The top three stories in Energy and Climate Report for the week ending July 25 covered the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to control carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, while the fourth and fifth top stories covered, respectively, the effects a warming planet may have on water infrastructure and military bases.
1. Environmental Justice Groups Express Concern About Power Plant Proposal
As covered in this story , environmental justice advocates said the EPA's proposal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants could present unique challenges to low-income and minority communities.
Increased use of natural gas and nuclear power could disproportionately affect environmental justice populations, while emissions trading programs could actually create air pollution “hot spots” in communities with older power plants where installing pollution controls would not be economical, participants said during a July 21 webinar sponsored by WE ACT for Environmental Justice.
The EPA's proposed rule is predicated on increased electricity generation from natural gas-fired facilities and a larger role for nuclear power, both of which traditionally have had significant environmental impacts on environmental justice communities, Cecilia Martinez from the Center for Earth Energy & Democracy said.
2. McCarthy Defends EPA’s Carbon Dioxide Rule as Republicans Question Authority
This story covers remarks by Senate Republicans who challenged the EPA's authority to regulate carbon dioxide emission from power plants at a hearing July 23 and raised questions about whether an environmental group exerted too much influence over the proposal—charges Administrator Gina McCarthy rejected.
Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee also questioned whether toxic air pollutant standards already issued for power plants bar the EPA from regulating their carbon dioxide emissions. They also asked whether the EPA would have the power to require states to invest in renewable generation or operate fossil fuel-fired power plants less as part of federal implementation plans if the state plans are deemed insufficient.
In addition, they questioned how much influence the Natural Resources Defense Council had as the EPA developed the proposal. “I have met many more times with utilities than I have with NRDC,” McCarthy said.
3. EPA Power Plant Rule Suggests State Laws Needed to Cover All Generators, Report Says
States face a nearly impossible deadline in getting policies in place to comply with the EPA's proposed power plant carbon rule and may have to take additional action including passing state laws to ensure they have the authority over their energy markets, according to a July report—covered in this story —from the law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP.
“In all conceivable scenarios,” the EPA's approach—which attempts to regulate power plant emissions using its authority under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act—will require states to set up what the report terms carbon integrated resource plans that incorporate all generators of electricity, including rural cooperatives and municipal utilities that in some states may not be under direct state jurisdiction.
In some cases, states will have to decide if those generators are to be brought under the purview of public utility commissions or state environmental regulatory agencies, according to the report, “ State Implementation of CO2 Rules: Institutional and Practical Issues With State and Multi-State Implementation and Enforcement .”
4. Water Utilities Urge Infrastructure Funding Focus on Resiliency, Not Disaster Rebuilding
The federal government should focus funding more on making water and wastewater infrastructure resilient to flooding and droughts, which are expected to increase because of climate change, utility groups said, whose remarks are detailed in this story .
This approach to infrastructure financing would be a change from the current practice of focusing funding on rebuilding efforts after a disaster has hit.
The recommendation is one of a dozen the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies included in a white paper, “ Water Resilience Summit Summary and Next Steps .”
The recommendations include streamlining and expediting permit approvals for projects involving resiliency as well as demonstrating the economic value, including job creation, of investing in climate resilient water and wastewater infrastructure.
5. Rising Sea Level, Temperatures Pose Threats to Military Bases, Training, DOD Official Says
As covered in this story , a top Defense Department official told a Senate Foreign Relations panel July 22 that rising global temperatures will likely pose an increasing threat to U.S. security in the decades ahead, with rising sea level affecting military bases and training areas that help ensure continued U.S. military readiness.
Daniel Chiu, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, told the subcommittee that sea-level rise and more severe weather events “will have an impact on our bases and installations at home and overseas; on the operating environment for our troops, ships, and aircraft; and on the global security environment itself” in the decades ahead.
Sea rise and storm surges already are affecting U.S. military bases and changing “our assumptions on when and where certain types of military operations can take place,” Chiu said at the hearing before the Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, International Environmental Protection and Peace Corps.
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