Selected category: Greenhouse Gas Emissions

New Analysis: Clean Power Plan Compliance Within Reach for Litigating Companies

rp_scales_of_justice-300x280-300x280.png (EDF Attorneys Tomás Carbonell and Martha Roberts co-authored this post)

Tomorrow – Tuesday, September 27th – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear argument about the historic Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan places the nation’s first limits on climate-disrupting pollution from the electricity sector, which is responsible for almost 40 percent of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide.

Many utilities, power producers, and state regulators recognize the importance of addressing climate change – and support the Clean Power Plan. However, some in the electric industry have instead chosen to take a reactionary, obstructionist position against climate progress. They are participating in litigation against the Clean Power Plan. A wide array of prominent legal experts have concluded that these companies’ legal arguments are unsupported. Moreover, in many cases, opponents’ claims are even contrary to their own actions. (See Opening Brief of Petitioners on Procedural and Record-Based Issues, page 12, West Virginia v. EPA, No. 15-1363, D.C. Cir. Apr. 22, 2016)

EDF has just released a new analysis of this issue. It examines a diverse selection of power companies that are litigating against the Clean Power Plan, including Southern Company, American Electric Power, Big Rivers Electric Corporation, and Tri-State Generation & Transmission.

We find that:

  • Overall, power sector emissions of climate pollution are already 21 percent below 2005 levels. As a result, the sector is already two-thirds of the way towards meeting the 2030 emissions reduction requirements of the Clean Power Plan.
  • Even though these particular companies are opposing the Clean Power Plan in court, they are already using a variety of approaches to drive significant cost-effective reductions in climate pollution from their existing fossil-fuel powered units, thanks in large part to favorable economics for lower and zero-carbon generation.
  • These are the same practical, cost-effective methods that EPA identified as the “best system” of emission reduction for climate pollution from power plants, and that formed the basis for the emission limits in the Clean Power Plan.
  • With these investment decisions, power companies are well positioned to comply with the Clean Power Plan, even though they are making claims to the contrary in court.
  • These companies’ own actions affirm the reasonableness of the Clean Power Plan targets as well as EPA’s approach in setting the standard, even though the companies are repeatedly claiming otherwise in court.

This is not the first time some of these companies have advanced deeply flawed “sky is falling” claims about clean air safeguards. Back in the 1970’s, AEP published a series of Washington Post newspaper ads claiming:

There is no way on God’s green earth that the present sulfur-dioxide emissions standards can be met. (Washington Post, April 30, 1974, AEP Display Ad 13)

Not surprisingly, coal plants across the nation are routinely meeting sulfur dioxide limits far more stringent and at very low cost.

This was also true in 1990, when AEP told the Boston Globe that bipartisan solutions to address acid rain could lead to:

the potential destruction of the Midwest economy.

Of course, they then proceeded, along with the rest of the industry, to go out and comply at a small fraction of the costs predicted by EPA. This same story is playing out again today.

The Clean Air Act has achieved deep reductions in pollution and delivered benefits exceeding the costs by 30 to 1 – all while our economy has prospered, and all at a small fraction of the costs predicted by obstructionists in the power industry.

The Clean Power Plan is no different. As our analysis shows, day by day it becomes clearer that the reductions it requires are wholly consistent with driving trends in the industry, and that the benefits will far exceed any cost of compliance.

The full analysis is available here.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, EPA litgation, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Comments are closed

Compliance with Clean Power Plan is Within Reach — Even for States Opposing It

(Tomás Carbonell, EDF Director of Regulatory Policy and Senior Attorney, and Diane Munns, EDF Senior Director of External Affairs, co-authored this post)

In one week – on Tuesday, September 27th – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear oral argument in legal challenges brought by the coal industry and its allies against the Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan establishes the nation’s first ever climate pollution standards for the power sector, which is the largest source of climate pollution in the United States, and one of the largest sources in the world. (According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the next largest sector – light-duty vehicles, which includes passenger cars and most pickup trucks – accounted for roughly one-half the emissions of the power sector in 2014.)  As a result, the Clean Power Plan is one of the most important measures the United States has ever taken to combat the threat of climate change.

The Clean Power Plan is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, yielding up to $54 billion in annual climate and health benefits and saving up to 3,600 lives each year.

