Below are the comments C2ES submitted on June 25, 2012, on EPA's proposed greenhouse gas emissions standard for new power plants.
Comments of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions on
Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for
New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units;
United States Environmental Protection Agency
(77 Fed. Reg. 22392 (April 13, 2012))
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0660; FRL-9654-7
This document constitutes the comments of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) on the proposed standards of performance for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for new electric utility generating units (Proposal), proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and published in the Federal Register on April 13, 2012. C2ES is an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing practical and effective policies and actions to address our global climate change and energy challenges. As such, the views expressed here are those of C2ES alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of members of the C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC). In addition, the comments made in this document pertain to new sources in the specific industrial sector addressed by the Proposal and may not be appropriate for other industrial sectors or for existing electric utility generating units.
Preference for Market-based Policy
C2ES believes market-based policies—such as emissions averaging among companies, a cap-and-trade system, an emissions tax, or a clean energy standard with tradable credits – would be the most efficient and effective way of reducing GHG emissions and spurring clean energy development and deployment. Properly-designed market-based policies create an appropriate division of labor in addressing climate change, with the law establishing the overarching goal of reducing GHG emissions, and private industry determining how best to achieve that goal. Under market-based policies, the government neither specifies a given company’s emission level nor requires the use of any given technology—both of these questions are determined by the company itself.
Beyond providing an incentive for the use of best available technologies, market-based policies provide a direct financial incentive for inventors and investors to develop and deploy lower-cost, clean energy technologies, and leave the private market to determine technology winners and losers. Market-based policies can be designed to minimize transition costs for companies and their customers in moving from high-emitting technologies to low-emitting technologies; to prevent manufacturers in countries without GHG limits from using this as a competitive advantage over U.S. manufacturers; and to reverse any regressive impacts of increased energy prices. At the federal level, market-based policies have been used to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions at a fraction of the originally estimated cost, while at the state level they have been used successfully in renewable energy programs and cap-and-trade programs.
However, enactment of federal legislation that would establish a comprehensive market-based policy to reduce GHG emissions does not appear imminent. Given the urgency of addressing the rising risks that climate change poses to U.S. economic, environmental and security interests, C2ES believes that in the absence of Congressional action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, EPA must proceed using its existing authorities under the Clean Air Act.
The Context of the Proposal
The Proposal is consistent with the EPA’s authority to implement the Clean Air Act, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. On April 2, 2007, in the case of Massachusetts v. EPA, the court found that the harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized, the EPA has the authority to regulate CO2 and other GHGs under the existing Clean Air Act, and, although enacting regulations may not by itself reverse global warming, that is not a reason for EPA not to act in order to “slow or reduce” global warming.
The Court required that the EPA determine whether GHG emissions from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. The EPA released a draft Technical Support Document (TSD) in 2008 that provided technical analysis of the potential risks of GHGs for human health and welfare and contribution of human activities to rising GHG concentrations, and adopted a final endangerment finding in December 2009. The finding explained and documented the determination that (1) the ambient concentration of six key GHGs—CO2, methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)—contribute to climate change, which results in a threat to the public health and welfare of current and future generations, and (2) emissions from motor vehicles contribute to the ambient concentration of the GHGs.
The EPA’s endangerment finding did not, by itself, impose any restrictions on any entities. It was, however, a required step in the EPA’s process of regulating GHG emissions. The EPA has already issued several requirements pertaining to GHG emissions—two as a consequence of the endangerment finding, and two in response to specific Congressional mandates regarding the reporting of GHG emissions.
Reporting CO2 emissions from power plants. Under section 821 of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the EPA requires power plants to monitor their CO2 emissions and report the data to the EPA, which makes the data available to the public. Under this provision, power plants have been reporting their CO2 emissions since the early 1990s, and the data have been made publicly available through the EPA’s website.
GHG Reporting Rule. As part of the Fiscal Year 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed into law in December 2007, the EPA was ordered to publish a rule requiring public reporting of GHG emissions from large sources. The GHG Reporting Program database was published for the first time in January 2012, and consisted of data reported under the rule.
Vehicle tailpipe standards. The first and most direct result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Massachusetts V. EPA and the EPA’s subsequent endangerment finding was the EPA’s promulgation of GHG emissions standards for vehicles. In April 2010, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a joint regulation to establish new light-duty vehicle standards for Model Year (MY) 2012 to MY 2016; in August 2011, they issued the final rulemaking for heavy-duty vehicles for MY 2014-2018; and in November 2011, they issued a joint proposal for light-duty vehicle standards for MY 2017 to MY 2025.
New Source Review/Best Available Control Technology. Under the Clean Air Act, major new sources or major modifications to existing sources must employ technologies aimed at limiting air pollutants. Once GHGs were regulated as air pollutants through the vehicle tailpipe standard, the requirement that new or modified sources must use “best available control technology” (BACT) for GHGs also took effect. In November 2010, the EPA released guidance to be used by states in implementing BACT requirements for GHG emissions from major new or modified stationary sources of air pollution. Under the BACT guidance, covered facilities are generally required to use the most energy-efficient technologies available, rather than install particular pollution control technologies. More than a dozen facilities have received permits under the program.
The Proposal is the first GHG standard proposed by the EPA under the New Source Performance Standard provision of the Clean Air Act. Electric power plants account for about one-third of U.S. GHG emissions—nearly twice the contribution of light-duty vehicles.
Comments on the Proposal
C2ES has some concerns with the Proposal, as discussed below. If the concerns are adequately addressed, C2ES supports moving the rule forward.
The EPA should set the emissions standard at a level that can be reliably achieved by currently available technology under reasonably expected operating conditions.
The technology on which the standard in the Proposal is based is natural gas combined cycle (NGCC). It is imperative that the EPA set the GHG emissions standard at a level and in a form that can be reliably achieved by currently available NGCC technology under the full range of reasonably expected operating conditions. A recent study raises questions about the extent to which currently available NGCC units can reliably achieve the standard in the Proposal. In order to maximize the efficiency of the overall interconnected electric system – and often to minimize the overall GHG emissions – it is sometimes necessary to run a particular plant at less than peak efficiency. The standard should reflect this reality.
