CT adopts law setting greenhouse gas reduction mandates

CT adopts law setting greenhouse gas reduction mandates

June 11, 2008 08:43

The Connecticut General Assembly adopted a bill, which Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R) signed into law earlier this month, that sets mandatory greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050. 

The law broadens the authority of Connecticut’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) and other state agencies to take regulatory, policy and strategic actions necessary to ensure compliance with the mandates and authorizes cooperation with other states beyond the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”), including Canadian provinces, and through the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, known as NESCAUM.

The law, which updates a 2004 measure that authorized RGGI participation, includes reporting requirements, requires formation of a climate change impacts subcommittee, and directs state agencies to identify methods to meet state agency energy savings goals and emissions limits.  The regulated community can expect to start seeing state agency actions to implement the new law beginning after October 1, 2008.

Mindful that Connecticut’s legal framework could potentially run into conflicts with any eventual federally-mandated greenhouse gas cap and trade program or other climate change law adopted in Washington, D.C., the Legislature also required that the DEP Commissioner and Connecticut Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management report back at least one year prior to the effective date of federal measures.  Such report “shall explain the differences between such federal and state requirements and shall identify any further regulatory or legislative actions needed to achieve consistency with such federal program.”

In order to achieve its stated emission reduction targets, the law requires the DEP Commissioner to use tools such as those developed by the California Air Resources Board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and monitor development of low-carbon fuel standards in other states or jurisdictions, evaluate the potential of such standards to achieve net carbon reductions, and assess whether analytical frameworks used to determine carbon benefits measure full lifecycles of greenhouse gas emissions, including direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gases caused by changes in land use or other factors.  This provision is obviously targeted to address such concerns as arguments that production of alternative fuels, such as ethanol, may actually increase net greenhouse gas emissions when emissions from feedstock production, delivery and use of the finished fuel to the ultimate consumer are considered in the aggregate.

In a statement Gov. Rell issued in connection with the bill signing, she said, “Connecticut continues to lead by example in our environmental efforts. . . .This new law requires actions that will benefit not just Connecticut but the entire nation by decreasing pollution, saving energy and reducing our dependency on foreign fuel.  By capping greenhouse gas emissions, we will reduce our carbon footprint, conserve energy and improve air quality in Connecticut while leading the way for the rest of the nation.”

In enacting the measure, Connecticut joins California, Hawaii, New Jersey and Washington state, which have already adopted similar measures. Many other states, including Massachusetts, are considering passage of climate change laws or, in the case of Massachusetts, have adopted administrative policies by executive order that require consideration of greenhouse gas emissions in the planning process for major project developments.

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The business case for the development of renewable energy projects, from biodiesel and ethanol to wind, solar, and distributed generation, is more compelling than ever as tax and regulatory incentives combine to attract investments. Emerging issues in environmental law and increasingly recognized principles of corporate social responsibility are encouraging public companies to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions, install clean energy alternatives, and invest overseas in projects under the Kyoto Protocol to respond to climate change concerns.

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