BOARD GAMES: The New Mexico Supreme Court this week shifted back to the state's Environmental Improvement Board the decision on whether the state will enact a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The board is made up of appointees chosen by Governor Susana Martinez, who opposes cap-and-trade. The ruling comes as utilities are asking the board to undo the pollution-control rules, the Albuquerque Journal reports . New Energy Economy, an environmental group, had asked the courts to take that power away from the board, but the state Supreme Court declined to do so. The court did offer New Energy Economy a partial victory, though, allowing it to participate in the case before the Environmental Improvement Board. The cap-and-trade rules were approved by the board in the waning days of Governor Bill Richardson's administration. When Martinez, a climate-change skeptic, took office this January, she replaced the entire board.
GIANT DAM: Alaska hopes to build a $4.5 billion, 700-foot tall dam on the Susitna River between Anchorage and Fairbanks to produce hydroelectric power, the Associated Press reports . The dam is planned for completion in 2023 as part of Alaska's goal of getting half its energy from renewable sources by 2025. It would be the tallest dam built in the United States in recent years, assuming the state can find the money to pay for it and win federal approval. A new organization has formed to oppose the dam, citing its possible effects on salmon and caribou.
IN THE BAG: The California Supreme Court is allowing a small-city ban on plastic bags to go forward, the Sacramento Bee reports . The court ruled that Manhattan Beach could forbid the bags without conducting an environmental review. Critics of the ban had argued that the review was required under state law and would have shown that paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic ones. The court disagreed with that argument, but did leave open the possibility that larger jurisidctions would be required to conduct the reviews. A statewide plastic bag ban failed in the California legislature this year.
FOR A FEE: A much-anticipated report has recommended that Pennsylvania impose a limited fee on natural gas drillers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports . The Governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recommended that money from fees be used to offset the costs of drilling, also called "hydro-fracking." The report is significant because Governor Tom Corbett steadfastly refused to consider drilling fees until the commission reported back, even as the issue played a key role in the legislature's budget deliberations this year. With natural gas exploration booming in the state, the legislature is expected to debate a variety of issues related to hydro-fracking this fall, including fees or taxes on drillers.
OFF THE HOT SEAT: David R. Legates, a skeptic on the subject of human-caused global warming who had been Delaware 's state climatologist, is giving up his title, the News Journal reports . In 2007, then-Governor Ruth Ann Minner forbid Legates, a University of Delaware geography professor, from identifying as the state climatologist when talking about climate change because his views on the subject diverged from hers. Legates is giving up the position willingly so that his predecessor, Dan Leathers, can have the job back.