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Science, Law & the Environment Emerging Topics in Environmental Law

Elaine Spencer

Elaine Spencer

Elaine has a broad range of trial experience in land use and natural resource issues. She has been a leader in defending the forest products industry from lawsuits threatening its economic vitality. She has represented a wide range of property owners in disputes over whether they can use their land. Her success comes from a combination of legal skills, industry knowledge and a strategic ability to claim the high ground in controversial matters early, and to maintain that high ground to achieve the client’s objectives.

Posts by Elaine Spencer

Defeat of the Carbon Tax: As Washington Increasingly Mimics the Partisan Gridlock of the “other Washington,” it Risks Losing Progressive Action in the Name of Progressive Principles

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate Change, Emerging Policy, Energy Policy, Fuel Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Sustainability, Tax, Uncategorized

We all know the federal government is hamstrung by partisan gridlock.  Where once lawmakers recognized that passing legislation required that both parties end up being able to claim success, that no one got everything they wanted, and that progress was never perfect, today there seem to be new rules holding forth:  “I will only ‘compromise’… Continue Reading

Cap and Trade to Reduce Carbon Emissions in Washington Is SO 1990s

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate Change, Emerging Policy, Legislation, Renewable Energy, Tax

Lots of big ideas – think the minimum wage, women’s suffrage, abolition, fair labor standards – take years or decades from when they are first proposed to their final adoption. The fact that it takes a while to bring enough of society around to actually adopt a new idea doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good… Continue Reading

Cap and Trade versus a Carbon Tax: Where is Bill Gates Sr. When We Need Him?

Posted in Climate Change

Climate change deniers continue to be with us. But the release on June 25 of “Risky Business,” a comprehensive report on the risk to American business and political life from climate change, suggests that the reality and risk of climate change is increasingly clear to intellectual leaders of both parties. The committee that commissioned the… Continue Reading

The Courts Exit the Debate Over Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Posted in Climate Change, Emerging Policy, Energy Policy, Natural Resources and Environment, Project Permitting, Sustainability

Last week, when the Ninth Circuit denied the petition for rehearing en banc of the decision in Washington Environmental Council v. Bellon, it took what may be the final step to limit the role of courts in the debate over regulation to restrict carbon emissions. Bellon held that environmental plaintiffs do not have standing to sue to compel the Northwest… Continue Reading

Why Don’t the New SEPA Rules the Department of Ecology Recently Issued for Comment Include Amendments to the GMA/SEPA Integration Rules?

Posted in SEPA

The 2012 Legislature directed the Department of Ecology (DOE) to update the SEPA rules, to increase the exemptions from SEPA analysis, and to modernize the exemptions, recognizing the extensive changes in the substantive regulations that have occurred since the rules were last amended. 2012 S.S.B. 6406. The Legislature gave DOE until December 31, 2012 to… Continue Reading

Hope, Despair and the Challenges Going Forward: The IEA 2012 Report on World Energy Statistics

Posted in Energy Conservation, Natural Resources and Environment

USA Today had an article last week with the worst good news for carbon emissions that I’ve read in a while. The good news was that U.S. emissions fell to the lowest rate since the mid-1990s, dropping 200 million tons, or 3.8 percent. The bad news is that world carbon emissions rose by 1.4 percent in… Continue Reading

Seattle Energy Code — Part Two

Posted in Energy Conservation, Green Building, Renewable Energy

Point/Counterpoint on Requiring Upgrades When  Buildings Undergo Major Renovation In an earlier post (Part One) I described the broad outlines of the new City of Seattle Energy Code that is under development.  The new Seattle Energy Code seeks to go significantly beyond the newly approved 2012 Washington State Energy Code  – which itself is light… Continue Reading

The Seattle 2012 Energy Code – Part 1

Posted in Energy Conservation, Green Building, Renewable Energy

Grinding Out the Ground Game of Energy Efficiency Back in October of 2011 the Seattle City Council passed a resolution “committing” the City to become a zero-net greenhouse gas emitter by 2050.  Although individuals, cities, and governments or organizations in general seldom achieve lofty goals without first setting lofty goals, we all know that lofty… Continue Reading

