California Wine and Climate Change:  An Interview with Enfield Co. Winemaker John Lockwood

California Wine and Climate Change: An Interview with Enfield Co. Winemaker John Lockwood

California Wine and Climate Change: An Interview with Enfield Co. Winemaker John Lockwood

By: Meredyth Merrow


The wine industry plays an important role in California’s culture and economy. As extreme weather continues to rock the nation, and temperatures continue to rise, the full extent of climate change’s impact on California wineries remains to be seen. I asked John Lockwood of Enfield Wine Co. for his personal experiences combating climate change on his California winery. Here are his responses:

 Tell me a little about yourself and Enfield Wine Company. Where are your vineyards located? How long have you been growing wine in California?

I have been in the California wine industry and involved in farming since 2004. I have worked for several well-known California Wineries including Littorai & Failla where I was the vineyard manager. Enfield Wine Co. began as a side project in 2010 making small production, fresh, natural, elegant wines that were in contrast to the high alcohol “fruit bomb” style that was popular in California at the time. In 2014, after receiving great press and seeing great response in the market I decided to grow Enfield into a full-time business. I currently farm a vineyard in Napa and purchase grapes from vineyards in Sonoma, the Sierra Foothills, and Chalone in Monterrey County.

As a winemaker, how obvious is climate change’s impact on your operations? What kind of changes have you noticed in weather/soil stability over your time in California? 

 Extremely obvious – I check the weather every day in multiple places and my entire year is driven by the climate. Certainly, last summer was the hottest I have experienced since living in CA and we had 2 of the hottest days ever on record in Napa and the hottest day in the history of San Francisco. Since 2011, which was quite cool, every summer has been on the scale from “above average temperature” to “extremely warm”.

What, if anything, have you had to do to counter-act those changes?

The most obvious effect is on the timing of the growing season and harvest. 2013, 2014, and 2015 were each, in succession, the earliest harvest picking dates in my career and for most everyone else I know as well. Grapes were picked anywhere from 2 – 4 weeks earlier on the calendar than in an average year.

Another impact, that we are just beginning to see, is which grape variety is planted where. I make a Cabernet Sauvignon from a vineyard on the Sonoma Coast – an area more known for Pinot Noir because of its cooler climate. I joke that this is my hedge against Global Warming, but the truth is that at this point I believe this site produces better wine as Cabernet then Pinot.

Have you been impacted financially by California’s changing weather?

The drought certainly had an effect lowering grape yields, which raised the price of grapes and hence wines produced. Modern farming techniques have allowed a fair amount of flexibility and kept quality generally high, but if the warming trend continues we will see many people having to replant their vineyards to different grapes – and eventually we will see a decrease in quality in wines such as Pinot Noir that cannot handle heat. Pinot Noir is probably the grape most potentially harmed by this warming trend, and it is a major economic driver in the CA wine industry.

This past year, we experienced record-high temperatures and an excess of rain. How do these extreme weather patterns disrupt wine production?

It definitely made for extremely difficult and expensive farming. Extra manual labor was required as grape vine canopies were extremely vigorous, while at the same time disease pressure was very high from the heat and humidity. Either additional sprays were necessary or loss of crop to mildew and rot.

Due to warming temperatures in California, it stands to reason that certain wine varieties will no longer be the same. How does this affect your marketing of certain wine varieties?

As I mentioned above, modern farming techniques such as irrigation and canopy management do allow a certain amount of flexibility, however they all add cost and there is a limit to their effect. Cooler climate varieties will get pushed out of warmer growing areas – Pinot Noir most prominently, but also Chardonnay and to a lesser extent Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. I won’t say it has directed my marketing as of yet – other than focusing on cooler climate areas for sourcing wine grapes, but I do expect we will see a dramatic change in what is planted where over the next 20 years. We are seeing this on a small scale now, with grapes like Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Carignan and others starting to become more fashionable. But I expect this to accelerate.