The good news is that the United States’ power sector is already rapidly reducing emissions by transitioning toward low cost, lower carbon sources of generation. In 2015, emissions were already 21 percent below 2005 levels. That’s almost two-thirds of the way toward the 2030 emission reduction target reflected in the Clean Power Plan. The rate of emission reduction we have seen over the last decade far exceeds the rate that would be required to achieve the Clean Power Plan targets by 2030. Meanwhile, analysts are projecting that the combination of falling prices for renewable energy and the extension of federal tax credits will drive a significant surge in new renewable development (see here, here, and here for just a few examples).

Even though powerful market forces are already driving dramatic progress in reducing climate pollution, opponents of the Clean Power Plan have argued in court that the plan represents a dramatic “restructuring of nearly every State’s electric grid” and have also argued that compliance with the Clean Power Plan’s emission reduction goals is “impossible.”  (See Opening Brief of Petitioners on Core Legal Issues, page 6, West Virginia v. EPA, No. 15-1363, D.C. Cir. Apr. 22, 2016, and Opening Brief of Petitioners on Procedural and Record-Based Issues, page 12, West Virginia v. EPA, No. 15-1363, D.C. Cir. Apr. 22, 2016)

To evaluate these claims, EDF commissioned an analysis to examine how far measures already planned by power companies could go towards helping achieve the Clean Power Plan emission targets in the states that have challenged these standards.

What the analysis found stands in stark contrast to allegations by the litigating states and power companies.

About the Analysis

M.J. Bradley and Associates conducted the analysis using its publicly available Clean Power Plan Compliance Tool. The analysis drew on multiple, widely-used sources of industry-provided information on investments in new generation and planned retirements, and was based on policy scenarios and assumptions provided by EDF. The analysis is cited in a court declaration filed by EDF clean energy expert Diane Munns, and was recently featured in a Reuters article titled “Most states on track to meet emissions targets they call burden.”

Finding #1: All 27 litigating states can comply with the Clean Power Plan by leveraging planned investments coupled with flexible compliance programs

The analysis found that all 27 states opposing the Clean Power Plan could come into compliance with their emission reduction targets all the way through 2030, without making any additional investments beyond those that are already planned by power companies or required under existing state law. All state regulators need to do is take advantage of the inherent flexibility provided by the Clean Power Plan and adopt flexible compliance programs that allow power plants to fully leverage the benefits of planned investments – such as by allowing companies to average across their sources or trade compliance credits across states lines.

As Clean Air Act experts have noted, this compliance approach is familiar territory under our nation’s clean air laws. The Supreme Court recently upheld this approach in reviewing EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule, and many of the litigating states have already successfully adopted these types of emissions trading programs to achieve compliance with limits on soot and smog pollution from power plants.

Finding #2:  Even if they do not take full advantage of these program flexibilities, the vast majority of litigating states can comply with Clean Power Plan goals through 2030 through planned investments alone

The analysis also considered very conservative scenarios where states do not take advantage of these program flexibilities, and each state comes into compliance solely through in-state investments and existing state policies – without engaging in trading of compliance instruments with any other states. Such constraints seem unlikely, given that most of the litigating states are already taking advantage of interstate trading in other Clean Air Act programs for the power sector and requested that interstate trading be an option under the Clean Power Plan.

Even in these very conservative scenarios, as many as 21 of the 27 states challenging the Clean Power Plan could fully achieve their emission targets through the first three-year compliance period of the Clean Power Plan (the period from 2022-2024) by relying exclusively on existing generation, investments already planned within each state, and implementation of respective existing state policies. The study also found that as many as 18 of these states could comply all the way through 2030 as a result of these measures. Also, since this analysis was completed, Arkansas announced that it was already in compliance with the 2030 emissions targets. This suggests that at least 22 of the states could comply through 2024 as a result of planned investments, and that 19 states could comply through 2030.

For the minority of states that were not found to meet their Clean Power Plan emission reduction targets through planned investments alone, this analysis indicates that very modest additional measures would be sufficient to close the gap. For example, it finds that all of the states could come into compliance in the first three-year compliance period merely by deploying cost-effective energy efficiency measures and developing new clean resources at a rate comparable to the average of their neighboring states.

mjb-graphic

 

Finding #3:  The Clean Power Plan has an essential role to play in reducing emissions from the power sector

While the analysis shows that these states are well positioned for compliance, it also reaffirms the importance of the Clean Power Plan in delivering the needed reductions in climate pollution over the long term.

