Project Siting and Approval

The seven-week inquiry will assess the potential impact of decarbonization on the UK economy, and examine opportunities for the growth of green finance.

By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

On World Environment Day, June 5, 2019, the UK Treasury Committee (the Committee) launched an inquiry into the decarbonization of the UK economy and green finance. The inquiry will scrutinize the role of HM Treasury (HMT), regulators, and financial services firms in supporting the UK government’s climate change commitments, and examine the potential for decarbonizing the UK economy.

UK Treasury Committee

The Committee was established by the House of Commons (the House) to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of HMT, HM Revenue & Customs, and associated public bodies such as the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority. The Committee is free to choose its own subjects of inquiry, which may lead to a report to the House, or a single day’s oral evidence.

Committee membership reaches across the House benches, and is currently comprised of 11 members. Five members are drawn from the Conservative Party, five from the Labour Party, and one from the Scottish National Party. Recent reports have examined topics such as consumers’ access to financial services, anti-money laundering supervision, and appointment of persons to public office.

The Committee has recommended that the UK government take the lead in reaching net-zero, through social, financial, and policy change.

By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), a statutory body that advises the UK government on carbon budgets, has recommended that the UK government should commit to cutting greenhouse gases (GHGs) to net-zero by 2050 in an attempt to meet its commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Financial Times described the proposed goal as the “toughest binding target of any big economy.”[i] To meet this ambitious net-zero target, the UK government would need to employ technologies such as carbon capture, utilization, and storage to curtail the volume of GHGs entering the atmosphere. Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, remarked that the UK’s bid to reach net-zero will be a “powerful signal to other countries”[ii] to take action.

The Green Industry Guidance Catalogue attempts to provide consistent nationwide guidelines for green industries and projects.

By Paul A. Davies and R. Andrew Westgate

Background

On 6 March 2019, seven Chinese regulatory agencies issued the Green Industry Guidance Catalogue (the Catalogue) listing “green industries” that are eligible for funding with green bonds. The seven agencies include the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, The People’s Bank of China, and the National Energy Board.

China’s environmental revolution not only entails implementing a robust, modern policy framework, but also a significant rearrangement of the economy itself — rendering the revolution a priority for both ecological and economic development reasons. As a result, in recent years, all provinces and directly-administered municipalities within China and departments within the Chinese government have introduced policies and measures to promote green industries. However, these policies and measures have been hampered by a lack of uniformity and the application of differing standards in different regions.

The Coal Commission’s phase-out proposal includes a €40 billion federal spending package for affected states.

By Jörn Kassow and Patrick Braasch

A German government-appointed body, known colloquially as the “Coal Commission”, has agreed to end coal-fired power generation by 2038. In an effort to meet Germany’s climate goals under the Paris Agreement, the Coal Commission proposes to gradually reduce Germany’s current coal power capacity of 42.6 GW to 30 GW by 2022 and 17 GW in 2030. A review is scheduled in 2032 to decide whether to bring forward the final phase-out from 2038 to 2035.

Coal-burning provided for 40% of Germany’s power mix in 2017, which is well above the EU-28 average of 21% in 2016, and was exceeded only by Bulgaria (45%), Greece (46%), the Czech Republic (54%), and Poland (81%). Coal-fired power plants accounted for 28% of Germany’s total CO2 emissions in 2016, while generating 70% of the energy sector’s total emissions in the same year. Germany will also close its last nuclear plants in 2022, which, as of 2017, still provided for 12% of the power mix. All considered, the country will see a fundamental change in its energy production landscape in the coming years.

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

By Christopher W. Garrett, Daniel Brunton, James Erselius, and Derek Galey

In a published decision issued June 12, 2018, County of Ventura v. City of Moorpark, Case No. B282466, the California Court of Appeal rejected part of the County of Ventura and the City of Fillmore’s (Petitioners’) appeal and affirmed the trial court’s decision that a beach restoration project undertaken by Broad Beach Geologic Hazard Abatement District (BBGHAD) and a related settlement agreement with the City of Moorpark (City) were exempt from CEQA review.

