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  • Time to Tell the EPA What Works in Methane Mitigation

    By Aileen Nowlan

    aileen_nowlan_31394The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has committed to regulate existing sources of methane from the oil and gas industry, and it is asking for information from the methane mitigation industry to make sure the rule’s approach and requirements account for recent innovation. The EPA’s announcement comprises the U.S. portion of the North American commitment to cut methane by up to 45% from the continent’s oil and gas industry by 2025. Existing sources in the oil and gas industry make up over 90% of the sector’s emissions, which contribute over 9 million tons of methane pollution annually.

    The opportunity is open now to tell the EPA what works in methane mitigation.

    methane_technician

    Emission standards for existing sources of methane will not only reduce greenhouse gases but could also create new markets and customers for the growing mitigation industry. The regulation will likely start with one or more approved work practices to find and fix methane leaks, describing a technology or group of technologies that must be used in a certain manner. For example, EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for new and modified sources of methane required the use of optical gas imaging cameras or “Method 21” instruments. With far more existing sources of methane than new or modified sources, being part of an approved work practice for existing sources would open up a significant market opportunity.

    In one of the first steps toward developing the existing source rule, the EPA has set up a voluntary Request for Information, asking anyone with “information about monitoring, detection of fugitive emissions, and alternative mitigation approaches” to submit details by commenting on the Request for Information docket online . The EPA states it is particularly interested in “advanced monitoring technologies” that could be “broadly applicable to existing sources.” The EPA cites as an example “monitoring systems that provide coverage across emission points or equipment in a way that was not previously possible, thus enabling a different approach to setting standards.” A good submission may include “published or unpublished papers, technical information, data, or any other information” that might be relevant.

    The deadline to submit information via comment to the agency is November 15, 2016. But there is no need to wait–those who submit earlier will be part of the conversation sooner. And a number of important topics need to be discussed to shape the existing source regulation. The federal New Source Performance Standards and Colorado’s methane regulation contain a pathway for innovative technologies—a mechanism, supported by industry and  environmentalists alike, for the EPA to evaluate and approve better methane reduction approaches. A similar approach could help incentivize advanced technology deployment for existing sources.  This request for information is the first invitation of many to highlight innovation in the methane mitigation industry.


    Follow Aileen Nowlan on Twitter, @Aileennow


    Read more about the emerging Methane Mitigation industry

    Why energy investors need to manage methane as a Rising Risk

     

    Read more »
  • Is Mainstream Corporate America Jumping on the Clean Energy Bandwagon?

    By EDF Blogs

    ellen_blog_box3-finalBy Ellen Shenette, EDF Climate Corps Analyst

    It’s no secret that renewable energy is becoming cheaper, and while we’ve seen companies like Google and Microsoft investing in utility-scale renewables, what about mainstream corporate America? Are large corporations jumping on the clean energy bandwagon or are they dragging their feet? As a data analyst at EDF Climate Corps, I turned to the numbers for answers. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far. An analysis from our recently release report: Scaling Success: Recent Trends in Organizational Energy Management, says it all.

    For almost a decade, EDF Climate Corps has been partnering with business to save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving energy efficiency through our graduate fellowship program.

    As I followed the numbers, a new clean energy trend stood out: over the last 5 years, clean and renewable energy projects have grown five-fold, with 1/3 of our partner organizations working on at least one clean energy project in 2015. Companies have been using their EDF Climate Corps fellows to decipher the complex landscape of technologies, policies, procurement strategies, and financing options for renewable energy. As we tally the results for our 2016 fellowship program, we expect the focus on clean energy to continue to grow, and don’t plan on it stopping anytime soon.

    Following the money

    But why have we observed this recent uptake in clean energy projects? It seems to be “all about the Benjamins.” Our data shows that fellows are increasingly able to build a solid business case for clean energy projects. In just 2 years, the average payback for clean energy projects decreased dramatically from around 4 years to under 2 years and we’ve seen a surge in positive Net Present Value (NPV) clean energy projects. This tell us that clean energy projects are becoming increasingly cost competitive – a mirror image of industry trends.


