On March 15, 2022, the Second Circuit rejected an appeal brought by ExxonMobil attempting to block investigations by the New York and Massachusetts Attorneys General into historical claims made by Exxon regarding climate change. These cases have a long procedural history in both state and federal courts as Exxon has employed multiple procedural vehicles to attempt to halt the investigations. Generally, both investigations relate to whether Exxon intentionally mislead investors and the public regarding its knowledge and the risks of climate change. … More
Category Archives: Climate Change
In the first appellate decision to decide the issue since the Supreme Court decision in BP P.L.C. v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, the 10th Circuit ruled this week that climate damage claims brought by several Colorado counties should nonetheless still be heard in state court. The most important issue in the case was whether the Clean Air “completely preempted” state law claims. … More
The White House has taken a strong stance in expanding the production and use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to reduce carbon emissions in the aviation industry. SAFs are liquid hydrocarbon fuels that are blended into the existing fuel supply using materials like waste, fats, cooking oils and corn. The Administration has identified the aviation industry as a climate priority in its push to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.… More
On January 20, 2022, the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) issued its Order on Power Grid Study Recommendations concerning investments in the State’s electric transmission and distribution system that are necessary to meet the mandates of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The Order focused mainly on changes to New York’s offshore wind program, but also addressed future onshore bulk transmission planning needs,… More
Each year since 1995, with the exception of 2020, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has hosted a Conference of Parties (COP), where members of the UNFCCC negotiate issues relating to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other matters relating to climate change. The 26th COP concluded in Glasgow on November 13 with a Climate Pact that continues the evolution of global climate policy over the past 30 years.… More
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
On January 12 and 13, Foley Hoag attorneys will lead a series of discussions about the significance of New York Climate Action Council’s recently-released draft Scoping Plan to the state’s continuing clean energy transformation. Richard Kauffman, Chairman of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, will provide keynote remarks. The draft Scoping Plan, which we discussed in a recent blog post, describes the market-based solutions and government actions that will be needed to achieve the ambitious climate goals set forth in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.… More
The first phase of the regulations is focused only on reporting issues. It will address
- Reporting Requirements
- Third-Party Data Verification Requirements
- Preservation of Records
The rationale for this narrow focus is that the City wants these regulations in place promptly,… More
New York Climate Action Council Approves Draft Scoping Plan to Achieve the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions
On December 20, 2021, the Climate Action Council (“Council”) approved the release for public comment of its draft Scoping Plan, which describes how New York can achieve the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (“CLCPA” or “Climate Act”): 70% renewable electricity consumption by 2030, 100% zero-emission electricity consumption by 2040, a 40% reduction in statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030, an 85% reduction in statewide GHG emissions by 2050,… More
Can New York State satisfy nearly 30 percent of its electricity needs with solar projects less than five megawatts in size by the year 2030? In September of this year, Governor Hochul announced a framework to do just that, setting 10 gigawatts (GWs) of deployed distributed solar by 2030 as the goal, enough to power 700,000 New York homes – even more than the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s (CLCPA) six-GW deployment requirement.… More
This is the second post in our series on the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, covering how the Act invests in strengthening our electric grid, which could better prepare us for the shift from fossil fuel generated electricity to renewable power.
To decarbonize our energy system, electrify transportation and buildings, and drastically reduce our contribution to climate change, we’ll need to develop and deploy significant wind,… More
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law today not only makes critical investments in our core infrastructure, it creates several new programs to support the increasing electrification of the transportation sector.
Especially notable in the $1.2 trillion package are the investments in electric vehicle charging stations, clean-powered buses, and electric-powered ferries. These investments include:
- Creating new grants to build out electric vehicle charging station networks
- Funding to modernize the primarily diesel-fueled fleet of school buses with electric or alternative fuel buses
- Funding to state and local governments to procure electric or low emissions ferries
Electric Vehicle Charging / Fueling Infrastructure
To support the nationwide buildout of electric charging and alternative fueling stations,… More
Earlier this week, Greenwire (subscription required) had an interesting story about the role that EPA’s estimate of the cost to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule played in the politics and judicial review of the rule. It turned out that compliance costs were much less than originally estimated by EPA – let alone by industry. Unfortunately, the $9.6 billion price tag originally put on the MATS rule lived on,… More
Last week, the Boston City Council approved amendments to the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance. The changes are being referred to as “BERDO 2.0”, which almost understates the scope of the revisions. As indicated by its name, since its original enactment, BERDO only dealt with reporting and disclosure. Now, however, Boston will be imposing limits on GHG emissions from large buildings.
