Although Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Lieberman’s (I-CT) recently released American Power Act and the American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed by the House in June 2009, call for identical reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of 17% below 2005 levels Congressby 2020 and 83% below those levels by 2050, they differ in several important respects:

  • The American Power Act begins regulating GHG emissions from electric utilities, transportation fuels and refined oil products in 2013. The regulatory scheme expands in 2016 to include large industrial sources and natural gas distributors. Conversely, the House bill would begin regulating electricity production, transportation fuels, and refined oil products in 2012 and add industrial sources in 2014.

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In the wake of the massive Gulf Coast oil spill, three coastal Senators have introduced legislation entitled the “Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act.” The bill was introduced on May 3, 2010 by Senators Robert Menendez (D – NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D – NJ), and Bill Nelson (D – FL).
Under the current law, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, liability for economic damages, such as lost business revenues from fishing and tourism, resulting from an oil spill is capped at $75 million, although unlimited damages are available in certain situations, such as a finding that the operator was grossly negligent or violated federal laws or regulations. Once that cap is reached, claimants can seek reimbursement from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which was created through a tax on produced and imported oil.
Gulf of Mexico Oil Leak

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The Kerry-Lieberman-Graham Senate climate change bill that was scheduled for a public unveiling on April 26, 2010 remains under wraps. Days before its scheduled introduction, Sen. Graham (R-SC) withdrew his support for the legislation he had been working on with Senators Kerry (D – MA) and Lieberman (I – CT) for months. Graham’s action was the result of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D – NV) failure to assure him that the Senate would not begin consideration of an immigration reform bill before or at the same time the global warming and energy legislation undergoes floor debate. The Kerry-Lieberman-Graham bill is thought to contain more incentives for industry than the bill passed by the House earlier this year, such as increased funding for oil exploration and nuclear energy and a preemption on states’ and EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

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Rights of Old Oil Do Not Trump Needs of New Residents; Related CEQA Lawsuit Against LA County Set for April 5th Trial

Culver CityGreenberg Glusker today announced that the Los Angeles Superior Court has upheld the right of its client, the City of Culver City, California, to regulate expansion and intensification of new oil well drilling in order to protect its residents. In an order issued March 26, 2010, Judge James Chalfant rejected a challenge by an oil company, Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP), which sought a writ of mandate invaliding the City’s moratorium on new drilling.

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Although not wholly unexpected, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. will not meet the renewable power mandates required under California Law this year, according to a March 1 article by the San Francisco Business Times. While PG&E will come close, it expects only 17 to 19 percent of its electricity will come from renewable sources in 2010 — just short of the 20 percent target required under the law. (Click here to read.)

Renewable PowerInterestingly, PG&E gets at least 51 percent of its power from no-emissions hydroelectric and nuclear power sources, but unlike wind and solar power facilities those sources aren’t considered renewable under California law.

PG&E officials echo complaints heard throughout the industry that a weak climate for financing these projects and long permitting odysseys have prevented further development of wind, solar and biomass projects. Even so, the amount of renewable power coming from these generation sources have risen steadily in the past years.

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On February 28, the Los Angeles Times reported that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has recommended a “carbon surcharge” to help the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power seek new renewable energy sources. The proposed fee, which could amount to $2.50 per consumer, would help the utility pursue new solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources, he said. The fee, according to Villaraigosa, would also make it easier for the utility to meet its mandated goal of using at least 20 percent renewable energy sources by the end of this year. So far, it appears the utility will not meet that goal by December 31, according to the Times. (To read click here.)

Los Angeles MayorThe proposal is controversial because some critics say that with Los Angeles facing a $484 million budget deficit this year and with the potential for layoffs and huge cuts to city services, it’s not a good time to charge consumers for new services — no matter how well intentioned. But Villaraigosa contends that a majority of citizens (64 percent) in a recent poll agree with the proposed surcharge and would welcome it.
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Landowners, some reeling after years of costly regulatory scrutiny and enforcement actions, often find themselves at a loss with what to do with Superfund sites, brownfields and former landfills and tapped-out mines. Well, on Feb. 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offered at least one possible solution: develop renewable energy facilities on these tainted lands. (Click here to read.)

The idea would appear to appeal to landowners stuck with contaminated property they can not otherwise develop, and to green energy advocates who are constantly seeking new, easily developed spots for their solar, wind and biomass projects. Often the latter face a long and excruciated permit process. So is the EPA killing two birds with one stone? Perhaps.
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In late January and just as many publicly-traded companies were preparing their annual reports, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission published a 29-page release on how, when and if those companies should disclose risks and costs associated with greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to their stockholders. (Click here to read.)

Companies are already required to disclose how pending litigation and potential legislation might affect their bottom lines. The SEC, in fact, is quick to point out that its new guidelines do not actually change or codify any laws. Rather, they simply reinforce the concept that any risks — even climate change — could be material and thus subject to public disclosure.
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The California Climate Action Registry recently recognized Greenberg Glusker for the firm’s extensive commitment to climate change and sustainability. That commitment was on display in the office remodel making it a true green office.

The key elements included recycling and reusing materials from the old design and incorporating them into the remodel of the firm’s new interior spaces. From the metal screws to wood panels to light fixtures, nearly 95 percent of the materials were recycled and reused.

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California wineries are joining the increasing number of industries that are instituting sustainable and carbon-friendly methods of operation. To date, although only one winery, located in Napa Valley, has received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council , numerous wineries and vineyards are implementing growing, harvesting, fermentation, storage, bottling and shipping practices that reduce pesticide and water use, conserve energy and maximize recycling. These practices include increased use of renewable energy such as solar and biofuels, reduced tillage, increased use of drip irrigation, conversion of harvesting and juice processing activities to nighttime operations, changing lighting from incandescent to fluorescent systems, use of cover for barrel aging rather than warehouses and foam insulation on fermentation and storage tanks. While providing a potential marketing advantage and favorable public perception, these measures also have a direct impact on the facility’s bottom line by decreasing the usage, and associated costs, of water and energy.
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