U.S. Supreme Court Denies Review of California Low-Carbon Fuel Standard

June 30, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court today denied several petitions seeking review of the Ninth Circuit's decision upholding California's Low-Carbon Fuel Standard ("LCFS") against claims that the LCFS violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. While today's decision makes the Ninth Circuit's decision final, the underlying issue -- how far individual states can go to regulate greenhouse gases and promote renewable energy without violating the Commerce Clause -- will remain the subject of intense litigation. For example, recent lower-court decisions from Colorado and Minnesota, reaching apparently opposite conclusions on the constitutionality of state renewable portfolio requirements, suggest that the Supreme Court may ultimately have to step into the fray.

As we've previously reported here and here, California's LCFS requires petroleum distributors in the state to reduce the carbon intensity of motor fuels they sell by blending them with biofuels or other lower-carbon alternatives. The LCFS contains a complex mechanism which uses a life-cycle analysis to assign carbon intensity scores to different biofuels production processes, providing a significant economic advantage to fuels with lower carbon intensity scores. This mechanism was challenged by a coalition of out-of-state alcohol fuels producers and trade groups, who argued that California's mechanism discriminates against them on its face by assigning higher carbon intensity scores to out-of-state producers than in-state producers. California rebutted these claims by asserting that its life-cycle analysis model is location-neutral and reflects the reality that production of alcohol fuels in some areas has a greater carbon footprint than fuels produced within California. Alcohol fuels produced in the Midwest, for example, generally have a higher carbon footprint than fuels produced within California because Midwest biofuels are produced using electricity from a grid that relies more heavily on coal-fired plants and because of the lengthy transportation routes required to deliver Midwest fuels into California add to the out-of-state fuel's carbon intensity.

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Six GTH Energy and Environmental Named Washington "Super Lawyers"

June 23, 2014

We're pleased to announce that nineteen Gordon Thomas Honeywell attorneys have been named 2014 Washington Super Lawyers, including six members of our Energy, Telecommunications & Utilities and Environmental & Natural Resources practice groups.

The "Super Lawyers" practicing in our energy, environmental, and natural resources areas are Margaret Archer, Eric Christensen, Don Cohen, Brad Jones, and Bill Lynn. In addition, practice member Bill West has been named a "Rising Star."

"Super Lawyers" are selected through a process of peer review and independent evaluation, and represent the top five percent of practitioners in the State of Washington.

FERC Approves Energy Imbalance Market Tariffs, Paving Way for October Start-Up

June 20, 2014

At its monthly meeting yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") approved tariffs that will allow the western Energy Imbalance Market ("EIM") to open as planned on October 1, 2014. The EIM is designed to allow economic dispatch at five-minute intervals of energy balancing resources in the footprint of participating utilities. The EIM is one of a number of initiatives undertaken by utilities in the West to address the problems created by the rapid expansion of non-dispatchable wind and solar resources. Because these resources produce output that can be both highly variable and unpredictable, they have created increasing demand for balancing resources that can respond rapidly to changes in generation output to maintain the balance between generation supply and electric demand necessary for reliable operation of the electric system.

Yesterday's FERC orders approve the EIM proposed jointly by PacifiCorp and the California Independent System Operator ("Cal-ISO"). The PacifiCorp-ISO EIM will employ the Cal-ISO's existing five-minute market mechanism to dispatch balancing resources in the EIM's footprint. Initially, the EIM will dispatch resources within California, as well as within the two balancing authorities operated by PacifiCorp, which are centered on its service territories in the Pacific Northwest and Utah. Participation in the EIM is voluntary and the system is designed to allow expansion through addition of new utility participants.

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Next Frontiers in Climate Litigation: Adaptation and Ocean Acidification

June 11, 2014

Recent legal developments in climate litigation and regulation suggest that the legal landscape related to climate change is continuing to evolve, with adaptation to climate change and ocean acidification recently taking center stage. Adaptation is the idea that cities, utilities, and the builders and owners of other critical infrastructure should take steps to protect the public from rising sea levels, increasingly intense storms, and other impacts predicted by climate science. Ocean acidification is, in addition to climate disruption, a side-effect of increasing atmospheric carbon concentrations. As carbon from the atmosphere is absorbed into ocean water, the acidity of the ocean rises, with potentially serious consequences for ocean food chains and fisheries. As reported in a lengthy series published by the Seattle Times, the effects of increased ocean acidity are already beginning to appear along Washington's coast.

