Environment, Land & Resources

China’s Action Against Plastic Pollution

Posted in Air Quality and Climate Change, China, Contaminated Properties & Waste

The government’s plan to tackle internal and imported plastic waste is the latest phase in China’s clean energy commitment.

By Paul A. Davies and R. Andrew Westgate

Although China’s ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions and air pollution have received global attention and coverage, the country’s significant steps to reduce solid waste pollution have been subject to less scrutiny. Plastics, which are both manufactured and imported into China for recycling in vast quantities, are a case point. The National Development and Reform Commissions (NDRC), China’s key economic planning body, has frequently affirmed its commitment to reducing plastic waste pollution. To further this objective, the NDRC is expected to revise a 2008 order, which banned the production and sale of plastic bags less than 0.025 millimetres thick. The order also made it compulsory for retailers to charge customers for plastic bags. Continue Reading

Carbon Markets Must Balance Stability and Adaptability When Implementing Emissions Trading Systems

Posted in Air Quality and Climate Change, California, China, Power, Oil, Gas and Minerals, Project Siting and Approval

As China begins to implement its emissions trading system, the country may look around the globe for regulatory guidance.

By Paul A. Davies and R. Andrew Westgate

China established its national emissions trading system (ETS) as a key component of the plan to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement. The country’s participation in the Paris Agreement is significant not only because it contributes 15% toward total global carbon emissions, but because China was a key proponent of the agreement during its negotiation.

China’s initial hurdle was how to systematically collect the emissions data necessary to design and implement the emissions trading scheme. Accurate and comprehensive emissions data is critical not only for setting the level of the overall cap, but also in determining how free allowances will be allocated to regulated companies. Determining the rate at which the emissions cap declines also requires predicting future emission rates and market demand levels. Continue Reading

California Court of Appeal Upholds Partial Award of Attorneys’ Fees to Successful CEQA Litigant

Posted in Air Quality and Climate Change, CEQA, Environmental Litigation, Power, Oil, Gas and Minerals, Project Siting and Approval

By Christopher W. Garrett, Natalie C. Rogers, and Kimberly D. Farbota

CEQA Case Report: Understanding the Judicial Landscape for Development[1]

In a published opinion issued January 12, 2018, Heron Bay Homeowners Assn. v. City of San Leandro, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s partial grant of Heron Bay Homeowners Association’s request for attorneys’ fees following its successful CEQA suit against the City of San Leandro (the City). In summary, the court determined:

  • The financial burden of enforcement the homeowners association faced made an award appropriate under California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) section 1021.5.
  • A successful CEQA litigant is not disqualified from an award of attorneys’ fees if the financial benefit at stake in the litigation was uncertain compared to a substantial financial burden.

The petitioner, the homeowners association, had filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to invalidate the City’s approval of Halus Power Systems’ (Halus’) proposed project to install a single 100-foot-tall wind turbine on Halus’ property for renewable power generation and on-site research and development (the Project). The petitioner also sought to compel the City to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) instead of the mitigated negative declaration (MND) the City had initially prepared. The petitioner argued the Project as mitigated would have significant environmental impacts on views, birds and their habitats, aircraft navigational radar, noise and vibration levels, and property values. The trial court found substantial evidence supported a fair argument that the Project as mitigated would have significant environmental impacts and directed the City to set aside its approvals until the City prepared and approved an EIR. Halus ultimately decided not to proceed with the Project.

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New Trump Administration Policies on Environmental Enforcement, Settlements, and Clean Air Act Implementation

Posted in Air Quality and Climate Change, Environmental Litigation, Project Siting and Approval

Webcast addresses recent EPA and DOJ policy developments with important implications for permitting, enforcement, and litigation.

By Joel C. Beauvais, Julia A. Hatcher, Karl A. Karg, Claudia M. O’Brien, and Stacey L. VanBelleghem

Latham’s Environment, Land & Resources Department hosted a 60-minute webcast on March 29, “New Trump Administration Policies on Environmental Enforcement, Settlements, and Clean Air Act Implementation.” Partners provided an overview of important policy clarifications and changes arising in recent months — including the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s new enforcement and settlement policies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s guidance on deference to states in enforcement and program implementation, and new EPA policies on Clean Air Act implementation. The measures have important implications for permitting, enforcement, and litigation — both specifically under the Clean Air Act, and more broadly.

You can view the webcast or download the presentation slides on-demand at any time by registering here.

English Supreme Court Rules Employees Can Claim Damages For a Symptomless Condition

Posted in Chemical Regulation, Environmental Litigation

Significant English Supreme Court decision overturns High Court and Appeal Court ruling on personal injury compensation.

By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

Three former employees of a chemical company appealed against the decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal that held they could not claim against their employer for damages for personal injury.