This is because building new clean generation alone is not enough – it is also vital to ensure that the benefits of these investments are fully realized. By establishing nationwide emission limits through 2030, the Clean Power Plan will provide clear market and regulatory signals to power companies that encourage them to cost-effectively deploy their generation in a manner that reduces climate pollution. However, any delay or disruption in the implementation of the Clean Power Plan would interrupt those signals and put these eminently achievable reductions in climate pollution at risk.

Power companies, states, and others agree: compliance is readily achievable

We aren’t the only ones who have concluded that the Clean Power Plan targets are eminently reasonable. Our results are consistent with recent, independent economic analyses by the Nicholas Institute, M.J. Bradley & Associates, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and others. All of these analyses predict very low compliance costs because favorable economics for lower and zero-carbon sources of electricity are expected to continue driving sustained investment in these resources even in the absence of the Clean Power Plan. As a result, states around the country are well positioned for compliance.

Notably, states and power companies from across the country have themselves affirmed this very point:

  • In Georgia, an official at the state Public Service Commission, Sheree Kernizan, affirmed that: "We were already on track under the proposed rules to kind of meet the goals anyway – without doing anything – and this was prior to the 2016 [integrated resource plan] that was filed this year …. and [Georgia Power Company’s] talking about adding more renewables, continuing the energy efficiency programs that have been in place."
  • The state of Arkansas announced in May that it has already met the 2030 emission targets in the standards by moving to cleaner and more affordable sources of energy.
  • The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says the state can comply with the federal Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions without changing anything until at least 2025.
  • Oklahoma’s two largest utilities, PSO and OG&E, both say they’re on a path to compliance with the Clean Power Plan by the 2030 deadline.
  • Analysis conducted by Pace Global for the Arizona Utilities Group shows that the state can comply with the Clean Power Plan based on investments already planned under business-as-usual. (The Arizona Utilities Group consists of Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, Inc., Arizona Public Service Company, Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, Tucson Electric Power Company, and UniSource Energy Services.)

(You can find even more analyses and statements about how states and power companies are well positioned to achieve Clean Power Plan targets here.) 

At this point it is abundantly clear that America is rapidly transitioning to a low carbon economy – yielding enormous benefits for climate and public health, and opening new economic opportunities in communities across the nation. With the price of low-carbon resources at all-time lows, the market is already strongly driving this transition. The Clean Power Plan is a common sense framework that can provide an essential role in harnessing this momentum and providing a clear, certain path forward to protect against climate change — while at the same time giving states the ability to achieve emission reductions in ways that maximize local public health benefits for communities affected by air pollution.

Litigating states and power companies should stop wasting money fighting against the protection of public health and the environment, and instead focus more fully on how to seize the opportunities of a clean energy future and maximize benefits for communities and consumers.

 

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, EPA litgation, News, Policy| Read 1 Response

Power Companies and States – On Track to Meet Clean Power Plan Goals

rp_scales_of_justice-300x280-300x280.png

(EDF Fellow Charlie Jiang co-authored this post)

Oral argument in litigation about the Clean Power Plan is rapidly approaching.

In two weeks – on Tuesday, September 27th — the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear argument en banc about the historic measure to limit climate pollution from American power plants. (Argument begins at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 20).

As you get ready for the argument, one important development to keep in mind is the rapid expansion of clean energy. A power sector transformation is happening now because low-carbon energy is tremendously cost-effective. Prudent investments in clean energy are helping to create cleaner air and shared prosperity — and they’re also further demonstrating that the Clean Power Plan targets are eminently achievable, and that the rule’s approach builds from existing trends and low carbon generation shifts that are already happening in the power sector.

The Clean Power Plan is a sensible framework to help protect us from the dangers of climate change. As these trends show, it is hardly the “reengineer[ing] of the grid” described by opponents. Many states and major power companies are on track to meet or exceed the Clean Power Plan’s targets — including those that are challenging the Clean Power Plan in court.