Climate adaption has come to the fore recently in two high-profile matters. First, the New York Public Service Commission ("NYPSC") recently approved a rate case settlement involving Consolidated Edison that will require Con Ed to undertake state-of-the-art planning and hardening of its assets to protect them from the increasingly severe weather events predicted to result from a changing climate. The hardening measures are predicted to cost approximately $1 billion. Because of its highly-criticized response to Hurricane Sandy, Con Ed may be have been an easy target, but it is likely that the NYPSC's action will serve as a model for other utility commissions concerned about utlity storm response and the resiliency of the electric system in the face of increasingly severe weather events. The NYPSC matter is nicely summarized here by Columbia Law School's Center for Climate Change Law.

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EPA Proposes Limits on Carbon Dioxide From Power Plants: What It Means for the Pacific Northwest

June 6, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week issued is long-anticipated proposal to limit carbon dioxide from power plants, dubbed the "Clean Power Plan." Predictably, both industry groups and environmental interests attacked the plan, in some cases even before it was released. A careful review of the proposal suggests, however, that the impacts of the rule, if adopted, are likely to be relatively modest in the Pacific Northwest, chiefly by placing additional economic pressure on already beleaguered coal-fired plants in Montana and Wyoming, while adding the pressure of federal law to break the log-jam in Olympia regarding climate-related legislation. The flexibility provided to states to comply with carbon dioxide limitations also lays the groundwork for interstate cooperation to identify least-cost solutions and may create new and lucrative opportunities for companies involved in energy conservation, clean tech, renewable energy and a variety of other industries where carbon dioxide emissions might be reduced at relatively little cost.

The proposed rule has been summarized in greater detail elsewhere. In brief, the proposal at its core would require existing power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent over 2005 levels by 2030, with interim limits that would come into force in 2020. The proposal establishes state-specific goals for carbon dioxide emissions, but provides states considerable flexibility to meet these goals using four "building blocks" -- improving power plant heat rates, improving energy conservation, dispatching power from natural gas and other less carbon-intensive resources rather than from coal generation, and encouraging the construction and dispatch of renewable energy resources. The proposal also encourages interstate cooperation and allows for trading of carbon-reduction credits, as already occurs, for example, in the Northeast's RGGI program. The EPA's final rule is due by June 2015, with state implementation plans to be finalized by June 2016. Litigation over the rule is certain to occur, so it is unclear whether these deadlines will be met.

The choice of a 2005 baseline, rather than the 1990 baseline generally used in discussions of greenhouse gas reductions, is important because U.S. GHG emissions peaked in that year and have declined 9% overall since then, while power plant emissions have declined 16%, primarily because the "fracking" boom has created cheap natural gas, which has displaced significant amounts of coal used for electricity generation. Georgetown University's Climate Center has published a useful table, which provides an indication of reductions required from 2012 emissions levels rather than 2005 levels.

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Bonneville Hiring Fiasco: BPA Watch Provides a Useful Chronology

May 28, 2014

Last summer, the Northwest power industry was stunned by the Department of Energy's sudden and unanticipated suspensions of two highly-respected top-tier executives at the Bonneville Power Administration, Administrator Bill Drummond and Chief Operating Officer Anita Decker. This week, Seattle attorney Dan Seligman has released a lengthy and carefully researched chronology of the problems in BPA's compliance with federally-mandated veterans preferences that ultimately caused the suspensions. Seligman's work, based on an extensive review of publicly-available documents, helps makes sense of what appeared at the time to be a bolt from the blue.

