GREEN TECHNOLOGY & SUSTAINABILITY LAW
Our law firm is prepared to represent clients engaged in climate change mitigation and green technology sustainability solutions, such as carbon capture and other negative emissions initiatives.
Green Technology & Sustainability Law
As the saying goes, “everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Unfortunately, now we must.
No doubt, the role of carbon-friendly energy generation (e.g., solar, wind and geothermal), conservation and recycling are the foundation for shifting to a more environmentally-friendly world. However, reducing our carbon footprint must also be accompanied by extracting the carbon that remains. That is the reason solar power, vertical farming and carbon capture and storage technologies that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere are so critical to maintaining a healthy and sustainable planet. To accomplish that goal, lawyers must work side-by-side with their business clients to protect an already damaged environment.
If we can help you with a legal issue relating to climate change mitigation, contact us at 908-686-8000 or click here.
Green Technology & Sustainability Legal Services
The Nissenbaum Law Group is committed to helping potential clients implement green technology & sustainability solutions, such as the following.
Solar Energy Solutions
Over nearly two decades, our law firm has represented a variety of companies involved in implementing solar energy solutions. It has truly been a mixed bag, insofar as there have been many state-sponsored initiatives to provide tax breaks, rebates and other incentives to companies that are our clients; yet, when the political winds have changed, those incentives have often been scaled back or eliminated. To say the least, this has created an uneven degree of risk for companies moving into the field. Globally, over the last decade, solar energy costs have fallen by 80 percent, while the actual usage of solar energy has not increased significantly.
The unfortunate failure of our leaders to create a consistent set of statutes and regulations in this area has hampered the availability of investment capital. Accordingly, the objective of our law firm has been to help solar energy companies whose industry is essentially “riding the brake.” The legal services that solar energy companies need include:
- analysis of whether to form the entity as an LLC, limited partnership or corporation, a decision largely based on the initial and long-term investment strategy;
- review of local, state and federal regulations relating to the provision of solar energy to provide for consumer and business-related energy needs;
- drafting and negotiating consumer or business contracts for potential clients utilizing solar energy solutions;
- addressing land use issues concerning permitting and compliance with local ordinances and building codes; and
- preparing and filing the relevant intellectual property applications for trademark and copyright protection.
Carbon Capture and Storage and Other Negative Emissions Technologies
Many commentators believe that the only way we can avoid the full impact of climate change is to have a two-part strategy premised upon (1) an increase in the conservation efforts and use of clean technologies (much of which has already begun) and (2) carbon capture and storage. The latter involves pulling greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and rendering it into an inert state (such as a brick) which is then buried or otherwise disposed of. The Nissenbaum Law Group is committed to working with companies seeking to implement this technology. The legal services they will need include:
- legal analysis of whether the state and federal statutes and regulations prohibiting the creation of a toxic waste site would be violated by utilizing a dedicated area of land to store the inert bricks underground;
- negotiating contracts with (a) private companies that wish to reduce their carbon footprint and/or (b) local governments that have the same goal;
- addressing patent licensing, royalties and other intellectual property issues concerning this new technology; and
- providing a structure that promotes investment in the client’s carbon capture or other negative emissions solutions.
One of the paradoxes of green technology is that the urban centers of the United States have such a high carbon footprint, though many of the clean solutions (such as solar energy farms) gravitate toward rural areas. However, there are exciting new technologies available to bring many of those environmentally-friendly projects that previously were relegated to rural areas into our urban centers. One of them is vertical farming, which essentially involves creating such a structure vertically instead of horizontally. The legal needs of companies involved in aeroponics, hydroponics and vertical farming include:
- analyzing land use restrictions that relate to the height and depth of new construction (or renovation of existing structures), such as LEEDS (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) compliance and other green building issues;
- negotiating agreements with the local municipality or entities that wish to sponsor such projects;
- creating a transactional model for marketing and distributing the food that is grown using this technology;
- addressing the synergy between vertical farming modalities and other green technologies, such as solar power, so that the net effect is that the overall carbon footprint is reduced and not increased; and
- preparing intellectual property filings, as applicable.
