endangered Species Act, a species is “threatened” when it is “likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.” As scientists continue to predict that climate change will alter habitat over the coming century, it certainly seems “foreseeable” that more species will become endangered. That’s what the Fish & Wildlife Service concluded about the wolverine in early 2013. When FWS backtracked in 2014, Defenders of Wildlife sued. … More
The sixth installment of our Paris climate change negotiations tracker is now available. It includes not just a complete look back at the results from Paris, but also a quick postscript on the impact of the Clean Power Plan stay order from the Supreme Court on the current prospects for successful implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Click here to download the report:
Yesterday, the Supreme Court stayed EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule. No matter how much EPA and DOJ proclaim that this says nothing about the ultimate results on the merits, the CPP is on very shaky ground at this point.
Yesterday, the White House released a fact sheet describing its efforts to create a “21st Century Clean Transportation System”. There’s a lot of interesting material in the plan, but all the headlines have been on the President’s inclusion of a $10/barrel tax on oil in his FY2017 budget as a means of paying for the various improvements contained in the plan.
The fact sheet doesn’t use the words “carbon tax” and it emphasizes the purposes for which the tax revenue will be used,… More
Kamala Harris Puts Exxon Under Her Microscope: California AG Reportedly Has Launched Review of Oil Giant’s Statements On Climate Change
Students of history know that fighting a two front war is a hazard to be avoided. According to the L.A. Times, however, that is precisely the dilemma that now faces Exxon Mobil: dual investigations from attorneys general on each coast of the United States.
Several sources are reporting that California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office is examining what Exxon knew about the science of climate change compared with what the company told investors. … More
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
Last month, I went out on a limb and predicted that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals would not stay the CPP. Today, the Court vindicated my faith in judicial rationality and refused to grant a stay. In a brief order, the Court simply stated that “Petitioners have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.”
The Court did expedite briefing,… More
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 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
I have never understood why 43 states – including the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts – have independent elected attorneys general. I’m sure my new colleague, former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, would disagree with me, but I just don’t think that the value of having an AG independent of the Governor is worth the lack of policy consistency. Exhibit A to my argument is the current dispute in Colorado between Governor John Hickenlooper and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman concerning EPA’s Clean Power Plan. … More
Yesterday’s Boston Globe had an op-ed by Joshua Goldstein and Steven Pinker concerning some “Inconvenient truths for the environmental movement.” I’m sorry to say that I agree with pretty much every word of it. Why am I sorry? Because Goldstein and Pinker make clear – even though they don’t mention his name – that the Pope was completely wrong in his prescription for addressing climate change. … More
Last week, a trial judge in Washington State, in Foster v. Washington Department of Ecology, ruled that the Public Trust Doctrine requires the State of Washington to address climate change more aggressively. Greenwire’s headline for its story on the decision was “Kids declare victory in Wash. warming lawsuit.” I’m here to throw a little cold water on all the excitement. Why?
If you want to know what how a rational optimist defines success for COP21, take 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).…
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
So the Clean Power Plan has been published in the Federal Register. For those who cannot get enough, you can find all of the important materials, including EPA’s Technical Support Documents, on EPA’s web site for the CPP.
Not surprisingly, given the number of suits brought before the CPP was even finalized, opponents were literally lining up at the courthouse steps to be the first to sue. … More
The fourth installment of our Paris climate change negotiations tracker is available.
Some progress seems to be occurring, but it’s certainly not obvious that COP21 will result in an agreement sufficient to ensure that it will result in meeting a “below 2°C” objective.
Click here to download the report:
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
When the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was 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
Having gotten the Clean Power Plan out the door, EPA has moved on to another target of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: landfill methane emissions. Late last week, EPA proposed both new emission guidelines for existing landfills and a supplemental proposal to modify the new source performance standards for new or modified landfills. The landfill rule is a somewhat easier lift than the Clean Power Plan.… More
So the Clean Power Plan is out. It’s difficult to be pithy about such a big, sprawling, mess, other than to say that it’s probably about as good as it could be, though that may not be enough. Here are a few items that have caught my eye so far:
- Although the initial deadlines have been eased, the goal of 32% reduction over 2005 emissions by 2030 is a slight increase over the 30% in the draft.…
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Northern Pass Transmission, LLC’s proposed 187-mile transmission line across the United States-Canada border in New Hampshire.
If approved, the line would have the ability to deliver 1200 MW of hydroelectric power from Quebec into southern New England—a potentially tantalizing amount of power for policymakers seeking to diversify the region’s generation portfolio and lower its GHG emissions.… More
On Friday, Judge Claire Eagan dismissed Oklahoma’s latest challenge to EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Yes, that plan. The one that hasn’t been promulgated yet.
Following rejection by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals of a prior law suit, Oklahoma tried again, this time on what it presumably hoped would be more friendly ground, the Northern District of Oklahoma. Not so much.… More
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 third installment of our Paris climate change negotiations tracker is available. This may sound like a broken record, but there was not a lot of progress made in the Bonn talks earlier this month and it’s looking more and more as though it’s going to be difficult to reach a major substantive agreement in Paris.
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.
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
As the date for the Paris climate talks moves 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
Easy way to tell when you’ve lost your appeal? When a pithy judge starts making fun of you in the first sentence of the opinion. In a case that was only ever going to have one outcome, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today rejected all of the pre-promulgation challenges to EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Judge Kavanaugh began by noting that:
Petitioners are champing at the bit to challenge EPA’s anticipated rule restricting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.… More
Unsatisfied with the pace of the administration’s implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, the 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.
As we approach the start of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties 21, slated to open in Paris on November 30, 2015, Foley Hoag begins a series of documents tracking the negotiations. The first installment discusses the range of Intended National Determined Contributions of four players in the talks: the United States, the EU, Russia,… More
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. It’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
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 than 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
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
I have long thought that the best argument for market-based approaches to climate change mitigation 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
As two current events illustrate, climate change over the coming years is likely to test and ultimately expose the fundamental inadequacy of much of the infrastructure built to support modern societies. The first current event involves a record-breaking drought in South America which has left water taps dry in many homes in one of the largest cities in the world — San Paulo, Brazil. The second current event involves record-breaking cold and snow over the past month which has left significant portions of Boston’s public transportation system inoperable.… More
In November, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation provided its “Initial Reliability Review” of EPA’s Clean Power Plan. NERC raised a number of concerns about the impact of the CPP on reliability.
As I noted last year, there has been significant criticism of the Integrated Assessment Models used to calculate the social cost of carbon. An article published this week in Nature Climate Change (not free), attempts to respond to some of those criticisms. The result is a social cost of carbon that might be as high as $220/ton of CO2. The authors thus conclude that,… More
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
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.
According to today’s Boston Globe, both NStar and National Grid have terminated their power purchase agreements with Cape Wind, citing the failure by Cape Wind to meet a December 31, 2014 deadline to obtain financing and begin construction. Cape Wind is asserting that the utilities may not validly terminate the PPAs, arguing that the protracted litigation against the project excuses Cape Wind’s obligation to meet the December 31 date.… More
There has already been significant discussion of the economic impacts of climate change. Damage from catastrophic events, the cost to build adaptation measures such as sea walls; these have all been examined. Now, a National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper suggests a much more direct measure. Apparently, we’re just not as productive as the planet warms.
Cole Porter knew what he was talking about.
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
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
Environmental Impact Analysis — The Impact of a Project on the Environment or the Impact of the Environment on a Project?
Traditionally, environmental impact analysis, under NEPA and state analogs, has focused on the impacts that a proposed project may have on the environment. In Massachusetts, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has proposed a draft MEPA Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency Policy. The policy seems sufficiently important to warrant more than one post. Today, I’ll look at EOEEA’s authority to promulgate an Adaptation Policy. Tomorrow,… More
If readers have been wondering when GHG regulation would truly feel real, EPA may have delivered the answer yesterday, with its announcement of a $350 million settlement with Hyundai and Kia over allegations of violations of EPA’s GHG tailpipe standards. The details may matter only to those subject to the tailpipe rule, but they do demonstrate that EPA is not merely regulating GHG emissions for show;… More
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 system that’s going to be in place once EPA promulgates a final rule. … More
The Union of Concerned Scientists today announced release of a report which attempts to document that the renewable energy “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
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 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.
