October 9, 2012
[Editor's note: Thanks to guest blogger Garret Murai for sharing this news with The Wendel Forum. Garret is a construction litigation attorney at Wendel Rosen. He posts frequently on construction issues at his blog www.CalConstructionBlawg.com.]
The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research’s Solar Permitting Work Group has published a guide to the solar construction permitting process entitled California Solar Permitting Guidebook. The guidebook addresses California laws and regulations, the process for project approvals, and recommendations for improving permit processes for solar installations.
In other energy news, Energy Upgrade California, an alliance of California cities, counties, investor-owned utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison, Southern Gas Company, and San Diego Gas & Electric Company, and others, has established a program to help train building professionals in the latest home performance standards, listing in an online contractor directory, and offering connections to clients looking for services. If you are a contractor click on the link “I’m a contractor or rater.”
March 22, 2012
(Note: Thank you to guest blogger, Wendel Rosen Environmental Partner Bruce Flushman, for this update on an important U.S. Supreme Court decision that came out yesterday.)
The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have lost one of their most significant levers in regulating wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Wednesday, in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, et al. , the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously that landowners have the right to seek judicial review before being forced to comply with enforcement orders.
In this case, the EPA issued a compliance order asserting that landowners violated the Clean Water Act because they filled wetlands on their land without obtaining a permit. The EPA relies on these compliance orders and the threat of significant fines (up to $37,500 a day) to “urge” landowners to comply quickly with such orders. These landowners fought back, claiming their property was not a wetland, but, under previous rulings, they had no way to challenge the EPA’s unilateral wetland claim. That is, the landowners had a Hobson’s choice of complying with an order with which they did not agree or risking the expense of a defense of and possible imposition of significant penalties if EPA filed and successfully prosecuted an enforcement action.
With this ruling, landowners can now confront the government’s interpretation of what constitutes a wetland under the Clean Water Act by challenging the agency’s basis for demanding compliance.
While the Supreme Court didn’t agree with the landowners’ broader claim of a due process violation, it held that the landowners could challenge the government’s claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA); the APA provides for challenges to agency decision making.
In sum, the EPA and the Corps will likely face challenges to their unilateral determination of the scope of the jurisdiction. And, while the case focused on the Clean Water Act, it may affect the use of administrative compliance orders under other statutes, such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
January 16, 2012
[Note: Thanks to Wendel Rosen attorney Greg Jung for this update and guest post.]
On January 12, the California Energy Commission approved the nation’s first efficiency standards that apply to “vampire” chargers — electrical battery charging systems that consume electricity even when they are not connected to the device being charged or turned off. The new rules would take effect on Feb. 1, 2013, for chargers used with consumer goods, such as phones and power tools; on Jan. 1, 2014, for industrial chargers, such as forklifts; and on Jan. 1, 2017, for commercial equipment chargers, including walkie-talkies for emergency personnel and portable bar-code scanners.
December 9, 2011
[Note: Thanks to Wendel Rosen attorney Greg Jung for this update and guest post. You can be sure we'll be watching what happens with cap-and-trade in California.]
On Tuesday, the San Francisco Superior Court Judge who had previously ruled in March 2011 that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) had not adequately considered alternatives to its plan to create a cap-and-trade market for carbon emissions found that CARB has demonstrated satisfactory compliance with adequately complied with his prior orders. (ASSOCIATION OF IRRITATED RESIDENTS et al VS. CALIFORNIA AIR RESOURCES BOARD et al , case no. CPF-09-509562.)
This order paves the way for California to implement the cap-and-trade program. CARB approved and submitted its final cap-and-trade regulations to the California Office of Administrative Law in October 2011. The program is scheduled to take effect in 2013 and is part of the regulations implementing the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB32), which requires California to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, Register of Actions in case: http://webaccess.sftc.org/Scripts/Magic94/mgrqispi94.dll?APPNAME=IJS&PRGNAME=ROA22&ARGUMENTS=-ACPF09509562
CARB website info on AB 32: http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/ab32/ab32.htm
September 8, 2011
Thank you to guest blogger James Kim for this post summarizing residential solar options. — The Wendel Forum
It’s true: solar energy has not yet been popularized by the masses. However there are many ways you can add solar energy to your own home. So why use solar power? The costs of solar energy systems have decreased 80%+ over the past twenty years and continue to plummet as solar technology becomes more efficient and accessible. Equally, the price of carbon based power is increasing each year. Getting a solar system is a smart investment, especially if you live in the southern part of the globe where sunlight is prolific.
Solar panels are one common form of harvesting solar power. Photovoltaics convert sunlight to electricity through an array of semiconductors in a panel. There are plenty of different places that you can put solar panels. You can install a panel almost anywhere in direct sunlight, like your roof, the ground, an awning, or the side of your house. Ideally, the panels will be in full sunlight almost all day, and point directly south. Panels can be large or small, rigid or flexible. There are a myriad of mounting options. You can even put a solar panel on a “tracking mount” which follows the sun across the sky for maximum sun exposure throughout daylight hours.
If you already have solar panels on your roof, you can also install:
- A solar water heating system
- Solar lights for your yard or garden
- Solar oven
- Solar refrigerator
- Solar powered fountain
- Solar powered pool-heating system
Solar water heaters are commonly used throughout Europe and the Middle East to capture the heat from the sun directly into the hot water tank, which is located on the roof of the building or home.
Other inexpensive solar solutions include solar thermal dishes. You can install one in your backyard to cut down on electricity costs. You can either make these dishes yourself or buy them with companies like RawSolar.
Check with a solar power installer to find out which option will work best in your home. You can find a solar power installer in your area using Low Impact Living’s database or Go Solar California’s website.
Make sure to also check out your specific state incentives on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) website. Whether you have a small modular home or a mansion on the lake, implementing solar energy will save you money in the long-haul.
James Kim writes for Austin Real Estate service Homecity.com. HomeCity combines powerful online Austin MLS search technology and other online tools with personalized real estate services to provide clients with the knowledge they need to make the right buying and selling decisions.