C2ES agrees that, as proposed, the standard should not cover simple cycle combustion turbines and biomass-fueled boilers.
The standard must be consistent with the advancement of carbon capture and storage technology.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not one of the technologies on which the Proposal’s standard is based. Rather, CCS is a method by which a facility could potentially comply with the NGCC-based standard.
CCS operations have been built at scale in other industrial sectors, but not yet in the electricity sector. The first commercial-scale U.S. power plant with CCS is currently under construction. Power companies are planning several additional CCS projects, some of which will be in conjunction with enhanced oil recovery (EOR). CCS power projects that would supply captured CO2 to EOR are in the planning stages in Texas, Mississippi, California, North Dakota, and Kentucky for the 2014—2020 timeframe. Several more power companies have had plans to build CCS operations that did not go forward primarily because of the cost of CCS and the uncertainty with respect to CO2 emission regulation and legislation.
The Proposal offers an alternative compliance mechanism in which a coal power plant could be operated for 10 years without CCS, followed by 20 years with CCS. While the standard and the alternative compliance mechanism could make it easier for public utility commissions to approve proposals to build coal power plants with CCS, given the current cost and limited demonstration and deployment of CCS technologies, these alone may not be enough to surmount the challenge of financing a plant with CCS. (Please see the discussion of CCS under “Related Matters” below.)
More concerning is the possibility that the standard could inadvertently inhibit the advancement of CCS. For example, one intermediate step in demonstrating the compatibility of CCS with large-scale electricity generation might be to capture and sequester only a fraction of the CO2 from a large coal plant – which might not be allowed under the Proposal. C2ES suggests that the EPA consider mechanisms by which CCS demonstration projects and other operations important to the advancement of CCS could go forward.
Given the unique circumstances of electricity generation today, it is on balance appropriate to set a standard that does not differentiate between fuel types for new power plants. A non-differentiated standard may not, however, be appropriate for other industry sectors or existing sources in this sector.
Perhaps the most novel aspect of the Proposal is that it does not issue separate NSPS for coal and natural gas. Under the Clean Air Act, section 111(b)(2), the EPA “may distinguish among classes, types and sizes within categories of new sources for the purpose of establishing [NSPS] standards.” (Emphasis added.) It has in fact typically been the case that Clean Air Act regulations have established separate air pollution standards for coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. While this differentiation is authorized, however, it is not required by the Clean Air Act. Because the proposed rule would apply to new units only, and because prospective owners have options in selecting the designs of their units, fuel switching (i.e., replacing coal use at existing plants with natural gas) would not be required by the rule.
Moreover, recent developments having nothing to do with GHG regulation, such as the availability of inexpensive natural gas and the regulation of other pollutants, have created conditions under which the GHG emissions intensity of electricity generation is declining. Aside from a small number of facilities far along in the planning process and specifically exempt from the Proposal, no new construction of conventional coal plants is currently foreseen at recent forward market natural gas prices through 2020 (when the Clean Air Act requires that the rule be reevaluated). The Proposal reflects the projections of independent analysts with regard to the future of new coal and natural gas electricity generation. For this reason, the Office of Management and Budget estimates that there will be no cost for industry compliance with the Proposal as compared with the status quo.
That said, it is important to recognize that widely fluctuating natural gas prices are a recent memory, and that, while the majority of independent analysts currently project an abundant and inexpensive supply of natural gas for decades to come, this forecast may prove wrong. Issuing a standard that in effect prohibits the construction of new high-emitting coal plants (i.e., those not using CCS) therefore poses risks – as would issuing a standard that allows the construction of such plants. If the construction of new high-emitting coal plants is effectively prohibited and natural gas prices rise higher than currently foreseen, electricity rates could face an upward pressure. On the other hand, allowing the construction of new high-emitting coal plants could lock in the emissions of those plants for decades to come, exacerbating the challenges the United States faces in reducing its GHG emissions and increasing the risks and costs of dangerous anthropogenic climate change.
On balance, C2ES believes the best choice in implementing the NSPS requirement for new power plants is to issue one standard, regardless of fuel type, but with a mechanism that allows for technological innovation (as discussed above). This should be accompanied by heavy federal investment in low-emitting technologies, including CCS, with the goal of maintaining a diverse set of energy sources in generating the nation’s electricity.
Finally, while the establishment of one emission standard regardless of fuel type may be appropriate with respect to new facilities in the power sector, it may not be appropriate for existing facilities in the power sector or for other sectors for which the EPA may issue regulations.
The United States needs a comprehensive energy strategy that delivers a diverse set of affordable low-emitting sources of electricity.
C2ES believes that as a matter of national policy and economic common sense, it is imperative to enhance energy diversity through programs that advance low-emitting uses of coal and natural gas; nuclear power; renewable energy; and efficiency in generation, transmission and end-use.
In particular, the United States needs an effective strategy for demonstrating CCS and making it inexpensive enough to use on future coal and natural gas power plants. Coal- and natural gas-fired generation will likely be predominant sources of electricity in the United States and most of world’s other major economies for decades to come. It will therefore be essential to advance CCS to the point that its use is economical in the context of electricity generation.
A CCS strategy should include a major research, development and demonstration effort, and subsidies to actively encourage the use of CCS with new and existing natural gas and coal power plants so that the technology can travel down the learning curve. C2ES strongly supports, among other measures, the federal grant programs that have allowed the construction of the previously-mentioned CCS projects. Another option is to establish a trust fund to support demonstration projects at commercial scale for a full range of systems applicable to U.S. power plants. CO2-enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR), a practice in which oil producers inject CO2 into wells to draw more oil to the surface, presents an important opportunity to advance CCS while boosting domestic oil production and reducing CO2 emissions. A coalition, co-convened by C2ES, has called for a federal tax credit for capture and pipeline projects to deliver CO2 from industrial and power plants to operating wells. (Note that the recommended tax credit is focused on plant and pipeline operators, rather than EOR operators.)
