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Climate Change Blog

  • 02
  • February
  • 2017

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With the Clean Power Plan Under Attack Could a Climate NAAQS be Next?

While on the campaign trail, President Trump made several statements suggesting that he will seek to reverse many of the regulations and guidance documents that constitute President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, including the Clean Power Plan. Recent actions and statements by the Trump Administration have further signaled the potential for a significant reversal of U.S. climate policy. Given that the new Administration is unlikely to pursue further policies aimed at cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and may even attempt to roll back some existing regulations, many environmental organizations and think tanks are considering alternative measures to achieve emission reductions.

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  • 17
  • January
  • 2017

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GAO Recommends Incorporating Forward-Looking Climate Information into Design Standards and Building Codes

On January 3, 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report concluding that better coordination among — and the sharing of forward-looking climate information between — federal agencies could result in significant government cost savings. Forward-looking climate information includes weather models constructed using anticipated trends in climate change and other plausible projections of what might happen under a given set of assumptions, such as projected rainfall rates. The GAO observed that, over the last decade, “the federal government has incurred direct costs of over $320 billion due to extreme weather events,” including costs related to repairs of federal infrastructure. These costs may continue to rise as the climate changes, with extreme weather events becoming more frequent. The GAO concluded that — as the owner, operator, and insurer of property vulnerable to climate impacts — the federal government stands to benefit from the incorporation of forward-looking climate information into building codes, standards, and certifications. However, design standards and building codes generally use historical climate observations, and standards-setting organizations have identified various challenges to using forward-looking climate information. The GAO report finds that improving interagency coordination and providing the best available forward-looking climate information to standards-setting entities could help address many of these challenges.

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  • 22
  • December
  • 2016

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Happy Holidays

The contributors to the Climate Change Blog wish you a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year. We will be taking some time away from the blog, but will return in early 2017.

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  • 13
  • December
  • 2016

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Two New Class Action Complaints Against Exxon Allege Climate Fraud

In November, two class action complaints were filed against Exxon Mobil — Ramirez v. Exxon in the Northern District of Texas and Fentress v. Exxon in the Southern District of Texas. Ramirez is a purported class action for purchasers of Exxon common stock, while Fentress alleges class action claims under Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) on behalf of current and former Exxon employees who participated in an employee stock option plan during the class period. Both of these cases rest upon a very similar set of factual allegations, and are significant as the potential beginning of a new type of climate change litigation.

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  • 06
  • December
  • 2016

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85-Year Climate Forecasts Prompt Species Listing Under the Endangered Species Act

In late October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NOAA Fisheries) decision to list the Beringia distinct population segment (DPS) of the Bearded Seal as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).1 This listing decision was controversial because the Beringia DPS is not facing any imminent or serious threat or reduction to its population. Indeed, NOAA Fisheries acknowledged that the Beringia DPS currently has a large, widely distributed, and genetically diverse population. Nevertheless, NOAA Fisheries concluded that the Beringia DPS was threatened, based primarily on climate change models that predict the loss of sea ice by the year 2095 in ways that would likely affect the seal’s significant life functions and endanger the seal. This is the first time NOAA Fisheries has looked so far into the future to form a basis to list a species as threatened that is currently faring well.

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  • 31
  • October
  • 2016

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Environmental Groups Perpetuate a "Climate Alarmism Enterprise," RICO Suit Claims

On September 12, 2016, Leonid Goldstein filed a civil lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas alleging a massive criminal scheme by numerous environmental non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) and unnamed individuals to perpetuate the “false claim” of “dangerous ‘global warming’” through a criminal scheme that the complaint describes as a “Climate Alarmism Enterprise.” In what is perhaps a first in the climate change legal battles, Goldstein alleges that in advocating for a solution to climate change, these environmental groups violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Act, a federal statute aimed at combatting organized crime.