If you have any questions about BPA, the energy industry in the Pacific Northwest, or other matters involving the energy or environmental law, please contact a member of GTH's Energy, Telecommunications, and Utilities or Environment & Natural Resources practice groups. We're proud that our partner Jim Waldo was recently named 2013 Lawyer of the Year for Energy and Natural Resources Law, and practice group members Don Cohen, Bill Lynn, and Brad Jones were all named among Seattle's Best Lawyers. Disclaimer: Links to Mr. Seligman's work are provided as a convenience to our readers. GTH takes no responsibility for the content of Mr. Seligman's work or the contents of BPA Watch.

Bureau of Reclamation Issues Policy Prohibiting Use of Federal Water for Marijuana Cultivation, But Policy May Lack Teeth

May 21, 2014

Yesterday, the Bureau of Reclamation issued a policy prohibiting the use of water supplied by the Bureau for the cultivation of marijuana. The Bureau's policy is important for the future of legalized marijuana operations because Bureau-operated dams and canals supply water to farms across much of the arid West. Bureau projects, notably including eastern Washington's huge Columbia Basin Project, are major water suppliers in Colorado and Washington, which have recently moved toward legalization of recreational marijuana use, as well as several other Western states that have legalized marijuana for medical use. In addition, the policy is important because it answers at least some of the largely-overlooked questions that marijuana legalization raises for water and electric utilities serving marijuana operations. A closer look at the policy and accompanying pronouncements, however, suggests that the policy is likely to have limited practical effect.

For example, the Bureau did not threaten to shut off water to its customers -- local irrigation districts -- or take any other sort of enforcement action directly against the irrigation districts or end users. Further, the Bureau will not conduct investigations to determine how the water it supplies is being used. And the policy does not prohibit the use of water from reservoirs in which federal water is commingled with water from non-federal sources.

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EPA Issues Final Rule on Cooling Water Intake, Significantly Affecting Electric Power Generation and Water-Intensive Manfacturing

May 20, 2014

Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") issued a Final Rule under Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act ("CWA") designed to reduce damage to aquatic organisms from entrainment or impingement in large cooling water intake structures. The rule covers facilities that are designed to withdraw more than two million gallons per day ("mgd") from "waters of the United States" and that withdraw at least 25% of their cooling water from those waters. EPA estimates the rule will cover more than 1,000 major facilities, about half of which are power plants and the other half manufacturing plants. Smaller facilities that do not meet the 2 mgd threshhold but are otherwise subject to the CWA will remain subject to Section 316(b), with specific requirements to be developed in a case-by-case basis.

In contrast to most other provisions of the CWA, which regulate discharges of pollutants, Section 316(b) regulates the intake of water. Section 316(b) requires that "the location, design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact." To carry out this statutory mandate, the Final Rule has three major features. First, facilities meeting the 2 mgd threshold are required to select one of seven design options for the cooling water intake structures in order to meet Section 316(b)'s "best technology available" requirement for minimizing damage to aquatic ecosystems. Second, facilities withdrawing very large quantities of water -- 125 mgd or more -- must conduct studies to help permitting authorities identify site-specific measures that meet Section 316(b)'s requirements.

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FERC Proposes To Clarify Open Access Obligations for Owners of Generator Tie Lines

May 19, 2014

In a proposal that should clarify federal rules concern access to generator tie-lines, and therefore provide assurance to project developers and their financial backers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") at last week's monthly meeting proposed new rules to govern third-party access to such tie-lines. While at first blush, this issue may seem obscure, it has far-reaching consequences for both open access to and investment in the nation's electric system. The proposed rule also clarifies how FERC will reconcile two of its most important policy goals -- investment in new generation resources and open access to the nation's transmission grid.

The proposed rules are important because generator tie-lines often cover hundreds of miles and operate at extremely high voltages, especially when delivering power from generation resources located in remote, rural areas that otherwise have limited access to the backbone transmission grid. The proposed rules are therefore particularly important for wind generation and utility-scale solar, where the best resources are often located far from existing transmission lines. FERC's proposal notes several cases where tie-lines to link, for example, large wind generation projects to the grid span hundreds of miles and operate at voltages as high as 345-kV, and therefore look much like backbone transmission assets.

