Greenhouse Gas Feed

EPA Revises Its Regulatory Agenda, A Flurry of Activity Expected in the Next Few Months

Bandza_Alexander_COLORBy Alexander J. Bandza


Last week, the EPA-specific listing on the website of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs was updated with timelines on the EPA’s regulatory efforts.   Of potential interest, in chronological order of expected release, are the following rules:

Continue reading "EPA Revises Its Regulatory Agenda, A Flurry of Activity Expected in the Next Few Months" »

CO2 Levels Cross Symbolic Threshhold

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros


According to recently released data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the monthly average carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere now exceeds 400 parts per million (ppm). Although this isn't the first time that the threshold had been exceeded, with observational sites in the Arctic observing exceedances in the spring of 2012 and at NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory in 2013, this is the first time that the average has exceeded 400 parts per million on a global basis. Carbon dioxide emissions are expected to stay above this threshold through at least May, when atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide typically peak.

Although the consequences of climate change are not expected to change dramatically now that carbon dioxide levels exceed 400 ppm, according to Dr. Pieter Tans, who leads NOAA's Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases Group, passing 400 ppm is a significant milestone as it illustrates how much human activity has contributed to carbon dioxide levels. The fact that this symbolic threshold has now been eclipsed may also bring additional pressure to bear on world leaders when they get together at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015.

Please click here to go to NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory's website.

Earth Day 2015: Trivia — April 21 (Answers)

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig


Approximately what percentage of of the U.S.'s electricity demand is supplied by wind power? According to the U.S. Department of Energy's recent report Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States, as of 2013, U.S. electricity demand served by wind energy had tripled from 1.5% of total end-use demand in 2008 to 4.5%.

Earth Day 2015: Beach Clean Up!

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson Jenner & Block Earth Day 2015


On Friday, April 17th, Jenner & Block partnered with ComEd and Exelon to clean up the 12th Street beach at Northerly Island, in cooperation with the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Our group picked up over 85 pounds of broken glass, plastic beverage containers, food wrappers, cigarettes, and other miscellaneous trash and debris.

The Adopt-a-Beach program is the premier volunteer initiative for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Teams remove litter and enter results into the Adopt-a-Beach online system to share with local beach authorities, educate the public, and improve the beaches and the health of the Great Lakes.

This picture shows our team after clean up efforts at 12th Street beach: 

Beach Day Cleanup


What will you do to celebrate Earth Day 2015? How about participating in the Adopt-a-Beach program?

To learn more about beach clean up opportunities or to schedule an event, visit

A special thanks to our own Gay Sigel for organizing the Jenner & Block team. Thanks, Gay!

Earth Day 2015: Annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Shows Increase Since Prior Year and Since 1990


By Gabrielle Sigel


As it has since 1994, on April 15 of this year, U.S. EPA published its annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. The Inventory tracks greenhouse gas ("GHG") emissions from man-made sources, by year, starting in 1990. The Inventory began as part of the U.S.'s commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ("UNFCCC") and uses the same methodologies as other UNFCCC members for developing and reporting data. Details on the 20th Annual Inventory can be found at climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport.html.

The 2015 Inventory contains data from 2013 and in comparison to prior years. In 2013, U.S. GHG emissions totaled 6,673 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents ("MMTCO2e"). Those emissions are a 2% increase over 2012 emissions, although they remain lower than the peak amount (7,399.78 MMTCO2e), inventoried in 2007. The leading GHG emitted remains CO2, with its principal sources being electricity generation and transportation, followed by all other industrial sources.

U.S. EPA attributes the 2013 increase in GHG emissions largely to an increase in the use of coal to generate electricity. However, U.S. EPA also found that increased emissions occurred in virtually all sectors due to a cold winter leading to increased demand for heating, an increase in vehicle miles traveled, and an overall increase in vehicle fuel use. Overall, since 1990, GHG emissions have increased by 5.9%. Specifically, since 1990, emissions from electrical power plants have increased 11.4% and transportation-related emissions have increased by 16.4%.

