Friday, January 22, 2010

DU Alumnus and Adjunct Professor Howard Kenison Recognized as "Colorado Lawyer of the Year"

University of Denver Sturm College of Law graduate Howard Kenison has been recognized as a Colorado Lawyer of the Year by LawWeek Colorado.

Mr. Kenison, a partner at Lindquist & Vennum, is teaching the "Practitioner in Residence" course this semester at the College of Law. He is a major U.S. figure in environmental law. He is immediate past president of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Environmental Law and was an ABA delegate to the World Justice Forum in Vienna, Austria, last November.

In recognizing Mr. Kenison, LawWeek Colorado reported on a significant environmental case that he recently won before the Colorado Supreme Court:
"Kenison and colleague Stuart Bennett recently won a nearly five-year legal battle over a toxic waste dump in Adams County. The state health department had issued a permit for a Massachusetts company to dump low-level radioactive waste about 60 miles east of Denver in Adams County. The county sued to stop the influx of waste. Kenison argued that the county had a clear prohibition on storing low-level radioactive waste there, and that the waste facility hadn't received county permission to dump it, which is against state law. State district courts and the Colorado Court of Appeals dismissed Adams Country's lawsuits on the grounds that the county, as a political subdivision of the state, can't sue a state agency. The Colorado Supreme Court in October [2009] reversed the lower courts in a 5-2 decision."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

European Union's Influence on Global Climate Change Talks Leaves Something to be Desired, According to Energy Nominee

Gunther Oettinger is not exactly a household name today, but it's a good bet that in the next year anyone interested in energy policy is going to know exactly who he is.

Mr. Oettinger, shown at left, has been nominated as the European Union Energy Commissioner, a position that he should be confirmed to later this month. In this role he will help develop and implement the EU's energy policy.

What has caught observers a bit by surprise is how candid Mr. Oettinger was last week in his confirmation hearings before the European Parliament. In effect, Mr. Oettinger said that the EU's lack of international influence was clear for all to see in its lack of impact at the UN Conference on Climate Change at Copenhagen in December.

Generally speaking, nominees for the European Commission -- the EU's executive -- are not greatly forthcoming in their hearings. Better to be safe than sorry, I suppose.

However, Mr. Oettinger put caution to the wind when he said, "If the Copenhagen summit showed us one thing, it is that the European Union isn't big enough for world authority when it comes to countries like China." He was referring to the fact that the EU as a body was not a central player when the summit got down to tough talks. Despite the fact that the EU is the only major governmental entity to have in place a carbon cap-and-trade system, China and the U.S. --neither of which has anywhere close to the same commitment -- were calling the shots.

What does this mean for EU influence? In the short term, it is obvious -- even to Brussels -- that the EU does not "punch its weight" when in comes to international issues. Moreover, the hallways in Brussels must also be a bit bleaker when EU stalwarts recognize that they still remain the "only game in town" when it comes to a serious cap-and-trade system. On the other hand, Europe often seems comfortable reminding other countries what they should be doing but aren't.

Disappointing as it might be to European leaders, Washington and Beijing don't seem particularly interested in what the Europeans are doing in relation to climate change.

Two other European Commissions nominees to keep your eye on: Janez Potocnik, Slovenian economist, who has been nominated for Environment Commissioner and Connie Hedegaard, Danish journalist, who has been nominated for Climate Action Commissioner.

The three should be highly visible figures as the EU plots its environment/energy/and climate action strategies between now and 2014.

Meanwhile, within the EU discussion has resumed about whether the Union should increase its CO2 reduction commitment to 30 percent by 2020, up from the 20 percent it has already agreed to. According to ("EU States Divided Over Jump to 30 Percent Cut in CO2," Jan. 18, 2010), Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and the UK favor a move to 30 percent while such a move is opposed by Italy and Poland. Belgium has suggested, as a compromise, 25 percent.

--Don C. Smith

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Colorado Governor's Energy Office Publishes Report on Transmission-Related Infrastructure for Renewables

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's Energy Office has just published a renewable energy development infrastructure report entitled, "Connecting Colorado's Renewable Resources to the Markets in a Carbon-Constrained Electricity Sector." For a full-text copy of the report, click here. The executive summary can be accessed by clicking here.

"Colorado's electricity sector is moving into an era where it must address a relatively new challenge -- carbon dioxide emission reduction," the report says. "And in so doing, the sector must continue to emphasize system reliability, the need for infrastructure upgrades, and strategic planning to minimize the economic and environmental costs into the future. These, and other, interrelated challenges are the subject of [the report]."

