Author Archives: Derek Walker

Carbon markets reward 10 pioneering states. Who's next?

Source: Flickr/Nick Humphries

A handful of states are already proving that economic growth and environmental protection can go hand in hand – and they’re using market forces, price signals and economic incentives to meet their goals.

These results are particularly salient as states consider how to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit dangerous pollution from power plants.

So let's take a closer look at what's happening on our two coasts.


California: 4% cut in emissions, 2% growth

California’s landmark cap-and-trade program is closing out its second year with some strong results. Between 2012 and 2013, greenhouse gas emissions from the 350+ facilities covered by the program dropped by 4 percent, putting California solidly on track to meet its goal to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

During the same period, the state’s gross domestic product jumped 2 percent.

What’s more, the climate change and clean energy policies ushered in by California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 helped slash carbon pollution from in-state and imported electricity by 16 percent between 2005 and 2012.

All this while attracting more clean-tech venture capital to California than to all other states combined.

Northeast: GDP rises as emissions and power prices drop

Those who would rather turn east for inspiration can look to the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade system stretching from Maryland to Maine.

Since the RGGI program launched in 2009, participating states have cut their greenhouse gas emissions 2.7 times more than non-RGGI states, while growing their gross domestic product 2.5 times more than non-RGGI states.

The states have experienced these dramatic win-win benefitswhile also seeing retail electricity prices across the region decline by an average of 8 percent.

With 70 percent of Americans supporting EPA’s Clean Power Plan – and given that everyone warms up to the notion of a sound economy – can these carbon markets be replicated elsewhere?

States choose their own path

EPA’s rules aim to cut power plant pollution by 30 percent by 2030, giving states individual reduction targets along withgreat flexibility to meet that national goal.

Hitting the sweet spot of supporting economic growth and environmental protection will be a primary objective, and the options are virtually endless. Energy efficiency, renewable energy, power plant efficiency and cap-and-trade are all good bets.

Expanded markets offer new options

Not surprisingly, EPA mentioned RGGI numerous times in its proposed power plant standards as an efficient way to cut carbon pollution. Since then, experts have suggested that regional markets, or even a single national market in which all 50 states participate, may be a way to make the plan affordable.

States still have some time to ponder their options.

EPA is expected to finalize the rule in summer 2015, and states have another year after that to submit plans to EPA detailing how they intend to meet their targets. Those entering into multistate agreements have three years.

The good news is that they wouldn’t be starting from scratch. The experiences of California and the RGGI states can provide useful, real-world insights as states plot their path toward a clean energy future.

This post originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy| Leave a comment

EPA Hands Over the Keys with Clean Power Plan, California Already on Cruise Control

EPA’s Clean Power Plan, proposed today, is a roadmap for cutting dangerous pollution from power plants, and as with any map, there are many roads to follow. For this journey, states are in the driver’s seat and can steer themselves in the direction most beneficial to their people and to the state’s economy, as long as they show EPA they are staying on the map and ultimately reaching the final destination.

As usual, California got off to a head start, explored the territory, blazed a lot of new trails, and left a number of clues on how states can transition to a lower carbon future, and California’s successes are one proven, potential model for other states to follow. The state’s legacy of clean energy and energy efficiency progress is a big reason the White House and EPA could roll out the most significant national climate change action in U.S. history.

Way back in the mid-1970s, when Governor Jerry Brown did his first tour of duty, California pioneered what remains one of the most effective tools for cutting pollution and saving money:  energy efficiency. The state’s efficiency standards, largely aimed at buildings and appliances, have saved Californians $74 billion and avoided the construction of more than 30 power plants. All those energy savings have translated into California residential electricity bills that are 25% lower than the national average.  What’s more, California produces twice as much economic output per kilowatt hour of electricity usage as the national average.

While energy efficiency has done yeoman’s work pulling costs down, reducing the need for dirty energy, and supercharging the state’s clean energy economy, California has also brought bold approaches to cleaning up its power supply. The California Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires 33% of all electricity sold in California to come from renewable sources by 2020, the most aggressive of the 29 states with RPS measures on the books.

In 2006, California enacted Senate Bill 1368, a groundbreaking law that set the nation’s first greenhouse gas emissions standard for power plants, a forerunner of EPA’s Clean Power Plan announced today. The same year, the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) instituted a statewide limit on greenhouse gas emissions, requiring California to return to 1990 levels by 2020. Power plants are capped under AB 32’s successful cap-and-trade program, another precedent that set the table for EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which establishes a national limit on power plant pollution for the first time. This robust suite of policies resulted in California cutting carbon pollution from in-state and imported electricity by 16% between 2005 and 2010-2012.