The Inventory, which is submitted to the UN for further reporting and analyses with other countries' data, is different than the annual reports prepared by U.S. EPA pursuant to the GHG Reporting Program. The GHG Reporting Program was established by U.S. EPA rule on October 30, 2009. The Reporting Program accumulates emission data from years beginning with 2010 emissions and relies on reporting from 8,000 individual large sources of emissions (typically over 25,000 MMTCO2e/year). The Inventory, which EPA calculates based on national energy, agricultural, and other statistics, is meant to account for 100% of U.S. man-made sources, not just the largest sources. GHG Reporting Program data for 2013 was reported on September 30, 2014 and can be found at

The Business Case for Environmental Sustainability

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson


A corporation's main objective, and many would agree legal obligation, is to make money and maximize profits for its shareholders, but should more be asked or required of today's successful businesses? For an ever increasing segment of society, the answer without a doubt is "yes." The concept, commonly referred to as corporate social responsibility (CSR), extends beyond compliance with legal mandates or even charitable donations and good deeds. CSR advocates believe a company has a clear duty of care to all stakeholders connected to or impacted by a company's operation.

A new article, The Business Case for Environmental Sustainability, published this week in the American Bar Association's Business Law Today, by E. Lynn Grayson and Gary P. Kjelleren, addresses these considerations. The article examines environmental sustainability and why it matters for business. The authors detail key environmental sustainability focus areas and outline a roadmap of essential considerations companies should incorporate into any environmental stewardship initiatives. Lastly, they conclude that there is a business case for environmental sustainability that will improve financial performance.

The authors conclude there is a business case for environmental sustainability in the context of corporate social responsibility. In closing, they note: "It appears a virtual certainty that environmental sustainability will increasingly move from voluntary to legally mandated initiatives including sustainability reporting requirements. The critical inquiry for business is no longer if, but how and when to launch a meaningful environmental sustainability program. There is a growing business case for environmental sustainability. It is an added bonus that addressing these business challenges not only will enhance financial performance over time, but is simply the right thing to do as well."

New EPA Rule Regulates Coal Ash As Non-Hazardous

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced the first national regulations to provide for the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals (coal ash) from coal-fired power plants which will be regulated under the nonhazardous waste provisions of RCRA. In developing the new rule, the EPA evaluated more than 450,000 comments on the proposed rule, testimony form eight public hearings, and information gathered from three notices soliciting comment on new data and analyses.

According to EPA, improperly constructed or managed coal ash disposal units have resulted in the catastrophic failure of surface impoundments, damages to surface water, groundwater and the air. The first federal requirements for impoundments and landfills will address the following risks:

  • The closure of surface impoundments and landfills that fail to meet engineering and structural standards and will no longer receive coal ash;
  • Reducing the risk of catastrophic failure by requiring regular inspections of the structural safety of surface impoundments;
  • Restrictions on the location of new surface impoundments and landfills so that they cannot be built in sensitive areas such as wetlands and earthquake zones;
  • Protecting groundwater by requiring monitoring, immediate cleanup of contamination, and closure of unlined surface impoundments that are polluting groundwater;
  • Protecting communities from fugitive dust controls to reduce windblown coal ash dust; and
  • Requiring liner barriers for new units and proper closure of surface impoundments and landfills that will no longer receive CCRs.

This final rule also supports the responsible recycling of coal ash by distinguishing safe, beneficial use from disposal. In 2012, almost 40 percent of all coal ash produced was recycled (beneficially used), rather than disposed. Beneficial use of coal ash can produce positive environmental, economic and performance benefits such as reduced use of virgin resources, lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduced cost of coal ash disposal, and improved strength and durability of materials.

Coal ash, the second largest industrial waste stream, rose to national prominence following two high-profile spills: the December 2008 Kingston Fossil Plant spill in Tennessee and the February 2014 spill of 140,000 tons of coal ash and wastewater into North Carolina's Dan River.

Important Timeline of Coal Ash Assessment by EPA:

Dec. 22, 2008—Dike ruptures at the Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tenn., releasing 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash slurry into surrounding area.

Jan. 14, 2009—At her Senate confirmation hearing, incoming EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says the agency will review how it regulates coal ash.

June 21, 2010—The EPA proposes (75 Fed. Reg. 35,128) two possible ways for regulating coal ash—under the hazardous waste provisions of Subtitle C of RCRA or under the nonhazardous waste provisions of Subtitle D.

