Happy 4th of July week…. While it has been a crazy few weeks, the July 4th Congressional break can’t really get started until today’s SCOTUS decision on Mercury. Full response below, but feel free to connect with either Scott Segal (202-828-5845) or Jeff Holmstead (202-828-5852) as many of you already have.
It appears the EPA will also publish the Waters of the US rule (or now known as the Clean Water Rule) in the Federal Register today and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will hold an event today at the National Zoo to talk about the rule. My colleague Lowell Rothschild (512-739-2352) is a great contact on the subject and is always happy to discuss. He has also done a series of blogs on the topic at http://www.energylegalblog.com
And with John Kerry negotiating with the P5+1 in Vienna trying to get a nuclear deal for Iran, the illusory June 30th is tomorrow. That is not a hard deadline, but regardless we have some good information and resources on the topics that we can forward should you need it. Please let me know what you need.
Finally, on Saturday, despite his recent stage mishap and some cancelled tour dates, Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters will be headlining his Sonic Highways July 4th extravaganza is set to roll. The Foo Fighters are slated for a North American tour for most of July, beginning with Saturday’s RFK event. But Foo Fighters management has been silent about whether Grohl will be ready to rock. His doctors had put him on rest after the surgery, which included Grohl getting six metal pins in his repaired right leg. Bets are the show goes On with Grohl moving a little slower than normal. The July 4th event is a daylong, multi-act concert, motorcycle rally and barbecue, with fireworks to top it off. Acts slated to perform include Heart, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, LL Cool J featuring DJ Z-Trip, Buddy Guy, Gary Clark Jr., D.C.’s own Trouble Funk and Trombone Shorty, all acts that played a role in his documentary Sonic Highways.
Jeff and Scott are ready to discuss the SCOTUS ruling. Please don’t hesitate to call.
THE BIG NEWS
SCOTUS On MATS – The Supreme Court has dealt a significant blow to a major Obama administration rule that limits the amount of mercury and other hazardous pollutants from power plants, ruling 5-4 today that EPA erred while writing the rule. The rule has already pushed dozens of coal-fired power plants into retirement, and has been criticized by fossil fuel advocates as a key part of the administration’s “war on coal.” The administration had argued that it would bring billions of dollars in benefits for public health and the environment.
Segal on Ruling – Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a group of power plants working on reasonable Clean Air Act implementation, said the ruling is significant when assessing expected upcoming legal challenges on the Administration’s GHG rules.
“As you may have heard, the Supreme Court has now ruled on the MATS case, Michigan v. EPA/UARG v. EPA. The decision favored state and industry petitioners on a 5-4 decision. Here are some important take-aways:
- The Court found that EPA elected not to consider cost when deciding whether to regulate mercury and air toxic emissions from power plants. EPA had said such cost considerations were irrelevant. Failing to consider costs meant that EPA could not possibly determine if the rule was appropriate, or even rational. This failure far exceeded the flexibility EPA so frequently relies upon under the Chevron doctrine.
- As children, we learn that every day can’t be Christmas. EPA just learned that today. The Agency cannot continue to write rules without regard to their cost, simply because the Agency believes its cause is just. The fact is that Congress envisioned a more balanced approach under which economic and environmental endpoints both play a vital role. Blithe statements that EPA will take costs into consideration at some ill-defined future moment are insufficient, particularly when billions of dollars can be spent even as rules make their way through judicial review.
- Just a week ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would stay implementation of the proposed Clean Power Plan – the EPA’s carbon rule for power plants – until such time as final judicial review is complete. Today’s decision which reverses a rule after great amounts of resources have already been spent is morality tale that demonstrates that the approach taken by the House is sensible and pragmatic. When the Agency fails to consider the real world implications of its rules and stretches the limit of its legal authority, implementation should await final judicial review.
