As the impacts of climate change develop and intensify throughout California, the insurance sector will play an increasingly important role in the state’s response. Policymakers, industry leaders, and local communities are all beginning to face a new paradigm of risk, resilience, and financial sustainability that insurers are uniquely positioned to help manage.
In July 2019, CLEE and UCLA Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, together with the California Department of Insurance and UN Environment’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance, convened a symposium to discuss this evolving new role for the insurance sector. Our new synthesis report, co-authored by UCLA’s Sean Hecht and CLEE’s Ted Lamm, summarizes the key findings and next steps identified at the symposium, and adds new material and analysis reflecting recent developments in the field.
California and France have taken leading steps in supporting the transition to electric vehicles (EVs), but each has substantial progress ahead to reach full adoption. What can these jurisdictions learn from each other’s successes and challenges to make EVs convenient and accessible to urban residents?
To explore these questions, speakers at our June 2019 international conference at UC Berkeley on electric vehicles and global urban adoption, co-sponsored by CentraleSupélec and Florence School of Regulation (FSR) in France, described lessons learned for electric vehicle deployment in France and California.
Based on the discussion, UC Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) released the symposium brief: Electric Vehicles and Global Urban Adoption: Policy Solutions from France and California.
The global financial system faces structural risks from the worsening impacts of climate change and the various policy responses to it. As jurisdictions like the European Union (EU) and California seek to address these risks, they face significant questions about what actions will be necessary and how financial regulators and industry members across the globe will need to coordinate decision-making and resource-sharing.
To address these concerns, we hosted experts and leaders in sustainable finance from California and the EU in May 2019 for a conference to discuss climate-related financial risks and key regulatory developments in the US and Europe. These include the EU Sustainable Finance Action Plan and Green Taxonomy efforts that seek to drive sustainable investment through innovative regulatory incentives and US industry partnership in implementing new disclosure and accounting standards. Our conference brief highlights the key insights delivered at the conference.
Improving the energy performance of existing buildings will be key to achieving California’s efficiency and greenhouse gas emission goals. But owners and residents of low-income, multifamily buildings face some of the greatest obstacles, including difficult access to capital, complex financing arrangements, competing renovation needs, and a split incentive problem that limits owners’ financial interest in upgrades that primarily reduce residents’ utility bills.
To address these challenges, UC Berkeley and UCLA Schools of Law convened two stakeholder groups to identify policy solutions to address key barriers, increase access to energy efficiency incentives, and unlock environmental, financial, and quality-of-life benefits for owners and residents alike. The law schools are now releasing a policy report, Low Income, High Efficiency that details the solutions developed in these convenings.
As California’s housing affordability crisis persists, understanding which laws or regulations might impede housing construction in high-cost areas is of vital importance. Entitlement data is necessary to inform how local and state land use regulatory tools are being applied in practice and to identify which types of proposed housing developments tend to move faster or slower through the planning review process. Analysis of entitlement data can identify issues of inequity or inefficiency in the first step of the residential development process.
This policy brief details what our research team has learned about current data accessibility and provides recommendations on how to improve local data reporting and data maintenance to facilitate compliance with state housing laws and long-term planning strategies.
Insuring California in a Changing Climate: Adapting the Industry to New Needs, Risks, and Opportunities
Climate change poses significant risks to the insurance industry, even as the industry has the opportunity to help California residents and businesses mitigate their own risks. As disaster events become more common and complex, markets transition away from fossil fuels, and climate litigation accelerates, the industry will need to adapt rapidly while Californians will need continued access to robust protection. Our new symposium brief highlights the key concerns and top policy and market solutions available to protect insurers and consumers alike.
California’s housing affordability crisis has rightly received a great deal of attention by state lawmakers, the press, academics, and ordinary Californians. To better understand the legal mechanisms behind housing development, this phased research project joins legal research with qualitative research methods to examine land-use entitlement processes in selected high cost cities over a four-year period (2014-2017). This work explores the obstacles to increasing infill development—a necessary strategy to address the housing supply crisis while being sensitive to health and environmental concerns.
Policy Brief: Low-Income Multifamily Energy Savings Retrofits: Solutions to Increase Access to Incentives and Unlock Benefits
Improving the energy performance of existing buildings will be key to achieving California’s efficiency and greenhouse gas emission goals. But owners of low-income, multifamily buildings face some of the greatest obstacles, including difficult access to capital, complex financing arrangements, and competing renovation needs. While California’s energy regulators and electric utilities fund and operate a number of incentive and rebate programs, structural barriers have hampered progress, including strict income qualification criteria, energy data opacity, and the complexity of combining multiple incentives into one project.
To address these challenges, UC Berkeley and UCLA Schools of Law are issuing a new policy brief based on two stakeholder convenings that identified policy solutions to address key barriers, increase access to energy efficiency incentives, and unlock environmental, financial, and quality-of-life benefits for owners and residents alike.
Looking Ahead to 2019
In 2018, we continued to examine how California can pioneer pragmatic climate solutions from sustainable freight to reducing vehicle emissions, analyzed Recharge Net Metering as an incentive for groundwater recharge, and explored the intersection of ocean governance and climate change. We also launched the Climate Risk Initiative, which aims to investigate how insurance and financial sectors are at risk due to climate change, and how policy can promote industry innovation and sustainable investments.
Read more about our work in 2018 and our plans for the future in our 2019 Snapshot.
Streamlining Sustainability: Regulatory and Permitting Improvements to Achieve California’s Freight Goals
Freight is responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs in California and feeds commerce and agriculture throughout the state and the entire nation. But the trains, trucks, aircraft, and ocean vessels that ship goods throughout California are responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions and harmful air pollutants.
