Today, the Eighth Circuit determined that the Next Generation Energy Act (“NGEA”), a Minnesota law that established power sector standards for carbon dioxide emissions, was unconstitutional (decision available here). In so doing, the Court affirmed the decision of District Court Judge Susan Nelson, whose 2014 decision we covered in “Court Declares Minnesota
In Paris over the weekend nearly 190 countries reached a landmark international agreement on climate change. My friend Gerard Wynn of GWG Energy has written an excellent explainer on exactly what was agreed to. Gerard has kindly agreed to let us share his post with Renewable + Law blog readers. His post follows below.
[Originally published on the Carbon & Climate Change Blog]
The world concluded four years of negotiations on Saturday with the first universal agreement on climate change. Nearly 190 countries pledged national climate action, and all countries agreed a global long-term goal to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century, suggesting a turning point in the use of fossil fuels.
The Paris outcome has two parts.
1. A 12-page “Paris Agreement”, which sets out new commitments for climate action beyond 2020, and potentially through this century.
2. A 20-page “Decision”, which describes what countries have to do before the Agreement enters into force in 2020.
Following is an attempt to decipher what all the wonky language means.Continue Reading Guest Post: Decoding the Paris Climate Agreement
Minnesota legislators passed the Next Generation Energy Act in 2007 which, in part, established power sector standards for carbon dioxide emissions. As a result Minn. Stat. §216H.03 now provides that no person shall:
- Construct within a state a new large energy facility that would contribute to statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions;
- 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; or
- Enter into a new long-term power purchase agreement that would increase statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions. For the purposes of this section, a long-term power purchase agreement means an agreement to purchase 50 megawatts of capacity or more for a term exceeding five years.
In 2011 neighboring state North Dakota, along with coal and utility interests, challenged the law and named as defendants the Commissioners of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Commerce. Today District Court Judge Susan Nelson ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on cross motions for summary judgment. She determined the second and third provisions of the above statute unconstitutional, finding that they are per se invalid under the dormant Commerce Clause. Minnesota Governor Dayton quickly responded to the ruling with a press statement articulating his intentions to vigorously defend the law and appeal the decision.Continue Reading Court Declares Minnesota Coal Law Unconstitutional: Electrons Favor the Laws of Physics to Those of Governments
This week the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released a draft of its AB 32 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update. The original Scoping Plan was adopted in 2008 and must be updated every five years. The Scoping Plan serves as a blueprint for achieving AB 32’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The draft Update summarizes programs implemented over the last five years under AB 32 and outlines actions necessary to continue California’s progress toward the 2020 emissions reduction goal. The draft Update shows that California is on track to meet the 2020 emissions reduction goal and inventories the progress made across different economic sectors and programs like cap and trade. With the Update, ARB continues its strategy of achieving AB 32 goals through a mix of emissions reduction measures, including regulatory programs, incentives, and market-based approaches.Continue Reading California Air Resources Board Issues Draft Update to AB 32 Scoping Plan
Today President Obama released his Climate Action Plan and highlighted the key components of the Plan at a speech at Georgetown University. The Plan has three primary goals: (i) cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S., (ii) preparing the United States for the effects of climate change, and (iii) leading international efforts to mitigate climate change. During his speech, President Obama listed three measures to address the first two goals: use more clean energy, waste less energy, and cut carbon emissions. The Plan includes some important new directives from the President, it incorporates some initiatives that are already underway and outlines some of the Administration’s intentions, without providing hard timelines or goals.
The Climate Action Plan is limited to initiatives that the President can implement without Congressional approval. Nevertheless, it has the potential to significantly affect a broad range of energy sector interests. A summary of the Plan’s key components follows.
Using more clean energy:
- The Interior Department is directed to support deployment of 10,000 MW of renewable energy on public lands by 2020.
- The Department of Defense (DoD) is directed to build 3,000 MW of renewable energy at military installations by 2025.
- Federal agencies will aim to install 100 MW of rooftop solar on federally-subsidized housing by 2020.
- The federal government commits to obtain 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
- The Red Rock Hydroelectric Plant, on the Des Moines River in Iowa, will be placed on the federal Infrastructure "Permitting Dashboard" for high-priority projects.
- Federal agencies will streamline the siting, permitting, and review process for transmission projects.
- The U.S. will seek a global agreement in the World Trade Organization modeled after the 2011 agreement among 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economies to reduce tariffs to 5% or less by 2015 on 54 environmental goods, including solar panels and wind turbines.
- The FY2014 budget will include $7.9 billion for clean energy research and development.
- The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America program will provide renewable energy and energy efficiency grants and loan guarantees directly to agricultural producers and rural small business.
- Natural gas will continue to be relied upon as a “transition fuel” while America works to develop an “even cleaner” energy economy.
