Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Climate change bill could escalate lawsuits

Oil and gas companies face the potential of more environmental lawsuits being filed against them depending upon the fate of the US House of Representatives climate change bill, HR 2454.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, (D-Calif.) and Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) wrote the lengthy bill. An early draft version would have given citizens broader standing than ever to sue the government and air polluters.

The draft said that essentially anyone who “reasonably expects to suffer” a harm attributable to government inaction could have filed a citizen suit. It defined harm as any consequence of air pollution, including climate change.

Attorneys with Mayer Brown LLP report the far-reaching citizen suit provision was dropped out of the bill before it was introduced. But HR 2454 still contains a citizen suit provision consistent with the Clean Air Act (CAA).

John S. Hahn, a Mayer Brown partner in Washington, believes the potential exists for energy companies to face more environmental lawsuits as a result of climate change legislation. But he questions how fast that legislation might get implemented.

“The environmentalists want everybody to believe it will happen this year,” Hahn said of congressional passage of a comprehensive climate change law. “It may not happen this year.”

The CAA already is complicated, and the Waxman-Markey bill runs over 900 pages. The Waxman-Markey bill opens the CAA to modifications. This process could produce a vague US greenhouse gas regulation program that generates yet more questions than answers.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tanker rescues Carbon Neutral Expeditions sailboat

A 40-ft sailboat outfitted with solar panels and a wind turbine attempted to cross the North Atlantic as part of an expedition publicized as “the first carbon-neutral crossing of Greenland.” But weather and irony intervened.

Wind gusts estimated at 60 knots accompanied by waves reaching 30 ft. capsized the boat three times while the Carbon Neutral Expeditions vessel was 400 miles off Ireland.

A tanker, Overseas Yellowstone, carrying 680,000 bbl of crude oil came to the rescue.

Reporters asked Jess Tombs, an expedition spokeswoman, about the irony of the sailboat being rescued by an oil tanker. She said the crew was “just relieved” to be rescued.

Carbon Neutral Expeditions set sail Apr. 19 for a scheduled 10-week expedition. Instead, the crew was rescued on May 1.

The expedition's goal was to raise awareness of climate change, and some UK school children were following the team’s progress. Although the trip got cut short, the expedition deserves credit for being realistic and open about its contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.

On the Carbon Neutral Expeditions web site, the team states that it could not avoid some direct GHG emissions. For instance, the engine had to be used sometimes such as getting into harbor.

“There are also carbon emissions associated with the manufacture and materials of the equipment that we will use on the expedition. These indirect emissions are fiendishly difficult to calculate and therefore we will not be trying to offset these,” Carbon Neutral Expeditions said.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

OTC: Oil companies responding to global warming

For the second consecutive year, the Offshore Technology Conference featured a well-attended session on climate change. Scientists who are globally recognized experts on climate change presented their views and discussed their observations.

John Cain, principal carbon management advisor with Chevron’s Health, Environment, and Safety Department, helped OTC organizers select this year’s panelists. He consults with Chevron’s worldwide operations on issues pertaining to greenhouse gas management.

Cain was unable to participate in the panel discussion. But in comments prepared before the May 6 OTC session, he notes considerable uncertainty exists regarding the likelihood, timing, and magnitude of potential impacts related to changes in the earth’s climate. Uncertainty also exists regarding the most effective way to address risks, he said.

“Nonetheless, the oil and gas industry has undertaken prudent steps to address GHG emissions," he said. These steps include:
--increasing energy efficiency.
--investing in renewables and alternative energies.
--eliminating routine flaring and venting where commercially feasible.
--leading efforts to develop and commercialize carbon capture and storage.

Cain suggests policymakers “recognize the important role that fossil fuels will play for decades to come in providing the energy that is necessary for continued economic growth.”

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mexican official joining Climate Action Reserve board

A US private nonprofit group focused on addressing climate change is broadening its international representation.

Adrián Fernández Bremauntz, president of the National Institute of Ecology in Mexico, was elected to the Climate Action Reserve board of directors.

Within weeks, Mexico's environment ministry is expected to release its Special Program on Climate Change detailing how Mexico plans to achieve its goal of cutting its emissions output 50% below 2000 levels by 2050.

Fernandez has served in senior positions at the Mexican Environment Secretariat and also was a member of the Bureau for Latin America at the Commission for Sustainable Development.

The Climate Action Reserve brings together governments, environmental interests, and business groups to ensure environmental benefit, integrity, and transparency in greenhouse gas emissions accounting and reduction.

The Climate Action Reserve is parent to three programs, the California Climate Action Registry, Climate Action Reserve and Center for Climate Action. More information about it can be found at

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