Category Archives: Washington, DC

Key Legislators Weigh the Economic Impact of Natural Gas

Courtesy RF, iStock 000014939237

Courtesy RF, iStock

This week, during a special hearing by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, legislators gathered a cross-section of industry, policy, and environmental leaders to testify about the economic impacts of increased natural gas development. I was one of the witnesses, on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, arguing that natural gas can only be a net winner for the economy if government acts fast to limit the impacts of new hydrocarbon development on air, water, and the global climate.

There is no question that unconventional gas development is lowering energy costs, creating new jobs, and supporting more domestic manufacturing. But it also poses real and substantial risks to public health and the environment – as well as a growing threat to the industry’s social license to operate. Continued expansion of U.S. gas development must be balanced with a strong commitment to protect against these impacts.

The congressional committee of both senators and representatives exhibited sharply differing perspectives on expanding natural gas regulation. The core question before all levels of government is whether the appropriate steps are being taken to implement and enforce the regulations necessary to minimize the risks. The answer: not yet.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Climate, Natural Gas| 1 Response, comments now closed

Changes to Electricity Systems Will Enhance U.S. Grid Reliability

Cheryl Roberto PhotoLast Thursday morning, with my heart quickly jumping, I entered the grandeur of the United States Senate hearing room for the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Keeping the lights on — are we doing enough to ensure the reliability and security of the US electric grid? hearing as an invited witness. I was eager to share EDF’s vision of a cost-effective, clean energy system that enhances reliability − but I couldn’t help being a little awed by the moment. I had never testified on Capitol Hill before and the dignity of the setting and importance of the message I wanted to share weighed on me.

Here are the high points of my testimony (though you can read it in full here):

  • The nation’s electricity system stands at a transformative crossroads: The costs of distributed generation technologies like rooftop solar and battery storage are falling and energy productivity is rising. In our digital world, people have increased demands for power quality and reliability, but needs for power quantity are predicted to fall – mostly due to “gains in appliance efficiency and an increase in vehicle efficiency standards by 2025.” As a result, our system is transforming from a one-way, centralized power delivery network in which customers passively receive electricity to a two-way flow of both power and information in which customers both receive and produce electricity. The very model of centralized, utility-scale power generation is no longer sacrosanct. The electricity systems we built in the last century, and the regulations that govern them, are no longer adequate – neither to ensure reliability, or to accommodate the rapid changes in technology, consumer needs, environmental standards, and the changing marketplace. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Comments closed

EDF and Allies Defend EPA Emission Standards for Oil and Gas Pollution

Source: Angela Keck Law Offices LLC

Source: Angela Keck Law Offices LLC

By: Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow

A new year may be upon us, but – unfortunately – some members of the oil and gas industry would prefer we roll back the clock on common sense, long-overdue emission standards for oil and gas equipment.

Oil and natural gas production continues to expand rapidly in the United States – and with it the potential for emissions of climate-destabilizing pollutants (especially methane), smog-forming compounds and carcinogenic substances, such as benzene.  We urgently need rigorous national standards that comprehensively address the full suite of pollutants from oil and gas facilities, protect public health and the environment and conserve needless waste of our nation’s natural resources.

In August 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a promising first step by issuing emission standards for new natural gas wells and other oil and gas equipment, including the thousands of large storage tanks built near gas wells, pipelines and processing facilities each and every year.  These “New Source Performance Standards” (NSPS) were based on proven and highly-effective emission control technologies that leading companies have been using for years.  Many of these control technologies also directly benefit a company’s bottom line by reducing avoidable waste of natural gas from vents and leaks – saving money while protecting our climate and air.  Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Natural Gas| 1 Response, comments now closed

President Obama’s Plan To Accelerate The Transition To A Clean Energy Economy

Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Today President Obama took an important step toward meeting the promise of his inaugural address to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”  The headline, of course, is the commitment to take serious action to address the most significant challenge our generation faces – climate change. And, with it, the extreme weather and public health burdens that are already making life harder for vulnerable regions and people nationwide, and that stand to become so much worse as the root cause remains unaddressed.

