CLF Announces Bradley Campbell as New President

May 21, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

As a member of the CLF community, I want you to be among the first to know that Conservation Law Foundation has named a new president, Bradley M. Campbell. Brad is a nationally recognized environmental leader and energy entrepreneur who has held senior roles at the White House, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Most recently, he served as principal of the law firm he founded in 2006.

BradCampbell

Bradley Campbell has been named CLF’s new president.

We are truly honored and thrilled to have Brad leading the CLF team. His depth of experience, national reputation, and expansive network will take our work to unparalleled heights during a critical time as we work to build our clean energy future, counter climate change, and safeguard the health and prosperity of New England communities.

For the past 25 years, Brad has been at the forefront of shaping some of the country’s most significant environmental policy and laws. A former White House senior appointee during the Clinton administration, Brad has also served as Director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mid-Atlantic office and spent four years served as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. In 2006 Brad launched a law firm with a focus on issues involving the environment, energy, entrepreneurship, and science. He also founded an energy company that has developed some of the largest commercial-scale renewable energy projects in the northeastern United States.

Brad’s long experience overseeing large public agencies, developing strategic litigation, and negotiating innovative agreements has led to environmental milestones in New England and across the United States. He worked alongside CLF to initiate and negotiate the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and recently took to the editorial pages of the New York Times to call out New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for shortchanging New Jersey residents in favor of a sweetheart settlement deal with Exxon Mobil over its years-long polluting legacy in the state, which has led to the destruction of creeks, wetlands, and other wildlife.

But even as Brad is ready to take on powerful opponents (and win), he also stands up for local communities. One of his most significant achievements as principal of his law firm included going to court on the side of a low-income community whose drinking water had been poisoned by unmitigated pollution.

Though Brad has lived in New Jersey for many years, he’s no stranger to New England. An avid sailor, Brad and his wife Kathryn have sailed from New Jersey to their summer home in Maine, and he also has family roots in New Hampshire. While Brad officially takes the helm on September 8, 2015, he will be spending a lot of time in New England this spring and summer getting to know the CLF community. In the meantime, I’ll share Brad’s own words on his excitement about the future of CLF:

What the Federal government struggles to achieve in shutting down fossil fuels and securing a clean energy future for the United States is already happening in New England right here, right now led by Conservation Law Foundation. When we tip the balance in a region like New England, it has a profound impact for the entire nation and even the world. I am excited to lead CLF’s smart and devoted staff, volunteers, and community of supporters as we write a new chapter in protecting the region’s environment, communities, and future prosperity.

Thank you all for your support and understanding as we’ve searched for CLF’s next president. Thanks to your unwavering commitment to CLF, we’ve been able to continue our work without pause and have already achieved many milestones in this year.

I look forward to you getting to know Brad. He is going to be a positive force for CLF’s future direction and for the environmental and economic security of the people of New England. Brad Campbell will make a difference to all of us.

The Alternatives to New Natural Gas Pipelines

May 15, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Now that we’ve made it through the winter, policymakers in Massachusetts are taking a look at the state of energy in the Commonwealth and trying to sort out what to do about the big energy policy questions currently on the table. First among these questions is what, if any, public policy support and funding should be invested in natural gas pipeline infrastructure.

How policymakers answer this question is important because now, more than ever, we must look beyond fossil fuels and ensure that our energy system is one built on the cleanest energy sources. Overinvestment in natural gas is simply a bad bargain for our climate, for consumers, and for our economy.

For several years now CLF has been calling for caution in the pipeline debate by debunking myths presented by pipeline proponents, exploring the environmental and economic ramifications of overbuilding natural gas infrastructure, and highlighting alternatives to pipeline investments. I had the opportunity this week to present CLF’s broad vision for the future of energy in New England to the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. The plan I presented to the legislators:

1. Strategic public investment in the resource with the best rate of return for ratepayers: Energy Efficiency.

2. Strategic public investment in clean electric generation that is not tied to fossil fuel prices: Renewables.

3. Encourage the electric and gas markets to utilize existing gas storage and pipeline to meet peak gas demand.

4. Overall, the need for new gas pipeline has not yet been demonstrated, but if it occurs, we should begin with small pipeline upgrades and peak storage projects first.

