Two policies may change nature of sustainability in the US

Two important green regulations that have a long term influence on green building and renewable energy recently went into effect, and if successful, they could change the industry.


When the clocked struck 12:01 on New Year's, two important green regulations went into effect that have a long term influence on green building and renewable energy. If successful, either of these regulations would do more to change the green industry than any legal challenge to LEED's legitimacy (see the continued coverage of the case here and here):

1. CALGreen

As I have said before, green building practices are becoming code, and California has (as usual) taken the lead. California is the only state to have a state-wide green building code, CALGreen, which went into effect on January 1. If California successfully implements this mandatory green building code without significant impact on building rates or building costs, look to other states and municipalities to follow. Implementing green via building code is being made significantly easier through the creation of the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) which integrates with the ICC construction codes already in place in most jurisdictions.

An interesting question that has been bandied about is what a green construction code will do to LEED. California will be an interesting laboratory. Will developers still seek LEED certification for their buildings when all new construction must be green? How sensitive is the customer base to green vs. more green?

2. EPA Regulation of GHG Under the Clean Air Act

EPA limits on greenhouse gases for power plants which also went into effect January 1 (a quick fact sheet from the EPA is available here). When cap-and-trade or cap-and-tax died in Congress last year, the EPA continued its plan to regulate GHG via the Clean Air Act. There is significant controversy over these limitations, and legal challenges have been filed.

On Wednesday, December 29, 2010, the Fifth Circuit Court refused to stay the regulations, and on Thursday December 30, 2010, Texas filed a petition to the Court of Appeals in the Federal Circuit to stay the regulations. If the EPA regulations on power plants remain in place, more GHG regulation of other categories will follow, creating the same massive shift in the priority of green tactics to manage GHG emissions that cap-and-trade would have had.

The reason I started this post by saying that these regulatory efforts (not will) shift the green building and renewable energy industries is because of the massive efforts being undertaken to derail the regulatory efforts.

According to the Center for American Progress:

The 20 biggest-spending oil, mining and electric utility companies shelled out $242 million on lobbying from January 2009 to June 2010. Trade associations that generally oppose clean energy policies spent another $290 million during this time. This is over $1,800 in lobby expenditures a day for every single senator and representative.

Opponents of GHG regulations were successful in killing cap-and-trade legislation in Congress. In California, a referendum seeking to overturn California's cap-and-trade regulations was on the ballot in the November election, although it was defeated handily.

In the tug of war over between proponents and opponents of environmental regulations, watch these two hotspots in 2011.

This post originally appeared on Shari Shapiro's Green Building Law blog

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