energy law

Now You’re in Law School. What Should You Take?

There’s more than one path to environmentally meaningful work.

On Monday, I explained why this is an especially urgent time for new law students to be thinking about the climate crisis and how they can contribute as lawyers. The next question is how to prepare for that work.  Here’s what I would say to a student in that position: The first thing to realize …

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Making Fossil Fuels Pay for Their Damage

A carbon tax doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Maybe a clean-up tax would fare better.

Production and combustion of fossil fuels imposes enormous costs on society, which the industry doesn’t pay for.  I want to talk about some options for using the tax system to change that.  One option, a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, gets the most attention but seems politically impossible.  The closest we’ve ever come to a …

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EPA’s Best Option: Co-Firing

Yesterday’s decision leaves open a powerful regulatory tool.

What can EPA do to cut carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants after yesterday’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA?  The decision clearly ruled out any direct mandate to shift generation from coal generators to cleaner power generators. But the Supreme Court didn’t endorse Trump’s ultra-limited interpretation of the law either.  This leaves EPA with …

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Two FERC Cases and Why They Matter

Last week’s D.C. Circuit cases illustrate why environmental lawyers need to understand FERC.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been called the most important environmental agency that no one has heard of. At the end of last week, the D.C. Circuit decided two undramatic FERC cases that illustrate FERC’s environmental significance. One involved a bailout to coal and nuclear plants, the other involved water quality. The first …

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Smoothing the Path for Transmission Lines

Fights over who should pay for power lines may become much easier to solve.

New high-power transmission lines have to run a regulatory gauntlet to get approved. One of the biggest barriers, however, isn’t about whether the line can be built but who will pay for it.  That has turned out to be a much knottier problem than you might think. A decision by the D.C. Circuit on Friday, …

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The Renaissance of Energy Law

An esoteric field of law has become exciting and important.

Energy law used to be an obscure niche subject. It was devoted to subjects like oil and gas leases, the proper inflation adjustments in utility rates, and depreciation schedules for power plants. Utilities were famously set in their ways, using nineteenth century technologies to produce and deliver their products. Only specialists really paid much attention. …

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North Carolina’s New Climate Legislation

A major, bipartisan step forward in an unlikely state.

Last week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an important piece of climate legislation.  I wrote last month about major, bipartisan climate legislation in Illinois.  Like the Illinois law, the North Carolina law enjoyed broad bipartisan support.  The North Carolina legislature is under firm Republican. Nevertheless, the bill passed the state senate by a 42 …

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Three Ways of Dodging Responsibility

After disaster strikes, there are some tried-and-true ways of avoiding responsibility.

In the wake of the Texas blackouts, we’re seeing a number of familiar moves to deflect blame by the usual suspects–politicians, regulators, and CEOs. These evasive tactics all begin with a core truth: Eliminating all risk is impossible and would be too expensive even if it weren’t. But then they spin that truth in various …

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On the Frustrations of Climate Politics

It’s not just the shortcomings of Joe Manchin. Climate legislation is a tough challenge at all levels.

Yesterday, Joe Manchin announced that he couldn’t support the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. Unless Biden can somehow coax him back to the negotiating table, that dooms what would have been a major breakthrough in climate policy.  Manchin bears responsibility for this deerply regrettable decision. But climate legislation is hard, even in more favorable political …

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Downstream Emissions

A new court ruling could doom the Trump Administration’s ANWR plan.

A Ninth Circuit ruling yesterday overturned approval of offshore drilling in the Arctic. The ruling may directly impact the Trump Administration’s plans for oil leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). By requiring agencies to consider emissions when fossil fuels are ultimately burned, the Court of Appeal’s decision may also change the way that …

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