In summary, the court determined:

  • Two separate activities can constitute one “project” under CEQA so long as those activities serve a single purpose, have the same proponents, and are inextricably linked.
  • Courts do not balance the policies served by statutory exemptions against the goal of environmental protection because the legislature has already determined that the policy benefits of the exemption outweigh the benefits of environmental review.

The trial court determined that the beach restoration project and the related settlement agreement between BBGHAD and City were a single statutorily exempt project. Petitioners appealed on the grounds that even if the beach restoration was exempt, the settlement represented a separate, non-exempt project that was not properly reviewed under CEQA.

California Natural Resources Agency adopts final amendments to CEQA Guidelines, providing additional clarifying revisions to GHG impacts, baseline, and deferral of mitigation amendments.

By Marc Campopiano, Winston Stromberg, and Samantha Seikkula

The California Office of Administrative Law recently approved a suite of amendments to the CEQA Guidelines, which are now in effect. Latham wrote about these amendments last year, when the Natural Resources Agency began the rulemaking process under the Administrative Procedure Act. During this rulemaking process,

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

By Christopher W. Garrett, Daniel P. Brunton, Lauren Glaser, and Natalie C. Rogers

In an unpublished opinion issued June 19, 2018, Center for Biological Diversity v. County of Los Angeles, Case No. B284427, the California Court of Appeal rejected the Center for Biological Diversity’s (Petitioner) appeal and affirmed the trial court’s denial of a petition for writ of mandate to require the County of Los Angeles (County) to set aside its approval of the modified Antelope Valley Area Plan (Plan) and certification of a program environmental impact report (EIR).

In summary, the court determined:

  • When modifications to an area plan do not constitute “significant new information” or “substantial changes” as compared to the original area plan, an agency need not revise the EIR before certification, recirculate the EIR, prepare a subsequent or supplemental EIR, or prepare an addendum to the EIR.
  • When modifications to a plan do not require an agency to recirculate an EIR, or prepare a supplemental EIR or addendum, the agency is not required to make further CEQA findings or provide an updated statement of overriding considerations.

Petitioner sought a writ of mandate to compel the County to set aside its approval of the modified Plan and certification of the EIR. The trial court denied the petition, finding that the modifications at issue were not significant and that the EIR’s findings related to project impacts remained valid. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of the petition.

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

By Christopher W. Garrett, Daniel P. Brunton, James A. Erselius, and Christopher Adam Martinez

In an unpublished opinion issued October 22, 2018, Tennis Club Preservation Society v. City of Palm Springs, Case No. E068896, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision dismissing the Tennis Club Preservation Society’s (Petitioner’s) petition seeking to enjoin the City of Palm Springs (City) from issuing building and other permits for Phase III of a proposed development (Project) by real parties in interest John Wessman and Baristo Group, LLC (collectively, Developer). In summary, the court determined:

  • The doctrine of laches prevents the Petitioner’s claim that the Phase III plan violates the mitigated negative declaration’s (MND’s) mitigation measures because the Phase III plan conforms with the plans approved 15 years prior.
  • The Project is not a phased development for the purposes of a local ordinance such that planning commission review and approval would be required prior to further development.

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

By Christopher W. Garrett, Megan K. Ampe, James A. Erselius

In a published opinion issued May 1, 2018, Jensen v. City of Santa Rosa, Case. No. SCV255347, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment upholding the City of Santa Rosa’s (City’s) negative declaration finding no significant environmental effects. In summary the court found:

  • The presentation of a non-expert analysis using a vague and difficult-to-grasp methodology cannot be regarded as a legitimate factual or scientific basis and will not satisfy the requirements of substantial evidence to support a fair argument.

The petitioners, two neighbors of the proposed project (Petitioners), had filed an unsuccessful petition for writ of administrative mandate seeking to overturn City’s negative declaration and to compel City to perform an environmental impact report (EIR). Petitioners had challenged City’s decision under CEQA alleging that, among other things, noise impacts from the Project were sufficient to require the preparation of an EIR.