On Wednesday, November 20th, John Rhodes, President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Eli Katz, Partner at Chadbourne & Parke LLP, and Paul Francis, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Frank J. Guarini Center on Environmental and Land Use Law and Trustee of NYU School of Law discussed federal and state policies and private finance mechanisms to drive down the cost of capital for renewable energy projects. The discussion covered a wide-range of policies and incentives including production and investment tax credits, accelerated depreciation, Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs), Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), and NYS’ proposed Green Bank along with YieldCo and securitization structures.
Extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy, threats of cyber-terrorism to energy infrastructure, the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the rapidly changing economics of the energy industry have called attention to the inadequacies of the U.S. electric utility industry. While the electricity industry must adapt to such changes, the future of the industry is not clear—will it reverse the deregulation of the 1990s and see the reemergence of the vertically integrated utilities, or will utilities become platforms into which different generation and energy service providers might “dock”?
On Thursday, September 26th, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Senator Tony de Brum, the Minister in Assistance to the President (equivalent to a Vice President), joined Professor Paolo Galizzi’s International Environmental Law class to talk about climate change in the Pacific and their recent work to spur greater commitments in the international climate change negotiations.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan was at the Law School in August to discuss the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, which he chaired. His presentation was part of a workshop organized by the Frank J. Guarini Center on Environmental and Land Use Law on using microgrids to increase the resiliency of the larger electrical grid.
Cass Sunstein, the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget and one of the most prolific and frequently cited legal academics, detailed some of the positive results of using cost-benefit analysis in overseeing the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda when he spoke at NYU Law on April 30.
Cass Sunstein, Administrator of OIRA
The NYU Environmental Law Journal, NYU Environmental Law Society, and the Furman Center for Real Estate and Public Policy cosponsored a symposium on “Localities in the Lead: The Path of Environmental Progress through New York City.” Introducing the event, Professor Katrina Wyman discussed what she described as a relatively new era of focusing on environmental policy at the municipal level. “Municipalities aren’t just taking an interest in traditionally local issues, like land use or brown field,” she said, “but also taking an interest in the preeminent global environmental issue of our time: climate change.”
New York City in particular has been extremely active in recent years in environmental policy, Wyman said, pointing to the PlaNYC initiative. Because of this, she said, the city serves as a good case study for thinking through the challenges involved in working through environmental policy at a municipal level.
On February 2, Johnson Toribiong, president of Palau and Tillman Thomas, prime minister of Grenada hosted a diplomatic reception at the law school to build support for a UN General Assembly resolution reqesting International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the legal responsibility of countries for climate change under international law. An ICJ advisory opinion may be requested by a simple majority of UN members. This effort by Palau and Grenada is in conjunction with a number of other small island countries, who are concerned about the impact of rising sea levels that are resulting from climate change.
President of Palau Johnson Toribiong
“The truth is that nothing we or other Pacific countries do will stem the rising tides or the flood of global emissions. We need everyone to buy in or it won’t work. An ICJ advisory opinion would give us the guidance we need on what all States must do,“ said President Toribiong. “I am pleased that deliberations on a possible resolution have begun here in New York. But there is a long way to go.”
The UN General Assembly resolution is expected to be introduced in the autumn. Attending the reception along with the President and Prime Minister were their Ambassadors to the UN, Stuart Beck (of Palau) and Dessima Williams (of Grenada). They were joined by nearly 100 other UN Ambassadors, Deputy Permanent Representatives and legal advisors.
NYU law students Julian Arato and Ben Heath with Palauan Ambassador to the UN, Stuart Beck and President Toribiong
Two NYU law students and IILJ scholars, Julian Arato (’11, LL.M.’12) and Ben Heath (’11, LL.M.’12) have been assisting the Mission of Palau by providing legal advice on the issue. Since the Mission of Palau was opened in 2004, NYU law students have provided legal assistance on a number of issues, including international environmental law and law of the sea.