Jessica Ernst’s long fight to challenge legislation putting energy regulator above the law reaches top court.
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.thetyee.ca
“[…] After years of legal wrangling, Jessica Ernst and Alberta’s powerful energy regulator finally squared off in the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday.
For almost two hours, all nine justices questioned lawyers from both sides in a case that will determine if legislation can grant government agencies blanket immunity from lawsuits based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At times the debate was so bogged down in legal jargon and little known cases that it felt as though the participants were holding a conversation in a foreign language. […]
Ernst alleges the Alberta Energy Regulator violated her rights by characterizing her as a “criminal threat” and barring all communication with her.
The claims are part of her multipronged lawsuit related to the regulation of fracking. She says fracking contaminated aquifers near her homestead near Rosebud, about 110 kilometres east of Calgary, and is seeking $33 million in damages. […]
The Supreme Court hearing dealt with Ernst’s allegation that the provincial energy regulator denied her the right to raise her concerns about groundwater contamination. She argues that the legislation shielding the regulator from citizen’s lawsuits should not bar charter claims.
Lawyers for Ernst, the BC Civil Liberties Association and the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights all argued that the Alberta Energy Regulator’s immunity clause undermined the spirit of Canada’s charter, which is designed to protect citizens from government abuses of power.
It is patently unfair to allow a government to violate a citizen’s basic freedoms and then deny them an appropriate remedy in the courts, especially when the charter itself grants that right, they argued. […]
Eight years ago, Ernst sued Alberta Environment, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (which has since become the Alberta Energy Regulator) and Encana, one of Canada’s largest unconventional gas drillers. She claimed her well water had been contaminated by fracking and government agencies had failed to investigate the problems.
But the regulator argued that it couldn’t be sued because it had an immunity clause that protected it from civil action.
After an Alberta Court of Appeal agreed, Ernst’s lawyers appealed the matter to the Supreme Court in 2014.
Initially three provincial governments and the federal government announced their intention to intervene in the case.
“But once they looked at the arguments, they withdrew,” said Murray Klippenstein, another of Ernst’s lawyers, after yesterday’s hearing.
“So there was no government here to support the argument of the [regulator],” added Klippenstein. “It kind of shows in a common sense sort of way how ridiculous the position is.”
The case made legal history, too. “This is the first time the Supreme Court has heard a case about human rights with an environmental context,” noted Lynda Collins, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Environmental Law and Global Studies.
She said the case concerns the right of a citizen to pinpoint environmental wrongs, such as groundwater contamination, without being penalized by a regulatory body.
Whenever a regulator allegedly takes punitive measures against a citizen addressing key environmental issues in the public interest, “you have a serious allegation,” added Collins. […]
The case is being closely watched by Canada’s oil and gas industry. In 2014, Borden Ladner Gervais, Canada’s largest national full-service law firm, included the Ernst case in a top 10 list of important judicial decisions affecting the energy industry.
“The Ernst case has brought into focus the potential for regulator or provincial liability arising out of oil and gas operations…. If Ernst proceeds to trial, it will likely provide more guidance on the scope of the duty of care and the standard of care required by the province and the oil and gas operator to discharge their duties in the context of hydraulic fracturing.”
The fracking industry has been the subject of scores of lawsuits across North America. Landowners have sued over property damage and personal injury related to industry-caused earthquakes, air pollution and the contamination of groundwater.
In one major Texas case, a jury awarded one family $3 million. The verdict found that Aruba Petroleum “intentionally created a private nuisance” though its drilling, fracking and production activities at 21 gas wells near the Parrs’ Wise County home over a three-year period between 2008 and 2011. […]”
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a transportation fuel option is back on the competitive race track, thanks to a part of the temporary (three-month) highway funding bill passed by the U.S. Senate Thursday, according to natural gas vehicle (NGV) advocates. The House-passed version had a similar provision.
Image Source: www.freightlinertrucks.com
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.naturalgasintel.com
>” […] At a Congressional hearing last December, the global energy and procurement director for Atlanta-based UPS called for “removing barriers” to NGVs, adding that if Congress really wanted to accelerate the adoption of LNG use in heavy-duty trucks and more use of U.S.-produced natural gas supplies, it needed to eliminate “disproportionate taxing of LNG compared with diesel fuel.”
Noting that President Obama was expected to sign the latest measure, Newport Beach, CA-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp. said the new leveling provision will effectively lower the tax on LNG by 14.1 cents/gal. Twenty-six state legislatures have already taken similar action, a Clean Energy spokesperson told NGI.