Grape vines can physically grow in warmer conditions, but it becomes increasingly difficult to produce high quality wine. If the warming trend continues, regions in CA that are already warmer may become only suitable for bulk wine production, and cooler climate areas may begin to function more like warm climate areas and we will see a steep decline in either the planting of cooler climate varietals, or the quality.

Is there anything else you’ve noticed on your vineyards that might be relevant/useful for those that want to get an idea of how great an impact climate change has on California wineries?

  It’s a big issue that the industry has been able to mostly handle up to this point, with surprising finesse. The quality of wine made over the past 5 years including 2017 has been very high. There is a breaking point however. It is the new normal for me to begin picking grapes in August instead of September. That can’t get bumped up much earlier without having real quality effects. I do think among the younger folks in the industry we are starting to see the change more dramatically. No one I know under 40 is banking on the future of Pinot in California. It will hopefully remain viable in small pockets, but as mass production wine it seems unlikely. I think we will continue to see more focus on Southern European Varietals – and we will see more grapes planted in areas that were once considered too cool for them – such as Cabernet on the Sonoma Coast.

Administrative Law Acts as a Wall to Trump Administration’s Rollback of Obama-Era Environmental Regulations.

Administrative Law Acts as a Wall to Trump Administration’s Rollback of Obama-Era Environmental Regulations.

 By: Anonymous

Since the early days of his campaign, President Trump has promised to rollback Obama-era environmental regulations,[1] and the strides made by President Obama in addressing climate change. Trump’s main soundbite was how “stupid” and “job killing” the Clean Power Plan is, and how he would bring back coal mining jobs.[2] In March, Trump signed an executive order that called on Secretary Scott Pruitt of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take steps to dismantle the plan.[3] However, the rapid-fire push by the Trump administration to wipe out significant chunks of the Clean Power Plan is running into a brick wall.[4] That brick wall? Administrative law. The EPA has broad discretion to reconsider a regulation at any time, however, to do so, they must comply with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), including its requirement for “notice and comment.”[5] Under the APA, which governs most federal regulations, agencies must follow specific procedures for changing a rule.[6] Since the Clean Power Plan is a regulation that underwent notice and comment rulemaking, the EPA has to follow the same rule-making system used to create it in order to repeal it.[7] “Any agency’s proposed rulemaking must [be] open up public comments, receive comments and evidence, then you have to justify the decision.”[8] This public comment period typically takes time, and the EPA must consider and respond to all the public comments on the proposed rule and develop a record that shows they thoughtfully considered each.[9] If the Trump administration attempts to skirt these procedural rules in revising or dismantling the Clean Power Plan, court action is inevitable.[10]

Adding to the wall, the United States Supreme Court held in FCC v. Fox[11] that if an agency wants to change a regulation already promulgated, it must defend the new rule the way it would the original rule, and defend the change as non-arbitrary.[12] The courts will invalidate a rule change that, in its substance, appears arbitrary.[13] Because the Obama Administration gathered an immense amount of scientific data to support the promulgation of the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration cannot simply ignore the science and established administrative record in their revision of the plan, or else the new revision may be struck down as arbitrary.[14]

Finally, in adding more bricks the administrative law wall, the Trump administration may have trouble in creating a new regulation without actually acknowledging that greenhouse gasses endanger the public health and welfare.[15] Under a landmark EPA decision in 2009, known as the endangerment finding, the EPA is required to regulate greenhouse gases.[16] Because of the endangerment finding, if the Trump Administration were to promulgate a revised regulation, it would effectively accept that the federal government has a role in addressing the reduction of greenhouse gases.[17]

Because of the brick wall that is administrative law, drawn-out court battles are inevitable and it could prevent the Trump administration from rolling-back any Obama-era environmental regulations before the 2020 election.[18] Good looking out, administrative law.

[1] Lisa Friedman, Trump Takes a First Step Toward Scrapping Obama’s Global Warming Policy, N.Y. Times (Oct. 4, 2017),

[2] What is the Clean Power Plan, and How Can Trump Recall It?, N.Y. Times (Oct. 10, 2017),

[3] Id.

[4] Eric Lipton, Courts Thwart Administration’s Effort to Rescind Obama-Era Environmental Regulations, N.Y. Times (Oct. 6, 2017),

[5] Id.

