For Colorado residential and commercial property owners faced with construction defect issues, there’s a leading law firm that specializes in effective case verdicts and settlements, and that’s also a leader in managing its own environmental responsibilities.
Benson, Kerrane, Storz & Nelson, P.C. is one of the leading construction defect litigation law firms in Colorado, representing property owners with construction defect claims against builders, subcontractors, and their insurance companies. The firm takes a unique approach to construction defect cases, developing and implementing several alternative approaches to construction defect claims that often resolve claims without their clients ever stepping foot in a courthouse.
This leadership in creative and effective construction defect case settlement parallels the firm’s leadership in its ongoing commitment to maintaining environmentally sustainable business operations.
Six years ago, Benson, Kerrane, Storz & Nelson, P.C. committed to offset 100% of its carbon footprint created by office activities, including electric usage and business car travel, in partnership with Carbonfund.org. Each year, the firm makes a donation to Carbonfund.org to neutralize its annual estimated operational emissions by supporting third-party verified renewable energy, energy efficiency, and reforestation projects.
To date, the firm’s carbon footprint offsets have neutralized almost 1.4 million pounds of greenhouse gases, the same quantity as is sequestered in a year by five acres of US forest lands preserved from conversion to cropland.
“We are excited to continue our partnership with Carbonfund.org,” states Doug Benson, Founding Partner. “We hope that our commitment to offset our carbon footprint will serve as an example to other law firms, community associations and their vendors.”
Carbonfund.org is proud to partner with Benson, Kerrane, Storz & Nelson in their ongoing efforts to maintain environmentally responsible business operations.
What’s one way to reduce your carbon footprint? Reduce your waistline and stay fit.
For some, this is easier said than done, but for those in Southern California, there’s a Carbonfree® Business Partner that can help. Southern California-based fitness and nutrition center HDX Fit offers an integrative approach to optimal health through fitness, nutrition and lifestyle guidance with multiple HDX Fit locations around the Orange County and Los Angeles area.
Through their Carbonfree® Business Partnership, HDX Fit neutralizes its annual operational emissions each year by supporting Carbonfund.org’s reforestation projects around the world. Over the past five years, HDX Fit has mitigated the negative impact of almost 380,000 pounds of greenhouse gases, equivalent to growing almost 4500 trees over a ten-year period.
"We chose to partner with Cabonfund.org because we believed that as a company, if we were to lead by example and help offset our carbon footprint, we could encourage our clients and business partners to do the same,” explains Huw Lloyd Davies, owner of HDX Fit. “We believe that we all need to do our part to bring about sustainable change."
HDX Fit also donates 1% of its profits back to the planet through support of various environmental organizations. They recommend environmentally friendly household cleaning products, nutrition supplements and food that are grown organically, and environmentally renewable clothing suppliers. HDX Fit hosts seminars to help clients maintain more energy efficient and environmentally friendly homes and arrange local energy efficiency contractors for clients at a reduced rate. Many HDX Fit events take clients “outdoors” so they can develop and deepen a keen interest in both a more active lifestyle and in protecting the resources they enjoy.
HDX Fit operates on the belief that a healthy body coupled with a nourished, focused mind can achieve anything, and part of what they strive to achieve is a meaningful contribution to protecting our environment. Carbonfund.org is glad to continue our partnership with HDX Fit in these efforts.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly created a National Program of standards for light-duty vehicles that lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve fuel economy. Cars and light trucks' GHG emissions standards in the 2012 model year, the first year of the 14-year program, were 296 grams of GHG/mile. The EPA reports automakers' overall GHG performance was, on average, 286 grams of GHG/mile, which is 9.8 grams of GHG/mile below what the 2012 standards required. The EPA says, the automobile industry is "off to a good start".
GHG emission standards are projected by the EPA to cut 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases over the lifetimes of vehicles sold in model years 2012-2025. The agency released a Manufacturers Performance Report last week that evaluates how the automobile industry is doing in meeting GHG emissions standards. The report shows that the industry lowered tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 and also used optional flexibilities included in the standards.
Some of the flexibilities include emissions credits transfer among manufacturers on a yearly basis and for improvements in air conditioning systems. The EPA's reasoning in allowing these flexibilities is that they will result in higher emissions reductions, lower compliance costs and more options for consumers.
Speaking of which, the report indicates consumer preference is playing an increasing role. Americans bought lower emission vehicles in the first year of the program than required by the 2012 GHG standard.
The EPA will wait to issue formal compliance determinations for the 2012 model year until 2015 because of the program’s multi-year structure. However, the agency plans to continue tracking compliance and expects to produce annual manufacturers’ performance reports for the program.
In more good news from the EPA, their most recent Fuel Economy Trends Report shows fuel economy improved by 1.2 mpg in 2012 compared to 2011, which is the second biggest improvement in the last 30 years.