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New National Lab Study Identifies Huge Hydropower Potential, Especially in the Pacific Northwest

May 16, 2014

Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy ("DOE") and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory ("ORNL") released a comprehensive analysis of the potential for new hydroelectric development in the United States, finding that up to 65,500 MW of new hydro capacity could be built, nearly equal to the country's existing hydro capacity of 79,500 MW. The Pacific Northwest (defined in the report as the U.S. portion of the Columbia-Snake River Basin) contains the largest share of this capacity, nearly 26,000 MW. Major resources are also available in Alaska and Hawaii.

The analysis employs advanced geographical and mapping techniques to identify stream potential, and provides an array of advanced resources to developers wishing to identify sites that offer both favorable hydrological characteristics and characteristics favorable to permitting projects. For example, the study identifies stream reaches that have been designated as critical habitat for a federally-listed endangered species.

When considered together with the DOE/ORNL's 2012 report showing that up to 12,000 MW of new generation could be added to existing dams that do not presently have generation installed, the analysis demonstrates the great potential for new hydropower development, which can help supply the nation's need for carbon-free electricity using a mature and well-understood technology.

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Who Holds the Almighty and Powerful Ring? 13 Steps for Utility Cyber Security Protection

May 13, 2014

We are happy to announce that Eric Christensen and Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Tim Lowenberg of GTH-Governmental Affairs have published the cover story in the May 2014 Northwest Public Power Association Bulletin. Here is a link to the article on the NWPPA's website. The text of the article follows:

Cover Story
Who Holds the Almighty and Powerful Ring in the Cyber World?
Thirteen Steps for Utility Cybersecurity Protection


By
Eric Christensen, Partner
Gordon Thomas Honeywell

and

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Tim Lowenberg, Vice President
Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs

While computer and internet technology create enormous benefits for twenty-first century utilities, they also expose utilities to new and sinister cyber threats. For utility managers, entering the cyber world can feel like entering J.R.R. Tolkien's "Middle Earth", a strange land filled with treacherous creatures like orcs, ring-wraiths, and wargs. Like Middle Earth, the cyber world is inhabited by peculiar and threatening forces ranging from amateur hackers to organized criminal enterprises searching for valuable financial information to politically motivated actors and nation-states capable of using malicious computer codes as weapons systems. And like Gollum, the hobbit twisted beyond all recognition by the power of the One Ring, threats in the cyber world often go undetected, arise from nebulous but nefarious motives and can unleash powerful, destructive effects beyond all expectation.

In light of the near-universal consensus among defense analysts, policy makers and computer experts that the electric utility sector is among the most vulnerable of sectors to cyber-attacks, how should utility managers address these threats? We recommend the following thirteen steps that all utilities, regardless of size, should take to mitigate risk in the complex and ever changing world of cyber-security.

Step 1: NIST Cybersecurity Framework
On February 12, 2014, the National Institute of Standards and Technology ("NIST") released the first version of its Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. The Framework, issued in response to President Obama's Executive Order No. 13636, is intended to create common, voluntary industry standards and best practices for addressing cyber-security threats. The Framework provides a standardized approach for identifying cyber-security threats and protecting organizations against those threats through technological fixes and education of management and front-line operators. While the Framework is an ongoing and evolving document, it is a useful starting point for developing a cyber security strategy. The steps we recommend here are consistent with the NIST Framework.

Step 2: NERC CIP Standards
Because they are mandatory and violations can lead to substantial penalties, NERC Reliability Standards are, of course, of primary concern to electric utilities. NERC's Critical Infrastructure Protection ("CIP") standards define utility obligations to address threats in the cyber-security realm and should therefore be a prime focus of every utility. After a long period of flux, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") in November 2013 adopted Version 5 of the CIP standards, with certain reservations. Utilities with "High and Medium Impact" assets (as defined in NERC's "BES Cyber Asset" definition) must come into compliance with Version 5 by April 2016 and those with "Low Impact" assets must come into compliance by April 2017. Utility managers should therefore pay careful attention to these standards, as well as refinements to the standards now under development in response to FERC's November 2013 order. In addition, NERC is conducting a pilot program with results due in the near future that should provide useful information for utility compliance managers.