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  • 21
  • September
  • 2016

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North Dakota Reveals Basic Framework for Challenge of EPA's Quad Oa Methane Regulations for the Oil and Gas Sector

As discussed in this previous post, a number of states and industry groups have taken a stand against the Environmental Protection Agency’s new methane and VOC emissions regulations for the oil and gas sector (“Quad Oa”). North Dakota recently provided additional insight about the claims that it plans to bring against EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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Texas Challenges EPA’s Failure to Make New Endangerment Findings for the Quad Oa Methane Rules for the Oil and Gas Sector

As discussed in this previous post, a number of states and industry groups have challenged EPA’s new VOC and methane emission regulations for the oil and gas sector (“Quad Oa”). Texas has now further defined the claims it plans to bring against EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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Ninth Circuit lends biomass a Helping Hand

On September 2, 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit handed down its opinion in a consolidated case - Helping Hand Tools v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (available here). In it, the court held that EPA did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in granting a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (“PSD”) permit under the Clean Air Act to Sierra Pacific Industries, Inc. Both Helping Hand Tools and the Center for Biological Diversity had petitioned the court to review the permit and the court consolidated their petitions. The decision is clearly a win for EPA and Sierra Pacific. Since EPA’s exemption for biomass PSD permitting expired in 2014, biomass facilities have been subject to PSD permitting for greenhouse gases, but the manner in which they would be treated has remained an open question. The Ninth Circuit’s opinion applies established precedent regarding the PSD permitting program to a biomass facility, establishing that biomass facilities cannot be compelled to consider other forms of generation in the best available control technology analysis. The opinion is also noteworthy because the court granted deference to EPA’s Bioenergy BACT Guidance.

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  • 18
  • August
  • 2016

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Additional Legal Challenges to EPA’s New Methane Emissions Regulations

Legal challenges to EPA’s recently finalized methane and VOC emissions regulations for the oil and gas sector (“Quad Oa”) continue to gain traction as additional states and affected industry groups file suit. On August 2, 2016, a coalition of 14 states and a collection of oil and gas industry groups each filed petitions asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the new standards. The American Petroleum Institute (“API”) and the Western Energy Alliance have also filed individual challenges to the rules. North Dakota and Texas filed similar petitions for review in July.

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CEQ Issues Final Guidance on How Federal Agencies Should Assess Climate Change Under NEPA: What Has Changed?

On August 2, 2016, the Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) released guidance on the assessment of climate change impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) (“the Guidance”). The Guidance is the culmination of a long process: the Obama Administration first proposed draft NEPA climate change guidance in 2010, and published subsequent draft guidance in 2014, before taking action to issue the final Guidance. While this Guidance does not purport to create any new obligations for federal agencies under NEPA, it nonetheless has the potential to significantly expand the scope of climate impacts considered in prior NEPA documents for “major federal actions.” This is the first in a series of posts discussing the new Guidance.

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  • 03
  • August
  • 2016

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Up in the Air: EPA Issues Aircraft GHG Endangerment Finding

On July 25, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its endangerment and cause or contribute finding that six greenhouses gases (GHGs) (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride) in the atmosphere endanger the public health and welfare and that GHG emissions from aircraft contribute to this air pollution. EPA first proposed the endangerment finding back in July 2015.

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  • 27
  • July
  • 2016

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EPA Finalizes Rule on Methane for New and Existing Landfills That Could Have Broader Implications for Climate Regulations Under the Clean Air Act

As part of the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan and methane strategy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a package of rules on July 14, 2016, to reduce methane emissions at new and existing landfills. In a public statement, EPA noted that municipal solid waste landfills are the second-largest industrial source of methane emissions in the United States. EPA is regulating methane because it is considered a potent greenhouse gas (“GHG”). The rules, therefore, aim to cut methane (and other gases) from landfills by lowering the emissions threshold at which landfills must install pollution controls by roughly a third.

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  • 19
  • July
  • 2016

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U.S., Canada, and Mexico Agree to Use Similar Measures for the Social Cost of Carbon to Value GHG Reductions

On June 29, 2016, President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto made a trilateral energy and climate announcement during the North American Leadership Summit in Ottawa. The announcement included an Action Plan of “deliverables,” such as striving “to achieve a goal for North America of 50% clean power generation by 2025.”

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Contributors

Margaret E. Peloso

Margaret E. Peloso Counsel

Eric Groten

Eric Groten Partner

George C. Hopkins

George C. Hopkins Partner

Michael B. Wigmore

Michael B. Wigmore Partner

Mattew T. Dobbins

Matthew Dobbins Senior Associate

Tyler E. Robinson

Tyler E. Robinson Senior Associate

Theresa Romanosky

Theresa Romanosky Associate

Brandon M. Tuck

Brandon M. Tuck Senior Associate