Tag: emissions

The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative Aims to Bring High Speed Rail to Illinois

The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative Aims to Bring High Speed Rail to Illinois

By: Rachel Grudzinski

High speed rails may seem like a transportation option unique to Europeans, but that may not be the case for much longer. The United States has plans to implement high speed rail within the upcoming decade. High speed rails are trains that run faster than traditional trains at around 124-200mph.[1] Currently, Acela is the only high speed train in the United States which is operated by Amtrak.[2] Acela currently reaches speeds up to 150mph and travels between cities in the Northeast Corridor (Boston, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Washington).[3]

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Oil and Gas Royalty Rates on Public Lands Under Review by Biden Administration

President Biden’s climate plans include a review of federal and state royalty rates paid by private companies for access to fossil fuel reserves underneath public lands.[i] On January 27, Biden issued Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” urging aggressive domestic policy directives.[ii]

The Order directed the Secretary of the Interior to pause the issuance of new oil and gas leases for drilling rights on federal lands until the Secretary completes a “comprehensive review” of oil and gas permitting requirements.[iii] The Secretary subsequently issued Order No. 3395 (“the Order”), which directed the pause on approving new leases for fossil fuel extraction on federal lands and ordered the comprehensive review of federal royalty rates.[iv]

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FERC Asserts Jurisdiction Over State-Determined Carbon Pricing

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has released a policy statement declaring it has jurisdiction to “incorporate a state-determined carbon price in [wholesale] markets.”[1]

FERC released the policy statement following a virtual technical conference it held on September 30 on the subject of carbon pricing in wholesale electricity markets.[2] The conference covered a range of topics, including an overview of current carbon pricing mechanisms used by states and regional coalitions, as well as operational and design issues that may arise when incorporating a carbon price into a wholesale market structure.[3]

The conference also featured a panel on the legal implications of integrating carbon pricing into wholesale markets. There, as is so often the case with a novel legal issue, the threshold question was one of jurisdiction—specifically whether and under what authority FERC has jurisdiction to implement carbon pricing.[4] Answering that question in the affirmative, FERC has taken a significant step by signaling it will not reject carbon price proposals brought by states “out of hand.”[5]

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California Governor’s Executive Order Pushes Phase-Out of Gas-Powered Cars by 2035

On September 23, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order (“Order”) directing that “all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.”[1] The order’s public announcement emphasizes concern over smog and toxic diesel emissions and notes that half of California’s carbon pollution originates from the transportation sector.[2] The Order prioritizes deploying zero emissions technologies to “reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollutants that disproportionately burden our disadvantaged communities of color.”[3]

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U.S. Scheduled to Exit Paris Climate Agreement on November 4

Amid raging wildfires, heavy rains, and tornadoes— all of which  have been linked to climate change—the United States is set to exit the Paris Agreement on November 4, one day after the presidential election.[1] President Trump, who has said that the global agreement to confront catastrophic climate change was a “total disaster” for the United States, formally issued the required one-year notice of withdrawal last November.[2] Former Vice President Joe Biden has stated that he would  re-enter the U.S. into the Paris agreement if he wins the 2020 election.[3]

The 2015 Paris Agreement seeks to limit the “global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” and ideally less than 1.5 degrees Celsius.[4] Nations set their own goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through nationally determined contributions (NDCs).[5]

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[NEWS 11/24/2019] Coal Knew of Threat of Climate Change Since 1966

Evidence of what fossil fuel companies knew about the potentially negative impact of fossil fuel combustion on climate change is critical to the legal strategy of those seeking damages for carbon dioxide emissions. If the harmful effects of fossil fuel emissions were known to fossil fuel companies, they potentially could be held liable for damages.[1]

For decades coal companies have denied knowledge of the consequences, as well as the existence of climate change itself. The Huffington Post reported that although Peabody Energy,[2] the largest private-sector coal company in the world, acknowledges climate change on its website, “[i]t has been directly and indirectly involved in obfuscating climate science for decades. It funded dozens of trade, lobbying and front groups that peddled climate misinformation.”[3]

A recently discovered article, however, revealed that the coal industry has known of fossil fuel’s impact on climate change for decades.[4]

Chris Cherry, professor of civil engineering at the University of Tennessee, discovered an article published in the Mining Congress Journal in 1966, written by James R. Garvey, president of Coal Research Inc.[5] An article titled “ramifications of extractive technologies,”[6] revealed the coal industries foreknowledge. Garvey wrote:

There is evidence that the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is increasing rapidly as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels . . . [s]uch changes in temperature will cause melting of the polar icecaps, which, in turn, would result in the inundation of many coastal cities, including New York and London. [7]

Most modern knowledge of climate change is seen in the article including increase of average air temperature, melting of polar ice caps, and rising of sea levels.[8] Cherry’s discovery could potentially open the coal industry to similar litigation currently faced by the oil industry.[9]

The Huffington Post reached out to Peabody Energy for comment on the Article’s revelations. A Peabody spokesman stated:

Peabody recognizes that climate change is occurring and that human activity, including the use of fossil fuels, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. We also recognize that coal is essential to affordable, reliable energy and will continue to play a significant role in the global energy mix for the foreseeable future. Peabody views technology as vital to advancing global climate change solutions, and the company supports advanced coal technologies to drive continuous improvement toward the ultimate goal of near-zero emissions from coal.[10]

*Featured Image: A 1966 issue of the Mining Congress Journal, Courtesy of Chris Cherry

[1] See Elan Young, Coal Knew, Too, Huffington Post (Nov. 22, 2019) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/coal-industry-climate-change_n_5dd6bbebe4b0e29d7280984f (last visited Nov. 22, 2019).

[2] https://www.peabodyenergy.com/.

[3] Élan Young, supra n.1; see Suzanne Goldenberg and Helena Bengtsson, Biggest US coal company funded dozens of groups questioning climate change, Guardian (June 13, 2016), https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/13/peabody-energy-coal-mining-climate-change-denial-funding (last visited Nov. 22, 2019).

[4] Eoin Higgins, Coal Knew Too: Explosive Report Shows Industry Was Aware of Climate Threat as Far Back as 1966, Common Dreams (Nov. 22, 2019), https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/11/22/coal-knew-too-explosive-report-shows-industry-was-aware-climate-threat-far-back-1966 (last visited Nov. 22, 2019).

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Élan Young, supra n.1

[8] Eoin Higgins, supra n.4.

[9] Id.

[10] Élan Young, supra n.1

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