Yesterday, the Biden-Harris administration outlined in a fact sheet its priorities for permitting reform to accelerate the build-out of America’s energy infrastructure “faster, safer, and cleaner.” The fact sheet provides an endorsement of the Building American Energy Security Act of 2023, establishes several major objectives for permitting reform, provides several recommendations to streamline federal permitting processes, and urges Congress to include the objectives and recommendations as part of bipartisan permitting reform legislation.… More
Category Archives: Energy Policy
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
BLM Approves the TransWest Express Transmission Project; This Is Good News and We Need More of It
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.
According to EnergyWire (subscription required), the notice to proceed was issued a mere 18 years after the project was first initiated. … More
U.S. DOE Announces $3.5 Billion to Accelerate Direct Air Capture Commercialization
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
Massachusetts to Require Disclosure of Energy Usage from Large Buildings
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
Coming soon to Massachusetts cities and towns: all electric buildings
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
Wondering How States Will Respond to West Virginia v. EPA? Massachusetts Provides An Early Answer
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.
The Battle Over California’s Authority to Set Vehicle Emission Standards Continues
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
Maura Healey Has a Climate Plan: Is It Too Ambitious Or Not Ambitious Enough?
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
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
Foley Hoag to Host Webinar on New York’s Climate Plan
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
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
New York Releases Much Awaited Roadmap for Deploying 10 Gigawatts of Distributed Solar by 2030
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
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Part 2: Investing in Transmission
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
Infrastructure Package Makes New Investments in the Electric Transportation Future
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
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
TCI Update: Final Model Rule Addresses EJ, but Political Will May Be Lacking
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
50% By 2030 — The Administration Is Figuring Out How to Actually Get There
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
The Biden Administration’s Undoing Project Continues — A Flawed Interior Interpretation is Jettisoned
On Friday, the Principal Deputy Solicitor at the Department of Interior issued a memorandum on how DOI should balance the criteria in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in issuing leases for offshore wind. The new memorandum replaces one issued by the Trump Administration following the November election.
The Trump Administration memorandum, which could have simply been titled the “We Hate Offshore Wind Memorandum,” basically treated each of the criteria in the statute as vetoes,… More
Federal Offshore Wind Plan Boosts State Efforts in Massachusetts
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
Is a New Electricity Grid in Our Future? President Biden Thinks So.
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.…
Massachusetts Climate Legislation Becomes Law — The Future of Everything
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
The Massachusetts Climate Bill is Very Much “Not Dead”
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.
Last week, the Legislature passed a new version of the bill, which adopted most of the Governor’s technical suggestions and almost none of his substantive changes. … More
FERC Considers GHG Emissions in a Gas Pipeline Review — Everyone Is Unhappy
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
It’s Fair to Say At This Point That Climate Change Is a Priority For This Administration
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
President Biden Pulls the Plug on Keystone XL — Let’s Make Sure It Sets the Right Precedent
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
There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.
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.”
In his Veto Letter,… More
Massachusetts Starts 2021 With a Bang on Climate
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
Massachusetts Releases Its 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap — It’s Going to Be Quite a Trip
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
It’s Going to Take a While to Get to Net Zero
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.
I commented on this project a few months ago,… More
Judge Skavdahl Doth Protest Too Much — And Wrongly Vacates BLM’s Methane Rule
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
The New Midas Touch — Everything He Touches Turns To Dung
Everyone noticed when President Trump issued an order earlier this month banning offshore oil and gas drilling in certain areas until 2032. It was obvious to everyone that this was a campaign stunt, intended to improve his changes in Florida and North Carolina. Of course, pretty much no one wants drilling in these areas and the order wouldn’t have been necessary but for Trump’s prior declaration that he was going to open up those areas to drilling.… More
EPA Rolls Back Obama Methane Rules; I Coin a Phrase: “Regulatory Whiplash”
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
Alaska Oil Drilling Climate Irony Revisited
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
Massachusetts Attorney General Strikes Down First Municipal Fossil Fuel Ban
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.
