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Weekly Climate Change Policy Update - October 18, 2010Print PDF
October 18, 2010
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Top House Republicans wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting information on the costs of planned environmental regulations. Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Michael Burgess (R-TX) identified 69 issued or to-be-issued regulations for which they claim total compliance costs will run in the billions . . . The California Air Resources Board staff will release its draft regulations for implementing A.B. 32 on October 29 . . . The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sounded an alarm about the EPA’s mandatory greenhouse gas emission reporting program. The FTC is concerned that making certain data from the program available to the public could facilitate collusion and other anti-competitive behaviors . . . Three think tanks—the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Breakthrough Institute—released a report calling on the U.S. government to invest $25 billion/year in clean energy technology research; they suggest a $5 carbon tax to support the funding . . . Member states in the European Union are on track for compliance with their Kyoto Protocol targets.
- Interagency Task Force Releases Recommendations on Federal Adaptation Efforts. The Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force released a final report to the President outlining recommended Federal actions to prepare the United States to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Arguing that “mitigation [of greenhouse gases] alone is not enough” and that some degree of future climate change is “inevitable,” the report says that adaptation efforts “should focus on helping the most vulnerable people and places reduce their exposure and sensitivity to climate change and improve their capacity to predict, prepare for, and avoid adverse impacts.” The report provides five recommended Federal policy goals, including: encouraging and mainstreaming adaptation planning within all Federal agencies; prioritizing scientific research into adaptation and integrating that research into policymaking; improving water efficiency and public health systems in local communities; supporting international adaptation efforts; and coordinating adaptation efforts among Federal agencies. The Task Force was co-chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/adaptation.
- FTC: Full Disclosure of Emissions-Related Information Could Harm Competition. In comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) July 7, 2010 proposal to require public disclosure of facility operational information submitted to EPA under the mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting rule, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) argued that such disclosure could facilitate illegal collusion and price-fixing among competing firms. The FTC expressed particular concern about the proposed disclosure of inputs to emission equations, physical characteristics of industrial units and processes, and operating characteristics of units and processes. FTC noted that many of the economic sectors covered by the reporting rule feature high industry concentration, high barriers to entry, and demand that is relatively insensitive to price changes – all characteristics that enhance the risk of anti-competitive behavior. FTC recommended that the data of greatest concern be treated as Confidential Business Information (CBI) and withheld from public disclosure. The comments are available at http://www.ftc.gov/os/2010/09/100930epagreenhouse.pdf.
- Jackson Expresses Hope for U.S.-China Climate Cooperation. During a visit to China to sign a new memorandum of understanding on environmental cooperation, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson expressed hope that China and the United States would make “continued progress” on climate change issues despite recent friction in international negotiations leading up to this December’s summit in Cancún, Mexico. Jackson also said that she communicated to her Chinese counterparts that the United States “is already started on reducing carbon emissions” through a Federal reporting program for GHG emissions and impending regulation of stationary source GHG emissions.
- State Department Climate Envoy Comments on Status of International Negotiations. U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern delivered an address at University of Michigan Law School commenting on international climate change negotiations. Stern claimed that the Chinese government is retreating from the commitments it made in the Copenhagen Accord, and moving toward a position that developing countries should not be expected to commit to legally binding emission reductions as part of a new climate change treaty. Stern also advocated for a “new paradigm for climate diplomacy” in which all major emitters, including emerging markets, would commit to concrete emission mitigation measures.
- House Republicans Ask EPA for Costs of Clean Air Act Regs. Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX) and Michael Burgess (R-TX) wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson citing 69 regulations issued or to be issued under the Clean Air Act—including those related to GHG emissions—which the letter states “could impose billions of dollars of additional new costs annually on U.S. businesses as the new rules are implemented.” The letter asks that Administrator Jackson attest to the accuracy of compliance cost estimates attached to the letter and provide a list of any other pending Clean Air Act regulations that EPA estimates will impose annual compliance costs of at least $100 million.
- WV Senate Candidate Targets Cap-and-Trade Bill. A campaign commercial featuring West Virginia Governor and Democratic Senate candidate Joe Manchin shows him loading a gun and shooting a hole through a “cap-and-trade” bill, saying “I’ll take dead aim at the cap-and-trade bill, because it’s bad for West Virginia.”
- Pelosi Promises Climate Fight Will Continue. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) described climate change mitigation legislative efforts as “a fight that will continue.” She also noted that “the reality was that as long as we stick with the 60-vote issue in the Senate, it is going to be hard to do,” and observed that “the glaciers are melting faster than the Senate seems to be able to act.”
States and Cities
- CARB on Track to Release Draft Cap-and-Trade Rules in Late October. According to California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chairwoman Mary Nichols, the state air regulatory agency will release its proposed rules for a cap-and-trade program on October 29. The proposed rules will be open for public comment for 45 days prior to going before the 11-member board for final approval. Although few details of the proposed rules have been released as yet, Chairwoman Nichols noted that in recognition of the state’s weak economy CARB has decided to adopt a “slow start” approach that would rely on free allocation, rather than auction, to distribute emission allowances to regulated entities in the early years of the program.