[6] John McQuaid, Make America Wait Again: Trump Tries to Delay Regulations out of Existence, Scientific American (July 24, 2017),

[7] What is the Clean Power Plan, N.Y. Times, supra note 2.

[8] McQuaid, supra note 6 (quoting Robert Routh, Attorney, Clean Air Council).

[9] Brad Plumer, If Trump Wants to Dismantle Obama’s EPA Rules, Here are all the Obstacles He’ll Face, Vox (Jan. 18, 2017),

[10] Id.

[11] FCC v. Fox TV Stations, Inc., 556 U.S. 502 (2009).

[12] Plumer, supra note 6.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Friedman, supra note 1.

[17] Id.

[18] What is the Clean Power Plan, N.Y. Times, supra note 2.

Juliana v. United States: Do the kids have a chance? By: Olivia Molodanof

Juliana v. United States: Do the kids have a chance?

By: Olivia Molodanof


In August 2015, twenty-one children ages 10 to 21 from all over the country filed a constitutional climate lawsuit against the United States government in the District of Oregon.[1] The young Plaintiffs claim constitutional violations of due process, equal protection, and public trust principles alleging that the federal government has failed to adequately address the devastating reality of global warming and has affirmatively acted to worsen climate change through continued authorization of fossil fuel development.[2] The children seek a sweeping judicial order directing the federal government to swiftly phase-down carbon dioxide (“CO2”) emissions, develop a national plan to restore the Earth’s energy balance and right the constitutional harms, and implement the national plan so as to stabilize the climate system.[3]

The Trump administration filed a mandamus petition in June asking the Ninth Circuit to review the District Court’s denial of motions to dismiss in November 2016. So now, in less than a month, on December 11, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on whether this case will go to trial on February 8, 2018. For the young Plaintiffs to succeed, they need to convince the Court of Appeals that a trial should go forward, despite the government’s claim that pre-trial discovery ­– of decades of unknown and/or hidden information on federal policy on fossil fuels and climate change ­– will cause irreparable harm.[4]

Anyone reading about this case two years ago would have never expected a climate change suit like this to last as long as it has, let alone have a trial date set. Constitutional climate change claims? Brought by a group of kids? Despite all odds – including the lack of precedent in this field of law, the unique public trust doctrine claims, and difficult standing challenges – the plaintiffs’ progress in the past year completely shifted perspectives on the potential outcome of this case.

Due to Judge Aiken’s order in November last year, the children secured a few critical legal rulings: there is a fundamental constitutional right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life; the federal government has fiduciary public trust responsibilities to preserve natural resources upon which life depends; and the children’s requested remedy is appropriate if the court finds a violation of the children’s’ constitutional rights.[5] Not only is there now a historical opinion on the record, but in September this year, eight amicus briefs were filed by religious, women’s liberation and environmental groups, legal scholars, and legal nonprofits in support of the Plaintiffs, displaying resounding legal support for denying the mandamus petition and allowing the case to proceed to trial.[6]

If the children make it past the Ninth Circuit and head to trial in February, the issue to be determined is whether the federal government’s systematic actions over the past fifty years enabling climate change have violated the children’s constitutional rights. The strongest chance they have at proving this is through acclaimed NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen, representing Plaintiff Future Generations as “the guardian of the youth,” whose expertise focuses on human impact on global climate.[7] The facts at trial will be proven through science, and Our Children’s Trust, the non-profit representing the children, is confident that the Trump administration’s “junk science” and hoax theory of climate change won’t prevail in a court of law.

The trial court’s ruling in November, combined with the compelling and creative arguments by young Plaintiffs and Dr. Hansen’s extensive climate change science background and knowledge may mean a big win for the children, the earth, and future generations of our planet.

Tune into the livestream of the oral arguments (20 minutes per side) on December 11 at 10:00am (PST):



[1] Compl., Juliana v. United States, No. 6:15-cv-01517-TC, 2015 WL 4747094 (D. Or. Aug. 12, 2015).