Utility managers should also pay close attention to physical security standards. In reaction to damage caused by a sophisticated physical attack on the Metcalf Substation in California's Silicon Valley, FERC on March 7 ordered NERC to develop standards to secure key electrical facilities against physical attack. Compliance with these standards could be extremely expensive. In raising this concern, FERC Commissioner John Norris recently noted that just three utilities reported to him they may have to spend more than $500 million for physical security enhancements in the wake of the Metcalf incident. As is also obvious, under-reaction could prove even more costly for the utility and for our national security.

Step 3: Develop a Cyber-Security Strategy
In compliance with the NIST Framework and CIP standards, utility management should develop a cyber-security strategy that identifies cyber-risks, provides clear guidance and training to utility employees to effectively address those risks, and ensures the strategy is carried out and documented through continuous feedback to utility managers. As discussed below, it is important that the strategy include coordination with affected municipal and state governments, first responders, and Federal Information Sharing and Analysis Centers ("ISACs").

Step 4: CEO Briefings
The Cyber-Security Strategy developed in Step 3 should include a requirement for regular briefings of the utility's chief executive officer and relevant senior management by cyber security personnel, including updates on newly-identified cyber threats, progress in implementing CIP standards and other mitigation measures, and adaptations to the Strategy to address new threats, vulnerabilities and emerging challenges. Such briefings demonstrate the importance of cyber-security to the rest of the organization and ensure senior management is aware of cyber-related issues. Full awareness of cyber threats should, in turn, help assure the organization is devoting adequate resources to addressing those threats, and build the "culture of compliance" NERC looks for in assessing adherence to Reliability Standards.

Step 5: Legal Review of IT Contracts
The utility should conduct a legal review of its IT equipment and services contracts to ensure compliance with CIP standards, the Security Development Lifecyle guidelines discussed below, the utility's internal Cyber-Security Strategy, and other relevant requirements.

Step 6: Review IT Procurement
The utility should also ensure it is procuring computer software and hardware in a "secure" manner in conformity with Security Development Lifecycle ("SDL") processes and other best practices. Such procurement practices guard against incorporation or introduction of unsafe equipment and malicious software into the utility's computer systems.

Step 7: Procurement Staff Training
Consistent with Steps 5 and 6, the utility's procurement and acquisition staff, as well as its IT security staff, should receive training on SDL and other requirements relevant to IT acquisition and should be given resources sufficient to ensure effective cyber security provisions are incorporated into all IT acquisition contracts.

Step 8: Verify Implementation of Cyber-Related Contract Requirements
To ensure the measures discussed in Steps 5 through 7 are properly implemented, the utility should review its contractual relationships with third party IT service providers to verify that security-related requirements of IT contracts are actually being carried out in conformity with contractual and industry standards. Substandard computer installations and non-conforming contract services can give hackers, cyber-criminals, and cyber-attackers access to critical computer-controlled infrastructure.

Step 9: Use Information Sharing and Analysis Centers ("ISACs")
ISACs (mentioned in Step 3 above) are sector-specific organizations developed voluntarily in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security to facilitate detection and prevention of cyber-intrusions, vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and training and education services. The Department of Homeland Security coordinates the flow of information to, from and among fifteen national ISACs. Utility managers and security officials should pay particular attention to ES-ISAC, the ISAC for the electricity sector. Information from other ISACs may also enhance awareness of cyber-threats as well as the tactics, techniques and procedures employed by nefarious actors. These collateral sources include the Multi-State ISAC, which provides cyber threat information and cyber response assistance to state and local governments including utility commissions; the Supply Chain ISAC, which focuses on threats identified in the acquisition/procurement process; the Water ISAC, which provides useful information for water utilities; the Nuclear Energy ISAC, which covers nuclear energy cyber issues; and the Financial Services ISAC, which has information helpful to protecting the financial information of utility customers as well as the utility's own financial information.

Step 10: Develop Disaster Recovery Plans
Most utilities have extensive business continuity and recovery plans that describe how the utility will deal with natural disasters such as earthquakes and major storms. Disaster preparedness also requires development of plans to assure the utility's recovery from a major cyber-attack or series of attacks. The threat of such attacks is so real that a cyber mitigation, response and recovery plan should be the subject of a separate, detailed Annex to the utility's continuity plan. NARUC's Cybersecurity for State Regulators 2.0 (February 2014) provides a comprehensive set of criteria and recommended actions (from a wide variety of sources) for utility commissions to use as assessment tools. These sources and others are helpful in developing an effective Cyber Annex to the utility continuity and recovery plan.

