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Climate Change Hero

Climate Change Blog

  • 30
  • April
  • 2018

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Natural Disaster: Social Insurance in an Era of Climate Change

V&E lawyers Margaret Peloso and Kristen Miller examine whether and how social insurance programs should be redesigned in order to better address the environmental disasters caused by global climate change in a recent article published in The Environmental Forum. The article briefly explores the current role of social insurance programs in managing environmental risk, before assessing the strain these programs will experience as climate events become increasingly extreme and frequent. 

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SEC Staff Permits “Micro-Management” Argument to Exclude Climate Change Proposals

During the 2018 proxy season, the SEC has been taking a more nuanced, company-friendly approach to certain climate change and environmental protection shareholder proposals. Specifically, the Commission recently concurred with the exclusion of several climate change shareholder proposals on the grounds that they sought to “micro-manage” the company under the “ordinary business” exception to Rule 14a-8.

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ExxonMobil Releases Climate Change Report, Following Similar Reports by Chevron, Shell, and Others

In response to a shareholder proposal that received a majority vote in 2017, ExxonMobil released Energy & Carbon Summary: Positioning for a Lower-Carbon Energy Future, a report outlining the potential impacts of climate change on ExxonMobil’s business through 2040.

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  • 22
  • March
  • 2018

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Ninth Circuit Denies Petition for Writ of Mandamus in Climate Litigation — Suit Continues

On March 7, 2018, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to grant the defendants’ petition for a writ of mandamus in the climate change suit Juliana v. United States. The government defendants asked the district court to dismiss the suit and sought mandamus relief when the district court denied the motion to dismiss.

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  • 15
  • February
  • 2018

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Ninth Circuit: We Repeat, Climate Projections for the Year 2100 Okay to Support ESA Listing Decisions

On February 12, 2018, the Ninth Circuit upheld the National Marine Fisheries Service’s use of long-term climate projections to list the Arctic ringed seal (Phoca hispida hispida) as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, even though the seal population is currently healthy and abundant and there is no evidence of adverse impacts to the seals from climate change.

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The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) Seeks to Revamp Climate Change Disclosures Worldwide

Investors and lenders are beginning to publicly urge companies from a wide variety of industries to implement the June 2017 Final Recommendations of the G20 Financial Stability Board’s (FSB) Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and account for climate-related risks and opportunities in their public financial filings. The TCFD’s recommendations are a voluntary disclosure framework, but shareholders, non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”), and others are pushing for their widespread adoption. The energy industry will certainly be a focus as the TCFD looks to implement its recommendations, and the recommendations themselves include a note that the group will promulgate additional, sector-specific guidance for the energy industry at a later time. This post provides a step-by-step analysis of the TCFD’s recommendations and how these recommendations incorporate but also move far beyond any current voluntary climate disclosure program. Energy companies should be aware of the full extent of what the TCFD is requesting as they consider their overall policies and strategy on climate change.

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  • 11
  • October
  • 2017

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Court Vacates BLM’s Postponement of Obama Methane Rule

On October 4, 2017, in a consolidated decision for Sierra Club, et al. v. Zinke, et al., No. 17-cv-03885, and State of California, et al. v. United States Bureau of Land Management, et al., No. 17-cv-03804, a Magistrate Judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California vacated BLM’s postponement of its 2016 final rule entitled “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation” (the “Waste Prevention Rule” or “Rule”). The Waste Prevention Rule imposes additional emission control requirements relating to venting, flaring, and leaking of natural gas from oil and gas production operations on public lands in an effort to reduce methane emissions. The Rule required operators to submit “waste minimization” plans by January 2017 and includes other compliance deadlines, beginning in January 2018. On October 5, 2017, BLM published a proposed rule that would extend the January 2018 compliance deadlines to January 2019. The comment period for this proposed rule is currently open through November 6, 2017.

