CPR Archive for Alexandra Klass

The Reality of U.S. Oil Transport

by Alexandra Klass | May 20, 2015

The major oil pipeline spills along the Santa Barbara coast and into the Yellowstone River in Montana this past year are only the most recent chapters in the growing list of major spills associated with oil transportation in the United States. These recent spills of 100,000 gallons and 50,000 gallons of oil, respectively, follow a nearly 1 million gallon spill of Canadian tar sands oil from an Enbridge pipeline that burst in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010, and other similar spills around the country. These spills and many others like them have resulted in significant harm to public health and the environment, created panic among residents, and forced state officials to declare states of emergency in affected area.

These more frequent pipeline spills are inevitable in light of the massive increases in oil and gas production in North America since 2007. Technological developments such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing have opened up vast new sources of shale oil and gas in traditional oil producing locations like Texas but also in North Dakota and Montana—states that have not been major oil producers for over 50 years. Between 2011 and 2012, U.S. crude oil production increased 790,000 barrels per day, the largest increase in annual output since the start of U.S. commercial development of crude oil in 1859. U.S. production of shale oil now makes up 35% of total U.S. oil production and, in ...

State Energy Policy and the Commerce Clause: Spotlight on Colorado and Minnesota

by Alexandra Klass | May 22, 2014
Within the past month, two federal district courts—one in Colorado and one in Minnesota—have issued important decisions on the constitutionality of state clean energy policies. Both cases raised the same legal issue, namely, whether the state laws in question regulate extraterritorially in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. But the courts reached different results in each case and, more importantly, the Minnesota and Colorado policies reviewed by each court were quite different from each other even ...

EPA’s Authority to Impose Emissions Regulations is Clear under the Clean Air Act

by Alexandra Klass | September 20, 2013
This entire week, the coal industry and electric utilities have been decrying the EPA’s proposed rule, released today, limiting CO2 emissions from new coal-fired power plants. Experts predict the proposed rule will place limits on coal-fired power plants that will make them impossible to operate in the absence of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, which will significantly increase the cost of running existing plants and building new plants. These costs, as well as today’s low natural gas prices (and ...

The Legacy of Subsidizing Fossil Fuels

by Alexandra Klass | February 08, 2013
Often lost in today’s debates over whether to continue tax benefits for renewable energy is a historical perspective on the significant support the federal government has provided and continues to provide the fossil fuel industry. Tax benefits for the energy industry as a whole totaled over $20 billion in 2011, which is, and historically has been, about 2% of total U.S. tax expenditures. In general, the United States has used tax benefits to first support development of domestic fossil fuel ...

Climate Progress Possible With Energy Efficiency Standards for Appliances -- Under Laws Congress Already Passed

by Alexandra Klass | February 04, 2013
President Obama's focus in his second inaugural address on the need to address climate change was welcome after many months of near silence on this critical issue. While tackling climate change will require significant efforts limiting emissions from power plants, automobiles, and other sources, the President has recognized in the past that improving energy efficiency in general, and setting stricter energy efficiency standards for appliances specifically, can have a major impact on reducing both U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and consumer ...

Federalism at Work: Recent Developments in Public Trust Lawsuits to Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions

by Alexandra Klass | July 13, 2012
In a CPRBlog post in May 2011, I discussed the lawsuits filed on behalf of children against all 50 states and several federal agencies alleging that these governmental entities have violated the common law public trust doctrine by failing to limit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.  The suits were filed by Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit. The claims sought judicial declaration that states have a fiduciary duty to future generations with regard to an “atmospheric trust” ...

Nevada Court's Public Trust Decision A Welcome Addition to Growing Body of Protection for State Lands and Resources

by Alexandra Klass | August 08, 2011
Last month, the Nevada Supreme Court held in Lawrence v. Clark County that the public trust doctrine limited the ability of the state to freely alienate certain lands that, though dry at the time of the decision, were submerged under navigable waters at the time of statehood. The case is significant for at least two reasons. First, the court made clear that the public trust doctrine in Nevada places inherent limitations on state power and cannot be easily abrogated by state legislation, ...

Will the Atmosphere Make it as the Public Trust Doctrine's Next Frontier?

by Alexandra Klass | May 06, 2011
On Wednesday, Our Children's Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit, made headlines when it began filing lawsuits on behalf of children against all 50 states and several federal agencies alleging that these governmental entities have violated the common law public trust doctrine by failing to limit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.  The claims seek judicial declaration that states have a fiduciary duty to future generations with regard to an “atmospheric trust” and that states and the federal government must ...

Missing the Lessons of the BP Spill

by Alexandra Klass | January 13, 2011
The report of the President’s Gulf Oil Spill Commission answered some questions and raised others. But one thing still puzzles: Why didn’t the Gulf Oil Spill start a national conversation about our dependence on oil development and the need for renewable energy? At first, it appeared it might, but the focus quickly turned to reforming the regulatory agency with oversight for the spill and fixing the technical failures that caused the well blowout in the first place. Both were important ...

Federal Task Force on Carbon Capture and Sequestration Will Need to Grapple With Property Rights Law

by Alexandra Klass | May 11, 2010
A federal task force of the EPA and a host of federal agencies are  currently working on a proposal, due to President Obama by June, on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) policy; they’re now holding a series of public meetings (for background on CCS generally, see the CPR Perspective I wrote examining some of the arguments for and against). I had a chance recently to discuss with members of the task force the key property rights and takings law issues associated ...

Boxer-Kerry: Carbon Capture and Sequestration Provisions Are About Right

by Alexandra Klass | October 05, 2009
This post is the third in a series from CPR Member Scholars examining different aspects of the Boxer-Kerry bill on climate change, which was released September 30. The Boxer-Kerry bill, like the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House, provides for funding, study, and emissions allowances for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). In terms of developing a technology in the short-term to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from power plants, this is sound policy. On the other hand, it will be important to ensure ...

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: An Assessment of the Facts (Below) the Ground Today

by Alexandra Klass | August 06, 2009
One of many approaches to combating climate change is “Carbon Capture and Geologic Sequestration” (CCS). It’s a pretty straightforward idea: capture climate-change-causing carbon emissions and lock them up underground, rather than letting them float up into the atmosphere where they would contribute to global warming. The concept may be simple, but the actual engineering of it is as complicated as you might guess. The first problem is capturing and transporting CO2 emissions to their “resting place.” And then comes the ...

Also from Alexandra Klass

Alexandra Klass is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, and a member of the board of directors of the Center for Progressive Reform.

Recommended Resources:
Regulatory Policy
Regulatory Tools to Protect People & the Environment

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