Clean Energy CEO Andrew Littlefair said the use of LNG in heavy-duty trucks, locomotives and large marine vessels has been growing steadily in North America, and “anyone who cares about a cleaner environment and energy independence should be very grateful for what the U.S. Congress has done, making LNG much more competitive.”
Executives with America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), and the NGVAmerica and American Gas Association (AGA) trade associations echoed Littlefair’s sentiments.
“We applaud Congress for including language to equalize the federal highway excise tax on LNG,” said ANGA CEO Marty Durbin. “This provision has garnered strong bipartisan support over the years, and we are thrilled to see it become law.”
Calling the action a “common-sense change” that will mean greater fuel cost savings, NGVAmerica President Matt Godlewski said the passage of the LNG provision is great news for trucking fleets that are looking for clean-burning fuels. His calculation places the excise tax on LNG at 24.3 cents/DGE, compared to its current 41.3 cents/DGE level, Godlewski said.
“Currently, fleets operating LNG-powered trucks are effectively taxed for their fuel at a rate 70% higher than that of diesel fuel,” he said.
An AGA spokesperson clarified the number to point out that the current federal excise tax on both diesel and LNG is 24.3 cents/gallon, but because LNG does not have the same energy content/gallon of fuel, it takes 1.7 gallons of LNG to equal a gallon of diesel. “Since the excise tax is based on volume (gallons) — not energy content — LNG is taxed at 170% of the rate of diesel on an energy equivalent basis,” he said.
“This provision provides the level playing field that natural gas has needed to reach its full potential as a transportation fuel,” said Kathryn Clay, AGA vice president for policy strategy.
Each of the trade groups has been lobbying Congress for some time to take this corrective action on LNG. Under the new provision, the energy equivalent of a diesel gallon of LNG is defined as having a Btu content of 128,700, which AGA said is equal to 6.06 pounds of LNG.
Separately, the new measure defines the energy equivalent of a gallon of compressed natural gas (CNG) as having a Btu content of 115,400, or 5.66 pounds of CNG. […]”<
With California’s growing cap-and-trade program expected to yield a budgetary bonanza, lawmakers and interest groups have ample ideas for how to spend the money. Floating proposals ahead of a pivotal period for budget negotiations, they say they want to fund port improvements, pay for heavy-duty trucks and ferries, nurture urban rivers, sponge up carbon in soil and provide discounted bus passes.
>”[…] Seeking to counteract climate change, lawmakers in 2006 authorized California to establish its first-in-the-nation carbon auction program, compelling businesses to purchase allowances for what they pump into the atmosphere.
By this time last year, the system already had generated hundreds of millions of dollars that were parceled out via the budget, including a controversial annual outlay to support high-speed rail. But this year is different: Oil and gas producers have been obligated to buy permits for the first time, likely generating a multibillion-dollar influx.
“With transportation fuels coming under the cap, there will be more money for years to come. That changes the dynamic,” said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. “Because there’s going to be a lot more money, there’s going to be that many more projects competing for dollars.”
Gov. Jerry Brown’s January proposal underestimated the amount available in the coming fiscal year by as much as $3.9 billion and most likely by around $1.3 billion, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. The updated numbers will come this week in Brown’s May revision.
Per a formula established in last year’s budget agreement, 60 percent of the auction dollars will flow to areas such as high-speed rail, urban transit and housing. The remaining 40 percent is up for debate in the Legislature. […]
The competing proposals raise a larger question about what type of project qualifies. Money spent out of the cap-and-trade fund must verifiably work to curtail the greenhouses gases that fuel climate change.
“It is a fee, and we want to spend it appropriately,” said Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, who carried the bill establishing the program.
Critics assailed Brown last year for directing revenue to the high-speed rail project, arguing that carbon reductions wouldn’t materialize for years. Legislative leaders are scrutinizing ideas this year and filtering out proposals that don’t pass muster.
At de León’s prodding, a Senate bill seeking to clean up urban watersheds was amended to seek funding from a different source. Another proposal floated by a range of environmental and community activist groups argued for subsidized bus passes.
“We know that the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California is from transportation, so there a number of ways we are addressing that, and one way of getting cars off the road is improving the choices in public transit,” said Magavern, whose organization was among those making the proposal.
In his January budget, Brown proposed using the money over which lawmakers have control on an array of areas, including energy-efficiency upgrades for public buildings, waste diversion and fire prevention (forest fires pour huge amounts of carbon-thick smoke into the air). That largely holds the line on last year’s proposals.