The Traveling Wave Nuclear Reactor as a Solution to Climate Change
Most commentators believe that nuclear power is a necessary part of any coordinated effort to solve the climate change crisis. However, there are a number of impediments to implementing that aspect of the solution, two of which are the potential environmental damage caused by the spent fuel and the possibility of providing other countries with a means of creating nuclear weapons with the reactors’ by-products.
Fortunately, there have been major developments in fourth generation designs for nuclear power plants, the most notable example of which is the traveling wave fission reactor. It essentially utilizes the spent fuel of other, less advanced-designed reactors; in other words, it can actually reduce and ultimately eliminate the need to store dangerous nuclear waste because it will run on that waste as its fuel. Further, the traveling wave reactors do not provide the materials necessary to build a nuclear bomb.
There are major legal impediments to the implementation of fourth generation nuclear reactors as a solution to climate change. In the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s process to review whether to even approve the construction of a nuclear reactor can take three to five years and involves an enormous number of legal and technical submissions. Further, while the federal government has provided a laudatory number of loan guarantees and tax incentives for the production of nuclear reactors, these involve an enormous amount of legal red tape, in addition to the typical additional levels of scrutiny inherent in any government-backed financing facilities. There is no doubt that implementing the nuclear solution to climate change will be as much a legal undertaking as a technical one.
Other Emerging Technologies for Reducing the Carbon Footprint
There are a plethora of new clean technologies on the horizon, but the one thing that practically all entrepreneurs in this industry can agree upon is that the current state of our technological solutions is incapable of completely addressing the enormity of the climate change problem. Put another way, untested new technologies have a disproportionate importance in this sector. The Nissenbaum Law Group is committed to helping such new businesses with novel ideas find their place in this emerging market. The legal services that these companies may need include:
- addressing compliance issues with relevant governmental agencies. Among others, this includes the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its state and local analogs, such as the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ);
- negotiating arrangements with local regulatory authorities and utilities to integrate microgrids and other distributed energy resources into local communities;
- addressing the legal issues inherent in marketing and installing high capacity solid electrolyte batteries that are able to operate at higher temperatures but with reduced flammability;
- drafting licensing and royalty agreements for technologies such as desalinization and addressing the corresponding responsibility to dispose of the brine by-product.
The Nissenbaum Law Group is also prepared to handle the more typical commercial issues raised by companies engaged in climate change mitigation generally, including:
- forming innovative legal business models for green technology start-up companies and existing energy companies moving into the climate change mitigation and biofuel arena;
- assessing statutory and regulatory compliance, in light of the seesawing executive orders, court decisions and public policy construing the legal framework for climate change mitigation;
- drafting joint venture, distributor, vendor and supplier agreements focused on clean technology and carbon capture;
- analyzing legal issues relating to liability insurance and environmental indemnification agreements concerning these technologies;
- negotiating financing arrangements for carbon pricing and methods of climate change adaptation;
- analyzing the impact of tax credits for carbon capture, such as “45Q” sequestration (the federal tax incentive for coal, natural gas and oil companies to undertake such efforts);
- filing for intellectual property protection (copyright, trademark and trade secret) concerning climate change mitigation ventures;
- preparing nondisclosure and non-compete agreements to protect the value of innovative approaches to implementing clean technology; and
- handling litigation matters that involve the rights and obligations of businesses in the climate change mitigation arena.
Publications & Presentations
Publications and Podcasts:
- “The Indie Legal Guide With Gary Nissenbaum”, 1/22/18 Interview of Mr. Nissenbaum, Game Dev Unchained
- “Licensing Your Intellectual Property”, 11/21/17 Interview of Mr. Nissenbaum, Gamesindustry.biz Podcasts
- “The Increasing Pace of Digital Change: Why Does Our Culture Always Seem so Blindsided?”, Huffingtonpost.com, August 4, 2016
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