U.S. States & Regions
States and regions across the country are adopting climate policies, including the development of regional greenhouse gas reduction markets, the creation of state and local climate action and adaptation plans, and increasing renewable energy generation. Read More
February 15, 2011
By Eileen Claussen
This op-ed first appeared in Politico
A vocal contingent in the House is now attacking the current Environmental Protection Agency administrator for the very thing her predecessor in the Bush administration wanted to do.
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson wrote a letter to President George W. Bush laying out the legal and scientific rationale for regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Johnson explained steps that the EPA would take to begin to do so.
Johnson’s letter surfaced last week at the House Energy and Power subcommittee hearing on proposed legislation to strip EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Remarkably, it proved that Bush’s EPA administrator had reached the same conclusions and planned almost identical actions to what the current EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, has begun implementing.
What exactly does Johnson tell Bush? He insists that the EPA must respond to the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA with a finding that greenhouse gases represent a risk to public health or welfare. This is EPA’s “endangerment finding,” which would be overturned by legislation now being proposed in the House.
Johnson also noted, “the latest climate change science does not permit a negative finding, nor does it permit a credible finding that we need to wait for more research.”
What is most telling is that Johnson states that a positive endangerment finding was “agreed to at the Cabinet-level meeting.” Apparently senior Bush administration officials agreed that climate change poses a risk to our nation’s public health and welfare.
Johnson describes his plan as “prudent and cautious yet forward thinking,” and says it “creates a framework for responsible, cost-effective and practical actions.” Sound familiar?
Jackson, in her statement at the hearing last week, called EPA’s actions a “reasonable approach,” one that “will reflect careful consideration of costs and will incorporate compliance flexibility.”
Indeed, the step-by-step plan of action spelled out by Johnson could be a checklist for the EPA’s recent actions — largely the same actions being aggressively attacked today by some in Congress.
These actions include the endangerment finding; a joint rule-making with the Transportation Department to require more fuel-efficient cars; rules to modify the agency’s requirements for new sources to reduce the number of facilities that would be covered (EPA’s tailoring rule), and proposals to respond to specific petitions (EPA has acted on ones for the utility and oil refinery sectors).
Given these striking similarities, attacks on current EPA actions — that the agency is “an instrument of job destruction” and would “put the American economy in a straitjacket” — now resonate as particularly empty political rhetoric.
How could the right thing to do in the Bush administration suddenly become the wrong thing to do in the Obama administration?
Eileen Claussen served as assistant secretary of state for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She is now president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
These white papers are a follow up to the report Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation
On February 24 and 25, 2011, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the Georgetown Climate Center hosted a workshop on how state and federal governments can work together to chart a new path forward in climate and energy policy. A series of panels and keynote speakers addressed a wide range of issues, including the outlook for federal regulatory and legislative action, and updates on state and regional climate initiatives, state and federal adaptation efforts, and opportunities in the emerging clean energy economy.
Full-length videos of the speakers and presentations are currently available here.
Click here to watch panel highlights from our State-Federal Workshop
The following materials were made available during the workshop:
- Climate Change 101: Understanding and Responding to Global Climate Change, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
- Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
- Politico Opinion: Barack Obama's EPA hit for what George W. Bush's EPA wanted, Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
- Adapting to Climate Change: A Call for Federal Leadership, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
- Climate Change Adaptation: What Federal Agencies are Doing, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Speaker and panelist presentations can be viewed by clicking on the presenter's name below.