Scientists predict that in 50 years we’ll have lost almost 70% of our natural reefs. “Which is quite a heavy statistic,” says environmentally inspired artist, Jason deCaires Taylor. He is the focus of a documentary named, Angel Azul, exploring the weaving of art with an important environmental solution; the creation of artificial coral reefs.
You may be asking yourself why coral reefs are important to humans. The fact is that they’re important for several reasons. The first is that they provide us with resources and services worth many billions of dollars each year; namely through food, protection and jobs. Coral reef ecosystems support commercial and recreational fisheries and are tourism-related destinations that inject billions of dollars to local economies. Furthermore, healthy coral reefs are a natural shoreline buffer helping to protect us from waves, storms and floods. Lastly, coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, heart disease, viruses and other diseases.
"As humans continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the climate is … on the threshold of a new regime, with dire consequences for reef ecosystems unless we get control of climate change," said Richard Aronson, a biology professor at Florida Institute of Technology. He continues to add, "Local issues like pollution and overfishing are major destructive forces and they need to be stopped, but they are trumped by climate change, which right now is the greatest threat to coral reefs."
Taylor founded the Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA) in Cancun, Mexico, installing 400 life-like cement statues made from plaster molds of a diverse selection of human models. The documentary is named for a sculpture of an angel with outstretched arms and Gorgonian coral wings that gently flutter with the tide. The hope is that the Angel Azul will symbolize a guardian of the reef, protecting and nourishing the aquatic life around her. This kinetic sculpture is the first to be installed underwater.
Angel Azul the movie also features Paul Sánchez-Navarro, Director of The Ecological Center in Akumal, Mexico explaining the fragile state of the Yucatán's coral reefs and proposing solutions for their survival. The documentary’s narration is provided by actor, writer and social activist, Peter Coyote.
“Obviously this type of work is quite different from normal art projects. Because the main objective of it is about conservation; making an artificial reef, increasing the biomass underwater, creating habitat areas, aggregating fish” says Taylor.
Coral reefs are resilient. They can recover and re-grow, but only if climate change can be mitigated or reversed. We need to examine our lifestyles and find ways to reduce energy use. It will help our wallets and the environment.
One and a half million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions – it’s a large number with huge environmental impact – the equivalent of the carbon dioxide sequestered by 17,500 tree seedlings if planted and allowed to grow for ten years.
It’s also the quantity of carbon dioxide emissions that the Paper Mill Store has neutralized over the past six years through its CarbonFree® Shipping Program. Beginning in 2008, the Paper Mill Store partnered with Carbonfund.org to calculate all greenhouse gas emissions from their outbound product shipments each quarter, then neutralize those emissions by supporting renewable energy projects like 100% wind-generated electricity.
“We began using 100% wind power for our electricity needs through the purchase of renewable energy credits back in 2006,” says Brian J. Cowie, C.E.O. and founder of The Paper Mill Store. “We believe that wind power is a smart choice and a significant part of the solution towards cleaner air, water and a step in the direction of energy independence. The carbon offset initiative for outbound shipments is a natural extension of that commitment.”
The CarbonFree® Shipping program is one in a number of important steps that the Paper Mill Store is taking to run their company in a more sustainable and responsible manner. The company also is certified through both the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) Chain of Custody protocols.When purchasing their FSC and SFI certified paper and envelopes, customers can be certain that the fiber used to manufacture certified paper and envelopes came from well managed forests where people, wildlife and the environment benefit from the forestry practices.
This commitment echoes the Paper Mill Store’s nature-focused location. Their five-acre campus includes a pond clustered with over 100 tree varieties. Employees enjoy watching a mix of wildlife on the property including fox, coyote, hawks, deer, great blue heron, kingfishers, rabbits and more. The natural setting inspires the company’s continued dedication to providing eco-conscious products with CarbonFree® shipping to customers and underscores the company’s industry leadership in sustainability.
Among other good news on the climate change front this week, renewable energy is projected to exceed gas by 2016. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), by 2016 global electricity generation from wind, solar, hydro and other forms of renewable power will eclipse that from natural gas – and should be double that provided by nuclear plants.
The IEA points to a surge in renewables led by emerging economies such as China, which accounts for 40 percent of the projected global growth in renewables between 2012 and 2018. Although this is positive, we’re not out of the woods yet if we want to avoid the 2 degree Celsius increase threshold that scientists predict could lead to permanent changes to ecosystems. China still relies heavily on coal, and not just for electricity generation. The country also depends on the fossil fuel for steel production and making fertilizers, which generate large amounts of greenhouse gases. Even aggressive expansion of renewables and nuclear power leaves China using coal for up to half of its total energy needs by 2050.
