In response to a letter drafted by eight democratic senators and general industry adverse reactions, the EPA announced on February 22, 2010 that there would be delays to implementation of the regulation of green house gases as stationary source emissions under the Clean Air Act, and included additional conditions to the implementation. It is expected that the EPA will phase in permit requirements and regulation of GHG for large stationary sources beginning in calendar year 2011.
The additional conditions include only requiring facilities that are applying for air permits for non-greenhouse gas emissions to be permitted under the new GHG permitting system in the first half of 2011, and permitting at a level higher than the 25,000 ton level originally proposed, for the latter half of 2011 through 2013. The letter can be found here.
As described in a previous alert, the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") voted on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 to adopt an interpretive release to provide guidance on existing public company disclosure requirements as they apply to business or legal developments relating to climate change. The SEC has now distributed the interpretive release itself, which can be found here. The interpretive release indicates that its purpose is to provide guidance on how to interpret existing SEC disclosure rules and requirements as applied to business and legal developments associated with climate change. For our detailed alert on the subject, click here.
On the topic of Greenhouse Gas reporting, my partner Tom Wood recently circulated this "heads up" about EPA's final rule:
On September 22, 2009, EPA issued its final rule on greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting. Fossil fuel and industrial GHG suppliers, motor vehicle and engine manufacturers, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more of CO2 equivalent per year will be required to report GHG emissions data to EPA annually.
Recordkeeping obligations commence on January 1, 2010 with the first report due in 2011 (for 2010 emissions). Relaxed requirements will apply for reporting year 2010 as EPA recognizes that not all monitoring can be implemented in the weeks remaining in this year.
In a blow to the consulting industry, third party verification is not being required; sources will be able to self-certify their emissions. EPA says that its program does not preempt state reporting programs, but our hope is that with a final rule the state and regional efforts will conform to EPA’s lead.
Look for more details as Tom gives the rule a more thorough review.
My partner Tom Wood recently composed and circulated this email alert about the return of the "Global Warming" case against several electric utilities:
Five years ago eight states and New York City made headlines when they sued several electric utilities alleging that their carbon dioxide emissions constituted a federal common law nuisance. The plaintiffs wanted to force the companies to cap and reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. The federal trial court dismissed the case, holding that the issue was a political question that had to be addressed through the political branches of government and not through the courts. Earlier today the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court. This enables the plaintiffs to resume their nuisance lawsuit against the generating companies, but does not guarantee them victory as they will have significant evidentiary challenges to address. In reinstating the suit, the Second Circuit touted the judiciary’s ability to handle complex cases of this type and said that doing so would not interfere with the business of the other branches of government. However, the court noted in several places that the judiciary would be preempted in the future from addressing carbon dioxide through nuisance law if either Congress (i.e., the legislative branch) amends the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide or the executive branch, through EPA, moves to regulate carbon dioxide under existing authority.
Today’s decision will potentially have significant impacts on future climate change litigation. One of the areas heavily debated in the case was who has the ability to bring a federal nuisance claim such as that alleged here. The defendant companies recognized that states have the ability to bring federal common law nuisance claims, but argued that the potential contribution of carbon dioxide emissions to climate change was not the sort of issue for which a federal nuisance suit is available because, among other reasons, the impacts could not be traced to particular emission sources. The Second Circuit rejected this argument, setting the stage for the state suits to continue. The court also rejected arguments that private parties cannot bring federal nuisance suits related to climate change. The court recognized that the Supreme Court had never addressed this question, but concluded that private parties should be able to proceed with federal nuisance claims related to climate change when they invoke an overriding federal interest or federalism concerns. By holding that private parties can bring federal nuisance suits and by recognizing that climate change is of overriding federal interest, the court potentially cleared the way for federal lawsuits against all types of companies that emit material levels of greenhouse gases.
The decision will create significant new pressure on EPA and Congress to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The court noted that it was reasonable to assume that EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions if it first determines that they “cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare” (referred to as an “endangerment finding”). However, as the court noted, EPA has only proposed to make such a finding and only in relation to mobile sources—not stationary sources such as factories and power plants. When/if EPA makes such findings, it must then develop a regulatory program. Until such time that a program is developed, the court held that the field is left open for federal common law nuisance suits. This holding will undoubtedly create increased support for taking the regulation of greenhouse gases out of the courts and back into the legislative or executive branches.
EPA is poised to issue several rules that will commence the regulation of greenhouse gases for mobile and stationary sources. These rules were not considered by the court as they had not been finalized. As these rules become finalized in the weeks and months ahead, the plaintiff’s victory may prove short-lived. However, there is no question that the decision is likely to have a tremendous impact on the debate regarding whether to proceed with greenhouse gas regulations.
On July 1, 2009, Washington State’s Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (“CTED”) issued application guidelines and forms for its State Energy Program (“SEP”) (available by clicking here). The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the “Recovery Act”) provided $60.9 million in new funding for Washington’s SEP. Subsequently, the Washington Legislature allocated $38.5 million to CTED to administer a loan and grant program for energy efficiency and renewable energy program (see our client alert, available here, regarding the legislative action).
Eligible energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean energy projects may be eligible for SEP funding between $500,000 and $2 million.