I do not want to suggest that most environmentalists are Luddites or that the environmental movement is opposed to economic development. Indeed, hardly a speech is made today that does not tout the economic benefits of environmental protection. Less focus is given, however, to the environmental benefits of economic development.
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
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
Late last week, in Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility v. Beaudreu, Judge Reggie Walton gave Cape Wind and its federal co-defendants an almost across the board victory in a series of challenges by Cape Wind opponents to a variety of environmental decisions made by federal agencies. We’ll see how many more of these victories Cape Wind can take. Their opponents certainly aren’t going away. In fact,… More
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
Through the end of 2012, the nine states remaining in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative invested just over $707 million of the proceeds from the RGGI Auctions. But the impact this money will have in the future is even more impressive. According to a report released this week, these investments are projected to return more than $2 billion in lifetime energy bill savings to more than 3 million participating households and 12,000 businesses in the region. … 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
EPA Is Not a “Bogeyman” According to a Sierra Club Poll: I’m Sure That Will Comfort Nervous Senate Democrats
The Sierra Club released a poll yesterday showing substantial support for EPA’s efforts to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, whose representative, Andrew Baumann, was quoted in E&E News as saying that the poll demonstrates that EPA “is not a bogeyman.” Indeed, the poll shows 44% of respondents with positive feelings toward EPA and only 27% negative. … 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
On Tuesday, Governor Patrick announced a series of climate change preparedness initiatives, including about $50 million in funds for a variety of programs. Before summarizing the plan, I’ll note that Massachusetts appears to have jettisoned “adaptation” as the descriptor for programs designed to mitigate the effects of climate change. We are no longer “adapting”. Now, like the Boy Scouts, we will be “prepared.” Shrewd call.
The biggest piece of the pie with be $40 million for a municipal “resilience” grant program,… More
Last year, Governor Patrick announced a goal of 1.6GW of solar electricity in Massachusetts by 2020; a goal that requires more than 1.2GW of new solar in the next six years. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has now issued draft regulations for its SREC II program. The regulations are too complicated to summarize in a blog post, but you can read the details in our client alert.… 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 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
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
In last week’s auction held by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), not only did the allowances sell at $3 — the highest clearing price in four years, other than the June auction’s $3.21 — but a majority of the allowances sold to investors, rather than the large generators of electricity whose carbon dioxide emissions are regulated under RGGI. Fifty-seven percent of the allowances were bought by commodities firms,… 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
In September, I noted that Judge Mark Wolf had dismissed CLF’s law suit challenging EPA’s approval of the TMDLs for the Cape Cod embayments, ruling that CLF did not have standing. CLF, as is its wont, is not going gentle into that good night. It is still raging, raging, at EPA’s decision. More to the point, it has refiled its complaint.
And You Thought Ending Flood Insurance Subsidies Would Be Difficult? Try Persuading a Politician to Support “Managed Coastal Retreat”
Earlier today, I posted about the political difficulties inherent in reforming flood insurance programs to avoid subsidizing those who choose to live in coastal areas subject to flooding. When even Democratic legislators supportive of efforts to fight climate change oppose such reforms, you know you are in trouble.
Well, when it rains, it pours, as it were. Just hours later comes news of the release of a report from the Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law on “Managed Coastal Retreat.” The title pretty much tells it all. … More
A story in E&E Daily on October 30 highlighted the difficult choices – including political choices – that are going to have to be faced in the process of adapting to climate change. The story noted that a number of Democratic members of Congress who have supported efforts to address climate change are now opposing efforts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program so that it does not encourage people to locate in areas subject to flooding.… More
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
EPA Issues Revised Draft NSPS for Carbon Emissions From New Power Plants: It’s All About Technology Forcing
Last Friday, EPA reissued its draft NSPS addressing carbon emissions from new power plants. It’s not actually that different from the prior proposal, which would have required all new fossil-fuel plants to meet a 1,000 lbs CO2/MWh standard. The new proposal would require new large gas plants to meet the 1,000 lbs/MWh standard, but would relax the standard to 1,100 lbs/MWh for small gas plants and for coal plants. … More
Last week, in Conservation Law Foundation v. EPA, Judge Mark Wolf ruled that CLF did not have standing to challenge EPA’s approval of total maximum daily loads promulgated for certain waters in and around Cape Cod. Given the increasing number of citizen suits involving TMDL promulgation, the decision is important.
CLF asserted two claims. First, it alleged that EPA wrongly classified certain sources,… 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
We Still Don’t Need No Stinkin Cooperative Federalism: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Holds that GHG Sources Require PSD Permits Even Absent a State Implementation Plan
Last Friday, I posted about the limits to EPA’s cooperation with states in the name of “cooperative federalism” under the Clean Air Act. On the same day, in Texas v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals only emphasized my point, by affirming EPA’s assertion of PSD permitting jurisdiction in Texas and Wyoming in the face of those states’ failure to prepare state implementation plans to incorporate permitting programs to implement EPA’s greenhouse gas rules under the PSD program.… 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
President Obama yesterday released his Climate Action Plan, together with a Memorandum concerning EPA’s issuance of rules governing carbon emissions from new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. At a certain level, there is not much new here. The mere existence of the Plan and the commitment to address climate issues is presumably the point.
The Plan does not provide many specifics. … More
On Tuesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that the first auction of leases of offshore wind areas will be held on July 31. Even though it now looks as though Cape Wind will eventually get to the finish line, this competitive lease auction, for areas off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, can really be seen to mark the true beginning of an offshore wind market.… More
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. … More
It has not been a good run for plaintiffs in private climate change litigation. As we noted last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal in Comer v. Murphy Oil. Now, on Monday, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Native Village of Kivalina v. Exxon Mobil. Kivalina ended more with a whimper than a bang,… 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
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
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
Today, Mayor Menino forwarded to the Boston City Council proposed amendments to the City of Boston Code that would require owners of many city buildings to report their energy and water use annually. That information would then be made available to the public – presumably so that the market can work its magic and informed consumers can put pressure on building owners to increase the efficiency of their buildings.… More
Combine New Gas Plants, Lower Gas Prices, and More Stringent Emission Controls and What Do You Get? Lower Emissions
- Total emissions of NOx, SO2, and CO2 have decreased by 12.1%, 29.5%, and 10.2% from 2010 to 2011
- Emission rates for NOx, SO2, and CO2 have decreased by 8.7%, 25.8%, and 5.9% over the same time period
As our observant readers will have inferred,… More
It was a busy week on the climate change front in Boston. First, RGGI announced a new Model Rule. Under the new Model Rule, summarized here, the 2014 cap would be reduced by 45%, from 165 million tons to 91 million tons. Because such a sharp decrease in allowances will be expected to cause an increase in allowance prices, RGGI has now provided a safety valve,… More
The New York Times reported today that Governor Cuomo is proposing to spend $400 million to buy out owners of property to avoid a recurrence of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. I have to say that I have been persuaded over the past few years that we cannot put all our eggs in the mitigation basket, particularly since political gridlock in Washington has prevented much mitigation from occurring.… More
This week’s auction of greenhouse gas allowances by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) marked the 18th in that organization’s history. According to the market monitor report published today, only 53% (19.7 million) of the 37.5 million allowances offered for sale by the 9 state group sold at the required floor price of $1.93, all to electric generators regulated by the carbon dioxide-capping program. Participation in the auction remained low at 29 bidders,… 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.