    Is Mainstream Corporate America Jumping on the Clean Energy Bandwagon?
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    Which brings us back to our initial question – are large corporations jumping on the clean energy bandwagon? Yes, mainstream corporate America IS adopting clean and renewable energy- and they are doing it cost-effectively. The winds of change are blowing in the right direction (and hopefully through a wind turbine!) and our EDF Climate Corps fellows are proving that investment in renewables makes good business sense. However, there are still challenges to getting clean energy adoption at scale. Many renewable energy projects with large returns also require large upfront capital investments, and although the projects may have a positive NPV, some still fall outside the required payback period for corporations. We’ve seen that lack of funding and competing internal priorities are still major barriers to implementation.

    How companies can continue to drive forwardfig9_es_blog

    And so, a new question emerges – what should companies be doing to drive clean energy projects internally? First, corporate leadership should set targets for renewable energy procurement and benchmark against their peers. Second, energy managers should pilot clean energy projects to demonstrate their viability. These pilots can serve as proof points for future projects and larger-scale investments. While navigating the complex clean energy alphabet soup (PV, PPAs, RECs, RPS, ITC, etc.) can be tough, especially given the nuances in state level policy and regulations, partnering with a third-party organization (such as a program like EDF Climate Corps, another NGO or a vendor) is a great way to accelerate your clean energy projects. You just may find that making the business case for clean and renewable energy isn’t as hard as you thought.

    I invite you to learn more about what 8 years of EDF Climate Corps data tells us about trends in energy management and clean energy by reading our Scaling Success report.

    This post originally appeared on our EDF+Business blog

    Read more »
  • Is mainstream corporate America jumping on the clean energy bandwagon?

    By Ellen Shenette

    It’s no secret that renewable energy is becoming cheaper, and while we’ve seen companies like Google and Microsoft investing in utility-scale renewables, what about mainstream corporate America? Are large corporations jumping on the clean energy bandwagon or are they dragging their feet? As a data analyst at EDF Climate Corps, I turned to the numbers for answers. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far. An analysis from our recently release report: Scaling Success: Recent Trends in Organizational Energy Management, says it all.

    For almost a decade, EDF Climate Corps has been partnering with business to save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving energy efficiency through our graduate fellowship program.

    As I followed the numbers, a new clean energy trend stood out: over the last 5 years, clean and renewable energy projects have grown five-fold, with 1/3 of our partner organizations working on at least one clean energy project in 2015. Companies have been using their EDF Climellen_blog_box3-finalate Corps fellows to decipher the complex landscape of technologies, policies, procurement strategies, and financing options for renewable energy. As we tally the results for our 2016 fellowship program, we expect the focus on clean energy to continue to grow, and don’t plan on it stopping anytime soon.

    Following the money

    But why have we observed this recent uptake in clean energy projects? It seems to be “all about the Benjamins.” Our data shows that fellows are increasingly able to build a solid business case for clean energy projects. In just 2 years, the average payback for clean energy projects decreased dramatically from around 4 years to under 2 years and we’ve seen a surge in positive Net Present Value (NPV) clean energy projects. This tell us that clean energy projects are becoming increasingly cost competitive – a mirror image of industry trendsfig9_es_blog.

    Which brings us back to our initial question – are large corporations jumping on the clean energy bandwagon? Yes, mainstream corporate America IS adopting clean and renewable energy- and they are doing it cost-effectively. The winds of change are blowing in the right direction (and hopefully through a wind turbine!) and our EDF Climate Corps fellows are proving that investment in renewables makes good business sense. However, there are still challenges to getting clean energy adoption at scale. Many renewable energy projects with large returns also require large upfront capital investments, and although the projects may have a positive NPV, some still fall outside the required payback period for corporations. We’ve seen that lack of funding and competing internal priorities are still major barriers to implementation.

    How companies can continue to drive forward

    And so, a new question emerges – what should companies be doing to drive clean energy projects internally? First, corporate leadership should set targets for renewable energy procurement and benchmark against their peers. Second, energy managers should pilot clean energy projects to demonstrate their viability. These pilots can serve as proof points for future projects and larger-scale investments. While navigating the complex clean energy alphabet soup (PV, PPAs, RECs, RPS, ITC, etc.) can be tough, especially given the nuances in state level policy and regulations, partnering with a third-party organization (such as a program like EDF Climate Corps, another NGO or a vendor) is a great way to accelerate your clean energy projects. You just may find that making the business case for clean and renewable energy isn’t as hard as you thought.

