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Policy Practicum: Carbon Pollution Standards and Carbon Taxes

This policy lab seminar will address the ongoing effort by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce carbon pollution from electric power plants. The EPA is currently in the process of writing New Source Performance Standards for new and existing coal and natural gas fired electric power plants. A critical question in writing these rules will be the extent to which EPA can allow for economically efficient approaches to cutting emissions. States, including California, industry, and environmental groups are all pushing EPA to incorporate some sort of emissions pricing as either a safe harbor or to propose it as a Federal Implementation Plan that States may choose to join. By doing so, not only will costs fall for regulated sectors but also, deeper cuts in emissions may become feasible. Almost all parties expect, based on prior precedent, that such a proposal will take the form of a cap-and-trade or at least some sort of mass-based cap on emissions. Adele Morris, the Policy Director for the Climate and Energy Economics Project at the Brookings Institution, has asked for our assistance in formulating and assessing the legal implications of an alternative proposal - a carbon tax. Students will prepare briefings and written comments to EPA and OMB explaining the potential benefits of a carbon tax approach to New Source Performance Standards as well as exploring the legal risks that might be created by this approach. We anticipate that students will also participate in briefings with key OMB and EPA Air and Radiation staff involved in drafting the proposed rule. The New Source Performance Standard rulemaking for greenhouse gases is the most environmentally and economically significant regulatory effort that EPA will undertake this decade. Partnering with Brookings will allow us to both leverage legal and economic expertise and to inject students into the most exciting environmental policy making currently underway in the United States. Doing so now, before the draft rule is published, allows us to exert maximum influence before the agency loses flexibility to respond to outside input. To develop skills relevant to the work of practicing lawyers, students will research and write parts of memos and written comments to EPA and OMB on behalf of Morris based on their research into various legal and policy aspects of Clean Air Act Section 111 as applied to the problem of power plant emissions. These assignments, for Writing (W) or Professional Writing (PW), or Research (R) credit, will be due before the end of the quarter. Students must obtain the instructor¿s approval of their election to take the course for writing (PW or W) or research (R) credit. After the term begins, students accepted into the course can transfer from section (01) into section (02), which meets the R requirement, with consent of the instructor. Students may normally receive no more than four units for a Policy Lab practicum and no more than a total of eight units of Policy Lab practicums and Directed Research projects combined may be counted toward graduation unless additional units for graduation are approved in advanced by the Petitions Committee. A student cannot receive a letter grade for more than eight units of independent research (Policy Lab practicum, Directed Research, Senior Thesis, and/or Research Track). Any units taken in excess of eight will be graded on a mandatory pass basis. Consent Application: To apply for this course, students must complete and e-mail the Consent Application Form available on the SLS Registrar's Office website (see Registration and Selection of Classes for Stanford Law Students) to the instructors. See Consent Application Form for submission deadline.


Instructors for this course (Past and Present)

Michael Wara
Deborah A. Sivas