The limits will first be effective in 2025,… More
New York Public Service Commission Sends Utilities’ Transmission Planning Proposals Back to the Drawing Board
As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) solicits comments regarding fundamental changes to its regulation of the country’s electricity transmission systems; as the temperature rises in New York State regarding transmission system upgrades needed to accommodate the enormous required influx of renewable electricity both from offshore wind and from upstate sources to downstate need; and after the Legislature required in the spring of 2020 that the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) order the state’s regulated utilities to reimagine its transmission system,… More
U.S. Senate Infrastructure Bill Proposes Big Dollars for Wide Ranging New Grant Program For Electric Vehicle Charging and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure
On August 10, 2021, the United States Senate passed the much anticipated bipartisan infrastructure bill. While not yet law, the bill now advances to the House of Representatives for further consideration. The House of Representative is expected to vote on the bill by the end of September. This post addresses the bill, in its current form.
The bill allocates $7.5 billion dollars to be spent over five years to create alternative fuel infrastructure. … More
The IPCC has released its Sixth Assessment Report on the physical science basis of climate change. I would say that it makes sobering reading, except any sane person’s immediate response to AR6 would be to go out and have any number of stiff drinks. Here are a number of the lowlights:
It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.… More
Will More Money Managers Start Voting Shares Based on Climate Issues? Fidelity International Gets in the Game
In the wake of Engine No.1’s successful effort to elect more climate-friendly directors at Exxon and the increasingly aggressive action by BlackRock to take climate into account in its investment management decisions, the whole world is watching for further evidence of capitalism’s efforts to save the world from, well, capitalism.
The latest news is from Fidelity International (not to be confused with Fidelity Management and Research),… More
The biofuels industry has had a challenging season in the courts. Several weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that had limited EPA’s ability to grant waivers to small refiners that allow them to escape compliance obligations under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program. Then, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the D.C.… More
Local Communities and Environmental Groups Bring Challenge to the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting’s Regulations for Siting and Permitting Major Renewable Energy Facilities
On June 29, 2021, a cohort of New York local governments (including many where large-scale solar projects are currently proposed), community organizations, and avian interest groups filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court (the State’s trial-level court) against the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (“ORES”). ORES is required to respond to the allegations no later than 30 days from receipt.
The ORES was created under the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act,… More
Amid renewed national ambitions to tackle climate change, electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as a promising way to reduce emissions in the transportation sector, which accounts for nearly a third of greenhouse gas emissions. This approach has garnered support even from private industry, as evidenced by the flurry of car manufacturers who recently committed to all-EV fleets in the coming decades.… More
On June 10, 2021, the Transportation Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) states released a final model rule creating a regional cap-and-trade-program to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. We wrote about the draft model rule and its implementation challenges when it was released at the beginning of March. Now, after a two-month stakeholder engagement process, the jurisdictions working to implement the program ask stakeholders to weigh in on the guidance documents,… More
New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting Sets Precedent in Section 94-c Permit Proceedings: When Major Renewable Energy Projects Need Not Comply with Local Laws
In its first such determination, on June 4, 2021, the newly formed New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting (“ORES”) determined that several provisions of the Town of Barre’s (Orleans County) local law are “unreasonably burdensome” in light of the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) goals and the environmental benefits of the proposed 185 megawatt Heritage Wind Project, and therefore declined to apply them. This determination sets a precedent under the State’s Executive Law Section 94-c permitting regime for major renewable energy facilities,… More
On April 30, 2021, PSEG Long Island, LLC (PSEG-LI), on behalf of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), issued a much-awaited request for proposals (RFP) seeking 175 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale storage projects that will interconnect to the Long Island electricity grid. This RFP issuance follows a Request for Information nearly a year ago regarding how such a solicitation should be structured. The storage deployment resulting from this RFP will make a significant contribution to New York’s statewide goals
of deploying 3,000 MWs of energy storage by 2030,… More
As President Biden announces his blueprint for expanding the use of offshore wind (OSW) power, Massachusetts hopes to become an industry hub. Those plans will certainly be facilitated by the new federal OSW policies.