In addition to investing in CCS, it should be a national priority to invest in and otherwise advance a range of low-emitting energy technologies—for economic, as well as environmental, reasons. The diversity of energy sources used in electricity generation has been a valuable hedge against the unpredictable volatility of the various fuel sources, including natural gas. An electricity sector that increasingly relies on any single fuel would create unintended risks for our economy.
C2ES urges the EPA to move forward with the GHG NSPS for existing power plants, and to do so in a way that builds on existing state programs and allows states to use flexible market-based measures to implement the standards.
As mentioned, C2ES believes market-based policies would be the best way of reducing GHG emissions and spurring clean energy development and deployment. In the absence of a legislated solution, there appears to be an opportunity to utilize market-based policies in the regulation of GHG emissions from existing power plants.
Under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, the EPA, in concert with the states, is required to establish GHG emission standards for existing stationary sources—including existing power plants, which account for about one-third of U.S. GHG emissions today. The EPA has, in fact, entered into a settlement agreement under which it will implement section 111(d) for existing power plants. C2ES urges the EPA to move forward in implementing section 111(d) in a manner that can utilize market-based policies as soon as practicable.
Over the next few years, power plant owners will have to make billions of dollars’ worth of decisions about retrofitting, retiring, and replacing a large number of older, carbon-intensive coal plants in light of pending non-climate air, water, and waste regulations. Not knowing what GHG standards these existing facilities will have to meet presents facility owners with enormous uncertainty, greatly complicating and even delaying their decisions, ultimately at the expense of electricity rate payers. Because the Proposal addresses only new sources, this uncertainty pertains even to reconstruction or modification of existing sources. The Proposal mitigates some of the regulatory uncertainty faced by the power sector, but not all.
At the same time, several northeastern states already have an operational regional cap-and-trade program for CO2 from power plants (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative), California is implementing an economy-wide GHG cap-and-trade program, and several states have renewable energy standards, alternative energy standards, or other programs that are effective in reducing the average GHG emission rate across all sources, as well as the overall level of GHG emissions.
C2ES strongly prefers that Congress establish a comprehensive, national market-based GHG reduction policy that would cover both new and existing sources and help to reduce this patchwork quilt of state and regional regulation. In the absence of such legislation, however, C2ES recommends that, in implementing section 111(d) for existing power plants, the EPA issue GHG emission rate-based performance standards in a manner that allows for averaging, banking and trading among sources, giving states the flexibility to adopt various market-based policies that will meet or outperform the standard.
3. Matthew J. Kotchen and Erin T. Mansur, “How Stringent is the EPA’s Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants?” University of California Center for Energy and Environmental Economics, April 2012.
Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
March 27, 2012
We welcome EPA's proposal today to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants and urge the Administration to quickly move forward with rules for existing plants, which account for 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Power companies face huge investment decisions as they meet new pollution standards and retire or upgrade outdated plants. They need to know the full picture - including future greenhouse gas requirements - in order to keep our electricity supply as reliable and affordable as possible.
While highly efficient natural gas-fired power plants would meet the standard proposed today, new coal-fired power plants not already in the pipeline could likely meet the standard only by capturing and permanently sequestering their greenhouse gas emissions. This underscores the urgency of stronger public and private investment in carbon capture and storage technologies. The United States, China and India - the world's three largest greenhouse gas emitters - all have substantial coal reserves. If we can't figure out how to get the energy value out of coal with a minimal carbon footprint, we will not solve the climate problem.
With prospects for substantial public investment in CCS unclear, C2ES is now working with policymakers and stakeholders on ways to expand enhanced oil recovery using captured carbon dioxide - an approach that can boost domestic oil production, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help lay the groundwork for full-scale carbon capture and storage.
Contact: Rebecca Matulka, 703-516-4146
Learn more about EPA's greenhouse gas standard for new power plants.
Yesterday, EPA announced the public release of reported greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from large facilities across the country. Under legislation signed by President George W. Bush, most large sources of GHG emissions, including refineries, power plants, chemical plants, car manufacturers, and factories emitting more than 25,000 tons of CO2 equivalent a year, have been reporting their annual emissions electronically to EPA since 2010, while small sources are specifically exempted from the rule. Now, in accordance with the law, EPA is making that data public.
Some similar information was public already. Power plants have been required to report their CO2 emissions since the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, while many other companies have voluntarily reported their emissions through programs like the Carbon Disclosure Project
This is Part 2 of a series on the new EPA-DOT vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel economy standards. Part 1 took a first look on the goals of the standards.
These days, most cars can go from 0 to 60 mph in a pretty short time – but can the nation’s car fleet go from 27.3 to 49.5 mpg in 15 years flat?
As we mentioned in Part I, a 49.5 mpg CAFE standard (or 54.5 mpg by the EPA’s calculation) is the new vehicle standard for 2025. Considering that the current CAFE level is 27.3 mpg, closing the 20 mpg gap will need some pretty quick acceleration, efficiency-wise.
Though the new standard may seem daunting, the key takeaway is that passenger vehicles will use many technologies we already know about and still deliver the freedom of mobility and convenience found in today’s cars. In fact, most of the fleet will still be powered by diesel and gasoline but with under-the-hood technological improvements that improve the bang for each buck of gas.
Last year, Senator James Inhofe, a staunch opponent of EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, asked the EPA’s Inspector General (IG) to investigate the agency’s endangerment finding related to climate change. The IG’s report was released earlier this week, and its first sentence reads, “EPA met statutory requirements for rulemaking and generally followed requirements and guidance related to ensuring the quality of the supporting technical information.” In his statement on the report, Senator Inhofe translated that to, “This report confirms that the endangerment finding is ….. rushed, biased, and flawed.”