Here are a few examples of power companies that are shifting their generation towards low-cost clean energy:

  • Of American Electric Power’s (AEP) generating capacity, more than half (60 percent) comes from coal — but even AEP is reducing emissions by replacing coal with renewables and natural gas. AEP has already cut carbon dioxide emissions 39 percent from 2000 levels. The company plans to add 5,500 megawatts of wind, 3,000 megawatts of solar, and 3,000 megawatts of natural gas in the coming years. CEO Nick Akins last year noted that the Clean Power Plan could be a “catalyst for the transformation that’s already occurring in our industry.”
  • Iowa-based MidAmerican Energy has announced a goal to provide 100 percent renewable energy. MidAmerican’s just approved $3.6 billion project to add 2,000 megawatts of wind — called the “largest wind energy project in US history” — will expand wind energy to become 85 percent of the company’s sales. Said CEO Bill Fehrman, “Our customers want more renewable energy, and we couldn’t agree more.” Meanwhile, an executive of MidAmerican’s parent company, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, had this to say about the Supreme Court stay of the Clean Power Plan: “We wish that hadn’t happened… Rather than litigating, we are leading.”
  • Southern Company, a major generator of coal-fired power, is expanding renewable energy development that would count towards Clean Power Plan compliance. Southern Company and its subsidiaries have added or announced more than four gigawatts of renewable generation since 2012 to its 44 gigawatt fleet. Southern Company subsidiaries are challenging the Clean Power Plan in court.
  • Xcel Energy reported in a recent SEC filing that its Integrated Resource Plan for subsidiary NSP-Minnesota will “allow for a 60 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030,” and that it “anticipated compliance with the [Clean Power Plan] while maintaining reasonable costs for customers.” In comparison, the Clean Power Plan will reduce carbon emissions from the power sector on average 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Westar Energy, which serves Kansas, is rapidly reducing emissions — even while it is challenging the Clean Power Plan in court. The company’s 2015 Annual Report states that its fleet’s carbon emissions will fall 36 percent below 2005 levels by 2017 (see page 86 of the report). That already exceeds the national goal under the Clean Power Plan.

Power companies aren’t alone in their race to clean energy. States are continuing to make significant progress towards reducing their power sector emissions and meeting Clean Power Plan targets.

Here are some examples of continued state progress:

  • Arkansas already reached its 2030 Clean Power Plan compliance target last year, thanks to declining coal use in favor of more renewables and natural gas. An in-depth Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article found that “low natural-gas prices” was the most common reason cited by utility leaders for the decline in coal use.
  • Arizona is “well positioned” to comply and already on track to meet interim goals under business as usual, according to analysis by Pace Global. Modeling from Arizona State University similarly found that compliance was eminently feasible. The state is continuing to convene meetings to assess compliance options even though the Arizona Corporation Commission is challenging the rule in court.
  • California released a draft of its Clean Power Plan compliance plan in early August, the first state to do so. A California Air Resources Board spokesman stated that the proposal is “a proof of concept for other states, to demonstrate that this is a program that can be adapted to each state and that can be set up in a way that we can form a regional association.”
  • Georgia is on track to comply with the Clean Power Plan, especially under Georgia Power Company’s proposed integrated resource plan, which proposes to add much more renewable power.
  • Louisiana is continuing to plan for compliance. According to Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Chuck Carr Brown, “Some of the coal states are saying, ‘Put your pencils down’… I took this as an opportunity to sharpen the pencil — to create something that is going to work for the state of Louisiana.”
  • Michigan’s Attorney General is fighting the Clean Power Plan in court even though the state “would be largely in compliance” with the rule under expected “business as usual” conditions, according to a recent report by the Electric Power Research Institute.
  • South Carolina regulators are developing a new state energy plan that will likely include measures to reduce power plant emissions. Although the state has halted official work on the Clean Power Plan and is challenging it in court, these emissions reductions could help the state comply with the rule — and spur economic development, as highlighted in a recent op ed by Frank Knapp, President of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
  • This summer the National Association of Clean Air Agencies released a comprehensive report designed to help states develop implementation plans to comply with EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The report includes a complete model state plan submittal that states can adapt or build on as they wish.
Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Energy, EPA litgation, Policy| Comments are closed

Clean Power Plan: Opponents Have Already Conceded that EPA Has Authority to Regulate

(EDF Attorney Ben Levitan co-authored this post)

rp_Gavel-and-earth-from-Flickr-300x199.jpgTwo weeks from today, on September 27th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear oral argument on the Clean Power Plan — our nation’s first-ever limits on dangerous, climate-destabilizing carbon pollution from power plants. Fossil fuel power plants are the country’s single largest source of this pollution, and among the world’s largest contributors to climate change.