A potential addition would direct dollars to help water resources. As a prolonged drought has prompted extraordinary conservation mandates from Brown, the administration has been studying the ways in which energy and water overlap.
There, too, policymakers have experts working to quantify how much energy is used in transporting and heating water. If they can establish they’re reducing emissions, they can tap into the cap-and-trade money.
“There are a lot of really smart people working on getting this right,” said Pavley, who has a bill directing the state to study the energy footprint of water systems. “I think it opens up an amazing possible win-win for expenditure of auction revenues.”
With a growing pile of money spurring interest, Pavley said, officials must be vigilant about keeping their focus on cutting greenhouse gases. Sacramento suffers from no shortage of ideas for spending money, but not all of them fit that framework. […]”<
Learn how the China water crisis will have significant impact on the balance of the world if not reversed, and how you can help, in this WaterFilters.NET post.
>The New York Times reports:
Beijing has placed its faith in monumental feats of engineering to slake the north’s growing thirst. The South-North Water Transfer eventually aims to pipe 45 cubic kilometers of water annually northward along three routes in eastern, central and western China. All three pose enormous technical challenges: The eastern and central routes will be channeled under the Yellow River, while the western route entails pumping water over part of the Himalayan mountain range.
The estimated cost of $65 billion is almost certainly too low, and doesn’t include social and ecological impacts. Construction has already displaced hundreds of thousands, and issues the like possible increases in transmission of water-borne diseases have not been properly studied. But Beijing’s calculus is political: It is easier to increase the quantity of water resources, at whatever cost, rather than allocate a limited supply between competing interests. […]
A recent article by The Economist states:
“The Chinese government would do better to focus on demand, reducing consumption of water in order to make better use of limited supplies. Water is too cheap in most cities, usually costing a tenth of prices in Europe. Such mispricing results in extravagance. Industry recycles too little water; agriculture wastes too much. Higher water prices would raise costs for farms and factories, but that would be better than spending billions on shipping water round the country.”
Economically supporting Chinese regions and corporations that commit to better water usage and sustainability practices may help to change the mindset of many within this nation’s government or industries. In turn, this could lead them towards exploring more realistic initiatives experiencing success in other parts of the world.<
See on blog.waterfilters.net
By SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN and SEN. ROB PORTMAN | 7/29/13 9:25 PM EDT
For the past three years, we have worked together to develop the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, legislation that will go a long way toward making the United States more energy efficient and more economically competitive.
According to the Sen. Shaheen & Portman:
>Our bill curbs inefficient energy practices that cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars and millions of jobs every year. According to a recent study by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, we waste an astonishing 86 percent of the energy we consume. Upgrading the energy efficiency of U.S. buildings alone could save $1 trillion over the next decade. Cutting down on energy waste represents an untapped resource that we have long ignored. Our legislation helps to change that.
Our bill promotes energy savings that Americans across the political spectrum can get behind. Energy efficiency has broad, bipartisan support from business, energy and environmental advocates alike, and the legislation we have developed helps to promote energy efficiency through a smart, pragmatic plan that can be implemented immediately.
There is one mandatory component to the bill: We are going to make Washington practice what it preaches. We’re going to make the federal government — the largest energy user in the country — adopt energy-saving techniques and best practices that make its operations more efficient. […]
These provisions will save money, make America more energy-independent and lower harmful emissions. For the private sector, the tools our bill deploys are entirely voluntary. This legislation will also not add to the deficit and its costs are fully offset.<
See on www.politico.com
Despite the lack of attention paid to the issue during this year’s presidential campaign (at least, before Sandy came along), Barack Obama’s first term was a bit of a quiet revolution for climate change policy in America…
“More than 13 percent of the $700 billion American Recovery Act went to energy spending, most of it green. … the largest portion – $32 billion –went to energy efficiency and retrofitting projects. This was the biggest such investment in the history of history. It may even have finally heralded the arrival of a “Negawatt Revolution”….”
“Still, the right incentive structures to encourage the necessary investments in energy efficiency are not yet in place. Energy bills are still viewed by customers in terms of monthly costs that would go up because of short-term investments rather than yearly ones that will ultimately go down because of long-term savings….. The Negawatt Revolution may have begun in earnest during these past four years, but we can’t afford to wait until 2037 for it to finally reach its full potential. The possible benefits to the environment – and the economy – are too great for us to continue to forego.”
See on www.startribune.com