The first is the Court’s rejection, under Chevron, of BLM’s limitation of the definition of “waste” to economic waste. I think that the Court’s holding is correct,… More
The New NEPA Rules Are Final: Still Giving Regulatory Reform a Bad Name
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
Dakota Access Must Shut Down. Is It a Harbinger?
I don’t like to speculate, so I won’t say that July 6, 2020, was the beginning of the end of fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States. I will say, with apologies to Judith Viorst, that it was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
First came the news that even a recent Supreme Court win wasn’t enough to save the Atlantic Coast pipeline. … More
Perhaps, Some Day, There Will Be a Carbon Tax
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
Sage Grouse Habitat Still Gets Priority in BLM Leasing Decisions
Last week, Chief Judge Brian Morris of the Federal District Court for the District of Montana vacated an “Instruction Memorandum” issued by BLM in 2018 – and also vacated numerous oil and gas leases issued in reliance on the 2018 IM. The 2018 IM changed the way BLM interpreted land management plans issued by BLM in 2015 in order to preserve sage grouse habitat, and avoid the necessity for listing the sage grouse as endangered under the ESA.… More
More Evidence About Methane Emissions From Fracking
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
New SMART Program Regulations Double Size of SMART Program to 3,200 MW, Impose Storage Requirement and Make Community Solar and Other Changes
by Adam Wade and Ethan Severance
On April 14, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) filed emergency regulations for the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (“SMART”) Program. A redline showing the additions to 225 CMR 20 is available here: MA DOER 225 CMR 20 Emergency Regulations 4.15.20. As emergency regulations, these changes went into effect Wednesday, April 16, 2020. DOER plans to hold a virtual public hearing on the new regulations on May 22,… More
It’s the Energy Markets, Stupid (And Energy Markets Are Complex)
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
It’s Not Going to Be Easy to Be Green
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
DOE Must Promulgate Energy Efficiency Standards Finalized By the Obama Administration
Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a District Court ruling requiring the Department of Energy to publish in the Federal Register four rules finalized by the Obama administration, but not previously published.
The Trump administration DOE tried to take advantage of DOE’s “error-correction rule”, which gives DOE time to fix mistakes in its rules before they are published in the Federal Register.
The problem with DOE’s argument is that the error-correction rule is clear that error correction is a ministerial task. … More
Is Putin’s Deep Game to Make Money From Climate Change?
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
Affordable Clean Energy — Or, Much Ado About Nothing
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
The Clean Peak Standard Starts to Take Shape
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
Would the Last Generator to Leave the Wholesale Competitive Energy Market Please Turn Off the Lights?
On Friday, Connecticut announced that it had reached agreement with Dominion, Eversource, and United Illuminating to keep the Millstone nuclear plant operating for 10 more years. Not coincidentally, on the same day, the six New England Governors announced their “Commitment to Regional Cooperation on Energy Issues.” An important element of that commitment is to work with ISO New England:
to evaluate market-based mechanisms that value the contribution that existing nuclear generation resources make to regional energy security and winter reliability.… More
Governor Baker Shows Support for Offshore Wind Industry
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
The Office of Surface Mining Loses Another NEPA Case — Do I Detect a Trend?
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
More on the Green New Deal: Nukes, Hydro, and a Carbon Tax Aren’t Dead Yet.
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
The Green New Deal — Everything That’s Wrong With Environmentalists?
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
Carbon Free Boston — Or How to Save the World in a Few Easy Steps
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
Massachusetts Comprehensive Energy Plan — There’s a Lot to Do.
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.
The first recommendation is nicely illustrated by this pie chart from the CEP. In 2016, only 17% of Massachusetts’ energy demand of 1,074 trillion BTUs was from the electric sector.… More
Coming Soon To a Major City Near You — Building Energy Efficiency Standards
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
SMART is Open!
November 26th was a big day for solar energy in Massachusetts. As promised, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) opened the application portal for the long-anticipated SMART Program. Applications received between November 26th and November 30th will be considered to have been received at the same time. Starting on December 1st, applications will be reviewed on a first come, first served, basis.