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions congratulates one individual, 14 organizations, and two partnerships who were publicly honored for their exemplary leadership in addressing climate change at the 2015 Climate Leadership Awards. The national awards program honors corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in internal operations and the supply chain.
"These companies, organizations, and individuals demonstrate that we can save energy, reduce emissions, and take decisive steps toward a low-carbon future," said C2ES President Eileen Claussen. "We hope their accomplishments will serve as an example for others to follow.”
The following awards were presented Feb. 24, 2015, at the Climate Leadership Conference in Washington:
Organizational Leadership Award
Individual Leadership Award
Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Achievement Award)
- The City and County of San Francisco, California
- The Clorox Company
- DPR Construction
- SC Johnson
Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Setting Certificate)
- Brown-Forman Corporation
- California Department of Water Resources
- Capital One Financial Corporation
- CH2M HILL
- The Clorox Company
- EMC Corporation
- The Hartford
- Tiffany & Co.
Innovative Partnerships Certificate
- Climate Leadership Conference home page
- EPA Climate Leadership Awards page
- Press Release annoucing 2015 Climate Leadership Award recipients
- Press Release announcing 2014 Climate Leadership Award recipients
- Press release announcing 2013 Climate Leadership Award recipients
- Press release announcing establishment of Climate Leadership Awards
Press Release: U.S. EPA, Pew Center, and NGO Partners Unveil Award Criteria and Nomination Deadline for Climate Leadership Awards
September 14, 2011
Association of Climate Change Officers
The Climate Registry
U.S. EPA, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, The Climate Registry,
and the Association of Climate Change Officers Unveil Award Criteria and
Nomination Deadline for New Climate Leadership Awards
New national program will recognize corporate, organizational,
and individual leadership on climate change
Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with The Climate Registry (The Registry), the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (Pew Center), and the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO), announced that the nomination period is open for the new Climate Leadership Awards.
The Climate Leadership Awards will support a legacy for EPA’s Climate Leaders program and will recognize exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in response to climate change. Nominations are due no later than October 21, 2011.
"With the creation of the Climate Leadership Awards, EPA is pleased to be joining with these exemplary organizations in recognizing extraordinary leadership in the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) in response to climate change," said Elizabeth Craig, EPA’s Acting Director of the Office of Atmospheric Programs.
Detailed criteria and the nomination forms for each of the five recognition categories are available online at www.epa.gov/climateleaders/awards/index.html. The categories are:
- Excellence in GHG Management (Goal Setting Certificate)
Recognizing organizations that publicly report and verify corporate GHG inventories and publicly set aggressive absolute GHG emissions reduction goals.
- Excellence in GHG Management (Goal Achievement Award)
Recognizing organizations that publicly report and verify corporate GHG inventories and achieve aggressive absolute GHG emissions reduction goals.
- Supply Chain Leadership Award
Recognizing organizations that have their own comprehensive GHG inventories and emissions reduction goals and can demonstrate they are at the leading edge of managing GHGs in their organizational value chains.
- Organizational Leadership Award
Recognizing organizations that exemplify leadership both in their internal response to climate change and through engagement of their peers, competitors, partners, and value chain.
- Individual Leadership Award
Recognizing individuals exemplifying extraordinary leadership in leading theirorganizations’ response to climate change and/or affecting the responses of other organizations.
Businesses with annual revenues over $100 million and governmental entities and academic organizations with annual budgets over $100 million are eligible for nomination in the first four recognition categories. In addition to meeting other criteria, nominees must be able to demonstrate that the bulk of their GHG management activities and achievements have occurred within the United States. In the case of the individual leadership award category, nominees must be employees of organizations that are eligible for the other categories and must reside within the United States.
The Climate Leadership Awards are designed to motivate, highlight and recognize actions that go beyond business as usual in the management and reduction of GHG emissions both in internal operations and throughout the supply chain. Together, the award winners will illustrate how leadership in the public and private sectors can help make the United States a more sustainable, low-carbon society.
Corporations, organizations, and individuals may self-nominate or nominate others for a Climate Leadership Award. Entrants may be nominated for multiple awards. Each category requires a separate submission. EPA and the NGO partners will hold a webinar at 10am PT/1pm ET on September 21, 2011 to discuss the award criteria, nomination process, and answer questions. (The presentation and recorded webinar are now available.)
More information about the awards and next week’s informational webinar is available at the EPA’s Climate Leadership Awards web page, www.epa.gov/climateleaders/awards/index.html.
An event to honor award recipients will take place on the evening of February 29, 2012 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in conjunction with the first annual Climate Leadership Conference, which will be held from February 29-March 1, 2012. The conference will feature thought leaders from the public and private sectors who will share key insights and innovative ideas on topics related to the awards such as: energy efficiency, clean energy, setting and achieving GHG reduction goals, engaging supply chains, addressing climate risks, and other practical applications for managing and reducing emissions. Conference details will be regularly updated at www.climateleadershipconference.org.
# # #
About The Climate Registry
The Climate Registry provides organizations with hands-on, personalized service and resources to help them measure, verify, report and manage their GHG emissions in a publicly transparent and credible way. The Registry was established in 2007 as a 501 (c)(3) by US states and Canadian provinces and today is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of senior officials from 40 US states, the District of Columbia, 13 Canadian provinces and territories, six Mexican states and four Native Sovereign Nations. The Registry has more than 430 members who use The Registry’s services to measure and manage their emissions, as well as share policy information and best practices in carbon management. For more information see www.theclimateregistry.org.
About the Association of Climate Change Officers
The Association of Climate Change Officers is a 501(c)(6) non-profit membership organization for executives and officials worldwide in industry, government, academia and the non-profit community. ACCO’s mission is to advance the knowledge and skills of those dedicated to developing and directing climate change strategies in the public and private sectors, and to establish a flexible and robust forum for collaboration between climate change officers. For more information about ACCO, please visit www.ACCOonline.org.
