The first and second of the top five most read Energy and Climate Report stories for the week ending April 11 covered the Environmental Protection Agency's carbon standards for existing power plants. Running down the list, other stories covered prospects of a climate change bill, concern over cost estimates of living on a warming planet and remarks by the head of EPA over water utility infrastructure.  

1. EPA Consulted With Hundreds of Groups on Carbon Rule for Existing Power Plants

As covered in this top story, senior EPA officials consulted with at least 210 separate groups representing a broad range of interests in Washington and held more than 100 meetings and events with additional organizations across the country as the agency prepared its carbon pollution regulation for existing power plants.

Data provided to Bloomberg BNA upon request showed the agency held meetings with a broad range of unions, lawyers, publicly traded companies, trade groups, governmental agencies and state organizations and participated in several dozen events such as conference calls and conferences as the EPA prepared the proposed standards ahead of an anticipated June release.

Either EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Janet McCabe or Senior Counsel Joe Goffman participated in “most” of the meetings held at EPA headquarters, according to the agency.

2. EPA Weighing Electric Power Reliability in Crafting Standards for Power Plants

The EPA will take into account the need for continued reliability of the U.S. electricity supply in finalizing its carbon limits for existing coal-fired power plants, according to this story that detailed remarks by McCarthy.

“Nothing we do can threaten reliability,” she said at a conference held by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

McCarthy said the EPA rules will provide states, which would have until June 30, 2016, to submit to the agency their plans for curbing power plant carbon dioxide emissions, as much flexibility as possible. The EPA recognizes that “every state does not have the same opportunities” to cut emissions given the varying mix of energy sources from state to state, she said.

3. Senator Targets 2015 for Moving Climate Bill; Companies Push for Renewable Tax Credits

Congress is on the verge of moving forward on a “significant piece” of climate-change legislation as early as 2015 in response to looming EPA rules to curb power plant carbon pollution, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said, as detailed in this story.

The agency's rule to cut carbon dioxide from existing power plants, slated for proposal in June, “is going to be a game changer for the industry” and prompt utilities to push for broader carbon caps that apply to other industries as well, he said.

“A carbon fee that is economywide may actually begin to look like a sensible deal” given the alternative of EPA regulation of individual industries, the senator said.

Whitehouse, who along with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), is co-chairman of a House-Senate task force working to jump-start moribund climate legislation, spoke at an event highlighting companies such as IKEA U.S., Mars Inc., and Sprint that have signed a declaration supporting U.S. climate action. More than 750 have signed the “climate declaration” over the last year.

4. U.S. Concerned UN May Overstate Cost of Fighting Climate Change 

This story covers the lead up to the release of a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which was made public April 13, in which the Obama administration expressed concern over the report's estimated cost of fighting global warming, which it said may be too harsh.

Such a finding may lower the incentive for the world to reduce fossil fuel pollution and feed the arguments of those skeptical about whether it's worth spending money to curtail rising temperatures.

“The discussion of the economic costs of mitigation is too narrow and does not incorporate co-benefits of action,” U.S. officials wrote in a submission to the UN prior to the report's release, according to a document obtained by Bloomberg. They said including only one side of the equation “unnecessarily skews the information.” 

5. Climate Change Imposes New Norm on Utility Infrastructure, McCarthy Says

Remarks by EPA administrator Gina McCarthy are covered in this story in which she called on the nation's water utility managers and state and local officials to prepare the water infrastructure to deal with a “new norm” represented by changing climate and increasing population.

“Too much water, too little water, too high intensity storms, too many droughts. We are facing a frequency not anticipated before, ” she said April 7 at an event hosted by the U.S. Water Alliance.

Pointing to the Obama administration's climate change action plan, McCarthy said there is a need to tackle the challenge of a changing climate in a comprehensive and sustainable way.

She said there is a need to recognize that the intensity of storms and droughts is already increasing. Sea level rise is happening, she said. “We need to build resiliency into our systems.”

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