January 24, 2013
I enjoyed today’s annual conference on Environmental, Land Use & Energy Law in Boston and came away suitably edified. Without getting into the weeds of recent and upcoming zoning decisions (other than to say watch out for disputes about medical marijuana dispensaries) I would like to share my three key learnings.
1. Rainfall: Kenneth Moraff from the EPA put the agency’s new national stormwater rule in its climate context. He pointed out that since the 1940s it has been the six New England states that have seen the most dramatic increase in the frequency of extreme rainfall. This report from Environment Massachusetts provides all the statistics, but the figure I won’t forget in a hurry is 85%: that’s the percentage increase for intense snowstorms and rainstorms in New England since 1948.
2. Reggi: The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, pron. Reggi) was the nation’s first cap-and-trade scheme. Through RGGI the participating northeastern states and Canadian provinces stage auctions where polluters buy permits to emit green-house gases. The money helps fund energy efficiency programs, which has proved a boon to many Massachusetts communities. But DEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimell mentioned a shortcoming: The original allowances are too high. Because power plant emissions of CO2 have dropped since the natural gas boom, the allowances now exceed what the companies need, and the price for CO2 allowances is as low as it can go. I’ve voiced my criticisms of RGGI before, so shall refrain from echoing myself here.
3. Reminder: Sue Reid, director of the Conservation Law Foundation, reminded us about an important provision in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008. Under Chapter 30, Section 61, all state agencies have to take climate change impacts into account when making decisions about permits and licenses. This is an important requirement that has yet to work its way fully into all nooks and corners of state government, but I think it has extraordinary potential.
Kudos to the staff and volunteers at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education for organizing yet another informative event.