Event Coverage from the "Should Universities and Pension Funds Divest from Fossil Fuel Stocks?" Forum, held at Columbia University on November 24, 2014.The campaign encouraging shareholding entities to divest their holdings and funds from the stocks of fossil fuel companies has grown from a loosely affiliated grassroots confederation into a...
On September 16, 2014, the federal Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") rejected the vast majority of a low-cost loan request from the administration of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to help finance a replacement for the aging Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River approximately 25 miles north of midtown Manhattan. The decision was hailed by environmental advocates who had argued that the federal funding, authorized by a 1987 amendment to the landmark Clean Water Act ("CWA"), should be reserved for "genuine environmentally beneficial projects" such as those financing municipal wastewater facilities and improving water quality. The federal rejection of $481.8 million in funding was also notable in that the full $510.9 million request had been approved by the agency responsible for managing the revolving loan fund, the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation ("EFC").
Event Coverage from the Columbia University Energy Symposium, held at Columbia University on November 21, 2014.
This Field Report addresses the major topics covered by the Governance Policies on Climate Change Panel at the 10th Annual Columbia University Energy Symposium, held on November 21st, 2014. Panelists included Farrukh Khan, Senior Manager & Head of Climate Finance at the United Nations Executive Office of the Secretary-General; Jean-Philippe Brisson, a partner at Latham & Watkins and Co-Chair of its Air-Quality and Climate Change Practice; and Andrew Darrell, Chief of Strategy, U.S. Climate, & Energy and New York Regional Director at the Environmental Defense Fund. Sara F. Tjossem, a senior lecturer in Environmental Science & Policy at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, moderated the panel. These leaders in environmental law and policy focused their discussion on state, national, and international implementation of cap-and-trade, and considered how to fund sustainable development in both the developed and developing worlds.
Event Coverage from the "Should Universities and Pension Funds Divest from Fossil Fuel Stocks?" Forum, held at Columbia University on November 24, 2014.
The campaign encouraging shareholding entities to divest their holdings and funds from the stocks of fossil fuel companies has grown from a loosely affiliated grassroots confederation into a national-arguably global-movement deserving of major media coverage. It targets universities, pension funds, foundations, and religious institutions, among other groups. In the realm of university campaigns, students and occasionally alumni typically aim to pressure the school's fiduciaries to divest for political or moral reasons.
For the past decade, Cuba has permitted drilling offshore exploratory wells in the North Cuban Basin, just 60 miles from the United States' coastline. As the Deepwater Horizon disaster made clear, offshore exploratory drilling can go disastrously wrong and the environmental consequences of a spill can be devastating. Unfortunately, the Cuban Embargo is creating several obstacles to working with Cuba to avert and respond to drilling related disasters.
This Field Report previews Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, a pending Supreme Court case that will address whether the EPA permissibly concluded that a group of stationary sources are subject to permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act. For decades, the EPA has operated with the understanding that once a particular type of air pollutant becomes regulated under any section the Clean Air Act, the EPA could take the next step and regulate the same pollutant with respect to other sources in other sections of the Act. Accordingly, EPA determined that because it had started to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, it could also regulate these emissions from larger stationary sources. This interpretation has generated controversy because if these permitting requirements applied immediately, the costs would be so staggering that the EPA itself has decided to phase-in the permitting requirements.
States face a hurdle in regulating greenhouse gas emissions that the federal government does not: the dormant Commerce Clause. Most states import considerable amounts of electricity, so a state that desires to enact a strong climate program must regulate its imported power. Yet emissions from electricity generation must be measured at the emitting power plant because it is impossible to retroactively measure the emissions associated with electricity once it is on the grid. Therefore, because imports come from facilities beyond state borders, it is difficult for a state to regulate imported power using the same methodology used to regulate instate power. Unfortunately, any difference in the treatment of out-of-state electricity is likely to prompt a dormant Commerce Clause challenge, as evidenced by recent developments in California. This Field Report discusses how just one contiguous state does not face this challenge: Texas. Because Texas has a mostly isolated electrical grid and physically cannot import large quantities of power, this Field Report argues that Texas is the state best positioned to implement a strong and indisputably constitutional climate regime.
Air pollution is now the world’s “most important environmental carcinogen.” So concluded a recent expert panel on cancer research at the World Health Organization (WHO). Governments have responded to such unsettling statistics in part through increased regulation. In March 2013, Washington D.C.-based environmental consulting firm Enhesa reported that global environmental, health, and safety (EHS) regulation has risen 35% over the past four years. In particular, global regulation of air emissions increased 26% between 2009 and 2012—the fourth highest rate of change by regulatory area surveyed. While North America passed over 70 air-related regulations in 2009, it adopted nearly 90 in 2012. Similarly, while Europe passed almost 150 air-related regulations in 2009, it adopted nearly 180 in 2012. Clearly, air emissions regulation is on the rise in North America and throughout the world.
On October 22, 2012, the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School hosted a forum to discuss the future of RGGI. The event addressed results from the first three years of RGGI’s existence, some perceived problems with the program, and potential solutions. The speakers gave a wide range of assessments of the impact of RGGI, from Mr. Snyder arguing that “by just about any measure, [RGGI] has been a success,” to Mr. Stavins stating, “I don’t think it deserves credit for much.” This Field Report will discuss the perspective of the various speakers to determine who the winners and losers have been under the program, its effectiveness as a tool against climate change, and its future.
The continuing advancement of nanotechnology represents a tremendous opportunity for society because of the unique traits that nanoscale materials possess. Unfortunately, the same physical traits that give nanotechnology its economic and scientific value also make it a potentially dangerous emerging form of pollution that is particularly difficult to regulate under current law. After discussing the properties of nanoparticles and the current, problematic legal framework surrounding their environmental regulation, I will explore an alternative regulatory regime that could prove to be more successful in confronting the environmental risk posed by nanoparticles.
This Field Report provides background on the MRGO and its role in Hurricane Katrina’s impact on the Gulf region, the subsequent district court litigation, and compares the initial Fifth Circuit ruling with the panel’s current ruling on the case. Although the reasons why the Fifth Circuit withdrew its initial ruling may never be known beyond the walls of the judges’ chambers, a comparison of the two rulings suggests that there was a change from emphasis on what the Corps actually did to an emphasis on the nature of the decision the Corps had to make. This revised opinion brings the Fifth Circuit back in line with its other decisions requiring the government merely to show that “the acts or omissions that form the basis of the suit are susceptible to a policy-driven analysis, not whether they were the end product of a policy-driven analysis.
FIELD REPORTS ARCHIVES: POPULAR POSTS
03 June 2014 12:00 am
This Field Report previews Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, a pending Supreme Court case that will address whether the EPA permissibly concluded that a group of stationary sources are subject to permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act. For decades, the EPA has operated with the understanding that once a particular type of air pollutant...
21 December 2014 12:00 am
For the past decade, Cuba has permitted drilling offshore exploratory wells in the North Cuban Basin, just 60 miles from the United States' coastline. As the Deepwater Horizon disaster made clear, offshore exploratory drilling can go disastrously wrong and the environmental consequences of a spill can be devastating. Unfortunately, the Cuban...
13 December 2013 12:00 am
States face a hurdle in regulating greenhouse gas emissions that the federal government does not: the dormant Commerce Clause. Most states import considerable amounts of electricity, so a state that desires to enact a strong climate program must regulate its imported power. Yet emissions from electricity generation must be...