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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.