Thursday, February 24
Welcome: Dean William Treanor, Georgetown Law
Opening Address: Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Panel 1: State of Play at EPA and the States
Moderator: Kate Zyla, Director of Research and Policy Analysis, Georgetown Climate Center
- Jared Snyder, Assistant Commissioner, Air Resources, Climate Change and Energy, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
- Doug Scott, Director, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
- Janet McCabe, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air and Radiation
- Janice Adair, Special Assistant to the Director, Washington Department of Ecology
Panel 2: Federal Outlook
Moderator: Manik Roy, Vice President of Federal Government Outreach, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
- Maryam Brown,Chief Counsel, Republican Staff to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power
- McKie Campbell, Republican Staff Director, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
- Bob Simon, Democratic Staff Director, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
- Alexandra Teitz, Senior Environmental Counsel, Democratic Staff to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Keynote Speaker: Bob Perciasepe, Deputy Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Watch Bob Perciasepe's full speech on E&E TV
Panel 3: Opportunities in the Emerging Clean Energy Economy
Moderator: Rep. Jules Bailey, OR
- Mark Doms, Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Commerce
- Cathy Tripodi, Director, Energy, Indiana Economic Development Corporation
- David Littell, Commissioner, Maine Public Utilities Commission
Panel 4: Adaptation
Moderator: Vicki Arroyo, Executive Director, Georgetown Climate Center
- Jessica Grannis, Adaptation Attorney, Harrison Institute, Georgetown Law
- Zoë Johnson, Program Manager, Climate Change Policy, Office for a Sustainable Future, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
- Cathleen Kelly, Deputy Associate Director for Climate Change Adaptation, White House Council on Environmental Quality
- Missy Stults, Adaptation Manager, ICLEI
Keynote Speaker: Peter Shumlin, Governor, State of Vermont
Friday, February 25
Keynote Speaker: Roy Kienitz, Under Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation
Panel 5: Transportation and Land Use
Moderator: Professor Peter Byrne, Georgetown Law
- James S. Simpson, Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Transportation
- Teri Newell, Director, Mountain View Corridor Project, Utah Department of Transportation
- Garth Hopkins, Chief, Office of Regional and Interagency Planning, Division of Transportation Planning, California Department of Transportation
- Steven Plotkin, Transportation Energy and Environmental Systems Analyst, Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory
David Crane, President and CEO, NRG Energy, Inc.
Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Panel 6: Electricity: Transmission and Electric Vehicles
Moderator: Judi Greenwald, Vice President of Innovative Solutions, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
- John Norris, Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
- Jason Bordoff, Associate Director for Climate Change, White House Council on Environmental Quality
- James Ellis, Senior Manager for Transportation and Infrastructure, Tennessee Valley Authority
- David Boyd, Chair, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
Keynote speaker: Robert Inglis, Former U.S. Representative (R-SC)
Closing: Judi Greenwald, Vice President of Innovative Solutions, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
January 25, 2011
President Obama understands that capitalizing on today’s clean energy opportunities will propel American job growth and help ensure that the United States has the most competitive and innovative economy in the world. Providing the regulatory certainty businesses need for industries to invest in clean energy to drive economic growth should be a key Administration priority over the next two years.
We are at a critical crossroads. We know that America’s can-do, entrepreneurial spirit is well-suited to take advantage of the enormous opportunities in the growing global clean energy markets. And advancing climate and clean energy solutions requires the combined forces of business innovation, government leadership, and informed consumer action. For our economy and environment, now is the time to work together to advance sensible solutions for a cleaner, prosperous, more secure future.
Pew Center Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, (703) 516-4146
Climate change is happening and it is caused largely by human activity. Its impacts are beginning to be felt and will worsen in the decades ahead unless we take action. The solution to climate change will involve a broad array of technologies and policies—many tried and true, and many new and innovative.
This overview summarizes the eight-part series Climate Change 101: Understanding and Responding to Global Climate Change.
Science and Impacts discusses the scientific evidence for climate change and explains its causes and current and projected impacts.
Adaptation discusses these impacts in greater depth, explaining how planning can limit (though not eliminate) the damage caused by unavoidable climate change, as well as the long-term costs of responding to climate-related impacts.
As explored in greater depth in Technological Solutions, a number of technological options exist to avert dangerous climatic change by dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions both now and into the future.
