greenhouse gas emissions

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just signed into law an ambitious statewide climate change agenda – the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The CLCPA focuses on greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction through adoption of renewable energy and energy sector mandates for GHG reductions, although the legislation leaves open the exploration of other means of GHG reduction and the expansion to economy-wide regulation. The legislation also focuses on adaptation mechanisms, including hardening infrastructure to withstand disasters. Commercially, the CLCPA goals present massive investment opportunities to help fund and develop this transformation. But investors are looking for incentives, and it remains unclear how future regulations will encourage future investments, rather than mandate them.
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The EPA announced its final rule for power plant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, culminating often rancorous discussion and litigation over the EPA’s authority to regulate GHG emissions from existing coal-fired electricity generating sources. Under the new Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the states, not the federal government, are now responsible for driving down GHG emissions from power plants. Specifically, the EPA now requires unit-specific standards of performance to be developed by the states using its new emission guideline that details the “best system of emission reduction.”
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Q:        What is the Clean Power Plan?

A:        The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is proposing to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs) through a rule called the Clean Power Plan.  This rule does not purport to directly regulate EGUs.  Instead, USEPA is proposing statewide carbon dioxide (CO2) emission goals and guidelines, called the “state goals.”  States would develop plans to meet those state goals, using a flexible menu of programs and tools that USEPA discusses in the proposal.  Most of the details are left to the states and will be included in State Implementation Plans (SIPs).
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On June 2, 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) released the most sweeping component of President Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan.  USEPA’s 650-page proposed Clean Power Plan states that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels at existing power plants is the single largest category of stationary source Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions in the United States, accounting for about one-third of all GHGs emitted.
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As part of its Climate Action Plan, the Obama Administration issued a “Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions” (the Methane Strategy) at the end of March 2014.  According to the Methane Strategy, methane emissions currently account for almost nine percent of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the United States.  While methane emissions have decreased since 1990, they are expected to increase over the next 15 years if no additional action is taken.  The Obama Administration’s Methane Strategy focuses on reducing methane emissions from landfills, coal mines, and the agriculture and oil and gas sectors.  Building on and updating existing programs is key to the strategy.  The key proposals for reducing methane emissions from these areas are outlined by sector below:
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On Tuesday, October 15, 2013, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear challenges to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gases emitted from stationary sources.  A total of nine petitions for certiorari had been filed with the Court challenging various regulatory actions taken by USEPA with respect to greenhouse gases.  The Court consolidated and granted certiorari in six of the nine petitions.
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In a much-publicized decision in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is authorized to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) through the Clean Air Act. Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007). A slew of recent cases have rejected plaintiffs’ attempts to assert common law claims for damages based on the consequences of past emissions of GHGs. The courts generally have found that USEPA has occupied the role of regulating GHGs, and challenges to the agency’s actions must be brought through the appropriate administrative channels. As the Supreme Court weighs whether to grant certiorari in the Coal. for Responsible Regulation, Inc., et al. v. EPA, No. 09-1322 (D.C. Cir. June 26, 2012), the case that addresses four USEPA GHG rules, the Supreme Court may have difficulty in changing course from the idea that GHGs should be regulated pursuant to the Clean Air Act.
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Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) Commissioner Mark Sylvia appeared on Friday, February 15, at an electricity restructuring roundtable that convened in Boston to explore the state of energy efficiency initiatives in New England.  In his presentation, Commissioner Sylvia reported on the progress to date that has been made pursuant to several ongoing initiatives in Massachusetts to acquire cost-effective energy efficiency resources.  These include:  the “Leading by Example” program, which sets aggressive targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions, energy conservation and efficiency, renewable energy, green buildings, and water conservation; the Green Communities Act; the Global Warming Solutions Act; and Governor Patrick’s renewable energy goals.
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In a unanimous decision last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal common law public nuisance claims regarding domestic greenhouse gas emissions have been displaced by the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) action the CAA authorizes.  Native Vill. of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corp., 09-17490, 2012 WL 4215921 (9th Cir. Sept. 21, 2012).
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