5. If we still need more pipeline capacity after doing all of the above, go incremental first (by increasing the capacity of existing pipelines), and let the markets support the capital costs rather than putting them further on the ratepayers.

CLF is skeptical about new gas pipeline infrastructure buildout and efforts to put additional public money toward such projects. This skepticism is based in 1) the climate implications of entrenching gas further in our energy system, 2) the short-term economic effects of building new infrastructure when we’re not maximizing the infrastructure we already have, and 3) the medium- to long-term economic effects of fossil fuel prices dictating our energy prices.

Strategic investments in renewable energy sources will reduce our reliance on climate-changing fossil fuels. Photo credit: CLF

Strategic investments in renewable energy sources will reduce our reliance on climate-changing fossil fuels. Photo credit: CLF

Rather than more investments in fossil fuel-based energy, then, let’s instead invest wisely in energy efficiency and long-term contracts for renewable energy. And where the use of natural gas is currently necessary, let’s use LNG to supplement natural gas supply during periods of peak usage. Expanding our natural gas pipelines and our reliance on this carbon intensive and price volatile fuel should be New England’s last resort.

Effective, clean and economic alternatives are available now and they’re certainly a better deal for our climate and for ratepayers in Massachusetts and across New England.

My full slides and written testimony are available here and here. And, speaking of this winter, check out this paper collecting my colleague Christophe’s blog series on the energy lessons to be drawn from the performance of New England’s energy markets this winter.

Vermont is Burning the Furniture

Apr 30, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

photo courtesy of Vicki Burton @ flickr.com

photo courtesy of Vicki Burton @ flickr.com

Vermont legislators are scrambling to plug the budget – and there are plans to raid funding for heating efficiency to do that. This is troubling on many levels. It raids monies from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to backfill another shortage. It also comes on top of the proposal to shortchange energy efficiency as part of otherwise helpful energy legislation that would expand renewables and reduce fossil fuel use.

The end of a legislative session always brings out some of the worst ideas. It seems that as the warm weather approaches in Vermont, some lawmakers are keen to throw the furniture in the fire to eke out that last bit of heat after the woodshed is empty.

Burning furniture is burning money. Energy efficiency consistently delivers the biggest bang for the buck by reducing pollution and saving money for all of us. Smart investments should not be held hostage to close budget gaps.

A vote is expected on Friday May 1. If you are in Vermont, you can call your Senator and leave a message with the Sergeant-at-Arms at 802-828-2228 and tell your Senators to leave efficiency funding alone.

It’s Possible

Apr 10, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

A walk along Boston Harbor today reveals a waterfront that’s both beautiful and vibrant. Water taxis and sailboats skim its waters; tourists and locals stroll along its shores; fishermen catch striped bass right off the docks; and waterside restaurants brighten the evening.

It’s hard to believe that, barely a generation ago, this same harbor was in crisis, a dirty and rancid stew of raw sewage and toxic pollution. Back then, it was deemed the problem too big, too dirty, too impossible to solve. No one wanted to step up and do anything about it. But, rather than back down from this challenge, we at CLF declared we were going to take back Boston Harbor from the polluters.

And we did.

Cleaning up Boston Harbor is just one of the seemingly impossible challenges CLF has taken on – and won.

Thanks to the support of people like you, the remarkable transformation of Boston Harbor is just one of the seemingly impossible challenges CLF has taken on – and won – in our nearly 50-year history.

It was really kind of outrageous at the time that our small band of lawyers and policy advocates took on both the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Environmental Protection Agency – and won. No one then could have predicted that this was going to be a $4.5 billion, generational effort to rebuild metropolitan Boston’s entire water, sewer, and stormwater systems – or that our efforts to ensure clean water drains into Boston Harbor would still be ongoing today.

You can’t deny the results. Today, Boston Harbor is swimmable and fishable. Boston now has a world-class water and sewer authority and a National Park celebrating the Boston Harbor Islands. Billions of dollars were invested in real estate, producing thousands of jobs around the harbor in the process. And Boston Harbor now has its own watchdog – Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, a group CLF helped form to carry our vigilance forward.