Given this track record, it’s no surprise that Californians strongly support pollution limits on power plants. According to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) 2013 survey, 76% of Californians support “stricter emissions limits on power plants,” and 65% of survey respondents say that California should act immediately to cut emissions and not wait for the economy to improve, a record-high level of support. The survey also shows that Californians believe the economy will improve because of strong environmental regulations, and that you don’t have to have one or the other. Data corroborating this view continues to pile up:  the state now has its lowest unemployment rate since 2008 even with increasingly stringent environmental policies.

California is proof positive that states can fashion creative policies that improve their environmental and economic bottom line, and that’s exactly what will be needed to make EPA’s Clean Power Plan a durable and resounding success. California’s roadmap includes a variety of alternative routes, giving other states a chance to adopt or adapt them to meet the needs of their own unique journeys toward a healthier future.

This post first appeared on our California Dream 2.0 blog.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy| Comments closed

California Pushes Ahead with a Carbon Cap, Ahead of Schedule

California has the world’s eighth largest economy and a well-earned reputation as a global trendsetter on environmental policy.

It should come as no surprise that Californians are out of the gate on the most urgent environmental challenge of our generation: building a clean energy future that protects the world from catastrophic global warming.

Given that the countdown to Copenhagen is underway and the White House and Congress are weighing proposals and priorities, California’s leadership-by-example means more than ever.

Today, the California Air Resources Board unveiled a conceptual outline – a Preliminary Draft Regulation (PDR) [PDF file, 800K]- of what will become a mandatory, multi-sector cap-and-trade program to take effect on January 1, 2012.  The program will set an absolute limit on sources of 85 percent of the state’s pollution, dialing back pollution levels by 15 percent between now and 2020. California leaders project that a final cap-and-trade program will be adopted by the state’s environmental agency in October 2010, two months ahead of the statutory deadline.

Today’s action is another step on the path to a clean energy future that will create economic opportunities and environmental benefits for all Californians.

The stage was set for today in 2006, when Governor Schwarzenegger signed the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions in the state. The bill’s passage inspired several other states to adopt similar measures and led seven U.S. states and four Canadian provinces to commit to a regional cap-and-trade program called the Western Climate Initiative.

Get more details on the announcement from our press release, and keep tabs on the California cap-and-trade process on Air Resources Board's site.

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Victory in California: Prop 98 Defeated!

Derek WalkerThis post is by Derek Walker, deputy director of the State Climate Campaign and director of the California Climate Initiative at Environmental Defense Fund.

Two weeks ago I posted about California's Dangerous "Proposition 98", with hidden provisions threatening the state's environmental laws. The alternative, Proposition 99, achieves the stated goals of Proposition 98 (protecting homeowners from having their dwellings seized for development) without threatening environmental protections.

The vote took place on Tuesday, and I have good news to report.

Read More »

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California's Dangerous "Proposition 98"

Derek WalkerToday's post is by Derek Walker, deputy director of the State Climate Campaign at Environmental Defense Fund.

On June 3rd Californians will vote on two competing ballot initiatives that purport to prevent abuse of "eminent domain" – the power of a government to take private property for public use.

But only one of these – Proposition 99, the Homeowners Protection Act – would limit the government's ability to use eminent domain to take a home to transfer to a private developer.

The other – Proposition 98 – is a deceptive scheme financed by wealthy landlords that would make it easier to evict people from their homes to make way for new developments. Plus Proposition 98 is filled with hidden provisions that would seriously harm the environment.

Read More »

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Global Warming Bill in Connecticut

Derek WalkerToday's post is by Derek Walker, deputy director of the State Climate Campaign at Environmental Defense Fund.

Connecticut will soon become the fifth state, after California, New Jersey, Hawaii and Washington, to enact a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions. The state's Republican Governor, Jodi Rell, announced this week that she will sign the global warming bill passed by Connecticut's House and Senate. Called Act Concerning Connecticut Global Warming Solutions (HB-5600), the bill has much in common with the California legislation, Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB-32) – also signed into law by a Republican governor.

We at EDF and our allies in Connecticut (Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Environment Northeast, Environment Connecticut, Clean Water Action, the Nature Conservancy and others) almost decided to delay our push for AB-32-style legislation until 2009. The state's economic performance and job growth has been stagnant, and our initial assessment of the legislative appetite for a strong global warming bill was not encouraging. In spite of these choppy seas, we decided to set sail this year even if it became a two-year fight.

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