On March 29, the Biden administration published a major plan to mobilize offshore wind development, particularly along the East Coast. The plan aims to construct 30,000 megawatts of OSW generation by 2030,… More
The White House this morning released a fact sheet on “The American Jobs Plan,” also known as President Biden’s infrastructure plan. There’s a lot in here (as there should be for a couple of trillion dollars!), so today I’ll focus on energy infrastructure. Here are the highlights:
- $100B to “build a more resilient electric transmission system.” This includes “the creation of a targeted investment tax credit that incentivizes the buildout of at least 200 gigawatts of high-voltage capacity power lines.”
- Creation of a “Grid Deployment Authority” within DOE to facilitate transmission line siting.…
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.
Climate risk is investment risk.
So says BlackRock. And when you manage $8.7 trillion, people tend to listen to what you say. I’ve been noting for some time that BlackRock’s statements seemed to presage increasing shareholder activism with respect to climate. And yet there have been skeptics. As noted in ClimateWire last week, BlackRock’s actions have not always seemed to match its rhetoric.… More
As promised, President Biden has recommitted the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement. He’s also undertaken sweeping executive action to undo the previous administration’s environmental rollbacks. But after four years of lagging behind the rest of the world, the U.S. will face significant challenges in achieving meaningful emissions reductions without new legislation. And that means a tough road ahead working with an evenly divided Senate and moderates in Biden’s own party from states that remain dependent on fossil fuels.… More
Among the important provisions of President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis is the requirement to review and revise estimates of the social cost of carbon (and nitrous oxide and methane). The order establishes a working group, co-chaired by the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, the Director of OMB, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. … More
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.”… More
On January 4th, as the legislative session came to a close, both houses of the Massachusetts legislature passed “An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy.” My colleague, Seth Jaffe, posted on the act yesterday, when the details of the bill first came out, focusing on the climate and economic impacts. There is no doubt that this act will significantly shape Massachusetts’s path towards a net-zero future.… More
Department of Public Utilities Proposes Rethink for Distribution System Planning and Interconnection Costs
On October 22, the Massachusetts DPU issued an Order opening a new docket (DPU 20-75) that seeks comments on a proposal to shake up the way the electric distribution system is planned and paid for in Massachusetts. As I see it, the core idea is to move from being reactive—upgrading the system piecemeal when individual distributed resources seek to interconnect—to being proactive—planning prospectively for the integration of the distributed generation resources we know are coming.… More
There are few people left, at least in my orbit, who don’t share the goal of prompt decarbonization of the economy. The quaintly named $64,000 question ($64 trillion question?) is how we get from here to there.
Today, the New England Power Generators Association released a report prepared by Analysis Group that explains how an economy-wide price on carbon can help New England do just that. … More
Massachusetts AG Petitions DPU to Investigate Gas Industry Future in Light of Commonwealth’s GHG Emissions Goals
On June 4, 2020, the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General (AGO) filed a petition with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) requesting that the DPU open an investigation “to assess the future of local gas distribution company (LDC) operations and planning in light of the Commonwealth’s legally binding statewide limit of net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.” Citing Massachusetts’ Global Warming Solutions Act, and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Determination of Statewide Emissions Limit for 2020,… More
This week, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office released a white paper documenting the results of a symposium convened last fall to discuss how electric markets should be organized to manage the transition to a “low / no-carbon future.” Policy wonks, such as myself, will find it fascinating reading, though it is moderately dense stuff.
