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Washington, DC Office
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Latest Press Releases

  • Latest Mississippi River Delta News: August 28, 2015

    Latest Mississippi River Delta News: August 28, 2015

    Katrina Spawns a Decade of Flood Protection Design and Construction
    (Mentions MRD Coalition)
    By Pam Radtke Russell, Engineering News-Record. August 25, 2015.
    That buffering of the coastline is part of a “multiple lines of defense” strategy being promoted by a “Restore the Delta” coalition that is pushing to restore the coast for environmental reasons and to give the region more protection from hurricanes. (Read More)

    Designing the Resilient Coast of the Future
    (Mentions EDF, Changing Course)
    By Kate Ascher & David Ven Der Leer
    Such remarkably complex challenges require a process that develops multiple approaches, disciplines and a toolkit of solutions to guide the region’s future. In 2013, the international environmental nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, 120-year-old design competition organizer,Van Alen Institute, and multidisciplinary consulting engineering firm, BuroHappold Engineering, launched the international design competition Changing Course, bringing together some of the world’s leading engineers, coastal scientists, planners, and designers to tackle a crucial question raised by the state of Louisiana’s master planning process: how to restore and maximize the Mississippi River’s land-building capacities while maintaining a world-class navigation system and supporting and respecting the communities, industries and peoples of the coast. (Read More)  

    Swallowed By The Sea
    (Mentions EDF)
    By Kris Allred, WSAV-TV
    Experts with the Environmental Defense Fund say the area needs a very aggressive restoration program. Since the early 1990s, the government has spent billions on coastal works to slow the land loss. There’s been some success, but the ultimately the Gulf wins. Scientists have even tuned to the Netherlands for advice. It’s here where they have protected themselves from the sea with a network of dunes and floodgates. Only problem is, the Netherlands deal with a much milder sea. Hurricanes aren’t an issue. (Read More)

    Decade after Katrina, efforts aim to restore Louisiana coast
    (Features Steve Cochran)
    By Randy Lee Lofts, Reposted in Hawaii Star Advertiser
    Cochran, however, has detected a cooling of such recriminations in favor of work on common goals. He said he’s found big lessons that might apply anywhere big challenges involving humanity and nature appear. Look long term, he said. Use nature’s power as much as bricks and mortar. Learn to live with water instead of against it.

    Ten years after Katrina, cities near New Orleans struggle with an eroding coast
    (features Doug Meffert, NAS, Theryn Henkel, LPBF)
    By Fusion’s America with Jorge Ramos
    Since the storm hit ten years ago, 100 square miles of wetlands have vanished. Residents of coastal towns such as Dulac are worried for its future as the effects of Katrina continue to be felt.(Read More)

    Will New Orleans Survive the Next Katrina? (Video)
    features Doug Meffert, NAS
    By Tim McDonnell, Grist August 26, 2015
    Before the storm, hurricane protection and coastal restoration were treated as separate, or ever-competing, interests. Now, they're one and the same."Without Katrina, this wouldn't be happening," Dupre says. "We've gone from being the laughingstock to the model for the rest of the country." (Read More)

    New Orleans still rebuilding 10 years after Hurricane Katrina
    (features Doug Meffert, NAS)
    By Fox 4 News – Kansas City
    Doug Meffert with the Audubon Society shared what New Orleans has been doing and learned since Hurricane Katrina ripped through and destroyed portions of the city. Meffert also shared what the future of Louisiana looks as crews continue to rebuild the Gulf Coast. (Read More)

    A Coastal Interview 10 Years After Katrina
    (features Doug Meffert, NAS)
    By KENS-5 CBS – San Antonio
    Doug Meffert interviewed on coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana ahead of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.. (Read More)

    Related News:

    Ten Years After Katrina, Here's What's Happening to Louisiana's Coastline
    (By Peter Moskowitz, Vice News)
    It's been ten years since Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, crippling New Orleans and highlighting America's vulnerability to natural disaster. In the aftermath, a central question has been whether New Orleans — and other areas along the coast — can be rebuilt better, stronger, and more equitably. But with coastal development swallowing up wetlands, canal dredging by oil and gas companies ruining coastlines, and global warming pushing up sea levels, Gulf Coast residents are wondering whether the land on which they live will continue to exist at all. (Read More)

    Judge: Corps must pay full $3 billion cost of restoring MR-GO wetlands
    (By Mark Schleifstein, Times Picayune)
    The Army Corps of Engineers must pay the full $3 billion cost of restoring wetlands destroyed by the agency's improper construction and maintenance of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, a federal judge in New Orleans ruled Thursday (Aug. 27).(Read More)

    New Orleans: The Hub of Water Management Innovation?
    (By Nihal Shrinath and Allison Plyer, Stanford Social Innovation Review)
    What may come as a surprise, however, is that New Orleans—a city that knows the destructive power of storm water better than any other—may just turn out to be the hub of water management innovation.(Read More)

    In New Orleans, Waiting Out an Unfortunate Anniversary
    (By Pam Radtke Russell, CQ Roll Call)
    “But New Orleans’ go cup, as one engineer recently told me, is half full.While we, as New Orleanians, would prefer to have one filled to the rim, the system we have is better than what Miami, Boston, or even Washington, D.C., has.” (Read More)

