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  • Latest Mississippi River Delta News: August 3, 2015

    Our Views: ‘The battle over preserving GOMESA is even more vital for those with a long-term commitment to Louisiana’s coastline’
    The Advocate. August 2, 2015
    "Diversions of Mississippi River water and sediments — the way the Louisiana delta was formed in past ages — have been since the 1920s identified as the way to rebuild significant amounts of coastal marshes, Kline told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “It is important that the river be a restoration tool as well as a transportation tool,” Kline said.” (Read More)
     
    Is New Orleans Safe?
    By John M. Barry, New York Times. August 1, 2015
    "The same natural forces that created the coast could preserve enough of it to give Louisiana’s coastal areas a chance at a sustainable future. Little of what is gone can be rebuilt, and more land will still disappear, but even in the face of sea level rise, if given enough sediment and fresh water, land can be built in strategic places to protect populations.” (Read More)
     
    New Orleans makes small sustainability gains since Katrina, Data Center says
    By Richard A. Webster, The Times-Picayune. July 31, 2015
    "Looking forward, Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. that has a master plan for stemming the loss of coastal wetlands. The plan aims to invest $50 billion to restore wetlands, utilizing new and emerging science and techniques. The success of this effort is vital as the future of the metro New Orleans area, its livelihood and economic survival depend on the preservation of its coastal wetlands, according to the Data Center.” (Read More)
     
    The True Value of BP’s $18.7 Billion Settlement
    By Michael Conathan, American Progress. July 30, 2015
    "Restoration of the Gulf’s rapidly degrading wetlands should be a priority for RESTORE Act funding. For decades, the oil and gas industry has contributed to the landscape-scale loss of marshes and wetlands throughout the region. This industrial activity, combined with sea level rise due to climate change, results in 75 square kilometers of Louisiana wetlands eroding into the Gulf of Mexico annually. Lost along with this acreage are the social and economic benefits they provide to society, including buffering storm surge, filtering pollution, and serving as nursery habitats for fisheries.” (Read More)

    Read more »
  • Clean Power Plan – a Vibrant Partnership with the States

    By Mandy Warner

    We are on the verge of seeing the final Clean Power Plan, after years of stakeholder engagement and input. So this is a good time to acknowledge what many state leaders themselves recognize – that EPA’s Clean Power Plan reflects the extensive input of states on its core, most fundamental framework, including the establishment of carbon intensity standards that reflect the different energy mixes in each state, and extensive state flexibility to achieve the standards in a manner that enables state-based compliance plans that minimize costs and maximize benefits.

    States Leading the Way

    Not surprisingly, states from Michigan to California recognize the benefits of submitting state-forged compliance plans under this flexible framework. Despite misguided efforts to pressure them to “just say no”, state officials are digging in deep and constructively engaging — an in the process, demonstrating what actual leadership looks like.

    Let’s take a closer look at what state leaders themselves are saying about this.

    Bob Martineau, president of the Environmental Council of the States and a commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, praised EPA for its extensive outreach to states prior to issuing the proposed Clean Power Plan.

    Martineau stated:

    …as you've seen, the Clean Power Plan set a state-by-state proposed guideline, now you could agree or disagree with it, but that was a clear voice the states said to EPA prior to the proposal is we're not all starting in the same place, so one uniform number of a reduction target won't work, given the different states' unique characteristics … [The early outreach] was effective in some of those things like to recognize the difference in where the states were starting with their energy portfolio and what their realistic targets would be. (Tenn. environment Commissioner Martineau talks power plan's jurisdictional challenges, E&E News, March 23, 2015)

    Many other state leaders have commented publicly on the benefits of proactive state planning in this flexible framework and the urgent need to take action.

    In a recent interview on Meet the Press, Governor Jerry Brown of California stated:

    Here's the point, that the buildup of carbon coming from coal and petroleum and other sources, that this is going to create these droughts and much, much worse. And that's why to have the leader of the Senate, Mr. McConnell representing his coal constituents, are putting it at risk, the health and well being of America, is a disgrace.

    The Republican Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, told the Battle Creek Enquirer that change is coming:

    [S]o let's be proactive and design a policy to accommodate that.

    Paul Thomsen, head of Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval’s energy office, told the Elko Daily Free Press:

    My position is there’s no state better position to be able to comply with those standards. We’ve been ahead of the federal government for some time.

    Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Arizona legislature recently passed a bill expressly providing for the development of a state-compliance strategy to meet EPA requirements under the Clean Power Plan.

    Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado directly responded to Senator McConnell’s request that states not submit plans by saying:

    Colorado is already a leader in reducing carbon emissions from power plants, on track to hit an estimated 20% reduction over 2012 emissions – and we have done all this while keeping energy rates affordable. We will continue to engage with our industry to develop a compliant Clean Power Plan, as required by federal law.

