Look Back & Look Ahead
What are the pluses and minuses of the ACES bill approved by the House and what are the big issues for a Senate climate bill? One view
What are the pluses and minuses of the ACES bill approved by the House and what are the big issues for a Senate climate bill? One view
DOE announces new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs. The end is nearer for incandescents. You're on!
The US Department of the Interior designates 670,000 acres of land as suitable for siting solar energy plants. Plug in
Plans for North America's first new nuclear power plant in thirty years stall on unexpectedly high costs. Look into it
British Prime Minster Gordon Brown delivers a speech on climate change and the road to Copenhagen. Get it here
A Texas oil refiner will use wind power to refine crude oil into gasoline and diesel. WSJ
For Joe Romm, Congressional passage of the American Clean Energy and Security bill is a stunning political achievement. Here's why
A new combination bowling and rock venue in Brooklyn aims for a LEED rating. Go Williamsburg!
A start-up company plans to grow algae that absorbs CO2 which produces water and ethanol. In turn, the ethanol could be a feedstock to make plastic. What a concept!
France puts 15% of Areva, the world's largest nuclear reactor maker, up for sale. Learn more
US manufacturers are beginning to see the job and economic growth potential of sustainaiblity. More than tree-hugging
Chicago's 1970's iconic Sears Tower becomes a 21st century star by investing $350 million to cut its electric use 80% over the next five years. All this and roof top wind turbines too! Look up
University researchers are developing a synthetic tree that could capture CO2 a thousand times faster than a real one. How poetic
I couldn't resist! Plug in
Shrinking global carbon emissions in 2008 are linked to a bad economy and high oil prices. Plan B?
Despite Labor government support, the Australian parliament puts off voting on a climate change bill until August. Stop on by
Expecting a House vote on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, long-term observers weigh in. Join in
The bad boys of the environmental movement pooh-pooh cap and trade and carbon taxes. Their solution to climate change is big bucks for clean tech. Nordhaus & Shellenberger
Compare and contrast the EPA and CBO estimates for the cost of the Waxman climate bill if it becomes law. Makes sense
A new study totes up the costs of new nuclear power plants and concludes that they are no clean-energy bargain. Fine print
Get a summary of the summary of the state of China's environment, 2008 edition. In brief
Prices for RGGI CO2 emission permits drop 13 cents to hit a new low. Some bargain
Private alt-energy finaciers like GE are waiting for new federal rules about grants before investing. Spend some time
Negotiations leading to changes in the Waxman climate bill set the stage for a Congressional vote on Friday. Stay tuned
IBM research may lead to warming your workplace with waste heat from your PC. Cool
In 2012, Nissan will start producing 100,000 electric cars a year in its US plants and get nearly $2 billion in federal loans. Jump start
Greenpeace members try to stop delivery of coal to an English power plant. Ahoy
The green roof plan for the Brooklyn Academy of Music includes an aviary for migrating birds. Twitter that!
Mayor Bloomberg's plan to make over NYC's taxis into gas and electric fuel cars struck down by a federal judge. Stop!
If Congress passes ambitious renewable energy standards, Moore's law, which says the power of computer chips doubles every eighteen months, could come true for PV too. Place your bets
A Danish experiment will test whether the batteries of parked cars that store electricity generated by wind power can be reliably tapped as an energy source when the wind isn't blowing. Buffer that
A new generation of hybrid diesel-clean power train engines could be on the way. All aboard
In 20 years, Wales plans to get all its electricity from renewable sources. Wow
While the House gets more media attention with the Waxman bill, the Senate takes a different approach to climate and energy. Very different
A Minnesota Democrat who represents farm interests opposes the House climate bill. Wade in
The June Copenhagen climate report raises the warning level but that doesn't mean all is lost. See here
In French voting for the European Parliament, the Greens came in just behind the Socialists. Daniel Cohn-Bendit declares the Green parties want to defend the future of everyone. Connect here
China and Greenpeace want shut down the Kyoto Protocol's carbon trading market and replace it with direct funding to developing nations. Learn more
Russia's offer to cut carbon emissions 15-20% by 2020 doesn't offer much. Watch that baseline
If the climate challenge isn't met, the UK faces a sweltering century. Whew!