As we’ve noted before, the Clean Power Plan has a solid legal foundation and is supported by many of the nation’s leading legal experts. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued similarly flexible, cost-effective pollution limits for decades under Republican and Democratic administrations alike, resulting in generations of healthier Americans and enormous economic benefits. Nevertheless, opponents of the Clean Power Plan — the coal industry, coal-intensive power companies and allied states — will almost certainly claim on September 27 that EPA has overstepped its bounds.

One particular claim you can expect to hear is that EPA does not have the authority to regulate carbon pollution from existing power plants under section 111 of the Clean Air Act because EPA has already regulated those same power plants — for entirely separate toxic substances like mercury, arsenic, acid gases and other hazardous air pollutants — under section 112 of the Clean Air Act. This bizarre theory is akin to arguing that a restaurant that has complied with health standards can’t be subject to the fire code.

This “pick your poison” legal theory is antithetical to the public health foundations of the Clean Air Act and utterly self-serving to the interests of polluters. Under this reading of the Clean Air Act, some dangerous pollution could be emitted in unlimited quantities no matter how much harm it inflicts upon our health and environment.

But opponents of the Clean Power Plan haven’t always sung this same tune. There are several prominent examples of Clean Power Plan opponents conceding EPA’s authority to regulate carbon pollution from existing power plants — sometimes even citing section 111 of the Clean Air Act, the very statutory provision that is the basis for the Clean Power Plan.

Here are some instances in which the Clean Power Plan opponents and their legal counsel have manifestly conceded EPA’s authority to limit the carbon pollution from existing power plants:

  • Concession #1: Attorney Peter Keisler, Representing Coal-Based Power Companies Before the U.S. Supreme Court, Concedes EPA’s Authority to Regulate Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act

In American Electric Power v. Connecticut (2011), several states and land trusts sought to limit climate pollution from several power companies under federal common law. In the Supreme Court, the power companies successfully argued that action under common law was unwarranted because Congress had already given EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under section 111.

During oral argument in the case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked Peter Keisler — an attorney who represented the power companies in American Electric Power v. Connecticut and who is slated to present oral argument in the Clean Power Plan case — whether EPA had the authority to regulate climate pollution from existing power plants. Keisler responded that EPA did have authority — under the very same section that opponents of the Clean Power Plan now claim prohibits EPA from regulating those emissions.

We believe that the EPA can consider, as it’s undertaking to do, regulating existing nonmodified sources under section 111 of the Clean Air Act, and that’s the process that’s engaged in now. It’s announced that it will propose standards in the summer and complete a rulemaking by May. Obviously, at the close of that process there could be [Administrative Procedure Act] challenges on a variety of grounds, but we do believe that they have the authority to consider standards under section 111. (Attorney Peter Keisler, from transcript of oral argument in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, 564 U.S. 410 (2011) (No. 10-174), page 15, emphasis added)

Three years later, Keisler again appeared before the Supreme Court representing coal companies and coal-based power companies. This time he was challenging EPA’s authority to require limits on the climate pollution under a separate Clean Air Act program.  During oral argument in this case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, Justice Ginsburg asked Keisler to identify which sections of the Clean Air Act provide EPA with authority to regulate climate pollution. Keisler responded by citing the Court’s discussion of section 111 in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, where the central question was the regulation of climate pollution from existing power plants.

I think most critically, Your Honor, it includes the new source performance standards program of Section 111 that this Court discussed in Connecticut v. AEP. And this is a very important point, because [Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA] is not about whether EPA can regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources. This Court held that it could under this program in Section [1]11. (Attorney Peter Keisler, from transcript of oral argument in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, 134 S. Ct. 2427 (2014) (No. 12-1146), page 18, emphasis added)

Crucially, this exchange occurred in February 2014 — more than two years after EPA issued the emission standards for mercury and air toxics that opponents now claim deprive EPA of the authority to issue the Clean Power Plan.

