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Friday, August 1, 2014

Can PA cope with EPA's proposed emission regs?

President Obama has proposed the most ambitious actions in our history to combat climate disruption.

Can Pennsylvania - the nation's 4th largest coal-producing state - cope?

Certainly.  Despite protests to the contrary.

In fact, the Keystone State can exceed EPA's emission reduction goals.  This must-read blog from the Union of Concerned Scientists explains why.  (It mentions Pennsylvania's alternative energy standard - a law that I worked to get adopted in a previous life.)

Indeed, Pennsylvania can meet EPA's proposed targets, create 65,000 jobs in the process, and benefit from EPA's proposal.  Just as important, Pennsylvania can preserve our coal-based economy while reducing our emissions and leading the development of policies and technologies that will grow the economy.

That trifecta is eminently achievable.  But not with our current leadership.

Will Pennsylvania cope - and thrive - in what must be a carbon-constrained world?

Pennsylvania voters may help decide that in November.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

We know way more than enough to act

President Obama has proposed the most ambitious actions in our history to combat climate disruption - more than all of his predecessors combined.

And he's not about to quit.

Yesterday, the White House released The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change, a report which puts our nation's climate policy imperatives in plain English, and quantifies the huge costs of delaying action:
...although delaying action can reduce costs in the short run, on net, delaying action to limit the effects of climate change is costly. Because CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere, delaying action increases CO2 concentrations. Thus, if a policy delay leads to higher ultimate CO2 concentrations, that delay produces persistent economic damages that arise from higher temperatures and higher CO2 concentrations...
These costs will take the form of either greater damages from climate change or higher costs associated with implementing more rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In practice, delay could result in both types of costs...
(N)et mitigation costs increase, on average, by approximately 40 percent for each decade of delay...
(C)limate policy can be thought of as “climate insurance” taken out against the most severe and irreversible potential consequences of climate change. 
Combating climate disruption now makes eminent economic sense, and will grow the global economy and mitigate huge business risks.  As reported by Bloomberg:
“Acting today will save us money,” Jason Furman, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, which is releasing the analysis, told reporters on a conference call. “We know way more than enough to act.”
Those of us with functioning brains, that is.  

We know way more than enough to act.  Will we?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

GAO: EPA regulation of oil/gas wastewater injection needs overhaul

Yesterday, I blogged about an EPA Office of Inspector General report that faulted the agency’s handling of methane emissions from natural gas pipelines. Today, there’s more disconcerting news about EPA's oversight of the oil and gas industry.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has blistered as inadequate EPA’s safeguards for protecting drinking water from underground injection of wastewater from oil and gas wells.

That's a very big deal, for as GAO points out: 
Every day in the United States, at least 2 billion gallons of fluids are injected into over 172,000 wells to enhance oil and gas production, or to dispose of fluids brought to the surface during the extraction of oil and gas resources. These wells are subject to regulation to protect drinking water sources under EPA's UIC class II program and approved state class II programs. Because much of the population relies on underground sources for drinking water, these wells have raised concerns about the safety of the nation's drinking water.
DRINKING WATER: EPA Program to Protect Underground Sources from Injection of Fluids Associated With Oil and Gas Production Needs Improvement  finds inadequate monitoring of state programs, lax enforcement of existing regs, unreliable data, and an inadequate response to the need to update those regs in light of new risks like induced seismicity.

This StateImpactPA story provides an excellent summary.

Protecting drinking water from the growing risks posed by the use of hydraulic fracturing is a fundamental issue.  It's past time for aggressive action by EPA to get this right.

And it's further validation of the business case for squeezing the water and chemicals out of fracking.




Monday, July 28, 2014

Two reports on pipeline methane leaks: regulate and invest

Two reports released last week say that  methane leaks from natural gas pipelines harm both the economy and environment, and not enough is being done to reduce the damage. 
As well as contributing to climate change, the report said, more than $192 million worth of natural gas was lost in 2011 due to such leaks, increasing prices paid by consumers…
The report’s executive summary says this:
The EPA has placed little focus and attention on reducing methane emissions from pipelines in the natural gas distribution sector…The EPA does not currently regulate methane emissions from the distribution sector and has not partnered with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which regulates pipeline safety, to control methane leaks… 
We recommend that the EPA (1) work with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to address methane leaks from a combined environmental and safety standpoint, (2) develop a strategy to address the financial and policy barriers that hinder reductions from the distribution sector, (3) establish performance goals, (4) track distribution sector emissions and use that data to help determine if future regulation would be appropriate, and (5) assess whether data from ongoing studies should be used to update distribution sector emission factors. The agency agreed with recommendations 1 and 2 and provided corrective action plans that meet the intent of the recommendations. The agency partially agreed with recommendations 3, 4 and 5 and these three recommendations are considered unresolved. 
Meanwhile, a report from the BlueGreen Alliance says that the US should replace leak-prone pipelines every 10 years instead of the 30-year period that's now standard.
  • Accelerating the timeframe of pipe replacement would increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by over $37 billion by 2024, leaving GDP $30 billion higher in that year compared to the 30-year repair and replacement schedule. 
  • By the end of the 10-year replacement timeline, over 313,000 people would be employed, with nearly 250,000 more jobs created than in the 30-year repair and replacement scenario. 
  • Over three decades, the accelerated 10-year scenario would save nearly $4.4 billion worth of gas. Those savings are $1.5 billion more than under the current rate of repair and replacement.
  • The faster replacement rate prevents an additional 81 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere, roughly equivalent to taking 17 million cars off the road for one year. 
Will these two reports spur action?


Friday, July 25, 2014

Oh, the irony.

A study released yesterday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Rhodium Group finds that the EPA’s plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants – part of President Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan - could make Pennsylvania an economic winner.

Remaking American Power: The Economic and Energy Impacts of Power Plant Emissions Standards looked at the impact of EPA’s draft carbon rule, which seeks a 30% reduction in carbon emissions nationwide by 2030 based on 2005 emissions levels. The rule would encourage utility companies to switch from burning coal to natural gas.

According to this New York Times story, the study concludes that EPA’s proposed rule: 
…would cut demand for electricity from coal — the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution — but create robust new demand for natural gas, which has just half the carbon footprint of coal. It found that the demand for natural gas would, in turn, drive job creation, corporate revenue and government royalties in states that produce it…
States that produce both coal and natural gas, such as Pennsylvania, would experience an economic trade-off as diminished coal production was replaced by new natural gas production.

Can Pennsylvania be an economic winner under the EPA’s rule? Undoubtedly yes. And a big one at that.  However, current Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is a climate change denier whose policies have caused the state to fail to benefit fully from the resource boom, and who - by opposing the EPA rule - cements the state’s unenviable position as an economic loser