[2] First Amend. Compl., Juliana v. United States, No. 6:15-cv-01517-TC, ¶ 1 (D. Or. Sept. 10, 2015).

[3] Id. at 94.

[4] Neela Banejee, Appeals Court Takes up Youth Climate Change Lawsuit Against Trump, Inside Climate News (Nov. 17, 2017).

[5] See Juliana v. United States, 217 F. Supp. 3d, 1224 (2016); Id.

[6] Our Children’s Trust and Earth Guardians, Groups Supporting Plaintiffs in Juliana v. U.S. Urge Dismissal of Trump’s Mandamus Petition (Sept. 5, 2017).

[7] First Amend. Compl. at ¶ 93, Juliana (D. Or. Sept. 10, 2015).

United States Moving Backwards: China Takes Lead in Electric Cars

United States Moving Backwards: China Takes Lead in Electric Cars

By: Joe Dietrich

In its pursuit of a tax break for Americans, the House GOP missed a chance to compete with China in the market for electric vehicles. The House tax bill eliminated the $7,500 tax credit for purchasers of an electric vehicle.[1] While electric vehicles account for a miniscule amount of the total vehicle market—65,000 of 14.2 million sold last year in the US—major automakers are preparing to release their first mass-market electric vehicles.[2] BMW, Ford, and Volkswagen are pursuing mass-market electric vehicles because they believe that is the market of the future.[3] The tax credit serves as an important incentive for consumers to purchase electric vehicles. Without the tax credit, the gradual shift from dependence on fossil fuel vehicles will slow to a trickle in the United States.

The responses from automakers and economists have been uniform. Xavier Mosquet, author of a study on the electric car market, asserted that the GOP’s elimination of the credit will “stop any electric vehicle market in the US.”[4] GM’s statement in response to the House GOP’s elimination of the tax credit read, “Because General Motors believes in an all-electric future, we will work with Congress to find ways to maintain this incentive.”[5] Luke Tonachel, the director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Clean Energy and Fuel Project, said in a statement that the EV credit repeal will cede US leadership in the clean vehicles while costing consumers more at the pump and increasing pollution.[6] The response of the market mirrors those concerns, evidenced by Tesla’s stock price falling over 7% in the wake of the GOP’s tax plan.[7] Despite an almost unanimous view that the elimination of the electric-vehicle tax credit will stall efforts by major automakers to innovate and inhibit our goal of decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, the GOP chose to prioritize profits of the fossil fuel industry.

Conversely, China, known for its extreme pollution in major cities, has taken a drastically different approach to the electric-vehicle market. China aggressively subsidized the electric-car market by funding its own manufacturers and creating an expansive charging-station network.[8] Chinese made models dominate the domestic market with over 100 domestic models already released and sales of plug-in models reaching 351,000 in 2016.[9] The 351,000 vehicles sold in 2016 account for nearly half of the global total sold.[10] Projections show that by 2025 EV models will make up 25% of the total vehicles sold in China, up from 1-2% this year.[11] Major automakers took note of China’s commitment to the electric-vehicle market. Volkswagen recently announced that it plans to invest $12 billion by 2025 in developing electric vehicles for the local market in China.[12] The Chinese government demanded that electric vehicles account for 3-4% of the market by 2019.[13] Automakers seeking to compete in the largest auto-consumer market in the world must adapt and innovate to keep pace with China’s aggressive policies on electric vehicles.

Not only is China pursuing a greener future, but they are rapidly improving its domestic automakers competitiveness in a market traditionally dominated by foreign competitors. Policies aimed at increasing the ability of domestic companies to compete with foreign competitors, while maintaining its position as a global model for innovation is something that the United States should do. Unfortunately, the United States continues to remove itself from a position of leadership in an increasingly globalized world. With the rest of the world committing itself to innovation and a move away from fossil fuels, the United States government took a step to preserve the fossil fuel industry while inhibiting the competitive growth of its domestic automakers. The reclusive policies of our government will only harm us in the future and erode our influence in a world looking for a leader. In a time where the world is scrambling to innovate and adapt to climate change, the United States left a vacuum in leadership, and China enthusiastically is stepping in.