  • Concession #2: American Public Power Association and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

The American Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association — current petitioners against the Clean Power Plan — expressly supported Keisler’s position in American Electric Power v. Connecticut. Their amicus brief in that case specifically cited section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act — the same section under which EPA issued the Clean Power Plan — as a source of EPA’s authority to regulate the carbon pollution from existing power plants.

[The Clean Air Act] authorizes EPA to list categories of ‘stationary sources’ — i.e., non-mobile emissions sources, such as power plants — that ‘cause[ ], or contribute[ ] significantly to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare,’ and to establish federal performance standards for new or modified sources that fall within the listed category.  [Clean Air Act] § [1]11(b)(1)(A), (B). It requires states to issue performance standards for existing stationary sources in some circumstances, subject to EPA-promulgated guidelines. Id. § [1]11(d). (Brief of Amici Curiae Edison Electric Institute, American Public Power Association, and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, 564 U.S. 410 (2011), pages 6 and 7, emphasis added)

The brief goes on to note that section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act requires the establishment of emission standards for:

air pollutants that are not regulated under other provisions of the Clean Air Act, such as [greenhouse gases] (Brief of Amici Curiae Edison Electric Institute, American Public Power Association, and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, 564 U.S. 410 (2011), page 9)

This is directly contrary to the position these same opponents have taken in the Clean Power Plan litigation, in which they have written that EPA lacks authority to regulate carbon pollution even though that pollution is not regulated under other Clean Air Act programs.

  • Concession #3: Hunton & Williams’s “Clean Air Handbook”

The law firm Hunton & Williams has long represented coal-related interests that are currently challenging the Clean Power Plan. In recent legal filings, Hunton & Williams attorneys have made the same argument — that EPA lacks the authority to regulate carbon pollution from power plants because it already regulated those power plants for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants under section 112.

But in late 2014 — almost three years after EPA had issued its section 112 regulations, and two years before the recent legal filings — Hunton & Williams released a new edition of its “Clean Air Handbook” which correctly explained that EPA could regulate the same pollution source under both sections 111 and 112.

Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act governs the regulation of emissions from existing sources of air pollutants that are not listed as criteria air pollutants pursuant to section 108 of the Act or listed as hazardous air pollutants under section 112. (Hunton & Williams, Clean Air Handbook 4th ed., page 211, (2014) emphasis added)

Hunton & Williams’s explanation in its 2014 Handbook is entirely consistent with EPA’s approach — their explanation indisputably permits the Clean Power Plan’s limits on carbon emissions from power plants, which aren’t listed under sections 108 or 112.  Yet an attorney from Hunton & Williams is expected to present the exact opposite position at the Clean Power Plan oral argument, claiming that EPA can’t regulate the same source under sections 111 and 112.

In Hunton & Williams’ 2014 Handbook, this notion was relegated only to an endnote and described as an alternative “legal argument [that] exists.” (page 222, endnote 230 of the handbook)

  • Concession #4: Clean Power Plan Opponent Peabody and Its Attorney Laurence Tribe Endorsed EPA’s Expertise in Regulating Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants

Despite EPA’s long, successful history of regulating pollution from power plants, Clean Power Plan opponents argue in their briefs that EPA lacks the expertise to make the policy decisions that went into the Clean Power Plan. Yet previously, in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, the same industry litigants urged the courts themselves not to set climate pollution limits for power plants under the federal common law, arguing vigorously that EPA was more qualified to do so.

Peabody Energy Corporation’s brief in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, written by Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, explained that the Supreme Court had recognized EPA’s regulatory expertise:

This Court has opined, in recognizing EPA’s regulatory jurisdiction, that the judiciary has ‘neither the expertise nor the authority to evaluate [climate change] policy judgments …’ Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 533 (2007). (Brief of Amici Curiae Peabody Energy Corporation, Consumer Energy Alliance, and others in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, 564 U.S. 410 (2011), page 11, emphasis added, brackets in brief.)  

Tribe ultimately removed his name from that brief, but he continues to represent Peabody in litigation against the Clean Power Plan.

  • Concession #5: Peter Keisler Again

Peter Keisler, the attorney for the coal-based power companies, stated at oral argument for American Electric Power v. Connecticut that Congress created an orderly statutory framework under the Clean Air Act for EPA to regulate carbon pollution from power plants.