House negotiations over the Waxman climate bill advance with offer of free emissions credits to farm belt rural utilities. WSJ
The federal Energy Department announces another $453 million for weatherization and related job programs for 15 states. Not NY
New studies support the equation that climate protection + clean energy = economic growth + good green collar jobs. Links here
Take a stroll near Madison Square Garden to catch a real-time LED sign that displays how much GHG is in the atmosphere. But will measurement lead to political management of climate change? Stay tuned
A report is circulating that Duke Energy, Areva and UniStar (recipient of a federal loan guarantee) will build a 1,600 MW nuclear power plant near Cincinnati, Ohio. Get the latest
Since it ain't over til it's over, this debate over the Waxman Markey climate bill is essential reading. Start here
Scientists report that the pace of global change is even faster than predicted two years ago. What next?
Environmental organizations oppose the Senate energy bill as now written. Look into it
Critics charge that government plans requiring CO2 controls on all coal-fired power plants could result in massive shutdowns. Plug in
Four companies appear likely to receive the entire $18.5 billion in federal loan guarantees to construct new nuclear power plants. Here's who
Grist revisits the Waxman-Markey bill and says it's not a free handout of carbon emissions permits after all. Follow the money
JP Morgan will put up $1 billion and become the first foreign investor in South Korea's new green program. Look into it
The revived Futuregen plan for a coal-fired, carbon-capturing power plant gets panned by environmentalists for setting low goals. Look ahead
Rolling Stone profiles Obama's Nobel Prize-winning Energy Secretary, Steven Chu. Plug in
On June 16, the US Global Change Research Program posted a report on region-by-region impacts of climate change in the US. The multi-media summary
Investors consider feasibility of funding concentrating solar power plants in North Africa that would transmit electricity to consumers in Europe. Plug in
A Queens church roof will sprout a hydroponic, solar-powered farm for growing 30 tons of vegetables. Heavenly
A study by the White House Office of Technology will be released on June 16, 1:30 pm which finds that climate impacts are already being felt in the US. Stay tuned
Australia's consumer regulators to investigate claims made by business about their carbon emissions and the financial value at stake. Look into it
Official plans to build walls at the edge of Rio's infamous favelas to block expansion into the city's forested hillsides raises suspicion of sealing residents in. WSJ
Bonneville Power, a major hydro-power supplier, also supplies wind power. Can it balance its water-power with its wind on the grid? Get connected
Japan's plan to cut GHG emissions by 15% could be ambitious because it relies on cuts to reduction emissions, unlike the US climate bill before Congress. Look into it
A newly-designed wind turbine mounted on rooftop water tanks could make wind farms in NYC a reality. Beat a path
Delve into the science behind the headline about slowing wind speeds over the US and the implications for wind power. Take data!
The first wind turbine that floats on the ocean surface instead of anchoring to the ocean floor is being installed by a Norwegian utility. Deep
Fearing potential costs without benefits to farmers, the Chair of the House Agriculture Committee insists on changes to the Waxman climate bill. Stay tuned
The EU's 20x20 renewable power goal can't be met with its aging, patchwork electric distribution grid. Plug in
NY's Charles Rangel, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, is a strong advocate of health care reform, but his support for climate legislation is seen as less clear. Environmentalists, religious and citizen groups write him a letter. Read it
Google's research investment in renewables like solar thermal could make clean power cheaper than coal within three years. Search here
Global CO2 emissions from burning coal grew more in 2008 than emissions from other fossil fuels. Look east
China calls the Japanese target to cut carbon emissions 15% by 2020 nowhere near enough. Take that
Under a US carbon cap and trade scheme, design and regulation of financial markets for emissions permits and derivatives are necessary for success. Duke's carbon primer
Austin Texas now requires prospective sellers of older single family homes to do energy audits and disclose the results to interested buyers. WSJ
An energy efficiency audit of the US Department of Energy uncovers wasteful behavior that cost taxpayers $1.5 million a year. WSJ
Will Congress pass climate legislation this year? Get Grist's prediction
A French utility is on one side of a take-over struggle to buy an Irish carbon emissions trading firm. Invest some time
Here's what renewable energy looks like. The slide show
Washington DC and Washington State agree to speedy approval of new ocean wave-power technology. Plug in
Transportation Secretary LaHood rejects calls for higher federal fuel taxes to pay for roads, rails or ports. Get the message
Brookings Institute research argues that record oil prices in 2007 contributed to the economic melt-down of 2008. Fine print
Trading CO2 emissions permits is exempted from France's 19.6% VAT. Learn more
Markets for low CO2 cement, insulation and other nitty-gritty eco-friendly building materials are set to soar. Look ahead
Energy Secretary Chu's chosen path on climate and energy would be paved with game-changing technologies. Your choice?