In the minds of many, Colorado is at "ground zero" in the nation's efforts to move towards what has been tabbed "the new energy economy." Gov. Ritter has claimed the moniker of "the new energy economy" as his own. Whether it is may be open to question. But what is not open to question is the state's commitment to renewables and energy efficiency, with many key law firms, businesses, and government institutions in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains working diligently on one of the most challenging energy-related questions faced by the nation.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Renewables Industry Advocate Interwest Releases Annual Report: Major Green Opportunities in the American West

One segment of the energy sector that we follow closely relates to renewable energy. And in this regard, one industry trade association that we have a relationship with and watch is the Interwest Energy Alliance, which represents America's leading renewable energy companies (click here to see their members).

Interwest's objective is to bring these companies "together with the West's non-governmental advocacy community to advance new project and transmission development."

Recently Interwest released its annual summary of Western Renewable Energy Highlights, which can be accessed by clicking here. Among other things, the annual summary reports that more than 850 megawatts of new wind energy projects were put in place last year in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Moreover, additional new wind and solar projects were announced in this region. This is what you will find in this influential group's annual summary:
Energy Alliance's annual summary of western renewable energy highlights provide just a snapshot view of some of the numerous activities that industry, government entities and many other parties are pursuing throughout the West to bring the region's renewable energy market foothold to scale.
The alliance is led by Craig Cox, a former congressional aide to U.S. Congressman Dan Schaefer, Republican of Colorado. In that role, Mr. Cox was instrumental in forming the U.S. House of Representatives Renewable Energy Caucus.

The graduate program and Prof. Ann Vessels, director of the College of Law program, work closely with Mr. Cox and members of the Alliance to provide externship opportunities. We at DU also solicit the Alliance's guidance about trends in the industry that should be reflected in our courses.

DU is a leader in renewable energy-related education, with two courses now being offered that focus directly on renewables-- "Renewable Energy Project Finance" and "Renewable Energy for the 21st Century: Law, Technology, and Markets."

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Water Questionnaire

Will Sarni, founder and CEO of Domani, a consulting firm that provides innovative business and technical sustainability solutions to companies operating around the world, will from time-to-time contribute to this blog. His perspective is particularly enriching to the blog's readers as illustrated in his membership in the Environmental Compliance Committee of the Chicago Climate Exchange and his activities with the Conference Board and Sustainable Life Media/Sustainable Brands.

He writes today about how water issues are playing a role in the Carbon Disclosure Project:
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) recently announced that they would begin sending out a Water Disclosure Questionnaire in 2010 to the largest 300 global companies and the questionnaires will be summarized in a report in late 2010.

Based upon the success of the CDP Carbon Questionnaire over the past several years I fully expect the CDP Water Disclosure Questionnaire to be transformative in terms of raising awareness of water as a strategic business initiative.

The CDP was launched in 2000 with the goal of collecting and distributing information on climate risks and opportunities. The CDP now has over 2,500 organizations in 60 countries measuring and disclosing their greenhouse gas emissions and climate change strategies. These organizations voluntarily quantify their greenhouse gas footprint, set reduction targets and improve performance. The disclosure information is made available to institutional investors, corporations, policymakers and their advisers, public sector organizations, government bodies, academics and the public.

However, the most impressive aspect of the CDP is the financial power driving the survey; over 475 institutional investors, holding $55 trillion in assets under management, represent the CDP. This is the real driver for voluntary disclosure—investors are asking for this information—and why the Water Disclosure Questionnaire will be a critical aspect of corporate strategies and communications.

The announcement of the project came with the release of a CDP report titled, “The Case for Water Disclosure”. This report is a must read as it not only lays out the rationale for water disclosure but summarizes the results of a small scale water disclosure pilot project initiated by CDP in 2008 (as part of the CDP Supply Chain project). The pilot project demonstrated that for the most part companies have the ability and are willing to disclose information on water data and water issues. However, most companies do not have data on water use or water issues in their supply chain.

We are seeing more companies come to the realization that they need to measure their water footprint, identify risks and opportunities (direct and indirect water use) and be prepared to disclose how to manage their water related risks and what are your business opportunities look like.

This coming year we will see an increased awareness of water as a critical business issue across all industry sectors. Companies now need to be prepared to measure and report their water footprint and global strategies.

Will Sarni
Founder and CEO of Domani Consulting
Jan. 18, 2010