    John Quigley, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently said:

    [W]e can meet this mandate, this clean-power mandate, in a way that benefits Pennsylvania's economy and environment. (Pa. DEP Secretary Quigley discusses state's shift on power plan. E&E News PM, July 20, 2015)

    Additionally, red and blue states including Utah, Michigan, Missouri, and Pennsylvania are working with the National Governors’ Association (NGA) to identify cost-effective strategies for reducing carbon emissions to comply with the Clean Power Plan.

    As Utah officials said:

    Knowing that we will likely find ourselves having to comply with some form of carbon regulation in the near term, we are determined not to be caught flat-footed. (Coal-heavy states explore carbon-cutting options with support from National Governors Association, ClimateWire, March 24, 2015)

    In their application to NGA, they stressed that:

    [B]eing proactive and strategically positioned to comply with impending federal regulations is preferred to being reactive. (Coal-heavy states explore carbon-cutting options with support from National Governors Association, ClimateWire, March 24, 2015)

    Power Companies Working With States to Craft Compliance Plans

    Major power companies also recognize the benefits of homemade compliance plans that fully harvest state flexibility.

    A recent, salient example comes from the coal-intensive state of Wyoming where Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s Chief Environmental Counsel, Cathy Woolums, recently provided comments at the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority winter meeting that indicated the importance of action by the state to submit a compliance plan for the Clean Power Plan.

    Woolums stated:

    [I]f the state wants to push back against the plan, that’s okay, but we really do have to have a backup plan because if not, we will be caught in a situation where we don’t have any options…And that’s the worst of all positions to be in.

    An additional critical point she made is that the 2030 targets of the CPP are achievable, she and showed important leadership when she urged state officials to work with other states to meet the targets.

    Leveraging Opportunities for State Policy Priorities through the Clean Power Plan

    As observed by Richard Revesz, legal scholar and Director of the Institute for Policy Integrity, the extraordinary state flexibility under the Clean Power Plan provides a tremendous opportunity for state policy priorities to be thoroughly integrated into state planning – and it is worth fighting for.

    Revesz told the Wall Street Journal that the Clean Power Plan sets:

    …statewide carbon reduction targets that states can meet through any means they choose: improvements in the efficiency of energy production, increased use of natural gas and renewable energy, programs that help consumers save energy, or any other strategy the states prefer … This flexible approach is one of the rule’s greatest strengths—it will allow states and energy companies to reduce their emissions through the cheapest and most effective means available. (The Legal and Economic Case for Obama’s Clean Power Plan, Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2015)

    EPA conducted unprecedented outreach around the Clean Power Plan, and state and power company officials across the country were highly engaged in the process.

    States underscored the importance of ensuring that the plan EPA proposed include substantial flexibility for states that allowed them to craft a plan tailored to their own states’ unique energy profile. The Clean Power Plan delivers on this promise of flexibility for state compliance, and gives states the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat to secure cost-effective emissions reductions to protect the health of their families and our climate in the best way possible.

    Judging from the way states across the country are engaging constructively with EPA and their stakeholders in the lead-up to a final rule, it is clear that state officials are recognizing the importance of stepping up to the plate and thoughtfully shaping the path to their own clean energy future. That’s real leadership.

    Read more »
  • Why “Just Say No” is Just Plain Wrong: the Sound Legal Basis for the Clean Power Plan

    By Tomas Carbonell

    power_plant_61-300x219 flickrThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon finalize the Clean Power Plan — a suite of historic Clean Air Act standards that will establish the first nationwide limits on carbon pollution from America’s fossil fuel-fired power plants. Rigorous carbon pollution standards for the nation’s power sector will yield immense benefits for the health of our families and communities, for the American economy, and for a safer climate for our children.

    Yet in the months leading up to the release of the Clean Power Plan clean air standards, coal companies and other entities that oppose reasonable limits on carbon pollution have lobbed a series of flawed and failed lawsuits directed at stopping EPA from finishing its work. Now, some power companies and their allies have concocted new – and equally misguided – attacks against the Clean Power Plan.

    They’ve been suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards case, which held that EPA must take costs into account when making a threshold decision whether to proceed with emissions limits on toxic pollution was a blow against the Clean Power Plan. They’ve also been arguing that states should “Just Say No” to developing plans for implementing the Clean Power Plan’s vital protections to limit carbon pollution for climate and public health.

    As we explain below, these critics are flat wrong – on the meaning of the Supreme Court’s decision, on the decision’s implications for the Clean Power Plan, and on the validity of “just saying no.”

    Climate and Public Health Benefits of the Clean Power Plan

    Before turning to the Supreme Court’s decision, let’s make one thing clear — the “Just Say No” camp is urging states to condemn our families and communities to a future of unlimited carbon pollution and compromised public health. They’re also urging us to forego a tremendous economic opportunity associated with the race to deploy more clean energy solutions, drive down pollution, and increase jobs.


    Why “Just Say No” is Just Plain Wrong: the Sound Legal Basis for the Clean Power Plan
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    The Clean Power Plan is expected to bring historic health and environmental benefits, both in the near term and for future generations. As proposed, the Clean Power Plan would significantly reduce carbon pollution from the nation’s largest source – existing fossil fuel power plants that account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Reductions of other harmful pollutants will be just as profound. Based on the proposed rule, EPA estimates that by 2030, when the Clean Power Plan is fully in effect, power sector emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particular matter will be reduced by almost 30 percent compared to a business-as-usual scenario. Significant reductions would begin to take place many years earlier.