    The Katrina oil spill disaster: A harbinger for the Atlantic Coast?
    (By Sue Sturgis, The Institute for Southern Studies: Facing South)
    When Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast 10 years ago, it set off a disaster of many parts — and one of those parts was an oil spill catastrophe. In fact, Katrina turned out to be the worst U.S. oil spill disaster since the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill in Alaska. The storm resulted in an estimated 8 million gallons of oil spilled onto the ground and into waterways from Louisiana to Alabama. Both of those incidents have since been surpassed by the 2010 BP spill in the Gulf, which affected some of the same areas as the Katrina spill.” (Read More)

    The Katrina Disaster That Hasn’t Ended
    (By Michael Grunwald, Politico)
    “A decade later, the engineering problems have been addressed with a new state-of-the-art flood protection system around the city, and the Big Easy is much safer. The president was right to highlight the city’s impressive physical and economic recovery today, as well as the persistent challenges faced by low-income African-Americans in the Lower Ninth Ward where he spoke. But it should not be forgotten that Washington’s skewed priorities left the Lower Ninth underwater—and those priorities are still out of whack.” (Read More)

    Read more »
  • Building Energy Retrofits Just got a lot Easier with this New Toolkit

    By Guest Author

    toolsBy: Karen Penafiel, Vice President, Advocacy, BOMA International

    At its Every Building Conference this summer, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International announced the relaunch of its BOMA Energy Performance (BEPC) toolkit.  BEPC is an industry-vetted, proven process to plan, procure, and implement performance-driven building retrofits that has been used in successful projects around the world. For this reason, BEPC and the Investor Confidence Project (ICP) are a “natural fit.”

    ICP, an Environmental Defense Fund initiative designed to unlock investment in energy efficiency, is accelerating the development of a global energy efficiency market by standardizing how projects are developed and energy savings are calculated. Together, BEPC and ICP can be used to execute successful, reliable, investment-grade energy retrofit projects from concept through measurement and verification.

    ICP’s Roadmap to Investor Confidence lays out six major steps in the project development cycle: origination, project development, quality assurance, certification, underwriting, contracting, and performance. BEPC includes a flexible framework and supporting toolkit of template documents that can assist building owners, operators, and program managers at each stage of this process. Two key areas where the BEPC toolkit is particularly useful in the ICP project development cycle are:

    1. Origination – Service provider selection

    Any building owner or operator who has struggled with evaluating vendor pitches knows that selecting a service provider to design and execute a complex engineering project is a daunting challenge. Multi-measure building retrofit projects compound the difficulty, since there is no “apples to apples” comparison in a traditional competitive bid process and a simple low-bid requirement does not apply. For this kind of project, owners must find a true partner – not only one that can expertly handle the design and build portions of the project, but a partner that can also develop and execute the best project for the building and owner’s goals. This will ensure the project performs at or above expectations for the long term. The BEPC toolkit includes a step-by-step procurement and project development process, with templates for RFPs and other procurement documents to select a qualified energy service provider. These documents can easily incorporate ICP requirements around Project Developer Credentialing, Software Providers, standardized documentation to facilitate third party Quality Assurance, and Investor Ready Energy Efficiency Certification™.

    1. Project Development – Contracting for success

    Developing a contract or agreement for a multi-measure building retrofit project can also be thorny.  Some service providers offer contracts, but these can be missing key protections for the owner, and can be very difficult for non-engineers (i.e., lawyers) to unravel. The BOMA Energy Performance Contract   toolkit includes a number of easy-to-use-or-adapt contracting documents that have been vetted by the real estate industry to reduce risk and protect owners’ interests. The BEPC documents incorporate many of the key features of ICP, including rigorous standards for developing a building’s energy-use baseline, transparent means of adjusting the baseline, and the ability to provide an energy savings guarantee, if desired (or required by investors). Again, BEPC aligns perfectly with the ICP mission to ensure that energy efficiency retrofit projects perform as expected.


    New toolkit makes building energy retrofits easier. #EnergyEfficiency
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    ICP and BEPC in Practice

    The LA Better Buildings Challenge (LABBC) provides a real-world example of how all of these pieces come together at the program level. Funded by the local utilities, LABBC works as a neutral third party to facilitate development of Investor Ready Energy Efficiency™ projects utilizing ICP and BEPC best practices.

    As part of its onboarding process, the LABBC works with property owners to understand their investment criteria, internal capacity to manage and execute projects, existing contractor relationships, and areas of interest and opportunity .  Depending on the scope of the project, the owner’s internal resources, and contractor preferences, LABBC then recommends three firms from its list of prequalified Implementation Partners – each of whom has signed on to the BEPC Best Practices – and facilitates an expedited interview procurement process as described in the BEPC Toolkit. The selected Implementation Partner then conducts a comprehensive, investment-grade audit using an ICP-compliant software tool to facilitate quality assurance and certification by LABBC technical advisors and underwriting by the owner or third party funders. Once the scope of work is finalized, LABBC introduces the BEPC model contract language, including a full contract or contract exhibit to use with existing contract form agreements of the owner, to ensure that whatever agreement is used clearly addresses adjustments to the energy-use baseline, calculation of savings, transparent pricing, and measurement and verification.

    ICP and the BEPC team are excited to continue finding ways to bring joint benefits of both programs to the retrofit industry. ICP is represented on the BEPC Advisory Board and the BEPC team and ICP plan to continue collaborating to increase the flow of rigorous, successful building retrofit projects.