California’s freight system leaders will need to maximize its efficiency to retain this position of prominence while protecting California residents and workers. The recommendations outlined in Streamlining Sustainability can help California achieve its ambitious emission reduction, public health, and economic competitiveness goals.
Climate change will exacerbate the droughts, floods, and wildfires that Californians already regularly experience, making them even more extreme and unpredictable. Gavin Newsom, California’s next governor, must prepare for these inevitable disasters while minimizing the greenhouse gas emissions of a society of nearly 40 million people.
CLEE, together with Resources Legacy Fund (RLF), has prepared three sets of actions Governor-Elect Gavin Newsom could take immediately to address wildfire; drought, flood, and drinking water safety and affordability; and the stubbornly high carbon pollution from our transportation systems.
A New Solar Landscape: Improving County-Level Landscape Planning for Utility-Scale Solar PV Facilities
Senate Bill 100 (de Leon, 2018) requires California’s major utilities to obtain 60 percent of their electric power from renewable sources by 2030 and 100 percent from carbon-free sources by 2045. California has met and exceeded its renewable energy targets to date, with over one-third of the utilities’ electricity coming from renewable sources.
Our new report, A New Solar Landscape, offers a suite of policy solutions for incentivizing and improving landscape-level planning to meet California’s solar development goals.
California law requires developers of new projects, like apartment buildings, offices, and roads, to reduce the amount of overall traffic the projects generate. To facilitate compliance with this new requirement under Senate Bill 743 (Steinberg, 2013), some state and local leaders seek to create special “banks” or “exchanges” to allow developers to fund off-site projects that reduce driving miles, such as new bike lanes, transit, and busways.
Our new report, Implementing SB 743, provides a comprehensive review of key considerations for local and regional agencies tasked with crafting these innovative mechanisms to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and overall emissions.
Some countries and states, including California, are contemplating or making plans for phase-outs or bans on the sale of new internal combustion engine passenger vehicles by a date certain. Such a phase-out would be critical to achieving long-term climate goals and improving public health.
In California, the state will eventually need full consumer adoption of zero-emission vehicles in order to achieve legislated long-term climate goals. To that end, Governor Brown set a goal of reaching five million zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) on California’s roadways by 2030, including 250,000 public chargers by 2025, and as of mid-2018, Californians were driving over 400,000 electric vehicles.
100% Zero identifies key challenges and solutions to achieving a scenario in which 100 percent of new vehicle sales are zero-emission, based on a convening of expert stakeholders.
Climate change presents unprecedented risks to the insurance industry, from increased wildfires and storm events to potential litigation and economic transitions. The industry faces these dynamic challenges at the same time that insurance products are becoming more necessary but less available and affordable.
Our new report, Trial by Fire, documents the nature and extent of the risks faced by insurers and residents in California and offers a range of recommendations to protect the industry and the entire state in a changing climate.
California droughts are likely to become more frequent, longer, and more intense in the future, posing increasing challenges for water management, and raising the stakes for effective drought response. Past droughts have stress tested California’s water management institutions, revealing vulnerabilities that could impair effective adaptation to climate change. In a pair of reports published as part of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, we examine how the State Water Resources Control Board has carried out its water rights responsibilities during the last four major statewide droughts and offer recommendations for proactive steps the agency can take to improve its future drought response.
Recharge is increasingly recognized as a crucial component of achieving sustainably managed groundwater basins. However, there is uncertainty about whether groundwater recharge constitutes a beneficial use of surface water, and this perception may form a barrier to implementing new recharge projects. This Issue Brief assesses the current status of groundwater recharge in relation to the beneficial use doctrine and provides recommendations for clarifying current state policy in order to encourage recharge projects.
Transitioning freight transportation to zero-emission technologies would yield substantial environmental, equity, and public health benefits. However, various regulatory technological, and financial barriers hinder the achievement of these goals. To address the challenges and policy solutions to achieve zero- emission freight at the Southern California ports, UCLA Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate and Environment and the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE) hosted a conference at UCLA on June 8, 2018, Toward Zero-Emission Freight at Southern California’s Ports. Our Summary Report outlines the main challenges and opportunities suggested in this day-long conference.
Water system consolidations address persistent water system inadequacies in small and disadvantaged communities. More than 100 consolidation projects have been completed or are ongoing in California, and many more communities are likely to pursue consolidations in the future. While consolidation offers may offer benefits for communities served by unreliable water systems, the costs and benefits associated with different consolidation options have not been well documented. This synthesis of our March 2018 workshop enumerates barriers to effective consolidations and identifies potential solutions for overcoming those barriers.
Recharge Net Metering (ReNeM) is a strategy that incentivizes recharge by offsetting costs incurred by landowners for operation and maintenance of water collection and infiltration systems that are placed on their land. ReNeM participants benefit directly through the rebate program; they also benefit indirectly (along with other resource users and regional aquatic systems) because managed recharge helps to improve and sustain the supply and quality of groundwater. Our Issue Brief presents a concise conceptual description of ReNeM, as well as a brief account of its first implementation as a pilot program in the Pajaro Valley of California. Further research is ongoing.
With California’s drought risk, flood risk, and demand for water all increasing, effective monitoring is more important than ever to water decision making. Stream gages monitor the most basic vital sign of California’s waterways—stream flow. Stream flow data support day-to-day decisions about how to manage water and operate water infrastructure—decisions that have important implications for flood control and the water supplies upon which residential, industrial, agricultural, and environmental water users depend. Stream flow information also provides technical insights into basin hydrology, and those insights aid long-term water planning. As pressures on the state’s water systems intensify, the need for accurate and timely stream flow information will continue to grow.