Seriously, it is important to acknowledge that these issues are as complex as they are important. … More
Energy storage will play a key role in achieving New York State’s bold climate vision, set in motion in June 2019 with the passage of The Climate Leadership and Clean Energy Protection Act, the nation-leading law which calls for economy-wide emissions reductions to reach net-zero by 2050,100% clean electricity by 2040, and 70% renewable electricity by 2030. The Act also codifies an existing Cuomo Administration commitment to deploy 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030.… More
Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources released its Comprehensive Energy Plan. It’s a generally solid piece of work, even if it doesn’t say anything hugely surprising. Its various policy recommendations can be summarized fairly easily: electrify and conserve.
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
Last week there were two court decisions on cases in which groups of citizens are seeking court orders requiring the government to act on climate change. The biggest news was that the Supreme Court denied the stay requested by the United States in Juliana v. United States. This “Case of the Century” was supposed to go to trial on October 29.
If I were the plaintiffs,… More
It’s probably not news that the immediate prospects for a carbon tax aren’t great. I still think that it’s going to seem impossible until, fairly suddenly, it actually happens. Hope springs eternal.
In any case, there has been some news on the carbon tax front this month. Here’s the quick summary. The Climate Leadership Council, everyone’s favorite collection of Republicans who used to matter, released The Dividend Advantage,… More
The Houston Chronicle reported 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
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
Earlier this month, State Street Global Advisors joined the chorus of money managers urging corporate boards, particularly those in “high-impact sectors” – meaning “oil and gas, utilities and mining” – to do a better job reporting risks related to climate change. SSGA’s recent “Perspective on Effective Climate Change Disclosure” is a serious document. To put it in formal technical jargon, SSGA whacks the heck out of most companies in high-impact sectors,… More
We’ll Always Have RGGI: Paris or no Paris, New England and Mid-Atlantic States Continue to Lead on Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions
Recently, Massachusetts and the eight other New England and Mid-Atlantic states that participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative announced a proposed plan for the continued implementation of RGGI (the region’s cap-and-trade program) between the years 2020 and 2030. The plan calls for an additional reduction of GHGs by 30% by 2030, beyond the RGGI 2020 levels. Emissions would be capped at about 75 million tons in 2021,… More
Initiative petition proponents filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office earlier this week 28 proposed initiative petitions that, if certified by the AG and endorsed by the requisite number of registered voters, could appear on the November 2018 ballot. (See this post for more details on the ballot initiative process.) Interested parties have until Friday, August 11 to (1) submit memoranda setting forth why the AG should or should not certify the measure,… More
Late last month, the 2nd Circuit Court of appeals rejected a challenge to Connecticut laws intended to encourage use of renewable energy. Earlier this month, Judge Manish Shah, of the Northern District of Illinois, issued a companion decision, rejecting challenges to the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, which grants “Zero Emission Credits” to certain facilities, “likely to be two nuclear power plants owned by Exelon in Illinois.”
(Caveat: This firm represents,… More
BlackRock, which manages more than $5 trillion in assets, has released a statement on how it “engages with climate risk.” The statement has three main elements.
- Support for the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures
- Engagement with companies over assessment on climate risks
- An indication of potential support for shareholder resolutions on climate risk,…
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
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.… More
Last week, DOE announced that transportation sector CO2 emissions in the US exceeded power sector CO2 emissions for the first time since 1978. Why? The combination of increasing vehicle miles traveled in the transportation sector and the decreasing use of coal in the power sector is certainly most of the answer.
The real question is whether this is good news or bad news.… More
When RGGI was first implemented, I heard Ian Bowles, then Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs in Massachusetts, say more than once that the purpose of RGGI wasn’t really to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or jump start the clean energy economy. Instead, the goal was much more modest; it was simply to demonstrate that a trading regime could work. The RGGI states were to serve as a model,… More
Last Friday, Governor Baker issued Executive Order 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth.” EO 569 will advance climate policy in Massachusetts in a number of important ways. It also leaves much to be accomplished by MassDEP. Here are the highlights:
- EOEEA and MassDOT are instructed to work with other New England and Northeastern states to develop regional policies to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector.…
DOE and DOI Release the New National Offshore Wind Strategy: Perhaps Prosperity Is Finally Just Around the Corner
Last Friday, DOE and DOI issued an update of their National Offshore Wind Strategy. It’s a moderately aggressive strategy, seeking to deploy at least 86 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2050. The report highlights both the significant opportunities and potential for growth and also some of the remaining potential roadblocks.
