New Model Laws from the LPDD Team
Since the last newsletter update, the LPDD team has published four new model legal documents. They are listed below.
- Model Renewable Gas Standard. This new model law provides state legislatures a path to increase the market for renewable gases in their states, thereby increasing investment in this area and reducing renewable gas prices. This annotated model legislation was prepared based on California’s proposed SB 687, which would have established a renewable gas standard requiring an average carbon intensity reduction of 1% in 2020, increasing to 10% by 2030. The annotated model legislation includes ranges for potential standards, understanding that different states will have different availability, feasibility, and costs associated with producing renewable gas in state.
- Model EV-Ready Commercial Building Code. This model law would require new or significantly altered commercial, industrial, or multi-family residential buildings to be equipped with the installation of Level 2 electric vehicle supply equipment in proximity to parking spaces.
- Model Federal Green Private Activity Bonds Act. Generally, public entities may only issue tax-exempt bonds for governmental purposes. The Internal Revenue Code specifies certain limited categories of tax-exempt bonds that may be issued for private activities that Congress expressly determined over the years to have a significant public purpose (even with private involvement). This draft legislation proposes an expansion in the scope of tax-exempt private activity bonds to include a wide variety of decarbonizing activities and projects, including renewable generation projects, carbon capture and sequestration projects, energy storage projects, and advanced biofuels facilities. In addition, the scope of renewable energy projects covered has been expanded to include any source that does not emit greenhouse gases, which would include nuclear energy.
- Model Biogas Zoning Ordinance. One of the challenges to biogas production is that production facilities are not readily classified under most existing zoning laws, which can slow project development and increase transaction costs for creating new biogas production facilities. The model regulations proposed here seek to provide a template for local governments to amend their zoning regulations to make biogas production facilities a contemplated and accepted use, which would make development of such facilities quicker and less costly. These proposed regulations are closely based on California, Kentucky, and Hawaii statutes and proposed ordinances, and represent two alternative statutory approaches for accommodating biogas production facilities: first, specifically defining “biogas production facility” at the beginning of a zoning code; and second, amending the definition of approved uses on agricultural lands to describe biogas production facilities and associated buildings and land uses.
LPDD.org is being continually updated with new, external legal resources. Below is a brief selection of recently added resources of special interest.
California Executive Order on Zero Emissions Vehicles. California’s Governor signed a September 2020 executive order requiring sales of all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035 and additional measures to eliminate harmful emissions from the transportation sector. Following the order, the California Air Resources Board will develop regulations to mandate that 100 percent of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks are zero-emission by 2035 – a target which would achieve more than a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 80 percent improvement in oxides of nitrogen emissions from cars statewide.
SMUD’s Avoided Carbon Metric for Efficiency. Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the publicly owned utility in California’s capital city, is now the first utility in the country to count avoided carbon emissions from the existing building stock as part of its progress on energy efficiency. Measuring energy efficiency in terms of avoided CO2 emissions could be an effective way to incentivize utilities with decarbonization targets to adopt building electrification, provided that those utilities are also greening their power supply.
Vermont’s Global Warming Solutions Act. In September, the Vermont legislature overrode a Governor’s veto to pass the Global Warming Solutions Act. The Act requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. Emissions would need to be 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% below by 2050. While the legislation sets up new emissions reduction requirements, it does not spell out or dictate how the state will meet them. Instead, it creates a 22-member council, comprising state government officials, citizen experts and others, to come up with a pollution reduction plan by Dec. 1, 2021. It would then be up to the Agency of Natural Resources to adopt new rules to regulate greenhouse gas pollutants by the following year. And it would be up to the Legislature enact policies aimed at cutting emissions proposed by the council. The law creates a cause of action for citizens to sue the state for failing to meet its targets, though available remedies include only court orders to the state, and not damages.
Rewiring Law to Fight Climate Change. On Sept. 23rd, Michael Gerrard joined a panel organized by the Chancery Lane Project to present on the LPDD project. The Chancery Lane Project and LPDD are two complementary efforts that lawyers can support to help write model laws and contracts to support decarbonization. The event explored the role that New York lawyers can play in fighting climate change through both of these projects, and it is available to view on Youtube.