Business Solutions, International Action, Federal Action, State Action, and Local Action describe how business and government leaders at all levels have recognized both the challenge and the vast opportunity dealing with climate change presents. These leaders are responding with a broad spectrum of innovative solutions. To address the enormous challenge of climate change successfully, new approaches are needed at the federal and international levels, and the United States must stay engaged in the global effort while adopting strong and effective national policies.
For more information, be sure to listen to our Climate Change 101 podcast series
For years, U.S. states and regions have been taking action to address climate change in the absence of federal legislation. A wide range of policies have been adopted at the state and regional levels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, develop clean energy resources, and promote more energy-efficient vehicles, buildings, and appliances, among other things. Although climate change will ultimately require a national and international response, the actions taken by states and regions will continue to play an important role by developing and testing innovative solutions, demonstrating successful programs, and laying the groundwork for broader action.
Across the United States, cities, towns, and counties are enacting policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many local governments are motivated by concerns about the impacts of climate change in their communities as well as an understanding that energy and climate solutions can benefit local economies and residents. Their actions reflect a strong history of local leadership in climate protection in the United States. While local governments face a number of limitations in addressing climate change, they can be a key part of the solution. Like states and regions, local governments can demonstrate leadership by implementing strategies to confront climate change and laying the groundwork for broader action at the national and international levels.
With EPA’s recent announcement of timelines for additional regulation of greenhouse gases (utility and refinery sectors) and the arrival in town this week of the new Congress, the shouting about EPA’s regulatory actions has already begun. Many of these claims are clearly political posturing – the facts are that schools, churches, and libraries will NOT be subject to regulations, there will NOT be a moratorium on all new industrial facilities for at least 18 months, and new coal plants will NOT be banned. But it is also true that regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) has the potential to substantially impact our economy and is critical to reducing the risks and costs associated with climate change. The critical challenge facing EPA is how to properly balance the costs of reducing GHG emissions against the benefits of limiting climate change. How EPA balances these interests demands a serious discussion. In an effort to lower the volume and better inform future discussions about EPA’s use of its regulatory authority, the following are key factors that should be considered.
1. EPA is not overreaching by regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act but is doing so in direct response to the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling in Mass. v. EPA.
Some have incorrectly claimed that EPA has overstepped its authority in regulating greenhouse gases and is attempting to regulate GHGs even though Congress failed to pass climate legislation last year. In fact, it is the Supreme Court in 2007 that clarified that EPA had the authority to regulate GHGs under the existing Clean Air Act. EPA had denied a petition by some states and environmental groups calling on it to begin regulating GHGs under the existing Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court rejected EPA’s claim that the Clean Air Act does not apply to GHGs and held that these emissions meet the definition of an “air pollutant” under the Act. The court held that “under the Act’s clear terms, EPA can avoid promulgating regulations only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change or if it provides some reasonable explanation as to why it cannot or will not exercise its discretion to determine whether they do.” Based on its extensive review of the scientific evidence in its endangerment finding, EPA reached the only conclusion that the evidence supported – that GHG emissions cause or contribute to air pollution, which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare and, therefore, are subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.
2. EPA’s regulations will not require unproven technologies, impose excessive costs at a time when our economy is hurting, or harm small and previously unregulated sources.
There are legitimate concerns that the Clean Air Act was not developed specifically with GHGs in mind and these emissions are different in fundamental ways from traditional hazardous and criteria pollutants covered by the Act. As a result, EPA has gone to great lengths to “tailor” its regulations -- for example, with respect to new source permitting -- in such a way that only the largest sources of GHGs are covered. This tailoring rule has been challenged in courts (along with all other GHG regulations). If it is overturned, Congressional intervention would likely be necessary. But the Clean Air Act includes many provisions that minimize compliance costs, and many of its fundamental requirements apply equally well to regulating GHGs. For example, the Act requires that technological feasibility and costs be considered in setting emission performance standards and allows for different requirements for new and existing sources. In its guidance to states on what constitutes “best available control technology,” EPA has focused on energy efficiency technologies as a means to achieve both reductions in GHG emissions and cost savings to firms. The agency has also made it clear that the use of coal as a fuel can be continued under its guidelines. While EPA regulations will impose some costs on firms, based on guidance to date, those costs are likely to be modest and will result in far greater benefits than costs to society.
