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Litigation aiming to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases is coming to be dominated by battles over coal-fired power plants. Ten of the last 20 judicial or administrative decisions or case filings in matters aiming to reduce emissions of Greenhouse Gasses (GHGs) have concerned such plants. This column discusses the most recent legal developments concerning coal plants, including those on the regulatory and legislative fronts. Specifically, the author points to legal developments in the areas of air pollution litigation, regulatory activity, and congressional activity.
This report explores a range of national policies to increase energy efficiency, accelerate the adoption of renewable energy technologies and shift energy use to more efficient power systems while reducing the electricity bills of consumers and businesses. The policies considered for the industrial sector are aimed at utilizing the vast potential for cogeneration of heat and power and improving energy efficiencies through technical assistance, financial incentives and expanded research and development (R&D) programs to encourage cost-effective emissions reductions. The policies for residential and commercial buildings include strengthened codes for building energy consumption, new appliance efficiency standards, and tax incentives. The policies considered for the electric generation sector include a market-oriented “renewable portfolio standard” (RPS) and a cap on pollutant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and carbon dioxide.
The built environment, climate change, and public health are closely connected; human-generated greenhouse gases derive from aspects of the built environment such as transportation systems and infrastructure, building construction and operation, and land-use planning. Transportation affects human health directly through air pollution and subsequent respiratory effects, as well as indirectly through physical activity behavior. Buildings contribute to climate change, influence transportation, and affect health through the materials utilized, decisions about sites, electricity and water usage, and landscape surroundings. Land use, forestry, and agriculture also contribute to climate change and affect health by increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, shaping the infrastructures for both transportation and buildings, and affecting access to green spaces. Working across sectors to incorporate a health promotion approach in the design and development of built environment components may mitigate climate change, promote adaptation, and improve public health.
This report identifies the root causes of Baltimore’s failed and inequitable waste system, and how its impacts intersect with racial and economic justice. The Baltimore Sustainability Plan will enable the city to move towards a new system of fair development aligned with human rights principles anchored to a Zero Waste framework. This plan recognizes the challenges and opportunities towards meeting Baltimore’s Zero Waste goal and includes several initiatives to have a major shift towards expanding composting, making the city’s recycling program reliably and coventiently to all, while emphasizing Zero Waste opportunities to create local jobs.
Policies to spur increased investment in renewable electricity generation can offer significant public benefits, including economic development and energy security, as well as improved public health and environmental quality owing to air pollution reductions. Congress has attempted to formally recognize these benefits by creating the Conservation and Renewable Energy Reserve (CRER) in the 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments, which set aside a portion of the national SO2 allowance budget for renewable energy and energy efficiency. However, the CRER was severely underutilized, and has expired. This study considers modifications to CAA that would increase the number of emission allowances allocated to renewable energy generation to enable renewables to compete fairly in emission trading and clean air compliance markets, and estimates the economic and environmental benefits of these changes.
This report outlines a series of strategies that can be used to reduce the impacts of climate change through risk management in the Metro-Boston region. It provides recommendations in five major sectors (built environment and key infrastructure, coastal zone, natural resources and habitat, human health and welfare, and local economy and government) that should be taken to make the region prepared for and resilient to natural disasters and climate change.