    I invite you to learn more about what 8 years of EDF Climate Corps data tells us about trends in energy management and clean energy by reading our Scaling Success report.

     

     

     

     

     

    Read more »
  • Which Came First: Clean Trucks at Ports or a Port Clean Truck Program?

    By Christina Wolfe

    trucks-pixabayThe classic “chicken or the egg dilemma” is often used to talk about cause and effect. Although this question is usually posed as a philosophical examination of some obscure topic, we now have a clear case for true causality: port clean truck programs result in cleaner trucks at ports.

    Last week, the Port of New Orleans joined the growing list of ports who have launched formal clean truck programs to encourage trucking companies to replace older, more polluting trucks with newer trucks with fewer emissions. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) supported the Port of New Orleans’ efforts to develop their “Clean Truck Replacement Incentive Program” (Clean TRIP), which will be funded from the EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Program. The funding will assist 20 truck operators in replacing their dirtier diesel trucks by offering up to $35,000 or 50 percent of the cost of a 2012 or newer truck. In addition to the immediate opportunity to reduce emissions from the first 20 trucks, the port will also be able to incentivize more truck replacements in the future, by pursuing additional grants or developing other innovative funding approaches.

    The Port of New Orleans joins the Port of Houston as the only two ports on the Gulf Coast with clean truck programs. The efforts in Houston have been successful (and cost-effective, according to a peer-reviewed scientific study conducted by EDF authors) in reducing smog-forming pollution and cancer-causing diesel particulates, but we estimate there are still more than 2,500 trucks operating at the Port of Houston that would benefit from replacement.

    EDF has been a strong advocate for ports to create clean truck programs because of the significant benefits that result from these programs:

    1. Reduced emissions from trucks operating at ports – Unlike long-haul trucks, trucks hauling containers and other cargo at ports (so-called “drayage trucks”) are the oldest trucks in a fleet. Ports tend to be magnets for older trucks since there is less risk if the truck breaks down in the vicinity of its destination, rather than hundreds of miles away on a long haul trip.
    2. Engagement with local drivers and businesses – Because of the nature of short-haul drayage operations, truck owners are typically owner-operators or owned by local businesses. Initiatives at ports like clean truck program incentives help to build relationships between the local port authority and port users, paving the way for other opportunities to collaborate on economic and environmental initiatives that benefit local communities.
    3. Community benefits near port facilities – Goods movement operations at ports concentrate many types of heavy-duty equipment and vehicles, such as ships, tugboats, locomotives, cargo-handling equipment, and drayage trucks. In many cases, trucks driving to and from port facilities (or waiting to enter port facilities) can have additional health impacts on communities because they may be using roadways near schools, daycares, or nursing homes, and other areas where sensitive populations could be exposed to emissions from trucks.

    EDF commends the Port of New Orleans for joining the list of ports that have taken specific action to reduce truck emissions and protect community health, and we encourage other Texas and Gulf Coast ports to follow suit. EDF is available to help, so let us know how we can work together.

    Read more »
  • It’s Time for the Coal Industry to Come Clean

    By EDF Blogs

    coal_mine_wyomingBy Nicholas Bianco 

    By now you have all heard the coal industry claims that the Clean Power Plan will kill the coal industry. This week federal judges hearing oral argument on the rule will no doubt hear the same. A new report by Sue Tierney of the Analysis Group clearly demonstrates just how misleading these claims are.

    Dr. Tierney’s analysis examines changes in the industry since the 1970’s to unpack the factors that led to coal’s rise through 2000 and steady decline since. It shows how shifting economics for energy production have caused cost-effective lower-emitting natural gas generation and zero-emitting renewables to steadily out-compete coal and erode its market share. The analysis also shows how the industry made a large number of badly misplaced bets that have left them with over-burdened balance sheets, and facing bankruptcy as a result of these self-inflicted wounds.

    Citing analyses by the Energy Information Administration and others, the analysis shows the irreversibility of these trends as coal is simply no longer the cheapest form of generation. These trends will also continue to drive a transition to cleaner lower-carbon fuels regardless of the fate of the Clean Power Plan. The clear implication is that industry should focus on preparing for the future and adapting to these new market conditions as opposed to fighting long-delayed protections that will help secure a more stable climate, a sustainable economy and vital public health benefits.