In a unanimous (8-0) decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in AEP v Conn that the state and land trust plaintiffs could not invoke a federal common law public nuisance claim against the five largest electric power companies. The plaintiffs in the case were seeking controls on the carbon dioxide emissions from the utilities’ power plants. Building on their 2007 decision in Mass v EPA, the Court held that Congress in passing the Clean Air Act had authorized federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and in doing so had effectively “occupied the field” thereby negating any common law claims. In a decision noteworthy for its brevity and clarity, the Court stated:
We hold that the Clean Air Act and EPA actions it authorizes displace any federal common law right to seek abatement of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired plants. Massachusetts made plain that emissions of carbon dioxide qualify as air pollution subject to regulation under the Act. (page 10)
Keynote Address By Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Institute of International and European Affairs
June 14, 2011
Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be here. I am especially pleased to be in Ireland just a couple of weeks after President Barack Obama paid a visit to his ancestral home of Moneygall. I thought you would be interested to know that some of the President’s opponents, following the recent controversy about whether or not he was truly born in America, demanded proof of Mr. Obama’s Irish ancestry … and I understand he responded by finishing his Guinness and reminding his opponents that he is the only president to host a Beer Summit at the White House.
In all seriousness, I want to thank the Institute of International and European Affairs for inviting me to this beautiful city to talk with all of you about what’s happening in the United States to address the issue of climate change.
Well, that about sums it up. It has been a pleasure speaking with you and, if you will pardon me, I will now get along with my sightseeing.
I am kidding, of course. Well, let me clarify that. I am kidding about being through with my remarks, but the notion that not a lot is happening on this issue in the United States is no joke. The renowned Irish blessing calls for the winds to be always at your back; the sun to shine warm upon your face; and rains to fall soft upon your fields. Well, for those of us who care about this issue and who want to see the United States take its rightful role in protecting the climate, it seems like the wind has not actually been at our back – but rather hitting us squarely in the face for quite some time now.
Any time you have someone winning an election to the United States Senate, as we did in November, thanks in part to a campaign ad where he uses a rifle to shoot a hole through a piece of paper representing climate change legislation, I guess you could be forgiven for feeling, well, not sufficiently blessed.
For perspective, let’s look back for a moment at what was happening on this issue in the United States just two years ago. President Obama was just months into office after an election campaign during which he had pledged to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases by 80 percent before mid-century, and during which he promised to invest tens of billions of dollars in new climate-friendly energy technologies.
As his secretary of energy, the President appointed a Nobel Prize winner who supported strong action to address climate change. And he built an all-star team of advisers on environment and energy issues who felt the same way.
Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives, just two years ago this month, passed comprehensive climate change legislation that established national limits on U.S. emissions and that authorized a new trading program to help industries meet their targets as efficiently as possible.
It was indeed a heady time for those of us who have labored on this issue over the past two decades and more. We definitely felt as though we had the wind at our back. But now it all seems like a distant dream … there is no getting around the fact that 2010 was a dark time for those of us who believed that the United States was on the precipice of taking serious action.
So today, I will spend my time talking with you about why I believe things have changed so dramatically in so short a time. But I also want to point to some signs of hope. William Butler Yeats once wrote, “When one looks into the darkness there is always something there.” And I believe this is an insight we should remember, no matter how dark things may appear to be at the present time.
John McCain joked once in a different context that it’s always darkest before the light goes completely out. (Pause.) Which is very funny – but also somewhat depressing. In my remarks today, I intend to look into the present darkness and reflect on some of the reasons why things are so dark right now. But I also will point out that indeed, there is “something there.”
Let us start with a closer look at why it has grown so gloomy (for some) in Washington. In the two years since the House of Representatives voted on the so-called “cap-and-trade” legislation in June 2009, the opposition to climate action has gained the upper hand in the debate. The 2010 U.S. elections last November brought an astonishing number of new members to Congress who publicly disavowed the science of climate change. In fact, shortly after the election, a U.S. think tank conducted a comprehensive review of the policy positions and statements of more than 100 incoming Republican members of Congress. It found that more than half of them — I repeat: more than half —are skeptics of climate change. They say they are not sure it’s really happening. Remember: This is in the majority party that controls the legislative agenda in the U.S. House of Representatives.
So if anyone tells you that serious congressional action on this issue is possible in the next two years, I hope you will politely tell them they’re crazy. It’s not going to happen.
And it is not just the presence of a large number of climate skeptics that make it improbable that the current U.S. Congress will do anything. As always in Washington, there are a range of other issues and other interests at play. In the wake of President Obama’s effort to overhaul the U.S. health care system, for example, there is a pronounced distaste in our nation’s capital and throughout the United States for policies that could be branded as quote-unquote “big government” solutions.
We can do our level best to try and help people understand how a cap-and-trade approach leaves it to the market (and not government) to find the most efficient ways to reduce emissions, but opponents inevitably will turn this into an issue of government overreach. And in the current political climate in the United States, attacking things in this manner is a strategy that seems to work.
There is also of course the economy – a seemingly unending challenge with which I know all of you are familiar. You understand how unemployment rates can color every political decision. In the U.S., unemployment hovers at or near the 9 percent mark, causing members of Congress to feel their own jobs are at risk to the extent that they embrace policies that could be construed as being anti-business or, worse, “anti-jobs.” The President’s health care law regularly is referred to as a quote-unquote “job killing,” “job destroying” or “job crushing” initiative. This is how you attack your opponents in Washington today. You accuse them of wanting to take away people’s jobs. And, once again, this is a strategy that seems to work, even if it can be argued that addressing climate change in a serious way will actually create new jobs in clean energy and related industries.
Unfortunately, it gets even worse. Not content merely to block legislation that could strengthen or expand U.S. efforts to address climate change, many in the House of Representatives are pursuing a strategy of trying to eliminate or curtail existing policies and programs related to this issue, however modest they may be.
Earlier this year, the House passed a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. Ironically, this measure could have been nicknamed the “Kill Government” bill for its drastic cutbacks. While fiscal realities demand cuts to a wide range of vital federal programs, the House plan disproportionately cut funding for the climate science and clean energy programs needed to transition to the robust clean-energy economy that many businesses and the public support.