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State Street Issues New Recommendations for Enhanced Climate-Related Disclosures

On August 14, 2017, State Street Global Advisors, the world’s third largest asset manager, holding over $2.4 trillion in assets under management, issued new climate change disclosure guidance targeting U.S. and international public companies primarily in the oil and gas, utilities and mining sectors. This new guidance, entitled Perspectives on Effective Climate Change Disclosure, identifies “best practices” in climate-related disclosure and prescribes detailed disclosure methods in areas it deems pertinent to investors for evaluating whether “a company’s assets and long-term business strategy are resilient to the impacts of climate change.” In particular, State Street’s guidance emphasizes disclosure of climate change scenario planning and its impact on long-term strategy, which will carry significant business and strategic implications for U.S. public companies in these targeted sectors. 

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Court Limits EPA’s RFS Waiver Authority

In a unanimous ruling on July 28, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to lower total renewable fuels targets in the agency’s 2014-2016 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule promulgated under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA). The decision follows challenges brought by numerous parties affected by the 2014-2016 RFS targets, including groups representing refiners, importers, and producers of renewable fuels. Americans for Clean Energy, et al. v. EPA, et al. explored several areas of EPA’s authority related to the RFS, but one key area impacted by the Court’s ruling is EPA’s general authority to waive total renewable fuels production targets.

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  • 07
  • August
  • 2017

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D.C. Circuit Strikes Down EPA Stay on Key Parts of Quad OA — the 2016 Methane NSPS Rule for the Oil and Gas Industry

On July 2, 2017, in Clean Air Council, et al. v. E. Scott Pruitt, No. 17-1145, the D.C. Circuit vacated EPA’s 90-day stay of EPA’s 2016 final rule entitled “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources,” which EPA codified as Subpart OOOOa to 40 CFR Part 60 or “Quad Oa.” Quad Oa overhauled new source performance standards (“NSPS”) for the oil and natural gas sector. A deeper analysis of Quad Oa can be found here. As noted below, Quad Oa is now in effect unless EPA successfully finalizes a proposed rule that would stay for two years parts of Quad Oa. Quad Oa carries certain monitoring and reporting deadlines that will need to be complied with, unless EPA successfully extends those deadlines.

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  • 28
  • June
  • 2017

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Environmental Groups Move to Revive NEPA Lawsuit Over Federal Coal Leasing Program

Environmental groups are seeking to revive a climate change lawsuit regarding the federal coal leasing program, which allows companies to lease federal lands to mine coal. The coal leasing program manages leases on approximately 570 million acres of federal land, and produces approximately 40% of domestically sourced coal. Over 30% of energy generated in the United States comes from coal.

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  • 19
  • June
  • 2017

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EPA Proposes 2-Year Stay on Key Parts of Quad Oa — the 2016 Methane NSPS Rule for the Oil and Gas Industry

On June 16, 2017, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule that would stay for two years parts of EPA’s June 3, 2016 final rule entitled “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources,” which amended and established updated new source performance standards (NSPS) for the oil and natural gas sector. This final rule was codified in EPA’s NSPS regulations as Subpart OOOOa to 40 CFR Part 60 or “Quad Oa.” Detailed information about Quad Oa can be found here.

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  • 15
  • June
  • 2017

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The Ascendance of 2° Celsius Proposals in ESG Activism

The 2017 proxy season will be remembered as the first proxy season to see “2° Celsius” shareholder proposals succeed at annual meetings of U.S. public companies. Environmental shareholder proposals have quietly garnered increasing support in annual meetings of public companies in recent years, but the 2° Celsius proposal has enjoyed greater and more vocal support than others. Shareholder voting data from the 2016 proxy season pointed to the possibility that 2017 could be the first year that these proposals would receive more than 50% of shareholder votes at annual meetings. As of mid-June 2017, three 2° Celsius proposals have passed the 50% vote threshold at annual meetings. Below we summarize the groundwork laid for this type of proposal by the 2015 Paris Agreement and international meetings before it, and we present voting data from annual meetings of 2016 and 2017 to show the increasing popularity of these proposals.

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Contributors

Margaret E. Peloso

Margaret E. Peloso Partner

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 Senior Associate

Brandon M. Tuck

Brandon M. Tuck Senior Associate