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As Oil and Gas Industry Goes Big in the Permian, Efforts to Tackle Emissions Will Be Telling

By Jon Goldstein and Ben Ratner

Much ink has been spilled recently about big new oil and gas investments in the Permian Basin across West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico. What some are dubbing “Permania” includes a more than $6 billion investment by ExxonMobil in New Mexico acreage and an almost $3 billion one by Noble Energy across the border in Texas, among others. But a large question remains: will these types of big bets also come with the needed investments to limit methane emissions?

It’s not just an academic question. The answer will go a long way toward revealing if industry actors plan to operate in a way that serves the best interest of local communities and taxpayers. Unfortunately, New Mexico is currently the worst in the nation for waste of natural gas resources from federal lands (such as those that are found in large parts of the state’s Permian Basin). Largely avoidable venting, flaring and leaks of natural gas from these sites also puts a big hole in taxpayers’ wallets, robbing New Mexico taxpayers of $100 million worth of their natural gas resources every year and depriving the state budget of millions more in royalty revenue that could be invested in urgent state needs like education.


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International Women’s Day: Spotlight on a Texas Clean Energy Leader

Center: Debbie Kimberly, Vice President for Customer Energy Solutions at Austin Energy.

In honor of this year’s International Women’s Day we wanted to highlight a clean energy leader in Texas, and we didn’t have to go far from Environmental Defense Fund’s Austin office.

Debbie Kimberly is the Vice President for Customer Energy Solutions at Austin Energy (AE), the municipally-owned electric utility for the City of Austin. Her division is responsible for some of the utility’s clean energy portfolio, including energy efficiency, demand response (a tool that rewards people and businesses for using less electricity when the grid is stressed), and solar initiatives.

Debbie came to AE just over four years ago from an illustrious run at Arizona’s Salt River Project – the electric utility that serves the Phoenix area. I recently interviewed her about her leadership in Texas’ clean energy space. Read More »

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As New Energy Secretary, Rick Perry Will Inherit Trump’s Assault on American Clean Energy

Rick Perry by Gage SkidmoreThose of us who lived through Rick Perry’s governorship in Texas were concerned he’d take his “pollution-first” mentality to Washington. But the Trump administration’s assault on clean energy started before Perry cleared the first hurdle for becoming Secretary of Energy today, signaling he’ll likely be confirmed by the full Senate.

In two short weeks, President Trump laid out the dismal, dirty, and dangerous energy platform he’ll expect Rick Perry to execute. It’s up to us to protect and defend the jobs clean energy creates, along with its benefits for business, consumers, health, and our natural resources.

Energy efficiency
President Trump’s regulatory freeze halted four rules designed to reduce energy waste and, consequently, energy bills and greenhouse gas pollution. The Washington Post reported, “The freeze would appear to have the effect of sweeping up four very nearly finished Energy Department energy efficiency standards, affecting an array of products, including portable air conditioners and commercial boilers.” Heating and cooling use the most energy in buildings. This rule on commercial air-conditioners was published last year. The amount of C02 reduction and the fact that the Department of Energy negotiated the rule with industry make it a landmark example of how efficiency rules don’t hurt manufacturers while saving utility customers billions of dollars. Closing off this avenue of cooperation between the government and industry stakeholders takes away drive for innovation and allows others (China) to take the lead. Read More »

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Environmental Injustices in the Air We Breathe

air-pollution-smoke-rising-from-plant-towerThis post originally appeared in La Voz de Esperanza.

For years now, San Antonio residents have endured unhealthy levels of ozone in the air we breathe. Yet, the city of San Antonio has narrowly avoided violating the US Environmental Protection Agency’s national ozone standards, designed to protect human health. But San Antonio will soon have to make changes to its approach to air quality.

In October of last year, the EPA, responding to the findings of recent health studies, lowered the maximum allowable ozone level. On April 8 of this year, San Antonio exceeded that threshold, which means our region is not meeting EPA’s ozone air quality standards.

This matters because ground-level ozone can affect our health and often has disproportionate impacts on racial and ethnic minorities. The good news is that there are lots of ways to reduce ozone. Read More »

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Houston gets an extension on meeting air standards, but for what purpose?

houston skyline 4.19.16

EPA’s decision to grant the Houston region a new deadline to meet clean air standards may delay air pollution mitigation measures.

Last year was a troubling one for Houston air quality. Some areas recorded ozone concentrations not seen since the early 2000s. Overall, more than half of the regional monitors recorded smog at levels that exceeded the 2008 national health standard for at least four days. This unhealthy air affects everyone, but vulnerable populations such as the young and the elderly are especially susceptible to health effects of poor air quality, including asthma and lung disease.

This is why EPA’s recent decision to grant the Houston region a one-year extension to meet the federal health standards represents a missed opportunity for clean air action. The original deadline for Houston to meet the 2008 health standard was July 2015. Often, EPA grants extensions to areas that are close to attaining the standard. In this case, Houston’s air quality had been improving but took a significant step in the wrong direction last year with a large number of exceedance days.

Why Does it Matter? Read More »

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Cash for clean air (and new trucks and equipment, too!)

rp_clean-truck-11.23.15-300x218.jpg

The DERA program has been particularly cost-effective for improving air quality, but it also provides local economic benefits, too

Looking to advance your green freight and sustainable supply chain initiatives? EPA has announced a call for projects through the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) Clean Diesel Program to provide funding for projects that improve air quality by reducing dirty diesel emissions. This year’s opportunity will provide $26 million for projects nationwide, and EPA expects to make 10 to 40 funding awards. To take advantage of this opportunity, it’s important to act now—the deadline is April 26, 2016.

We’ve written about some of the unique aspects of the DERA program before, and the current opportunity follows the same approach—an “eligible applicant” such as a regional, state, and local agency, port authority, or non-profit focused on air quality can “sponsor” one or many projects in partnership with fleets, technology providers, and other stakeholders that reduce diesel emissions from sources like heavy-duty trucks, nonroad diesel equipment (like those used on construction sites or at marine terminals, for example), locomotives in railyards, and even marine engines. Community partners are important participants for these projects, as well, and EPA encourages applicants to ensure that diverse stakeholders are included in any project. Read More »

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