California’s freight system is responsible for 1/3 of statewide jobs, as well as a major source of both greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution in the state. New innovations in technology and infrastructure have the potential to improve efficiency and reduce pollution, but policy and industry support will be essential to achieve California’s environmental goals. Our report identifies an expansive group of new freight transportation technologies and infrastructure developments and the policy innovations needed to make them reality in California.
Our report examines the legal and institutional questions that will inevitably arise as newly formed groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) seek to address groundwater-surface water interactions under SGMA. The core goal of this report is to help parties identify and address these new questions, and ultimately allow GSAs and stakeholders to manage groundwater-surface water interactions proactively and effectively.
Federal policy receives the bulk of the nation’s attention to energy and climate matters, from President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. But much of our nation’s energy and climate policy is made by governors, state legislatures and agencies across the country. Providing insight into the range of factors – political, geographical, economic and more – that determine the immensely varied state energy and climate policies across the nation, Beyond the Beltway is an analysis of the state and regional efforts driving the nation’s energy and climate outlook.
Getting it Right: Examining the Local Land Use Entitlement Process in California to Inform Policy and Process
California’s housing crisis has rightly received a great deal of attention. One important question in this discussion asks whether CEQA or local land-use regulations constrain housing development. To answer this question, we collected data on all residential development projects over a three-year period in five Bay Area cities, analyzed laws applicable to the development of these projects, and interviewed important actors in the residential development process. We found that local governments are imposing discretionary review processes on all residential development projects of five or more units and that this triggers CEQA review.
Data for Water Decision Making: Informing the Implementation of California’s Open and Transparent Water Data Act through Research and Engagement
A lack of data and information has limited our ability to understand, let alone better manage, all aspects of our water resources. To address these issues, California passed AB1755 tasking the Department of Water Resources with the implementation of a modern water data information system. Our report seeks to inform the development of this system, arguing that simply providing more data is not enough, and that generating useful and useable information hinges on the development of data systems that begins with the needs of the end user.
Also see our op-ed in The Sacramento Bee
Submitted by Dan Farber & Kirsten Engel
Looking Ahead to 2018
In 2017, we continued to support business efforts to help meet our clean energy goals, analyzed the implications of groundwater trading, and examined how international linkages can address the climate change impacts on our oceans. We also began an an initiative focused on the intersection between AI and the environment, and welcomed a Senior Visiting Fellow to examine how fossil fuel dependent states can better plan for long-term sustainability.
Read more about our work in 2017 and our plans for the future in our 2018 Snapshot.
Of Dreamliners and Drinking Water: Developing Risk Regulation and a Safety Culture for Direct Potable Reuse
Direct potable water reuse (DPR), the injection of highly purified wastewater into drinking water systems, is among the newest, and most controversial, methods for augmenting water supplies. This paper examines the notion that emerging regulation of DPR may lack sufficient attention to a particular class of risks: catastrophic risks with low probabilities of occurrence, but high consequences. We argue that proponents of DPR could benefit from proactively developing a safety culture in DPR utilities and establishing an effective industry-wide auditing organization that investigates unanticipated system failures.
Stemming from a series of Legal Planet blog posts, Professors Eric Biber and Dan Farber, have published a brief analysis of the Trump Administration’s impact on environmental law at the 200 day marker. This timely report focuses on the mechanisms that Trump and congressional Republicans could use to attack the environment, along with methods of resisting their efforts. There are many different possibilities, each with its own potential results and its own procedures: : legislation, budget, enforcement, rule-making, executive orders, and state and local action.
The Past, Present, and Future of California’s Coastal Act: Overcoming Division to Comprehensively Manage the Coast
California’s coastal management has enjoyed many collaborative successes and provided a model for other coastal states and nations. From surging seas to a growing population, changing conditions stress the state’s coastal governance systems and raise questions about the best path forward. How will California protect its coast against stronger storms and rising tides? How can the state ensure and support access to its coastline, including for underserved communities? And how can the state most effectively work with local, federal, and nongovernment partners to efficiently address these complex challenges? Emanating from our November 2016 symposium, this issue brief aims to address some of these questions.
Following the state legislature’s landmark approval extending California’s cap-and-trade program through 2030, CLEE and our research partners have completed the first comprehensive, academic study of the economic effects of existing climate and clean energy policies in Southern California’s Inland Empire. We estimated a net economic of benefit of $9.1 billion and 41,000 new jobs created from 2010 to 2016 in the region, The study examines three key California climate and clean energy policies and their effects on Riverside and San Bernardino counties: 1) cap and trade; 2) the renewables portfolio standard (RPS), and 3) energy efficiency programs.
California will need widespread consumer adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in order to achieve the state’s environmental and energy goals. This will require a significant boost to EV charging infrastructure, particularly in workplaces, multi-unit dwellings, and fast charge “plazas.” This infrastructure deployment is unlikely to occur without policy action as charging stations and installation and maintenance typically entail high costs, with often uncertain revenues. To address the challenge, we convened experts from the EV charging sector, as well as government officials, academics, and nonprofit advocates to explore policy solutions.
TRADING SUSTAINABLY: CRITICAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR LOCAL GROUNDWATER MARKETS UNDER THE SUSTAINABLE GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT ACT
California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) potentially opens the door for local groundwater markets, however, it does not provide guidance about when a local groundwater market might be a useful and appropriate management tool. This report outlines a set of considerations designed to help decision makers and stakeholders evaluate whether a local groundwater market might be a viable tool for sustainably managing their groundwater basins and, if so, how to effectively implement it.