    Read more »
  • New Poll: U.S. Latino Communities Overwhelmingly Support Clean Air Protections

    By Lucía Oliva Hennelly

    latinopollPoliticians and political observers are increasing the amount of time spent trying to figure out how to engage with Latino voters – a large and growing part of the American electorate. Issues such as immigration reform usually dominate the discussion nationally, but a new poll from the national polling firm Latino Decisions shows that clean water and healthy air are also of utmost importance for Latinos.

    According to their poll 85% of those surveyed found reducing smog and air pollution to be extremely or very important, compared to 80 percent for comprehensive immigration reform.

    This comes as no surprise to those of us that are rooted in this community where issues of the health of our communities and families are often top-of-mind around the dinner table.  In reality, it also comes as no surprise to decision makers who have listened to our communities, and know Latinos have rich ties to the outdoors, but are too often the first and worst impacted by pollution.

    As Gary Segura, co-founder of Latino Decisions, recently told NPR:

    "A lot of Latino households in the United States are in locations that are adversely affected by particulate pollution, by poor water quality. So quality of life, direct exposure to environmental hazards is quite common among the Latino population; we shouldn't be surprised they're concerned about it."

    Luckily, several efforts are now in the works and will have significant positive impacts for Latino communities and the air they breathe. Efforts like the recently announced EPA methane rule, the Clean Power Plan, and the coming revision to ozone standards will all have positive impacts on air quality nationwide.  These rules are especially important for Latinos, as nearly half the Latinos living in the United States lives in an area with unhealthy air quality.

    My home state of New Mexico serves as one example. The state  is simultaneously home to a significant Hispanic population, experiencing expanding oil and gas development, and unfortunately in areas like the San Juan Basin, also experiencing unhealthy levels of ozone pollution.  This same overlap between polluted air and Latino and Hispanic communities can be found again and again in many places including California and Colorado, as well as the Eagle Ford region in Texas.  These areas stand to see significant reductions in oil and gas related air pollution under the new EPA methane rules and anticipated ozone standards.

    These common sense, health based standards make sense for Latinos and for all Americans.  Please take a moment to thank EPA for these life-saving efforts to clean up our air.

    Photo Source: Earth Justice

    Read more »
  • Natural gas-fueled buses and trucks: Will the climate really benefit?

    Kenworth truckAs readers of this blog will know, the freight transportation industry in Texas— a freight hub – has a significant impact on the state’s economy and environment. Recent market conditions and environmental concerns have ignited talk of expanding the use of natural gas trucks instead of diesel. But what would be the true climate benefit – or cost?

    This post from our colleague Jonathan Camuzeaux, a senior economic analyst for EDF’s Office of Economic Policy and Analysis, explores this question from a national perspective, but we wanted to share this post with Texas Clean Air Matters because of its relevance to our state. We have the second-largest state-highway system in the U.S., as well as the Port of Houston Authority, which is the second busiest port in the nation when it comes to overall tonnage. Considering the switch to natural gas could have a big effect on the climate impact of the state’s truck fleets.

    — The EDF Texas Clean Air Matters Team


    Natural gas-fueled buses and trucks: Will the climate really benefit?
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    At a time when companies and governments are looking more closely at alternative fuel sources to reduce their environmental impact, many players in the transportation sector are considering shifting their bus or commercial truck fleets from diesel to natural gas fuel.

    They’re looking for an advantage in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as well as fuel costs savings to justify the higher vehicle costs and reduced fuel efficiency of natural gas vehicles.

    Climate benefits uncertain at best

    They may be surprised to know, however, that natural gas-powered vehicles are not necessarily more climate-friendly than their diesel fumes-spewing counterparts.

    To make sure a fuel switch brings immediate climate benefits, we must make engine-efficiency improvements and major cuts in potent heat-trapping methane emissions along the natural gas value chain. If these steps are not taken, moving truck fleets from diesel to natural gas could actuallyincrease warming for decades to come.

    This is a growing concern today as the market share for such vehicles seems poised to grow.

    While only about 3 percent of new freight trucks run on natural gas today, some analysts suggest their market share could reach as high as 20 percent over the next decade if high oil and diesel prices return. Meanwhile, investments in natural gas-powered utility vehicles and transit buses are growing, with 11 percent of such vehicles already running on gas.

    It means we must address the problem of methane emissions today, before market penetration becomes significant and the technology is locked in and harder to change.

    Natural gas value chain full of leaks

    Methane – the main ingredient in natural gas and a greenhouse gas many times more potent than CO2 – is leaked to the atmosphere from the point where it’s first extracted from the ground to when it’s burned by a vehicle barreling down the expressway.

    While natural gas releases less CO2 than diesel to the atmosphere when it is combusted, methane leaks from the production and transportation of natural gas has the potential to remove some or all of the climate benefits companies are looking for as they upgrade their fleets.

    Adding to the challenge, today’s natural gas truck engines can be as much as 15 percent less efficient than diesel engines. Consuming more fuel for each mile traveled also reduces their net pollution reductions.

    The opportunity ahead

    Emissions in the natural gas value chain therefore represent a rare opportunity to achieve significant, cost-effective reductions in overall greenhouse gas emissions. If, in addition to reductions in methane leakage, the efficiency gap can be closed, natural gas trucks will fare that much better compared to diesel.

