Remarks by a Harvard law professor, a former Environmental Protection Agency official and a nominee for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over proposed carbon rules for power plants made up the top three Energy and Climate Report stories for the week ending Dec. 12. Rounding out the top five list was a story on the health effects of chemicals associated with unconventional oil and gas development, followed by one on a letter by 11 senators calling for more stringent carbon standards for power plants.
1. Harvard Law Professor, Obama Mentor Calls EPA Power Plant Rule Overreach
Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe, a mentor to President Barack Obama—whose remarks are covered in this story—said the administration's carbon rule for power plants is “a remarkable example of executive overreach” that raises “serious constitutional questions.”
Tribe, who submitted joint comments to the EPA with coal producer Peabody Energy Corp., said the agency should withdraw its plan to cut emissions from power plants because it reverses decades of federal support for coal.
“The Proposed Rule lacks any legal basis and should be withdrawn,” Tribe and Peabody wrote in their filing, which law firms for the company said was submitted to EPA on the Dec. 1 deadline. The stock of Peabody, the nation's largest coal producer, has declined more than 44 percent in trading since the EPA plan was unveiled at the beginning of June.
2. Clean Air Act No Silver Bullet on Climate, But Power Plant Rules Help, Perciasepe Says
The Clean Air Act is not the long-term, “silver bullet” solution to addressing climate change, although regulatory actions such as the EPA’s proposed carbon pollution limits on power plants drive meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions to address the problem, Bob Perciasepe, a former EPA deputy administrator—whose remarks are covered in this story—said.
Perciasepe, now president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said he is confident the proposed Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's strategy for addressing climate change, is legally sound and said emissions reductions driven through the regulation will be useful “down the line” in spurring congressional action.
“What we're doing under the Clean Air Act is helpful,” Perciasepe said at a breakfast with Bloomberg reporters. “Even if this gets tangled [legally], people are thinking more than they ever have about this stuff.”
3. FERC Nominee Calls EPA Power Plan Flawed, Unattainable for Her Home State
As covered in this story, Colette Honorable, the president's latest FERC nominee, could pose some problems for the Obama administration given her concerns with the administration's signature initiative to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
As chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, Honorable submitted comments to the EPA concluding the agency's clean power plan is unworkable in its present form as it applies to her home state.
The EPA proposed rule for Arkansas is “technically flawed and is unattainable under the contemplated timeframe,” according to comments submitted jointly Nov. 26 by Honorable and J. Ryan Benefield, interim director for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
4. Report Summarizes Studies on Some Risks Posed by Oil, Gas to Reproductive Health
As covered in this story, a review of the research on chemicals associated with unconventional oil and gas development, including hydraulic fracturing, has concluded that the potential risks to human reproductive health are numerous and merit more study.
The review said there was an urgent need for “systematic and comprehensive epidemiological studies” and monitoring of chemical contamination in people and animals.
The review, “Developmental and reproductive effects of chemicals associated with unconventional oil and natural gas operations,” was published in the journal Reviews on Environmental Health. The lead author of the report was Ellen Webb of the Center for Environmental Health, an environmental advocacy organization.
5. Letter From 11 Senators Urges EPA to Set Stricter Carbon Standards for Power Plants
Eleven senators—as covered in this story—urged the EPA to set more stringent carbon dioxide emissions guidelines for existing power plants in a Dec. 9 letter to the agency.
The 10 Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) urged the EPA to require more investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs as part of the power plant rule proposed in June.
“While the emission reduction goals of the Clean Power Plant are laudable, we believe that with modest changes to reflect real-world market and technological conditions, the plan can, and should, achieve even greater emissions reductions,” the senators said.
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