[1] Bill Vlasick, Tax Plan Would Scrap Electric-Car Credit, Dampening Market, New York Times (Nov. 2, 2017)

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Ryan Beene, Ari Natter, and Keith Naughton, House GOP Tax Bill Would End Electric-Car Credits, Bloomberg (Nov. 2, 2017)

[5] Vlasick, supra 1.

[6] Beene, supra 4.

[7] Vlasick, supra 1.

[8] Trefor Moss, China, With Methodical Discipline, Conjures a Market for Electric Cars, Wall Street Journal (Oct. 2, 2017)

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Trefor Moss, Volkswagen Plans $12 Billion Electric-Car Blitz in China, Wall Street Journal (Nov. 16, 2017)

[13] Id.

Taking on the Fossil Fuel Industry: Why California’s Public Nuisance Lawsuits May Succeed Where Others have Failed By Kimberly Willis

Taking on the Fossil Fuel Industry: Why California’s Public Nuisance Lawsuits May Succeed Where Others have Failed

By Kimberly Willis


On September 19, 2017, the cities of San Francisco and Oakland filed separate lawsuits against five oil companies—Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP—for public nuisance.[1] Together, these five oil companies are responsible for 7.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions between 1988-2015.[2] San Francisco and Oakland allege these companies knew emitting greenhouse gases contributed to climate change which is causing sea level rise in their coastal cities.[3] These cities are asking for money damages to contribute to a fund to adapt to current and future sea-level rise.[4]

San Francisco and Oakland are not the first California cities to file public nuisance lawsuits against oil companies. On July 17, 2017, the City of Imperial Beach and the Counties of Marin and San Mateo each sued 37 oil companies for causing sea level rise in their coastal communities.[5] Those 37 oil companies accounted for approximately 20% of all industrial carbon dioxide and methane pollution released between 1965 and 2015.[6]

Why are these five lawsuits more likely to succeed than past lawsuits?

First, these lawsuits were filed in state court as opposed to federal court. Previous federal court lawsuits against oil companies alleging public nuisance due to sea level rise have failed. For example, in 2011 the Supreme Court held in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut that since the EPA already regulates carbon dioxide emissions through the Clean Air Act, parties cannot also bring a federal common-law public nuisance suit to abate carbon emissions.[7] Then again, a year later when the Alaskan village of Kivalina sued ExxonMobile for sea level rise the 9th Circuit held Kivalina’s federal common law public nuisance claims were also preempted by the Clean Air Act’s regulation of greenhouse gases.[8]

Courts have never addressed whether the Clean Air Act also preempts state common law public nuisance claims regarding greenhouse gas emissions. The American Electric Power Co. court specifically left this an open question.[9] Furthermore, the Supreme Court has previously held state common law suits are not always preempted by federal regulatory schemes because states may adopt higher common law restrictions on polluters.[10] These five current California lawsuits’ clever reliance on state common law as opposed to federal common law will present a novel question to the courts and give these plaintiffs a fighting chance at success.

Second, the causation links between industrial polluters’ greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and sea level rise are better established and supported by science today than they were several years ago.[11] The science has improved to the point that a recently published and peer-reviewed report, the Carbon Majors Report, found only 100 companies have been the source of 70.6% of the world’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.[12] The report also found half of global industrial emissions since 1988 can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities.[13] Establishing causation is critical for the success of a public nuisance lawsuit, and this new science and data makes the California cities and counties’ claims more robust than ever before.