Step 11: Build a Relationship With Law Enforcement
Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and some state military departments have important roles in identifying cyber intrusions, developing coordinated responses to such intrusions, apprehending or assisting in the apprehension of cyber criminals and recovering from major cyber incidents. Utilities should strive to build strong relationships with these agencies. To be effective, the utility must pre-identify the specific law enforcement officials it will contact in case of a suspected terrorist attack or cyber intrusion. The utility should go beyond the minimum requirement of compiling a contact list to create active, ongoing relationships with the law enforcement officials it will need to rely on in the event of a major cyber-attack.

Step 12: Practice Cyber Incident Responses
As with most utility functions, the adage "practice makes perfect" applies to cyber incident preparedness and cyber incident response. Fortunately, the Department of Homeland Security's "Cyber Storm" program offers excellent opportunities for utilities to participate in a realistic simulation of a major cyber-attack. The Cyber Storm exercise series provides an opportunity for more than 1,000 local entities to participate in a coordinated, week-long national cyber exercise, the results of which are used to develop other progressively challenging exercises and enhance the nation's cyber response systems. Washington utilities such as Snohomish County PUD played an active role in the 2013 Cyber Storm exercise. The next Cyber Storm exercise is scheduled for 2015.

Step 13: Support Your Local Emergency Response Plan
Finally, the utility should determine if its state government has developed a cyber response plan. If a plan exists, the utility at a minimum should become thoroughly familiar with it and, even more important, should offer to participate in the development and continuous testing and refinement of the plan.

The State of Washington, for example, leverages its "cyber security centers of excellence" and lessons learned from Cyber Storm exercises to integrate cyber security planning by state agencies ranging from the Washington Military Department (including its civilian State Emergency Operations Center and Air and Army National Guard cyber operations units) to the Office of the State Chief Information Officer, the Washington State Patrol, the Washington State Fusion Center, the Utilities and Transportation Commission, state universities, municipalities such as the City of Seattle, aerial and maritime port authorities and public utilities. These and other stakeholders, participating as members of a Washington State Cyber Integrated Project Team, have contributed to development, testing and refinement of a Washington State Cyber Incident Annex that is based on the National Cyber Incident Response Plan. The Washington Cyber Incident Annex includes provisions for convening a Cyber Unified Coordination Group to oversee cyber incident responses, which representatives from utilities and other critical infrastructure sectors that could be subject to cyber attack.

CONCLUSION
The conflict between good and evil in Middle Earth was finally resolved when Gollum, still madly clutching the One Ring, falls into the fire at the Cracks of Doom. With the malevolent force of the Ring destroyed, the forces of evil were shorn of their power and collapsed, allowing the hobbits and other peaceful residents of Middle Earth to return to normal life. The moment when the forces of evil in the cyber world will be shorn of their power is a long way off. Until that time comes, dealing with malevolent forces in the cyber domain will be an omnipresent and growing challenge. Because electric power is so critical to the functioning of our modern society, utilities are, willingly or not, thrust into the role of front-line players in the battle for control of cyberspace. The thirteen steps described above, if implemented, will help utilities protect their own assets, and help secure the nation against potentially crippling cyber attacks.

U.S. District Court Rejects Broad Commerce Clause Attack on Colorado's Renewable Portfolio Standard

May 13, 2014

On May 9, the Judge William J. Martinez of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado summarily dismissed a broad-based challenge to the Colorado Renewable Portfolio Standard ("RPS"), which argued that the RPS per se violates the "dormant" Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The decision supports the view that a RPS will pass muster under the Commerce Clause as long as it regulates in-state and out-of-state generators in an even-handed way, and does not impose restrictions on RPS eligibility that favor in-state generators over out-of-state generators. Energy & Environmental Legal Inst. v. Epel et al., No. 11-cv-00859-WJM-BNB (issued May 9, 2014).

