Often forgotten in the rush to expand the cannabis industry is the environmental impact of indoor cultivation operations and environmental considerations for the engineering and design of cultivation facilities. This article will briefly address environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation, specifically energy usage, in various states and how cultivators looking to the emerging New Jersey market can better equip themselves for potential regulation similar to what is being seen in other states.

Growing cannabis, especially indoors, is energy intensive. It can take upwards of 5,000 kWh to grow just one kilogram of cannabis (2,000 kWh to grow one pound) as compared to roughly 10,000 kWh of energy to power a residence in the United States for a year. Recent reports show the cannabis industry is having a significant impact on the use of electricity in states that have legalized it. In 2015, various reports concluded that cannabis growers accounted for approximately 1.7 percent of the United States’ total electricity usage, a cost of upwards of $6 billion. The vast majority of states that have legalized cannabis cultivation have not addressed the issues surrounding energy consumption prior to enacting legislation. As a result, municipal governments, state agencies and public utilities have had to take a reactive approach to the astronomical utilization of energy.

Currently, states and municipal governments are implementing various techniques in order to curtail electricity use. The techniques vary, but the most common are taxes and/or fees on energy consumption. For example, Boulder County, Colorado has a requirement that growers either offset energy consumption with the use of renewable energy or pay a $0.02 charge per kWh of energy use. In addition, some state regulations have an adverse effect on energy consumption, and compliance results in an increase in energy consumption by growers. For example, when Pennsylvania legalized cannabis in 2016, its regulations required growers to contain their entire crop in indoor facilities without addressing how the state would cope with the corresponding energy use from the requirement.

Though most states have not addresses environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation until after licenses were already awarded, one state has put into place some of the strictest energy regulations for cannabis cultivation.

In 2008, Massachusetts entered into the Global Warming Solutions Act, which required a reduction in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent no later than the year 2050. However, with the legalization of adult-use cannabis, the state had to address the fact that not only is cannabis an energy-hungry crop, but that it also emits dubious amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). On average, the energy needed to grow one pound of cannabis indoors emits roughly 5,000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. As a result, the Cannabis Control Commission of Massachusetts has included in their regulations a limit on how much energy can be utilized for cultivation operations.

Although New Jersey has not yet weighed in on the energy use and carbon emission issues associated with the emerging cannabis industry in the most recent adult-use cannabis legalization bill, state lawmakers are openly moving New Jersey towards being a leader in climate change solutions, especially with New Jersey rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Additionally, broad environmental concern has not completely escaped legislators, as the most recent call for medicinal cannabis licenses required applicants to submit an environmental impact plan as part of the application process.

As a result, it is imperative that cultivators from out of state, as well as those who are thinking of starting a cultivation operation, who wish to apply for licensing in New Jersey, consider the impacts of their future operations regarding electricity use in order to be prepared for any future regulations and/or taxes that might negatively affect their operations and profitability.

This article was originally published on the NJSBA website.

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the Stimulus Bill. Among the numerous programs encompassed within the Stimulus Bill are significant proposed expenditures for environmental and energy projects. There are many opportunities for businesses to capitalize on the federal funding and tax incentives provided by the Stimulus Bill. But those businesses need to move swiftly to make sure they do not miss out on these opportunities.

Energy Programs

The Stimulus Bill includes approximately $30 billion for projects relating to the generation, transmission and distribution of renewable energy and approximately $5 billion for energy efficiency projects, including projects to weatherize certain properties. There are many opportunities for companies involved with the various aspects of renewable energy and energy efficiency to capitalize on the available funding within the Stimulus Bill. There may also be funds available for commercial or industrial property owners to help fund investments in energy efficiency technologies which have the potential to significantly reduce the future property operating costs. 

  • Renewable Energy. Allocations in the Stimulus Bill include (a) $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy generation and transmission projects, (b) $11 billion for research, development and pilot programs relating to the so-called “Smart Grid,” which will enable greater development and use of renewable power sources, and (c) $2.5 billion for research related to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Also included in the Stimulus Bill are tax cuts for businesses investing in renewable energy technologies.  Here is the link to the US Department of Energy discussion of the Stimulus Bill: http://www.energy.gov/recovery/index.htm
     
  • Energy Efficiency. The Stimulus Bill also includes (a) $5.25 billion to make lower income housing more energy efficient, (b) $6.3 billion in grants for state and local government energy efficiency investments and (c) $300 million for consumer rebates for purchasers of energy efficient “Energy Star” appliances. The Stimulus Bill also includes tax cuts for individuals investing in residential energy efficiency improvements.

Environmental Programs

In total, the Stimulus Bill includes approximately $18.8 billion dollars in federal spending for environmental projects relating to site remediation, water infrastructure and flood control and mitigation projects. There may be opportunities to include funding for water infrastructure projects into on-going or planned development or redevelopment projects. Additionally, increased funding to the federal brownfields program may provide sufficient stimulus to continue planned redevelopments.

  • Property Remediation. $600 million is allocated to the United States Environmental Protection Agency to fund the cleanup of hazardous waste sites listed on the National Priorities List, which is the USEPA’s list of some of the most contaminated sites in the nation. With this increased spending to cleanup Superfund sites, we expect there to be a potential rise in federal cost recovery litigation as the USEPA attempts to recoup those cleanup costs from the responsible parties. An additional $200 million is allocated to cleaning up properties with leaking underground storage tanks, and $100 million is allocated for grants providing for the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields sites. Here is the link to the USEPA brownfields program: http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/
     
  • Clean Water State Revolving Fund.  $4 billion is allocated to the states to fund loans administered under the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This fund is designed to upgrade wastewater treatment systems and address stormwater management, nonpoint source pollution, and watershed and estuary management projects nationwide.   Here is the link to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund: http://www.epa.gov/owm/cwfinance/cwsrf/index.htm
     
  • Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. $2 billion is allocated to the states to fund loans administered under the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. This Fund provides loans to support infrastructure investments for both publicly and privately owned community water systems. Here is the link to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/dwsrf/index.html#facts
     
  • Other Water Infrastructure. $4.6 billion is allocated to the US Army Corps of Engineers for projects such as environmental restoration, flood protection and dam projects. An additional $340 million is allocated to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, an entity within the US Department of Agriculture, for watershed improvement projects, including flood protection projects and water quality protection programs. Here is the link to the Natural Resources Conservation Service: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/