Third, there is evidence that at least ExxonMobil knew their actions would cause climate change since the 1970’s and then chose to purposefully mislead the public and investors.[14] Harvard University recently published a peer-reviewed study that shows ExxonMobil deliberately misled the public for 4 decades about the dangers of climate change.[15] For example, a memo from 1982 describing “potentially catastrophic events” that could arise from climate change demonstrates ExxonMobile knew how their emissions would impact the earth.[16] The Harvard study also showed 80% of ExxonMobile’s research and internal memos acknowledged climate change was real and caused by humans, yet 81% of their newspaper advertisements regarding climate change questioned this fact.[17] Establishing that the defendants in the current lawsuits knew their actions would cause climate change and sea level rise will help the plaintiffs prove that the oil companies unreasonably interfered with their use and enjoyment of the coastline. Furthermore, it will thwart the oil companies’ potential defense that the benefits of the cheap energy they supplied outweigh the costs these communities will incur. The communities were misled about the dangers of using products that emit greenhouse gases. Had they known, they would likely have sought different energy sources that would not imperil every living being on earth and destroy the property values on their coastlines.

Utilizing state common law, new scientific causation links, and evidence that oil companies knew the impacts their products would have on the climate makes these California lawsuits more promising than prior lawsuits. The strategies of the plaintiffs in these cases mirror those used in the tobacco company lawsuits of the 1990’s, and those tobacco companies settled for a whopping $206 billion.[18] Californians have a decent chance at finally holding malfeasant corporate polluters accountable for their actions and winning billions of dollars to help their communities adapt to climate change.


[1] Compl., People of the State of Cal. v. BP P.L.C., No. CGC 17-561370 (S.F. Cnty. Super. Ct. filed Sept. 19, 2017); Compl. People of the State of Cal. v. BP P.L.C, No. RG17875889 (Alameda Cnty. Super. Ct., filed Sept. 19, 2017).

[2] The Carbon Majors Database: CDP Carbon Majors Report 2017, at 14.

[3] Compl., People of the State of Cal. v. BP P.L.C., No. CGC 17-561370 at 18-23 (S.F. Cnty. Super. Ct. filed Sept. 19, 2017); Compl. People of the State of Cal. v. BP P.L.C, No. RG17875889 at 16-21 (Alameda Cnty. Super. Ct., filed Sept. 19, 2017).

[4] Compl., People of the State of Cal. v. BP P.L.C., No. CGC 17-561370 at 39 (S.F. Cnty. Super. Ct. filed Sept. 19, 2017); Compl. People of the State of Cal. v. BP P.L.C, No. RG17875889 at 34 (Alameda Cnty. Super. Ct., filed Sept. 19, 2017).

[5] Compl. Imperial Beach v. Chevron Corp., No. C17-01227 (Contra Costa Cnty. Super. Ct. filed July 17, 2017); Compl. Cnty. of Marin v. Chevron Corp., No. CIV 1702586 (Marin Cnty. Super. Ct. filed July 17, 2017); Compl. Cnty. of San Mateo v. Chevron Corp., No. 17CIV03222 (San Mateo Cnty. Super. Ct. filed July 17, 2017).

[6] Compl. Imperial Beach v. Chevron Corp., No. C17-01227 at 33 (Contra Costa Cnty. Super. Ct. filed July 17, 2017); Compl. Cnty. of Marin v. Chevron Corp., No. CIV 1702586 at 34 (Marin Cnty. Super. Ct. filed July 17, 2017); Compl. Cnty. of San Mateo v. Chevron Corp., No. 17CIV03222 at 33 (San Mateo Cnty. Super. Ct. filed July 17, 2017).

[7] 564 U.S. 410, 424 (2011).

[8]  Native Vill. of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corp., 696 F.3d 849, 858 (9th Cir. 2012).

[9] 564 U.S. at 429(“None of the parties have . . . addressed the availability of a claim under state nuisance law. We therefore leave the matter open for consideration on remand.”).

[10] See Int’l Paper Co. v. Ouellette, 479 U.S. 481, 497 (1987) (holding Clean Water Act did not bar state nuisance law suits against in-state sources).

[11] Two major cities demand fossil fuel companies pay for climate damages, ThinkProgress (Sept. 20, 2017, 4:55 PM).

[12] The Carbon Majors Database: CDP Carbon Majors Report 2017, at 10.

[13] Id. at 2.

[14] Assessing ExxonMobil’s climate change communications (1977–2014), 12 Environ. Res. Lett. 084019 (2017).

[15] Supra.

[16]  Id. at 10.