April 5, 2012—Frustrated with the slow pace of the rulemaking, environmental advocates sue the EPA over failure to complete a mandatory review of RCRA regulations every three years. They seek a deadline for final coal ash standards.

Jan. 31, 2014—Environmental advocates, coal ash recyclers, utilities and the EPA reach an agreement that requires the EPA to complete its coal ash regulations by Dec. 19.

Feb. 2, 2014—140,000 tons of coal ash and wastewater spill from a Duke Energy Corp. into North Carolina's Dan River.

Dec. 19, 2014—The EPA issues a final rule on the management and disposal of coal ash.

This new rule appears to be a good compromise both for industry and environmental groups. While the non-hazardous designation supports industry's position, the overall scope and regulatory focus on coal ash disposal and storage addresses concerns expressed repeatedly by citizens' groups.

Additional information about the new rule including a summary and history is available at

Jenner & Block Leads Presentation on Climate Change Law

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig


On Friday, Gabrielle Sigel and Allison Torrence of Jenner & Block, in partnership with the Chicago Bar Association’s Environmental Law Committee, will host a luncheon entitled, “Can a Lame Duck Fly? Climate Change Law at the Sunset of the Obama Administration.”

From the presenters: “The first six years of the Obama Administration’s efforts to address climate change have resulted in regulatory changes, executive branch initiatives, judicial challenges, and Congressional obstacles.  The results of the recent 2014 mid-term elections will allow us to predict how successful the President will be in accomplishing the goals of his Climate Action Plan and his Administration’s effect on climate change law. Please join us as we discuss how the new make-up of Congress, the Administration’s proposed regulations and other executive actions, and recent federal court rulings shape the future of climate change law.”


Friday, November 14, 2014
12:00pm - 1:30pm CST
Lunch will be served at noon followed by the presentation at 12:15pm.
Jenner & Block LLP
353 N. Clark, 45th Floor
Chicago, IL
1 IL MCLE Credit

Click here to register.

Illinois Approves Fracking Rules

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig


Following up on a previous post, in which we noted that, nearly a year after filing its first draft, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) had filed revised rules implementing the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act (225 ILCS 732) with the Illinois’ Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), we report that JCAR has approved these proposed regulations.  In September JCAR had extended the Second Notice period for the rulemaking for an additional 45 days, but it finally approved the rules yesterday.  The final version of rules may now be filed with the Secretary of State for publication in the Illinois Register.

Lynn Grayson Comments on U.S. Climate Change Actions

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig


A European Union publication Interfax recently published an article titled China and US Will Make or Break Climate Deal by Annemarie Botzki. The article discusses the stance of countries around the world on climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and what is likely to happen at the upcoming 2015 Paris climate change talks. Jenner & Block Partner, E. Lynn Grayson, is quoted discussing the U.S. position on climate change and recent activities taken by the Obama Administration.

According to Ms. Botzki, the Conference of Parties 15 summit to be held in Paris next year may be the most important climate change negotiation ever held. It will decide how the remaining carbon space can be emitted globally while staying below a 2 C warming level will be divided among the countries of the world.

International accord on climate change is difficult particularly between developed and less developed nations. At the upcoming Paris summit, it is commonly believed that the U.S. and China will play major roles in deciding whether a binding agreement on GHG can be reached at the UN summit to follow in December.

In her comments, Lynn noted that "The U.S. position on GHG reductions and supporting an international agreement appears stronger than ever. Last month, the U.S. State Department submitted a possible global climate change agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change supporting a five-year time frame to make initial cuts to carbon emissions, beginning in 2020 and ending in 2025."

Another critical decision point for an international agreement is the form that binding document may take. The U.S. appears to be advocating for something other than a treaty which would require two-thirds of the U.S. Senate for ratification. Lynn was quoted as saying "given the workings of Congress these days, it is very unlikely that any treaty could be ratified. It would be virtually impossible to receive the votes needed for approval."

The article provides an overview of recent GHG actions in the EU, U.S. and China and discusses how these actions may impact climate change positions and negotiations at the Conference of Parties 15 summit.