Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Future Of Energy And Environment Policies Under The Next Administration

October 17, 2016

While most of the analysts predict a Clinton victory and Democratic administration, here are some thoughts about what a Trump administration might look like when it comes to energy/environmental policy and what may change in a Clinton Administration. As I have written in other blog articles, nothing here represents writing in favor or against a candidate or policies, but instead addresses future issues facing the energy/environmental professional.

Should There Be a Trump Administration.

Energy: Donald Trump has been severely critical of current energy and environmental policy and has stated he will reverse many of President Obama’s initiatives. During a May 26 speech, Trump reflected a desire to achieve US energy independence by reducing federal regulations on the energy industry, increase investments in fossil fuel development and infrastructure to bring it to market (such as supporting the Keystone Pipeline), and reduce federal investment in renewable energy, as he has criticized both solar and wind power. Trump also supports increased use of nuclear power.

Environment: Trump has stated he would rescind a number of President Obama’s cornerstone environmental and energy achievements, such as the Clean Power Plan. Trump has also specifically pointed to the Clean Water Act as another regulation he would greatly weaken if he were elected. Reversing or weakening these and other EPA rules would require EPA rulemaking, requiring a public notice process. A Trump Justice Department could just not defend these and other environmental rules as they are challenged in court by industry. Neither approach would ensure success, as environmental and other groups would surely marshal forces in defense of the rules. Furthermore, courts could rule that these regulations are valid, legal, and necessary.

Climate Change: Trump has stated on the campaign trail that climate change has not been proven. In a recent speech, he was more neutral about the topic, but has expressed the feeling that this is not a high priority. He has expressed his intention to withdraw the US from the recent Paris Climate Agreement. With the Paris Agreement officially ratified, it would be difficult to withdraw, although Trump could likely do as little as possible to implement the Agreement, which has flexible objectives and no enforcement mechanism.

Should There Be a Clinton Administration.

Energy: To enable energy independence, Hillary Clinton has outlined a wide ranging list of investments by the federal government, such as clean energy, upgrading energy infrastructure, promoting responsible domestic drilling for oil and natural gas, and building on many of the core energy and environmental programs of the Obama Administration, such as the Clean Power Plan and Paris Climate Agreement. Clinton has spoken out in favor of natural gas development, citing it as a bridge fuel in the transition away from coal, including supports for fracking, although she has stated that deference should be given to localities who wish to ban it in their communities. Despite the “all of the above” approach in energy development, Clinton has stated policies that would discourage coal as an energy source, unless acceptable environmental levels are met. Clinton issued an infrastructure plan, prioritizing the development and repair of large-scale energy infrastructure across the country. Clinton would likely seek to continue the current Administration’s strong support for renewable energy development, call the US a future clean energy “superpower.” Clinton’s specific plan increases the percentage of renewable generation to 25% of total national energy mix by 2025.

Environment: Clinton supports the Clean Power Plan and wants to expand it in other industries in order to implement “smart” pollution and efficiency standards. Clinton has given no specifics, but states she supports additional policies to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate Change: A Clinton Administration has committed to continue to abide by the Paris Climate Agreement. The Democratic Party platform stated: “Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.”

Control of Congress.

Remember that while the President wields considerable power through the EPA and DOE, control of Congress is certainly important, too, in “setting the tone”, promulgating new rules and funding existing agencies. Republican control of the Senate and perhaps the House is in play in the upcoming election. A Democratic control could dramatically change the policies of several related committees in the Senate and House.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, the current chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has been a strong advocate of the “all of the above” approach to energy. She supports energy exploration on federal land, such as in her home state of Alaska. Senator Maria Cantwell is the ranking Democrat on this committee and would likely chair it if the Democrats take control of the Senate. She has billed herself as a champion of “smarter” energy policies to diversify energy sources and lower costs for consumers. Senator James Inhofe, the current chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is a noted climate change skeptic and strongly supports scaling back environmental regulations and promoting greater domestic energy production. If the Senate flips to Democratic control, Senator Tom Carper is expected to chair this committee.

CCES can help you evaluate your company’s energy use and environmental impacts and can perform the technical aspects to determine compliance with current rules and develop opportunities to reduce your energy usage and diversifying sources, saving you money and decreasing business risk. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

First-in-the-Nation Climate Change Lawsuit Filed

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), a foundation specializing in environmental protection in New England through legal action, filed the first-in-the-nation lawsuit on Sept. 29, 2016 against ExxonMobil’s Everett, MA storage facility for its endangerment of communities in MA caused by its alleged disregard of future impacts of climate change. The lawsuit alleges violations of both the federal Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Now, before I go further, I want to make it clear that this article is written purely to inform readers of this lawsuit. I take no stand in favor or against it. To inform you that it is happening and may be the first of many civil lawsuits.