    The analysis also examines the significant job losses seen since 1980, and finds that here too the blame has been misplaced. Data clearly show that decades ago, increasing productivity and a shift from eastern to western coal led to significant job losses even while the industry’s overall production was in a period of dramatic growth. Remarkably, coal mining jobs fell by one-half from 1975 to 2000 even as coal production increased by more than 60 percent.


    It’s Time for the Coal Industry to Come Clean
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    These market shifts have affected local mining communities. But as the analysis makes clear, these trends have been decades in the making and are driven by profound changes in the energy markets and the way in which coal is produced. Much as the coal industry and its allies like to divert attention from these fundamentals, rolling back life-saving measures to protect our climate and public health from power plant pollution won’t bring back past levels of coal mining jobs or production. However, there is ample room for coal mining companies to support these communities in transition by engaging constructively in the debate on how to move forward in light of these market fundamentals, and how best to harness unique local opportunities. These companies owe it to their workers and communities to do so.

    The Clean Power Plan is essential for ensuring vital reductions in climate pollution from the power sector, America’s largest contributor of these emissions. It is expected to deliver $54 billion in annual climate and health benefits while saving up to 3,600 lives each year. It is possible that these benefits could also result in some incremental reductions in coal consumption, depending on how states themselves choose to design their strategies to cut pollution. However, most analyses find that these declines would be only a fraction of those driven by market forces over the past decade.

    Therefore, instead of distracting investors and local communities through unfounded attacks on EPA and the Clean Power Plan, coal companies should be honest about what is really driving the erosion of their market share and of their balance sheets. They should come clean about the fact that lower carbon generation is simply beating them in the marketplace and that they made a bunch of bad bets when times were good. So doing would help everyone engage in a more serious and honest discussion about how to move these communities forward and transition into a position of success in the modern energy economy.

    There is no time to waste – let’s start working together to forge such solutions for these communities.

    About the analysis: This independent report was commissioned by Environmental Defense Fund but solely authored by Susan Tierney. Dr. Sue Tierney is a Senior Advisor at the Analysis Group, specializing on electric and gas economics and policy.  She formerly served as the assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Energy, state cabinet officer for environmental affairs, and state public utility commissioner.

    This post originally appeared on our Climate 411 blog. 

    Read more »
  • Clean Energy: An Emerging Path for Latino Communities

    By EDF Blogs

    chciBy: Andy Vargas, EDF Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Public Policy Fellow

    Hispanic Heritage Month is in full swing! It has also been a welcome way to kick off my placement with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Public Policy Fellow. Each year, CHCI marks Hispanic Heritage Month with a Public Policy Conference elevating the issues most important to Latino communities. This year, I had the pleasure of representing both CHCI and EDF, introducing a panel on an emerging and critical topic for Latinos: clean energy.

    Clean energy is key to protecting Latino communities from disproportionate impacts of climate change and pollution. At last week’s conference, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) highlighted that half the U.S. Latino population currently lives in the country’s most polluted cities. NHLA also noted that asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are more prevalent in inner city Latino communities near carbon-producing power plants.

    But clean energy also creates new “green jobs.” In 2014, for example, the solar industry added jobs nearly 20 times faster than the national average. Many of these jobs pay decent salaries and don't require you to have a bachelor's degree – making those economic opportunities accessible to Latinos who might otherwise struggle to finance expensive higher education for four or more years.

    With rapid growth of the clean energy economy, and a population growth on the horizon (Latino communities will double by 2050), the need for leadership that includes Latino voices will be key to ensuring clean energy solutions can offer a new path for their communities.

    A public good

    Congressman Ruben Gallego, a national Hispanic leader and former U.S. Marine, provided the panel an intense example of how dirty energy has impacted not only his life but the lives of his comrades, noting there were more casualties in fuel transport than in combat itself. Rep. Gallego reminded us that Latinos are too often on the front lines – not only as soldiers, but also on the front lines of climate change – and shifting to cleaner energy can protect our military overseas, as well as our communities at home. Therefore, Members of Congress, voters, business leaders, and others within the Latino community are encouraged to use their voices on climate change.


    Clean Energy: An Emerging Path for Latino Communities
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    Jorge Morales, City Councilor from South Gate, California, shared a story of the shock he felt after learning that a child’s life is more predetermined by their zip-code than by their genetics. If we truly want to combat climate change, Morales urged, leaders must open doors that increase access to clean energy programs that benefit not only wealthy individuals who can afford them, but also those who need them most.

