Solar Energy and Electricity
March 5, 2021 by Hannah Wiseman, Maggie Dewane

Women’s History Month Q&A with Member Scholar Hannah Wiseman

Hannah Wiseman

To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for American Indians. This week, we spoke with Hannah Wiseman, a professor at Penn State University who teaches and writes about energy and environmental law and land use regulation. 

CPR: What motivated you to become an expert in energy law and a voice for a just energy transition in the United States? Is there historical context to this or a moment in history that stood out to you as motivation or inspiration? 

HW: When I was working in Texas in 2008, two types of energy development were booming: hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas (“gas”) and wind energy. It became clear that we were at a major transition point. We could choose continued reliance on fossil fuels or we could substantially ramp up renewable energy. It turns out that in the United States, we chose both. We became the world’s largest oil and gas producer due to fracking, and we also greatly expanded renewables, but not by enough …

March 3, 2021 by Sidney Shapiro
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Amid the Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) of politics these days, one fact stands out — a large majority of Americans want more regulatory protection in a wide variety of areas, according to a recent poll of likely voters.

The results are consistent with previous polls that indicate that Americans understand the importance of government regulation in protecting them from financial and health risks beyond their control. They also indicate majority support for efforts by the Biden administration to renew government regulation — as well as a stark repudiation of former President Trump’s extreme anti-regulatory agenda.

The poll, conducted in January by Data for Progress and the Center for Progressive Reform, found that a majority of likely voters favor more regulation of drinking water pollution (74 percent); consumer product safety (71percent); privacy data (70 percent); air pollution (68 percent …

March 2, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

"The social cost of carbon" isn't exactly a household phrase. It's an estimate of the harm caused by emitting a ton of carbon dioxide over the many decades it remains in the atmosphere. That's an important factor in calculating the costs and benefits of climate regulations. For an arcane concept, it has certainly caused a lot of controversy. The Obama administration came up with a set of estimates, which Trump then slashed by 90 percent.

In an early executive order, Biden created a task force to revisit the issue. Last week, the task force issued its first report. It's an impressive effort given that Biden is barely a month into his presidency. The document provides a clear overview of the ways in which climate science and climate economics have advanced since the Obama estimates and makes …

March 1, 2021 by Katlyn Schmitt
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Businesses that violate environmental laws and permits damage our air, land, and water, sometimes irreparably. Yet too often, these polluters aren't held accountable for harming the environment and public health. In Maryland, state officials don't respond to all violations, and, when they do, they aren't always successful. Even when they are successful, fines and other penalties don't necessarily result in behavior change. As a result, Maryland polluters are largely off the hook for the "externalities" of doing business.

To deter pollution, we need true accountability. We must ensure polluters pay for all harm done, whether to the environment, humans, and other species and habitats. Unfortunately, Maryland, like most other states, is a long way from achieving this goal. At CPR, we're tracking bills in the Maryland legislature that, if passed, would set the state on a path to greater compliance with environmental laws. These bills would:

  • Enforce …

Feb. 26, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

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 ways. The result is to obscure responsibility for the disaster and the steps that should be taken going forward.

Here are some of the most common dodges — not counting such crass moves as blaming everything on the Green New Deal or the media.

Dodge #1: No one could have foreseen this event! This often sounds reasonable. How could anyone have foreseen that New Orleans' levees would simply collapse, or that a historic tsunami would hit the nuclear reactors at Fukushima …

Feb. 25, 2021 by Allison Stevens
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Seven years ago, public officials in cash-strapped Flint, Michigan, cut city costs by tapping the Flint River as a source of public drinking water.

So began the most egregious example of environmental injustice in recent U.S. history, according to Paul Mohai, a founder of the movement for environmental justice and a professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.

When they made the switch, city officials didn’t properly treat the new water, which allowed lead from corroded pipes, bacteria, and other contaminants to leach into the public drinking water supply. Flint residents, who are disproportionately low-income and Black, immediately raised alarms about the fetid, brown water flowing out of their faucets and cited health problems, such as hair loss and rashes.

But the city didn’t officially acknowledge the problem or begin to take decisive action until a year and a half …

Feb. 24, 2021 by Robert Verchick
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Since I began serving on Louisiana’s Climate Initiatives Task Force, charged with finding a way to zero out net greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, there is one question I get from people more than any other: “C’mon, are you serious?”

It’s not that Louisianans don’t see the need. Sea-level rise could soon swallow our coast, and hurricanes souped up by climate change are now the new normal.

The problem is how we see ourselves. Louisiana, I’m reminded, is an oil-and-gas state. Whatever were we thinking?

My quick response is Louisiana is really an energy state, with more sun and offshore wind than most of our peers.

My longer answer is that I really don’t know how serious we are. But I’ve started following a trio of issues that could tip the scale …

Feb. 23, 2021 by Richard E. Levy, Robert Glicksman
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This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.

Since taking office, President Biden has pursued an active agenda to address many urgent matters that require his prompt attention. We hope one important initiative does not get lost in transition: restoring the norms of good governance.

During his term in office, President Trump sought to exert absolute control over the apparatus of government by undercutting normal operating practices and systematically dismantling protections for officials whose duty to the public might override their personal loyalty to him. It is no secret that Trump demanded personal loyalty from executive branch officials and fired those, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who prioritized complying with the law over following his orders. He has taken many actions to strip, override and undermine essential protections for our nation’s public servants.

Biden has already taken some steps to address these concerns. On Jan. 22 …

Feb. 22, 2021 by Dan Rohlf
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As the U.S. Senate considers President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees, one stands out as much for the position he was appointed to as for his impressive qualifications.

Two days before his inauguration, Biden announced that he planned to elevate the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), often referred to as the president’s science advisor, to Cabinet rank. The move underlines Biden’s break with the previous administration’s de-emphasis and politicization of science, which downplayed climate change, sought to slash climate-related research spending, and crafted rules designed to limit the influence of science in agency decisionmaking.

Created by Congress in 1976 to help the president and White House staff steer the country in an increasingly complex world, OSTP leads cross-government efforts to incorporate scientific and technological developments into policy and budgetary decisions. During the Trump administration, OSTP staff dropped by …

Feb. 22, 2021 by Alexandra Klass
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This post was originally published on Lawfare. Reprinted with permission.

It is now a week out from the start of the massive Texas grid failure that has resulted in numerous deaths; millions of people plunged into darkness; scores of communities without clean water or heat in record cold temperatures; and billions of dollars in catastrophic damage to homes, businesses and the physical infrastructure that supports them. Critical questions surround the causes of this massive disaster and how to plan for the future so that a tragedy of this scale does not happen again.

At this point, there are many facts that Americans already know. Contrary to the spurious claims by Gov. Greg Abbott as well as numerous right-wing politicians and pundits, freezing wind turbines and the state’s history of supporting renewable energy development did not cause the grid to fail. Indeed, wind turbines outperformed grid operator …

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