- Some have asked about the effect of the rule on the pending Clean Power Plan, the EPA power-plant carbon rule. Today the Supreme Court clearly had cautionary words for an agency that would proceed without due consideration of cost. The Court reminded the Agency of the unique position the power sector plays due to its current level of regulation and its importance to the economy as a whole. These considerations should serve as important warnings to consider cost and reliability in a thorough manner before it finalizes its carbon rules. Failure to do so will place legacy before legality.”
Dartmouth Study Shows Mercury Changes — Speaking of mercury, a Dartmouth-led study using a 600-year-old ice core shows that global mercury pollution increased dramatically during the 20thcentury, but that mercury concentrations in the atmosphere decreased faster than previously thought beginning in the late 1970s when emissions started to decline. The findings suggest that present-day efforts to cut mercury emissions will reduce pollution more quickly than current models predict. The study appears in the journalEnvironmental Science & Technology.
IN THE NEWS
Efficiency Study – Conventional wisdom suggests that energy efficiency (EE) policies are beneficial because they induce investments that pay for themselves and lead to emissions reductions. However, a new paper from researchers at the Becker Friedman Institute says the upfront investment costs are about twice the actual energy savings. Further, the model-projected savings are roughly 2.5 times the actual savings. While this might be attributed to the “rebound” effect – when demand for energy end uses increases as a result of greater efficiency – the paper fails to find evidence of significantly higher indoor temperatures at weatherized homes. Even when accounting for the broader societal benefits of energy efficiency investments, the costs still substantially outweigh the benefits; the average rate of return is approximately -9.5% annually. The results of an part of an experimental evaluation of the nation’s largest residential EE program conducted on a sample of more than 30,000 households by UC-Berkley researchers Meredith Fowlie and Catherine Wolfram and U of Chicago’s Michael Greenstone.
Groups Release Multistate GHG Resources – The Eastern Interconnection States Planning Council (EISPC) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) have released the final installment of the Multistate Coordination Resources for Clean Power Plan Compliance. Funded by the Department of Energy, this final package includes information not found in the May 2015 publication, such as a brief that examines the legislative role(s) that need to be considered in any potential interstate compliance collaborations in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The brief also includes sample legislative authorities and a checklist developed by the National Conference of State Legislatures. As states develop their compliance plans, they are proactively exploring a variety of options: single-state, multi-state, unit-based—in anticipation of the Clean Power Plan being finalized. Although NARUC’s member states have diverse opinions of the plan, there is ongoing, intense activity underway by states to better understand what these coordination efforts will entail if pursued as an option to successfully navigate the rules of compliance if the final plan goes forward. NARUC plans to convene a meeting this fall among State Commissions, consumer advocates, air agencies, and energy offices to see whether the multistate tools developed by EISPC, NARUC, the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, and others fit together, and how. A copy of the multistate package is available on NARUC’s website at http://bit.ly/1LAprBE.
BrightSource, NRG Respond to WSJ on Ivanpah Story – Both NRG and Brightsource responded to a recent Wall Street Journal story that questioned Ivanpah’s productions recently. BrightSource cited recent reports that production output has improved 170% over last year at this time. The NRG letter in the Journal said they have always assumed a four-year ramp rate to 100% plant capacity. They also added that the plant has “experienced operating days when the plant is meeting, and in some instances exceeding, projections for this stage of operations.”