    Across the country, Latino leaders are stepping up. Jennifer Allen, National Director of Chispa at League of Conservation Voters, shared how Hispanic communities from Arizona to Virginia to Nevada are engaging in the clean energy conversation by demanding local and state governments provide more clean energy opportunities that are accessible to all communities.

    Efficiency opportunities

    With the Latino population increasing, it’s about time Hispanic leaders take clean energy and climate change more seriously and become more vocal.

    We are also seeing growing Latino participation in the clean energy private sector. Edwin Luevanos, Founder and CEO of Citizen Energy, is increasing access and affordability by helping buildings shift to energy efficiency and clean energy, like solar power and LED lighting. Recognizing that for many, cost can prevent the adoption of clean energy technology, Citizen Energy offers 0% financing that only gets paid back when their customers start saving on their energy bills. EDF is fostering similar on-bill financing programs among rural electric cooperatives in North Carolina.

    With the Latino population increasing, it’s about time Hispanic leaders take clean energy and climate change more seriously and become more vocal. Similarly, Latino leaders in their own fields are needed to offer solutions to climate change – not only within the Latino community but across all communities. Getting Latino communities engaged in clean energy projects that are affordable and easily accessible will be the challenge our Latino leaders face.

    Read more »
  • The Flint Water Crisis Is Not Over and Congress Must Not Leave Them Behind

    By Jack Pratt

    More than two years since a public health disaster hit Flint Michigan, Congress has yet to provide needed assistance. Some on both sides of the aisle are working to advance help for Flint, but the path forward remains unclear, with little time to spare on Congress’ legislative calendar. Congress must not leave town without taking action to help Flint.

    EDF recently joined partners in the environmental community to help support a delegation of community leaders from Flint who came to Washington to lobby for overdue federal aid. Our friends at National Wildlife Federation, along with Sierra Club and many others, helped coordinate an effort to bring these Flint voices to Washington.  The stories from Flint have been well-documented in the press, but to hear them in person is another thing altogether. I am hopeful it had as much of an impact on Capitol Hill as it did those of us who joined their meetings.

    Flint Mayor Karen Weaver with EDF's Elizabeth Thompson and Sarah Vogel

    Flint Mayor Karen Weaver with EDF's Elizabeth Thompson and Sarah Vogel

    It was clear to anyone who talked with them that the problem isn’t over, not by a long-shot. At a most basic level, life simply can’t return to normal any more than it does when the weather calms after a tornado.

    We should not expect a water system to take the type of shock it took in Flint and expect it to start working again with the flip of a switch. Erratic use makes it that much harder to resume protective corrosion control and or tackle related systematic problems like the Legionnaires' disease seen in Flint.

    So, Flint residents are reminded of the problem all day, every day. How do you eat fresh food if you can’t wash it, or have to use bottled water to do so? When you go to the supermarket, can you trust the sprayers that keep the vegetables moist? One woman told of putting on weight because she eats pizza all the time now, instead of fresh food. Because lead has accumulated in many water heaters, you can only shower with cold water. You can’t take a bath, you can only shower.

    Then there are the practicalities: where do you put the bottles of water? If you’re elderly and take the bus, how can you carry the heavy bottled water? All the Flint residents had photos on their phones of the stacks of bottled water in their homes. And they all had opinions on what kind of water they liked for what purpose. They know bottled water that well.

    Those are daily challenges, but they’re small compared to what the Flint community must face in terms of the human cost of the water crisis. Lead is especially dangerous to the developing brain in children and the effects are serious and permanent. Flint families, schools and the children themselves will face challenges for years to come thanks to tainted tap water they were told was safe.

    The Michigan Congressional delegation has been working on a federal aid package to give the community a hand out of the trench. The aid package was passed with broad bi-partisan support in the Senate as part of a water infrastructure measure, thanks to the work of the Michigan delegation and the leadership of Senators Jim Inhofe and Barbara Boxer. Yet, the path through the House remains unclear.

    Meanwhile, an aid package for flood victims in Louisiana, which should also be a priority, could also be in peril. Congress should act swiftly to help the affected communities. But help for Flint should move too.  It will take years of work for the people of Flint to get a water system back to normal, to replace lead services lines, and to help the children affected by lead poisoning. It’s time Congress lends them a hand.