In his Climate Action Plan announced at Georgetown University, the President laid out his vision for putting in place common sense policies that will cut harmful carbon pollution while driving innovation, cutting energy waste and energy bills, creating jobs and protecting public health. 

Most Americans would be shocked to know that there are no current limits on carbon pollution from power plants. By setting the first standards in history for carbon pollution from power plants in the United States – which produce 2 billion tons of this pollution each year, or about 40% of the nation’s total – the President will help modernize our power system, ensuring that our electricity is reliable, affordable, healthy and clean.  And we can do this in a way that can give industry the flexibility it needs to make cost-effective investments in clean energy technologies.

A modern, intelligent, interactive electricity system will help minimize problems that arise from extreme weather events and other disruptions and maximize renewables, efficiency and consumer choice.  Since the President took office, our country has seen the beginnings of a revolution in the energy sector – technological innovations have put us on track to energy independence and clean, homegrown energy resources constitute a growing share of electric generation capacity.  Reducing wasted energy and using more clean energy offer enormous potential for our health, economy and climate, including:

-          Little to no harmful pollution = improved public health

-          An unlimited, homegrown energy supply = less reliance on foreign oil

-          Economic development = more jobs

-          Stable energy prices = lower electric bills and improved economic stability  

-          A more reliable, resilient energy system = less costly, scary blackouts

-          A global leadership position in the multi-trillion dollar clean energy economy = reclaimed pride and competitiveness for America’s manufacturers

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Also posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Strong Federal Air Measures Still Needed

This blog post was written by Tomás Carbonell, Attorney in EDFs Climate and Air Program.  Jack Nelson, a legal intern in EDF’s Washington, D.C. office, assisted in the preparation of this post. 

Source: EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put in place last year important standards to protect public health and reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants from oil and gas storage tanks and related equipment.  EPA wisely issued those standards after thousands of comments were provided by concerned public advocates for cleaner air.  With oil and gas production expanding quickly, tough standards are needed now more than ever to assure air quality protections for people living near oil and gas producing areas.

Recently, EPA proposed changes to standards for storage tanks in the oil and gas sector — a major source of pollutants that contribute to smog, climate change, and other threats to public health and the environment.  These changes would undermine the progress made thus far and would lead to significant and unnecessary increases in emissions of volatile organic compounds, methane, and other pollutants.  EDF is urging EPA not to finalize the proposed revisions in comments filed together with Clean Air Council, Clean Air Task Force, Environmental Integrity Project, Natural Resources Defense Council and  Sierra Club.

Proposed Changes to the Storage Tank Standards

Last fall, oil and gas industry groups petitioned EPA for changes to the storage tank standards, arguing that less stringent standards are needed because these tanks are even more numerous and emit at higher levels than EPA predicted when it was developing the current standards.  If anything, this new information indicates the need to maintain or strengthen health-protective standards for storage tanks.  EPA’s proposed changes would instead: Read More »

Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Comments closed

Looking For User-Friendly Data On The Real Benefits Of Energy Efficiency? Try REED

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the Regional Energy Efficiency Database (REED), a user-friendly tool to engage policymakers, customers and industry on the real benefits of energy efficiency. With the support of the DOE, the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP) created the regional database to create consistent protocols for energy efficiency in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, with Delaware and the District of Columbia to be added later this year. NEEP's Regional Evaluation Measurement and Verification Forum (EM&V Forum) will then use these protocols to evaluate and measure the results of each participating states’ energy efficiency programs.  

Back in 2010, the EM&V Forum adopted standard guidelines for reporting, and as a result, has been able to develop this database that not only allows users to visually see the benefits of energy efficiency within a state, but also compare them in a meaningful way against other states in the region.  Think of it as a little energy efficiency competition amongst neighbors.

The Northeast region has a robust energy efficiency partnership and network, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which caps power plants emissions and higher electricity costs than most other regions in the country, all of which incentivizes energy efficiency. By accurate monitoring and verifying energy usage using the EM&V Forum, policymakers can determine which programs are the most impactful, from both and economic and environmental perspective, which ensures consumers that their tax dollars are providing tangible benefits.

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