While CLF was just the point of the spear that made all of this happen, it was a very sharp point directed very strategically.

Boston Harbor, iconic though it is, was not the first time CLF had taken on a seemingly impossible challenge. And it certainly wasn’t the last. Oil and gas drilling on Georges Bank? Stopped. A four-lane highway through Franconia Notch? Blocked. A destructive dam on the Penobscot River? Defeated. Big coal in Massachusetts? Shutting down. The largest landfill in Rhode Island flouting the Clean Air Act? Called to account. Pollution choking Lake Champlain? Getting cleaned up for the benefit of all.

And that’s the short list.

Now, today, in 2015, we are facing the defining challenge of our age – climate change. It’s bigger and more complex than anything we’ve tackled before, and it’s going to touch everything we all hold dear about New England: our communities, our environment, and our livelihoods.

But it’s not an impossible challenge, despite inaction and denial at so many levels of our government. Yes, we need international and national leadership on climate change, but let’s be clear: The real solutions are going to be forged at the state and regional levels and that’s where CLF shines. This is CLF’s moment.

Dealing with climate change is going to take every tool in our toolbox, every ounce of expertise we have, every innovative idea we can generate, and every ally we can muster. It won’t be easy, and I would be misleading you if I didn’t note that it’s already too late to head off some of the climate impacts New England will experience.

But, frankly, it’s when we’re told that a challenge can’t be overcome that we are at our most bold, our most creative, and our most tenacious. I know – because in my 30 years with CLF, I’ve seen us surmount the impossible time and time again.

What really keeps us moving forward, tackling New England’s biggest environmental challenges, is our commitment to all of you – and to people and communities large and small across New England. For nearly 50 years, people like you have been our critical partners in what’s possible. You have helped CLF close polluting power plants, clean up New England’s air and water, bolster the health of our oceans, and boost the vitality of our communities.

You are helping New England thrive – for people today and for future generations tomorrow. We’re honored to have you by our side and thank you for your commitment to making a difference.

This April, we’re seeking to raise $25,000 toward our efforts to solve New England’s seemingly impossible environmental challenges – ensuring clean air and clean water, healthy oceans and healthy communities for all. Please give, now, as generously as you can, to help us reach this goal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gas Pipelines — Misinformation and High Costs

Mar 26, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

The high cost and pollution from new gas pipelines are no secret. They deliver a clear reminder that investing in new fossil fuels is a bad bet for our energy future – bad for the environment and bad for our pocketbooks.

When costs ballooned for Vermont Gas Systems’ proposed new pipeline, the company failed to tell regulators, or the public, until months later. Vermont Gas is now facing penalties for the failure.

photo courtesy of Tom @ flickr.com

photo courtesy of Tom @ flickr.com

Unfortunately for the public, only the Public Service Department and the Company were allowed to present information during the hearing to evaluate the penalty. Since the two of them already agreed to a penalty, the proceeding took on an air of the sound of one hand clapping. A few concerned citizens resorted to waiving posters in the back of the room with questions they’d like answered.

At the hearing, a Vermont Gas executive acknowledged the loss of faith and lost credibility that resulted from not disclosing the cost increase sooner. Sadly that credibility was not restored when the same executive had to acknowledge that cost figures reported to regulators were not accurate.

A new gas pipeline is a big energy project. All big energy projects need to demonstrate that they advance the public good. With high costs and misinformation, confidence is sure waning on this project.

Smart Moves for Maine’s Electricity Grid

Mar 10, 2015 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

Several years ago, Maine took a small but significant and unprecedented step toward modernizing its electric grid. Rather than implement a traditional “poles and wires” transmission build out to address growing electricity needs in the Boothbay Harbor region, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved an innovative pilot project.

GridSolar's Boothbay Pilot program is finding innovative ways to meet electricity demand without an expensive transmission rebuild.

GridSolar’s Boothbay Pilot program is finding innovative ways to meet electricity demand without an expensive transmission rebuild.