    Read more »
  • Today’s Clean Power Plan Oral Argument: A View from Inside the Courthouse

    By Martha Roberts

    rp_Gavel-and-earth-from-Flickr-300x199.jpgEarlier today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument on the Clean Power Plan — America’s first-ever limits on climate pollution from power plants, which are our single largest source of this harmful pollution.

    For the first time, these vital safeguards are being reviewed on the merits. Ten active judges on the D.C. Circuit presided over today’s argument.

    I was at the courthouse today. Here’s my read out:

    Judges’ probing questions reflected their active engagement and preparation as anticipated in such a high profile case — as well as a skeptical view of opposing arguments

    The judges today were prepared and engaged. They asked sharply probing questions of all sides.

    But the big news is that a majority of judges appeared receptive to arguments in support of the Clean Power Plan.

    The court understood that EPA was carrying out long-established legal authority — affirmed in three separate Supreme Court opinions — to tackle the urgent threat of climate change by addressing our nation’s largest source of climate pollution.

    Judge Millett characterized petitioners’ arguments against EPA’s authority as a “bait and switch”— one that would gut the Supreme Court’s conclusion in an earlier groundbreaking case, American Electric Power, which concluded that Section 111(d) “speaks directly” to EPA’s authority regulate greenhouse gases from existing power plants. (564 U.S. 410, 424, 2011)

    Judges also recognized that the Clean Power Plan’s approach reflects familiar, time tested strategies to reduce pollution — strategies that the Supreme Court and the D.C. Circuit have upheld in numerous past Clean Air Act programs adopted under administrations of both parties.

    The judges’ questions demonstrated their keen understanding of how the power sector works. Several judges underscored the unique nature of the interconnected electricity grid system —which distinctly enables sources to reduce emissions cost-effectively through shifting generation to lower-emitting sources — in discussing EPA’s inclusion of generation shifting as part of the best system of emissions reduction reflected in the Clean Power Plan. Judge Tatel, for example, expressly recognized the point that generation-shifting strategies incorporated in the Clean Power Plan are “business as usual” for power companies.

    Meanwhile, the judges expressed skepticism towards petitioners’ claims. In one exchange, Judge Pillard questioned why petitioners’ arguments would not entirely “immunize” highly polluting sources from pollution control.

    Legal experts representing a wide variety of perspectives forcefully and effectively argued in support of the Clean Power Plan

    A diverse and impressive suite of presenters argued in support of the Clean Power Plan.

    Seasoned U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys articulated the clear and compelling legal and technical basis for the Clean Power Plan, which was informed by an unprecedented level of public and expert input including more than four million public comments. The DOJ attorneys underscored how the Clean Power Plan’s approach carefully respects statutory limits on EPA’s authority and embodies well-established, proven strategies to reduce pollution.

    The attorney representing power companies supporting the Clean Power Plan — a robust coalition that represents almost ten percent of America’s electricity generation capacity —emphasized that the power sector is already reducing its carbon pollution by shifting to low-cost cleaner generation, making Clean Power Plan targets eminently achievable. For these companies, the carbon reduction strategies EPA recognized in the Clean Power Plan are “business as usual” — the phrase that was then raised by Judge Tatel later during the day. The power company attorney’s remarks also emphasized that petitioners’ approach would ask EPA to ignore the multiple, widespread strategies that power companies are already using to reduce carbon pollution cost-effectively through shifting generation to lower and zero emitting resources.

    Counsel for the numerous states and cities across the country that are supporting the Clean Power Plan spoke on behalf of their citizens on the urgent need for protections against climate pollution. The state attorney’s remarks highlighted how the rule’s flexible approach echoes other traditional, successful Clean Air Act programs, and properly respects states’ role in the interconnected electricity grid system.

    Sean Donahue, counsel for public health and environmental organizations including Environmental Defense Fund, forcefully articulated the clear basis for EPA’s authority and the urgent need to protect our communities, our families, and our economy against climate change. In particular, Donahue underscored that Clean Power Plan opponents seek to fundamentally obstruct any progress in addressing the most pressing environmental challenge of our time – climate change. Indeed, opponents of the Clean Power Plan have, in previous statements, conceded that EPA has authority to issue the Clean Power Plan — entirely undercutting their current claims to the contrary.