On Friday, May 20, 2011, Judge Goldsmith of San Francisco Supreme Court issued a final order (PDF) with respect to a lawsuit challenging the environmental review of the Cap and Trade regulations created under California’s AB 32 Greenhouse Gas statute and the associated Scoping Plan. In its order, the Court enjoined the Cap and Trade portion…
Legal News Alert from Stoel Rives Environmental Law Group
March 23, 2011
San Francisco Superior Court has issued a final decision in Association of Irritated Residents v. California Air Resources Board. For the moment, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is enjoined from further rulemaking to implement the California Global Warming Solutions Act (A.B. 32), including
After a marathon 10-hour public hearing last Thursday, the California Air Resources Board voted 9-to-1 to adopt the state’s landmark Cap-and-Trade Program. My colleague, Lee Smith, and I spent the day at the packed California EPA auditorium, monitoring the hearing. Over 150 people strode up to the podium to give testimony during the public comment period, spanning the gambit from staunch environmentalists, to climate change skeptics, environmental justice advocates, and many, many a representative of soon-to-be regulated industries and businesses. The chain of testimony was broken up six hours into the hearing by a feel-good guest appearance by Governor Schwarzenegger, who waxed eloquent on the mission of A.B. 32, California’s green jobs revolution, and the momentous step that the state’s Cap-and-Trade Program represented. Indeed, there were many thank yous from commenters to ARB staff and the Board for their hard work on crafting the extraordinarily complex Program and trying to make it more palatable for those affected. Regulated entities noted the outstanding efforts that staff had taken to work with them during the development process.
It was clear, however, that many are still not satisfied with the Program, whether as a whole or with the details of its implementation that will affect various sectors. Environmental justice advocates, such as representatives from the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment, are largely not in favor of the Cap-and-Trade Program as proposed, dissatisfied with the lack of guarantees that the Program will not disproportionately impact low income communities or communities of color. Most people testifying made pleas to have one aspect or another of the Program changed in some manner.
Lucky for those industries hoping to get some kinks ironed out to make the regulation less painful for their business, staff’s job is not done yet. Many details on implementing the Program remain to be worked out. At the hearing, staff presented several modifications to the Cap-and-Trade regulation that was released in early November for public review, and Board members, based on testimony or questions they had, gave staff a laundry list of additional points to further study. The changes to the regulation and other “conforming modifications” will be released for a 15-day comment period. Staff will then continue to tweak the fine points that do not require further Board action, hopefully having all the details of the Program firmed up by July 2011. Regulated entities certainly canvassed for the implementing details to be finalized as soon as possible before the regulation goes into effect on January 1, 2012, in order to have some certainty as to their compliance obligations.
The first hour or two of public comment was dedicated to testimony on the forest projects offset protocol that will allow certain forest projects that sequester carbon to create offset credits which emitters can buy to meet a percentage of their compliance obligations. Several foresters and forest industry representatives testified, but the bulk of the comment was an emotional plea from environmentalists and residents of the Sierras to prevent clearcutting and forest monoculture under the proposed protocol.
How can a program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions involve clearcutting? The protocol requires adherence to California forest management practices, even for out of state projects. These forest management practices may be more stringent or protective of the environment than those of other states, but California practices allow for clearcutting on areas of 40 acres or less and for even-aged stand management. Under the forest projects protocol, such practices could be utilized in connection with an offset project, but staff and members of the working group that developed the protocol emphasized that the overall carbon storage of a forest stand in a project must be maintained or increased in order for it to qualify under the protocol and generate offsets. Even with an overall net storage of carbon, however, environmental groups stridently objected to even-aged stand management because older or more diverse forest stands may be replaced with stands having less biodiversity and such stands may be managed with herbicides.
With the considerable objections to this protocol and the Board’s aversion to appearing to be ‘for’ clearcutting, ARB considered modification of the protocol at the hearing. Board Member D’Adamo pressed for an exclusion of any future forest project that involved clearcutting, with several other Members agreeing. However, in the end, the Board approved the protocol as it was presented. Chairman Nichols noted that it may be beyond the scope of the Board’s job under A.B. 32 to dictate different forest practices from those developed by the state’s agencies charged with forest management. The environmental protections embedded in the protocol and the overall requirement to have a net zero carbon loss within any given project seemed to satisfy the majority of the Board in the end.
Continue reading for an explanation of some the major points of the Cap-and-Trade Program.Continue Reading California Adopts Cap-and-Trade
Federal Requirements Under the Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program for Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Geologic Sequestration (GS) Wells See Pre-publication Rule
The rule finalizes minimum federal requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act for underground injection of carbon dioxide (CO2) for GS purposes.
The EPA has issued proposed RFS2 rules for 2011 that provide some indications that the agency is dedicated to jump starting the advanced biofuels industry.
Continue Reading EPA Issues Proposed RFS2 Rules for 2011