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
As a follow-up to my post earlier this month on BOEM’s release of the Environmental Assessment for the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area, I just thought that I would note that, according to Daily Environment Report, Maureen Bornholdt of BOEM announced earlier this week at a public hearing on the EA that BOEM expects to start auctioning leases for the WEA by the fall of 2013. … More
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
What happens when Superfund runs headlong into Mother Nature? Hurricane Sandy provides a vivid answer. As the New York Times reports today, Hurricane Sandy had a significant impact on the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site in Brooklyn, NY. The Canal was completed in 1869 and for over a century was the recipient of industrial discharges from mills, tanneries, and chemical plants resulting in what EPA describes as “one of the nation’s most heavily contaminated water bodies.” Contaminants include PCBs,… More
Another Step Forward for Offshore Wind: BOEM Releases Its EA for the Massachusetts Offshore Wind Energy Area
On Friday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released its Environmental Assessment for the Massachusetts outer continental shelf offshore Wind Energy Area. The EA does not permit construction of any turbines. It merely provides the basis for issuance of leases, pursuant to which the leaseholders would have the authority to perform the necessary detailed environmental and feasibility studies to determine whether to proceed with construction of turbines.… More
Two trade press reports today make clear how difficult it will be to put a price on carbon in the U.S. any time soon. First, today’s ClimateWire reported that climate skeptics are trying to preempt any effort by conservative budget-balancers to use a carbon tax to accomplish budget goals while still cutting income taxes. ClimateWire quotes Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute as saying that
We have to make the idea of a carbon tax toxic.… 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
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.
As most readers will know, last year,… More
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.… More
For those of you following the public trust climate litigation in New Mexico, Judge Sarah Singleton has now issued a written decision denying the state’s motion to dismiss the case. There is no discussion of the issues, but it did seem worth noting that Judge Singleton also denied the state’s request for immediate interlocutory appeal (though providing that the request could be renewed after summary judgment),… More
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
Last week, I noted that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that it had identified an area for commercial wind energy leasing offshore Massachusetts. This week, BOEM announced the availability of an Environmental Assessment to support commercial leases in an adjoining parcel offshore both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. (Couldn’t find a photo with good resolution. The figure is obviously in the EA,… More
Last month, Judge Robert Wilkins dismissed the federal public trust climate change law suit, Alec L. v. Jackson. Judge Wilkins ruled on two alternative grounds. First, he held that there was no federal public trust doctrine. Second, he held that, even if there ever had been, such public trust doctrine had been displaced by the federal Clean Air Act.
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
In RGGI News: Compliance is Up, Emissions are Down, Sales are Flat, and New Jersey and New Hampshire are Either In Or Out
There have been a number of news stories about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the last few weeks. First, nearly all of the 211 power plants subject to the requirements of RGGI’s first compliance period met their compliance obligations for 2009-2011. Only five facilities failed to hold enough allowances in their compliance accounts to cover their emissions from this period — four plants from New York,… More
BOEM Identifies a Wind Energy Area offshore Massachusetts: Will the Next Project Take Less Time Than Cape Wind?
Last Wednesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that it has identified an area offshore Massachusetts for commercial wind energy development. BOEM narrowed the area somewhat from what had been proposed, based on certain wildlife concerns. Although the identification of the area as part of the Department of the Interior’s Smart from the Start program will allow expedited permitting, individual projects by lessees would be subject to NEPA.… More
Yesterday, the District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the so-called “public trust” climate change law suit. I will certainly give the plaintiffs in these cases credit for both originality and persistence. Legal merit and good public policy are another matter.
In any case, the plaintiffs sued EPA and various other federal agencies, seeking a finding that the agencies have failed adequately to protect a public trust asset,… More
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
The first is that, as a policy matter, the deferral was absolutely the right thing to do. The science remains complex and not fully understood. Any regulations promulgated now are likely to be revised at some point. That kind of regulatory uncertainty is not any way to run an agency.… More
RGGI may not be particularly relevant, but it is not thereby a flawed system; surely it is not a failure. Rather, a great environmental success has been achieved by the “fortunate coincidence”… More
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
Massachusetts was one of the first states to launch an ambitious greenhouse gas reduction program, setting a 2020 goal of cutting emissions 25% from 1990 levels and a 2050 goal of an 80% reduction. With less than eight years to go before 2020, is the Commonwealth on track to measure up? According to a report released this week by think tank MassINC and the Clean Energy States Alliance,… More
Last week, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled (for the second time) that a CGL policy issued to AES Corporation did not require Steadfast Insurance to provide a defense to AES for claims brought again AES in Kivalina v. Exxon Mobil. The decision, in AES Corporation v. Steadfast Insurance, held simply that, based on the “eight corners” of the complaint and the insurance policy,… More
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
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
The auction held last Wednesday, March 14th, by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was the fifteenth held so far — making it seem far from novel — but as we highlighted in January, this first auction of RGGI’s second compliance period could provide interesting insight into the future of the program.
Last week, the Geneva Association, which describes itself as “the leading international insurance think tank for strategically important insurance and risk management issues,” issued a report entitled “Extreme events and insurance: 2011 annus horribilis.” Quick take-away? Insurance losses are growing. Why? While there were large earthquakes in 2011, the bigger long-term concerns are extreme weather events and an increasing number of people and resources located in areas subject to such events.… More
Since I already violated my rule against speculating on the outcome of a case based on oral argument, I might as well do it again. I have always said that EPA’s endangerment finding would survive judicial review and that conclusion seems only more likely to prove correct following yesterday’s oral argument before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Both the Daily Environment Report and GreenWire noted in their reporting on the argument that the groups challenging the rule emphasized that EPA had not considered the policy implications of making the endangerment finding. Of course. Precisely. That’s because the Clean Air Act itself divorces the endangerment finding from its policy implications. If there were any doubt about that,… More
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
Two years ago, in posting about the brouhaha over the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, I noted that self-righteousness among climate advocates does not help their cause. I harbor no illusions about how widely this blog is read, but the more recent foolishness committed by Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, in impersonating a board member of the Heartland Institute in order to obtain internal emails about their anti-climate change strategy,… More
Does Energy Efficient Technology Make Buildings More Energy Efficient? The Answer May Not Be So Obvious
ClimateWire had a fascinating story on Monday about federal efforts to increase the energy efficiency of buildings, which are estimated to consume about 40% of our nation’s energy. The story concerns the less than inspiringly-named Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy-Efficient Buildings, which is seeking to substantially alter how building owners think about energy efficiency and the use of technology.
The problem facing GPIC, as it is known,… More
Yesterday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a notice of availability for the Environmental Assessment it prepared in connection with the issuance of leases for wind energy development off the coast of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The EA includes a Finding of No Significant Impact, or FONSI. In other words, BOEM concluded that the issuance of leases does not require a full blown Environmental Impact Report.… More
The nine states still participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are getting ready for the first auction of RGGI’s second compliance period, scheduled for March 14th. In the auction notice released last week, they announced 4 changes to the program, and analysts are predicting there are far more significant changes to come — namely adjustments to the total emissions cap.
As readers of this blog know, the impact of EPA air rules, including in particular the Utility MACT rule, on the reliability of the nation’s electric grid has been the subject of much speculation. Last week, the Congressional Research Service weighed in, with the exciting headline: EPA’s Utility MACT: Will the Lights Go Out?” Of course, notwithstanding the sexy title, the CRS conclusion can be summarized pretty simply: the MACT rule will not cause the lights to go out. Money quote:
although the rule may lead to the retirement or derating of some facilities,… More
Is Massachusetts the NIMBY Capital of the World? What Will Be the Impact of the Wind Turbine Health Impact Study?
Yesterday, the “Independent Expert Panel” convened by MassDEP to review whether wind turbines cause any adverse health effects issued its report. I was pleased that the headline in the Boston Globe was that “Wind turbines don’t cause health problems.” Similarly, the Daily Environment Report headline was that “Massachusetts Study Finds ‘No Evidence’ of Health Impacts from Wind Turbines.”
