Remarks by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy over carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants was the top story in Energy and Climate Report for the week ending May 16, followed by another detailing comments by industry groups on how the limits for new power plants should be crafted.

Other top stories covered President Barack Obama's climate change legacy, renewed calls by some groups on the need for China to step up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and, in Alabama, how convincing lawmakers of the need to brace for extreme weather is a tough sell.

1. McCarthy Says EPA on Track to Propose Guidelines for Existing Power Plants June 2

According to McCarthyas covered in this May 13 storythe EPA is on track to propose “legally sound” guidelines for limiting carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act for existing power plants June 2.

Speaking to the Association of Climate Change Officers Climate Strategies Forum, McCarthy said she has been “extremely pleased” with the cooperation the EPA has received from various agencies that have helped to ensure that the standards are legally sound and account for the effects the rule could have on various areas of the economy.

In an executive memorandum issued in June 2013, Obama asked the EPA to propose guidelines for limiting carbon dioxide from existing power plants by June 1, 2014. However, June 1 is a Sunday, and since the agency does not issue proposed regulations on Sundays, it will issue the proposal on Monday, June 2, McCarthy said.

2. EPA's Carbon Limits for New Power Plants Must Be Grounded in Reality, Industry Says

As covered in this story, Ross Eisenberg, vice president of energy and resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, said EPA's proposed carbon dioxide emissions limits for new fossil fuel-fired power plants should be reworked to be “grounded in reality.”

The proposed rule for new plants, formally issued in January, set separate standards for coal-fired and natural gas-fired generating units. The proposed performance standard for new coal-fired units would require the use of carbon capture systems, which power companies and utility trade groups say are neither commercially available nor economically viable.

“EPA must not mandate what technology cannot deliver,” Eisenberg said.

Public comments on the agency's proposed new source performance standards for carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants closed May 9.

In comments submitted on the proposal, the National Mining Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others urged the EPA to withdraw and re-propose the rule to make it more achievable for coal-fired power plants.

Environmental groups and public health advocates, including the Sierra Club and the American Lung Association, meanwhile, led mass comment campaigns that defended the agency's proposal to set a stringent standard for coal-fired power plants based on carbon capture as a necessary step in fighting air pollution and climate change. 

3. Obama Views Acting on Climate Change as Part of Legacy, Senior Aide Says

As detailed in this May 13 story, President Barack Obama views addressing the problem of climate change as a key part of his legacy and remains staunchly committed to implementing as much of his climate action plan as possible prior to leaving office, John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told the Association of Climate Change Officers' Climate Strategies Forum.

He said Obama receives weekly written updates and biweekly oral presentations about the implementation of his climate action plan, which shows how personally vested the president is in seeing his plan completed.

Obama recognizes global progress at addressing climate change depends upon joint leadership from the U.S. and China, and Holdren said both nations have already launched intense negotiations in hopes of reaching a 2015 international climate treaty in Paris.

Holdren said he is not concerned a potential Republican presidential administration in 2017 would undo much of Obama's work on climate change, but said the president hopes to complete as much of his climate agenda as possible during the remainder of his presidency.

 4. Limiting Global Warming Almost Impossible Without Limits on Coal in China, Report Says

It will be “almost impossible” to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, unless China puts limits on its coal consumption within the next decade, according to a new policy paper from two U.K.-based researchers covered in this May 14 story.

The policy paper, written by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern and his research adviser Fergus Green, said China's consumption of coal could reach a peak by 2020 and then phase out entirely.

This phase-out could be achieved through a combination of regulatory measures and a coal tax, which could be used to help finance China's transition to a low-carbon economy, the paper said. Though the paper focused on coal, it said a similar tax should also be levied on other fossil fuels.

The paper was published May 12 by the Center for Climate Change Economics and Policy and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

5. Persuading Alabama Lawmakers to Gird for More Extreme Storms Proves Challenging

This story covers remarks by Kevin Harrison, the transportation director of the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, in which he said he never discusses climate change when he talks to Alabama lawmakers about the waters that scientists say will inundate the bridges, ports and highways he oversees.

“There have been naysayers about that particular topic,” Harrison said, adding that he has better luck talking about more frequent hurricanes and floods, rather than what might be causing them. “You really have to think about it in terms of extreme weather events,” he said.

Harrison's burden shows the difficulty America faces in adapting to climate change, which the National Climate Assessment, released earlier in May, said is being felt from Alaska to New York. According to the report, rising seas may devastate communities such as Mobile, a three-century-old port city in a state where Republicans dominate all branches of government.

Even as politicians and the official Alabama climatologist say global warming is a sham, there is no dispute that Mobile's fate is tied inextricably to the bay whose waters lap near streets with names like Dauphin and Conception, reminders of 18th century French colonists. In coming decades, its port, which serves steel producer ThyssenKrupp AG and Kleenex maker Kimberly-Clark Corp., could be swamped by the rising Mobile Bay under as much as 25 feet of water, according to federal studies.


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