In the U.S., a boom in shale gas production is stunting efforts to expand renewables. European growth of renewables has also slowed. But the new economic powerhouses of China, India and Brazil are leading the charge, which sweetens the overall global renewable picture.
However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking the future is rosier than it seems. On the surface, these projections paint a picture where natural gas fills in for a decade or two while we build a low-carbon future based around renewables. That is certainly a likely scenario, but it requires the support of long-term policies in many countries to encourage sufficient investment in renewable power plants.
The problem is that policy uncertainty leads to building gas-fired plants that have a lifetime of three to four decades. This makes it difficult to phase out fossil fuels on the timescale needed to avoid dangerous global warming, which requires major cuts from 2030 onwards. In fact, the IEA itself warned in its 2011 edition of World Energy Outlook that fossil-fuel plants due to be built over the next five years are already likely to lock the planet into 2°C of warming.
So how can we fix this problem? Energy analysts say we need long-term assurances to investors that renewable plants being built now will deliver a better economic return than those fired by coal or natural gas. It’s a weakness of U.S. President Barack Obama's climate plan, announced earlier this week, which lacks the long-term targets that could be set if Congress would pass new legislation.
The stakes are high. We need significant changes in existing proposals for policy. Otherwise the chances are slim that we’ll avoid surpassing the 2 degree Celsius increase threshold climatologists warn will alter the lives of billions of people.
Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, temporarily stalling renewable energy production. When that happens, what fuel source fills in the energy gap? Traditionally the answer was coal, but due to increased supply and low prices, the answer of late has been natural gas. Coal is certainly the dirtier of the two fossil fuels, but natural gas is not a perfect choice either. The increased supply in natural gas was achieved through the process of hydraulic fracturing (called fracking), which can be harmful to the environment.
Last spring natural gas prices fell to all-time lows of $2 to $3 per thousand cubic feet in the United States. This spring natural gas prices are on the rise. In fact, they’ve doubled to just over $4 per thousand cubic feet, but the bottom line is natural gas is still pretty cheap. Experts say prices in the $4 or $5 range won’t affect the increasing use of the fuel by consumers and the energy industry since the price was $8 just a few years ago. In Europe and Asia prices are even higher; think $10 to $14.
According to a Citibank research report, “Gas and renewables could in fact be the making of each other in the short term.” Expect renewables to cost about the same as conventional fuels in many parts of the world “in the very near term.” Mark Brownstein, an associate vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund, noted that the price of renewable energy has declined substantially in recent years, and that’s expected to continue, making them even more competitive. As demand for renewables builds, it will in turn “drive demand for more gas-fired” power plants to be used as backup.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) missed an April 13 deadline to issue much-anticipated new rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. Proposed a year ago, the rules were first to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new plants. Once a limit is set for new facilities, the EPA is legally obligated to address existing plants, which pose the true climate threat at the moment. The US’ power plant fleet is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe said last week that the agency expects to propose new rules on greenhouse gases from existing plants in fiscal 2014.
The draft rule for new power plants sets a limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity. That cutoff point would be easy for natural-gas-fired plants to meet, but not conventional coal plants. Already, power companies build natural gas plants almost exclusively because of the low price of gas.
There is speculation that the EPA’s indefinite delay on the new rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants is due to second thoughts at the EPA and the White House over the single standard. The EPA is said to be contemplating setting two standards, one for coal plants and the other for natural gas, which might make the new rule more legally defensible in an attempt to avert the inevitable legal wrangling that goes on whenever the EPA sets a new rule including limitations.
Environmental groups argue that separate standards make little sense. “Setting a separate standard for coal- and natural-gas-fired plants would greatly weaken the standard’s ability to ensure a transition away from building high-carbon electricity-generation sources,” said economist Rachel Cleetus of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Natural gas may be the interim answer as we build our renewable energy infrastructure and then the backup once we move to a sustainable energy future. For the sake of slowing down climate change, the EPA needs to set the rules on new electricity generation plants posthaste. Then they should tackle existing power plants without delay. Global warming won’t wait.
Ever wonder how large facilities in your state are doing regarding greenhouse gas emissions? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began collecting greenhouse gas emissions data in 2010 under the congressionally mandated Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting Program. In February 2013, the EPA's program released its second year (2011) of emissions data, which provides public access to emissions data by sector, by greenhouse gas, and by geographic region such as county or state.
The 2011 data includes information from facilities in 41 source categories that emit large quantities of greenhouse gasses. New this year is data collected from 12 additional source categories, including petroleum and natural gas systems and coal mines.