Submitted by Alida Cantor, Michael Kiparsky, Nell Green Nylen, Holly Doremus, Leigh Bernacchi, Roger Bales, Graham Fogg, Andrew Fisher, Joshua Viers, David Sedlak, Jennifer Stokes-Draut, and Dave Owen
Right Type, Right Place: Assessing the Environmental and Economic Impacts of Infill Residential Development through 2030
Our report Right Type, Right Place: Assessing the Environmental and Economic Impacts of Infill Residential Development through 2030 finds that encouraging new housing development in infill areas would spur economic growth, reduce monthly housing costs, and cut greenhouse gas emissions. A collaboration with the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley and commissioned by Next 10, this is the first comprehensive academic study of its kind.
See the Op-Ed in the Capitol Weekly.
Amid concerns about the economic and employment impacts of California’s ambitious climate policies, CLEE and its research partners have conducted the first comprehensive, academic study of the costs and benefits of these policies on the San Joaquin Valley. Together with UC Berkeley’s Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy, and working with the nonpartisan nonprofit Next 10, we found a total economic benefit of $13.4 billion in the Valley including the creation of tens of thousands of jobs.
See the Op-Ed in the Sacramento Bee.
2016 Annual Report
In 2016, our efforts focused on boosting businesses that help meet our clean energy goals, creating effective institutions for water conservation, implementing changes relating to the Law of the Sea, and examining tradeoffs related to land use. The Center released reports such as Powering the Savings: How California Can Tap the Energy Efficiency Potential in Existing Commercial Buildings and A Path Forward: Identifying Least-Conflict Solar PV Development in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
Read more in our Annual Report.
California is grappling with the implications of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a visionary and potentially revolutionary law that could profoundly change the way water is managed in the state. The nature of the revolution, however, is not yet clear. Whether and how SGMA achieves its goals hinges on open questions about its implementation.
Submitted by Nell Green Nylen, Holly Doremus, Michael Hanemann, Michael Kiparsky, Rapichan Phurisamban, and Hayley Oveson
California’s push to achieve 50 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030 will entail a significant deployment of large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) installations. I places like the San Joaquin Valley, proposed installations have engendered conflicts with agricultural and conservation groups, who fear a resulting loss of valuable lands and the species, farming and ranching that depend on them. Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) and our partners developed a new process to find “least-conflict” lands in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley region.
Also see the Op-Ed in Capitol Weekly
Wasting Opportunities: How to Secure Environmental & Clean Energy Benefits from Municipal Solid Waste Energy Recovery
Californians send 30 million tons of waste to landfills annually. While reduction, recycling and composting can do their part, not all types of materials can be practically and economically recycled in an environmentally beneficial manner. This leftover trash stream may therefore present an opportunity to recover energy, using new and possibly cleaner technologies. However, California lacks an agreed-upon set of standards for measuring and balancing the life-cycle costs and benefits of various waste management methods. This report recommends solutions to address this challenge.
Comments on the California Department of Water Resources Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Draft Emergency Regulations for Groundwater Sustainability Plans and Alternatives
Submitted by Michael Kiparsky, Dave Owen, and Nell Green Nylen
Sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) that reach waterways or violate discharge permits are considered violations of the Clean Water Act. While the government is responsible for enforcement, the CWA’s citizen suit provision allows individuals or groups to address gaps in enforcement. Public collection system agencies and environmental groups have widely divergent perceptions of the effectiveness and appropriateness of SSO-related citizen enforcement. Motivated by this controversy and the lack of data-driven analysis, our report assembles data to examine these enforcement actions in California.
Powering the Savings: How California Can Tap the Energy Efficiency Potential in Existing Commercial Buildings
Reducing the energy demand from existing buildings, such as through efficient lighting and heating and cooling systems, represents one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce pollution and increase economic savings. To develop a vision and policies for encouraging deep energy efficiency retrofits, a group of energy retrofit company representatives, finance experts, public officials, utility leaders, and other energy experts gathered for a discussion. The participants envisioned California transitioning away from the complex, consumer financed energy efficiency retrofit model and toward simpler approaches that rely on emerging technologies that meter energy savings.
See the Op-Ed in the Sacramento Bee.
Designing Effective Groundwater Sustainability Agencies: Criteria for Evaluation of Local Governance Options
A new law requires California governments to form dozens of new agencies to manage groundwater. However, the law does not give them specific direction on what they will need to do, or how they can set themselves up for success. To address the need for guidance, we developed a framework to help these agencies prepare to manage this critical resource for the first time.
See the Op-Ed in The Fresno Bee.
This report details an innovation deficit in ur ban wastewater utilities and highlights key barriers to innovation among wastewater managers. Understanding these barriers and working to overcome them will be crucial for California’s long-term water and environmental security. The most frequently reported barriers to innovation included cost and financing; risk and risk aversion; and regulatory compliance.
2015 Annual Report
In 2015, our efforts focused on projects such as Climate Actions for California, California’s rail, UC water security and sustainability initiative, and the Law of the Sea 50th anniversary. Our climate and energy program continued its work on climate change and business initiative, and also released Climate Actions for California: Recommendations for Governor Jerry Brown’s Final Term. In 2015, the Center continued its efforts to advance sustainable land use around California’s major urban transit systems. In 2015 the Wheeler Water Institute saw progress in all three of its focal initiatives.
Read more in our Annual Report.
California has made landmark progress reducing carbon emissions while growing the economy, but the state’s work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is just beginning. With just over three years remaining in Governor Brown’s final term, the new report Climate Actions For California: Recommendations for Governor Jerry Brown’s Final Term details immediate steps that administration leaders, environmental and energy advocates, and other stakeholders can take to achieve additional short-term successes and create a foundation for long-term progress that endures beyond the administration.