I hope that that’s the way the report will be read,… More
Last Friday, noting a story about the extent to which concerns about sea level rise from climate change might affect development in East Boston, I wondered whether battles over whether and how to adapt to climate change might be moving from the realm of the hypothetical to the realm of the real. Climate Wire has now begun a series of stories on how cities are planning for climate change. This week,… More
A story in today’s Boston Globe makes clear that, at least in states where it is permissible to use the words “climate” and “change” in the same sentence, the battle over adaption may no longer be hypothetical. The neighborhood known as East Boston is one that might appropriately be described as having unfulfilled potential. Last month, at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Mayor Menino pledged to revive East Boston, specifically calling out five projects that have been on the drawing board for some time.… More
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today affirmed the decision by the Department of Public Utilities to approve the power purchase agreement, or PPA, between Cape Wind and National Grid. (Full disclosure: Foley Hoag represented the Department of Energy Resources in support of the contract before the DPU.) The decision doesn’t mean that Cape Wind will now get built. Given the (one hopes) temporary problems with the federal loan guarantee program and Cape Wind’s failure thus far to sell the rest of the power from the project,… More
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,… More
Yesterday, the Daily Environment Report noted the formation of the Coalition for Better Buildings, or C4BB, an alliance of environmental, business, and real estate interests intended to increase the incentives to make buildings more energy-efficient. Its members include real estate trade groups such as the Real Estate Roundtable and the Building Owners and Managers Association, as well as some heavyweight companies, such as Vornado. It also includes environmental groups such as the NRDC and companies who will look to profit from investments in building efficiency,… More
The most popular suite of tools to measure and manage greenhouse gases just got a lot more complete — allowing companies to track the impact of their products from natural resources and raw materials, through manufacturing, use and disposal, and providing a detailed framework to measure companies’ “everything else” Scope 3 emissions.
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative (a collaboration between the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development) finalized its two newest global greenhouse gas standards on October 4. The GHG Protocol are the most widely used suite of accounting tools for measuring,… More
As Greenwire reported, the Inspector General of the EPA recently released a report criticizing how the agency followed (and deviated from) procedures in publishing the Technical Support Document that underpinned its December 2009 Endangerment Finding. The IG was instructed to conduct this review at the order of Senator Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The review, which cost nearly $300,000,… More
The abandonment of any discussion of climate change in Washington has not been followed in Massachusetts. Yesterday, Rick Sullivan, the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, released the Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Report, providing the fruits of a lengthy process in Massachusetts to look at the impacts of climate change on five areas: Natural Resources and Habitat; Key Infrastructure; Human Health and Welfare; Local Economy and Government;… More
The Virginia Supreme Court decided on Friday that an insurer does not have a duty to defend its insured in the face of a climate change nuisance case, because intentional emissions, even if they have unintended results, are not an “accident” under the insurance policy. The case, AES Corp v. Steadfast Insurance Company, had been closely watched as the first of its kind, pitting the new breed of climate change defendants against their insurers.… More
In the Carbon Disclosure Project’s 2011 analysis of the largest 500 companies, the Global 500, there is a very interesting statistical trend — the companies who were the most strategically focused on accelerating low-carbon growth had returns from January 2005 to May 2011 that doubled the Global 500 as a whole, with returns totaling over 85%, compared to the 42.7% returns for the index. Even more amazingly,… More
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) celebrated its third anniversary by holding its 13th quarterly auction of carbon dioxide allowances on Wednesday. As today’s Market Monitor report highlights, although the number of bidders was up, the percentage of allowances purchased was down. Thirty-one bidders purchased just under 18% of the 42,189,685 current compliance period allowances offered for sale by the 10-state group (including New Jersey). These allowances, with vintage dates from 2010 and 2011,… More
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.… More
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule yesterday that would exempt carbon dioxide injected into underground carbon capture & storage (CCS) wells from regulation as hazardous waste, so long as the CO2 is held in wells designated for that purpose under the Safe Drinking Water Act. In its press release announcing the program, EPA noted that the purpose of the regulation — as well as its prior rulemakings under the Clean Air Act to require emissions reporting by CCS facilities,… 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).… More
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.
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. … More
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,… More
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
Demand for allowances in the nation’s only cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide emissions fell sharply last week. At the 12th Quarterly Auction of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), held on June 8th, 70% of the current compliance period allowances went unsold. As the RGGI Market Monitor Report highlights, with only 25 bidders participating in the auction of the 2009-2011 compliance period allowances, only 30% of the 42 million allowances offered for sale by the 10-state group (including New Jersey) were actually purchased at the floor price of $1.89. … More
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. … More
Late last week, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) filed with the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy of the state legislature proposed final amendments to the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) regulations governing the eligibility of woody biomass facilities and fuels to qualify to earn renewable energy credits (RECs). DOER originally issued a draft of these regulations in September 2010, and made revisions after receiving written comments and holding 2 public hearings. … More
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,… More
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,… More
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,… More
With cap and trade legislation dead in Congress, and the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations under siege in both the legislature and the courts, the Obama Administration is doing just about the only thing left to address climate change: adapt.
Actually, the science indicates that adaptation will be necessary regardless of how aggressively we are able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s only a matter of how much adaptation.… More
A year has passed since the SEC issued an interpretive release describing the kinds of climate change related disclosures that the Commission believes should be reported by all publicly traded companies, but many questions still remain regarding how to comply. With annual 10-K filings due at the end of this month, concrete examples of best practices in disclosures could be very helpful. Potentially useful is a new report by Ceres that examines the state of disclosures in FY 2009 SEC filings to identify specific examples of how well companies are disclosing information that is important to investors. … More
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,”… More
This week, the United States filed its brief in American Electric Power v. Connecticut. The brief is a nicely nuanced and persuasive argument for dismissal of plaintiffs’ public nuisance claims against five large power generators. The brief is nuanced in that it acknowledges that plaintiffs have Article III standing – allowing the Court to avoid reaching a constitutional standing issue – and provides a vehicle for the Court to avoid reaching the political question doctrine issue.… More
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. … More
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
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
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:
Based on the results from our emergence time scale analysis we urge extreme caution in attributing short term trends (i.e.,… More
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. … 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
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.… More
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.… More
Bill 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,… More
The 10th auction in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was held on December 1st. In honor of this significant round number, I give you the top 10 interesting facts about the 10th RGGI Auction, all of which are based on today’s market monitor report:
10) In the Auction, 24,755,000 allowances from the 2009-2011 compliance period sold for $1.86 each (the floor price);
9) … More
One thing supporters of coal will be thankful for tomorrow is this week’s announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it has finalized two rules governing the underground sequestration of carbon dioxide. Both rules are designed to support and facilitate the commercial development of safe, large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, perceived by many to be the best hope for the future use of coal.
The cap in the nation’s first mandatory cap-and-trade system is probably set too high. As reported by ClimateWire this morning, it seems increasingly likely that participants in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will easily meet and beat RGGI’s ultimate goal, even without any changes or reductions actually caused by the program.
RGGI’s initial aim was to cut CO2 emissions from large power plants in the 10-state region to 10% below 2005 levels by 2018. … More
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.
It’s certainly true that the GHG BACT Guidance says nothing particularly new about how permitting agencies should perform BACT reviews. … More
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,… More
Stop the presses: According to the Daily Environment Report, EPA’s director of the Office of Federal Activities, Susan Bromm, has acknowledged that concerns about climate change and environmental justice are “contributing to the size, cost, and time-consuming nature of environmental impact statements….” Nonetheless, Ms. Bromm apparently asserted that these "analyses do not have to be overwhelming,” and she blamed, at least in part, agencies which “overreact to the fear of litigation.”… More
The world of greenhouse gas reporting just got a little more interesting. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative (a collaboration between the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and involving the participation of hundreds of companies around the world), released their draft Scope 3 Accounting and Reporting Protocol on November 5th for stakeholder review. The Scope 3 protocol takes the form of two documents – the Product Accounting &… 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
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
High Stakes and Embryonic Law: FIELD Paper Analyzes Prospects for International Climate Change Litigation
With Kyoto Protocol commitments expiring in 2012, will international climate change litigation be used to push governments towards a binding international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? Does a country like Bangladesh, threatened with almost total submersion due to the impacts of sea level rise, have a case under public international law against major emitters such as the United States or China? These are some of the questions addressed in a working paper entitled International Climate Change Litigation and the Negotiation Process,… More
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.… 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,… More
A recent amendment to the EPA’s Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule (40 CFR part 98) requires companies that report their emissions to also provide information on corporate ownership, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, and whether any of the emissions come from a cogeneration unit. The goal behind collecting this information is to gain a better understanding of the aggregate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from corporations and specific industry sectors,… More
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?”