On the plus side:
- The combination of fossil retirements and demand growth provide significant incentive for offshore wind development.…
Join us on September 20, 2016 for the Energy Storage Forum, presented by NECEC and Foley Hoag
This event will take place in two locations with a live video stream connecting panelists and guests in Boston and New York. More
155 Seaport Boulevard – 13th Floor
Boston, MA 02210-2600
1540 Broadway – 8th Floor
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
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
This week a draft of the long-awaited Massachusetts energy bill was reported out of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The bill would require the Commonwealth’s distribution companies to competitively solicit long-term, fifteen- to twenty-year contracts for large-scale offshore wind and hydroelectric power. Notably absent from the bill are provisions addressing resources such as solar, onshore wind, nuclear, energy storage, and energy efficiency.
The bill seeks to jumpstart the development of offshore wind in federal lease areas by directing distribution companies to enter into contracts for 1,200 MW of offshore wind power before July 1,… More
The Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy and the Baker Administration’s Department of Energy Resources have each delivered comments to the Department of Public Utilities in its Docket 16-64 implementing the Commonwealth’s transition to a “market net metering credit” rate for private net metering projects.
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
The sixth installment of our Paris climate change negotiations tracker is now available. It includes not just a complete look back at the results from Paris, but also a quick postscript on the impact of the Clean Power Plan stay order from the Supreme Court on the current prospects for successful implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Click here to download the report:
Yesterday, the Supreme Court stayed EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule. No matter how much EPA and DOJ proclaim that this says nothing about the ultimate results on the merits, the CPP is on very shaky ground at this point.
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
New guidance from the US Department of Labor (“DOL”) clarifies the role of environmental, social and governance issues (referred to as “ESG factors”) in investment decisions by ERISA fiduciaries. ERISA Interpretive Bulletin 2015-01 recognizes that ESG factors, which include climate change, may directly affect the economic value of an investment, and makes clear that ERISA fiduciaries should appropriately consider such factors in investment decisions.
This Bulletin,… More
Last month the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office released a study concluding that no new gas pipelines are needed for electric reliability in New England, as the region is expected to meet its energy needs through 2030.
The study arrives amid a debate regarding the role of gas pipelines in New England’s energy future. Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities ruled that it had the authority to allow distribution companies to pass along the costs of firm pipeline capacity to ratepayers.… More
The fourth installment of our Paris climate change negotiations tracker is available.
Some progress seems to be occurring, but it’s certainly not obvious that COP21 will result in an agreement sufficient to ensure that it will result in meeting a “below 2°C” objective.
Click here to download the report:
Governor Baker recently submitted Senate Bill No. 1965 to the Legislature. It calls for utilities to solicit long-term purchases of renewable energy. We are talking about as much as 1/3 of Massachusetts’ annual electricity use over a 15-25 year period. Two rationales are often provided to justify the large purchase of Canadian hydropower. First, cheap hydropower will ameliorate the high cost of electricity. Second, it will help Massachusetts attain its initial Global Warming Solutions Act goal of reducing GHG emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. … More
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
The Baker Administration announced on July 9 that it filed a bill for sourcing long-term hydroelectric power in the Commonwealth. Hydroelectric power currently provides a small portion of electricity consumed in Massachusetts. According to the Energy Information Administration, it ranks behind natural-gas, nuclear, coal and other renewable energy sources.
The bill, titled “An Act Relative to energy sector compliance with the Global Warming Solutions Act,” would require the State’s electric distribution companies to solicit proposals for hydroelectric contracts spanning 15 to 25 years. … More
The third installment of our Paris climate change negotiations tracker is available. This may sound like a broken record, but there was not a lot of progress made in the Bonn talks earlier this month and it’s looking more and more as though it’s going to be difficult to reach a major substantive agreement in Paris.
