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The United States has seen a remarkable set of developments at the international level in controlling greenhouse gas emissions- the entry into force of the Paris Climate Agreement, and major new agreements on controlling hydrofluorocarbon emissions and pollution from airplanes. The stunning election of Donald Trump casts the future of some but not all of these efforts into doubt, however. The following column details out these agreements and their future impacts within the United States and abroad.
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.
On June 20, 2011, the U.S. Supreme court issued its much-anticipated decision in 'American Electric Power v. Connecticut,' the second climate change case to be decided by that Court and the first to concern common law claims. The decision resolves a few issues but leaves many others open. In this article, Michael B. Gerrard explains this Supreme Court decision where it was ruled that federal common law nuisance claims could not proceed as the EPA has ultimate authority on the regulation of carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants. From this decision, the author describes various questions that were left unanswered, including whether or not the Clean Air Act preempts state public nuisance litigation over GHGs in addition to whether the Supreme Court's decision bars all federal common law nuisance claims, or only those that sought injunctive relief.
The power sector is responsible for a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the country’s single largest contributor to climate pollution. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency released a Clean Power Plan aimed at curbing these emissions, with specific state-by-state goals. Many utilities firms quickly opposed the Obama administration initiative to cut power plant emissions on the grounds that it would require costly investments in clean energy generation. A cheaper, faster route to achieving the Clean Power Plan goals would be to reduce electricity demand through improved energy efficiency. This report calculates how much additional revenue would be available for investment in energy efficiency if utilities paid their fair share of taxes.
An increasing body of evidence shows that private Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft are either shifting transit riders into cars or inducing new car trips which ultimately increases greenhouse gas emissions in the Bay Area. To combat this, the Bay Area needs an ambitious policy and investment agenda that emphasizes public solutions, funds community-identifed transportation needs over corporate experiments in mobility services, and prioritizes residents’ right to the city and its streets for public transit, walking, and biking. Key components of this policy would include revenue from progressive funding sources, regulation that addresses the problems caused by significant increases in car traffic, and right of way that prioritizes access to our city streets for all residents of differing abilities.
Hawaii became the first state to pass a law committing to the goals and limits of the Paris Climate Accord. The state’s governor, David Y. Ige, signed a bill explicitly geared toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the landmark goals adopted by world leaders with the Paris Agreement in 2015.