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auction program celebrated its second birthday this week by holding the 9th regional auction of CO2 allowances. As today’s report highlights, the auction brought a bittersweet first for the 10-state program: unsold allowances from both the current and future regulatory periods. Bidders bought only 75% of the 45.6 million 2010-vintage allowances offered and just 61% of the 2013-vintage allowances, with both auctions closing at the mandatory floor price of $1.86.… More
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
The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced two items in the last week that, while not related, could both spell large changes in the US energy future and create huge boon to the natural gas industry, if they pan out.
The first is an announcement on Wednesday that the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has developed a method of freezing natural gas which could both lower the cost of transportation of natural gas and allow access to vast amounts of the world’s gas resources.… More
In February, President Obama tasked the Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage with the ambitious goal of overcoming the barriers to widespread, cost-effective deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) within the next 10 years. As the first bold step, the 14-agency and executive department group released its findings in a report on August 12.
The report concludes that widespread cost-effective deployment of CCS will only occur if the technology is commercially available (i.e.… More
With the abandonment of federal climate change legislation by the Senate last month, EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act (CAA) have taken on even greater importance for the estimated 15,500 emission sources nationwide expected to be affected by the new rules. Yesterday, the U.S. EPA announced a pair of proposed rules to help ensure the implementation of permitting requirements for GHGs,… More
What do a coal-fired power plant in Meredosia, Illinois and a National Park in Ecuador’s Amazonian jungle have in common? Carbon sequestration — albeit of two very different kinds. Last week, while the U.S. government made a major funding commitment to a project aimed at capturing carbon dioxide emissions from the stack of a coal fired power plant in the Midwest, the government of Ecuador took steps towards preventing the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels in the first place by signing an agreement that would keep a significant chunk of its oil reserves locked underground.… More
EPA shows no signs of slowing down in its efforts to use the Clean Air Act’s PSD/NSR provisions as an enforcement club. The latest target in EPA’s crosshairs is the Detroit Edison Monroe Power Plant. Late last month, DOJ filed a complaint alleging violations of PSD/NSR requirements in connection with a project to replace the high temperature reheater and the economizer at Monroe Unit 2. … More
The good news is that EPA is relying on good science. The bad news is that the science says things will keep getting worse.
After several months of review, on July 29, EPA denied 10 petitions to reconsider its 2009 Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. The petitions, which were filed by, among others, the attorneys general of Texas and Virginia and the US Chamber of Commerce,… More
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.… More
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). … More
Not surprisingly, the secondary market price for Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) allowances fell for the 4th quarter of 2009, as noted by RGGI Market Monitor Potomac Economics in their recent report. Trading in RGGI allowances futures declined from 319 million allowances in the third quarter of 2009 to 127 million in the fourth quarter, despite the number of firms participating remaining the same. Futures prices also declined 8% —… More
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
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.
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.
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. … More
In the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) eighth auction of CO2 credits on June 9th, the clearing prices were the lowest yet – $1.88 for 2009-2011 credits and the auction floor of $1.86 for 2012-2014 allowances. Despite these low prices, the auctions still brought in some $80 million. In total, cumulative RGGI proceeds to be used by the 10 participating states for renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-income energy assistance programs now total $662.8 million.… More
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.
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. … More
Last Friday, the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued an order – boggling the minds of lawyers and non-lawyers alike – dismissing the plaintiffs’ appeal in Comer v. Murphy Oil, one of the climate change nuisance cases. As the order and dissents make clear, it’s quite a set of circumstances. The District Court dismissed the case. A panel of the 5th Circuit reversed.… More
By now we are all familiar with the criteria for robust carbon offsets:real, additional, verifiable, enforceable, permanent. But what exactly do those criteria mean? And how should a cap-and-trade program be designed to ensure that they are met?
Earlier this month the three regional U.S. greenhouse gas programs released a white paper which sets out their answers. In Ensuring Offset Quality: Design and Implementation Criteria for a High-Quality Offset Program,… More
In 1972, Christopher Stone published his seminal book “Should Trees Have Standing?” That same year, Justice Douglas posed essentially the same question in his dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton, in which he argued that inanimate objects should have standing “to sue for their own preservation.”
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.… More
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
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.… More
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
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. … More
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,… More
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. … More
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.… More
What will happen to state and regional energy and carbon-related regulations if (perhaps when) federal climate legislation is enacted? If the Attorneys General of California and 6 New England and Mid-Atlantic states have anything to say about it, very little.
Now that the SEC has indicated that public companies should be considering climate change in evaluating financial risks, the pressing questions include what should be evaluated and how it should be reported. ASTM’s newly released standard on Financial Disclosures Attributed to Climate Change, E2718-10 may be just the thing. The standard, which has been under development for the last 2 years, provides guidance on processes for identifying,… More
Just over a year ago, we noted the surprising, unanimous decision by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to adopt rules requiring insurers to publicly disclose the impacts of climate change on their business decisions, to begin May 1, 2010. Well, not so fast. As Climate Wire reported, at Sunday’s NAIC meeting, a the commissioners voted 27-22 to make the disclosure rules optional for states to adopt,… 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
Last week, I noted that Gina McCarthy, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, suggested that, in the short run, the most significant pressure on inefficient energy sources would come, not from climate change legislation or from EPA GHG regulations, but instead from all of the conventional pollutant regulations that EPA expects to promulgate that will make use of coal much more expensive. While Gina was referring to a variety of air regulations,… More
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,… More
Despite the relatively low clearing prices in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) seventh auction of CO2 credits on March 10th — $2.07 for 2009-2011 allowances, and the auction floor price of $1.86 for 2012-2014 allowances – cumulative RGGI proceeds to be used by the 10 participating states for renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-income energy assistance programs now total $582.3 million.
Traditional Pollutants Definitely Still Matter: EPA’s Draft Review Recommends More Stringent Particulate Standards
Last week, I posted about improvements in air quality since 1990. It’s a good thing air quality is improving, because, at the same time, the science keeps suggesting that ever lower pollutant levels pose risks to public health. The latest news was EPA’s draft review of the appropriate level at which to set the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for particulate matter.
EPA most recently revised the PM standard in 2006,… More
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,… More
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,… More
Seemingly just in time to lend support to the revived idea of a carbon tax that we noted on Monday, an Obama Administration inter-agency workgroup has released a report that attempts to do the critical math necessary to put a price tag on CO2 emissions.
The report sets out four dollar figures that represent the “social cost of carbon,” or the potential damages associated with not stopping the emissions of each incremental ton of CO2. … More
To date, the only circuit courts that have reviewed public nuisance claims related to climate change, the Second Circuit, in American Electric Power, and the Fifth Circuit, in Comer v. Murphy Oil, have ruled that such suits can proceed. However, last week the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided to hear Comer v. Murphy Oil en banc,… More
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,… More
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,… More
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
The grand total is 16 separate challenges to EPA’s endangerment finding, according to Greenwire. I’m not one of those lawyers who regularly bash the legal profession. I still recall my law school professor, Henry Hansmann, stating that the role of lawyers is in fact to be transaction-cost minimizers, and I think that that is largely true. That being said, I am certainly wondering what all of this litigation is about.… More
Late last week, the CEQ issued its long-awaited draft Guidance on how to factor climate change into NEPA reviews. CEQ explicitly stated the draft is not effective at this time. CEQ will take comment for 90 days and “intends to expeditiously issue this Guidance in final form” after close of the comment period. Assuming CEQ does so, it will join several states, including California, New York,… More
Earlier this week, the Southeastern Legal Foundation filed a petition for review of the EPA Endangerment Finding with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. It’s not really surprising that someone filed suit, but the list of plaintiffs is interesting – though more for who is not on it than who is. There is not a single Fortune 500 company on the list of plaintiffs. Whether that speaks to the larger corporations doubting the merits of the challenge or simply making a strategic decision that it is not worth it to be associated with the litigation,… More
For those of you who missed it, the SEC finally issued an interpretive release last week clarifying public company disclosure obligations concerning climate change. Rather than rehash it here, I am instead linking to the client alert that we did on the topic.