Also on November 26th,… More
The UCS Wants to Preserve Existing Nuclear Plants — You Know that Means the Climate Situation Must Be Dire
The Union of Concerned Scientists just released a report, The Nuclear Power Dilemma. As Ken Kimmell, UCS’s President, said in a blog about the report, it:
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
No Circuit Split Here: Second Circuit Affirms New York’s ZEC Program
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
Seventh Circuit Upholds Illinois ZEC Program for Struggling Nuclear Units
On September 13, 2018, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of claims that the zero-emission credit (ZEC) program enacted by the Illinois legislature in 2016 violated the U.S. Constitution’s dormant Commerce Clause and was preempted by the Federal Power Act. The Court took the unusual step of requesting an amicus brief from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC and the Department of Justice jointly filed a brief in response,… More
We May Not Always Have Paris, But Perhaps We Can Do Better Than Paris
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
EPA Proposes To Replace the Clean Power Plan. How About a Proposal To Replace Its Benefits?
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
Massachusetts Passes “Minibus” Clean Energy Bill
On July 31, the Massachusetts Legislature passed H.4857, An Act to Advance Clean Energy.” The bill, released late on July 30, was the result of a compromise between the Senate’s broad, omnibus bill passed in early June and the House’s more modest proposals, passed piecemeal in mid-July. Among other things, the bill:
- increases opportunities for energy efficiency by expanding the definition of qualifying programs;…
Still No Judicial Remedy For Climate Change — Don’t Expect Advocates To Stop Trying
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
FERC Remains An Independent Agency
In January, FERC rejected Secretary Perry’s proposal to compensate generators who maintain a 90-day supply of fuel on-site – a proposal widely seen as an attempt to prop up struggling coal and nuclear generators. Not willing to take no for an answer, the Administration has recently floated the idea of using authority under the Federal Power Act and the Defense Production Act to require power purchases from coal and nuclear plans in order to address the national security emergency apparently resulting from the threatened shutdown of these facilities.… More
New Senate Bill in Massachusetts Provides Opportunities for Renewable Resources
Yesterday, June 7, 2018, the Massachusetts the Ways and Means Committee released S2545, “An Act to promote a clean energy future.” The far-reaching bill has the potential to provide new opportunities for renewable resources and in so doing, may also affect the competitive markets in the region. Among other things, the bill would:
- establish new interim greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction limits;
- require the development of an energy storage system target program;…
Massachusetts Selects Vineyard Wind In 83C RFP
The Evaluation Team in Massachusetts’ Section 83C Offshore Wind Generation request for proposals (“RFP”) for long term contracts for offshore wind has announced that our client Vineyard Wind was named the winning bidder in the RFP for an offshore wind project to be built off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The project will include approximately 800 megawatts of offshore wind energy generation as well as a generator lead line connection. … More
Has the Horse Already Left the Barn? FERC Tries to Limit Review of Climate Impacts
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
BLM Changes Policy; A Court Says Its Reasons Aren’t Good Enough
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
FERC Rejects Grid Reliability and Resilience Pricing — For Now!
Yesterday, FERC terminated the docket it opened in response to DOE Secretary Perry’s September proposal to compensate generators who maintain a 90-day fuel supply on-site. The intent of the proposal was to compensate generators who provide reliability and resilience attributes to the grid.
The decision was unanimous, though there were several concurrences. The commissioners were not persuaded that there is a reliability problem that requires immediate,… More
The North Slope Is Really, Really, Getting Warmer. Drill, Baby, Drill
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
Texas Now Has More Wind Than Coal Capacity. So Far, Trump Has Not Saved Coal.
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
Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Investigates Issues Relating to Net Metering, Energy Storage, and Forward Capacity Market Participation
On October 3, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (“DPU”) opened a new docket (D.P.U. 17-146) to investigate two issues: whether energy storage systems paired with net metering facilities are eligible for net metering and what should be done to clarify the rights of net metering facilities to participate in the Forward Capacity Market (“FCM”).