The report suggests policies that could boost local production of low-carbon biofuel, which can reduce emissions through shorter feedstock transportation routes, development of carbon reducing co-products like biochar compost, and reduced wildfire risk. Local production can provide jobs and revenue in otherwise economically challenged parts of the state, harvesting biofuel feedstocks from a variety of renewable sources, including corn, sugarcane and food waste, among others.
See the Op-Ed in the Sacramento Bee.
A new analysis of California’s rail transit systems discovers which transit stations serve as hubs of thriving, walkable areas that encourage residents and workers alike to ride the train, and which station areas need improvement. The report divided rail transit station areas into three types: residential, employment, and mixed, and calculated grades based on 11 key indicators including walkability, ridership levels, existing land-use and permitting policies, affordability and transit quality.
See the article in the Los Angeles Times.
Ineffective stormwater management is a serious problem nationwide. Conventional strategies based around “gray” collection and conveyance systems have not solved persistent stormwater problems. Instead they have shifted, and in many cases exacerbated, the impacts. Communities searching for cost-effective solutions are increasingly recognizing the benefits of an approach that employs a mix of stormwater control measures, including green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). Well-implemented GSI keeps stormwater local. This report outlines key actions regulators can take to drive GSI information collection and sharing to accelerate cost-effective GSI deployment.
California’s state, regional and local governments spend roughly $28 billion a year on transportationinfrastructure projects, with almost half of that amount derived from local funding sources. However, the continued, predominant financial support for automobile infrastructure, particularly new road and highway expansion projects, undermines California’s environmental goals. To develop a vision and policies for moving a greater share of state transportation dollars to projects and outcomes that are more cost-effective and better aligned with environmental goals, a group of transportation advocates, experts and public officials gathered at the University of California, Los Angeles in October 2014.
Ex Parte Requirements at the California Public Utilities Commission: A Comparative Analysis and Recommended Changes
Emails released beginning in the fall of 2014 demonstrate several improper private communications between high-level utility officials and decision-makers at the California Public Utility Commission (“CPUC”). In the judicial and adjudicatory context, courts, legislatures and public agencies have long prohibited private communications with decision-makers to ensure a fair outcome and preserve the integrity of governmental action. To restore the integrity of the CPUC’s process, the agency and the legislature should change the applicable rules.
Knowledge Is Power: How Improved Energy Data Access Can Bolster Clean Energy Technologies & Save Money
Every day, California’s residents, electric utilities, government agencies, and ratepayers generate and collect energy and market data. To develop a vision for policies that make energy data more accessible and secure, clean technology leaders and public officials gathered at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in July 2014 for a discussion sponsored by Berkeley Law and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. The group envisioned expanded energy data access for both customers and clean technology vendors, with select types of data housed at independent, secure data centers. Energy data would be bifurcated into two categories: utility-centered and customer-centered data.
2014 Annual Report
In 2014, our efforts focused on several key challenges concerning climate change mitigation, renewable energy acceleration, innovation in water management, and marine governance. Berkeley’s faculty, staff, and student research assistants produced in-depth analyses and convened working groups and conferences to further discussion in these and other areas of pressing need. At the same time, exceptional Berkeley Law students continued the school’s tradition of student-led initiatives and were digging into issues both inside and outside of the classroom, hosting events and providing inspiration to all through their talent and energy.
Read more in our Annual Report.
Integrating Solar PV and Distributed Renewable Energy Policies and Programs into California City and County General Plans
Local governments are the primary permitting entities for renewable energy generation facilities in California. Despite the recent surge in the renewable energy market, California’s diverse communities are at different stages in establishing planning and permitting programs, and all communities can work to facilitate faster development of this vital sector. This guidance document, with model general plan policies, was created for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR). The goal is to help local governments streamline their permitting processes for two types of distributed renewable energy projects.
Integrating Infill Planning in California’s General Plans: A Policy Roadmap Based on Best-Practice Communities
The California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law developed this document as a resource for communities that want to pursue an infill development strategy. The “best” strategy for a community must necessarily reflect local conditions, assets, and priorities. Rather than provide “one size fits all” strategies, this document identifies a range of useful strategies to allow communities to choose the policy and program options that are best suited to local circumstances.
California is experiencing a surge in renewable energy generation from the sun and wind. But the state will face long-term economic and environmental challenges relying on these intermittent resources. To develop a vision and policies for second-life electric vehicle battery deployment, automakers, utilities representatives, energy storage developers, business leaders, and public officials gathered 2014 for a discussion. The group envisioned expanded second-life battery deployment opportunities and suggested strategies and policies to begin developing a market for these batteries.
The agricultural industry is currently the fifth largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S. As the federal agency overseeing the agricultural and forestry sectors, the U.S. Department of Agriculture can play an important role in mitigating climate change. The Department has already acted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural activities and increase carbon sequestration on agricultural lands. However, its work is far from complete. This report identifies additional actions the Department can take, under existing law, to reduce emissions and increase sequestration.
FERC is an independent federal agency responsible for regulating aspects of the electricity, hydropower, natural gas, and oil industries. These industries are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases nationally. This report discusses further actions FERC can take to reduce the energy sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. The report identifies actions that can be taken under existing law, without the need for approval by Congress.
Submitted by Jayni Foley Hein
The Department of the Interior (DOI) is one of several executive agencies charged with implementing the President’s Climate Action Plan. This report identifies actions the DOI can take, on the basis of its current legal authority, to mitigate climate change. The identified actions each result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions and/or increased carbon sequestration.