ON THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEK
Stanford Forum to Look at Enviro Capital Issues – Next Tuesday, the Nature Conservancy and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, in cooperation with their Natural Capital Project partners, the World Wildlife Fund and the University of Minnesota, are holding a forum at RFF at 9:00 a.m. on Integrating natural capital into decisions. The event will feature leading academics and practitioners in the field of ecosystem services as well as experts from the public and non-profit sectors, addressing core sustainability challenges of the 21st century. Speakers and panelists will highlight the latest advances in the science and practice of using ecosystem services to inform decisions. The discussion will provide insights into how this information can best be used by government agencies, multilateral institutions, and the broader sustainable development community to structure and implement policies that are simultaneously sound from environmental and economic perspectives. A panel of leading experts, including authors from a recently published Special Feature of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on “Nature as Capital,” will discuss key components of bringing natural capital considerations into mainstream decision making on issues such as agriculture, energy, infrastructure, urban planning, finance and national security. Speakers will include former Bush Interior official Lynn Scarlett, USDA Research under secretary Ann Bartuska, WWF’s Tom Dillon, IADB’s Michele Lemay and Mary Ruckleshaus of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
MCOG to Hold EV Workshop – The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments will hold a Electric Vehicle Readiness Workshop tomorrow to present EV deployment strategies taking place in the region, as well as strategies for advancing public and private charging development. Panelists include – the Transportation and Climate Initiative, US Department of Energy, World Wildlife Fund, Pepco, BG&E, Dominion Power, and the local Clean Cities Coalitions. Participating governments include the District of Columbia, Prince George’s Co., Hyattsville, MD, Fairfax County, VA, and the Cities of Bowie and Baltimore. The lunch time presentation will address the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Eight State MOU and how the region could assist in advancing the ZEV Action Plan.
Cato Forum to Look at Free Markets, Energy – The Cato Institute will hold a forum on the case for free markets in energy next Tuesday in its Hayek Auditorium. Since the 1970s, however, more libertarian voices have been heard on these issues. IER founder and CEO Rob Bradley, who has been involved with free-market energy policy since its inception, will discuss the history of libertarian thinking on past energy policy and its relevance for current policy debates.
Forum to Look at Nat Gas Issues in Europe – The Institute of World Politics will hold a forum on Tuesday, June 30th at 1:00 p.m. featuring a a lecture on rival gas pipelines for Europe. The event will feature Vilen Khlgatyan, Vice Chairman, Political Developments Research Center. In recent years, the competition for supplying Europe with natural gas has heated up once again and has taken a more urgent course due to the conflict in Ukraine. Two pipeline routes are vying for dominance and are backed by different states with their own geopolitical considerations. In December 2014, it was announced that Russia’s Gazprom would re-route its proposed South Stream Pipeline to the Turkish-Greek border via the Black Sea and Turkey. Likewise, the U.S.-backed Nabucco pipeline was sidelined by the less ambitious and costly Trans-Anatolian Pipeline and Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which will see Azerbaijani gas and potentially Iranian and Turkmen gas cross Turkey to reach markets in Greece, the Balkans and Italy. Both pipelines have their advantages and disadvantages. This lecture will consider the economics and geopolitics of the rival pipelines and what’s at stake for the concerned parties. Khlgatyan is Vice-Chairman of Political Developments Research Center (PDRC), a think tank based in Yerevan, Armenia. He specializes in the geopolitics of energy, non-kinetic warfare, and the post-Soviet region with an emphasis on the Caucasus.
USEA Forum to Look at Modeling – The US Energy Association will hold a forum Tuesday, June 30th at 2:00 p.m. on MIT’s global models that are project energy and climate issues. Using a projection modeling system developed by MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, the Integrated Global System Model (IGSM), we provide an integrated assessment of how human activities, given our current development path, are interacting with complex Earth systems and ultimately affecting the natural resources on which we depend. In the first part of the presentation (lead by Dr, Erwan Monier), we introduce the IGSM, and describe the capabilities of the modeling system to simulate the uncertainty in the future climate response to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols. In the second part of the presentation (lead by Dr, Sergey Paltsev), we provide an integrated economic and climate projection of the 21st century–not a prediction, as the future will ultimately be determined by actions taken over the next decades that are intended to stabilize our relationship with the planet. We incorporate the emissions targets currently proposed by the international community to address the challenges of climate change.