    That means thousands of avoided deaths, heart attacks, and childhood asthma attacks each year — all by the time a child born today starts kindergarten. EPA estimates that the climate and public health benefits of the proposed Clean Power Plan would have an economic value of up to $93 billion per year by 2030 – or as much as eleven dollars for every dollar spent on compliance.

    The Supreme Court mercury decision and the Clean Power Plan

    Yet some opponents of the Clean Power Plan, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and large polluters, are urging states to hold off on implementing the Clean Power Plan. They claim — falsely — that the Supreme Court invalidated the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards when it decided Michigan v. EPA, so it was a waste of money for power plants to have complied with the Mercury standards. They say the same thing might happen with the Clean Power Plan.

    That’s just plain wrong.

    The Supreme Court did not invalidate the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The Court only held that EPA should have taken into account the costs of the standards when the Agency made its initial legal determination that it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate mercury and other air toxics from power plants. As examined below, EPA considered costs in establishing the resulting emissions standards. Further, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards remain in effect after the Court’s decision, and power plants are still required to comply. (The case now goes back to a lower court for further consideration).

    In the coming weeks and months, EPA will respond to Michigan v. EPA. There is every reason to believe EPA can quickly amend its “appropriate and necessary” finding to address the Supreme Court’s decision, without affecting the substance of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. This is because EPA has already conducted an extensive review of both the costs and benefits of the standards, and that review contains overwhelming evidence that the benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are vastly disproportionate to the costs.

    Controlling air toxics for power plants, for example, will have the important benefit of reducing human exposure to harmful particulate matter – helping prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks each year. These “co-benefits” have an estimated value of up to $90 billion per year, or up to nine dollars for every dollar projected to be spent on compliance. That figure does not even take into account the critical benefits associated with reduced exposure to the neurotoxic and carcinogenic pollutants regulated under the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, all of which are emitted by the power sector in huge quantities, and all of which will be dramatically reduced as a result of the standards. There is no question that the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are “appropriate and necessary” even when costs are considered.

    Moreover, the courts will almost certainly keep the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in place during the interim period while EPA responds to the Supreme Court’s decision. This is a common course of action when the courts find that EPA needs to go back and address legal or technical issues in a Clean Air Act regulation – especially in the situation we face with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, where the issues are straightforward to resolve and there are significant public health protections at stake.

    The Clean Power Plan — different rule, different issues

    Polluters and their allies are even more off-base when it comes to the impacts of the latest Supreme Court decision on the Clean Power Plan.

    The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards case was about a narrow interpretive issue in section 112 of the Clean Air Act — whether EPA had to consider costs in its “appropriate and necessary” finding. Unlike the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the Clean Power Plan is authorized by section 111 of the Clean Air Act. Section 111 contains no reference to an “appropriate and necessary” finding. So the Supreme Court’s interpretation of section 112 doesn’t have any direct relevance to section 111.

    Under section 111, EPA does have to make a threshold finding that a source category “contributes significantly to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” EPA already made this finding when it first issued section 111 standards for power plants back in the 1970’s. In 2009, EPA made a further finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases “endanger public health and welfare” – a finding that the courts subsequently upheld against numerous industry challenges.

    It’s also clear that EPA has considered costs extensively throughout the rulemaking process for the Clean Power Plan, as section 111 requires. As noted above, EPA found that the total benefits of the proposed Clean Power Plan exceed compliance costs by a wide margin. This remains true even when considering the climate and public health benefits separately — EPA’s central estimate of the climate benefits alone is $31 billion per year by 2030, or over three –and-a-half-times the cost of compliance. The public health benefits in that same year are valued at an additional $27 to 62 billion.

    Cost considerations are woven into the structure of the proposed Clean Power Plan, which maximizes flexibility to enable compliance using the most cost-effective methods available. Indeed, EPA’s approach is vastly less expensive than the “end of the pipe” solutions some of the Clean Power Plan’s opponents claim are the better approach under the law.

    Legal experts confirm the strong legal basis for the Clean Power Plan

    The cynical premise of the “Just Say No” campaign also ignores the chorus of influential legal experts who have affirmed the strong legal basis for the Clean Power Plan. Leading law enforcement officials, former EPA officials, and prominent legal scholars have concluded that the Clean Power Plan is firmly within EPA’s long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act.