    Much depends on several policy mechanisms currently in play, which could improve the climate prospects for these new buses and trucks. The new policies include anticipated federal methane regulations and upcoming federal fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy trucks.

    The proposed new standards for heavy trucks would bring welcome reductions of certain sources of methane emissions occurring at the vehicle level. While this will certainly help, reductions upstream are crucial to maximize the potential benefits of natural gas trucks – which is where the federal methane standards come in.

    In the meantime, we need to use caution. Before we encourage the trucking sector to switch to natural gas fuel, the United States needs to act sufficiently to reduce emissions and improve natural gas engine efficiency.

    If we don’t, we could go from bad to worse.

    Jonathan Camuzeaux is a senior economic analyst for EDF's Office of Economic Policy and Analysis. He provides economic analysis to support the development of market-based solutions to environmental issues with a focus on climate and energy economics.

    Image credit: TruckPR/flickr

     

    Read more »
  • What the newly proposed EPA methane rules mean for California

    By Tim O'Connor

    OIl and gasLast week, the U.S. EPA released a historic proposal for new rules to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, a step toward meeting the ambitious national goal of reducing these emissions 40 to 45 percent in the next decade. California is a step ahead, with new regulations already in development to cut methane from oil and gas operations within its borders.

    Even as the rest of the nation begins to catch up, it’s critical that California continues to move forward with developing state standards that complement the federal rules, and go even further when necessary.

    Methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are a massive problem – the industry emits more than 7 million tons of the potent greenhouse gas each year, equivalent to the 20-year climate impact of 160 coal-fired power plants. And the latest scientific research indicates the problem is even bigger than we think. For example, a study published just last week says previously unrecorded emissions from thousands of gathering facilities are eight times higher than estimates, and would increase the current inventory of methane emissions by almost 25 percent.

    Methane is a challenge, but it also presents a big opportunity. Solutions for reducing methane emissions are feasible and highly cost effective, using simple, straightforward measures. That makes cutting methane – which is more than 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in the short term – the biggest bargain for greenhouse gas reductions in the energy business. For no extra cost, the same measures that reduce methane pollution will reduce other toxic and smog-forming pollutants and improve public health in local communities.

    California, an oil and gas producer, and major user, has serious air quality problems that threaten the state’s environment and public health – we have some of the highest asthma rates in the nation, highest levels of smog, highest rate of greenhouse gas pollution, and most cities with documented air quality violations of federal health standards. State leaders recognized the role oil and gas methane pollution plays in these issues and last year, the state began developing a series of efforts to cut methane pollution, including:

    The new California rules lay the groundwork to clean up oil and gas across the state through requirements like leak detection and repair, new pollution control systems at processing plants and compressors, and required change-out of equipment that purposefully vents pollution. Similarly, at the heart of the EPA’s federal methane proposal are some of the same things.

    But that doesn’t mean California’s job is over – under the federal Clean Air Act, states must, at a minimum, meet federal air quality standards and are free to go further to protect their citizens and environment from harmful pollution. And while the EPA’s proposal is an important step, there are several places where California can do more.

    For example, EPA’s proposed leak detection and repair standards, which include just annual and semi-annual monitoring requirements, fall short of those required in leading states and by a number of California air districts. Frequent monitoring for leaks is critical to finding and addressing methane emissions, since leaks can emerge anywhere at any time and can be difficult to predict. Whether or not the EPA’s monitoring requirements are bolstered by the time the rules are finalized, it is important that California holds itself to a high standard and requires more frequent monitoring and repair, one of the most critical tools for cutting methane.

    And, EPA’s proposed rules also left out a few critical sources of methane emissions along the oil and gas supply chain that must be addressed. One of those sources is liquids unloading, a common maintenance practice operators use to purge liquids that accumulate during production, and a big contributor to methane emissions. States like Colorado have already taken action to set standards for liquids unloading, and California should do the same, even if EPA ultimately doesn’t do so in its final rules.

    The EPA’s proposed methane standards are a critical step in the right direction because they apply to key components of the oil and gas system and will prevent pollution that creates warming, threatens public health, and wastes a valuable energy resource. California should welcome this new rulemaking, but as other leading Western states like Colorado and Wyoming have done, continue its own hard work to develop the strongest rules possible for the state.

    Read more »
  • How the Clean Power Plan Can Benefit Latino Communities

    By Lucía Oliva Hennelly

    rp_CPP-Latinos-Final-300x300.jpgEarlier this month, the United States announced a major step forward in addressing air quality concerns and climate change threats to Latinos.  I’m talking about the Clean Power Plan, which establishes the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from powerplants and places us on a path to heed Pope Francis’s call to protect our planet.

    Unfortunately, critics began attacking the plan even before it was final.  Some of these attacks have targeted the Latino community in particular, arguing that the Clean Power Plan will disproportionately and negatively harm Latinos.  These are baseless claims and arguments that have been debunked by experts.

    When the Clean Power Plan takes full effect, Latinos will be among the many Americans who will share in the benefits of a cleaner, healthier future that also affords us good jobs and energy savings.

    Cleaner energy, less cost

    Let’s start with the question on everyone’s mind: Will the Clean Power Plan make my electric bill more expensive?