[17]  Id. at 7-9.

[18] Two major cities demand fossil fuel companies pay for climate damages, ThinkProgress (Sept. 20, 2017, 4:55 PM).

MISERY LOVES (renewable) COMPANY By Caroline Lavenue


By Caroline Lavenue

Energy production and, in turn, energy consumption grows year-after-year. In 2012, total U.S. energy production was 79 quadrillion Btu, and in 2016, total U.S. energy production grew to 97.5 quadrillion Btu—a 23.4% increase in only 4 years (compared to a national population growth of 2.89%)! Daniel Wood, US Energy Production Through The Years, October 13, 2017; U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Energy Facts Explained, October 13, 2017. World Bank, United States Census Bureau, October 14, 2017. As energy production has increased in the United States, renewable energy has always been one-step behind. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Frequently Asked Questions, October 13, 2017. Since first developed in 1954, the modern photovoltaic (solar) technology never gained the traction that many predicted. U.S. Department of Energy, The History of Solar, October 13, 2017. Blame it on concerns with industry stability, unwillingness to embrace change, or pricing; as a former employee in the solar industry, I heard the same excuses every time from potential customers: “It’s too expensive, and what will happen to my panels when your company goes out of business?”

Finally, in 2016, what we had been awaiting for years finally happened—prices became competitive, and the solar industry experienced an outpouring of growth. Solar Energy Industries Association, Solar Market Insight Report 2016 Q4, October 13, 2017.  Thanks to importation ease, customer trust, and economy of scale, the US solar market was competitive at last; rejoice!

A sense of loss was brewing in some, however, and on April, 17, 2017, Suniva, the self-proclaimed leading American solar manufacturer, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Joseph Bebon, Solar Manufacturer Suniva Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, October 13, 2017. One week later, Suniva (sore loser #1), filed a Section 201 petition under the 1974 Trade Act with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) calling for new tariffs on international imports of solar cells and modules. Stephen Lacey, A Guide to the Latest Solar Trade Dispute: How Suniva’s Petition Could Impact the US Solar Industry, October 9, 2017.

After a 201 petition is filed, the U.S. ITC has 120 days to review the claim, and determine whether the industry has, indeed, suffered injury. If injury is found by the ITC, the burden shifts back to the company to strategize remedies. The remedial plan is then presented to the ITC by the company after a public hearing, and, finally, the plan’s viability is in the hands of the President for final approval. Stephen Lacey, A Guide to the Latest Solar Trade Dispute: How Suniva’s Petition Could Impact the US Solar Industry, October 9, 2017.

On May 5, in the wake of the trade claim filing, SolarWorld (sore loser #2), a previously fierce opponent of Suniva, became a co-petitioner in the claim. Joseph Bebon, SolarWorld Americas Joins Suniva Trade Case, October 13, 2017. The former rivals claimed the same injury – if not for foreign, cost-effective imports, their businesses would be successful (although, many wonder what these companies were doing wrong—while they were failing, the industry was thriving).

In another bizarre twist of events, in mid-summer, it was discovered that Suniva and SolarWorld had another thing in common besides attitude; both companies were found to be majority-owned by international parent companies. George Felcyn, What the Suniva/SolarWorld Trade Case Could Mean for Downstream Solar Companies, October 14, 2017. Are the very imports they are fighting managing to find their ways into the supply chains of both companies?

On September 22, 2017, the ITC determined that imported solar cells and modules have “caused injury,” varying in severity depending on the import country. Lacey Johnson, Julia Pyper, Solar Tariff Case Advances as ITC Finds ‘Injury’, October 7, 2017. Remedy proposals were then submitted to the ITC from SolarWorld and Suniva, calling for a four-year tariff schedule ranging from $.25 per watt in year one to $.235 per watt in year four.