    A few illustrative statements include:

    The Text, Structure, and History of the Clean Air Act Confirm EPA’s Authority to Regulate Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Power Plants Under Section 111(d). —Attorneys General of the States of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, in brief filed inMurray Energy Corp. v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-1112 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 23, 2014)

    The EPA has authority under the 1990 Clean Air Act, an authority affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, to set these public health protections against carbon pollution. — Carol M. Browner (EPA Administrator under the Clinton Administration) & Alex Laskey, With New Power Plant Rules, Energy Efficiency Checks All the Boxes

    Critics of the [Clean Power Plan] say that President Obama is making an end run around Congress, stretching the law to achieve by executive action what he could not accomplish through the legislative branch. This is flat wrong. More than four decades ago, Congress expressed its clear desire to regulate pollution from power plants, in the form of the Clean Air Act. I know, because I worked on the legislation, including the key part of the act—Section 111—that the Obama administration is using to justify its move. — Leon Billings, The Obscure 1970 Compromise That Made Obama’s Climate Rules Possible

    Limiting Greenhouse Gas emissions from existing power plants is the next logical step after the Supreme Court and other courts have upheld EPA’s authority and obligation to address this issue. A system-wide approach provides needed flexibility and reduces costs, as well as encouraging investment in lower-emitting generation. EPA has wisely left the states a lot of discretion rather than mandating specific measures as some had wanted. – E. Donald Elliott, EPA General Counsel under President George H.W. Bush, Obama’s Section 111d Plan Has Support From George H.W. Bush’s EPA General Counsel, Utility Executives

    EPA’s approach is neither unprecedented nor unlimited. Since 1970, the [Clean Air Act] has called on states to make policy choices and use their governmental powers in the manner that this rule might require. Indeed, many of the policy choices needed to comply with EPA’s proposal would stem from the special characteristics of the electricity market and not from any new EPA initiative. — William F. Pedersen, Senior Counsel, Perkins Coie, Does EPA’s §111(d) Proposal Rely on an Unprecedented and Legally Forbidden Approach to Emission Reduction?, Environmental Law Reporter (April 2015)

    There is just case law building on case law that says, [the Clean Power Plan] is perfectly constitutional. —Prof. Jody Freeman, Harvard Law School, Harvard Law's Lazarus and Freeman discuss federal court Power Plan hearing, Tribe argumentsE&ENews PM (April 20, 2015)

    Clean Air Act regulations of existing power plants implemented by presidents of both parties over the past quarter of a century have achieved vitally important protections for public health and the environment through regulatory tools carefully designed to minimize costs. By following in the footsteps of earlier rules, the Clean Power Plan could be similarly transformative. The claim that it is unprecedented and unconstitutional is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. – Ricky Revesz, Dean Emeritus and Lawrence King Professor of Law, NYU School of Law, Obama’s professor on Clean Power Plan – Wrong on the facts and law

    EPA’s strong record of success in defending Clean Air Act rules

    Proponents of the “Just Say No” campaign also hope that the public will overlook EPA’s strong track record of success in defending Clean Air Act rules in the nation’s federal courts.  Indeed, almost all of the major Clean Air Act rules that have so successfully protected human health and the environment in recent years have undergone intense legal challenges – and most of these challenges have failed.

    Consider these recent examples:

    • EPA v. EME Homer City Generation (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014) — In a major victory for EPA, the Supreme Court reversed a D.C. Circuit decision invalidating the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.  
    • Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014) — The Supreme Court upheld EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act requiring that new and modified industrial facilities obtain permits limiting their emissions of greenhouse gases to reflect “best available control technology.” The Court did rule against EPA on the question of whether the “best available control technology” requirement applies to smaller facilities. However, EPA itself had concluded those requirements would pose serious practical problems and yield relatively small pollution control benefits.
    • Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA (D.C. Circuit, 2012) — The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld EPA’s science-based finding that climate pollution endangers public health and welfare, and EPA’s first generation of greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger vehicles. The Supreme Court declined to review either of these critical holdings, laying the groundwork for subsequent rules reducing greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles and medium and heavy duty trucks.
    • Delta Construction Co. v. EPA (D.C. Circuit, 2015) – The D.C. Circuit dismissed, on procedural grounds, multiple legal challenges to EPA’s first greenhouse gas standards for medium and heavy duty vehicles.
    • National Association of Manufacturers v. EPA (U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, 2014) — EPA fended off challenges to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter (better known as soot).

    The health and environmental benefits of the Clean Power Plan will be invaluable. As EPA prepares for the inevitable legal attacks, it has a strong legal foundation and a track record of litigation success. Nothing about the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards decision changed that.

    Photo source: Flickr/Cindy Cornett Seigle

    This post originally appeared on our Climate 411 blog.

    Read more »
  • Clean Power Plan Offers Texas Enormous Opportunities unless Leaders Stand in Way
    Read more »
  • “History in the Making” as the Clean Power Plan is Unveiled – EDF President Fred Krupp
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  • Clean Power Plan Will Help Us Win “The Race of Our Lives” – EDF President Fred Krupp
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  • Why “Just Say No” is Just Plain Wrong: the Sound Legal Basis for the Clean Power Plan

    By Tomas Carbonell

    rp_power_plant_6.jpg

    Kentucky power plant. Photo by Cindy Cornett Seigle/Flickr

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon finalize the Clean Power Plan — a suite of historic Clean Air Act standards that will establish the first nationwide limits on carbon pollution from America’s fossil fuel-fired power plants. Rigorous carbon pollution standards for the nation’s power sector will yield immense benefits for the health of our families and communities, for the American economy, and for a safer climate for our children.