It is worth noting that, as mentioned in the alert, the release has engendered significant political controversy. Indeed, ranking member Spencer Bachus sent a letter to the SEC questioning the appropriateness of the release. My favorite question in the letter:
Do you believe the Commission’s role is to promote a social policy agenda through the securities laws and regulations?… More
Until now, I haven’t posted about the climate change email brouhaha. I haven’t thought it mattered. I didn’t think it affected the underlying validity of climate change science and I still don’t. That science seems overwhelming to me.
However, I have concluded that the email issue matters. Yesterday’s ClimateWire reported that climate scientists had repeatedly ducked Freedom of Information Act requests, in ways that demonstrate an astounding degree of arrogance. Here’s the money quote from Phil Jones,… More
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
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued interpretive guidance yesterday which requires publicly traded companies to consider the impacts of climate change – both the physical damage it could cause, as well as the economic impacts of domestic and international greenhouse gas emissions-reduction rules – and disclose those risks to investors. As we noted when discussing the potential for this announcement in October, the disclosure requirements are likely to affect companies in a wide range of industries.… More
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
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
Shortly before the holidays, EPA Administrator Jackson issued an Order in response to a challenge to a combined Title V / PSD permit issued by the Kentucky Division for Air Quality to an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, or IGCC, plant. The Order upheld the challenge, in part, on the ground that neither the permittee nor KDAQ had adequately justified why the BACT analysis for the facility did not include consideration of full-time use of natural gas notwithstanding that the plant is an IGCC facility. … More
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 to the rapid development and deployment of clean coal technology.”… More
On Tuesday, District Judge Roger Titus issued an injunction against the construction of the Beech Ridge Energy wind project – 122 wind turbines along 23 miles of Appalachian ridgelines – unless the project can obtain an incidental take permit, or ITP, under the Endangered Species Act. Judge Titus concluded, after a four-day trial, that operation of the turbines would cause a “take” of the endangered Indiana Bat.… More
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.… More
The states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) announced the results of their 6th quarterly auction, held on December 2nd, which brought in the lowest prices for carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances yet. Wednesday’s auction also marks the first time that RGGI allowances offered for sale outnumbered demand. Only 1.6 million of the roughly 2.1 million allowances for the 2012 vintage sold at RGGI’s required price floor of $1.86.… 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
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.… More
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.… More
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. … More
My post on the Portland Climate Action Plan has gotten some reaction, which I take as a good thing. For as reasoned a defense of local climate action as is possible in the space of a blog post, take a look at Holly Doremus’s response in Legal Planet, the Law and Environmental Policy Blog. If the Portland plan really were just about filling in the interstices and addressing local issues,… More
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,… More
The US Securities and Exchange Commission released a staff bulletin yesterday that reverses a Bush administration policy that excluded shareholder resolutions which asked companies to disclose their climate-related financial exposure. While not the rule-making we discussed last week, this could be a significant change for the boards of large companies who may now be forced to respond to shareholder concerns about the risks that greenhouse gases and climate change can create.… More
A few weeks ago, we noted EPA’s release of its long-awaited “Tailoring Rule,” specifying how EPA would apply its PSD program under existing Clean Air Act authority to greenhouse gases, once they definitively become a regulated pollutant under the CAA some time next spring. Today, the proposed rule was published in the Federal Register. Comments are due December 28. More
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,… More
Waxman-Markey. Boxer-Kerry. Public nuisance litigation. EPA regulation under existing authority. What’s next in the arsenal of weapons against climate change? How about including climate change impacts in reviews under NEPA?
In February 2008, the International Center for Technology Assessment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club petitioned the CEQ to “clarify” its regulations to require the assessment of potential climate change impacts in environmental reviews performed under NEPA. CEQ has not yet formally responded to the petition,… More
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is re-examining its rules regarding whether companies should or must disclose climate change related risks. According to an article in ClimateWire, revisions could be issued by the end of October. On Friday, SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter said that SEC staff are working on preparing recommendations, and two options are still on the table. One option is a rule-making that would set specific rules for disclosing climate risks.… More
Two more decisions were released last week concerning whether nuisance claims could be brought with respect to harm alleged to have resulted from private conduct contributing to climate change. First, in Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corporation, the District Court dismissed nuisance claims. Second, in Comer v. Murphy Oil, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a District Court dismissal of nuisance claims related to damage resulting from Hurricane Katrina.… More
New York Governor Patterson last week announced a plan to divert $90 million in funds raised from New York’s share of RGGI auctions to deficit reduction. The reaction was not positive from environmental NGOs, who are understandably concerned about the “precedent-setting nature of this move.”
It shouldn’t really be surprising in these times of fiscal challenge for state governments. It’s no different than what happened with the diversion of money from tobacco settlements away from smoking prevention programs to deficit reduction.… More
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 &… More
On Thursday, EPA issued its long-awaited proposed rule describing how thresholds would be set for regulation of GHG sources under the existing Clean Air Act PSD authority. Having waded through the 416-page proposal, I’m torn between the appropriate Shakespeare quotes to describe it: “Much ado about nothing” or “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”
First, notwithstanding its length, the proposal is quite limited in scope. … More
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,… More
EPA released its final version of the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule today. The Rule (which we blogged about in its draft form here) will require large emitters of greenhouse gases to begin collecting emissions data on January 1, 2010 and file their first self-certified reports in March 2011. The EPA will then verify the data, as in other Clean Air Act programs. The new program will cover approximately 85% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and apply to roughly 10,000 facilities,… More
Another Nuisance For the Generating Industry: The 2nd Circuit Reinstates the GHG Public Nuisance Suit
On Monday, the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit finally issued a decision in Connecticut v. American Electric Power Company, reversing the District Court decision which had dismissed this public nuisance law suit against six large generating companies. The decision is notable in a number of different respects and may have far-reaching implications
On Tuesday, EPA announced its intention to issue new effluent guidelines for the Steam Electric Power Generating industry by sometime in 2012. The announcement follows an EPA study in 2008 which indicated that toxic metals, particularly those collected as part of flue gas desulfurization processes, can pose a problem in facility effluent. EPA’s announcement is not particularly surprising, given the ongoing study and given that EPA has not revised the guidelines since 1982. Indeed,… More
As BNA reported this morning, at yesterday’s Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in New Brunswick, the six New England governors adopted The New England Governors’ Renewable Energy Blueprint. Through this plan, the governors of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont agreed to speed regional development of renewable energy by coordinating state reviews of proposed interstate transmission lines and synchronizing solicitation and decisions on power procurement and long-term energy contracts. … More
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,… More
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has released the clearing prices from its 5th quarterly auction of CO2 allowances, held on September 9, 2009. Prices for the 28.4 million 2009 vintage allowances sold fell sharply from the June auction’s clearing price of $3.23 to $2.19, and the 2.1 million 2012 vintage allowances sold for only $1.87, just one cent above the market floor of $1.86, and well below the $3.05 that they earned at the March 2009 auction,… More
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. … More
According to an article by BNA published this morning, EPA may soon act to apply the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) provisions of the Clean Air Act to facilities that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Presumably, EPA’s action is either an effort to exert leverage on Congress to pass pending climate change legislation or to ensure that GHG are regulated in the event that legislation doesn’t pass —… More
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.… More
As most readers know, Massachusetts and California have been leading the pack in requiring analysis of greenhouse gas impacts in connection with reviews of new development. Now, New York State is catching up. This week, the Department of Environmental Conservation, or DEC, released its Policy on Assessing Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Environmental Impact Statements. The policy is certainly similar to the Massachusetts Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policy and Protocol. Nonetheless,… More
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.… More
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) yesterday published a final amendment to the first set of Global Warming Solutions Act regulations, 310 CMR 7.71. These regulations set a baseline for Massachusetts’ 1990 emissions and create a reporting system that will track emissions going forward, providing a framework for economy-wide reductions of 10% to 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The regulations are the first phase of implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act,… More
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. … More
In the category of dog bites man, EPA today announced it was granting the State of California a waiver that will allow California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The granting of the waiver was expected after Obama’s election and became pretty much inevitable after the administration announced in February that it was reconsidering the waiver request.