Perry to Address National Press Club Luncheon – Rick Perry, the former three-term governor of Texas and a 2016 presidential candidate, will lay out an economic plan at a National Press Club luncheon on Thursday. The former U.S. Air Force pilot, who left office in January, will discuss how to fight “the cycle of hopelessness and lost opportunity that so many Americans feel trapped in. The son of tenant farmers in Paint Creek, Texas, Perry is one of several governors and former governors in the large Republican presidential field. His state has the 12th largest economy in the world by GDP and since 2000 has created almost one-third of all new private sector jobs in the United States. As governor, Perry dealt with the border crisis, an ebola outbreak and refugees from Hurricane Katrina.
EPA’s McCarthy, NBC’s Anne Thompson to Look at Pope’s Climate Approach – Georgetown University will hold a forum Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. on Pope Francis’ just-released encyclical on care for creation and climate change. The dialogue brings together a distinguished panel from government, media, academia, and business to discuss the encyclical, its moral framework, and its potential religious, ethical, and policy impacts. Speakers will include EPA’s Gina McCarthy and NBC’s Anne Thompson, among others.
CSM to Host McCarthy on Paris Talks – Recharge, the Christian Science Monitor’s energy section, will host EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for a talk on Tuesday July 7th at 9:30 p.m. looking at US energy and climate policy on the path to Paris negotiations. As diplomats across the globe prepare for December’s climate talks, the US is working to meet its own ambitious emissions targets. Administrator McCarthy will outline progress to-date on greenhouse gas reductions, and will discuss what challenges remain for the world’s second-largest emitter.
WCEE Forum to Look at Grid Design – The Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE) will hold a forum Tuesday, July 7th at Noon at Energetics looking at designing a successful transition to clean, renewable energy. Nicole Steele, Executive Director of GRID Alternatives’ Mid-Atlantic office will discuss the success stories of providing community-scale solar access at the local and regional scale, where there are often different rules, permitting and incentives. She will discuss how GRID works with community partners, volunteers and job trainees to implement solar power and energy efficiency for low-income families, and describe what works in which areas and why, including low income solar rebate programs, single-family versus multi-family and community solar models, homeowners versus renters, and innovative job training workforce development approaches involving schools or veteran communities.
House Committee to Look at DHS Climate Focus – The House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency will hold a hearing on Wednesday July 8th examining DHS’s focus on climate change.
House Resources to Look at Helium Issues – The House Resources Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday July 8th on recent legislation on the US Helium reserve.
House Energy Panel to Target Climate Issues – The House Energy panel at Energy & Commerce will hold a hearing on Wednesday July 8th looking at the GHG rule.
Congressional Renewable Energy Forum, Expo Set – The 18th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Technology EXPO and Policy Forum will be held on Thursday, July 9th in the Cannon House Office Building. The exhibits will be in Cannon Caucus Room (Cannon 345) while the Policy Forum will be in 334 Cannon. The event brings together close to 50 businesses, trade associations, and government agencies to showcase renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and is Co-Hosted by the House and Senate’s Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucuses, as well as the Sustainable Energy Coalition.
Company to Highlight Data Destruction Method – On July 9th on Capitol Hill, Phiston Technologies will be leading a discussion and technology demonstration of their High Security Data Storage Media Destruction machines. They will encourage people to bring old computer hard drives, solid state drives, cell phones, CDs/DVDs and ID cards and we will destroy them safely in seconds. The event will be in 210 Cannon.
Senate Energy to Look at Nuclear Issues – On August 4th the Senate Energy Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle and related legislation.
GenForum Set For Columbus – ICF International Natural Gas VP Leonard Crook will kick-off the one-day GenForum/POWER-GEN event August 18th on natural gas generation in Columbus, Ohio. Crook will offer an overview of the recent rise of natural gas-fueled power generation over the years at the expense of coal-fired power plants. GenForum is organized by PennWell’s GenerationHub. The event is scheduled at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. GenForum leads into PennWell’s POWER-GEN/Natural Gas conference, scheduled for Aug. 18-to-20 at the same convention center.