The Blessing and Curse of Low BPA Electric Rates as the Northwest Moves Towards a Clean Energy Future

Posted in Clean Energy, Electric Vehicles, Energy Conservation

BPA Administrator Steve Wright was in Seattle in early November as part of a victory lap prior to his announced retirement next February.  The victory lap is well deserved.  He is the longest-serving administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration, having joined BPA in 1981, coming up the ranks until he was named Acting Administrator in… Continue Reading

What Does Data Show About the Economics of Regional Cap-and-Trade?

Posted in Alternative Fuels, Climate Change, Entrepreneurs, Legislation, Natural Resources and Environment, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Business

Back before the recession, there was a major push in Washington State to adopt a state carbon cap-and-trade program as part of Washington’s membership in the Western Climate Initiative (WCI).  The argument was heated, and like most things these days tended to split on party lines with a gulf between the two.  Democrats generally argued… Continue Reading

In Defense(?) of the Initiative

Posted in Legislation, Renewable Energy

A few years ago I adopted a personal policy that I always vote “no” on any initiative.  It is satisfying, and it saves me a fair amount of time with the voters pamphlet.  I’m part of the demographic that always votes in every election – and thus gets the maximum amount of pre-election mail.  (If… Continue Reading

Can a New Political Consensus be Found to Keep a 75-Year Supply of Natural Gas from Dooming Renewable Energy?

Posted in Capital and Funding, Legislation, Natural Resources and Environment, Technology

In an April 12, 2012 article in the New York Times, Jad Mouwad wrote about the transformation in United States’ energy fortunes that is fundamentally changing much of what we thought we knew about domestic and international realities.  After decades of viewing ourselves as energy depleted, he writes, the United States now finds itself cutting… Continue Reading

Washington’s Utilities and Transportation Commission Tackles the Conundrum of Distributed Energy, Part 2

Posted in Entrepreneurs, Legislation, Regulatory, Renewable Energy

As I tried to describe in part one of this article, Washington has some structural challenges that impair its ability to develop distributed energy as a significant alternative to fossil fuel-powered electrical power generation. The regulatory system that has been built up over the last 100 years has powerful constituencies that it must protect. Those are… Continue Reading

Washington’s Utilities and Transportation Commission Tackles the Conundrum of Distributed Energy, Part 1

Posted in Entrepreneurs, Renewable Energy

In a two-part post, I’ll look first on what makes encouraging distributed energy such a conundrum, and then at the steps the WUTC is proposing to take. For part two, please click here. The Early 20th Century Bargain With Investor-Owned Utilities Electrical companies are natural monopolies within their service areas. It would make no sense at all… Continue Reading

Seattle Resolves to Achieve Zero Net Green House Gas Emissions by 2050

Posted in Electric Vehicles, Energy Conservation, Legislation, Renewable Energy

Do you believe in magic? There is a certain sense that is what it takes for the Seattle City Council to do what it did on October 3, 2011, when it passed Resolution 31312, which puts the City on the path towards reducing Seattle’s net green house gas emissions level to zero by 2050. The… Continue Reading

The City of Seattle is a Microcosm of Why You Should and Why You May Not Build a LEED Building

Posted in Energy Conservation, Green Building, LEED, Legislation

In 2000 the City of Seattle became the first city in the country to require that all city buildings over 5,000 square feet achieve LEED silver rating. The City’s goal in doing that was to spur development of LEED buildings by demonstrating their value and increasing the familiarity of the local design professions and contractors… Continue Reading

Oberlin, Ohio Joins the Ground Game of Carbon Neutrality

Posted in Alternative Fuels, Green Building, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Business

I was asked last week to refer someone to a consultant who could help them evaluate a business selling carbon credits and renewable energy credits. While I could suggest a consultant to do that, I had to note that selling carbon credits just isn’t the same business as it would have been if the United… Continue Reading