    According to analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Power Plan will reduce electric bills by about $7 per month by 2030.  (It will also provide up to $54 billion dollars in public health and climate benefits.)  Latinos are likely to feel these positive impacts directly because the benefits of clean energy, which replace polluting energy sources like coal, can reach us through health, environmental, and economic avenues – and sometimes all of these at once.

    Take solar power, for example.  The price of solar has fallen 80 percent since 2008, and rooftop solar is now being deployed in middle class neighborhoods in places like Arizona and California where the median income ranges from $40,000 to $90,000.

    Technologies like solar keep our air clean and our kids healthy.  This is key for the Latinos who work outdoors as roughly 1 in 4 workers in the construction and agriculture industries, and for the 14 percent of Latino children who have ever been diagnosed with asthma.

    Solar power can also save us money on our bills.  This is especially true when they are coupled with incentives like net metering, which allows solar customers to receive a credit on their bill for sending excess energy they don’t use back to the grid.  Solar power is also becoming increasingly accessible to all Americans. Thanks to new financing models like solar leasing programs (if you do not want to pay a large up-front cost) and community solar programs (if your rooftop is not suitable for solar panels or you rent your home), you don’t have to be rich to get in on the clean energy revolution.

    More jobs

    The Clean Power Plan will also help Latinos by creating tens of thousands of good, new jobs in the clean energy sector by 2040.  This is part of a broader trend: In 2014, the solar industry added jobs nearly 20 times faster than the national average and is poised to add another 36,000 jobs in 2015.

    According to a 2013 report by National Council of La Raza, many of the jobs in this sector are highly accessible to Latinos, and Latinos are already engaging in the growing clean energy economy in locations across the country.  In some places, like McAllen, Texas, Latinos are overrepresented in some of the top clean economy occupations; in others, like Albuquerque, New Mexico, Latinos could benefit from higher wages by transitioning to jobs in the clean economy.  Most “green jobs” pay higher median wages than traditional Latino occupations, and this wage advantage holds true even outside of these traditional jobs.

    Prioritizing low-income communities

    What about the most disadvantaged communities, those who are most in need of cost savings, cleaner energy, and protections from climate change?  The Clean Power Plan aims to prioritize the deployment of energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities through the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP).  By providing a mechanism to award states extra compliance credit for efficiency programs that provide energy savings to low-income communities, the CEIP is designed to help lower electricity bills and bring jobs to people in these communities.

    A report by Environmental Defense Fund demonstrates that savings to families could be significantly greater with more widespread deployment of energy efficiency—securing a 15 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 and generating annual average household savings of $157.  Measures like the CEIP, along with strong stakeholder engagement requirements and other measures, will help ensure the Clean Power Plan benefits all Latinos – and all Americans – in transitioning to a clean energy economy.

    Setting the record straight

    Claims that the Clean Power Plan will hurt Latinos, drive up energy bills, and disadvantage low-income communities are simply false.  Rather, these are the very claims that spread harmful misinformation to our communities and create the most serious barriers to accessing clean air, affordable energy, and good paying jobs.

    At the same time, as with any ambitious challenge, our work is not done.  States must finalize and deliver implementation plans to meet their pollution-reduction goals.  This is where the rubber hits the road, and the states that get out of the gate quickly to achieve these goals will more swiftly capture the benefits.

    We must be engaged in this process, urging states to accelerate the transition to cleaner energy for all communities. First, we must tell our decision makers in Washington to support the Clean Power Plan.  Then, Latino communities must demand a place at the table and advocate for states to act now – as should everyone who wants to ensure the benefits of America’s Clean Power Plan are shared by all.

    This post originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

    Read more »
  • Latest Mississippi River Delta News: August 27, 2015

    Louisiana Post-Katrina: A Decade of Difference (Video)
    features John Lopez, LPBF & Simone Maloz, Restore or Retreat
    This month Louisiana Public Square takes a look at where the state is now on “Louisiana Post-Katrina: A Decade of Difference” airing Wednesday, August 26 at 7 p.m. on LPB HD. (View more).

    Hurricane Katrina Anniversary: 3 Ambitious Plans To Save New Orleans From Climate Change
    features Steve Cochran, EDF
    By Maria Gallucci, International Business Times. August 26, 2015.
    The three strategies are part of the Changing Course design competition run by regional and U.S. environmental groups. The winning teams — Baird & Associates, Moffatt & Nichol and Studio Misi-Ziibi — presented their plans Wednesday in New Orleans during a weeklong series of events on Louisiana’s post-Katrina recovery. (Read more)

    Design Competition Winners Share Ideas for Saving Louisiana Coast
    features Steve Cochran, EDF
    By Pam Hunter, Engineering News-Record. August 25, 2015.
    Three design-and-engineering teams unveiled their concepts for saving the lower Mississippi River Delta over the next 100 years at an Aug. 20 press conference in New Orleans… (Read more)

    President Obama Prepares Visit to Commemorate 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
    Statement by David Yarnold, NAS
    “We are not going to protect our coastal communities from future Katrinas until we fix our main defenses—the vanishing coastal wetlands that buffer the winds and tidal surges of violent storms,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold (Read more)

