Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Nuclear Power Projects Experience Renaissance in Nordic Countries

In recent weeks, the parliaments of Finland and Sweden have given their approval to the development of several new nuclear power plants in the Nordic countries. The grant of parliamentary approval does not necessarily mean that the plants will be built, but it does suggest that the two environmental leaders are --for the time being at least -- finding that nuclear power is an acceptable generating vehicle in the context of worries about carbon emissions and continued reliance on Russia for gas.

The newly approved plants underscore the continuing interest in the European Union in nuclear power. Despite what many may think, the European Union -- one of the greenest political entities in the world -- does not prohibit nuclear power. In fact, France now generates upwards of 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power and the U.K. has given indications of being interested in more nuclear power installations.

Spokesman for the World Nuclear Association Ian Hore-Lacy said the nuclear power industry is finding greater acceptability generally. "Over all, opinions are firming and more positive. People are less concerned about waste because they've seen it's not a drama, and it's been well managed."

What does this portend for U.S. response to new nuclear facilities? No one is sure, but if two of the EU's most environmentally green member states have chosen to go ahead, can the U.S. be far behind?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Carbon Tax in the European Union's Future? European Commissioners Discuss Carbon Tax, But no Decision Yet

Discussion of a possible European Union carbon tax emerged again recently as the EU's executive body, the European Commission, considered whether to propose legislation to tax carbon emissions.

According to ("EU Carbon Tax Kicked Into the Long Grass," June 24, 2010), the proposal provides "[F]rom 2013, sources of greenhouse gases that are not currently covered by the EU's flagship environmental endeavor, the emissions trading scheme -- sectors such as agriculture, as well as transport and households -- would see a flat minimum fee of between 4 and 30 euros per ton."

The story went on to report that, "One clear line did emerge from the debate, which was that the commission backs a common EU carbon dioxide minimum taxation rate, so member states would not compete amongst each other in offering less onerous rates."

However, the steps in actually moving from a commission discussion of the tax to actually getting it enacted into law are formidable and perhaps even impossible. If the commission does agree to submit a proposed piece of legislation the measure will need to be approved by the European Parliament (not entirely impossible) and then by the Council of the EU. It is at Council level that the real difficulty will be encountered by proponents since the Council -- made up of the ministers responsible for taxation in the 27 member states -- will need to vote unanimously to approve the measure. This is nearly tantamount to impossible.

Nevertheless, while the U.S. becomes more and more bogged down in its own energy legislation, the matter of a carbon tax in Europe should enliven things if only just a little. It does seem worth wondering what the reaction among Europeans might be if they knew that household activities might be subject to a carbon tax.

--Don Smith

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

NREL Director Dan Arvizu Tells Economic Club of Kansas City, "Renewable Energy Can Help Reduce Oil Dependency"

Dan Arvizu, director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is located about 25 minutes from the Sturm College of Law, said recently, "The profound implications of the Gulf oil spill offer still more proof that our nation must forge a new energy future -- one that should be, and can be, both environmentally and economically sustainable."

Speaking before the Economic Club of Kansas City, Dr. Arvizu did not discount the role of fossil fuels in today's American energy picture. But he also noted the serious longer-term consequences that the nation will face unless a strategic commitment is made to transitioning away from foreign fuel supplies.

Click here to read the full-text of Dr. Arvizu's remarks. Or click here to watch his remarks.

The Sturm College of Law is establishing itself as a leader among U.S. law schools in teaching about renewable energy policy, finance, and project development.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rebecca C. Watson, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior and DU Alumnus, Joins Denver Law Firm

Rebecca C. Watson, former Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals Management of the U.S. Department of the Interior from 2001-2006, has joined the Denver and Casper, Wyoming-based firm of Welborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley, P.C. as a partner. She will work in the Denver office.

Ms. Watson, who has bachelor's, master's, and JD degrees from the University of Denver, is one of the most esteemed graduates of the Sturm College of Law. She has more than 30 years of legal and policy experience in the fields of conventional and renewable energy, natural resources (grazing, mining and timber) and federal environmental law. She has worked in private law practice and in high level federal government positions.

As Assistant Secretary of the Interior Department she had oversight of three organizations: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); Minerals Management Service (MMS); and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM). These organizations were responsible for management of federal energy resources. In that role, she led 12,000 employees and managed a $1 billion budget.

Ms. Watson was honored by the Boone and Crockett Club, the oldest U.S. organization dedicated to the conservation of wildlife, for her work in conservation while at the Department of Interior.

Prior to her service in the Interior Department, she served as the Assistant General Counsel for Energy Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy in the George H.W. Bush administration.

In her practice Ms. Watson focuses on public land access and energy development for solar, wind, geothermal, wood biomass, and oil and gas with an emphasis on federal environmental law.
Ms. Watson is a member of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and the National Petroleum Council. She serves on the boards of the Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States and the Jefferson County (Colorado) Open Space Commission.

Students studying environmental, natural resources, and energy law at the Sturm College of Law are likely to hear Ms. Watson speak in the fall 2010 semester about her career as well as the key environmental and energy issues of the day. Graduates such as Rebecca Watson are one reason the Sturm College of Law environmental and natural resources program is one of the strongest of its kind in the U.S. and the western hemisphere.