Issued by 13 federal agencies, the 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment presented a stark warning on the consequences of climate change for the United States. The report predicts that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will reduce the U.S. economy by as much as 10 percent by the end of the century. The report, which was mandated by Congress and made public by the White House, is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions—the 1,656-page assessment lays out the devastating effects of a changing climate on the economy—but also in how it conflicts with President Donald Trump’s environmental deregulation plan. U.S. policy efforts at the state and local levels are ramping up to address this complex topic. These include:
Sustainability has evolved from a passing trend or niche preference into an undeniable, growing driver of the real estate market. This is particularly true as millennials comprise an increasing proportion of the workforce, home-buying population, and individuals influencing the future of real estate development in the United States.
A Resolution has been proposed to the House for consideration that would recognize the Federal Government’s duty “to create a Green New Deal.” It sets forth a very ambitious 10-year program to mobilize and transform every aspect of American life to combat the threats of climate change by transitioning to an economy based upon 100% clean and renewable energy.
The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) recently posted final adopted text for amendments to the CEQA Guidelines. The result of over five years of development efforts by the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research and CNRA, the amendments are the most comprehensive update to the CEQA Guidelines since 1998. In “Natural Resources Agency Finalizes Updates to the CEQA Guidelines,” Pillsbury environmental attorneys Norman F. Carlin, Kevin Ashe and Eric Moorman explore the wide range of issues covered in the amendments, including the new Vehicle-Miles-Traveled (VMT) methodology for analyzing transportation impacts; use of regulatory standards as significance thresholds; environmental baselines; and numerous procedural and technical improvements.
- Ongoing incentives at the state level for offshore wind, other forms of renewable power, and electric storage;
- Impacts of dueling tariffs and trade restrictions on the energy industry;
- Reversals of federal policy on greenhouse gas emissions and on lands open to hydrocarbon development;
- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision in Calpine v. PJM Interconnection and its consequences for wholesale electricity markets; and
- Cybersecurity and blockchain developments affecting the national grid.
It was already the case that in order to offer to install California residential solar energy systems, a contractor must be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and must hold an appropriate specialty classification. Under AB 1070 enacted late last year (Chapter 662, Statutes of 2017), special consumer protections are being deployed for the benefit of homeowners. Those protections are steadily rolling out.
On May 9, the California Energy Commission announced that it has “adopted building standards that require solar photovoltaic systems starting in 2020.” The 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards are expected to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 115,000 fossil fuel cars off the road.” California will be the first in the nation to require solar. The new standards take effect on January 1, 2020.
In recent years many industries, including, by way of example only, the solar industry, have rapidly adopted text messaging to, among other things, keep in touch with their customers, to alert customers to the availability of new goods and services, and to entice customers to upgrade their systems with a promotional offer or rebate-related information. Pre-recorded calls and text messages are governed by the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) implementing rules. In recent years, thousands of nationwide consumer class actions have been filed alleging violations of the TCPA – including bare technical violations – and seeking up to $1,500 for each alleged unlawful pre-recorded call and/or text message.
In Americans for Clean Energy, et al v. EPA, decided July 28, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2015 rule establishing renewable fuel volume obligations for the years 2014 through 2017, with one exception: the court held that EPA cannot consider demand-side constraints in setting annual renewable fuel volumes.
In a breakthrough for offshore wind energy in the United States, construction of the Block Island Wind Farm, the first U.S. offshore wind farm, was completed in August 2016 about 30 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. The project began delivering power to the New England grid on May 5 of this year. While Block Island is a big step forward for the industry, broad public support for offshore wind farms in the U.S. has been lacking due in large part to concerns about aesthetics when the turbines are visible from land. As demonstrated by the collapse of the Cape Wind project in 2014 off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, failure to get public buy-in can be fatal to a project.