    Yet in the months leading up to the release of the Clean Power Plan clean air standards, coal companies and other entities that oppose reasonable limits on carbon pollution have lobbed a series of flawed and failed lawsuits directed at stopping EPA from finishing its work. Now, some power companies and their allies have concocted new – and equally misguided – attacks against the Clean Power Plan.

    They’ve been suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards case, which held that EPA must take costs into account when making a threshold decision whether to proceed with emissions limits on toxic pollution was a blow against the Clean Power Plan. They’ve also been arguing that states should “Just Say No” to developing plans for implementing the Clean Power Plan’s vital protections to limit carbon pollution for climate and public health.

    As we explain below, these critics are flat wrong – on the meaning of the Supreme Court’s decision, on the decision’s implications for the Clean Power Plan, and on the validity of “just saying no.”

    Climate and Public Health Benefits of the Clean Power Plan

    Before turning to the Supreme Court’s decision, let’s make one thing clear — the “Just Say No” camp is urging states to condemn our families and communities to a future of unlimited carbon pollution and compromised public health. They’re also urging us to forego a tremendous economic opportunity associated with the race to deploy more clean energy solutions, drive down pollution, and increase jobs.

    The Clean Power Plan is expected to bring historic health and environmental benefits, both in the near term and for future generations. As proposed, the Clean Power Plan would significantly reduce carbon pollution from the nation’s largest source – existing fossil fuel power plants that account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Reductions of other harmful pollutants will be just as profound. Based on the proposed rule, EPA estimates that by 2030, when the Clean Power Plan is fully in effect, power sector emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particular matter will be reduced by almost 30 percent compared to a business-as-usual scenario. Significant reductions would begin to take place many years earlier.

    That means thousands of avoided deaths, heart attacks, and childhood asthma attacks each year — all by the time a child born today starts kindergarten. EPA estimates that the climate and public health benefits of the proposed Clean Power Plan would have an economic value of up to $93 billion per year by 2030 – or as much as eleven dollars for every dollar spent on compliance.

    The Supreme Court Mercury Decision and the Clean Power Plan

    Yet some opponents of the Clean Power Plan, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and large polluters, are urging states to hold off on implementing the Clean Power Plan. They claim — falsely — that the Supreme Court invalidated the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards when it decided Michigan v. EPA, so it was a waste of money for power plants to have complied with the Mercury standards. They say the same thing might happen with the Clean Power Plan.

    That’s just plain wrong.

    The Supreme Court did not invalidate the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The Court only held that EPA should have taken into account the costs of the standards when the Agency made its initial legal determination that it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate mercury and other air toxics from power plants. As examined below, EPA considered costs in establishing the resulting emissions standards. Further, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards remain in effect after the Court’s decision, and power plants are still required to comply. (The case now goes back to a lower court for further consideration).

    In the coming weeks and months, EPA will respond to Michigan v. EPA. There is every reason to believe EPA can quickly amend its “appropriate and necessary” finding to address the Supreme Court’s decision, without affecting the substance of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. This is because EPA has already conducted an extensive review of both the costs and benefits of the standards, and that review contains overwhelming evidence that the benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are vastly disproportionate to the costs.

    Controlling air toxics for power plants, for example, will have the important benefit of reducing human exposure to harmful particulate matter – helping prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks each year. These “co-benefits” have an estimated value of up to $90 billion per year, or up to nine dollars for every dollar projected to be spent on compliance. That figure does not even take into account the critical benefits associated with reduced exposure to the neurotoxic and carcinogenic pollutants regulated under the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, all of which are emitted by the power sector in huge quantities, and all of which will be dramatically reduced as a result of the standards. There is no question that the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are “appropriate and necessary” even when costs are considered.

    Moreover, the courts will almost certainly keep the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in place during the interim period while EPA responds to the Supreme Court’s decision. This is a common course of action when the courts find that EPA needs to go back and address legal or technical issues in a Clean Air Act regulation – especially in the situation we face with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, where the issues are straightforward to resolve and there are significant public health protections at stake.

    The Clean Power Plan — Different Rule, Different Issues

    Polluters and their allies are even more off-base when it comes to the impacts of the latest Supreme Court decision on the Clean Power Plan.

    The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards case was about a narrow interpretive issue in section 112 of the Clean Air Act — whether EPA had to consider costs in its “appropriate and necessary” finding. Unlike the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the Clean Power Plan is authorized by section 111 of the Clean Air Act. Section 111 contains no reference to an “appropriate and necessary” finding. So the Supreme Court’s interpretation of section 112 doesn’t have any direct relevance to section 111.

    Under section 111, EPA does have to make a threshold finding that a source category “contributes significantly to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” EPA already made this finding when it first issued section 111 standards for power plants back in the 1970’s. In 2009, EPA made a further finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases “endanger public health and welfare” – a finding that the courts subsequently upheld against numerous industry challenges.