Industry and NGOs
- Think Tanks Outline “Post-Partisan” Path Forward on Climate Change Policy. In a new report entitled “Post-Partisan Power,” three think tanks – the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Breakthrough Institute – proposed a suite of clean energy policies designed to attract wider bipartisan support than currently exists for a mandatory cap on GHGs. The report recommends that the Federal government invest approximately $25 billion per year in clean energy research programs. Among the programs that would benefit under the proposal are the Department of Energy Office of Science, the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy; Defense Department procurement of clean energy technologies; and regional energy “innovation hubs.” To pay for these investments, the report recommends reforming Federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industries and imposing a “very small” carbon price of around $5 per ton of CO2-equivalent. The report is available at http://thebreakthrough.org/blog/2010/10/postpartisan_power.shtml.
- Businesses Push EU to Strengthen GHG Cap. Twenty-nine major companies including Google, Johnson Controls, and Swiss Re signed a statement calling on the European Union (EU) to change the GHG emission target for its Emission Trading System (ETS) to 30% below 2005 levels by 2020. The statement was sponsored by The Climate Group, a London-based organization that leads a coalition of non-governmental organizations and businesses. Currently, the ETS is designed to achieve a 20% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020. The statement argues that the deeper emission cuts are necessary to ensure that the EU maintains a global leadership position in developing new industries and generating employment in the clean energy sector. In addition, the statement claims that more aggressive climate policies will help the EU cope with the anticipated peaking of world oil production and expected increases in petroleum prices. The statement is available at http://www.theclimategroup.org/_assets/files/Business-Declaration-on-Increasing-Europes-Climate-Ambition_1.pdf.
Studies and Reports
- Report Finds Large Uncertainty in Estimating Corn Ethanol Indirect Emissions. Research published in Environmental Science & Technology modeled the emissions from indirect land-use change (ILUC) that can be attributed to the expansion of corn ethanol production in the United States. Applying subjective probability distributions to uncertain parameters, the researchers found that the 95% confidence interval ranged from 21 to 142 g CO2e per MJ, or from negligible to several times the lifecycle emissions of gasoline. The authors noted that the lack of data and difficulty of modeling the complex global interactions that determine land use change prevent agreement on a value for ILUC emissions associated with ethanol production, and predicted that this uncertainty is unlikely to diminish in the near future. The article is available at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es101946t#afn1.
- Study Finds Potential to Replace 80% of Imported Gasoline with Ethanol. Research funded by the Department of Energy published in Environmental Science & Technology found that utilization of three technologies (leaf protein concentrates, pretreated forages, and double cropping) and altered agricultural practices could produce feed for livestock and generate 400 gigaliters of ethanol each year, an amount equal to 80 percent of U.S. gasoline derived from imported oil. According to the study, use of these techniques would not decrease domestic food production or agricultural exports (reducing the risk of generating international land use change emissions) and would reduce annual U.S. GHG emissions by 10 percent. The study is available at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es101864b.
- Nicholas Institute Report Sees Potential for Efficient Clean Air Act GHG Regulation. The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University released a report describing the benefits of implementing GHG control efforts under section 111 of the Clean Air Act. The report argues that section 111 will allow EPA to use market-based mechanisms, tailor the program as it applies to different sources of emissions, and build upon many of the key compromises reached during recent congressional negotiations on climate legislation. The report is available at http://nicholasinstitute.duke.edu/climate/policydesign/avoiding-the-glorious-mess.
- EU on Pace to Meet Kyoto Targets. In its annual report to the European Parliament and European Council on GHG emissions in the European Union (EU), the European Commission declared that the EU is on pace to meet its GHG emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Titled “Progress Towards Achieving the Kyoto Objectives,” the report found that EU emissions for 2009 were 12.9 percent below 1990 levels, well below the EU’s Kyoto target of an 8 percent reduction from the same levels. The report is available at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/pdf/gge/report_2010_en.pdf.
- UN Aviation Agency Adopts Non-Binding Fuel Efficiency Goals and Future GHG Caps. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has adopted a nonbinding resolution that puts the international aviation industry on course to increase fuel efficiency two percent annually and impose GHG emissions caps beginning in 2020. The move is significant in that it allows the EU to move forward with plans to incorporate the aviation industry into its Emission Trading Scheme in 2012. The ICAO is a specialized United Nations agency charged with developing standards and best practices for the international air transportation agency.
- IPCC Commits to Procedural Reforms. At its 32nd Plenary Session, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) adopted a number of procedural reforms intended to improve IPCC governance and prevent errors in the IPCC’s periodic assessment reports on climate change science. Based on the recommendations of an independent review by the InterAcademy Council, the IPCC committed to: provide additional guidance on scientific uncertainty; develop a process for addressing errors and information from non-peer-reviewed studies; and establish a task force to consider additional reforms. The new processes and procedures will be implemented for the Fifth Assessment Report, which is scheduled to be released in 2014.