Earlier this year, a coalition of 17 attorneys general announced a campaign to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for allegedly deceiving customers, shareholders, and the public about climate risk. CLF is the first organization to file a civil lawsuit against such a firm for such an alleged deceit and not preparing for climate change impacts.

The lawsuit’s main allegation is that ExxonMobil has not adequately planned for the effects of climate change-influenced potential disasters, such as flooding of the Mystic River caused by sea level rise and extreme storms which could result in significant release of pollutants from the facility. The lawsuit claims that ExxonMobil has the obligation to study and reasonably prepare for such floods and adapt their processes to minimize releases caused by such future floods. The lawsuit is not attempting to require the facility to perform actions to reduce its actual greenhouse gas emissions.

Whatever the result of this and other lawsuits, one issue that will need to be resolved is the level of analysis of climate risk. It may not be proper for each property owner to develop its own estimate of potential sea level rise. Some type of standard or approved guidance is needed, whether it be FEMA flood maps or other information from the USEPA. Certainly, the facility, using any such standard properly, should therefore be exempt from such lawsuits in the future.

It will be interesting to see if this spurs on other citizen and/or government lawsuits on climate risk for many facilities around the country. Might litigants join forces and file a small number of such lawsuits, like tobacco litigation. This might spur reforms that at least will give a basis of how much (or little) a facility should do to address climate risk.

CCES has the experts to help your facility assess potential climate change impacts on your operations. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or

Is RGGI A Success?

When the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the cap and trade program for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from large power plants in 9 Northeast states, was first implemented, the states in the group participated with trepidation. They all wanted a program that would be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, encourage investment and implementation of renewable and other clean energy options, result in funds that would be invested in energy research and implementation of more efficient options to the public, and examine whether a carbon trading system can actually work. But would RGGI work and be a “laboratory”, a model for other states or the federal government to mimic. There were modest goals and flexible plans to allow goals to be met with as little financial damage or inconvenience as possible. The hope was that they would have early success and perhaps make adjustments with revised, “tougher” goals after the first few years and that other groups of states or the federal government would expand its provisions and goals into a nationwide movement.

The RGGI organization recently released a new report “The Investment of RGGI Proceeds Through 2014” (

Its conclusions:

• GHG emissions have decreased by over 45% since 2005. This occurred while the regional Gross Domestic Product increased by about 8% in that time period, and despite a major recession. One can have energy reduction and environmental progress, while economic growth occurs.

• The total value of RGGI investments reached $1.37 billion through 2014, money that would likely not been invested in energy or other research.

• 58% of RGGI investment went to energy efficiency, with an expected lifetime energy savings of $3.62 billion.

• 13% of RGGI investments went to clean and renewable energy research and other initiative, with an expected lifetime energy savings of $836 million.

In addition, RGGI achieved its GHG emission reduction goal of 10% reduction from the mid-2000’s baseline several years early. RGGI will almost certainly be modified and extended with the hope of bringing in power plants in other states for the benefit of all.

CCES can help your company become more energy efficient, saving major energy costs, extending the life of your equipment, and providing a productive work environment, raising productivity. CCES can find you the government incentives out there and low-cost financing to make the numbers very powerful for your organization. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Trend Toward Healthier Buildings

A new report issued by the US Green Building Council and Dodge Data & Analytics finds growing understanding and acceptance by building owners that buildings built or redesigned to improve the health of the occupants drives major business benefits.

“The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings 2016” ( finds that the design and construction industry in the US is moving toward wider adoption of building practices that prioritize the physical and mental well-being of tenants and occupants. The report found that 75% of US building owners surveyed want to invest in healthier buildings as a way to improve employee or tenant satisfaction.
Constructing healthier buildings for occupants was of interest to about two-thirds of US building owners, although, not surprisingly, this paled in comparison to the percentage of owners who were interested in cost savings (85%).

Asked what design options would result in a healthier building, the only option that a majority of US building owners recognized as effective is improved ventilation. A majority of building owners were not aware that the following are also effective options:

• proper site selection,

• improved daylighting,

• layout that encourages physical activity,

• usage of healthier product usage (such as cleaning solutions), and

• improved thermal and acoustical comfort.

This is at odds with the design community, who are aware of the effectiveness of these features. This indicates that more education of the real estate community is important.

Building owners, according to the survey, do recognize that such buildings will lead to improved employee satisfaction (79%), will result in the owners’ ability to increase leasing rates (73%), and achieve higher asset values (62%). However, about half of all building owners are unaware of whether any benefits to improve health have been achieved. Those that perform actions (measure light levels or air quality or perform employee/occupant surveys) are overwhelmingly satisfied that the upgrades have been successful in making tenants healthier, more satisfied, and more productive.

CCES has the experts to perform technical evaluations of how to upgrade your buildings to be healthier and to gain all the benefits that come with it (more desirable, greater asset value, etc). Contact us today at or 914-584-6720.