    It’s challenging to predict an outcome from oral argument

    It’s difficult to guess a case’s outcome from any oral argument. That’s even more true in today’s case, which was heard by an en banc court – all ten active judges on the court, aside from Judge Merrick Garland who recused himself. With ten judges to observe and interpret, each with an individual perspective and background, prognostications are particularly challenging.

    Nonetheless, we have many reasons for optimism after today’s rigorous review of petitioners’ claims. Most of all, the rock solid legal and technical foundation for the Clean Power Plan gives us confidence that climate protection can win the day.

    Now, the judges deliberate

    The judges now turn to deliberation and discussion. In a typical case, the D.C. Circuit can tak e several months to issue an opinion. Here, there is a true sense of urgency in resolving EPA’s clear authority to combat climate change — earlier in the case, judges issued an order for expedited consideration — but there will also be ten judges’ opinions to resolve. Our nation’s biggest step to protect the health and well-being of our communities from climate pollution hangs in the balance.

    Read more »
  • Alberta and Canada Delivering on Methane, Delivers a Cleaner Future for All

    By Mark Brownstein

    alberta_drilling-wellConversations around climate change almost always involve carbon dioxide, with good reason. It’s essential to dramatically reduce this pollutant to drive down the total amount of climate warming our children and grandchildren will experience. But, what we’ve also learned over the last few years is that an effective climate strategy needs to do two things: Reduce cumulative warming and the speed at which this warming is happening.

    Methane Matters

    Next to CO2, methane is the most impactful greenhouse gas. While it breaks down faster in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, methane packs 84 times more warming power for the first 20 years after it’s emitted.

    About one-quarter of the warming we are experiencing today is attributable to human emissions of methane, with the oil and gas industry its largest industrial source. Fortunately, there are cost-effective strategies to reduce methane emissions across the oil and gas industry. There is nothing as quick, easy, or cost-effective at slowing the rate of climate change right now than reducing oil and gas methane pollution.

    Canada Leads on Methane

    To effectively combat climate change, it is necessary to cut both CO2 and methane. Alberta gets this, which is why reducing oil and gas methane emissions by 45% by 2025 is a major element of Alberta’s provincial Climate Plan. The federal government and British Columbia have followed Alberta’s lead, incorporating this goal into their respective climate plans. The federal government is set to announce draft regulations for new and existing sources early next year, which, if done right, will be a significant step forward to the global effort to reduce these emissions. And the neighbors are taking notice.

    In March, encouraged by Canadian action, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched an effort to regulate methane pollution from existing oil and gas facilities; and in June, at the North American Leaders’ Summit, Mexico committed to joining Canada and the United States in reducing Mexican oil and gas methane emissions by 45% by 2025.

    That the three nations of North America are taking significant action to reduce oil and gas methane emissions is no small thing. Together, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico account for nearly 20 percent of global oil and gas methane pollution.

    Getting it right in North America can have a big impact globally. A 45 percent reduction in global oil and gas methane emissions can have the same impact on the climate over 20 years as closing one-third of the world’s coal plants and have twice the impact of $1 trillion invested in renewable energy capacity between now and 2030. Closing coal plants and deploying renewable energy are critical to battling climate change, but so is reducing oil and gas methane pollution. And, with Canadian leadership, North America is setting the global bar.

    Multiple Benefits

    The good news is that reducing oil and gas methane emissions is one climate challenge that is easy to meet. In many cases, fixes are as easy as tightening loose valves and repairing leaky equipment. In Canada, the Environmental Defense Fund and Pembina Institute jointly sponsored an analysis which shows that the oil and gas industry can nearly fully achieve a 45 percent reduction for less than one penny per thousand cubic feet of gas produced – cost that won’t break the bank even when oil and gas prices are low, as they are today. The fixes are proven, low-cost and readily available. This is not rocket science, it’s auto mechanics.

    Even better, Canada also has the opportunity to get a head start in positioning itself as a leading provider of methane solutions. One Edmonton-based company, for example, has deployed over 300 non-emitting solar-electric well control systems at off-grid well sites in Canada. With policy actions to reduce methane, companies working in this area are sure to benefit as demand for this equipment and these services is expected to rise, both in Canada and internationally.