3. Delaying any EPA regulatory actions would be bad for business and bad for the climate.
Delaying regulations by EPA will allow some firms to avoid compliance costs in the near term but will increase overall costs over the longer term. For firms in states already facing GHG requirements (e.g., utilities in 10 northeast and mid-Atlantic states, large emitters in California), any delay in EPA regulations are not likely to alter the requirements they face. For firms in other locations that are planning facilities with long lifetimes, some are likely to install the same technology that would be required by EPA in an effort to avoid more expensive retrofits in the near future. These firms would prefer the certainty of knowing what regulatory requirements they must meet prior to making large capital investments. Finally, delay in reducing GHG emissions will result in greater economic harm throughout our society as families and communities face the costs associated with increases in extreme weather (droughts and floods), impacts from sea level rise, limits on the availability of water resources, and other climate impacts.
4. EPA’s regulatory actions are not a form of backdoor cap and trade or an energy tax.
Congress rejected a comprehensive cap-and-trade approach to regulating GHG in its last session. EPA’s approach does not rely on a cap-and-trade regime and is far from comprehensive. EPA’s regulations focused first on the transportation sector with the issuance of widely supported standards for light-duty vehicles and proposed standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles. On the stationary source side, EPA first targeted the largest new sources and major modifications of existing sources and recently announced plans to develop new source performance standards for the electric utility and refinery sectors. Such standards are the traditional approach used under the Clean Air Act and are generally implemented through state programs.The regulations are being developed on a timeframe consistent with Clean Air Act requirements covering other pollutants to allow covered sources the flexibility of developing compliance plans that cost-effectively meet a comprehensive set of requirements.
5. EPA is not attempting to meet the same reduction requirements that were rejected by the last Congress.
The House-passed climate change bill called for reductions in GHG emissions of 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020, increasing to reductions of over 80 percent by 2050. EPA’s use of the Clean Air Act is not likely to produce emission reductions of the magnitude or in the timeframe set forth in the legislation proposed last year.
6. Important questions do need to be addressed in moving forward.
EPA’s initial set of regulations represent an important beginning in addressing the risks associated with climate change but also raise important issues. In moving forward, several questions will need to be addressed:
* How will EPA’s regulation be implemented in a manner consistent with current and future state actions?
* Given market forces driving utilities toward increased use of natural gas, the regulatory uncertainty that currently exists, and the age and fuel mix of the current utility fleet, what is the likely future role of coal in this sector?
* As EPA moves forward in regulating stationary sources through the use of emission performance standards, how might it be able to provide flexibility to regulated sources to achieve cost-effective reductions?
* How might EPA regulatory actions specific to utilities interact with possible Congressional interest in a clean energy standard?
Steve Seidel is Vice President for Policy Analysis
On December 16, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted 9-1 to approve the state’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. The program is fundamental to Assembly Bill 32’s goal of reducing California emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The regulation will place a limit, or cap, on 85% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The number of emission allowances, or tradable rights to emit, will decrease annually. The program will start in 2012 and include all major industrial sources and utilities, and a second phase will start in 2015 and include distributors of transportation fuels, natural gas, and other fuels.
In November 2010, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game released its Climate Change Strategy, describing the potential impacts of climate change and outlining an approach to statewide adaptation. As part of the effort to prepare a comprehensive climate change strategy for Alaska, each state agency was asked to identify how a changing climate may affect its ability to meet its mission. The Department of Fish and Game’s Climate Change Strategy will be presented to Alaska’s Climate Change Sub-Cabinet, which was formed in 2007 to advise the governor on climate change strategy. The Department of Fish and Game’s Climate Change Strategy focuses on identifying both expected climate impacts and areas where research is needed to specify likely impacts.It highlights management principles, key strategies, and initial actions needed in order to appropriately address climate change.