Amicus Brief on Behalf of the Planning and Conversation League andthe Council of Infill Builders in CNFF v. San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)
Submitted by Michael Kiparsky
The familiar image of Los Angeles as a metropolis built for the automobile is crumbling. Traffic, air pollution, and sprawl motivated citizens to support urban rail as an alternative to driving, and the city has started to reinvent itself by developing compact neighborhoods adjacent to transit. As a result of pressure from local leaders, particularly with the election of Tom Bradley as mayor in 1973, the Los Angeles Metro Rail gradually took shape in the consummate car city.
Railtown presents the history of this system by drawing on archival documents, contemporary news accounts, and interviews with many of the key players to provide critical behind-the-scenes accounts of the people and forces that shaped the system. Ethan Elkind brings this important story to life by showing how ambitious local leaders zealously advocated for rail transit and ultimately persuaded an ambivalent electorate and federal leaders to support their vision.
2013 Annual Report
In 2013, we focused on regulating hydraulic fracturing in California in order to protect our water supply, worked with businesses to seize opportunities made by climate change, we expanded our policy work on electric vehicles and released a report on multi-jurisdictional climate change adaptation, and we co-sponsored a conference with the State Bar at Berkeley Law on California’s climate change and renewable energy policies.
Read more in our Annual Report.
California is among the world’s leaders in the development and deployment of renewable energy. To develop a vision and policies for renewable energy deployment beyond 2020 that addresses these challenges, renewable energy developers, finance experts, advocates, utility representatives, business leaders, and public officials gathered at the University of California, Berkeley in June 2013 for a discussion sponsored by the UC Berkeley and UCLA Schools of Law. The group developed a goal for expanded and improved renewable energy deployment and suggested strategies and policies to achieve it.
The Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance (Maui EVA), funded by the Department of Energy Clean Cities EV Community Readiness Grant and associated cost-share partners and based at the University of Hawai’i Maui College, met with electric vehicle stakeholders in February and March 2013 on Moloka’i, Hawai’i Island, O’ahu, and Kaua’i, along with the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. After sharing research findings and learning about the challenges to electric vehicle deployment on the neighbor islands, the authors decided to capture the discussions in this policy report.
After decades of planning, high speed rail is coming to California. With a recently revised and more cost-effective business plan, officials hope to begin construction in 2013 on “Phase 1,” which will connect the San Francisco Bay Area to the Los Angeles Basin by 2028 for an estimated $68.4 billion. High speed rail representatives, local government officials, agriculture advocates, and business leaders gathered in Fresno in April 2013 for a discussion sponsored by the UCLA and UC Berkeley Schools of Law. The purpose was to identify the primary challenges to implementing high speed rail successfully in the Valley and to suggest strategies and policies.
Hydraulic Fracturing in California: Water Quality Protection, Testimony before the California State Assembly
Submitted by Jayni Foley Hein
Hydraulic Fracturing in California: Water Quality Protection, Testimony before the California State Assembly
Submitted by Michael Kiparsky
This report focuses on water-related issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing and attendant unconventional oil and gas production processes in California. The report highlights the overarching need for more unbiased information on fracking and its potential impacts, greater public notice and transparency, and increased accountability across all hydraulic fracturing operations and attendant activities.
The Innovation Deficit in Urban Water: The Need for an Integrated Perspective on Institutions, Organizations, and Technology
This report focuses on water-related issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing
and attendant unconventional oil and gas production processes in California. The report highlights the overarching need for more unbiased information on fracking and its potential impacts, greater public notice and transparency, and increased accountability across all hydraulic fracturing operations and attendant activities.
2012 Annual Report
In 2012, we focused on helping California meet its renewable energy goals, launching the Wheeler Water Institute, climate change and business opportunities, and promoting adaption in California’s water sector. At the request of the California Governor’s Office, we helped design a strategy for meeting the Governor’s goal of deploying 12,000 megawatts of local, renewable energy by 2020. We also hosted U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson at Berkeley Law, where she discussed EPA’s efforts to curb pollution and create jobs.
Read more in our Annual Report.
Comments on FHFA’s Proposed Rule on Enterprise Underwriting Standards for Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Programs
Submitted by Jayni Foley Hein
California will need mass consumer adoption of electric vehicles to meet its long-term energy and environmental goals and to improve its economy. As of May 2012, plug-in electric vehicles comprised approximately 30,000 of the cars in the United States, more than four times as many as the year before. Yet challenges remain to adoption. At the workshop that produced this report, stakeholders came together to discuss solutions and major challenges.
This project focused on the legal and institutional framework associated with California’s water rights allocation system, and identifies changes to that framework that would facilitate adaptation to climate change. Since such changes may be difficult to accomplish, the project focused largely, but not exclusively, on changes that may be politically feasible now or in the future.
Preserving Agricultural Land from Development, Testimony at the California Department of Food and Agriculture
Submitted by Ethan Elkind
As adaptation becomes more tightly integrated into the range of responses to climate change, understanding how knowledge of climate change impacts and vulnerabilities can be effectively used is essential both to direct research and to support action. This article reviews literature along an intellectual transect from knowledge of climate impacts on water systems to the influence of that knowledge on adaptation responses.
California has one of the most ambitious renewable energy programs in the country, with a target of procuring 33 percent of its electric energy from renewable sources by 2020. Governor Jerry Brown has raised the bar even higher, calling for California to reach and surpass the 33 percent target by developing 12,000 megawatts of local renewable energy. This report summarizes the concerns, observations and suggestions of Conference participants and other stakeholders for clearing a path toward the 12,000 megawatt goal.
