office-300x199Last week, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) came one step closer to identifying a federally recognized green building certification system. The review, conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE) and commissioned by the GSA, narrowed down the list of candidates to three: the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes and the International Living Building Institute’s Living Building Challenge.

By way of background, LEED has been the federal standard since 2006 and is certainly the most well-known of the programs, with 10,000 buildings having been awarded certification and over 150,000 professionals involved in the program. However, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) requires the GSA to make an evaluation every five years and identify a system that it “deems to be most likely to encourage a comprehensive and environmentally sound approach to certification of green buildings.” The EISA requires that sustainable design principles be applied to federal design and construction projects for new buildings and major renovations.

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This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took two next steps toward the implementation of the 2008 air quality standards for ground-level ozone, which is commonly referred to as smog: it finalized designations for every area of the country, with the exception of the Chicago-Naperville and Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin area and issued a final rule relating to such designations. 1010374791-300x213

Before we get into the details of EPA’s actions, a bit of background… The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone, the main component in smog, and five other pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The law further requires EPA to review these standards every five years. As required by the CAA, in March 2008, EPA issued a new NAAQS for ground level ozone of 0.075 parts per million (ppm).  Later in 2009, EPA announced that it was initiating a rulemaking that would reconsider this standard, primarily to bring it in line with the recommendation of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), which was in the 0.060 to 0.070 ppm range. However, as we reported, in September of 2011, citing the economic downturn and the fact that it will be revised again in 2013 as part of the CAA’s five year policy, President Obama announced that he would put this rulemaking on hold and later that same month, EPA said that it would move forward with implementation of the 2008 standard of 0.075 ppm.

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 573406862-300x213Last week, Mexico’s Senate passed a rather ambitious climate change law. And it did so with a 78 to 0 vote – something not seen too often in our country! This makes our neighbors to the south only the second nation in the world (the United Kingdom is the other) and the first developing country, to pass such legislation.

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report-300x199Just as we did last year at this time, we are pleased to bring you the results of the 17th annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And… drum roll please… we here at GREENberg bLAWg (along with pretty much everyone else that reported on the topic) correctly predicted that along with economic recovery (which we seem to be inching toward) would come an increase in overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the previously reported year – a 3.2% increase from 2009 to 2010, to be exact. 

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solarpanels1-300x200In late February, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) (in collaboration with State Controller John Chiang) introduced California Senate Bill 1465.  The legislation would seek to provide credit support for small renewable energy and agricultural businesses in the form of loan guarantees.  By doing so, the bill hopes to “facilitate export expansion” and promote job retention and growth in these sectors.

I think we are all well aware of the recession that has gripped the country as a whole and many states – California included.  One of the many negative impacts of the economic climate has been the inability of small businesses to secure much-needed financing.  This is particularly true for emerging small businesses like those in the renewable energy sector.  That is where SB 1465 hopes to come in. 

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flags-300x199Last week, the State Department announced the formation of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (Coalition).  In what many are calling a response to the extremely slow pace at which the international community is working to negotiate a global climate change treaty, the United States and five other countries are launching the program in an effort to reduce emissions of the most common short-lived, fast-acting climate change pollutants. 

Representatives from Canada, Bangladesh, Ghana, Mexico, and Sweden joined Hillary Clinton in ushering in the effort which will target emissions of methane, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and black carbon, which are responsible for about one-third of the global warming problem.  These three pollutants stay in the atmosphere for just days or years, unlike carbon dioxide, which remains for about 100 years. 

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Drycleaner-300x200Okay, so it will probably come as no surprise to those readers that know anything about perc (also known as PCE, short for perchloroethylene, another name for tetrachloroethylene – whew!) that, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released it’s final health assessment for the chemical this week, EPA essentially concluded “yep, it’s still bad stuff.”  More specifically (and much more scientifically), the assessment characterized it as a “likely human carcinogen.”  In addition, the assessment cited non-cancer long-term health effects including harm to the nervous system, kidney, liver, immune and hematologic systems. 

Perc is best known for being the chemical solvent widely used in the dry-cleaning industry.  Discharges of perc (mainly from dry-cleaning facilities) have contributed to contamination at many properties.  According to EPA, hundreds of Superfund sites in the country have perc as a contaminant. 

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forest-wallpaper-nature-300x225The time has finally come… California’s cap-and-trade regulation finally went into effect in January of 2012 (not without its litigation drama along the way – see here, here, here, here, and here for the full saga).  The crowning jewel of California’s AB 32, the regulation establishes an overall cap on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for all covered sources.  There are two “compliance instruments” contemplated as a part of the cap-and-trade regulation.  In other words, there are two different items that a covered facility may obtain to allow them to emit GHGs: (i) allowances, which are a particular facility’s tradable portion of the total GHGs permitted to be emitted under the overall cap, and (ii) offsets, which are projects that will reduce emissions outside of the cap.  This article will focus on the regulation’s offset program which is run by the California Air Resources Board (ARB).

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birds-300x199Harnessing the wind – such an attractive notion in these times when awareness of the benefits of clean renewable energy is heightened.  Wildlife conservation groups (and in an ironic and hilarious way, hunting groups) are speaking out about an ugly side-effect of wind energy: bird deaths.  Yes, that’s right.  Hundreds of thousands of birds are killed each year by collisions with wind turbines.  (The number of actual deaths per year is disputed by different sources however, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated in 2009 that 440,000 bird deaths per year were attributable to wind turbines.) 

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CarsTrucksThe car-obsessed culture in California has driven (ha ha!) agencies to address the issues of climate change and air quality in more frequent, increasingly stringent and multi-faceted ways. In the latest round of regulation aimed at tackling these ever-present issues, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has announced a package of proposed new rules which it hopes will deliver cleaner air, slash greenhouse gases (GHGs) and rapidly increase numbers of zero-emissions vehicles. The comprehensive Advanced Clean Car program has been in the works for three years and unites the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the emission of smog-producing pollutants into one single group of rules for cars and light trucks from 2015 through 2025.

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