Eligible energy efficiency projects are those that use technologies that have been deployed at commercial scale that result in the reduction in energy consumption through increases in the efficiency of energy use, production, or distribution, and high-efficiency cogeneration. Ineligible projects are those that are eligible for Recovery Act Funding for community wide urban residential and commercial energy efficiency upgrades as described in (i) Chapter 379, Laws of 2009; (ii) Low income weatherization projects and programs which are eligible for funding through the state’s low-income weatherization program; (iii) Loans support to financial institutions for energy efficiency projects as described in Chapter 379, Laws of 2009; (iv) state energy efficient appliance rebates; and (v) green jobs training as described in Chapter 536, Laws of 2009.
Eligible renewable energy projects are those that are located in Washington and use existing commercial scale technologies that generate liquid fuels, process heat or electricity using algae, bark, biodiesel, biomass, biosolids, food waste, fresh water, gas from sewage treatment facilities, landfill gas, geothermal, pulping liquors, sawdust, solar, hydrokinetics, wind, wood chips and various other waste products. Ineligible projects include those that use the following feedstocks: municipal solid waste, wood from old growth forests, and chemically treated wood.
Eligible clean energy innovation projects include are those that offer innovative new technologies or service delivery models for energy efficiency, renewable energy, or other areas of clean energy. Projects must have a solid chance at commercial scale deployment within two to three years. Ineligible projects include carbon sequestration projects, lab scale projects, and those excluded under federal SEP guidelines.
Interested parties must file a notice of intent to apply by July 27, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific.
Full applications are due on August 17, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific.
Information workshops will be held on July 13, 14, 15, and 16. Click here for the specific dates and times. I will be attending the July 13 workshop in Everett, WA. An informational webinar will also be held on July 23.
On June 16, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") issued a request for applications ("RFA") for its Climate Showcase Communities Grant Program. The RFA provides $10 million for programs to help lower green house gas ("GHG") emissions through energy and resource management.
Eligible activities are those that reduce GHG emissions in the following priority areas:
- Use or supply of green power products, on-site renewables, and other clean energy supply options;
- Energy performance in municipal operations (including municipal energy, water, and waste-water utilities);
- Energy performance in residential, commercial, agricultural, aqua-culture, and/or industrial buildings;
- Land use, transportation, or community master planning;
- Reduction of vehicle miles traveled;
- Solid waste management;
- Agricultural, aqua-cultural, and natural resource management;
- Heat island management;
- Removal of barriers for greenhouse gas management, through the development of effective programs, policies, or outreach; or
- Other innovative activities which generate measurable reductions of greenhouse gases
The EPA expects to award up to 30 cooperative agreements. Individual awards can be as high as $500,000, but most awards will range in value from $300,000 to $500,000. Eligible entities include local governments, Indian tribes, and intertribal consortiums.
Applicants must submit an informal notice of Intent to Apply by July 1, 2009 and full applications are due July 22, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. EDT.
Earlier this week, I attended Climate Solutions’ Business Briefing on the Governor’s Proposed Climate Change Policy. Hosted by Gerding Edlen, the briefing offered a snapshot of the Governor’s legislative agenda for 2009 and beyond, and gave the sustainable business community the opportunity to offer feedback on what needs to happen to move the plans forward.
The Governor’s Climate Change Agenda (the “Agenda”) covers four major areas: greenhouse gas (“GHG”) reductions, renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency. Some highlights follow.
Greenhouse Gas Reductions
There are three major components to the GHG reduction plan: a cap and trade program, an emissions performance standard, and an authorization of the development of Environmental Quality Commission (“EQC”) regulations. Included in the proposed 2009 legislation is the authorization for Oregon’s participation in a regional cap and trade program. Once authorized, the plan calls for a statewide public process to gather input on how best to structure the program. The program design recommendations will be brought back to the 2011 Legislature for approval, with the regional program scheduled to go into effect in 2012.
In the renewable energy realm, the Agenda includes a solar feed-in tariff, a beefed-up Business Energy Tax Credit (“BETC”), and initiatives to help the state meet the Governor’s goal of 100% renewable energy for state government. Following Germany’s lead, which has had amazing success with the solar energy incentive program known as a “feed-in tariff”, the Governor’s proposed legislation will create a production incentive pilot program to help pay for the electricity produced by a solar project.
The Governor also plans to create a BETC Energy Fund to offer up-front project funding. As with the Cultural Trust program, this proposal will enable citizens to donate money into the fund and take a tax credit on the donation.
Thinking about buying a Prius? If you are hoping for a state tax credit, you may want to revise your wish list. The Governor’s plan calls for a shift toward vehicles that produce less carbon and that have not yet permeated the market, such as plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles. In addition, the Agenda would authorize the EQC to develop and phase in a low-carbon fuel standard, that will require fuel providers to lower the average carbon intensity of fuels sold by 10%. The plan also includes an Expanded Transportation Options program and the development of a least carbon planning model.
Because energy efficiency investments are such a cost-effective way to reduce both our energy demand and GHG emissions, a large chunk of the Agenda is devoted to this area. The Governor has put forth several proposals, such as the creation of energy performance certificates, the expansion of the BETC for energy efficiency investments, and the authorization of bonding authority for local governments to finance energy efficiency projects.
Proposed legislation seeks to establish a goal of net-zero emissions homes and buildings by 2030. As a start, the legislation seeks to increase energy efficiency in commercial and residential building codes by 30 percent and 15 percent, respectively. The Agenda also calls for expanding the BETC for industrial energy efficiency projects from 35 percent to 50 percent of the total project costs, up to $20 million.
The various pieces of the Governor’s Agenda will add teeth to existing state programs aimed at addressing climate change, and help keep Oregon at the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship in the sustainable business realm.