On October 3, 2017, a public hearing was held, SolarWorld and Suniva versus everyone else. SolarWorld Americas CEO, Juergen Stein, proudly proclaimed that “these tariffs would return U.S. prices to levels in late 2015 . . . just before the most recent price crush.” Lacey Johnson, Commissioners Hear Final Trade-Case Arguments Before They Send Advice to Trump, October 8, 2017. Note that in 2015, the U.S. installed 7,493 megawatts; in 2016, the U.S. nearly doubled its annual record, and installed 14,626 megawatts of solar PV. Mike Munsell, US Solar Market Grows 95% in 2016, Smashes Records, October 9, 2017. Considering these numbers in light of the complaints bears the question: what’s the motive here? Do SolarWorld and Suniva want the industry to grow, or will their preferred masochism win?

Finally, on October 11, 2017, First Solar, the largest U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer, finally broke its silence, and supported the ITC trade claim. Julia Pyper, First Solar Comes Out in Favor of a Section 201 Trade Case Remedy, October 14, 2017. Lending more credence to the claim, the decision now goes to the ever-capricious President to decide the fate of the solar industry. The President is not one to support international imports typically, however, he seems to have a fetish-like obsession with coal. Stay tuned—will the destiny of the solar industry go to capitalistic freedom, deranged fiscal prescription, or the deep-seated monetary lusters who secretly control us all—fossil fuel companies (mother frac’cers!)?

Good Links

Check out these amazing environmental organizations!

Audubon California,

California Coastal Commission,

California League of Conservation Voters,

Center for Environmental Law,

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund,

Earth Island Institute,


Eastern Environmental Law Center,

Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center,

Environmental Defense,

Environmental Law Concentration at UC Hastings,

Environmental Law Education Center,

Environmental Law Institute,

Environmental Law Reporter,

Environmental laws,

Great Lakes Environmental Law Center,

Hastings Environmental Law Association,

John Muir National Historic Site,

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute,

Natural Resources Defense Council,

Nature Conservancy – California,

PRBO Conservation Science,

River of Words,

Save the Redwoods League,

Sierra Club,

Southern Environmental Law Center,

Western Environmental Law Center,

There must be some left off this list – inadvertently!  Please comment your candidates for inclusion:

Good Reads

The following is a list of suggested reading from Deanna Spooner, co-founding editor of HELJ:

Native Hawaiian Law: A Treatise (Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie, Ed.)

What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action (Per Espen Stoknes)

Baker, J.A., The Peregrine

Bakker, Elna, and Gordy Slack, An Island Called California

Carson, Rachel, Silent Spring

Darwin, Charles, Voyage of the Beagle

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Nature, essays

Giono, Jean, The Man Who Planted Trees

Kolbert, Elizabeth, The Sixth Extinction

Krakauer, John, Into the Wild

Macfarlane, Robert, The Old Ways

Matthiessen, Peter, The Snow Leopard

Muir, John, My First Summer in the Sierra

Obata, Chiura, and Janice T. Driesbach, Obata’s Yosemite

Pakenham, Thomas, Meetings with Remarkable Trees

Peacock, Doug, Grizzly Years

Ricketts, Ed, and, Jack Calvin, Between Pacific Tides

Schoenherr, Allan, A Natural History of California

Snyder, Gary, and Jim Harrison, The Etiquette of Freedom

Thoreau, Henry David, The Journal

Comment and share your favorite good read!

Good Hikes

Good Hikes! Below are links to some special places — but what we really need are your descriptions and stories about recent hikes!  Where have you gone, what have you seen, who went with you?  Comment and share your favorite hikes!

Butano State Park (Yay, redwoods!) San Mateo County:

Calero County Park, Santa Clara County:

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont, Alameda County:

Heron Head Park, San Francisco (Good for birdwatching):

Hood Mountain Regional Park & Open Space Preserve, Sonoma County:

Muir Woods (Yay, even more redwoods!), Marin County:

Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, Alameda County:

Mountain Home to Bootjack Camp and back, along the Matt Davis Trail to Bootjack, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Marin County.

Olema Valley Trail, parallels Highway 1 between Five Brooks Stables and Dogtown, Marin County – tiptoe along the San Andreas Fault!

Pruisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, San Mateo County,

Point Reyes National Seashore:

Rockville Hills Regional Park, Solano County:

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