Articles Posted in Regulations

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A Utah state senator has introduced a bill which would require undertaking an economic impact review before adoption of any legislation or executive order related to climate change. The economic analysis would include: ” (a) economic impacts, if any, on existing Utah industry, business, and consumers; and (b) impact on Utah’s ability to attract industry to rural Utah and urban Utah.”

The proposed legislation also directs that Utah ensure that any federal regulation related to climate change “is not premature to the investigation, development, testing, redesign, and implementation of climate change technologies on a commercially successful and widespread basis.” It will be interesting to see how far this proposal gets in the legislature and, if successful, whether it will start a trend among state legislatures.

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In what may signal another break with Bush Administration policy, EPA Administrator Jackson issued a letter in response to a petition from the Sierra Club indicating the EPA would review a Bush Administration memo interpreting the scope of the Clean Air Act. While refusing to stay the Bush era memorandum, the letter states that the memorandum should not be considered the “last word on the appropriate interpretation of the Clean Air requirements.”

The memorandum relates to the application of regulations to carbon dioxide emissions. An EPA press release concerning the letter to the Sierra Club states, in part, that the review will ensure that the ultimate interpretation “is consistent with the Obama Administration’s climate change strategy and interpretation of the Clean Air Act.” As noted in the press, this review may have significant impacts on the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

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The new White House Website has already listed an ambitious program for addressing issues of climate change. Included in the goals are (!) within 10 years saving more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela, (2) reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 and (3) ensuring that 25 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources by 2025.

The agenda also includes creating millions of new jobs related to developing clean energy and and having one million plug-in hybrid vehicles that can run for 150 miles per gallon by 2015. The full agenda is viewable on the Website.

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Municipalities in the lower Hudson Valley are joining a small but growing trend in trying to combat global warming by requiring that new building projects and some renovations receive LEED, green building certification.

Earlier this week the County Executive of Rockland County signed a local law which requires that for building projects owned or operated by the County, which cost in excess of one million dollars, there be a “good faith effort” to receive the LEED silver certification. The city of Yonkers is now considering a local law that would require any building receiving a zone change, variance, subsidy or tax break to obtain LEED silver certification. The law is proposed for major renovations or construction of at least 4,000 square feet, with less stringent standard applying to smaller projects.

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has created an Office of Climate Change which has as its purpose developing “responses needed for significant emissions reductions.” In addition to working on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGHI) a ten state cap and trade program to reduce CO2 emissions, the office is developing regulatory programs including integrating a climate change element into government decision making.

Silverberg Zalantis LLC has recently contributed to this discussion in an article published in the New York Law Journal. The article entitled “Ultimate Challenge to SEQRA” discusses the use of New York’s SEQRA regulations to address climate change issues during the environmental review process for new projects. In addition, it is our understanding that the Office of Climate Change is looking at possible modifications to the SEQRA regulations in order to implement a more standardized review of GHGs and related issues during the review process.

The Office of Climate Change is also reviewing a wide range of related topics including the need for adaptation techniques and new technologies such as biofuels and carbon capture and storage. No doubt this office will be an important resource to the State of New York in addressing climate change issues going forward.

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