    Will New Orleans Survive the Next Katrina? (Video)
    features Doug Meffert, NAS
    By Tim McDonnell Mother Jones. August 26, 2015
    Before the storm, hurricane protection and coastal restoration were treated as separate, or ever-competing, interests. Now, they're one and the same."Without Katrina, this wouldn't be happening," Dupre says. "We've gone from being the laughingstock to the model for the rest of the country." (Read More)

    Lowcountry Live (Video)
    features Doug Meffert, NAS
    WCIV Charleston, SC. August 26, 2015
    "Levees are only one line of defense. Multiple lines of defense are need to protect coastal communities from future storms.” (View Here)

    Fox 18 Nine O’Clock News (Video)
    features Doug Meffert, NAS
    KLJB Davenport, IA. August 25, 2015
    "Levees are only one line of defense. Multiple lines of defense are need to protect coastal communities from future storms.” (View Here)

    Related News:
    Rising Sea Level Threatens Coastal Restoration, New Orleans Levees, Scientists Say
    by Mark Schleifstein, Times Picayune
    “Even as Louisiana embarks on a multi-billion-dollar program to begin rebuilding its coast, evidence continues to mount that new coastal land will have to contend with a more rapid rise in sea level than projected in present state plans.” (Read more)

    Katrina: Lasting Climate Lessons for a Sinking City
    by Bobby Magill, Climate Central
    “Katrina taught New Orleans and the Gulf Coast many lessons about how vulnerable the region is to natural disaster, especially to sea level rise and storm surge made worse by climate change. But a more complex, man-made problem also threatens New Orleans and it was captured in the indelible images taken in the aftermath of the hurricane, when miasmal flood waters submerged up to 80 percent of the city: as sea levels rise, the Crescent City is sinking.” (Read more)

    Editorial: Help us continue our recovery, President Obama
    by Editorial Board, Times Picayune
    “Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is right, of course, that the outer continental shelf is owned by all Americans. But Louisiana and other Gulf states are the ones that have borne the environmental and infrastructure costs of energy production. Only now are we about to get a meaningful share of the lease revenues oil and gas companies pay to the federal government. And your administration wants to take it from us? Don't do that.” (Read more)

    Our Views: President Obama Has Been a Friend to Louisiana — But Not In Fight to Save Coastline
    by Editorial Board, The Advocate
    “But Barack Obama proved to be a friend to Louisiana, rebuilding public housing in New Orleans and settling long-standing disputes in a way that enabled New Orleans and Louisiana to find bold and imaginative ways to replace public schools and our flagship public hospital. Which is why it is so disappointing to see a president who has been an ally turn against our state at a critical moment in the fight to save our vulnerable coastline.” (Read more)

    Crop Dusters Seed Mangroves By Air To Save Louisiana Wetlands
    by Jed Lipinksi, Times Picayune
    “New Orleans-based Tierra Resources announced Wednesday (August 26) that a three-year pilot project, conducted in partnership with ConocoPhillips, succeeded in planting mangroves via crop-duster airplane at three one-acre sites in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.” (Read more)

    Read more »
  • How the Clean Power Plan Can Benefit Latino Communities

    By Lucía Oliva Hennelly

    rp_CPP-Latinos-Final-300x300.jpgEarlier this month, the United States announced a major step forward in addressing air quality concerns and climate change threats to Latinos.  I’m talking about the Clean Power Plan, which establishes the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from powerplants and places us on a path to heed Pope Francis’s call to protect our planet.

    Unfortunately, critics began attacking the plan even before it was final.  Some of these attacks have targeted the Latino community in particular, arguing that the Clean Power Plan will disproportionately and negatively harm Latinos.  These are baseless claims and arguments that have been debunked by experts.

    When the Clean Power Plan takes full effect, Latinos will be among the many Americans who will share in the benefits of a cleaner, healthier future that also affords us good jobs and energy savings.

    Cleaner energy, less cost
    Let’s start with the question on everyone’s mind: Will the Clean Power Plan make my electric bill more expensive?

    According to analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Power Plan will reduce electric bills by about $7 per month by 2030.  (It will also provide up to $54 billion dollars in public health and climate benefits.)  Latinos are likely to feel these positive impacts directly because the benefits of clean energy, which replace polluting energy sources like coal, can reach us through health, environmental, and economic avenues – and sometimes all of these at once.

    Take solar power, for example.  The price of solar has fallen 80 percent since 2008, and rooftop solar is now being deployed in middle class neighborhoods in places like Arizona and California where the median income ranges from $40,000 to $90,000.

    Technologies like solar keep our air clean and our kids healthy.  This is key for the Latinos who work outdoors as roughly 1 in 4 workers in the construction and agriculture industries, and for the 14 percent of Latino children who have ever been diagnosed with asthma.

    Solar power can also save us money on our bills.  This is especially true when they are coupled with incentives like net metering, which allows solar customers to receive a credit on their bill for sending excess energy they don’t use back to the grid.  Solar power is also becoming increasingly accessible to all Americans. Thanks to new financing models like solar leasing programs (if you do not want to pay a large up-front cost) and community solar programs (if your rooftop is not suitable for solar panels or you rent your home), you don’t have to be rich to get in on the clean energy revolution.


    How the Clean Power Plan Can Benefit Latino Communities. #ActOnClimate
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    More jobs
    The Clean Power Plan will also help Latinos by creating tens of thousands of good, new jobs in the clean energy sector by 2040.  This is part of a broader trend: In 2014, the solar industry added jobs nearly 20 times faster than the national average and is poised to add another 36,000 jobs in 2015.

