Apr 04 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: 9th Circuit Sends California’s AB 32 Back to Reconsider Alternatives

Published by under Climate Change

Mount Whitney, in California, is the highest point in the contiguous US, via wikimedia

The 9th Circuit recently issued its final ruling that a key part of California’s landmark climate change bill, AB 32, had not properly considered all alternatives and must be reevaluated.  The part in question is the “scoping plan” that the Air Resources Board was required to develop under the bill as a way to achieve the goal of reducing greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. The plan was challenged by several environmental justice advocacy groups because it relied heavily on a cap-and-trade system to achieve the required results, a method the groups say would harm poverty stricken areas by allowing pollution sources to buy their way out of reducing emissions.  The organizations argue that air pollution disproportionately affects low-income areas and may get worse if polluters could buy their way to compliance.  The 9th Circuit decided that the Air Resources Board had not properly analyze all potential alternatives to the cap-and-trade program and therefore violated the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.  The scoping plan has been sent back to the agency to be reconsidered, delaying implementation of AB 32.  This decision comes less than a year after Proposition 23, which would have suspended AB 32 until unemployment had dropped below 5.5%, was defeated by California voters. Continue Reading »

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Dec 08 2010

News from the Cancun Climate Conference

Published by under Climate Change

The Earth, via Wikimedia

2010 is shaping up to be among the three hottest years on record and is providing a fitting end to the hottest decade on record.  Despite this, and in the tradition of less-than productive climate change conferences, the summit at Cancun has seen a lot of proposals but very little actual solutions on the issues facing the world related to climate change.  The international community continues to run into the same conflicts its had since the first summit on climate change.  One of the most significant of these is the fate of the Kyoto Protocol.  This historical agreement is set to expire soon and several nations, including Japan, have said that it shouldn’t be removed.  Nevertheless, a draft agreement was released on Saturday that would at least represent movement towards a solution if countries then backed it up with action at home.  Reflecting the debate still going on, the draft lists options for the final agreement that will be decided on later.  Details of this agreement and other news from the conference are in the articles listed below.

Mother Jones: “Forward Motion in Cancun?”

Observers are cautiously optimistic that countries could move forward on the draft text of a potential agreement at the Cancun summit in the next week. The draft, released on Saturday, includes a number of options for negotiators to consider in detail in the next five days, but there are still some big holes.

The 33-page draft for a new agreement—one that would include the US and China, most notably—comes from the chair of the conference and reflects what working groups pulled together in the first week. In many ways, it hews to the Copenhagen Accord from last year’s summit—without mentioning it by name—and expands on the portions of that text. The text proposes that countries agree to “hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and states that countries “should take urgent action to meet this objective consistent with science and on the basis of equity.”

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Nov 15 2010

A Change in the Wind: Election 2010 and the Environment

Published by under Climate Change

White House photo 2/24/09 by Joyce N. Boghosian

Editor Note: in order to post more often and bring more interesting information to the readers, I am experimenting with some different ideas.  Let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions by posting a comment or emailing me at kablock[at]email[dot]wm[dot]edu.

In the aftermath of the 2010 elections, the Republicans have taken the House of Representatives and weakened the Democratic majority in the Senate.  A wave of newcomers have swept into office largely on the promise of smaller government and a reduce in the deficit.  How will this effect some of the major environmental issues of our day?  Here are a few articles that try to answer that question.

NY Times: “Election Likely to Affect EPA Litigation, Judicial Nomination”

The repercussions of Republican successes in Tuesday’s midterm elections are likely to be felt not just on Capitol Hill but also in courtrooms.

Legal experts say the impact on environmental and energy issues will be seen both in ongoing litigation, including over the U.S. EPA’s endangerment finding over greenhouse gases, as well as judicial nominations.

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Oct 04 2010

Hot Topics This Week

International relations and environmental concerns are colliding in Cuba as they make plans to drill for oil off their northern coast.

After the BP Oil Spill, the US put a moratorium on drilling deep-water oil wells.  Yet, as early as next year, a Spanish oil company will start drilling test wells only 50 miles from the Florida Keys, in deeper water than the Deepwater Horizon.  This is possible because technically they will be drilling in Cuba’s waters with the sanction of the Cuban government.  Two Florida politicians have asked President Obama to stop the well.  On the other side, several American oil companies see this as an opportunity to push for loosening the 1960 embargo so they can bid on Cuba’s oil reserves and send aid to the companies operating there to prevent a spill.  Right now, the Office of Foreign Asset Control, which handles the Cuban embargo, will accept applications for special licenses to provide spill clean up technology to companies operating in Cuba.

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