These issues have been percolating for years. In fact,… More
DOE NOPR Faces Criticism But Remains on Fast-Track, with Initial Comments Due October 23
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
SMART Moves to a New Forum: Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to Consider a SMART Tariff
Stakeholders have been following the development of “SMART” as a successor to the SREC program in Massachusetts for more than a year. (See our previous posts on the development process here, here, and here.) As it stands, SMART reflects a determined effort by the Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) to craft a program that balances multiple interests and sets a sustainable path for solar development in Massachusetts. … More
We’re Number 1! (And California Isn’t)
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy just released its 2017 Energy Efficiency Scorecard. After sharing the top spot with California in the 2016 Scorecard, Massachusetts is back where it belongs – alone at the top.
The ACEEE notes that Massachusetts offers “some of the most comprehensive services in the country, addressing a range of customers and building types.” It also noted Massachusetts’ efforts to make energy more available to those with lower incomes,… More
The Drumbeat Continues: Another Court Rejects an FEIR For Not Properly Considering Climate Change
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
Does NEPA Require Assessment of Downstream GHG Emissions Resulting From Gas Pipelines?
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
State Programs to Encourage Zero-Emitting Generation are Really, Really, Constitutional
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
State Programs to Encourage Zero-Emitting Generation Are Constitutional
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
State Programs to Encourage Renewable Energy Are Constitutional (In Case You Were Worried)
Last week, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a District Court decision rejecting a challenge to Connecticut statutes intended to encourage renewable energy development in Connecticut. It’s a critical win, not just for Connecticut, but for many renewable energy programs in other states across the country as well.
(Important caveat. These cases are bloody complicated and no blog could possibly summarize them without omitting important details. … More
The Latest Executive Order: Any Kind of Consistency Is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds
Make no mistake, the Executive Order signed by President Trump at EPA yesterday is a big deal. Time will tell whether the Administration’s U-turn on the Obama rules currently in litigation, such as the Clean Power Plan and the rule on fracking on federal lands will make any difference to judicial review of those rules. There are plenty of states and NGOs ready to step into EPA’s and BLM’s shoes to defend those rules.… More
Wind Power Is Now the Largest Installed Renewable: 82,000 MW And Counting
According to the American Wind Energy Association blog, installed wind capacity in the United States has reached 82,000 MW. That puts it past the 80,000 MW of installed hydropower capacity and makes wind the largest installed renewable energy resource.
While the overall number represents a significant milestone, some of the details are interesting as well. Wind represents 5.5% of US generation. Moreover,… More
Climate Change Will Increase Peak Energy Demand By More Than We Thought: More Storage, Perhaps?
In an interesting study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors predict that climate change will have a more significant impact on peak energy demand than had previously been understood. They conclude that, in a business as usual case, peak demand will increase 18%, leading to a need to spend $180B (in current dollars) to meet that increased peak demand.
The authors acknowledge that their estimates are based on current infrastructure and that the development of energy storage could play a role in mitigating the need for new generation sources to meet peak demand.… More
The Conservative Uphill Slog for a Carbon Tax
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,…
Some Regulations to Reduce GHG Emissions Probably Won’t Be Rolled Back By the New Administration.
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
Transportation CO2 Surpasses Power Sector CO2: Good News or Bad?
Last week, DOE announced that transportation sector CO2 emissions in the US exceeded power sector CO2 emissions for the first time since 1978. 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
What a Surprise! Increased Renewable Energy Decreases GHG Emissions.
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.…
Stop the Presses: Nuclear Power Still Does Not Emit Greenhouse Gases
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
DOER’s Solar Incentive Straw Proposal: Optimism, Anxiety, Uncertainty.
On September 23, DOER presented a straw proposal for the next phase of Massachusetts solar incentives. DOER’s ambitious proposal for a tariff-based program reflects a thoughtful development process and a laudable goal of crafting a program that is more efficient at promoting sustained solar deployment. There is plenty to like. But, DOER has bitten off quite a mouthful by proposing a structure that departs so dramatically from the SREC approach. … More
RGGI Is a Success Story. When Will It Be Obsolete?