Siting Renewable Energy Facilities on Agricultural Land, Testimony at the California Energy Commission
Submitted by Ethan Elkind
California’s Distributed Generation Policies, Testimony at the California Energy Commission
Submitted by Jeffrey Russell
In 2006, California enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act, known as AB 32. Under that legislation, the state must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 level by the year 2020. This paper examines the legal viability of a range of potential uses of the auction proceeds generated by AB 32’s market‐based mechanism.
Trees and Power Lines: Minimizing Conflicts between Electric Power Infrastructure and the Urban Forest
Trees and overhead power lines are not easy companions in the urban landscape. Cities and their inhabitants plant trees in order to provide safe and pleasant pedestrian environments, cool the urban landscape, improve storm water management, provide wildlife habitat, and mitigate climate change.
Net Metering is a policy that allows commercial and residential electricity customers to receive credits on their utility bills for on-site renewable energy generation in excess of their electric load that is exported to the state’s electric grid. Recently, California’s net metering program has been called into question by some electric utilities, most noticeably, the San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E). This paper addresses these important questions about the net metering program, as well as the implication that the costs associated with the program outweigh the benefits.
As California progresses towards its goal of 33 percent renewable electricity generation , the potential for energy storage to help integrate renewable resources and maintain a reliable and efficient electric grid takes on great significance. The report assesses current energy storage technologies, discusses the diverse policies affecting deployment in California, and outlines critical technology gaps, future research needs, and policy reforms.
Harvesting Clean Energy: How California Can Deploy Large-Scale Renewable Energy Projects on Appropriate Farmland
California’s ambitious renewable energy goals will require the deployment of large scale renewable energy facilities. While the state and federal governments have strived to accommodate utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands, developers in California are increasingly looking to agricultural land to site their projects. However, building large-scale solar facilities on farmland – whether impaired, marginal, or otherwise degraded – can compromise other valuable resources. State and local governments must therefore provide direction, mapping, and incentives to facilitate beneficial project site selection and avoid permit delays, litigation, and the potential for inefficient use of existing electricity infrastructure.
Siting Renewable Energy Facilities on Agricultural Land
Submitted by Ethan Elkind
Cap and trade is controversial in part because of claims that it is unjust, an issue that was highlighted by recent litigation against California’s proposed carbon market. This essay considers an array of fairness issues relating to cap and trade.
State Policies on Energy Efficiency Upgrades
Submitted by Ethan Elkind
Habitat conservation plans (HCPs) are critical tools for managing species and their habitats. Climate change poses special challenges for successful habitat conservation planning, but there are several steps to take to address these challenges. Key provisions in government regulations and guidance are at odds with considering climate change in HCPs, and revisions are recommended, including reliance on adaptive management. By looking to these recommended best practices, habitat conservation planning can be strengthened not only to address climate change, but to better reflect the changing context and environment in which HCPs must be implemented.
The buses, passenger rail cars, and shuttle vans that serve California’s communities provide critical benefits to the state’s environment, economy, and quality of life. Current levels of funding for public transit, however, are insufficient to support the extensive system needed to achieve these economic and environmental benefits. Stabilizing and improving funds for transit will be necessary for California to improve its transit system and achieve the resulting benefits.
Water use means energy use. The state pumps and treats water and consumers use water in energy-intensive ways, such as through water heating and pressurizing. Consequently, the consumption of water in California requires approximately 20 percent of the state’s electricity, 30 percent of its non-power plant natural gas, and 88 million gallons of diesel fuel annually. This paper focuses on urban water use, defined as usage by residents, non-farm businesses, industries, and municipalities.
April 2011 and November 2011
State Policies for Deploying Energy Storage, Testimony at the California Energy Commission
Submitted by Ethan Elkind
Over the last two decades, natural resource scientists, managers, and policymakers have increasingly endorsed “adaptive management” of land and natural resources. This approach, based on adaptive implementation of resource management and pollution control laws, is now mandated in a variety of contexts at the federal and state level. Yet confusion remains over the meaning of adaptive management, and disagreement persists over its usefulness or feasibility in certain contexts. This white paper is intended to help legislators, agency personnel, and the public better understand and use adaptive management.
State Policies for Deploying Energy Storage
Submitted by Ethan Elkind
Bringing the California Dream into the Twenty-First Century: Strategies for Sustainable Consumption and Communities
Proposition 23, an initiative appearing on California’s November 2010 general election ballot, would suspend the implementation and operation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, better known as AB 32, until state unemployment rates remain at or below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. That level has been reached three times since the state began compiling these statistics in 1976. AB 32 requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a reduction of approximately 30 percent from projected business-as-usual levels for the same year.
The Power of Energy Storage: How to Increase Deployment in California to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Energy storage, through technologies such as batteries, flywheels, and compressed air, will be critical to integrating intermittent renewable energy, like solar or wind, into the grid. Key policy recommendations: Revised utility and grid operator procurement policies that allow competition from energy storage technologies, tax benefits for energy storage projects, and the creation of a separate asset class for energy storage
PLAN FOR THE FUTURE: HOW LOCAL GOVERNMENTS CAN HELP IMPLEMENT CALIFORNIA’S NEW LAND USE AND CLIMATE CHANGE LEGISLATION
Many local governments need assistance developing the land use plans necessary to implement SB 375, the state’s landmark law that coordinates transportation and land use planning at the regional level. Key policy recommendations: Improved public outreach to encourage citizen participation in developing a vision for population growth and transportation in local communities, expanded financing for local government planning efforts, and streamlined local land use codes and sharing of best practices.
Saving Energy: How California Can Launch a Statewide Retrofit Program for Existing Residences and Small Businesses
Energy efficiency retrofit programs in California have experienced several major developments since Saving Energy was released in May 2010. At the local level, cities and counties have been experimenting with diverse strategies for implementing building retrofit programs. While California still requires additional policies to stimulate widespread residential retrofits, the heightened attention of policy makers to this issue, coupled with innovation by cities and counties to overcome the challenges, provide reasons for optimism.