Thankfully, the U.S. Senate had its say, and the spending bill the President eventually signed into law avoided total annihilation of federal climate initiatives. While the most aggressive efforts by Congress to strip the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of its funding and authority to act on climate and clean energy may not have passed, many politically-contentious issues lie ahead that may present more hurdles for EPA. For instance, debates this summer over the U.S. debt ceiling and battles over the 2012 budget could again put EPA in the crosshairs. Many Republicans, especially in the House, are likely to stay vigilant in their anti-climate efforts.
But under our bicameral legislative system, the House does not have the last word in these matters. The Senate, however, presents its own challenges, starting with an arcane set of rules that allows a minority of senators to block major legislation. The Democrats are in the majority in the Senate, but they don’t have the 60 votes they need to pass anything major on climate change or other big issues. What’s more, the Democrats themselves remain divided on the climate issue, with senators from oil- and coal-producing states often siding with Republicans to block proposals that could be portrayed as trying to change the prevailing, high-carbon energy mix in the United States.
Looking ahead, things could get worse before they get better. The period after the November 2012 elections could be the next best chance for the United States to do something serious on the climate issue. But if the House remains majority Republican, or the Senate falls into Republican hands, the chance will probably be lost for another two years or more.
So, it’s a little dark in Washington at the moment and it is hard to see how anything substantive or serious can happen on the climate issue under the current Congress. Indeed, the challenge right now is to prevent Congress from endangering the mostly modest initiatives and programs that are in place right now to address this issue, and on which we can potentially build a more robust response in the future under friendlier leadership.
Which brings me to the shadows of hope we can see if we follow the advice of Mr. Yeats and look into the darkness. The first of these appears when we look at what’s happening at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the federal agency that is responsible for carrying out many U.S. laws related to climate change and the environment.
With Congress unable to pass comprehensive climate legislation in 2010, attention turned to what the EPA might be able to do under the agency’s existing authority. And it turns out the EPA can do a great deal. One of the reasons why it can do a great deal is because the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007 decided that greenhouse gases meet the definition of pollutants under the Clean Air Act. This is the omnibus federal clean air law that was originally passed in the 1970s and has been amended and expanded several times since.
In its 2007 ruling, the Supreme Court left it to the EPA to decide if emissions of greenhouse gases present a risk to public health and welfare. EPA decided they did, based on the overwhelming scientific evidence about the enormous risks that climate change poses to America and the world. Interestingly, we recently learned that the previous EPA Administrator under President George W. Bush came to exactly the same conclusion … and other senior Bush administration officials agreed. So when opponents of the EPA decision on greenhouse gases inevitably painted it as a partisan attempt to expand government, well, let’s just say that their arguments seemed a tad partisan themselves.
What is the EPA doing to try and limit U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases? National standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks that won approval from industry and environmentalists will increase fuel efficiency to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 and save consumers $3,000 over a vehicle’s lifetime. A new EPA proposal to be finalized next year aims to increase fuel efficiency by another 3 to 6 percent per year through 2025. In late October, the agency announced a sensible proposal to reduce emissions by 20 percent and improve fuel efficiency for medium and heavy-duty vehicles. This was followed by a November announcement that will go a long way to making sure that new industrial facilities in the United States use state-of-the-art technologies to boost efficiency and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. And later this year, EPA is expected to propose the first-ever greenhouse gas standards for new and existing power plants and oil refineries.
Of course, opponents of these and other reasonable EPA actions will continue to raise a ruckus, and there have already been loud cries in Congress to take away the agency’s regulatory authority and cut its funding, as I already discussed. But the fact remains that, even though its efforts are relatively mild and will not come close to achieving the broader reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that President Obama promised during his election campaign, EPA is still in the fight and is still putting forward reasonable rules and regulations for reducing the U.S. contribution to climate change. And that is an encouraging thing to see as we take in an otherwise dark scene.
It is also important to take notice of action actually taking place on the ground that has climate benefits. Most notably, we expect many old coal plants to shut down. While some new coal plants will come online soon, we are far more likely to see new natural gas power plants built in the future. While not “The Answer” to our climate and energy challenges, natural gas emits half the amount of carbon dioxide as coal. So this shift to natural gas, largely driven by regulations of conventional pollutants and by discoveries of shale gas that make natural gas more cost-competitive, will certainly help keep the U.S. on the downward emissions pathway that we’ve experienced in recent years. Of course, achieving bigger, brighter changes in how we produce and consume energy will ultimately require new policies, technological innovation, and broad public support.
Another shadow of hope that we can see if we look hard into the current darkness is that President Obama continues to talk about energy issues in a way that is helpful for the climate. Yes, he recently proposed to expand drilling for oil in the United States, but he continues to frame the nation’s energy challenge (and, indeed, the world’s) as a challenge that we can meet only through an all-of-the-above energy policy that reserves a vital role for low-carbon, clean-energy sources in meeting our energy needs in the decades to come. Obama’s rhetorical commitment to climate action was again heard in his speech before the British Parliament last month, when he grouped climate change as one of the world’s principle threats to confront along with terrorism, nuclear proliferation, famine and disease.
Looking ahead to the 2012 U.S. presidential election, we can even see a faint shadow of hope (I emphasize it’s a faint one) in the histories of the leading Republican candidates for President. A number of the leading Republican candidates (including former state governors Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich) have in the past supported cap-and-trade policies. Of course, they wouldn’t admit it now even under enhanced interrogation techniques.
But these men who are running for President on the Republican side are not your classic climate change deniers. In fact, some of them still agree that the science of climate change is real, although they are not supporting any real action to deal with it. I know this does not sound like much … but the fact is that these candidates will find it hard to make climate change a polarizing issue in the 2012 election given their records and past statements on the issue – and that is a good thing.