    According to a 2013 report by National Council of La Raza, many of the jobs in this sector are highly accessible to Latinos, and Latinos are already engaging in the growing clean energy economy in locations across the country.  In some places, like McAllen, Texas, Latinos are overrepresented in some of the top clean economy occupations; in others, like Albuquerque, New Mexico, Latinos could benefit from higher wages by transitioning to jobs in the clean economy.  Most “green jobs” pay higher median wages than traditional Latino occupations, and this wage advantage holds true even outside of these traditional jobs.

    Prioritizing low-income communities
    What about the most disadvantaged communities, those who are most in need of cost savings, cleaner energy, and protections from climate change?  The Clean Power Plan aims to prioritize the deployment of energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities through the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP).  By providing a mechanism to award states extra compliance credit for efficiency programs that provide energy savings to low-income communities, the CEIP is designed to help lower electricity bills and bring jobs to people in these communities.

    A report by Environmental Defense Fund demonstrates that savings to families could be significantly greater with more widespread deployment of energy efficiency—securing a 15 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 and generating annual average household savings of $157.  Measures like the CEIP, along with strong stakeholder engagement requirements and other measures, will help ensure the Clean Power Plan benefits all Latinos – and all Americans – in transitioning to a clean energy economy.

    Setting the record straight
    Claims that the Clean Power Plan will hurt Latinos, drive up energy bills, and disadvantage low-income communities are simply false.  Rather, these are the very claims that spread harmful misinformation to our communities and create the most serious barriers to accessing clean air, affordable energy, and good paying jobs.

    At the same time, as with any ambitious challenge, our work is not done.  States must finalize and deliver implementation plans to meet their pollution-reduction goals.  This is where the rubber hits the road, and the states that get out of the gate quickly to achieve these goals will more swiftly capture the benefits.

    We must be engaged in this process, urging states to accelerate the transition to cleaner energy for all communities. First, we must tell our decision makers in Washington to support the Clean Power Plan.  Then, Latino communities must demand a place at the table and advocate for states to act now – as should everyone who wants to ensure the benefits of America’s Clean Power Plan are shared by all.

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  • A novel approach to reducing deforestation: linking supply chains and REDD+ in “Zero Deforestation Zones”

    By Chris Meyer

    By Chris MeyerSenior Manager, Amazon Forest Policy and Dana Miller, Research Analyst

    Two tropical forest conservation efforts have gained momentum in recent years: zero deforestation commitments from the private sector and the policy framework Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). Both efforts are necessary, but not sufficient in themselves to eliminate global deforestation.

    In a recently published paper in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry, we find that linking REDD+ and zero deforestation commitments offers a more efficient and effective solution to stop deforestation, which we call Zero Deforestation Zones (ZDZ).

    The current state of private initiatives and REDD+

    Deforestation, which is responsible for 15% of global greenhouse gases, is primarily caused by conversion for the production of four commodities in Brazil and Indonesia: beef, soy, palm, and timber products. To address this urgent problem, companies that control more than 90% of soy purchases in the Amazon, around half of cattle slaughter in the Brazilian Amazon, and 96% of palm oil trade globally have committed to stop deforestation.

    While these company commitments are promising, many producers that clear forests can still sell commodities to companies that don’t have deforestation commitments, or they can even sell indirectly to the companies that have committed to zero deforestation. In other words, under the current policies even if companies clean up their own supply chains, they could be just creating islands of green in a sea of deforestation.

    Policies for REDD+ have made great strides in recent years. The United Nations completed the technical guidance in 2014 under The Warsaw Framework for REDD+. Tropical countries have begun implementing REDD+ on the ground, while donor countries have committed $7.2 billion to the effort.

    However, REDD+ implementation has been slow in many countries for two reasons. First, there’s a lack of political will and uncertainty about sustainable flows of REDD+ funding in the future. Second, few private-sector actors responsible for deforestation actively engage in the creation of REDD+ strategies and programs.


    The Solution: Zero Deforestation Zones

    Zero Deforestation Zones would address these challenges by bringing together private sector deforestation commitments and REDD+ programs to create a jurisdiction-wide solution.

    Zero Deforestation Zones would be municipalities, states or entire countries where governments, companies and communities come together to eliminate deforestation throughout their jurisdiction. The definition of a ZDZ would be based on the context of the jurisdiction and a common framework outlined in the paper. Governments would develop and implement REDD+ programs. Companies would preferentially source commodities from ZDZs and focus new investment and expansion in the ZDZs.

    Zero Deforestation Zones

    Private sector conservation initiatives on individual farms (represented by green trees in the left image) can result in pockets of forest surrounded by deforestation, but Zero Deforestation Zones can conserve forests throughout entire jurisdictions (represented by the green state-wide program in the right image). Credit: Rick Velleu, EDF

    The synergies that Zero Deforestation Zones can create between the private sector zero deforestation commitments and REDD+ include:

    1. Lower risks of non-compliance with public and private zero deforestation policies: If companies and governments harmonize their definitions and policies around zero deforestation, they can increase pressure on direct and indirect suppliers to comply with these policies.
    2. Shared monitoring, reporting, and verification systems: Governments could implement deforestation monitoring systems at economies of scale with REDD+ financing, generating useful data for the private sector.
    3. Increased investment in agricultural programs: REDD+ funding could support programs by producer associations and certifications to increase agricultural production on existing farms. In addition, companies would invest in ZDZs by sourcing commodities and building new infrastructure.
    4. Multi-stakeholder platforms: REDD+ stakeholder platforms would bring actors together to discuss shared concerns about forest and land sectors’ governance. These platforms could also help resolve land disputes between private sector actors and local communities and indigenous peoples.