    Now is the Time for Action

    At a time when voices are rising in opposition to oil and gas development because of concern over climate change, it’s hard to believe that oil and gas companies and countries wouldn’t take every available opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases when and where it could, particularly, as in the case of methane, when it is so comparatively easy to do. Jurisdictions, like Alberta and Canada, that move early to tackle oil and gas methane emissions as part of their integrated climate plans, are taking a strong leadership position on climate. By taking the next step to enact the federal and provincial regulations needed to make good on the commitments made, Canada as a whole can provide a roadmap for other oil and gas producing nations to follow.

    Image source: Wikipedia

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  • New California Demand Response Decision Comes Equipped with BUG Repellent

    By Larissa Koehler

    engineer-with-controls_rfIf you are anything like the typical Californian, you likely took the opportunity to get outside this summer and explore the great outdoors. Chances are you also took plenty of insect repellent to avoid becoming the latest offering at the mosquito buffet. Here in the Golden State, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is also fighting off BUGs – lest you think the CPUC is branching out into new regulatory territory, they are targeting the kind that harm our environment and public health: back-up generators (BUGs) that run on fossil fuels.

    State regulators recently issued a proposed decision to end the use of fossil-fueled BUGs as a form of demand response – a clean energy tool intended to reward people who reduce their electricity use during periods of peak demand, or shift it to times of day when clean, renewable energy is abundant. Unfortunately, dirty, fossil-fueled generators are sometimes used to reduce demand from the electric grid during demand response events, but this does not help California meet its aggressive climate or clean energy goals.

    Demand response programs should encourage people, buildings, and companies to use energy in a way that reduces the state’s need to make electricity from polluting sources. That’s why the CPUC’s recent proposal is a huge, positive step forward. However, there are also some changes that could make these advancements even more impactful.

    How the CPUC could give the decision some teeth

    Administrative Law Judge Hymes, who authored this decision, adopts an overarching goal for demand response programs to “assist the State in meeting its environmental objectives, cost-effectively meet the needs of the grid, and enable customers to meet their energy needs at a reduced cost.” In jointly filed comments, Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) strongly support this sweeping reform, which precludes the use of diesel, natural gas, gasoline, propane, and liquefied petroleum gas in BUGs used as demand response.

    While we applaud Judge Hyme’s decision that BUGs defeat the purpose of demand response, there are a few things that could make the decision even stronger:

    • Ensure impact – The language in the proposed decision could be interpreted as delaying action stating, “The Commission should adopt a clearly identified prohibition.” Instead, the CPUC should make it clear that approving Judge Hyme’s decision would prohibit the use of BUGs as a form of demand response.
    • Ensure enforcement – Currently, the prohibition as written allows non-residential customers enrolling in demand response programs to merely attest, or certify, that they are not using fossil-fuel powered BUGs. Without any additional monitoring, this kind of enforcement amounts to a prohibition without teeth. Rather than essentially taking a demand response enrollee’s word that they are not using dirty BUGs, it is imperative to construct a much more robust monitoring and enforcement program.

    If implemented, these changes would make the CPUC’s proposal even more impactful – ensuring BUGs don’t undermine California’s demand response programs.


    New California Demand Response Decision Comes Equipped with BUG Repellent
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    The role of utilities

    The proposed decision also addresses changes to how demand response is valued in the wholesale energy market, where demand response providers compete for contracts with California’s three big utilities: Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric.

    The accepted contracts count toward each utility’s Resource Adequacy requirement – the framework California uses to make sure the state has sufficient power supply to maintain reliable electricity services. Demand response ensures utilities can meet this requirement by offering a quantifiable amount of demand reduction (by lowering overall demand, the utility requires less electricity from power plants).

    Unfortunately, the proposed decision preserves the utility role as “administrator” of the demand response auction mechanism. This is troubling, as it continues the potential for utilities to preserve what has traditionally been a relatively opaque and anti-competitive process that doesn’t always lead to procurement of the most clean, cost-effective resources. Instead, the market should be structured in a way that shifts administration responsibility to an independent and objective entity, and allows utilities and third parties to compete on an even playing field. Under these circumstances, there is a much better chance for a fair market that cultivates innovative, cost-effective resources.

    With these changes, EDF believes the CPUC will be well on the way to a competitive, BUG-free demand response program.

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