Substantively, it is not clear that the waiver matters that much,… More
At the fourth auction of CO2 allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) on June 17, participation was certified as robust by market monitor Potomac Economics, but auction prices decreased. Last week’s clearing price for 2009 vintage CO2 allowances was $3.23 per allowance, only slightly above the clearing price of $3.07 at RGGI’s initial auction in September 2008, and below March’s clearing price of $3.51. The 2.1 million 2012 vintage allowances offered for sale in last week’s action sold for $2.06,… More
Thinking about how to take advantage of funding for energy efficiency retrofits from the federal stimulus package, state-level programs like Massachusetts’ Green Communities Act, or even utility-funded programs? You should also think about whether your actions will create another income stream – offsets under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – and whether taking funds will prohibit the creation of offsets when the project is finished.
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 —… More
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”… More
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,… More
A Late Entry Into the Climate Change Sweepstakes: The Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord Cap-and-Tax Approach
Apparently in an effort to demonstrate to Congress that coal states also support greenhouse gas regulation, the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord last week released draft design recommendations for a GHG program. Several facets of this announcement are interesting:
- The Waxman-Markey bill would basically preclude the MGGRA from implementing its program.
- If the point of the effort is to demonstrate to Congress that coal states indeed do support GHG regulation,…
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) –… More
The competition between the states on who can move more aggressively in regulating greenhouse gases continues. Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards voted to approve a “Stretch” Building Code. The Stretch Code can be adopted locally by municipal option. Where adopted, buildings will have to be 20% more efficient than what would be required under the ASHRAE 2007 standard.
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. …
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,… More
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 that these are difficult issues,… More
For those of you who aren’t convinced that Senator Specter’s defection to the Democrats will be the savior of cap and trade legislation, and who are concerned by Senator Durbin’s recent pronouncement that, at this point, there are not 60 votes in the Senate, the question as to how EPA might regulate greenhouse gases under existing authority has taken on greater importance.
The traditional assumption,… More
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.
This morning, EPA issued a proposed finding that greenhouse gasses contribute to air pollution and may endanger public health or welfare. The proposed finding comes almost exactly two years after the Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA, ordered the agency to examine whether emissions linked to climate change should be curbed under the Clean Air Act, and marks a major shift in the federal government’s approach to global warming.… More
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.… More
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.… More
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. … More
As we mentioned yesterday, the discussion draft of the Waxman-Markey “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” which was released on Tuesday is notable both for what it includes and the significant portions it leaves to be decided at a later date.
In summary, the bill contains four titles:
- a “clean energy” title, which promotes renewable energy through a portfolio standard of 6% in 2012 rising to 25% by 2025,…
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,… More
The results of EPA’s annual auction of sulfur dioxide (SO2) allowances under the acid rain program provide empirical support for a proposition that the regulated community repeatedly advances – certainty is critical to the success of complex regulatory regimes. Prices for 2009 allowances fell from last year’s average of $380/ton to $70/ton, or more than 80%. Prices in the 7 year advance auction fell even more dramatically, from $136/ton in 2008 to $6.65/ton,… More
The Empire Strikes Back? Revenge on the NIMBYs? Whatever you want to call it, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce now has a great new web site, called Project No Project, which lists energy projects which have been stalled by local opposition. The site lists project by state and by type, and explains the status of the project, who the opponents are, and what its prospects seem to be.
It is good to see the Chamber join the digital age and adopt some of the methods of those on the other side of these battles.… More
A recent post of mine concerning Congressional testimony by Phil Giudice, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, in support of a national building code requiring significant improvements in energy efficiency, has apparently caused heartburn among some of my friends in the development community in Massachusetts. Some folks have asked if I have “drunk the kool-aid.” My selfish responses to these comments are, first, that I’m glad some one is reading the blog and,… More
RGGI, Inc. the operators of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) today announced the results of its third auction of CO2 allowances, held on March 18, 2009. The auction offered allowances from all ten states participating in RGGI — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
An update to a development we noted a few weeks ago — as reported by Climate Wire today, at the national meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) yesterday, regulatory officials from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) unanimously voted in favor of rules requiring insurers to disclose the impacts of climate change on their business decisions. … More
Greenwire reported yesterday that EPA plans to issue its endangerment finding on emissions of greenhouses gases, in response to Massachusetts v. EPA, by the end of April. Greenwire also released EPA’s internal presentation regarding its recommendation to the Administrator.
Although EPA’s anticipated decision is not a surprise, it is still noteworthy. Among the highlights:
- The finding will conclude that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health (the proposed endangerment finding that the Bush administration EPA had prepared,…
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed regulations which create the first nationwide system for reporting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted by major sources in the US. The proposed regulations are promulgated pursuant to the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act which was signed into law in December 2007, and instructs the EPA to require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors of the economy.… More
As the New York Times reported on Friday, New York Governor David Paterson may increase the number of carbon allowances that New York gives to power plants for free, creating a significant policy departure from New York’s earlier approach to RGGI. New York, together with seven other RGGI states, had earlier committed to auction nearly 100% of its allowances. As such, New York gave away only a small portion of its allowances this year (1.5 million out of 62 million) through a program designed to lessen the impact of RGGI on the price of electricity. Paterson’s proposed adjustment would increase that number four-fold,… More
Energy Efficient Building Codes: What’s Sauce for the Massachusetts Goose is Sauce for the National Gander
We previously noted efforts by Massachusetts to require greater energy efficiency in new construction through revisions to the state building code. The Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act requires adoption of a more energy efficient code. Massachusetts is also pursuing an even more aggressive “Stretch” code, that municipalities would have the option of adopting.
As we noted last week, President Obama’s budget includes revenue from auctioning 100% of allowances under a cap-and-trade system. ClimateWire today reports two competing versions of the prospects for a 100% auction approach. First, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy signed up a number of economists, including Franklin Fisher of MIT, in support of the President’s plan to auction all allowances from the get-go. Part of the argument reflects environmental justice concerns,… More
Obama Budget Proposal Includes Revenue From Auctioning 100% of CO2 Allowances Under a Cap and Trade Plan
In the budget proposal that President Obama will send to Congress today, the administration has included revenue from auctions of 100% of allowances that will be issued as part of an economy-wide, mandatory cap-and-trade program. It’s a lot of money and the administration has big plans for it.
As highlighted in the President’s joint address to Congress on Tuesday night, the cap-and-trade program is expected to bring in billions of dollars per year.… More
Strange as it sounds, the next industry group to take substantive action on climate change might just be insurers. In Tuesday’s key vote by the Climate Change and Global Warming Task Force of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 18 state insurance commissioners voted to approve rules requiring insurers to disclose the impacts of climate change on their business decisions. If the rules are approved by the full committee in March, and each state adopts them,… More
As Congress considers approaches to climate change legislation, with pragmatists seeming generally to support a cap and trade system, while purists support a carbon tax, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has now weighed in with a new approach: How about both?
Although Massachusetts dithered a bit at the end of the Romney administration, it rejoined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Emission under Governor Patrick in time to participate in the first auction under the RGGI cap and trade program. Last week,… More
We posted recently about the revival of EPA’s NSR enforcement program. Now, yet another shoe has dropped. The Center for Biological Diversity has announced the creation of the Climate Law Institute, the purpose of which is to use citizen law suits under existing laws to advance regulations intended to address climate change. The press release states that the Institute has $17 million in funding with which to pursue its mission.… More
Among energy efficiency advocates, “decoupling” is the word of the day. Last year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued an order decoupling utility rates from sales volume, joining California on the front lines of this issue. The point of decoupling is to eliminate utilities’ rate-based incentive simply to sell more and more power, thus making it easier for utilities to get behind demand management measures.
