Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Extends Efforts Until 2030

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 13, 2018

One of the longest running sub-national greenhouse gas (GHG) control efforts in the U.S. has been the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program. RGGI provides a cap-and-trade program covering GHG emissions from targeted fossil fuel power plants in participating northeastern states. The program t has just been revised and extended through 2030.

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Tags: Environmental, Environmental risks, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, cap-and-trade

Businesses Using “Science-Based Targets” to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Oct 26, 2017

In December 2015, representatives of 195 countries agreed to continue to expand global efforts to combat climate change. The new Paris Agreement broke a longstanding impasse with a clever mixture of binding but unenforceable commitments, contemporary agreements, and ongoing agreements-to-agree (I wrote about the Agreement here). Since then, analysts have estimated that full implementation of these national targets would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about half the amounts necessary to accomplish the Agreement’s stated goal by holding average global temperature increases below 2 o C. Incomplete national successes – President Trump’s decision to back off U.S. commitments is the first and most obvious example – would leave even more to be done.

The Paris Agreement anticipated that sub-national governments and private organizations would contribute to global progress, by meeting and often exceeding national requirements (I wrote about formal United Nations programmatic expectations here).

One of the non-governmental efforts is the Science Based Targets Initiative, through which individual companies can set GHG-reduction goals. At latest report, over 300 companies participate.

What is the Science Based Targets Initiative?

The Initiative is a multi-sector collaboration among the following international organizations: CDP (formerly called the Carbon Disclosure Project), World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF; formerly World Wildlife Fund), and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). Participation in the Initiative is also identified as one of the commitments under the We Mean Business Coalition, which is another international business initiative. The Initiative defines “science-based targets” by reference to the Initiative’s effort to support the 2o C target (which the Initiative refers to as the “2°C pathway”):

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Tags: ghg, Greenhouse Gas, Environmental, Environmental risks, climate change, Health & Safety, EPA

International Business Group Recommends Climate-Related Financial Disclosures

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Aug 15, 2017

As governments worldwide consider expanding requirements to manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and moderate climate change, private sector groups are mobilizing to craft voluntary reporting and management activities – which might shape or even avoid future governmental mandates. In May, the 32 international business leaders on the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB’s) Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure issued recommendations for climate-related financial disclosures by public companies worldwide. The Task Force reported these recommendations to the Group of 20 (G-20) leaders at last month’s meeting in Hamburg – the G-20 finance ministers and central bankers had asked FSB in 2015 to commission the Task Force.

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Tags: ghg, Greenhouse Gas, SEC, climate change

California Extends and Amends its Greenhouse Gas Cap-and-Trade Program

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Aug 08, 2017

Since 2012, California has administered a “cap-and-trade” program, setting total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission limits from selected major emitting sectors and creating tradeable emission permits and offsets to provide flexibility and encourage innovation. The program was created under authority of the state’s 2006 “AB 32” legislation, which focuses on reducing statewide GHG emissions by 2020. This authority would have expired in 2020, but new legislation extends the program until 2030. In order to secure enough votes for the extension, legislative leaders and Governor Brown agreed to statutory changes in this program and related air quality programs.

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Tags: Greenhouse Gas, ghg, cap-and-trade, Environmental, Environmental risks, California Legislation

Citizen Suit Against Exxon Yields $20 Million Penalty For Refinery’s Clean Air Act Violations

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jun 06, 2017

On April 26, a federal district judge in Houston issued an order assessing Exxon Mobil nearly $20 million in civil penalties for thousands of Clean Air Act (CAA) violations at Exxon’s massive Baytown, Texas refinery and petrochemical complex. This decision is the latest in a long-running “citizen suit” enforcement case, seeking additional penalties to claw back the “economic benefits from noncompliance,” on top of nearly $1.5 million in civil penalties already assessed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the same violations. This decision illustrates the power of these private enforcement cases, which may become more important if the Trump Administration eases its own enforcement efforts.

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Tags: climate change, ghg, Environmental, Environmental risks

EPA’s “Back-to-Basics” Agenda

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, May 09, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been on a tour to publicize his efforts to get EPA “back-to-basics.” He launched the tour with a visit to a Pennsylvania coal mine in April. The agency issued a press release about that visit, which also summarized its “Back-to-Basics Agenda.” The press release summarizes the Agenda as “Protecting the environment; engaging with state, local and tribal partners; and creating sensible regulations that enhance economic growth.” The Agenda provides a convenient rhetorical framework for the new Administrator’s efforts to re-boot EPA’s activities.

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Tags: EPA, Environmental, Environmental risks, climate change, ghg, Greenhouse Gas, Oil & Gas, clean water, Hazcom, tsca

Reopening Review of Automobile GHG Emission Standards For 2022-2025

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Apr 25, 2017


The biggest difference between Presidents Obama’s and Trump’s environmental policies relate to regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that most scientists and policy-makers believe contribute to climate change – a proposition which President Trump and his appointees do not embrace. On March 15, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its reconsideration of GHG emission standards from “light duty” vehicles such as automobiles and small trucks, for model years 2022-2025. These standards were set in 2012 by EPA, in cooperation with the (US federal) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the California Air Resources Board (ARB). Three days before President Obama left office, on January 17, EPA reaffirmed the 2022-2025 standards, determining them to be technically and economically feasible for auto makers to meet and cost-effective for customers.

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Tags: ghg, Environmental, Environmental risks, EPA, California Legislation

EPA Revises Hazardous Waste Import-Export Requirements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 29, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers rules governing the import and export of hazardous waste regulated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). These rules ensure that the U.S. meets its international responsibilities as a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) by creating national rules that meet agreed-upon OECD standards.

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Tags: EPA, Hazcom, Environmental, Environmental risks, ghg, Greenhouse Gas

The World Decides To Help The Climate By Helping The Ozone Layer

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 25, 2016

Last month I blogged about basic provisions of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and ongoing negotiations to expand it to require phaseout of chemicals that harm the stratospheric ozone layer and contribute to climate change (click here, and included links to early blogs on Montreal Protocol issues). At that time, proposals all focused on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). At that point, global HFC use was increasing by roughly 10% annually, driven primarily by expanding use for air conditioning as hot developing countries sought to catch up with comfort levels in their developed counterparts. Proposed timelines and end-targets for reversing that expansion varied considerably.

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Tags: ghg, EPA, Environmental, Environmental risks, climate change

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Criticizes EPA’s Environmental Justice Efforts

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 18, 2016

In September 2016, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Commission) issued its annual “Statutory Enforcement Report for 2016”; this year’s topic is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) efforts to protect and promote “Environmental Justice.” The Commission reviews decades of EPA efforts, and criticizes longstanding inadequacies.

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Tags: EPA, Environmental, ghg, Environmental risks, Hazcom, RCRA, Health & Safety