Oregon joins B.C. and California with Clean Fuel Standards

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council the state of  Oregon “clinched a spot in the clean energy future” on March 12 when the Governor signed Bill SB324A, which removes the December 2015 sunset clause on previous legislation requiring the adoption of clean fuel standards, and extends the target date for compliance from 2020 to 2025. With B.C. and California already regulating clean fuels, the NRDC states that it needs only the state of Washington to pass similar standards to “create a corridor of clean fuel demand encompassing more than 50 million people up and down the length of the West Coast, equivalent to the 5th largest economy in the world”. The NRDC draws its information from a detailed and wide-ranging analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation, Potential: Low-carbon Fuel Supply to the Pacific Coast Region of North America (January 2015). Of related interest, The California Energy Commission issued its 2014 Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) Update in March, highlighting its transportation achievements in electric vehicles, fuel cell development, and biofuels.

Environmental Investigation of Oil Sands Tailings Ponds Unlikely, and Alberta GHG Emissions Regulations Stalled

The Commission on Environmental Co-operation (CEC) was created under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to resolve environmental disputes and to provide an outlet for the public’s environmental concerns. In 2010, Environmental Defense Canada and the Natural Resources Defense Council led a public submission which alleged that tailings ponds from Alberta’s oil sands were leaking four billion liters each year, and that the federal government was not enforcing its own Fisheries Act to prevent damage to the Athabasca River. In July, 2015, the CEC ruled that the complaint merited further investigation, but according to a CBC report of January 12, the government is attempting to stop any such investigation. See NAFTA scrutiny of oilsands tailings ponds opposed by Canada. The entire record of the complaint, with all documentation, is available at the CEC website. In the meantime, four Alberta regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, previously set to expire on December 31, have been extended till June, to allow “government to explore new approaches and partnership opportunities” for a new climate change policy framework in 2015. The regulations affected are: The Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER), Specified Gas Reporting Regulation (SGRR), Administrative Penalty Regulation, and the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund Administration Regulation. See the government’s news release (Dec. 19) and an explanation of the current framework.

Expanding Recycling will bring New Jobs to California

According to a new report from the Tellus Institute, California could create 110,000 jobs if it meets its 2020 goal to recycle 75% of its solid waste. From Waste to Jobs: What Achieving 75 Percent Recycling Means for California is a follow-up to a 2011 report that asserted a 75% recycling rate for the entire U.S. could generate 1.5 million new jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 515 million metric tons.

Using recovered materials to create new products and packaging is more labour-intensive than incineration or sending them to the landfill. If California sticks to the 2011 AB 341 bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown, it will increase its solid waste diversion rate from half to three quarters while creating 34,000 jobs in materials collection, 26,000 jobs in materials processing, and 56,000 jobs during the manufacture of products using recycled materials. Plastics recycling is particularly significant, potentially delivering 29,000 new jobs alone. 38,600 indirect jobs could also be created in related sectors, such as equipment and services used by the recycling sector.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which commissioned the report, recommends encouraging product stewardship and extended producer responsibility programs requiring packaging manufacturers to support the expansion of recycling infrastructure.


From Waste to Jobs: What Achieving 75 Percent Recycling Means for California is available at: http://www.nrdc.org/recycling/files/green-jobs-ca-recycling-report.pdf

The 2011 Tellus report More Jobs, Less Pollution is available at: docs.nrdc.org/globalwarming/files/glo_11111401a.pdf

NRDC California Recycling Website is at: http://www.nrdc.org/recycling/green-jobs-ca-recycling.asp

The Social Cost of Carbon Attacked and Defended

The Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) is an important analytical tool which estimates the economic harm caused by one additional metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. It has been used in the U.S. and Canada to evaluate the costs of activities that produce greenhouse gas emissions, and the benefits of policies that reduce those emissions. See the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency webpage which lists the regulations which have used the SCC at: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/EPAactivities/economics/scc.html.

A review of the SCC is currently underway in the U.S., led by the Office of Management and the Budget (the public comments period closed on February 27, 2014). Inevitably, this has been controversial, with oil and gas interests leading the push to prohibit the use of the SCC, on the grounds that it is imprecise and inaccurate. A joint submission by the Environmental Defense Fund, Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Union of Concerned Scientists supports the use of the SCC and refutes the arguments of its critics; their statement is available at: http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global_warming/Joint-Comments-to-OMB.pdf. See the terms and links to the Technical document at: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/01/27/2014-01605/technical-support-document-technical-update-of-the-social-cost-of-carbon-for-regulatory-impact.

WikiLeaks Releases Environmental Chapter in the Transpacific Trade Talks, Labelling it a “Public Relations Exercise”

On January 15th, Wikileaks released the draft Environmental Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. The Chapter was written on Nov. 24, 2013, in advance of the December 10th Singapore meetings of the participant countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Wikileaks had this to say about the proposed environmental provisions of the trade deal: “The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. With the exception of fisheries, trade in ‘environmental’ goods and the disputed inclusion of other multilateral agreements, the Chapter appears to function as a public relations exercise.” (see  http://wikileaks.org/tpp-enviro/pressrelease.html). Wikileaks also posted an analysis of the Environment Chapter from a New Zealand perspective, by Professor Jane Kelsey, at: http://wikileaks.org/tppa-environment-chapter.html.

In a blog by Stuart Trew of the Council of Canadians, the provisions in the TPP draft chapter are likened to the current environmental protections under NAFTA (see  http://www.canadians.org/blog/climate-change-safeguarded-tpp-environment-chapter). This is a point of view also expressed in a 2013 report by the Sierra Club, which reviewed all chapters of the TPP (see Raw Deal:How the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens our Climate at: http://sc.org/RawDealReport).

The more recent response to the leaked Environment chapter from the Sierra Club, in conjunction with Natural Resources Defence Council and the WWF, describes the dispute resolution process as a “vastly insufficient process” “…an unacceptable rollback of previous commitments and renders the obligations in this chapter virtually meaningless.” (see http://sc.org/TPPEnvironment). Even before the Wikileaks revelations, BlueGreen Alliance, like many others in the U.S., was protesting the attempt to “fast-track” the TPP approval process through the U.S. Congress; see http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/news/latest/bluegreen-alliance-statement-fast-track-bill-strips-transparency-restricts-democratic-process. The Council of Canadians is one of more than 30 organizations participating in a January 31 Intercontinental Day of Action against the TPP and Corporate Globalization. (see http://www.flushthetpp.org/inter-continental-day-of-action-against-the-tpp-corporate-globalization/).