Monday, September 29, 2008

Land Use Regulation Necessary For Green

Sustainlane has determined that Portland, OR is the greenest city. Why? Because of the progressive land use restrictions and urban growth boundaries established in the 1970s. "That’s "City-planners in Portland have been thinking green since the 70s, when the rest of the country was still embracing the strip mall. The city enacted strict land-use policies, implementing an urban growth boundary, requiring density, and setting a strong precedent for sustainable development." In addition to "green building" regulations, strong land use regulation that limits sprawling suburban development is necessary to make communities green, as is support for effective infrastructure and public transit. Without these supports for green buildings, all that is going to be developed is more auto-dependent green sprawl.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ninth Time Is The Charm--Senate passes renewable energy tax package

Avoiding an end of year sunset of renewable energy tax credits, the senate finally passed (after nine tries) a renewable energy tax package. Wind power tax credits have been extended for one year; other types of renewable energy such as small-scale hydro or tidal power have been extended for two years. Solar tax credits for businesses and residential installations have been extended for eight years. The entire package amounts to $18 billion in tax credits. Bill is available in full--

Today, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Charles Rangel (D-NY)introduced a bill to offset the cost of the incentives in the Senate bill, which includes a modified version of the previously proposed repeal of the tax exemption for oil and gas producers. In the modified version, the bill would freeze the domestic production deduction for income of taxpayers that is with respect to oil, natural gas or any primary product thereof at 6% (which is current law). Absent this action, this deduction would increase to 9% in 2010. This is a scaled-back version of the provision proposing outright repeal of section 199 with respect to all oil, natural gas or any primary product thereof.

Event Alert--RGGI Greenhouse Gas Auction TOMORROW

Just wanted to alert my readers that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, RGGI ("Reggie") will begin auctioning greenhouse gas allowances tomorrow.

The States Taketh, The Feds Giveth Away

I have written extensively here on the federalism issues associated with regulating green buildings and climate change in general, which I believe is going to be a major factor in whether the United States can effectively manage climate change. In another example of the states regulating and the feds deregulating (or actually just preventing climate change laws from taking effect), Delaware made revisions to its state implementation plan under the Clean Air Act, making carbon dioxide a regulated pollutant. EPA Region 3 approved Delaware's SIP with the carbon dioxide regulation in place. Now, the EPA is reconsidering the approval of Delaware's SIP.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Federalism--Green Building Law Quagmire?

Federalism, one of the founding principals of American democracy by which states (and through the states, cities, counties and municipalities) and the Federal government have there own spheres of governance, may ultimately strangle effective green legislation.

I wrote on the blog earlier this summer about a suit filed by HVAC indsutry associations challenging Albuquerque's green building code claiming that the energy requirements for the HVAC equipment was preempted (i.e. already regulated) by Federal law.

Yesterday, "Following months of debate and squabbling, the House of Representatives just passed a bill that could open America’s coasts to offshore drilling, as well as extend the tax credits for clean energy and offer other incentives for clean power and green transportation." One of the complaints Earth2Tech noted that the Republicans have voiced about the bill is that "the bill also creates a federal renewable portfolio standard that would require 15 percent of the nation’s electricity to be generated from renewable sources. Going beyond states’ mandates is viewed as a form of “big government” with which Republicans disagree."

In short, the Republicans are saying that the Federal government shouldn't pass sustainability regulations, and certain interest groups are suing to prevent states (and through them, municipalities) from regulating, it could create a quagmire in which no government entity is able to effectively pass sustainability regulations.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Oregon Building Opts For Green Globes Because of Cost

As a followup to an analysis of LEED v. Green Globes posted on Green Building Law, I noted that an Oregon building which had originally been slated to be LEED certified chose Green Globes because of the additional cost of LEED certification.

The Threat of A "God Awful Solar Heater" to $300,000 Landscaping

People in the Hamptons are not like you and me. This week Southhampton voted into law a series of green regulations mandating environmental requirements for homeowners. One of the criticisms of the regulations was the following:

“For the existing homeowner this is nothing more than a tax,” Bergenthal said. “I spent $300,000 for landscaping. Why should I have to look at a God-awful solar heating system.”

Granted, given the current state of the economy and the threat of global warming, you may not be feeling much sympathy for Mr. Bergenthal and his $300,000 landscaping, but his criticism of the Southhampton law does bring into high relief the ingrained animosity Americans have towards having their private property regulated--especially their homes. I believe that regulation of government and commercial green buildings will be accepted much more easily (although suits in NM and FL are already challenging some laws) than will regulations targeted at homeowners.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Bird In The Hand--Anticipating The Value Of Carbon Offset Credits

I read an article a few weeks ago on Europeans snapping up US carbon offset credits on the cheap. See In short, because the United States does not currently have a mandatory carbon offset program, US carbon offsets purchased on the Chicago Climate Exchange are far cheaper than the mandatory carbon offsets for sale on the European climate market. The theory is, however, that soon the United States will regulate carbon and establish a mandatory cap-and-trade system, and the credits will increase in value. build a green building now, and have the less valuable carbon offsets which might be worth something more in the future (or to purchasers in Europe). Those ownership rights need to be considered. How should they be valued? At the current US price? Some future estimated value? Who owns them? The builder of the building or the lessee? See an interesting analysis of this situation at

In my opinion, the carbon offsets should be valued at the current Chicago Climate Exchange value. Anything else is simply too speculative. However, they should be treated as if they have value, because they do. Therefore, the allocation of the carbon offsets should be treated as an asset in the negotiation of any green project, with ownership rights as clearly established as the physical asset. Legal draftsmen, sharpen your pencils...