energy law

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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Coal in 2019: A Tale of Decline

Like Canute & the ocean, Trump may wave his hands, but he can’t stop the tide.

Coal is just about the worst possible way of generating electricity in terms of its climate impacts. It’s also a serious public health hazard due to the particulates, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides it produces.  Thus, reducing the use of coal is a high priority.  How did we do in 2019? The short answer is …

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Is Socialism Good for the Environment?

The answer is: “Sometimes yes, sometimes not so much.”

Some of the people who are most fervent about the environment these days describe themselves as socialists.  But is socialism actually a good thing for the environment?  That seems like a significant question in a political context where people on both sides are throwing around the word “socialist” so much, so I decided to see …

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The Federal Government Has *Always* Shaped the Energy System

Obama was criticized for intruding the federal government into energy policy. But that’s nothing new.

To hear some of the debate, you’d think that the Obama Administration breached some longstanding barrier that left energy policy to the states and the market. If there ever was such a barrier, it disappeared over a century ago, with the onset of World War I.  Ever since then, the federal government has been actively …

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‘Let the Sunshine In’: The Fight for Solar in the Tar Heel State

Despite utility opposition and conservative state legislature, the law is slowly shifting toward solar energy.

In North Carolina, renewable energy is more a distant dream than a reality. The state has a modest renewable portfolio standard (10-12% by 2018 or 2021, depending on the utility). Right now, the state is at only about 7%, with the remainder split more or less equally between coal, gas and nuclear. It has old-fashioned …

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