[T]here’s a reason that this issue is so fraught and difficult in international negotiations and at the EPA and in the halls of Congress, and that’s because it requires policymakers to allocate burdens among critical social goods in favor of important environmental considerations … [I]n a big intractable issue like this, Congress can often create an orderly framework for consideration within a statutory context, which it has done in part by enacting the Clean Air Act. [The Clean Air Act is implemented by EPA.] (Attorney Peter Keisler, from transcript of oral argument in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, 564 U.S. 410 (2011) (No. 10-174), page 64 and 65, bracketed sentence added)

What do all these contradictory statements reveal? Opponents of climate progress will tie themselves in knots coming up with legal arguments to oppose any limit on carbon pollution. Their opposition isn’t just to the Clean Power Plan, but to any required reductions in climate-harming pollution from existing fossil fuel power plants.

As communities across America confront tragic flooding, heat waves, rising sea levels, and other grim impacts of climate change, we need to overcome this obstructionism and work together to forge solutions. We need the Clean Power Plan to help protect our families and communities from the clear and present danger of climate change — we do not need a legalistic shell game to evade accountability and avoid common-sense solutions.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, News, Policy| Comments are closed

We just had five 1,000-year floods in less than a year. What's going on?

A 1,000-year flood is supposed to be extremely rare. Its chance of occurring in a given year: 0.1 percent.

So how do we explain that in the span of just five months, the United States logged no fewer than four deadly 1,000-year floods in states as widespread as Texas, West Virginia, Maryland and Louisiana – following a 1,000-year-flood that ravaged South Carolina last October.

It appears that the calculation of a 1,000-year event may no longer be the most accurate statistic. It was based, as are our increasingly common 100-year natural disaster events, on data from the past. We may, in other words, already have shifted so far into a new climate regime that probabilities have been turned on their head.

Climate change “supercharges” normal weather

Like any climate scientist will tell you, there is more to the story than what you see on the surface.

All climate and weather events are influenced to some degree by both natural climate variations and human-made climate change. The amount that each of these influences can exert on a particular event can theoretically range from 0 to 100 percent.

Rigorous scientific analysis has found that the extreme rainfall that caused a Texas flooding in May of 2015, for example, was caused by a fairly typical rainfall pattern associated with that year’s El Niño, a naturally occurring climate cycle, which had been supercharged by human-made climate change.

Working in tandem, these two phenomena together produced one of the largest multi-day flooding events Texas has ever experienced.

Recent floods continue the trend

But what about more recent floods like the one in Baton Rouge or Ellicott City, Maryland?

Attributing short-term extreme weather events to climate change is not a trivial exercise, even as the science of climate attribution has advanced rapidly over the last decade.

Using high-powered models and complex statistical analysisof observations, credible scientific statements can now be made about how climate change affect the frequency or intensity of a specific weather event.

There is an inevitable time delay between the occurrence of an event and the complete dissection of its various causes. This is why we cannot yet say with certainty that last month’s flooding in Baton Rouge, or the flash flood that devastated Ellicott City in July, were due to climate change.

71% more heavy rain since the 1950s

If you’re anything like me you don’t enjoy waiting for answers. So while it’s certainly wise to await the scientific analysis that is sure to be coming down the pike, we can still think about these events in the climate change context.

We know that as the global average temperature rises, more water evaporates from the oceans. This, in turn, increases the amount of atmospheric moisture that is available for storms to process into rainfall.

Increases in heavy downpours by region 1958-2012. Source: NCA

In fact, observations over the last 60 years indicate that over the United States, the amount of water falling in heavy rain events has increased substantially, and an astonishing 71 percent over portions of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern U.S.

In other words, if there were two storms with an identical structure over Boston, Massachusetts – one in 1955 and one in 2016 – the one in 2016 would, on average, produce 71 percent more rainfall.

Bottom line is that the heavy rainfall and disastrous flooding events that we continue to experience are certainly consistent with what the science tells us about the impacts from increasing global temperatures.

These floods are another reminder that we must change that trajectory.

Photo source: Flickr

Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions| Comments are closed

Praise for the New Standards for Cleaner Freight Trucks

Earlier this week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation announced new greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and they’ve been winning praise and support ever since.