Highlights of findings from the 2011 data include:
- Power plants represent approximately one-third (33 percent) of total U.S. GHG emissions, making them the largest stationary source of GHGs in the country
- 2011 emissions from power plants were roughly 4.6 percent below 2010 emissions, demonstrating an ongoing increase in power generation from natural gas and renewable energy sources
- Refineries represented the third-largest source of GHG emissions, which increased by a half of a percent over 2010 data
- Overall emissions reported from the 29 sources tracked in both years were 3 percent lower in 2011 than in 2010
Transparency is critical to a better environment and the key to conquering climate change. If companies, communities and individuals take a look at how large facilities are doing in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and compare the latest data to national averages, perhaps we can find ways to cut these emissions and begin to curb global warming. Being better informed is also good for the businesses as they may identify opportunities to conserve energy and thereby save money.
Check out how individual large facilities in your state, county, and even zip code perform. Access this data through the Facility Level Information on Green House gases Tool (FLIGHT), which is a web-based data publication tool, or dig deeper through the EPA’s online database Envirofacts that allows information searches via zip code.
The United States is one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world. What can our country do for the good of the planet with this role?
One thing the U.S. federal government does every few years is engage hundreds of experts to evaluate the impacts of climate change, now and in the future. The resulting National Climate Assessment report, which was recently released, showed that America's current efforts to reduce carbon pollution are too little to avoid dangerous climate change. Last year President Obama announced new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for cars and light trucks such as minivans and sport utility vehicles. Let’s build on this historic progress to limit carbon emissions. There are several ways that the president and federal government can make a real difference in the fight against global warming.
The Clean Air Act is a powerful tool that our nation’s leaders could be leveraging more fully. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with using the Clean Air Act to issue rules to reduce greenhouse pollution. This farsighted law has reduced damaging air pollution for forty years, saving many lives. The EPA has already used it to protect public health and welfare from six extensive and harmful pollutants including: ozone, particulate matter, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and lead. Now is the time to lower atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by setting a national pollution cap for greenhouse gases.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has also proposed higher emission standards on coal-fired power plants. These standards need to be fortified, finalized and implemented posthaste. Why stop with power plants? There are other places where higher greenhouse gas emission standards can be successfully applied to help save our planet such as oil refineries, cement plants, and even the airline industry.
Another way to help the environment would be for President Obama and the State Department to decline approval on the Keystone XL pipeline, which proposes moving oil down from Canada through the western United States to refineries along the Gulf Coast. There are no guarantees that the pipeline won’t spring leaks. Furthermore, there is evidence that extracting oil from the sands are increasing levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes far beyond natural levels. Denying approval would show that America is committed to transitioning away from a dependence on fossil fuels.
Of course, it’s not all up to the federal government. We can all do our parts to speed the transition to a clean energy future. First we can encourage our elected officials to take the climate change actions recommended above. Second we can reduce our own carbon footprints. Consider lowering the heat or air conditioning depending on the season, using a clothesline, rake, hand mower and other manpowered devices, composting, forgoing meat at least one day a week and riding a bicycle. Lastly, we can all find simple ways to be part of the solution such as planting trees and offsetting remaining carbon emissions.
According to a recently released report by the World Wildlife Fund, 58 of the United States’ Fortune 100 companies set goals in 2012 to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions or use more renewable energy in their operations. However, oil and gas companies are lagging far behind in this movement. Eight of 11 domestic energy companies on the Fortune 100 have not set internal energy goals.
This is in direct contrast to 68 of the planet’s 100 largest companies who recognize the impact of global warming and are making investments in greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy goals. Sadly, energy companies represent the lowest participation rate of any industry worldwide. The few exceptions are Hess and Chevron who have both set renewable energy and greenhouse gas targets, and ExxonMobil who set a greenhouse gas target.
Why have three quarters of the nation's industrial companies voluntarily set some sort of environmental target? There are a variety of potential reasons including: policy pressures, public relations or perhaps even the forward thinking that sees renewable energy’s potential to someday be less expensive than, or at least competitive with, oil and gas.
And why haven’t most oil and gas companies voluntarily set environmental targets? It may be because the very products they put on the market directly contribute to climate change. There is also a lack of urgency to act; little pressure comes from investors or policies. An example of a type of policy that was successful in the past is the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, which worked by making large companies publically accountable for which potentially toxic chemicals they use and where they are released. Then the information is posted on the EPA’s website for anyone to see.
The planet would really benefit from a similar policy focusing on oil and gas company emissions, or better yet, a broader climate change policy such as a national carbon tax or cap-and-trade program. There are other options that could pave the way towards a cleaner energy future. The federal government could require that a certain percentage of electricity come from renewable sources and offer further tax incentives for wind and solar production. Many companies are setting their own internal goals, but for others such as the majority of the oil and gas industry, they’re not going to do anything about increasing efficiency and reducing their carbon footprints until someone makes them.