A Look Back, A Look Forward and Many Thanks

As my readers know, GBLB is on Maternity Leave until February 1, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a look back at the last year in green building, look forward to the next decade, and give a shout out to a few people and resources that are important to GBLB.

 2009 In Green Building Law

What we saw...

Regulatory enhancement at the federal level--Through the Stimulus Bill, Executive Orders, administrative rulemaking and draft Climate Change legislation, the Obama administration and the 2009 Congress took action on green building regulation on the Federal level.

Regulatory degradation at the local level--From New York to London, localities which passed green building regulations have been scaling back their regulatory schemes due to economic distress.

Stimulation from the stimulus, but not as much as promised--Over $1.5 billion has been spent through the ARRA--also known as the stimulus bill--on green projects, but that is far shy of the total allocated funds, and much, much less than non-green spending.

What we didn't see...

More private lawsuits--We didn't really see a bumper crop of private litigation over green building projects.  With so many developers, architects, etc. in financial distress, litigation is not high on the list of business expenses--not to mention suing judgment proof entities is a fruitless exercise.  As the economy picks up, lawsuits may pick up as well.

2010 In Green Building Law 

What we will see...

Conflict over addtional green building regulation and enforcement of existing regulations--as local governments continue to suffer with economic woes, there will be continuing debate over whether green building incentives are affordable, and whether green building mandates are stifiling development.

Potential for national building code regulation--If Climate Change legislation is enacted, it may contain national energy efficiency building code regulation.  This will this be game changing for state and local green building regulation--the federal regulations may preempt state and local actions, and will also put new obligations on states and localities to develop and pass energy efficient building codes. Federal legislation on building codes may also open the door for a legal challenge regarding the federal government's authority to regulate this historically state and local area of regulation, especially if there are significant unfunded mandates regarding the development and enforcement of new building codes.

What we might see,..

More lawsuits--If the economy rebounds, and there is more money flowing in lending to real estate, more green buildings will be built, and that will lead to moe contracts, more defaults and more litigation.  But that is a maybe for 2010--the credit markets need to loosen considerably before this becomes reality.

International climate change targets--Obama's efforts at Copenhagen to get an international climate change agreement may bring some international requirements into fruition over the next year.  These would drive domestic policy changes, and green building policies will undoubtedly be a component of such regulatory schemes.

People We Loved In 2009

The GSA--The people at the General Services Administration were so open, cooperative and helpful in putting together our statistics for the Stimulus posts this year. 

Chris Cheatham at Green Building Law Update--We co-authored a chapter on Green Building Litigation together for a new book on Green Building Law. 

Professors Rob Fleming and Chris Pastore, co-directors of Philadelphia University’s Engineering and Design Institute, an interdisciplinary research center focusing on green materials, sustainable design and community outreach, and the hosts of a great radio show on sustianability, Ecoman and The Skeptic.

To my friends Scott Edward Anderson, also known as the Green Skeptic, Chris Hill atConstruction Law Musings, Stephen Del Percio at greenbuildingsnyc, Rich Cartlidge at Green Building Envirotrends,  Tim Hilll, at VAConstruction Law and Mitch Swann for inspiring great green building law conversations all year long.

Finally, a big shout out to our fabulous green building law blog community members.  Thank you for reading, commenting, and nominating us for the ABA Blawg 100. 

Wishing you a happy new year and a greener 2010!

The 50% Rule or Why Emails and Statistics Don't Matter

We have heard a chorus of voices over the past few days raising the moribund concept that climate change is not happening, and is some global liberal conspiracy to devalue oceanfront property in Palm Beach. 

At the center of raising the hydrahead of the Palm Beach Conspiracy was the discovery of  some emails from the University of East Anglia where climate change scientists were engaging in the age-old academic practice of arguing with one another.  For a "pro" climate change perspective, Gawker explains the situation here, for an "anti" climate change perspective, the Weekly Standard provides this analysis.

I was guest lecturing at Princeton a few weeks ago, and I used the opportunity to propogate one of my favorite ideas--I call it the 50% Rule. It can be used to explain the Palm Beach Conspiracy, statistics about climate change, and as a means of deflating your brother-in-law's wild stories about catching a 45 foot trout during holiday meals. Here it goes--when you hear a statistic or a scandal or a wild trout fishing tale, assume the information is off by 50%.  One-half.  Then determine whether the information still matters.  If your brother's trout was only 22.5 feet, not 45, that's still a mighty large fish.  Similarly, with climate change, if scientists' statistics about sea level rise or drought are off by 50%, we are still looking at a serious problem.  The result? We still need to do something about it.  

With respect to the Palm Beach Scandal, Micheal Oppenheimer from Princeton on NPR explained it beautifully. The consensus of hundreds of scientists, using many different methodologies, all in competition with one another have reached a consensus that climate change is real and caused largely by man's actions.  Even if 50% of the data is wrong or subject to bias or manipulation,  that is still hundreds of the world's best scientists coming to a consensus (which if you have ever had two scientists in a room is a feat in and of itself) coming to the same conclusion.

Finally--here are the choices. Assume climate change is not real, and roll the dice on droughts, wars, starvation, dependence on foreign oil, continued economic stagnation and incalculable human suffering.  Assume climate change is real, take action, create new jobs, industry, reduce pollution and human health risks from carbon emissions in general, reduce dependence on foreign fuel regimes and potentially keep polar bears from extinction.  Strikes me as not much of a choice.

Green Building Law Blog Chosen For ABA Blawg 100 And Other Amazing Happenings This Week At GBLB

It has been quite a week over here at GBLB.  On Tuesday, GBLB was selected as one of the top 100 best law blogs of 2009 by the American Bar Association Journal. We were thrilled to be honored!

You can vote for GBLB to win the best of the "Practice Specific" blogs here.  Voting closes on December 31!

As if Tuesday weren't exciting enough, I also had my second child, Sydney Annabelle Shapiro, weighing in at 6 lbs., 6 oz. at 2:51 p.m. e.s.t. Mom, baby and blog are all doing well.  As for dad, we'll have to check back in a little bit. 

To the entire GBLB community, thank you for your support and enthusiasm this year, and see you in 2010!