Solar Energy and Electricity
July 30, 2021 by Daniel Farber

Oregon Takes a Big Step Forward

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

On Wednesday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a package of four clean energy bills. These bills move the state to the forefront of climate action. They ban new fossil fuel plants and set aggressive targets for the state's two major utilities, requiring emission cuts of 80 percent by 2030, 90 percent by 2035 and 100 percent by 2040. This is not only a major step forward for the state; it should also clear the path to closer collaboration among Washington State, Oregon, and California on climate issues.

In signing the bills, Brown observed, "As we have all been experiencing, climate change is no longer a distant threat. It is here. In Oregon, and across the West, we are feeling its impacts every day."

The bill setting the state's aggressive targets passed the Oregon Senate on the day of the hottest recorded temperature in the state's history. This has been a tough summer for Oregon. Over a hundred Oregonians were killed during the late June heatwave. The Bootleg fire has burned over 400,000 acres and is less than half contained.

Here are a few details about the four …

July 22, 2021 by Joel Mintz
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Recent events have dramatized the urgent need for prompt and bold action to respond to climate change. Raging rivers in Germany and Belgium, unheard of "heat domes" over large sections of North America, and uncontrolled wildfires and flooding around the globe, have made it absolutely clear that humankind must quickly limit the emission of greenhouse gases and adapt to the increasingly calamitous consequences of climate disruption.

In view of this situation, what is and ought to be the substance of environmental leadership? At the outset, it bears mention that no single environmental leader can take on the challenge of climate change alone. What is needed instead is cooperation among many leaders. Leadership must come from a number of places, including governments, private enterprises, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and concerned individuals.

Later this year, the leaders of nearly all nations will …

July 22, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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On the last day of June, an entire village in Canada was engulfed in a wildfire after the country recorded its highest temperature ever. That same day, Greenpeace UK's investigative team published a striking tape of two Exxon senior employees' candid accounts of the fossil fuel industry's surreptitious lobbying efforts to undermine climate action.

ExxonMobil and other major oil and gas companies have long been deceiving the public about the catastrophic dangers of their products in order to undermine international and national climate policy and maintain their social license. This latest tape is a significant contribution to mounting evidence of the industry's ongoing disinformation campaign in the service of protecting its highly lucrative and planet-destroying business, particularly at this pivotal moment.

On the tape, the lobbyists detail how the industry is currently applying its deceptive tactics to wipe climate initiatives out of President Joe Biden's original $2 …

July 15, 2021 by Alina Gonzalez, Minor Sinclair
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President Joe Biden is breaking the status quo: He has pledged to write a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change. Unlike any other president, he has outlined specific and aggressive targets to reduce carbon emissions and has backed them up with a $2 trillion plan to fight climate change.

In the meantime, our climate continues to change rapidly and dramatically, raising the ever more urgent question: Will the politics of climate change shift in time to curb its worst effects?

We think it will.

First, low-income people of color are leading a growing movement for environmental justice.

Communities along Georgia's coast, including Tybee Island, Brunswick and Savannah, are feeling the ravages of climate change — from wildfires to high energy prices to coastal erosion — and residents are agitating for change. Fortunately, Georgia enjoys significant wind potential off its coast, according to a new study by Environment …

July 13, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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"When you are at the verge of the abyss, you must be very careful about your next step, because if the next step is in the wrong direction, you will fall."

So warned United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in a recent interview on NBC Nightly News. He was calling on the world's wealthiest nations to meet their obligations under the Paris climate accords to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and to help developing countries to transition and to adapt to threats that can no longer be averted. Wealthy nations simply must meet these obligations to achieve the Paris goal of holding global temperature rise to a sustainable level.

Guterres' remarks came as the nations prepared to meet at an economic meeting held last month known as the G-7 summit. Shortly before the meeting, the International Energy Agency, which was created in 1974 to monitor global …

July 7, 2021 by David Flores, Darya Minovi
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To read the policy brief related to this post, click here.

Update: Read Senior Policy Analyst David Flores and Policy Analyst Darya Minovi's July 8 testimony to EPA.

Four years ago, Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas, causing severe flooding in the Houston area and leading to a loss of electrical power throughout the region. During the blackout, a local chemical plant lost its ability to keep volatile chemicals stored onsite cool, and a secondary disaster ensued: A series of explosions endangered the lives of workers and first responders and spurred mass evacuations of nearby residents.

This infamous incident was a classic "double disaster" — a natural disaster, like a storm or earthquake, followed by a technical disaster, like a chemical release or explosion.

Also known as "natech" disasters, these events pose a severe and growing threat to public and environmental health — and to workers …

July 6, 2021 by Dan Rohlf
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While most people around the country were enjoying summer, residents of the Pacific Northwest used to joke about "Junuary" — the cloudy and often rainy June days before the sun made its relatively brief appearance in the region after the Fourth of July. But as I wrote this post last week in Portland, Oregon — a city set in a temperate rainforest ecosystem of towering trees and ferns — it was 116 degrees outside, the third consecutive day over 100 degrees and the second in excess of 110. The only time I've personally experienced a comparable temperature was nearly two decades ago when I visited Death Valley National Park with my family. Now Death Valley had come to me.

Life changes at these temperatures in the Northwest. Much of our infrastructure was not designed to withstand such extreme conditions. Portland's light rail system ceases to function, of course forcing more …

July 2, 2021 by Maggie Dewane
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When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for all people to dissolve the reliance on finite energy sources, and to assume a sustainable future, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the demands of humankind requires that they should declare an end to fossil fuel dependence. 

Six in ten Americans support dramatic reduction of the country’s fossil fuel use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. While this isn’t a unanimous declaration, it represents a truth that policymakers and big corporations have been resisting: The majority of Americans believe there is urgency in addressing climate change and that transitioning away from fossil fuels is a necessary component of climate action.

To establish our independence from fossil fuels, there is no silver bullet, but a multitiered …

June 15, 2021 by Alina Gonzalez
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A few years ago, the prospects of offshore wind energy seemed lofty, but the industry is finally taking off. As part of his efforts to combat climate change, President Joe Biden has pledged to double offshore wind production by 2030. This commitment stems from the enormous benefits and potential that wind energy can provide as we transition to clean, sustainable energy. 

Harnessing something as intangible as wind may seem like an unlikely source of energy, but it’s downright powerful, thanks to the design and capacity of offshore wind farms. A single rotation of General Electric’s most powerful turbine, Haliade-X, can power a household in the United Kingdom for two days. Results may differ slightly in the United States because the average U.S. household uses about three times more electricity than the average U.K. household. 

Last month, the Biden administration approved the Vineyard Wind …

June 9, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Hurricanes Harvey and Maria. California wildfires. Superstorm Sandy. The great Texas blackout. The list goes on.

These mega-events dramatize the need to improve our disaster response system. The trends are striking: escalating disaster impacts, more disaster clustering, more disaster cascades, and less predictability. We need to up our game. Lisa Grow Sun and I discuss the implications in a new paper, but here are a few of the key takeaways.

Escalating impacts. From 1980 to 2020, there were an average of seven billion-dollar events per year. (Interestingly, nearly half of them were in Texas.) But from 2015-2020, the average was 16 per year. 2020 had a record-breaking 22 billion-dollar events. Why? It's partly higher GDP and population, so more people and wealth are at risk. More people and infrastructure are located in high-risk areas, especially coasts …

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