Looking Ahead to 2011.

6 Jan 2011

1.  EPA GHG Regulations Set Stage for Political Fight between White House and Republicans.

The debate over energy and climate change is expected to heat up as the new Congress is seated. Many Republicans feel that the EPA’s announcement late last month that it will use its regulatory power to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and refineries is a backdoor attempt to implement a cap-and-trade scheme which will stifle businesses. Will Congress overturn the EPA’s GHG regulations outright? Is a sensible bipartisan compromise a possibility? We shall see.

2.  The Volt hits the streets.

Chevy Volts are finally making their way to consumers. Last month 350 vehicles rolled out of the company’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant on their way to waiting buyers in New York, California, Texas and Washington, D.C. With the recent prediction by the ex-president of Shell Oil that we may be looking at $5 gallon gas by 2012, Volts and Nissan Leafs will likely be coveted if they perform as advertised.

3.  Electricity bills to increase.

Detroit Edison filed a request with the Michigan Public Service Commission in November 2010 seeking to increase electric rates by $253 million, citing increased costs for, among other things, meeting environmental requirements to reduce emissions from coal-fired plants. If granted, this would result in an increase of the average residential customer’s bill by about 6 percent (with commercial customers seeing varying increases). The EPA’s new GHG regulations and Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (which obligates Michigan’s utilities to provide 10% of the energy they generate from renewable sources by 2015) are going to cost utility companies a lot of money and surely they will pass on the expense to their customers.

4.  LEEDigation on the rise?

What will happen to Henry Gifford’s $100 million class action lawsuit against the USGBC?  This case will be followed closely by the green building industry since its result could have wide ranging impacts on LEED and other green building certification standards going forward. Also, the USGBC announced a few months ago that the square footage of commercial projects certified under LEED has exceeded 1 billion square feet around the world. More LEED projects will likely result in more and more disputes about unfulfilled expectations (i.e., failure to obtain a certain level of certification or energy performance and the resulting loss of rebates and tax credits).

5.  2010 Top Green Michigan Storylines Continue On.

How will Michigan’s new cleanup law be implemented?  How will the MDNRE reorganization shake out?  Will the new governor continue to posture Michigan as the place for green technology investment given his focus on “economic gardening”?

2011 should be another busy year in the field of green law.

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