Johnson Matthey, the respondent employer, allegedly failed to properly clean the areas in which three of its employees worked and, as a result, they developed a sensitivity to platinum salts whilst working on the production of catalytic converters. Two of the men were dismissed on medical grounds and the other was given a lesser paid position as a result. The sensitivity was discovered after a routine skin prick test was carried out. Continue Reading

California Court of Appeal: Challenges to Water Supply Assessments Appropriate After EIR Certification

Posted in CEQA, Water Quality and Supply

By Chris Garrett, Diego Flores, Lucas Quass and Samantha Seikkula

CEQA Case Report: Understanding the Judicial Landscape for Development[i]

In an unpublished opinion issued March 26, 2018, Golden Door Properties, LLC v. Vallecitos Water District, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment sustaining the Vallecitos Water District’s (District’s) demurrer from Golden Door, LLC’s (Golden Door’s) challenge to two statutory assessments in which the District concluded there is a sufficient water supply for Newland Sierra, LLC’s (Newland’s) proposed residential development (Project) in rural unincorporated San Diego County (County). In summary, the court determined:

  • A Water Supply Assessment issued by a water district in conjunction with a project’s CEQA review process is not independently reviewable and may only be challenged as part of a final EIR.
  • Challenges to a rescinded Water Verification are moot if there is uncertainty about whether particular dispute will recur and, in any case, will not evade review.

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The Success of China’s Efforts to Decrease Harmful Pollution Levels

Posted in Air Quality and Climate Change, China, Power, Oil, Gas and Minerals

China cuts fossil fuel consumption to achieve clean energy goal, but must carefully balance the consequences for Chinese citizens.

By Paul Davies and Andrew Westgate

In tandem with China’s significant economic growth over the past three decades, coal emissions have soared, increasing from 446 million tonnes in 1990 to 2.6 billion tonnes in 2017. Coal remains, and for some time likely will remain, an important source of fuel for the Chinese economy. However, the harmful effects of coal consumption are evident in the shortening life expectancies of Chinese citizens, particularly in northern China. An individual in the north apparently has an average life expectancy that is approximately 3.1 years shorter than an individual in the south, which has been linked to the burning of coal.[1]

Achieving President Xi Jinping’s promise to “to make the skies blue again” is by no means an easy feat, and the government’s plan is ambitious. Entitled the “Energy Production and Consumption Revolution Strategy”, the plan aims to ensure that emissions reach their highest level in 2030 and decline thereafter, and that by 2050 coal and other fossil fuels make up less than 50% of the country’s energy mix. China has invested heavily in renewable energy, adding more renewable capacity in recent years than any other country. Continue Reading

Green Finance Taskforce Publishes First Report to Boost UK’s Green Economy

Posted in European Environmental and Public Law, Green Finance

The action plan recommends leveraging London’s leading role in global green finance to grow green opportunities.

By Paul A. Davies

The Green Finance Taskforce’s first report, “Accelerating Green Finance,” advises the UK government on how to achieve important green finance goals, carbon targets in relation to the Paris Agreement. The report, published on 28 March, recommended the establishment of a Green Finance Institute, which would be a “one-stop-shop’ for all work relating to this sector. The report also advised:

  • Boosting investment in innovative clean technologies
  • Driving demand and supply for green lending products
  • Setting up Clean Growth Regeneration Zones
  • Improving climate risk management with advanced data
  • Building a green and resilient infrastructure pipeline
  • Issuing of a sovereign green bond for green projects, including flood defence

Sir Roger Gifford, Chairman of the Green Finance Institute, noted that “[t]he opportunities for green investment are plentiful — London’s deep pools of liquidity make it the natural choice for financing these initiatives.”[1]

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The European Commission Reviews Free Allocation Rules in EU Emissions Trading System

Posted in Air Quality and Climate Change, European Environmental and Public Law, Power, Oil, Gas and Minerals

The EC is seeking feedback on its roadmap for the next EU Emissions Trading System revision.

By Paul A. Davies, Lars Kjølbye, Elisabetta Righini, and Guendalina Catti De Gasperi

The European Commission (EC) has launched an initiative for the revision of EU-wide rules for the free allocation of emission allowances under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). Under the initiative released on March 20, 2018, the new rules would be applicable in the fourth trading period of the EU ETS (2021-2030). In particular, the initiative will:

As a first step, the EC has published a roadmap (Roadmap) describing the scope, purpose, and timing of the revision, and the main features of its consultation strategy. Stakeholders can provide their feedback on the Roadmap until April 17, 2018.

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New Green Loan Principles Apply Bond-Like Approach to Nascent Green Loan Market

Posted in Green Finance

The Green Loan Principles may help sustainable investment growth

By Paul A. Davies and Aaron E. Franklin

The Loan Market Association and the Asia Pacific Loan Market Association recently announced the “Green Loan Principles” joint project. This two-page document, announced on March 21, 2018, seeks to stimulate the de minimis green loan market by following in the footsteps of the highly influential Green Bond Principles.

There have been green loans for several years, but this market has not experienced anywhere near the outstanding levels of growth of the green bond market. The reasons behind this are not clear, but, undeniably, green loans could be an effective alternative to green bonds in many cases. This could include when the amount to be borrowed would not suffice for a benchmark-sized bond, or if the borrower does not wish to comply with public reporting standards applicable to bond issuers. And although loans are far less public than widely distributed bonds, borrowers could still obtain many of the benefits associated with green bond issuance in terms of demonstrating to their stakeholders their commitment to these issues. Continue Reading

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