    It’s also clear that EPA has considered costs extensively throughout the rulemaking process for the Clean Power Plan, as section 111 requires. As noted above, EPA found that the total benefits of the proposed Clean Power Plan exceed compliance costs by a wide margin. This remains true even when considering the climate and public health benefits separately — EPA’s central estimate of the climate benefits alone is $31 billion per year by 2030, or over three –and-a-half-times the cost of compliance. The public health benefits in that same year are valued at an additional $27 to 62 billion.

    Cost considerations are woven into the structure of the proposed Clean Power Plan, which maximizes flexibility to enable compliance using the most cost-effective methods available. Indeed, EPA’s approach is vastly less expensive than the “end of the pipe” solutions some of the Clean Power Plan’s opponents claim are the better approach under the law.

    Legal Experts Confirm the Strong Legal Basis for the Clean Power Plan

    The cynical premise of the “Just Say No” campaign also ignores the chorus of influential legal experts who have affirmed the strong legal basis for the Clean Power Plan. Leading law enforcement officials, former EPA officials, and prominent legal scholars have concluded that the Clean Power Plan is firmly within EPA’s long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act.

    A few illustrative statements include:

    The Text, Structure, and History of the Clean Air Act Confirm EPA’s Authority to Regulate Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Power Plants Under Section 111(d). —Attorneys General of the States of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, in brief filed in Murray Energy Corp. v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-1112 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 23, 2014)

    The EPA has authority under the 1990 Clean Air Act, an authority affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, to set these public health protections against carbon pollution. — Carol M. Browner (EPA Administrator under the Clinton Administration) & Alex Laskey, With New Power Plant Rules, Energy Efficiency Checks All the Boxes

    Critics of the [Clean Power Plan] say that President Obama is making an end run around Congress, stretching the law to achieve by executive action what he could not accomplish through the legislative branch. This is flat wrong. More than four decades ago, Congress expressed its clear desire to regulate pollution from power plants, in the form of the Clean Air Act. I know, because I worked on the legislation, including the key part of the act—Section 111—that the Obama administration is using to justify its move. — Leon Billings, The Obscure 1970 Compromise That Made Obama’s Climate Rules Possible

    Limiting Greenhouse Gas emissions from existing power plants is the next logical step after the Supreme Court and other courts have upheld EPA’s authority and obligation to address this issue. A system-wide approach provides needed flexibility and reduces costs, as well as encouraging investment in lower-emitting generation. EPA has wisely left the states a lot of discretion rather than mandating specific measures as some had wanted. – E. Donald Elliott, EPA General Counsel under President George H.W. Bush, Obama’s Section 111d Plan Has Support From George H.W. Bush’s EPA General Counsel, Utility Executives

    EPA’s approach is neither unprecedented nor unlimited. Since 1970, the [Clean Air Act] has called on states to make policy choices and use their governmental powers in the manner that this rule might require. Indeed, many of the policy choices needed to comply with EPA’s proposal would stem from the special characteristics of the electricity market and not from any new EPA initiative. — William F. Pedersen, Senior Counsel, Perkins Coie, Does EPA’s §111(d) Proposal Rely on an Unprecedented and Legally Forbidden Approach to Emission Reduction?, Environmental Law Reporter (April 2015)

    There is just case law building on case law that says, [the Clean Power Plan] is perfectly constitutional. — Prof. Jody Freeman, Harvard Law School, Harvard Law's Lazarus and Freeman discuss federal court Power Plan hearing, Tribe arguments,E&ENews PM (April 20, 2015)

    Clean Air Act regulations of existing power plants implemented by presidents of both parties over the past quarter of a century have achieved vitally important protections for public health and the environment through regulatory tools carefully designed to minimize costs. By following in the footsteps of earlier rules, the Clean Power Plan could be similarly transformative. The claim that it is unprecedented and unconstitutional is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. – Ricky Revesz, Dean Emeritus and Lawrence King Professor of Law, NYU School of Law, Obama’s professor on Clean Power Plan – Wrong on the facts and law

    EPA’s Strong Record of Success in Defending Clean Air Act Rules

    Proponents of the “Just Say No” campaign also hope that the public will overlook EPA’s strong track record of success in defending Clean Air Act rules in the nation’s federal courts.  Indeed, almost all of the major Clean Air Act rules that have so successfully protected human health and the environment in recent years have undergone intense legal challenges – and most of these challenges have failed.