Of course, if former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska or another out-and-out climate change skeptic runs for President on the Republican side, then this might change. And I expect the well-funded, highly-influential Tea Party movement to continue to mislead the public about the science and hold up climate action as a prime example of government run amuck. But in all honesty, I am not sure that running on a climate-change-denial platform is smart politics in America today. I am convinced from a review of the polls that the majority of the American people actually support reasonable action to develop clean energy sources and take other steps to create a low-carbon economy.
According to various credible surveys, a majority of Americans (about 60 percent) believe global warming or climate change is happening. It is important to note, however, that these numbers have trended down in recent years in sync with the recession and with the increasing political battles over climate change policy and well-funded attacks on climate science.
One of the more interesting public opinion surveys on this topic is the so-called “Six Americas” study by Yale and George Mason universities. The project’s researchers identified six distinct subsets of the U.S. population based on their beliefs about climate change. The six categories are: Alarmed; Concerned; Cautious; Disengaged; Doubtful; and Dismissive. (Add the name Grumpy and you could have the climate change version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.)
Interestingly, majorities in all six of these groups said they believe the United States should make it a priority to develop clean sources of energy. Regulating carbon dioxide emissions was supported by a majority of each group except the Dismissive. (Nobody asked Grumpy what he thought.) So it’s obvious that a significant portion of the U.S. population supports policies that directly or indirectly would result in reduced emissions of greenhouse gases.
Where support for these policies begins to decline is where researchers ask Americans what they are willing to pay to achieve these goals. But still, public support for clean energy (and, to a lesser extent, regulating greenhouse gas emissions) is certainly a hopeful thing we can see as we look into the darkness in the United States on this issue today. And the reason why it is so hopeful is because it suggests to me that the current stalemate on this issue cannot last, especially in the face of continuing extreme weather events such as the recent flooding of the Mississippi River and Texas wildfires that have ravaged nearly 3 million acres.
These are exactly the kinds of events that climate scientists keep warning us will become more frequent in a warming world, and these types of extreme weather events inevitably raise serious questions in people’s minds about whether warming global temperatures are already wreaking havoc with the climate.
So far, I have talked mostly about national politics in the United States, but it is important to remember that in the U.S. political system, states have an enormous degree of authority and flexibility to advance climate solutions and other policies on their own. And the good and hopeful news is that many U.S. states have banded together in recent years to launch regional initiatives aimed at reducing emissions and developing clean energy. This is in addition to individual states acting on their own on these issues.
The not-so-good news is that state actions on the climate issue suffered a bit of a setback last November. As was the case with the U.S. congressional elections, the 2010 gubernatorial elections brought to the nation’s statehouses a group of new leaders who adopted strong stands against climate action in their campaigns. This is already setting back some of the progress we were seeing at the state level on this issue in recent years. For example, New Jersey’s new governor, Chris Christie, who is a rising star in the Republican Party, announced last month that he would withdraw his state from a very promising regional climate initiative that includes 10 northeastern U.S. states. While Gov. Christie said he accepts the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and humans play a role, he follows the standard Republican position of opposing policy action, specifically cap and trade.
But there is still hope among the states. During the November election, for example, voters in California overwhelmingly rejected a measure aimed at curtailing the state’s nascent efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Shortly after that vote, the California Air Resources Board formally approved the state’s cap-and-trade program, which is designed to reduce California emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. A lawsuit by environmental activists opposed to cap and trade challenged the regulations on procedural grounds and may prevent the state from implementing its program on time. But the good news is California is still in the fight. And there is strong public support for what the state wants to do. California Gov. Jerry Brown also has signed into law one of the nation’s most aggressive renewable electricity standards. It requires 33 percent of the state’s electricity be produced by renewable sources by 2020.
Of course, California, as a relatively progressive state,will always provide a more hospitable climate for action on this issue. But the fact that the most highly populated U.S. state will soon be implementing a cap-and-trade system and other measures to reduce emissions has to be a positive sign.
Internationally, the Cancún climate talks showed that there are opportunities for incremental, evolutionary progress in the global negotiations on key operational issues of finance; measurement, reporting and verification; adaptation; technology; and forestry. It is important to understand that progress on these issues does not require a new legal agreement. Each of them can be advanced in tangible ways by decisions of the Parties. That is exactly what was achieved in Cancún. The Cancún Agreements are a package of decisions by the Parties. And what that package does, in large measure, is to import the essential elements of the Copenhagen Accord into the UN climate system and take initial steps to implement them.
What this represents is incremental progress – evolutionary progress – the kind of progress that had eluded us for years because we were so preoccupied with legally-binding outcomes. So we were able to move forward in Cancún on operational issues. But we were able to do so – and this is an important point – only because Parties were willing to put aside their differences on the legal issues.
I encourage the talks this year in Durban, South Africa to build on the effective, incremental approach taken in Cancún. Because the reality is that the U.S. cannot make global commitments until there is stronger consensus for action at home. And even apart from the situation in the U.S., the reality is that few if any developed countries will take on new binding commitments unless China and other emerging economies do as well. For now, we must look to coalitions of the willing to make progress in key areas, such as renewable energy and forest protection. While maintaining the international process is key to working toward the ultimate, longer-term goal of a global climate agreement with legally-binding commitments, actions taking place on the ground in individual countries right now are the most important signs of progress.
The last shadow of hope – and perhaps the most important one – that I want to talk about is the fact that there remains a strong core of business support for reasonable action on the climate issue in the United States. The Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council includes 46 major corporations that support mandatory, market-based approaches to tackle climate change.
Starting with 13 companies in 1998, our Business Council is now the largest U.S.-based association of corporations focused on addressing the challenges of climate change and supporting mandatory climate policy. It includes mostly Fortune 500 companies with combined revenues of over $2.5 trillion and over 4.5 million employees. Many different sectors are represented, from high technology to diversified manufacturing; from oil and gas to transportation; from utilities to chemicals.