Congress is now grappling with the decoupling issue as it considers whether to require that states implement decoupling as a quid pro quo for stimulus money related to energy efficiency and conservation. Last week,… More
Recently, I posted about Governor Schwarzenegger’s efforts to suspend the California version of NEPA with respect to economic stimulus infrastructure projects. Today’s news concerning the impact of the current economic downturn on an ambitious environmental agenda comes from the other coast. Massachusetts has been attempting to rival California in its commitment to a green energy economy, but the Boston Globe today reported on concerns about the Commonwealth’s ability to achieve its green energy goals. My friend Rob Stavins of Harvard is quoted in the Globe as saying that the factors affecting the Commonwealth’s ability to achieve its goals —… More
While Congress considers climate change regulations, and states pursue regional cap and trade plans, it becomes apparent that the number of different ways to regulate carbon emissions is limited only by the creativity of those doing the regulating. Last week, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a certificate of need for the construction of transmission lines necessary to carry power from a new coal-fired plant, known as Big Stone II,… More
Sometimes it seems as though the days for coal are short. With a new administration that seems truly committed to addressing climate change, it can be difficult to envision a long-run future.
Other days, coal, like Citigroup, seems too big to fail. Today, I’m in the latter camp. Yesterday, Zurich Financial Group announced that it would provide insurance to cover risks associated with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects. It’s one thing for Congress,… More
In a decision that could have significant impact on states’ efforts to limit cross-border pollution, Judge Lacy Thornburg of the District Court for the Western District of North Carolina issued an affirmative injunction against the TVA this week, requiring it to install pollution control equipment at its facilities located nearest to North Carolina and imposing specific emissions limits from those facilities. The basis for the injunction was a finding,… More
RGGI, Inc. announced today that its third auction of CO2 allowances will be held on March 18, 2009, and will offer allowances from all ten states participating in RGGI – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. The sealed bid format and the reserve price of $1.86 remain the same as the previous two auctions, but one big change is in the works.… More
It’s now de rigueur to say that there is no conflict between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. President-elect Obama said so himself as recently as December 15, when he introduced members of his environmental and energy team. Certainly, in a perfect world, where information is free and everyone agrees on the economic value to be placed on protecting environmental interests, that would be true as a matter of definition.… More
Getting Out Ahead of the Curve on the Green Building Front: EPA Announces Voluntary Agreement With Cushman & Wakefield
We have previously noted that efforts to achieve economy-wide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will necessarily go beyond the electricity generating sector. One obvious target will have to be greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, which EPA estimates account for 17 percent of U.S. carbon emissions.
Although there have been efforts, particularly in California and Massachusetts, to use state NEPA analogues to control carbon emissions from new projects going forward,… More
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report on Friday that concludes that the cuts in emissions from power plants within the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) region may be compromised by power generated outside the RGGI region and imported into the region. This problem is called "leakage" in carbon-capping jargon, and it is a problem for which RGGI, Inc. has never found a satisfying solution.
The UCS report highlights that although RGGI caps the emissions of power plants in 10 Northeastern states,… More
As we previously noted, the recent Environmental Appeals Board decision in the Deseret Power matter raised the possibility that CO2 and other greenhouse gases need to be considered in PSD reviews. On December 18, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson issued an interpretation which concluded that GHG still do not need to be considered in PSD reviews.
RGGI, Inc., the operators of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) announced today that the second auction has proceeded smoothly and as planned. All 31,505,898 allowances offered for sale at Auction 2 on December 17 were purchased at a clearing price of $3.38 per allowance. This price is above the first RGGI auction’s clearing price of $3.07, and in line with recent prices for RGGI futures on the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange,… More
Massachusetts and California seem to be neck-and-neck in the race to be the first state to cap greenhouse gases economy-wide.
Massachusetts issued emergency regulations last week which create the first phase of a mandatory reporting program, thus taking the title of first state to implement the beginnings of an economy-wide cap and trade plan. The regulations commence January 1, 2009, so Massachusetts facilities that might need to report should read Foley Hoag’s Client Alert on the new regulations very soon.… More
On the eve of the second RGGI auction, it is reasonable to ask what the trend is in CO2 emissions in the RGGI states. Environment Northeast just issued a report which seeks to answer that question. According to ENE, which utilized data from EPA and the RGGI states, CO2 emissions in the RGGI states through the third quarter of 2008 are trending 16 percent below the RGGI cap.… More
As we have noted, there have been a number of arguments regarding the implications of a decision by EPA to utilize current Clean Air Act authority to regulate greenhouse gases. The Chamber of Commerce has been in the “sky is falling” camp. Nonetheless, environmentalists are already pressing President-elect Obama to regulate greenhouse gases under the CAA, without waiting for what could be a lengthy legislative process.
As the reality of climate change begins to hit home – and as the economy continues to weaken – one issue that may ultimately prove critical in how we respond may be how corporations account for the financial impacts of climate change. Now ASTM is getting into the act. ASTM is working on a standard, titled “Financial Disclosures Attributed to Climate Change,” to provide guidance on the issue.
ASTM has something of a track record in setting environmental standards. Its guidance on doing Phase I site assessments has dictated practice in that area to the point that it was essentially written into EPA’s brownfields regulations. Time will tell whether the financial disclosure standard has the same impact.… More
In October 2007, the Massachusetts MEPA office issued its Greenhouse Gas (“GHG”) Policy, requiring certain limited categories of projects subject to MEPA to assess the GHG impacts of those projects and include mitigation of those impacts in the environmental impact review. In short, projects with obvious traffic or air emissions impacts were subject to the policy.
That did not take long. When I first drafted the introduction to this blog, I included text inviting people to notify us if, God forbid, I made a mistake. The powers that be vetoed that language, apparently on the basis that it was not possible for a Foley lawyer to make a mistake.
Well, the blog’s been up for less than a week, and I have received my first such notice. In my post yesterday about the Governor’s announcement regarding changes to the state building code,… More
In Massachusetts, officials are continuing to try to walk the climate change walk as well as talking the talk. Today, Governor Patrick and Secretary of Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles announced a program to encourage installation of solar panels on roofs and big box stores and other commercial buildings with flat roofs that are larger than 50,000 square feet.
Initially, the program will be voluntary, but there is no question that this is part of a broader effort by the administration to make energy efficiency a central issue in building design and construction. It is of a piece with the issuance of the greenhouse gas policy issued by the Commonwealth’s MEPA office and the requirement recently imposed by the Department of Public Health to require consideration of energy efficiency in making determinations of need for health care facilities.… More
In the struggle to control greenhouse gases, one debate has been which should come first, innovation or regulation. The Bush administration, of course, came down firmly on the side of innovation. It invested money – though many argued, not enough – in developing energy efficient technologies or means of controlling greenhouse gas emissions, but it fought to end against regulation of CO2 as a pollutant.
From a theoretical point of view,… More
In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court concluded that greenhouse gases, including CO2, are “air pollutants,” the it left (barely) open the question whether CO2 is “subject to regulation” under the Clean Air Act (“CAA”).
Following Massachusetts v. EPA, there have been a number of cases in which advocates of climate change regulation have sought to require EPA to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. One of those cases,… More
Opening yet another front in the effort to force EPA to take more aggressive action to combat global warming, the Environmental Defense Fund recently announced its intent to sue EPA for its failure to update emissions standards with respect to emissions of methane from landfills. As EDF has alleged, Section 111 of the Clean Air Act requires that EPA update its New Source Performance Standards every eight years.… More
The operators of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, announced today that all of the 12,565,387 CO2 allowances offered for sale at the first RGGI auction on September 25 have been purchased at a relatively low price of $3.07 per allowance. This is only marginally above the auction reserve price of $1.86 per allowance, and below recent prices on the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange.
RGGI did not announce the names of the winning bidders,… More
EPA has publicly taken the position that the current Clean Air Act is ill-suited to regulation of CO2 as a pollutant. In an advance notice of proposed rulemaking. EPA stated that regulation of greenhouse gases “could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land.” (Of course, proponents of regulation of greenhouse gases under the CAA might say that that is precisely what is needed to address the problem of global climate change.)
Given EPA’s stated reluctance to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases under the CAA,… More
Since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, Congress, EPA, state regulators, environmentalists, and industry groups have been trying to determine what it would mean to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act. While both presidential candidates are on record as supporting some kind of climate change legislation, the currently proposed legislation is extraordinarily complex and there are certainly no guarantees that legislation will in fact be enacted any time soon.… More