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Another lawsuit arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants was the top Energy and Climate Report story for the week ending Aug. 22. Hydraulic fracturing stories placed second and third. A story on an EPA official’s testimony on the power plant rule, followed by one on possible climate change gubernatorial actions rounded out the top five stories list.
1. Murray Energy Files Second Lawsuit to Block EPA Carbon Dioxide Standards
As detailed in this story, Murray Energy Corp filed a lawsuit Aug. 15 arguing that the EPA lacks authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants because it already regulates their toxic pollutants.
A coal company, Murray said in its lawsuit, filed U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, that the EPA is barred from regulating carbon dioxide from existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the act.
Issuing the air toxics rule “thus rendered any future attempt to regulate power plants under Section 111(d) illegal,” Murray Energy said in its petition for review of the EPA action.
This is the second lawsuit Murray Energy has filed to block the EPA's proposed carbon dioxide standards for existing power.
2. Earthquakes Associated With Fracking Less Intense, USGS Researcher Says
Earthquakes and tremors related to hydraulic fracturing and other drilling shake the ground less than naturally occurring earthquakes of the same magnitude, therefore causing less damage, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research covered in this story.
USGS seismologist Susan Hough analyzed 11 moderate earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S. from 2011-2013, which are believed to be induced by the injection of fracking fluids and drilling wastewater into deep injection wells.
Using a USGS database known as the “Did You Feel It?” system, Hough said the observations of those who experienced the quakes were “very straightforward—in every single case the intensities are low.”
Hough's study, published online Aug. 19 in the “Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America,” concludes that the hazards of these quakes are lower than what might be expected, chiefly because induced events are 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes with the same magnitude.
3. NRDC Asks EPA to Cancel West Virginia Authority For Underground Injection Well Permitting
As covered in this story, the National Resources Defense Council has asked the EPA to withdraw West Virginia's authority to issue underground injection control permits.
In an Aug. 14 letter to Shawn Garvin, administrator of EPA Region 3, NRDC said the state is allowing “unauthorized and illegal” underground injection of fracking wastewater to continue at two sites in Fayette County.
“Over the course of more than a year, we've repeatedly asked the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection act to protect water in West Virginia from contamination by underground injection of oil and gas waste,” NRDC said in a blog post about the letter to EPA.
The state's handling of underground injection of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing is allowing clear violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the blog post said.
4. EPA Clean Power Plan Offers Flexibility for States, McCabe Tells Legislators
The EPA’s proposed carbon dioxide emissions for existing power plants will offer states flexibility in meeting carbon reduction goals, the agency's top air official—whose remarks are covered in this story—told the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators on Aug. 15.
While the plan may set out strategies for states to reduce their power plant carbon emissions, the states themselves will determine how best to reduce pollution in their states, Janet McCabe, the acting assistant administrator for air and radiation, said at NCEL's National Issues Forum in Minneapolis.
The plan recognizes the work that many states, cities and companies have done in reducing carbon emissions, McCabe said, and the plan won't require states to implement technology that doesn't exist, she said.
The proposed rule is unusual, McCabe said, in that it builds on states' ongoing efforts to curb emissions and recognizes the progress that states have made. It also recognizes that states all use different power mixes and that they have different opportunities for reducing emissions.
5. Scientists Bring Climate Change Case to Florida Governor, Seek State Policies
As covered in this story, climate scientists made their case personally with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) about the need for state policies to address climate change, yet Scott offered the scientists no clues about his plans on the issue.
The governor is facing election-year pressure on environmental issues. The front-runner to challenge Scott in November is Charlie Crist (D), a former Florida governor and former Republican, who was known for his efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Scott, meanwhile, has expressed doubts about whether humans are causing climate change and more recently has declined to offer a public opinion on the issue, stating repeatedly when asked that he is “not a scientist.”
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