The Boothbay Pilot relies on so-called non-transmission alternatives, or NTAs, to reduce electric load in the region by 2 megawatts (MW). Using these alternatives eliminated the need for an $18 million transmission rebuild, while also improving energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and saving ratepayers approximately $3 million per year. A smart move. Now, the PUC has the opportunity to take many of the pilot’s concepts statewide.

Non-transmission alternatives are, as the name implies, alternatives to the traditional way of distributing electricity. For most of Maine’s power grid, state-regulated transmission and distribution utilities, such as Central Maine Power, transmit bulk electricity from a generation source – for example, natural gas, oil, or hydro – through power lines, substations, and distribution lines to your home. To ensure reliable and constant energy flow the power grid must be continually maintained and at times rebuilt or upgraded to meet demand.

Instead of expending ratepayer dollars on expensive transmission solutions, electric power needs can be met by various NTAs, including energy efficiency, passive electric power generation closer to the consumer (like solar panels or wind turbines), and active devices that can be switched on when needed to reduce load on the grid. These alternatives create a more efficient grid and reduce total power needed.

For the Boothbay regional Pilot program, GridSolar developed just such an NTA solution. In a case before the PUC, GridSolar has petitioned to become the state’s lead developer of smart grid technologies – a new entity allowed under the Maine Smart Grid Policy Act. While PUC staff recently recommended that the Commissioners deny GridSolar’s petition – in favor of putting the coordinator’s role out to bid for proposals – their report nonetheless recognizes the value in having an incentivized actor forwarding non-transmission alternatives to utilities’ business-as-usual transmission projects.

CLF is an intervening party to this case and has advocated for the PUC to create just such a statewide NTA Coordinator. Designating this role is another small but critical step toward a more efficient and modern energy future for Maine. Another smart move on which we should all agree.

Time to Act: Guest Post by Olivia Gieger

Mar 6, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Last fall, CLF, Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, and four youth plaintiffs filed suit against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for failing to fully comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act. In this guest post, one of the teen plaintiffs, Olivia Gieger, explains why she’s joined the court fight to defend her climate future.

As a sophomore in high school, I am all too familiar with procrastination. That group project assigned a month ago and now due tomorrow? We had a month; why start early? It’s a group project; won’t someone else do it? In my experience, I can tell you, those all-nighter–inducing group projects never turn out well.

Don’t be the sophomore in high school.

This 2015, we have the technology to know that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are rising at an alarmingly fast rate. We’ve had this technology since 1960 when carbon dioxide levels were at 315 parts per million (ppm). Now they’re at 395 ppm(1). We know that this carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which captures heat energy and slows its release from air. While greenhouse gases are necessary in our atmosphere and are needed to keep us warm, an unnatural amount is strikingly dangerous. More greenhouse gases mean more heat held in the atmosphere, which means a hotter Earth.

Side effects of global warming are countless, and they are happening today. Sea levels are rising. Ice caps are melting. Forest fires are raging. Downpours are constant in the Northeast, yet droughts are ever more present in the West(2).

But, really, why should I care? Melting ice caps and a couple less polar bears don’t really affect me, right? I don’t live in California, so those wildfires don’t affect me, either. But other people are being impacted by the wildfires, the melting ice caps, the rising temperatures. The scary reality is that we all are. I may not know anyone who lives in California, but that’s where my food is grown. If there are droughts and wildfires, how is my family supposed to get some of our favorite fruits and vegetables that don’t grow here in Boston during the winter? And those melting ice caps affect a whole lot more than polar bears. When they melt, sea levels rise – not just at the North Pole, but globally. This means my favorite beaches on Martha’s Vineyard will be washed away. It means my favorite restaurants and museums – even my neighborhood – here in Boston will be underwater in my lifetime.

In order to do something about these concerns, I have filed a lawsuit, along with three other youth plaintiffs, against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), because DEP has been procrastinating in fully complying with the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The GWSA requires DEP to pass regulations establishing declining greenhouse gas emissions limits for Massachusetts. But DEP has not done so. The purpose of the lawsuit is to force DEP to comply with the law, because it appears unwilling to do so on its own. Thanks to the support from my lawyers at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak, & Cohen and Our Children’s Trust, we will ensure that DEP complies with the law.

