How Environmental Protection Agency regulations are resulting in the use of the dirtiest U.S coal was the top Energy and Climate Report story for the week ending Sept. 12. The rise in global greenhouse gas emissions and the need for EPA to assess sustainability efforts in its decision making were the second and third most popular stories, followed by a study showing existing state policies can be used to comply with proposed carbon rules for existing power plants and remarks by an EPA official reassuring the regulated community that compliance with the rules will be achievable.
1. Dirtiest U.S. Coal Becoming Most Popular as EPA Tightens Power Plant Air Standards
As covered in this story, the dirtiest coal in the U.S. is becoming the most popular coal source, thanks to tightening emission standards forcing power plants to reduce pollutants.
Demand for coal from Illinois climbed last year to the highest level since 1990 as sales of nearby Appalachian coal dipped and consumption of the product from Powder River Basin mines in Wyoming grew at a slower pace.
Illinois basin coal has greater sulfur
content than the other coals and either costs less or has higher heat content,
meaning it's sought after by utilities forced to install scrubbers in their
power plants by a succession of federal laws and EPA rules.
2. Largest One-Year Increase in Carbon Dioxide Recorded in 2013, UN Science Report Says
Scientists recorded the largest single-year increase in carbon dioxide in 20 years in 2013, and total concentrations of the greenhouse gas are now set to cross the 400 parts-per-million mark as early as next year, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization said in a Sept. 9 report detailed in this story.
Globally, carbon dioxide levels hit 396 parts per million in 2013, an increase of 2.9 ppm, the largest year-to-year gain since 1984, according to the WMO's annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that levels of the heat-trapping gas must be kept below 450 ppm to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change related to rising global temperatures.
Daily concentrations of carbon dioxide already have crested the 400 ppm at observational sites in the Arctic in spring 2012 and at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii in 2013.
3. Academies Says EPA Needs System to Assess Interconnected Aspects of Major Decisions
The EPA should develop a strategy to assess the interconnected environmental, social and economic dimensions of every major decision it makes, the National Academies said in a report covered in this story.
Nearly two dozen analytic methods are available to the EPA to help it assess sustainability and the potential effects its decisions could have on the ability of people and nature to support present and future generations, the academies' National Research Council said in its report, “Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making Tools and Approaches for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
4. Study Says Existing State Policies Can Be Used to Comply With Power Plant Rules
As covered in this story, a Stanford University report identified 12 state clean energy policies other states could include in plans needed to comply with the EPA’s proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
Former Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M) and George Schultz, a former secretary of state and treasury, led the study by Stanford's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance and the Hoover Institution's Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy. The study analyzes renewable energy and energy efficiency programs several states already have implemented and makes specific policy recommendations.
The EPA's proposed rule, released in June, would set carbon dioxide emissions rates for existing power plants in each state, with state agencies administering those emissions standards under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. The EPA anticipates that the proposal could reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.
5. Final Power-Plant Rule Will Reflect Concerns Raised in Comments, EPA’s McCabe Says
The EPA’s final rule on emissions from existing power plants will take into account the thousands of comments the agency has received about components of the rule, including its flexibility for states and companies and the targets for achieving emissions reductions, according to Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for air and radiation, whose remarks are covered in this story.
EPA has received more than 750,000 comments so far in the 165-day comment period that ends Dec. 1, McCabe said on a conference call with reporters Sept. 16.
The Obama administration's Clean Power Plan
is an “unusual rule” in that a proposal was put forward only after a “pretty
massive outreach effort” to states and industry, and collaboration with
interested parties continues, McCabe said. The June 2 proposed rule was based
on much “very technical and thoughtful input,” she said.
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