Cost-Nothing Analysis: Environmental Economics in the Age of Trump
Professor Lisa Heinzerling, Georgetown Law
The annual Distinguished Lecture Series is a cooperative venture between the Getches-Wilkinson Center (GWC) and the Colorado Natural Resources, Energy, & Environmental Law Review to host a distinguished figure in the fields of natural resource, energy, and environmental law and policy. The Distinguished Lecture series provides a public forum for thought-leadership, allowing the speakers to reflect on their experiences and provide insights on the current challenges facing natural resources, energy, and the environment. The articles and transcripts resulting from these lectures are published in the Law Review.
Now in its fifth year, Colorado Law is excited to announce a new endowment to bolster support of the Distinguished Lecture series so that we will be able to bring this free event to our community for years to come. Thanks to a generous gift by the Wright Family Foundation to the GWC, we are thrilled to launch the Ruth Wright Distinguished Lecture in Natural Resources to honor her inspiring legacy as a leader in western natural resources, land conservation, and environmental policy and advocacy.
Cost-Nothing Analysis: Environmental Economics in the Age of Trump
Cost-benefit analysis has always
resisted environmental protection. For this reason, presidents since Nixon have
used cost-benefit analysis to stifle environmentally protective regulation. The
present administration has taken this practice one step further by ignoring or
eliminating benefits entirely in many instances — thus ushering in an era of
cost-nothing analysis. Cost-nothing analysis assumes it costs us nothing to
degrade the environment, even as the evidence grows that it may cost us
This conference brought together women in electricity law and regulation to discuss the most pressing questions facing legislators and regulators today. Each of the panel topics was selected for its relevance in ongoing debates about the right way to structure and implement legal oversight of the electricity system. The event was anchored by the law school’s annual Schultz Lecture, held the evening before the conference. This year, the Schultz Lecture was delivered by former FERC Commissioner Collette Honorable (video below). The Conferencel also featured a conversation among energy journalists covering conference topics (and others like them). This was an opportunity for an open conversation with other panelists and the audience about ways in which law professors, policymakers, and others can support the work of independent journalism in chronicling energy developments.
Colette Honorable, Former FERC Commissioner, Partner Reed Smith LLP
The 2017 Shultz Lecture focused on the evolution of energy policy in the U.S. and beyond following the Paris Agreement and the 2016 presidential election. The presentation highlighted the events following the withdrawal of the U.S. from the climate accord – in particular the incredible response from grassroots organizations, local and state leaders, and industry- and the unprecedented showing of leadership from the people.
Professor Mary Wood, Philip H. Knight Professor, Faculty Director, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center, University of Oregon Law
In face of irreversible climate tipping points and the failure of statutory law to control carbon dioxide pollution, youth around the world are suing their governments to act before it is too late. The campaign, called Atmospheric Trust Litigation, recently won a landmark ruling from a federal district court declaring a constitutional right to a stable climate system. Professor Wood discusses this litigation in the context of climate urgency and the federal government’s policy to spur production of fossil fuels.
Since the turn of the 21st century, storage on the Colorado River has declined while stress over the region’s water future has intensified.
The combined impact of overconsumption, drought, and climate change have exposed longstanding problems with the regional water budget, and have focused national attention on the urgency of improving management. Water managers, river advocates, and other concerned stakeholders and decision-makers are responding, increasingly through basin-wide initiatives that go beyond specifying how looming shortages will be distributed to actually trying to head-off the most painful potential impacts. Many of these efforts are at a critical juncture. As they come to fruition, several questions arise: Are we doing the right things? Is it enough? What needs to happen next?
Sponsored By: Walton Family Foundation Water Funder Initiative U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Porzak, Browning, and Bushong LLP Southern Nevada Water Authority
Moderated By: Doug Kenney, GWC Western Water Policy Program
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers approximately 245 million acres of our public lands and yet, for most of our nation’s history, these lands seemed largely destined to end up in private hands. Even when the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 ushered in an important era of better managing public grazing districts and “promoting the highest use of the public lands,” such use of our public lands still was plainly considered temporary, “pending its final disposal.” It was not until 1976 with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) that congress adopted a policy that the “public lands be retained in Federal ownership.” In the 40 years since Congress enacted FLPMA, the BLM has experienced a remarkable transformation from an agency once focusing almost entirely on livestock grazing and mineral development to one that has fully embraced a multiple use mandate—including managing large tracts of public lands for conservation and even wilderness protection purposes. Many of the nation’s prominent environmental or natural resource laws, within last few years, have celebrated their 40thanniversaries, often provoking critical dialogues about their past and future. It is now time to acknowledge and celebrate the remarkable transformation of the BLM over the last 40 years since FLMPA’s enactment in 1976.As the Trump Administration’s priorities unfold, we address the implications of potential policy shifts and other emerging issues in these critical areas.
Paul L. Joskow, President, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, 2016
Electricity generation accounts for about 30% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. While emissions have declined by about 20% in the last ten years, much of this reduction is due to the fortuitous availability of cheap natural gas which has provided incentives to substitute less CO2 intensive natural gas for coal as a generation fuel. The sector faces many challenges to meet long run 2050 goals of reducing emissions by as much as 80% from 2005 levels. These challenges include the diversity of federal, state and municipal regulation, the diverse and balkanized structure of the industry from state to state and region to region, the failure to enact policies to place a price on all carbon emissions, the extensive reliance on subsidies and command and control regulation to promote renewables and energy efficiencies, uncertainties about aggressive assumptions about improvements in energy efficiency beyond long-term trends, pre-mature closure of carbon free nuclear generating technologies, integrating renewables efficiently into large regional grids, methane leaks, and transmission constraints. The lecture discussed these challenges and suggests policies to reduce the costs and smooth the transition to a low carbon electricity sector.