So now my question is why? Why are we as a society being sophomores in high school about this? Why are we just waiting for someone else to solve this massive problem? We know the problems, and, better yet, we know the solutions. Using clean, renewable energy is one solution. Enough energy from the sun enters the Earth in one hour to power it for an entire year(3). This energy is unlimited, harmless to the environment, and virtually free. Sounds to me like it tops fossil fuels any day. It’s not just solar energy, however – wind power and hydropower are also unlimited and harmless to the environment. So why then are we oblivious to this? Why are we so incapable of making a change? We need to stop procrastinating. It is long past the time to include, encourage, and execute programs with wind and solar power as the energy of America. We cannot afford to be sophomores anymore; it’s time to graduate.

Works Cited:

  1. Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL (www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/) and Dr. Ralph Keeling, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/).
  2. “The Current and Future Consequences of Global Change.”Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. National Air and Space Association, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.
  3. “Solar Power Energy Information, Solar Power Energy Facts.”National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

Halted: VT Gas Pipeline

Feb 10, 2015 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

courtesty of Axel Schwenke @ flickr.com

courtesy of Axel Schwenke @ flickr.com

Welcome news from Vermont Gas Systems that it will not proceed with Phase 2 of its expensive and polluting natural gas pipeline.

Over recent months, project costs have skyrocketed and pollution impacts increased. New gas pipelines lock us into continued fossil fuel use for decades into the future are a bad bet for our climate and our pocketbooks.

It is encouraging that Vermont Gas recognized the serious problems with this project and pulled the plug.

In December, just weeks before regulatory hearings were to begin, Vermont Gas announced it would hit the reset button and re-examine the project. Now Vermont Gas will no longer seek regulatory approval for that project, which would extend a natural gas pipeline through sensitive natural areas and underneath Lake Champlain to serve the Fort Ticonderoga mill in New York.

Vermont Gas still plans to pursue approval for Phase 1 even though the cost has nearly doubled and regulators announced they undertake a thorough review of the Phase 1 project in light of the new cost information.

The cancellation of Phase 2 is great news for Vermont. It helps reduce our reliance on polluting fossil fuels and allows Vermonters to move forward more quickly to rely on cleaner and lower cost energy solutions.

 

MA Senate Committee says there’s “No Time to Waste” to Tackle Climate Change

Jan 12, 2015 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

When the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change released a new report last week called “No Time to Waste,” CLF knew it was one we could get behind. The report is a message from the legislature to the new Republican administration containing recommendations for how the state can achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals quickly and with the resources it already has on hand.

The report warns of the drastic impacts climate change will have on the state’s robust agricultural economy and of the harmful public health impacts that will result if the new administration fails to act fast to address this growing threat. In particular, the report urges Governor Baker to take assertive executive action on several causes that CLF has long supported – including putting in place regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions as required by the Global Warming Solutions Act (“GWSA”).

As the Senate report states, “By declining to promulgate regulations according to the GWSA, the administration is depriving the state of a powerful tool to fight climate change.” The Global Warming Solutions Act, enacted in 2008, required the Department of Environmental Protection to put regulations in place that would establish legally binding emissions reductions on greenhouse gases. The Commonwealth clearly needs these regulations, given that it’s on track to miss its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction goal. The GWSA provided the Department with ample time to develop the regulations, setting a deadline of January 1, 2012. Now, six years later, that mandate remains unmet. For years, CLF and partner organizations have called upon the Department to comply with the law. In light of the Department’s continued inaction, CLF went to court to force the Department to follow the law. The Senate Committee has it right: there’s no time to waste on getting these regulations established.

The report includes other recommendations familiar to those who follow CLF’s work: calling for the adoption of a clean fuel standard; encouraging energy efficiency efforts; balancing any increased hydropower imports with renewables and ensuring that the greenhouse gas emissions from hydro are counted; more investments in and planning for adaptation to climate change; incentivizing smart meter use and modernizing the grid; embracing smart growth; and more.

Senator Marc R. Pacheco, the Taunton Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, said, “We’re basically saying to the new administration, we’d like you to embrace these environmental initiatives.”

CLF couldn’t agree more.

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