The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to issue a methane strategy this fall was the top Energy and Climate Report story for the week ending Sept. 5. The number two story covered an investigation by Republicans in Congress who are questioning the role an environmental group had in EPA’s proposed rules to control carbon emissions from power plants. Rounding out the top five were stories on the construction of a carbon sequestration project, a legal action by states intended to move the EPA’s proposed rules for carbon emissions along and an endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions for aircraft expected to be released by the agency in April 2015.
1. EPA Will Stress Efficiency in Strategy for Methane This Fall, McCarthy Says
The EPA will issue a methane strategy in the fall that could include revisions to performance standards for oil and gas wells issued in 2012, according to Administrator Gina McCarthy, whose remarks are covered in this story.
“We're going to be putting out a strategy this fall and we hope everybody will pay attention to that effort. It will be addressing the challenges as well as the opportunities,” McCarthy said Sept. 2 at Barclays Capital energy forum.
The strategy will emphasize efficiency and reducing the need to flare gas, McCarthy said. The EPA will pursue incentives to natural gas producers to capture and sell more of the gas that it would normally vent or flare, she said.
2. Issa, Vitter to Investigate NRDC Role in EPA Rule on Power Plants, Pebble Mine Permit
As covered in this story, House and Senate Republicans have launched a joint investigation into the influence the Natural Resources Defense Council had in the EPA’s rulemaking process for regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
“It appears that the NRDC's unprecedented access to high-level EPA officials allowed it to influence EPA policy decisions and achieve its own private agenda,” lawmakers said in the Sept. 2 letter, which was sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and the NRDC.
The letter was signed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has subpoena power, as well as other Republican leaders, such as Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
3. Construction Begins on FutureGen Project, But Financing, Other Challenges Remain
As detailed in this story, construction has begun on the stalled FutureGen 2.0 carbon capture and sequestration project in western Illinois, according to project officials, but major hurdles remain for the $1.65 billion first-of-its-kind power plant.
Installation of the first foundation piling meets an Aug. 31 start-construction deadline required by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Kim Biggs, a spokeswoman for the agency, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail Aug. 28.
The work represents a victory for the project, which involves retrofitting one boiler in a nearly 50-year-old coal plant owned by Ameren Corp. to capture roughly 90 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions. Success would demonstrate that the technology effectively required for new power plants by the Obama administration is achievable. Critics have said it's not yet commercially viable.
4. Coalition Seeks to Intervene in Challenge to EPA Settlement on Carbon Regulations
A coalition of 11 states, the District of Columbia and New York City filed a motion Sept. 2—as covered in this story—to intervene in a legal challenge to a 2010 settlement that required the EPA to develop carbon dioxide limits for new and existing power plants.
In an unopposed motion filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the coalition said it had a compelling interest in preventing additional obstacles to the agency's completion of the regulations and argued that overturning the settlement would not block the EPA from finalizing its new source performance standards for new and existing power plants.
The coalition consists of the states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia and New York City.
5. EPA to Propose Endangerment Finding for Aircraft Emissions in April 2015
As covered in this story, the EPA said it will propose an endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft in late April 2015.
The EPA would be required by the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases from aircraft if it determines the emissions endanger public health or the environment, it said in a Sept. 3 summary.
Finalizing the proposed endangerment finding would take a year, the EPA said.
“This is late, incredibly late, but it's still incredibly good news because EPA realizes it has to act itself,” Vera Pardee, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 4.
“If it makes a positive endangerment finding, which we completely expect will happen, then it has no choice but to start regulating aircraft emissions independent of and regardless of what the international community does.”
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