The Top Five Bloomberg BNA Energy and Climate Stories for the Week Ending Aug. 1


How the Environmental Protection Agency will apply Clean Air Act permit requirements to a facility's greenhouse gas emissions was the top story in Energy and Climate Report for the week ending Aug. 1. Stories on public hearings the agency held on its proposed carbon standards for existing power plants also took center stage, making up the second, fourth and fifth top story, while the third most read story covered a climate change resolution that failed in the Senate.

1. EPA to Continue Applying Greenhouse Gas Control Requirements Under Air Permits

As detailed in this story, major stationary sources that are subject to Clean Air Act requirements for prevention of significant deterioration construction permits or Title V operating permits for conventional pollutants still will be required to implement best available control technology requirements for greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA, in a memorandum dated July 24, said those sources remain subject to existing permitting regulations despite a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that removed greenhouse gas permitting requirements for certain sources of pollution.

The court ruled that while the EPA may require greenhouse gas controls for major stationary sources that trigger permitting requirements for conventional pollutants, a facility's greenhouse gas emissions alone don't trigger PSD or Title V permitting requirements.

2. Power Plant Rule Would Threaten Economy With No Climate Benefit, Industry Says

The EPA's proposal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants would drive up electricity costs and cause significant job losses without providing a tangible climate benefit, coal-reliant states and industry groups said at a public hearing July 29, which is covered in this story.

“The U.S. cannot go it alone and expect that our actions will have a meaningful climate impact in a world economy that is using more coal and more fossil fuels every day,” Paul Cicio, president of Industrial Energy Consumers of America, said at a hearing in Washington, D.C.

Utilities and industry groups called on the EPA to conduct further economic analysis of its proposal before issuing a final rule. Environmental groups largely supported the proposal but pushed the EPA to seek greater emissions reductions from the power sector through increased investments in renewable generation and demand reduction programs.

The EPA held four two-day hearings on the proposed rule: July 29 and 30 in Atlanta, Denver and Washington, and July 31 and Aug. 1 in Pittsburgh.

3. Democrats' Resolution Noting U.S. Impacts, Existence of Climate Change Fails in Senate

Senate Democrats tried but failed July 29as covered in this storyto get the chamber to support a nonbinding resolution that would have recognized the existence of climate change and that it poses ongoing risks, after their proposal drew an objection from Republican Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.).

The “sense-of-the-Senate” resolution, offered by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), was put on the floor as a unanimous consent request, meaning an objection from a single senator would kill it. The proposal (S. Res. 524) was backed by more than 20 Democrats, and Klobuchar was joined by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in urging colleagues on the floor to support it.
Opponents of U.S. climate action for years have warned that the Senate is unlikely to ratify a binding international climate accord—including the one slated to be finalized in Paris in 2015—in light of a 1997 vote on a nonbinding resolution that warned the Clinton administration against signing the Kyoto Protocol.
4. McCarthy Defends Proposed Carbon Rule For Power Plants in Advance of Hearings
As covered in this story, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy—prior to its series of public hearings—countered claims that proposed carbon dioxide standards for power plants would harm the economy.
McCarthy told reporters July 28 that the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set carbon emissions standards for existing power plants, will create economic opportunities. McCarthy defended the EPA's history of reducing air pollution through cost-effective measures and countered industry claims that the proposed rule would damage the economy.
"Since EPA has existed we've cut air pollution by more than 70 percent while the GDP has tripled,” she said.

5. Co-ops, Small Utilities See Few Options For Compliance With Power Plant Proposal

Electricity cooperatives and small utilities with few generating assets told the EPA during a public hearing July 30 in Washington—as covered in this story—that they would have few options to comply with a proposal to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.

Small utilities said they often lack the resources and options to repower their coal-fired power plants with natural gas or invest in renewable energy programs to bring down their emissions. Small cooperatives, in particular, said they will have very few options to reduce their emissions because they must pass all costs for investments straight through to their customers.

Many small utilities and cooperatives said the EPA's rule could force them to prematurely close power plants that they had planned to run for several more years. That could leave ratepayers with the stranded costs of paying for a power plant that has been retired.

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