April 15, 2010 NEPA provides the basic federal process for illuminating the environmental costs and benefits of “proposals for legislation and other major Federal actions.” 42 U.S.C. 4332 (C). We have a simple suggestion, and one that we believe is in the interest of good and democratic government, but otherwise politically neutral: put the essential and already public documents of NEPA assessment on the web. Testimony for the President’s Council on Environmental Quality & The U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.
Few business sectors in California have more to lose from the impacts of climate change than agriculture. To identify barriers and solutions for reducing GHG emissions, a group of leaders, academics, policy-makers, representatives, and water experts met. In the short term, agriculture leaders can adopt immediate and cost-effective practices that will reduce GHG emissions. In the long-term, policy-makers will need to assist industry efforts to generate renewable energy from agricultural byproducts and to research new and cost effective practices and technologies to reduce GHG emissions from agricultural commodities.
Testimony on Performance of California Department of Fish & Game
In January 2010, CLEE Executive Director Richard Frank testified before joint California Assembly and Senate Committees on the legal mandates of California’s Department of Fish & Game, and the record of the Department in fulfilling those mandates. Frank testified at the request of the California Legislature, surveyed the Department’s legal responsibilities, and assessed the Department’s record in recent years in each of those subject areas.
In Our Backyard: How to Increase Renewable Energy Production on Big Buildings and Other Local Spaces
In California’s effort to combat climate change, few other sectors present as many opportunities as renewable energy. But climate change and the state’s aggressive renewable energy requirements require immediate action. To address these barriers and formulate solutions, a group of representatives met at the UC Berkeley School of Law in June 2009. . Based on that discussion, this paper identifies the immediate and longer-term actions that government leaders, private industry, and public agencies must take to address the barriers.
Testimony Before California’s Little Hoover Commission on State Water Rights Law
In the fall of 2009, CLEE Executive Director Richard Frank testified at the invitation of California’s Little Hoover Commission on the subjects of California’s water rights system and the State Water Resources Control Board’s effectiveness in administering that system. He offered his perspective as to deficiencies in California’s current system, and suggested possible means of reforming water rights administration in the state.
In October 2009, the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in a major property rights case. CLEE submitted the brief on behalf of the Coastal States Organization, in support of the State of Florida’s efforts to protect coastal beaches in the wake of natural disasters. Florida homeowners challenged those efforts in court, claiming that the Florida program violates their private property rights under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The case remains pending before the Supreme Court. Amicus brief for the Coastal States Organization filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since Removing the Roadblocks was released in August 2009, new business, policy, and market developments have addressed or implemented some of the conclusions contained in the document. The topic of sustainable development continues to be of prime importance for achieving the state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, meeting market demand for diverse housing options close to transit and services, and helping the residential construction sector recover from the economic downturn.
Federally owned and managed public lands occupy approximately 30 percent of the land area of the United States, and anywhere from 50 percent to more than 80 percent of the land area of many of the western states. Determining the appropriate use of these lands involves balancing objectives related to economic, recreational, and conservation interests. This paper examines established and emerging conflicts within and across these objectives through both a narrative discussion of specific topics and a series of case studies.
This document describes renewable energy benefits of biomass facilities such as dairy methane digester systems, identifies permitting and regulatory obstacles faced by entities wishing to construct new methane digester systems in California, suggests areas of research to understand better the identified obstacles, and recommends evaluation of potential policy solutions.
California’s Salmon Crisis – Hearing Before the California Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife
March 10, 2009 In March 2009, Holly Doremus, Faculty Co-Director, Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, Berkeley Law and Richard Frank, Lecturer in Residence, Executive Director, Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, Berkeley Law testified before the California Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. The testimony addressed the current salmon and steelhead spawning declines (which had been found by the American Fisheries Society, in 1991, to include extinction of 106 Pacific salmon runs and 101 more at high risk) and assesses the future risks which global climate change might bring with ocean and river fluctuations. It also offered proposed solutions to the problems of regulatory overlap, regulatory fragmentation, inertia, lack of necessary fiscal and staff resources, and political will within the conservation effort’s regulatory system. Testimony on California’s Salmon Crisis.
The Center for Law, Energy & the Environment filed a friend-of-the-court brief filed November 24, 2008, in a major environmental case, on behalf of U.S. Senators Feinstein and Boxer, Speaker of the House Pelosi, and most of California’s Congressional delegation. The brief, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, endorsed the State of California’s legal challenge to the Bush Administration’s refusal to allow California to implement important greenhouse gas emission controls needed to reduce global warming. The brief supported California’s position that the Administration’s action violates federal Clean Air Act. (The case ultimately settled on terms favorable to the State of California in early 2009, following the change in federal administrations.) Amicus Curie Brief for State of California vs. U.S. EPA
California has one of the most ambitious renewable energy electric generation programs in the country. In the meantime, current state law blocks regulators from imposing a standard higher than 20 percent, and energy providers are struggling to meet that goal. The proponents of Proposition 7, on California’s November 2008 ballot, seek to apply the 20 percent obligation to all electricity providers, including municipal utilities, and to further require providers deliver at least 40 percent renewable power by 2020.
Comments from Environmental Law Professors, Re: Proposed Rule – Interagency Cooperation under the Endangered Species Act
The enactment of the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) in 1973 marked a watershed in development of law for the preservation of biological diversity. In sweeping terms, the 1973 Act extended the federal sphere of influence over wildlife to include every parcel of land or stretch of ocean in the United States or on the high seas required for the survival of any protected species.