Energy generation is a classic example of a locally undesirable land use (LULU). Everyone needs energy, but many residents fervently oppose proposals to build a wind farm on a local mountaintop or hydraulically fracture a gas well near their neighborhood. The response is therefore typically a “not in my back yard,” or NIMBY, argument. But changes in technology, markets, and the law are making energy different from other LULUs. These changes allow communities to make more choices about the types of energy they prefer and to better address concerns about undesirable energy development within their locality. From a technological perspective, advances in energy storage and distributed (on-site) energy generation mean that large generating equipment and transmission lines can sometimes be avoided in places where there is strong opposition to these land uses. Technological changes such as horizontal drilling also allow oil and gas companies to locate miles from the target formation, thus avoiding certain surface locations. (Pipelines are still a challenge, though.) In terms of markets, energy development is moving towards economically competitive distributed solar and mid-scale renewable generation coupled with battery storage—also aided by subsidies and mandates. Finally, a range of legal solutions, such as community choice aggregation, updated building and zoning codes, locally-applicable taxes on hydraulically fractured wells, and bonding requirements increasingly empower communities to better align energy development with residents’ preferences, or, at minimum, to better address the damages of energy development.
Climate and Energy Law in the Trump Administration
Thursday, January 24, 2019
Jody Freeman Harvard Law School, Archibald Cox Professor of Law Director, Environmental and Energy Law Program
Professor Freeman discusses the major policy reversals on climate and energy during the Trump administration and describe their implications and legal vulnerabilities. Among other things, she covers the administration’s rules freezing fuel efficiency standards, rescinding and replacing the clean power plan, and rolling back methane standards.
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.
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.
Governor John Hickenlooper outlined his vision for a path to cleaner, more efficient forms and systems of energy at the University of Colorado Law School on November 12. In the 8th annual John H. and Cynthia H. Schultz Lecture, Hickenlooper discussed his views on energy development in the state and challenges facing a sustainable energy solution due to the growing rate of global energy consumption—set to rise more than 56 percent by 2040. The bottom line: We need a “miracle solution,” and it needs to be more affordable, more reliable, more effective, and cleaner than today’s energy, he said.
This year, the lecture was delivered by James Burke, President of NGL Energy Partners. NGL Energy Partners is a leading gatherer, transporter, and marketer of crude oil and NGLs (Natural Gas Liquids) and a growing provider of oilfield water and wastewater handling and disposal services. The lecture covered the “Oil-Water Nexus,” focusing on the increasing importance of water and wastewater handling and disposal for unconventional oil and gas operations.