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
Governor Baker’s Executive Order on Change: Good News; Still Work To Be Done By MassDEP
Last Friday, Governor Baker issued Executive Order 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth.” 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.…
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
Massachusetts Energy Bill Emerges from Senate Committee on Ways and Means
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
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
Draft Released of Highly Anticipated Massachusetts Energy Bill
This week a draft of the long-awaited Massachusetts energy bill was reported out of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The bill would require the Commonwealth’s distribution companies to competitively solicit long-term, fifteen- to twenty-year contracts for large-scale offshore wind and hydroelectric power. Notably absent from the bill are provisions addressing resources such as solar, onshore wind, nuclear, energy storage, and energy efficiency.
The bill seeks to jumpstart the development of offshore wind in federal lease areas by directing distribution companies to enter into contracts for 1,200 MW of offshore wind power before July 1,… More
Coming Soon To A Roof Near You: Solar Panels (At Least If You Live in SF)
This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance that will require that the developers of all new buildings of 10 floors or less that apply for building permits after January 1, 2017 install solar PV or solar thermal systems. 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
Good Law Catches Up With Good Policy: The Supreme Court Upholds FERC’s Demand Response Order
The Supreme Court today affirmed FERC’s Order No. 745, which required that demand response resources be treated the same as generation resources when participating in wholesale electricity markets. I’m feeling vindicated, because the post-oral argument prognosticators said that it looked bad for FERC, but I always thought that FERC had the stronger argument.
As I noted after the D.C. Circuit struck down Order No.… More
Massachusetts Updates Its Climate Song: I Can Get By With A Little Help From My (Canadian) Friends
Earlier this week, Massachusetts released its updated Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020. The headline for the press release was “Massachusetts on Track to Meet 25% Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target for 2020”. The slightly more nuanced version is that we can do it, but only with a large dose of Canadian hydropower.
While that’s the main take-away, it really is a useful report,… More
Does the Paris Agreement Provide EPA With Authority Under the CAA To Impose Economy-Wide GHG Controls? Count Me Skeptical
In a very interesting article, Michael Burger of the Sabin Center and his co-authors suggest that, following the Paris climate agreement, § 115 of the Clean Air Act provides authority for EPA to develop economy-wide GHG emissions reduction regulations that would be more comprehensive and efficient than EPA’s current industry-specific approach. And what, you may ask, is § 115? Even the most dedicated “airhead” has probably never worked with it.… More
The Paris Agreement: Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive
So COP21 resulted in an agreement. What’s a poor in-the-trenches lawyer to make of it? I think it’s pretty clearly a major step forward and reflects much more substantive progress than might have been expected. For a very helpful summary as to why the Paris Agreement was a success, check out Rob Stavins’s post. As good as Rob’s summary is, Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker (subscription required) had a slightly more concise explanation why the Paris Agreement is a good thing:
It changes the presumption that carbon emissions will continue to grow to the presumption that they must soon start coming down.… More
No Short Cuts Allowed: The FWS Must Comply with NEPA Before Extending Programmatic Take Permits to 30 Years
Earlier this month, the Judge Lucy Koh set aside the Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to extend its programmatic permit for bald and golden eagle takes from five to 30 years. The extension was sought by the wind industry for the obvious reason that the uncertainty attached to a five-year permit makes financing a 20- or 30-year project very difficult. I agree with the concern and support the extension,… More
Stop the Presses: RGGI Works
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
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Releases Solar Net Metering Bill
One week after the Massachusetts legislature departed for its summer recess, Governor Charlie Baker released net metering legislation to rival the Massachusetts Senate’s recent bill on August 7, 2015.
Where the Senate bill would have simply raised the net metering cap to 1600 MWs and largely retained the current net metering credit calculations, the Governor’s bill would increase the metering cap but would substantially reduce the calculation of net metering credits.… More
The Clean Power Plan. Is Better Good Enough? Is More Defensible Defensible Enough?
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.…
DOE Releases Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Northern Pass Project
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