    Zero Deforestation Zones offer a framework to maximize the potential of both companies’ zero deforestation commitments and REDD+ programs. Multinational companies, their suppliers and governments in the areas they source from should discuss how they can collaborate to create a Zero Deforestation Zone.

    Read more in our paper, Zero Deforestation Zones: The Case for Linking Deforestation-Free Supply Chain Initiatives and Jurisdictional REDD+, published in the special issue on Forests as Capital in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry.

     

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  • Real Energy and Cost Savings. Right Now. Here, in Texas.

    By Kate Zerrenner

    2015 Climate Corps fellow Phoebe Romero and her supervisor sitting near a solar-powered phone charging station on the Huston-Tillotson campus.
    2015 Climate Corps fellow Phoebe Romero and her supervisor sitting near a solar-powered phone charging station on the Huston-Tillotson campus.

    We are nearing the end of another successful season of EDF Climate Corps, the 8-year-old program run by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) that “embeds” grad students inside companies to find ways to save energy and money and lower carbon emissions.

    Over the course of its history, EDF Climate Corps has developed into something of powerhouse from both sides of the energy sector: enterprising students (called “fellows”) discover a passion for sustainability through the act of finding efficiencies in the energy systems of their host organizations, and the hosts benefit from these energy savings while jumpstarting or contributing to their sustainability goals.

    This year, 12 Texas companies and public sector entities hosted fellows, and this got us to thinking, what kind of evolution and impact has the Climate Corps program had in Texas over the years? We decided it was worth a closer look and turns out, fellows have been saving Texas schools, businesses, and other organizations a lot of energy – and a lot of money.

    Who, What, Where has Climate Corps been in Texas?

    EDF Climate Corps fellows have engaged in a wide variety of projects in Texas since 2009, including with cities, public housing authorities, and energy companies, among others. And several of these organizations have hosted a fellow for more than one year after seeing the incredible benefit of the work.

    Let’s look at a few examples:

    • The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is the largest public school district in Texas, and the seventh largest in the country, enrolling over 204,000 students. A few summers back, an EDF Climate Corps fellow worked with HISD on projects in behavioral change, lighting, air conditioning, water use, and more. The fellow identified savings from upgrading lighting and air conditioning that could save the school district over $2 million and 27 million kilowatt hours (kWh) annually, the equivalent to powering over 2,500 homes for one year. That’s real savings — money that could be spent on essentials like books, teachers’ supplies, and technology.
    • Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), has developed an ambitious target of a 50 percent reduction in campus carbon emissions by 2030, aiming to be one of the most sustainable HBCUs in the country. EDF Climate Corps is helping them reach that goal. Last summer’s fellow found savings of 250 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually by uncovering energy and resource efficiency opportunities within individual buildings as well as campus-wide systems. The University was so happy with the results they signed on another fellow for this summer who is currently looking into additional potential energy and water savings across campus.

    Real #energy and cost savings. Right now. Here, in Texas.
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    • PepsiCo engaged an EDF Climate Corps fellow in 2010 to analyze its Plano facility’s energy performance while charting a roadmap for LEED certification, an accreditation related to the construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings. The findings revealed attractive energy efficiency opportunities that would enable the company to achieve a return on its LEED certification investment. In total, the projects identified could amount to 1.9 million kWh saved annually along with $1.2 million over the project lifetimes, equivalent to over 3.1 million miles driven by the average American driver.
    • At the El Paso Housing Authority in 2012, the EDF Climate Corps fellow proposed three air conditioning and chiller projects that could save 1 million kWh every year, enough to power 95 average homes for a year.
    • The University of Texas Medical Center in Dallas hosted a fellow in 2014 who focused on identifying water savings along with energy. She quantified water usage and identifying water efficiency savings in research labs, thermal energy plants, and through water reuse projects. In addition to the estimated 36,625,000 gallons of water that could be saved annually, 3 million kWh and more than $300,000 would also be saved due to the high energy needs of water.

    Why does this matter?

    For these EDF Climate Corps hosts, saving money is a large factor, but they are also cleaning up their energy, water, and carbon act. Private companies who support climate initiatives outside their walls can now walk the walk. Cities can focus on providing essential services with money they would have otherwise spent on utility bills, simultaneously improving their energy and water footprints. School districts, community colleges, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions and HBCUs can concentrate on educating future leaders, while contributing to sustainability goals.

    EDF’s motto is “Finding the Ways that Work” and, in that context, it is imperative that we are inclusive of all levels of our society—from the most vulnerable to the most successful heads of business, and everyone in between. EDF Climate Corps are our boots on the ground, allowing fellows from different educational backgrounds to see the impact sustainability has on people and institutions through practical applications of knowledge. In doing so, we’re already seeing that the program is shaping the minds of future political and business leaders who will bring Texas – and the entire U.S. – into a more sustainable future.

    This post originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.

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