The extraordinary and far-reaching support for the new Clean Truck standards ranges from leading public health organizations to the companies and workers who manufacture these vehicles, the businesses that depend on fleets of these vehicles, and the consumers who rely on goods and services delivered by these fleets.

Here are a few examples:

The continued focus on improving fuel efficiency will unlock new innovations that protect our environment and spur economic growth… The steps we have taken to boost the efficiency of our fleet across PepsiCo have significantly reduced emissions while lowering our operating costs, and we are committed to doing much more. We thank the Administration for its leadership on this issue and believe these new standards set the stage for continued progress.

– Indra K. Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo.

In our opinion, the phase two standards are balanced, with the EPA and NHTSA having done an excellent job of incorporating feedback from multiple stakeholders including manufacturers, fleet operators, private operators and environmental NGOs.

– Frito-Lay North America supply chain senior director Michael O’Connell (Frito Lay is a division of PepsiCo)

This new set of regulations will encourage innovation and has the potential to spur domestic economic growth … In the long-run, these regulations will make trucking operations in the United States stronger by reducing its dependence on oil and making our economy less vulnerable to the fluctuations of a single global commodity.

– Mike Britt, Director of Advanced Engineering for United Parcel Service (UPS) and Chair of the CALSTART Board of Directors

Eaton recognizes the importance of providing environmentally responsible solutions, so we are pleased with the new Phase II standards for medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles which will deliver significant fuel consumption and emissions reductions … These new standards ensure that we both satisfy customers and protect the environment.

– Craig Arnold, Eaton chairman and CEO

What the rule does is it brings clarity to the entire industry. … It helps us pace and justify our investments, an investment we are doing anyway.

– Mihai Dorobantu, director of technology planning and government affairs for Eaton

Our goal in this process was to work collaboratively with the agencies to simplify compliance while maximizing environmental benefits and overall cost savings for the fleets. I think we’ve achieved that.

– Dick Giromini, President and CEO of Wabash National

We’ve long supported standards that reduce emissions and improve the environment, particularly in the communities where we operate. That’s why we support the new Phase II standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks. It’s a win-win for our industry, our customers and communities – reducing emissions and saving fuel and money.

– David Steiner, CEO, Waste Management

[The standards] provide a long-term road map to make sure we develop the technology we’ll need in the marketplace … That’s a positive for us.

– Brian Mormino, Cummins executive director of environmental strategy and compliance

Many businesses view the term ‘good regulation’ as the ultimate oxymoron. But the latest fuel efficiency standards are a good example of government and industry working together to address a critical societal challenge.

– Alex Stark, Kane is Able, Modern Marketing Expert | Supply Chain Collaboration Evangelist

This is great news for the trucking industry and companies that are concerned about reducing their shipping costs. Because these vehicles are so large, even small improvements in fuel economy yield significant cost-savings through reduced oil use. This is yet another area where stronger environmental performance is better for businesses and the economy, too.

– Carol Lee Rawn, director of Ceres Transportation Program

We applaud the EPA, NHTSA and CARB for listening to public and industry input and raising the GHG emissions standards. This new rule will spur continued innovation in the transportation sector. We've seen again and again that regulation is useful – perhaps even essential – to drive the industry to embrace innovative technology to improve fuel economy, reduce petroleum consumption, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

–  David Johnson, president and CEO, Achates Power 

The vehicle efficiency standards released today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are a critical move forward in the fight for healthy air … We thank President Obama, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for this important step to save lives and safeguard Americans’ health.

American Lung Association

The new rules are long-term, technology- and product-neutral, address the needs of consumers and industry, and promote healthy competition that benefits consumers, manufacturers and the economy overall. The trucking industry will benefit. Consumers will save. And the economy will thrive. It’s a win-win-win.

– Mark Cooper, Director of Research for the Consumer Federation of America

Under these vehicle standards, working in concert with sound manufacturing policy, American companies and workers are demonstrating that the nation can lead in combating climate change while creating American jobs and making America’s auto sector one of the most technologically advanced and competitive in the world. We are committed to seeing this trajectory continue.

– Kim Glas, Executive Director of Blue Green Alliance

There's no doubt the whole world will look at these standards and use them as a benchmark.

– Nic Lutsey, International Council on Clean Transportation

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