Enacted by Colorado voters in 2004 and amended several times since, the Colorado RPS now requires Colorado's investor-owned utilities to obtain 30% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, while cooperatives serving 100,000 or more meters must meet a 20% standard, and smaller cooperatives and municipal utilities must meet a 10% standard. In 2011, plaintiff Energy and Environmental Legal Institute (then known as the American Traditions Institute) filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate Colorado's RPS statute on Commerce Clause grounds. Last week's decision rejects that challenge in its entirety, although plaintiffs have indicated they plan to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

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Governor Inslee Issues Comprehensive Executive Order on Climate Change

April 29, 2014

Washington Governor Jay Inslee today issued an Executive Order that will address Washington's greenhouse gas ("GHG") emissions on many different fronts. Issued in apparent response to the legislative logjam that has developed around the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup, the Executive Order (No. 14-04), requires actions in the following areas:

Cap-and-Trade Legislation: The Executive Order creates a new Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force to develop a legislative recommendation for a "cap and-market" mechanism, which would limit carbon emissions and establish an emissions allowance trading system designed to achieve GHG reductions in the most efficient manner. The Task Force, which includes 21 members from business, labor, health, and public interest organizations, meets for the first time today. It is instructed to provide recommended legislative by November 21, 2014.

Coal-Fired Electricity: The Executive Order directs the Governor's Legislative Affairs and Policy Office ("LAPO") to seek "negotiated agreements with key utilities and others" to reduce coal-fired electricity imported from outside the state and transition to cleaner sources. With the transition of Washington's only coal-fired plant at Centralia now well underway, Washington's remaining sources of coal-fired electricity will be generators located in states to the east, such as the Colstrip plant in Montana. Addressing the "coal-by-wires" issue is therefore the last remaining front for attacking significant GHG emissions in the electricity sector. The Executive Order requests help from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission ("UTC") and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to "actively assist and support" the transition away from coal-fired electricity, although, as we've previously discussed, the UTC has already moved significantly in this direction.

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Getting a CLEW from the IPCC: Can IPCC's Policy Analysis Break the Olympia Logjam on Climate Policy?

April 25, 2014

The recently-released Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ("IPCC") has received widespread coverage for its conclusion, expressed with "high confidence," that global emissions of greenhouse gases ("GHG") are continuing to grow and that "without additional mitigation," will "result in global mean surface temperature increases in 2100 from 3.7 to 4.8°C compared to pre‐industrial levels." Similarly, the IPCC's conclusion that limiting GHG emissions will have relatively modest impacts on global economic growth, well below the costs of unmitigated climate change, has been widely reported.

The IPCC's conclusions regarding climate mitigation policy have, regrettably, received very little coverage in the popular press. This lack of attention is unfortunate because IPCC's report provides a detailed and well-documented discussion of many different climate change policies that have been tried around the world. Here in Washington State, the IPCC's report may offer a way forward for climate policy, which is currently bogged down in a partisan impasse reached by the Climate Executive Workgroup ("CLEW").

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Complicating "Coal By Wires" Regulation, Minnesota Court Strikes Down Greenhouse Gas Regulation

April 21, 2014

In a ruling with potentially far-reaching consequences for state-level attempts to regulate greenhouse gases, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on April 18 issued a ruling striking down key elements of Minnesota's Next Generation Energy Act ("NGEA"). For the Pacific Northwest, in particular, the ruling could complicate efforts by Washington, Oregon, and California to limit "coal by wires" -- the importation of coal-generated electricity from plants located in states like Montana and Arizona. State of North Dakota et al. v. Heydinger et al., No. 11-cv-3232 (SRN/SER) (issued April 18, 2014).

Passed by Minnesota's legislature in 2007, the NGEA is aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of electricity consumed in the state. The statute prohibits new power plants within Minnesota that "would contribute to state power sector emissions." To address the "coal by wires" problem, the statute also broadly prohibits importing power generated outside Minnesota if that generation "would contribute to statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions," and also prohibits long-term power purchase contracts from facilities larger than 50 MW that would contribute to Minnesota's power sector carbon dioxide emissions.

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