While individual companies hold their own views on policy specifics, they are united with the Pew Center in the belief that voluntary action alone will not be enough to address the climate challenge. The bottom line: Business support for climate solutions is surely a hopeful sign amid the present darkness … and it is yet another factor that suggests to me that the current situation can’t last for long.
I would like to end my remarks by drawing your attention to something that will happen today in the United States that, at least on the surface, appears to have very little to do with the subject of my remarks. On 42nd Street in New York City, at the Foxwoods Theater, a new rock musical based on the Spiderman comics with music and lyrics by U2’s Bono and The Edge has its official opening after several months of delays and various catastrophes along the way.
Just months ago, many people wondered if it would ever open, given that it was way over budget and that it had gone through a number of cast changes, script rewrites and more. The low point came when a stunt performer fell more than 20 feet to the stage after a cable snapped on the harness that held him aloft. Fortunately, he was released from the hospital and is OK, and despite mixed reviews, ticket sales for the production have been, well, phenomenal.
I bring up the opening of the Spiderman musical because it’s a reminder that even when things are at their darkest, there can still be hope for success. I also bring it up because of the title of the production. It is called Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark.
Yeats told us, “When one looks into the darkness there is always something there.” And right now, as I have said, we can indeed see shadows of hope in the darkness that has descended on the climate change debate in the United States. When we will be able to turn off the dark, I cannot say. But I believe it can happen in due time.
Now perhaps we can turn up the lights for some questions … Thank you very much.
May 17, 2011
Pew Center Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, 703-516-4146
The Climate Registry Contact: Alex Carr, 778-340-8837
Association of Climate Change Officers Contact: Daniel Kreeger, 202-496-7390
The Climate Registry, Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the Association of Climate Change Officers Announce Partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to Jointly Administer New National Climate Awards Program
Washington, DC – Today The Climate Registry (The Registry), the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (Pew Center) and the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO) announced that they will jointly sponsor a new national awards program with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recognize exemplary corporate, organizational and individual leadership in response to climate change.
By showcasing voluntary action on climate and energy under a unified banner, EPA, The Registry, Pew Center and ACCO are sending a strong signal that innovative and sustained leadership in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) management will be recognized in the United States.
"The co-sponsorship of this new recognition opportunity reflects EPA’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and recognizing leadership on climate change," said EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy. "We are pleased to be partnering with three non-profit organizations that have demonstrated expertise in GHG emissions management."
An event to honor award recipients will be held in early 2012. Specific award categories will include:
- Sustained Excellence in Public Reporting –Recognizing companies that continually raise the bar in the area of public disclosure of GHG emissions data. This would include regular public reporting and verification of corporate GHG inventories, GHG goal setting and achievement of GHG emissions reductions.
- Supply Chain Leadership –Recognizing companies that have their own comprehensive GHG inventories and emissions reduction goals and can demonstrate that they are at the leading edge of managing carbon in their supply chain.
- Organizational Leadership –Recognizing companies that have “mainstreamed” climate change across their operations and can demonstrate that they factor climate change into their business decisions.
- Individual Leadership –Recognizing individuals exemplifying extraordinary leadership in leading their organizations’ response to climate change and/or affecting the responses of other organizations.
These award categories provide a legacy for EPA’s Climate Leaders program, which provided support to private sector corporations who voluntarily set and achieved greenhouse gas reduction targets, and ACCO’s Climate Leadership Awards, which recognized exemplary leadership by organizations in industry, government, academia and the non-profit community.
“Corporate leadership is essential to advancing climate and energy solutions,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “In growing numbers, companies and their employees are working tirelessly in pursuit of cost-effective solutions that reduce carbon and benefit consumers. Recognizing these great accomplishments serves to motivate and accelerate efforts throughout the business community toward a cleaner, more efficient energy future."
“The Climate Registry is delighted to partner with EPA, the Pew Center and ACCO on this important program, which will build on the work of Climate Leaders as well as our own carbon management program,” said Denise Sheehan, Executive Director of The Climate Registry. “Together we look forward to continuing to provide the tools, resources and recognition that organizations need to take their climate and carbon leadership to the next level.”
"Amongst ACCO’s primary missions is bringing together climate executives from across sectors to collaborate and establish best practices," said Daniel Kreeger, ACCO's Executive Director. "We look forward to undertaking such a timely and important effort with our partners - The Climate Registry and the Pew Center - who have been on the cutting edge of climate response, and of course EPA, whose Climate Protection Awards inspired ACCO’s 2010 Climate Leadership Awards program and whose Climate Leaders program has been so instrumental in driving climate response."
More information is available online at www.epa.gov/climateleaders. Additional information on the award categories and nomination process will be made publicly available in the next few weeks.
About The Climate Registry
The Climate Registry provides organizations with the tools and resources to help them calculate, verify, report and manage their GHG emissions in a publicly transparent and credible way. The Registry was established in 2007 as a 501 (c)(3) by US states and Canadian provinces and today is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of senior officials from 41 US states, the District of Columbia, 13 Canadian provinces and territories, six Mexican states and four Native Sovereign Nations. The Registry is a membership organization with more than 430 members who use The Registry’s services measure and manage their emissions and share best practices with a community of members. For more information see www.theclimateregistry.org.
About the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change (“Pew Center”; www.c2es.org) is a 501(c)(3) organization that operates under the legal umbrella Strategies for the Global Environment. Formed in 1998, the Pew Center is an internationally recognized pragmatic voice offering credible information and analysis, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. In a highly polarized, controversial and politicized arena, the Pew Center provides a non-partisan forum for constructive engagement between business leaders, policy makers, scientists, and other experts.
About the Association of Climate Change Officers
The Association of Climate Change Officers is a 501(c)(6) non-profit membership organization for executives and officials worldwide in industry, government, academia and the non-profit community. ACCO’s mission is to advance the knowledge and skills of those dedicated to developing and directing climate change strategies in the public and private sectors, and to establish a flexible and robust forum for collaboration between climate change officers. For more information about ACCO, please visit www.ACCOonline.org.