The first installment of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed in 2022, was released on August 9, 2021. As it has in the run up to previous important Conferences of the Parties (COPs) under the UNFCCC, the IPCC released an updated report in the middle
Daniella D. Landers
Signs of the times: Environmental related ESG offerings
A number of signs point to the fact that public companies should expect increased scrutiny on whether their environmental-related ESG offerings, practices and controls are consistent with their disclosures, claims and marketing material.
SIGN #1: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) announced that New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal will become the next…
ESG Watch: Carbon Tax vs. Clean Energy Standard
Many public companies are keeping a close watch on potential GHG regulations because the shape of these regulations can significantly affect their regulatory and reporting obligations and thus affect their ESG obligations. There is a significant difference between two recent proposals on that front.
CARBON TAX: The concept of a carbon tax is simple: fossil fuels bear a cost — climate change, as well as air pollution — that is not reflected in their price and thus “hidden”. A carbon tax would increase the price to reflect that hidden cost — by, say for example, $50 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted — and the market would work its magic to move the entire economy away from fossil fuels.
Yet for all their elegance and push for by economists, carbon taxes are politically unpopular.
Opponents of carbon taxes argue that a carbon price affects all of society, and therefore it increases costs for every energy consumer, without providing an immediate alternative. That means a publicly traded company that would not normally worry about – or report regarding – EPA obligations in the abstract turns out would have reporting and compliance obligations under a carbon tax regime and, therefore, a larger ESG burden.
This is likely why Biden’s climate plan leaves out a domestic tax on carbon, which for decades economists have championed as the gold standard of climate change mitigation.
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Texas keeps the gas taps flowing, but will others do the same as energy infrastructure takes center stage?
The regular session of the Texas Legislature came to a fraught end on May 31, 2021. The political spectacle in recent days capped off a legislative session dramatically interrupted by a winter storm in February that crippled much of the state with snow, ice, and power outages. That natural disaster led to intense scrutiny of the state’s power distribution infrastructure and calls to weatherize the power grid.
In response, the Texas Legislature approved legislation aimed at addressing some of the infrastructure issues caused by the storm. The Legislature’s response to the storm understandably received much attention. Perhaps this allowed another energy infrastructure bill—one that makes a big statement in terms of energy and climate policy—to pass without similar attention.
House Bill 17 passed the Texas Legislature earlier this year and was signed into law by Governor Abbott on May 18, 2021. The law prohibits Texas localities from restricting or discriminating against utility infrastructure based on the type or source of the energy delivered to the end-use customer. The law also prohibits Texas localities from imposing additional charges on development and building permit applicants that encourage or discourage the installation of infrastructure based on the type or source of energy. While not expressly stated, the intent of the bill is to prohibit localities from phasing out natural gas and its infrastructure.…
Continue Reading Texas keeps the gas taps flowing, but will others do the same as energy infrastructure takes center stage?
Senate votes to rescind Trump-era methane emissions rule
On Wednesday, April 28, the U.S. Senate voted to effectively reinstate Obama-era methane regulations by approving a resolution nullifying the Trump-era methane emission rule “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review.” The September 2020 Trump Administration rule rolled back Obama-era oil and gas emission rules by rescinding methane…
Biden’s pledge to cut U.S. emissions signals increased climate change regulation and other implications for industry
On Earth Day, April 22, 2021, President Biden announced that the U.S. will aim to cut carbon emissions in half by the year 2030 compared to 2005 levels. This is significantly higher even than goals established by President Obama during his tenure. The virtual Leaders Summit on Climate where the announcement was made took place on Thursday and Friday and was attended by 40 other world leaders. The U.S. rejoined the Paris climate agreement in Biden’s early days in office, and this announcement drives towards addressing its goals.
The administration has not yet rolled out a specific plan for how the U.S. will meet this goal. However, we can expect that the reduction efforts will touch almost every industry in one way or another with terminology such as “economy-wide” and “multiple pathways” used to describe reaching the target. Additionally, a Fact Sheet released by the administration describes various ambitious initiatives across many sectors including:…
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SCOTUS rules the federal government does not need to disclose draft documents under FOIA
Federal agencies aren’t required to hand over draft documents related to the harm an EPA rule would pose to endangered plants and animals, the Supreme Court ruled in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serv. v. Sierra Club , U.S., No. 19-547.
In a 7-2 decision, and the first majority ruling led by Justice Amy Coney…
EPA indicates intention to regulate certain PFAS in drinking water
The EPA is moving towards establishing a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS, and has stated that it is considering avenues for regulating additional groups of PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) as well. On February 22, 2021, the EPA announced two actions under SDWA to address PFAS.
First, the agency reissued the final regulatory determination to implement a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for PFOS and PFOA (the “Determination”). This Determination is a continuation of an intended action under the Trump administration, but indicates the Biden administration intends to continue to move forward. The Determination also states that the EPA is considering the regulation of additional PFAS chemicals.…
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Chemical regulation in the new administration: PFAS top of list?
Organizations closely scrutinizing PFAS, like the Environmental Working Group, are touting loudly that the Biden administration will address PFAS and speculating on how the Biden Administration might approach the chemicals by setting enforceable drinking water limits, designating the substances as hazardous and finding PFAS substitutes for consumer items.
Under President Trump, EPA touted its…
Reading Tea Leaves: Biden Transition Team
President Elect Joe Biden announced his agency review teams. Agency review teams are responsible for understanding the operations of each agency, ensuring a smooth transfer of power. The Biden team states, “[t]he teams have been crafted to ensure they not only reflect the values and priorities of the incoming administration, but reflect the diversity of…