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In October the State of Washington will implement a program to require reduction of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. The State Department of Ecology issued a new rule last week requiring a gradual reduction in emissions for those who, starting with 2017,  emit 100,000 metric tons or more of carbon pollution.  The threshold for requiring compliance gradually reduces until 2035. The “Covered GHG Emissions” include those from stationary sources, petroleum producers and importers  and natural gas distributors.

The rule requires calculating emissions and keeping records for no less than ten years. There are provisions that permit trading reduction of carbon emissions called Emission Reduction Units (ERUs).

“WAC 173-442-140 Exchanging emission reduction units. Covered parties may transfer ERUs under the conditions in this section
(1) Required documentation.
(a) Documentation of an ERU transfer may consist of contractual arrangements, memoranda of understanding, or other similar records with sufficient detail to document the transfer of the ERU from one covered party to another.
(b) The transfer of ERUs occurs between accounts in the registry established in WAC 173-442-230.
(2) Tracking emission reduction units. The covered party must document each transfer of an ERU in the compliance report in a format specified by ecology and in the registry established in WAC
173-442-230.
(3) Role of third-parties in transactions.
(a) Entities other than covered parties may facilitate, broker, or assist covered parties to transfer ERUs recorded in accounts in the registry, but they may not hold ERUs.
(b) Only covered parties, ecology, and voluntary participants may hold ERUs.”

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The Governor of California is  expected to sign a Bill adopted by the California Legislature that further expands what has been called the Country’s most aggressive climate change legislation aimed at reducing Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). The new Act calls for a significant reduction in GHGs by 2030. The Act is also tied to another Bill just passed by the Legislature, Assembly Bill 197 of 2015-2016, that modifies the authority of the State Air Resources Board.

The legislation is administered by a State Air Resources Board. The companion Bill 197 would implement a legislative oversight committee to ensure the Air Resources Board acts in a manner that, among other things, ensures that plans ” …identify for each emissions reduction measure, including each alternative compliance mechanism, market-based compliance mechanism, and potential monetary and nonmonetary incentive the following information:

(a) The range of projected greenhouse gas emissions reductions that result from the measure.

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A newly released study has predicted that unchecked climate change could result in a significant increase in sea level rise. As reported in the media, a new study has concluded that previous estimates of sea level rise underestimated the potential contribution from the Antarctic ice sheet, should climate change continue without action to limit its impacts. The new predictions view the increase in sea level rise being increased by a factor of two.

Simply stated:

“Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 metres by 2500, if emissions continue unabated.”

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On December 3, 2015, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives proposing to relate the ability of the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, from fossil fuel-fired electric generating plants, to certification of specific actions by other countries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. H.R. 4169 links new regulations of CO2 emissions from those power plants to implementation of regulations by other countries that would reduce worldwide CO2 emissions (not including US. emissions) by eighty (80%) percent.

Not only does the bill prevent the EPA from trying to unilaterally take action to reduce CO2 emissions, the bill appears to effectively preempt U.S. participation in any international agreement on reduction of CO2, unless it meets the standards set by Congress.  One question is whether the bill would violate Article II, section 2 of the United States Constitution which provides the President “…shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur…”.  If the President reaches an international agreement on CO2 emissions that has a different standard for reduction, does Congress have the authority to block implementation of such an agreement through an Act such as H.R. 4169?

The full text of the bill reads as follows:

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In a report released last week by the United Nations it was found that 90% of major disasters over the last twenty years were weather related. In the summary of  the report released on November 25, 2015 it was stated  those “major disasters have been caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts and other weather-related events.”

The head of UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) noted that there are a number of drivers that increase the risks of these weather events, including greenhouse gas emissions.

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Two recent studies outline the potentially devastating economic impacts of  unchecked climate change. In a recent study released by Citigroup, the economic effects of action on climate change versus inaction on climate change were compared, with the conclusion that inaction brought much greater potential economic impacts. This week the Journal Nature issued a report concluding inaction on climate change could result in a 23% reduction in global income by 2100.

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The California Legislature is currently considering two bills that would have a significant impact on the consumption of energy in that State. Aimed at reducing emissions the two proposals, if enacted, would be unprecedented.

The first bill, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, proposes to reduce the use of oil by 50% and increase the use of sources of renewable energy by 50% within the next 15 years.

The Second bill, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, seeks to amend a 2006 statute by advancing the date for certain reductions in emissions. For example, the new bill proposes an interim limit on greenhouse gases (GHG) of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 with a total reduction of 80% below 1990 GHG levels by 2050.

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Recent legislation has directed the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) to prepare regulations addressing projections of sea level rise, along with adaptation strategies. As a part of that process the DEC held a series of meetings last week in order address issues outlined by the DEC in its published Summary for Stakeholders.

As noted by the DEC:

“It is important to compare outlays for adaptation measures with the costs of doing nothing, and to take into account the importance of climate change losses to society.

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A bill has been submitted in Congress that if adopted will completely alter Federal energy policies and restrict or eliminate the ability of federal agencies to regulate activities that have potentially significant environmental impacts.. The so called “American Energy Renaissance Act of 2015” addresses everything from fracking, the Keystone XL Pipeline, drilling in the outer continental shelf, tribal lands and drilling for oil in Alaska to renewable fuel, the budget deficit and regulation of greenhouse gases.

The proposed act also restricts judicial review of actions pursuant to the bill, creates short statutes of limitation to seek judicial review, short periods for action by the applicable agencies to process permit applications and prohibits recovery of legal fees for challenges to actions.

While there are many aspects of the bill that would impact Climate Change policies, the sections below repealing renewable fuel standards,and preventing the EPA from adopting regulations that regulate greenhouse gases seem to be the provisions that most directly reject the concept of Climate Change. Moreover the bill proposes the “term ‘air pollutant’ does not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride.”

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FEMA has issued new guidelines, effective as of March 2016, for evaluating State plans to reduce or eliminate risks from natural hazards. The new Guide establishes the new standards, now including climate change, that must be met by states in planning for reduction of the risks from natural disasters. Significantly, funding to the states can be impacted by the failure to meet these guidelines.

Referring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, the Guide notes that “the challenge posed by climate change such as more intense storms, frequent heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding and higher sea levels, could significantly alter the types and magnitudes of hazards impacting states in the future”.

The Guide also requires that states assess their current capabilities to address risk and indicate how those capabilities may be strengthened. The plans must establish hazard mitigation goals and how the states plan to meet those goals. These should include everything from land use regulations to utilities, transportation and emergency planning.