    Consider these recent examples:

    • EPA v. EME Homer City Generation (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014) — In a major victory for EPA, the Supreme Court reversed a D.C. Circuit decision invalidating the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.  
    • Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014) — The Supreme Court upheld EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act requiring that new and modified industrial facilities obtain permits limiting their emissions of greenhouse gases to reflect “best available control technology.” The Court did rule against EPA on the question of whether the “best available control technology” requirement applies to smaller facilities. However, EPA itself had concluded those requirements would pose serious practical problems and yield relatively small pollution control benefits.
    • Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA (D.C. Circuit, 2012) — The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld EPA’s science-based finding that climate pollution endangers public health and welfare, and EPA’s first generation of greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger vehicles. The Supreme Court declined to review either of these critical holdings, laying the groundwork for subsequent rules reducing greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles and medium and heavy duty trucks.
    • Delta Construction Co. v. EPA (D.C. Circuit, 2015) – The D.C. Circuit dismissed, on procedural grounds, multiple legal challenges to EPA’s first greenhouse gas standards for medium and heavy duty vehicles.
    • National Association of Manufacturers v. EPA (U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, 2014) — EPA fended off challenges to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter (better known as soot).

    The health and environmental benefits of the Clean Power Plan will be invaluable. As EPA prepares for the inevitable legal attacks, it has a strong legal foundation and a track record of litigation success. Nothing about the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards decision changed that.

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  • From Sea to Shining Sea: Cap-and-trade Programs Showing Success on Both Coasts

    By Katie Hsia-Kiung

    rp_KHK-picture-200x300.jpgWhen the preliminary plans for California’s cap-and-trade program were first introduced in 2010, it was quickly regarded as a groundbreaking policy due to its stringency, size, and scope. California was the ninth largest economy in the world – it has now jumped to eighth – and the Golden State’s program would soon implement the first economy-wide cap on greenhouse gas pollution in the country. But, it was not the first cap-and-trade program in the United States. In fact, ten states in the northeast had implemented the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2008. Like California’s program, the RGGI system places a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions and sets a corresponding price on carbon, but covering only the electricity sector. Despite the difference in scope and location of these two programs, they are both demonstrating that carbon pricing through cap-and-trade is an effective way to decrease harmful greenhouse gas pollution while allowing the economy to grow.

    A new report released this past Wednesday by the Acadia Center digs into the most recent data out of the RGGI system. According to the Acadia analysis, the RGGI states have decreased their emissions by 35 percent since the start of the program, while emissions from the 40 states unregulated by a cap only decreased by 12 percent over the same period. At the same time as emissions dropped, the RGGI state economies grew by 21 percent as compared to the non-capped states, which only saw an 18 percent growth in their economies. California has similarly been able to grow its economy impressively while implementing an aggressive cap on emissions. During the first year of the program, the Golden State moved from ninth to eight largest economy in the world, grew its GDP faster than the national average, and decreased capped emissions by four percent.

    Like California, RGGI states also raise revenue from the sale of carbon allowances and a large portion of this revenue is reinvested in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other programs that increase economic activity. Acadia reports that these programs will generate $1.73 billion in energy bill savings, which will create $2.76 billion in net economic gains and 28,500 job-years of employment over the first six years of the program. While it’s too soon to measure the economic effects of the reinvestment of cap-and-trade revenue in California, we’ve seen 374 projects funded to date, which will result in the reduction of over 2.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution in the state. This is equivalent to taking almost 550,000 passenger vehicles off of the road for an entire year. These investments include projects that are helping low-income households put solar panels on their rooftops and that give rebates to help families swap out their old, inefficient vehicles for electric ones.

    The RGGI cap-and-trade program is not only benefitting the economies of the participating states, it is also improving the health of the region’s citizens. According to the Acadia report, emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides have decreased by 85 percent and 37 percent respectively since the start of the program. These two chemical compounds react in the air to form harmful pollutants that can cause asthma and increase susceptibility to other serious respiratory illnesses. The reduction of these pollutants, helped and incentivized by the RGGI program and other complementary policies, has prevented visits to the hospital, missed work days, and premature deaths, resulting in nearly $11 billion in health savings.

    The results from the first six years of the RGGI program are impressive. We are now starting to see similar results on the other coast from California’s program, which was built from the foundation the RGGI states laid. Given the significantly larger scope of California’s cap and economy, the impacts of its climate policies are likely to follow these same encouraging trends but have an even broader reach. And with 40 countries and more than 20 cities, states, and provinces representing 22 percent of global emissions using or planning to implement carbon pricing, results like those gathered by the Acadia Center are showing that cap-and-trade regulations can achieve the necessary emissions reductions while giving businesses the flexibility needed to grow and spur innovation for a thriving economy.

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  • Clean Energy Conference Roundup: August 2015

    By EDF Blogs

    rp_Source-National-Retail-Federation-Flickr-300x2001.jpgEach month, the Energy Exchange rounds up a list of top clean energy conferences around the country. Our list includes conferences at which experts from the EDF Clean Energy Program will be speaking, plus additional events that we think our readers may benefit from marking on their calendars.

     

     

     

     

    August 4-6: 2015 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Industry (Buffalo, NY)

    • This year’s ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Industry will bring you the latest thinking on managing plant energy use, national energy policy, and industrial energy efficiency program administration. Session topics include Strategic Energy Management, Sustainability, Smart Manufacturing, Beyond Best Practices, Policy and Resource Planning, and Delivering Results.