China invested 18% more in renewables in 2007 than the previous year while North American investments fell 8% over the same period. Oh
The US is said to have enough coal underground to last 240 years. New estimates suggest that just 6% of that reserve could be profitably mined. WSJ
Survey results find that green collar jobs are well-paying and well-liked. Work it
Coal industry opposition to climate legislation could lead Australian PM Rudd to call early elections. Learn more
China will meet with the US Climate Envoy this week to explore issues of mutual interest. Stay tuned
The concept of allowing big carbon emitters to pay tropical nations to preserve rainforests instead of curtailing their own GHGs, suffers from credibility and compliance problems. Learn more
Scroll through this digest of observations and ideas ranging from glacier science, to GM, to nuclear and solar power. Fine print!
A House Committee holds hearings on legislation to regulate fracking, a natural gas drilling method that relies on injecting chemicals underground. The American Petroleum Institute opposes the bill. Drill down
Banks that invest in energy efficient operations find it's a money saver. It adds up
The idea of adding $10 billion for a Carbon Storage Research Corporation (with $500 million for administrative expenses) to the Waxman climate bill, with the money coming from a surcharge on electricity bills, is the brainchild of Virginia's Rick Boucher. Stay tuned
The Mayor of Paris urges immediate urban action to combat climate change. Think fast
Greenpeace reports that carbon offsets fail to lower GHG emissions in the UK. Read on
Will politics eviscerate the Waxman-Markey climate bill? Look inside
Federal funding for wave and tide power development could be cut 25% but solar and wind projects could be winners. Dive in
By mid-century, the World Bank reports that Hungary and Poland could become as hot as Sicily. Phew!
Volvo joins with a Swedish power utility to create a plug-in system for electric cars. Charge ahead
Green Cities assembles the ingredients for growing high performance cities with good green collar jobs and energy efficient buildings. Fine print
Experts and government representatives gather to put ideas into action for growing urban green collar jobs. Start here
New York Magazine reports steeper drops in sales of green condos than conventional properties, but concedes that this apparent trend isn't based on much data.
The Sierra Club launches a for profit,one-stop-shopping and services web site for green homes. Move in
Senate Democrats are gearing up for a climate change bill that tracks the Waxman-Markey bill in the House. Stay tuned
All levels of government -- federal, state and local -- are beginning to consider climate change in the environmental review process, and all three seem on the verge of making it mandatory for almost all projects that require an environmental impact statement (EIS).
This is good news for proponents of environmentally sound development. If sound rules are adopted, applicants and approving agencies would be required to consider systematically -- and perhaps quantitatively -- the greenhouse gas (GHG) implications of projects they are considering, of feasible alternatives, and of mitigation measures. Consideration would also be required of the impacts of climate change on projects, such as rising sea and groundwater levels.
Almost every project that would emit significant amounts of GHGs and that is otherwise already subject to one of the environmental review laws would probably already be subject to EIS requirements because of other impacts. Thus adding a climate change section to the EIS scope of work would only slightly increase the cost of EIS preparation, at least once standard assessment procedures have been adopted. But the added public benefits could be considerable, as a project’s climate significance would be injected into the decision-making process.
In 1997, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the White House office charged with implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), circulated a draft guidance document requiring consideration of climate change under NEPA. The guidance was never adopted. However, beginning in 2003, federal courts began halting some federal actions where GHGs had not been examined as part of the NEPA process. In one of the most important of these cases, in 2007 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit annulled the average fuel economy standards for light trucks, in part because no EIS had been prepared. The court declared, “The impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change is precisely the kind of cumulative impacts analysis that NEPA requires agencies to conduct.”
In early 2008, several environmental groups filed a formal petition with CEQ asking it to issue formal guidance on climate change and NEPA. (I was pro bono counsel to the Natural Resources Defense Council in that petition.)
