A law professor's call for the control of fugitive methane emitted by hydraulic fracturing was the most read story in Energy and Climate Report for the week ending July 14. The second and third top stories concerned the Environmental Protection Agency's carbon rule for power plants. Rounding out the top five were stories on a plan by the Obama administration to help communities adapt to climate change and the opening of a public comment period on EPA proposals to control methane emissions from landfills.
1. Fugitive Methane Emissions From Fracking Need Regulation by EPA, Law Professor Says
Testimony before Congress by Richard Revesz, a professor at the New York University School of Law, in which he said EPA performance standards are needed to constrain “fugitive” emissions of methane generated by hydraulic fracturing from upstream sources such as natural gas wells, pipelines and storage tanks, is covered in this story.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with an estimated global warming potential value of up to 25 times that of carbon dioxide, Revesz told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.
Upstream gas infrastructure is already subject to performance standards for emissions of volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. "While those standards have the co-benefit of reducing methane emissions, directly regulating methane would generate significant additional reductions,” he said.
2. Economy Can Handle EPA Carbon Rule, Study Says, Citing RGGI, Other Programs
Existing state-level carbon regulation programs show that the economy can handle the impacts of the EPA's recent power plant proposal, according to a new study—covered in this story—by energy consultants at the Analysis Group.
Well-designed carbon pollution-control programs, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or California's cap-and-trade system, are likely to have modest impacts on consumers' electricity rates in the near term, and could have long-term benefits, including lower electricity bills and net increases in economic output and jobs, the study says.
“Several states have already put a price on carbon dioxide pollution, and their economies are doing fine,” Susan Tierney, a senior adviser at the Analysis Group, said in a statement. “The bottom line: the economy can handle—and actually benefit from—these rules.”
3. EPA Followed States Lead in Developing Power Plant Proposal, Officials Say
Comments by EPA officials and environmental advocates in which they said the agency built off of successful state initiatives when it proposed carbon dioxide emissions standards for existing fossil fuel-fired power plants are detailed in this story.
The various components of the proposed carbon dioxide standards are already being implemented by the states and have proven to be achievable and cost effective, Lorie Schmidt, the EPA's associate general counsel for air and radiation, said at a July 14 forum sponsored by the Environmental Law Institute.
The EPA's proposal, which would be administered by state and local air pollution officials, would allow states to choose a variety of options for achieving the required emissions reductions, including heat rate improvements at the power plants themselves, increased use of natural gas generation or investment in new renewable generation or demand reduction programs.
4. Obama Announces Agency Efforts, Funding to Help Communities with Climate Impacts
As covered in this story, President Barack Obama announced July 16 a series of federal agency initiatives, along with millions of dollars in funding, to help state, local and tribal leaders make their communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
The new efforts include $236.3 million to deploy smart grid technologies in rural electricity systems in eight states, $1.5 million to improve coastal management programs and two pilot programs for preparedness planning. They will be carried out by the Agriculture Department, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several other agencies.
The executive actions came in response to early feedback from a group of 26 community leaders tasked with providing advice on how the federal government can better meet their needs as they deal with more frequent flooding, worsening drought and other impacts of climate change.
5. EPA Accepting Comments on Methane Proposals
This news brief covers the opening of a public comment period by the EPA on a pair of proposals that would reduce methane emissions from municipal landfills. The agency will accept comments until Sept. 15 on proposed revisions to new source performance standards for municipal solid waste landfills and an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that outlines potential agency approaches to limit methane emissions from existing landfills. The EPA announced the two regulatory actions July 1 as part of the Obama administration's methane strategy, which includes regulatory and nonregulatory options for cutting emissions of the greenhouse gas.
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