    August 12: Unlocking Renewables: Exploring the Clean Energy Potential in the San Joaquin Valley (Fresno, CA)

    • This summit will include discussions with industry leaders, community members, elected officials, environmental stakeholders, utilities, opinion leaders, and media in a series of clean energy workshops for residents and businesses, as well as those interested in entering the renewables workforce. EDF is a sponsor, aiming to bring more focus to the Central Valley for our clean energy work.

    August 25-27: Association of Energy Services Professionals 2015 Summer Conference (Niagara Falls, Canada)

    • What’s now and what’s next in the world of energy efficiency? AESP’s Summer Conference attracts the energy industry’s top program managers, implementers, marketers, evaluators, consultants, and vendors from across the U.S. and Canada. Highly regarded experts will give over 20 presentations covering a range of timely topics and emerging trends in the energy industry.

    August 31-September 2: 4th Annual Market Transformation Conference (Charlotte, NC)

    • The Energy Services Coalition (ESC)’s annual Market Transformation Conference offers invaluable networking with a multi-disciplinary assembly of private and public sector professionals all focused on expanding the energy-savings, performance-contracting market. The conference also facilitates the interaction between ESC state chapters to foster the crosspollination of ideas and help grow the overall market for the benefit of individuals, ESCOs, and state and local government. The conference agenda covers the ongoing programs and activities of ESC chapters and state energy offices nationwide, as well as related topics such as financing mechanisms, innovative projects, and new technologies.

    Photo source: Flickr/National Retail Federation

     

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  • Sustainability and Profitability Go Hand-in-Hand, Says Iowa Corn Farmer

    By Suzy Friedman

    Farming is a tough business.  With constantly changing crop prices, difficult to predict and increasingly extreme weather variations, and changing consumer demands, growers don’t have an easy time of it.

    Like any business, profitability is the number one priority. And it should be – if you are not profitable, it’s very hard to stay in business.

    All the growers I’ve worked with care deeply about their land. In a recent survey of a group of Midwestern farmers, “land stewardship” ranked as their top value.  And sustainability is in a farmers’ best interest since healthy lands plays a huge role in whether farms will be around – and productive – for the next generation. But making agriculture truly sustainable will require investment from farmers.

    Here’s the good news: sustainability and profitability can go hand-in-hand. Efficiencies like fertilizer optimization can result in cost savings. And with those savings, growers can invest in new technologies and cover crops, which can help make farms more resilient and increase yields, generating long term economic gain.

    tim-richter-saratoga-partnership

    Tim Richter, owner of Saratoga Partnership

    I asked Tim Richter, owner of a swine and corn farm operation spanning 9,000 acres in northern Iowa and Missouri, to tell me his profitability and sustainability story.

    What is your farming story?

    I was raised on a farm, and I actually live in the same house that I grew up in – it’s pretty great. I always had farming in my blood, but after three years in the Army, I realized I wanted to be my own boss and be independent. So I used the G.I. Bill to attend Iowa State and graduated with a degree in agronomy.  I then went back to the farm and joined my late brother to establish Saratoga Partnership.

    What about your sustainability story?

    I heard a presentation on sustainability about five years ago and remember thinking “I’m in” as soon as it was over.  More than anything, I believe protecting our land is the right thing to do. But becoming more efficient through changes in on-farm practices also segments me from the competition.  By changing some of my practices and measuring those adjustments, I’m gaining a real business advantage.

    Soon after that presentation, I became involved with The Sustainability Consortium, an organization that works to develop tools that make it easier for companies, governments, farmers and others to implement and track sustainability measures – and efficiencies.

    "[Smarter fertilizer management] has paid big dividends. If this is sustainability, I'm on board."

    –Tim Richter, in a Farm Journal story on farming green to get in the black

    I also know vegetable producers who’ve had to change their practices due to market considerations over the years. By being able to adopt new technologies, they’ve not only helped the environment but they’ve stayed in business and stayed more profitable.

    Is sustainability becoming the new normal in agriculture?

    Walmart wants to improve the sustainability of the products in its supply chain, including things like fertilizer optimization and soil conservation in commodity crops. This has big implications for farmers.

    If Walmart can make a difference in the sustainability of corn, it will affect the entire supply chain. And the demand for fertilizer-efficient corn will be rampant.

    That means farmers will need to invest in sustainability initiatives and technologies for their long-term viability. Putting profits into efficiency and conservation just makes good business sense.

    How is technology helping your efforts?

    With tools like variable rate technologies I can now look at one plot of 160 acres as 160 one-acre fields.  I can manage my crops by acre, to optimize individual parcels.  It doesn’t always mean I’ll use less fertilizer, but I’ll be putting it in places where it will result in better yields and less runoff.  The more I track, the more I know why certain acres are more profitable than others.

    There are also new technologies coming to market every day to help farmers keep nutrients in their fields. They may require near-term investment for long-term gain, but profitability depends on these investments.

    This blog was originally posted on Growing Returns

    You might also be interested in:

    Gaining Momentum for Optimized Fertilizer Use in Agriculture

    Campbell’s Soup Expands Fertilizer Optimization Programs

    Read more »