As the date for the Paris climate talks moves closer, we have our second installment of our climate negotiations tracker. This episode discusses the concept of “dynamism” – being able to adjust over time just how ambitious the mitigation goals will be; the mechanism for assessing the Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs; the role of non-state actors; and how to differentiate among developed and developing countries.
There’s still a lot to do if Paris is going to be a success.
As we approach the start of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties 21, slated to open in Paris on November 30, 2015, Foley Hoag begins a series of documents tracking the negotiations. The first installment discusses the range of Intended National Determined Contributions of four players in the talks: the United States, the EU, Russia, and Mexico. They provide a fairly wide range of positions, both on the extent of promised GHG reductions and on whether those commitments are conditional or unconditional.
Recently, the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously voted to move forward in developing a net metering policy. This decision comes (somewhat) on the heels of an independent study commissioned by the state’s PSC concluding that distributed solar would provide levelized net benefits to the state over a period of twenty-five years. Adding to a growing body of work finding untapped value in distributed solar,… More
The latest volley in the ongoing debate over the economic value of solar policies comes from Maine, where the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) released an independent study finding that the net value of distributed solar is $0.337 per kWh when levelized over the course of twenty-five years. That is significantly more than the state currently offers as offset credit to customers engaged in photovoltaic net metering.… More
The day before Governor Charlie Baker was sworn into office as the state’s 72nd chief executive, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection released its proposed Clean Energy Standard (CES) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
The CES would come into effect in 2020 and require a minimum percentage of electricity sold to retail customers in Massachusetts to come from “clean generation,” starting with a 45% requirement in 2020 and increasing to 49% by 2024.… More
When the Massachusetts Legislature recessed this summer without enacting the Clean Energy Bill, many stakeholders assumed the issue of creating incentives to encourage Canadian hydro imports would be deferred until the next legislative session and the next Administration. Not quite. Taking a page out of Gina McCarthy’s playbook, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has decided to rely on its existing statutory authority under the Global Warming Solutions Act (“GWSA”) to promulgate new regulations to accomplish,… More
Many in the clean energy community in Massachusetts are focused on the state legislature: the end of the legislative session is approaching and significant clean energy legislation (relating to clean energy procurement and net metering) is still in process. But the Department of Public Utilities (the DPU) has been busy, and two Orders issued earlier this month could dramatically change the way end consumers in Massachusetts use and pay for electricity – without any legislative changes.… More
You don’t have to read far in the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ recent Order on Grid Modernization, D.P.U. 12-76-B , to get a sense of what a significant step the DPU believes it is taking:
With this Order, the Department launches a new energy future for Massachusetts. The modern electric system that we envision will be cleaner, more efficient and reliable, and will empower customers to manage and reduce their energy costs.… More
On Tuesday, Governor Patrick announced a series of climate change preparedness initiatives, including about $50 million in funds for a variety of programs. Before summarizing the plan, I’ll note that Massachusetts appears to have jettisoned “adaptation” as the descriptor for programs designed to mitigate the effects of climate change. … More
One Step At A Time Is Just Too Late: The DC Circuit Strikes Down EPA’s Deferral of GHG Regulation of Biomass Emissions
On Friday, in Center For Biological Diversity v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down EPA’s rule deferring regulation of GHG emissions from “biogenic” sources. EPA had promulgated the rule, delaying regulation of emissions from biogenic sources from July 20, 2011, to July 21, 2014, on the ground that the carbon cycle is sufficiently complex that EPA is not yet in a position to judge what the actual carbon impact of different biogenic sources might be. … More
President Obama yesterday released his Climate Action Plan, together with a Memorandum concerning EPA’s issuance of rules governing carbon emissions from new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. At a certain level, there is not much new here. The mere existence of the Plan and the commitment to address climate issues is presumably the point.
The Plan does not provide many specifics. … More
On Tuesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that the first auction of leases of offshore wind areas will be held on July 31. Even though it now looks as though Cape Wind will eventually get to the finish line, this competitive lease auction, for areas off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, can really be seen to mark the true beginning of an offshore wind market.… More