Then in 2009, shortly after the Obama Administration took office, two federally-owned corporations -- the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank -- agreed to settle a lawsuit that Friends of the Earth had brought against them for failing to consider climate change in their decisions to help finance U.S. involvement in energy projects abroad. The two entities agreed not only to include climate change in their future EISs, but also to take substantive actions to reduce GHG impacts and finance energy efficiency measures.
About twenty states have their own equivalents of NEPA. The first state to take serious action on climate change under its law was Massachusetts, which in April 2007 required GHG analysis under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act. Two months later King County, Washington (which includes Seattle) took similar action. But the state that has surged far ahead is California, whose attorney general, Jerry Brown, began sending stern letters to various municipalities and project applicants demanding consideration of climate issues under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). These initiatives resulted in several prominent settlements under which detailed CEQA analysis was conducted, and substantive measures to reduce GHG impacts were adopted.
The California Legislature adopted a statute in 2006 requiring issuance of formal guidance on how this analysis should be done, and meanwhile several non-governmental organizations formulated their own guidance. These requirements continue to be controversial in California, with important voices in the Legislature seeking their repeal, but so far without success.
New York State has been late to the game, but it is finally taking action. The text of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) provides that EISs should discuss the “effects of the proposed action on the use and conservation of energy resources, where applicable and significant,” and should also consider a project’s effect on air pollution. (The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that GHGs are air pollutants.) In February 2008, New York officials included detailed climate-related requirements in the scoping document for certain actions at the state-run Belleayre Mountain Ski Center and for the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park.
On March 11, 2009, DEC issued a draft guidance on the consideration of climate change in EISs where DEC itself is the lead agency. (DEC is seldom the lead agency, but this guidance is likely to be picked up by other agencies.) The guidance requires EISs to consider direct emissions of GHGs (stack and fugitive emissions from on-side combustion or industrial processes, and emissions from fleet vehicles associated with the project), as well as indirect emissions of GHGs (from off-site energy plants supplying energy used by the project, from vehicle trips to and from the project site during its operation, and from generation, transportation, treatment and disposal of wastes generated at the site). The guidance also calls for projections of the reduction in GHG emissions that would result from mitigation measures, and quantification of reductions in GHG emissions that would result from mitigation measures considered and rejected.
Disappointingly, the guidance does not require an analysis of the effect of climate change on projects. However, the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force may adopt this as a recommendation.
The guidance only concerns consideration of GHGs in actions that are already undergoing the EIS process. DEC is currently drafting revisions to its Environmental Assessment Form that will require a look at GHGs before a decision is made on whether to require an EIS.
The New York City Office of Environmental Coordination is well along in revising its comprehensive City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) Technical Manual. The target date for completion is fall 2009. It will contain a chapter on climate change, which will spell out the required analysis of the action’s GHG emissions and its adaptation to climate change.
Already, many EISs prepared under both SEQRA and CEQR are looking at climate change issues, perhaps as a precaution against judicial challenges. So far no court in New York has ruled on whether this analysis is required, but such a ruling would not be difficult to envision in an appropriate case.
The EIS process has already proven itself to be a useful forum for considering energy use and other green building issues. For example, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority were co-lead agencies for the preparation of an EIS under both NEPA and SEQRA for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center. (I was environmental counsel to Silverstein Properties in that process.) The EIS process led to the development of a set of sustainable design guidelines, and ultimately to the commitment to build to LEED Gold levels.
If and when consideration of GHGs becomes mandatory as part of the NEPA, SEQRA and CEQR projects, proponents of green building practices will have an excellent platform for the consideration, analysis, disclosure and hopefully adoption of measures to minimize GHG emissions and to prepare projects and sites for the climate change that will inevitably occur in the coming decades.
Michael B. Gerrard is a professor of professional practice at Columbia Law School and director of its Center for Climate Change Law. He is also Senior Counsel to Arnold & Porter LLP, where he was formerly managing partner of the New York office. Among his books are Environmental Impact Review in New York and Global Climate Change and U.S. Law.
Media research finds that "green" themes don't sell magazines. No sex!
Greenpeace discovers that beef sold in Britain comes from Brazilian farms destroying the Amazon rainforest. Dig in
Diana Balmori leads the way on green roofs in NYC and around the world. Heads up
Texans won't be seeing any solar power rebates but can pay back PV costs by way of property taxes. Plug in