Marlo Lewis

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to release the proposed Clean Power Plan repeal rule on Tuesday, October 10. Someone leaked the proposal on Friday, October 6. To read it, click here.

On Thursday, July 20, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on President Trump’s nomination of Kirkland & Ellis attorney Jeffrey Bossert Clark to be Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).

To help inform public discussion of the nomination, I post below several pertinent documents. [click to continue…]

In a recent letter to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Troutman Sanders attorney Peter Glaser argues that “EPA far understated the effects of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) by exaggerating the amount of coal generation that will retire even without the rule.” Ironically, the smoking gun evidence is in the agency’s updated modeling, which now tallies with U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.

Here’s how the numbers break down.

In EPA’s “base case” for the CPP, the agency assumed that in 2016, almost 20 percent of coal capacity would disappear even if the rule were not adopted, reducing coal generation to 214 gigawatts (GW).

However, EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule Update, published October 26, estimates there will be 268 GW of coal generation in service through the end of 2016.

EPA’s new estimate for 2016 is now roughly in line with Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. EIA’s Electric Power Monthly shows 272 GW of coal capacity in service as of August 2016.

EPA estimates coal generation capacity under the Power Plan will decline to 174-183 GW by 2030 (Regulatory Impact Assessment, Table 3-12).

Bottom line: To comply with the CPP, U.S. coal generation will have to decline by about one third.

 

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals released a 320-page transcript of the marathon oral argument on EPA’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emission standards for existing fossil-fuel power plants, the agency’s so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP). 

To my knowledge, the transcript is not available on the Court’s Web site. To make the document more easily accessible to the public, I am pleased to post it on GlobalWarming.Org.

To read/download the oral argument, click on the highlighted text in the first paragraph above.  

Post image for Posting: Little-Known Documents Pertinent to Assessing the Legality of EPA’s Clean Energy Incentive Program

The public comment period for EPA’s proposed rule titled Clean Energy Incentive Program Design Details closes on September 2, 2016. I intend to submit comments on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and other free-market groups. We will argue that EPA has once again exceeded its statutory authority. The gist of the argument is available here and here.

Among other evidence, we will cite regulatory comments that no longer exist on agency Web sites. To ensure those sources have active links, I post several below. But first some background. [click to continue…]

Post image for Kyoto-Financed Cook Stoves Fail as Health/Climate “Intervention”

Researchers from Canada, the United States, and India measured the indoor air quality impacts of providing modern “clean cook stoves” to families in southern India. The Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) subsidizes the distribution of such devices.

The effectiveness (or lack thereof) of CDM-supported cook stoves to reduce indoor air pollution is a big deal. As the researchers explain:

Burning solid fuel (wood, dung, agricultural residues, and coal) in traditional stoves for cooking and heating negatively affects the health and welfare of nearly 3 billion people, mostly in low and middle-income countries. Household air pollution (HAP) emitted from solid fuel combustion contributed to an estimated 2.9 million premature deaths and 81.1 million disability adjusted life-years in 2013.

The researchers examined indoor air pollution concentrations and fuel use in 187 households in a village in Karnataka, India. About half the households received “clean” stoves, and half–the control group–did not.

Clean Cook Stoves

 

 

 

The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, is paywall protected. The online journal Phys.Org accurately summarizes the results: “Actual indoor concentrations measured in the field were only moderately lower for the new stoves than for traditional stoves.”

Part of the reason was that “40 percent of families who used a more efficient wood stove as part of the intervention also elected to continue using traditional stoves, which they preferred for making staple dishes such as roti bread. That duplication erased many of the hoped-for efficiency and pollution improvements.” Those households “stacked” new and old stoves instead of replacing the old with the new. See the image at the top right corner of the page.

The climate benefit of the CDM-financed “intervention” was also nil. As Phys.Org reports:

Laboratory studies suggested that the more efficient, cleaner-burning stoves could reduce a family’s fuelwood consumption by up to 67 percent, thereby reducing household air pollution and deforestation. In practice, there was no statistically significant difference in fuel consumption between families who used the new stoves and families who continued to cook over open fires or traditional stoves.

Moreover, the “clean” cook stoves actually “increased the proportion” of household emissions composed of black carbon, a strong warming agent that darkens and melts Arctic ice.

black-carbon-ice-melt-c

 

 

 

 

 

[click to continue…]

Post image for CEQ Finalizes NEPA Guidance for Greenhouse Gases: Will Pointless Keystone XL Controversy Become ‘New Normal’?

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) today released its final guidance on how federal agencies should consider climate change effects in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews of their proposed actions.

NEPA is the landmark 1969 statute requiring federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of “any major project—federal, state, or local—that involves federal funding, work performed by the federal government, or permits issued by a federal agency.”

This being the Age of Global Warming, when all things are to be measured by their carbon footprints and all policies judged by their conformity to the climate agenda, the Obama administration’s push to elevate climate concerns in NEPA reviews was a foregone conclusion.

CEQ’s fact sheet claims the final guidance “provides a level of predictability and certainty by outlining how Federal agencies can describe these impacts by quantifying greenhouse gas emissions when conducting NEPA reviews.” On the contrary, the NEPA process already empowers NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) and anti-energy activists to delay and block development projects with immense economic benefits and immeasurably small, hypothetical climate effects. The guidance will increase the role of climate politics, with all their irrationality and rancor, in NEPA reviews. [click to continue…]

Post image for EPA’s PM2.5 Co-Benefits PR Trick Exposed

Summary

  • If we consider just the hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) targeted by EPA’s Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, costs exceed quantifiable benefits by 1,600 times to 2,400 times–a potential PR disaster for the agency.
  • To sell the rule to Congress and the public, EPA touted the “co-benefits” of the rule’s coincidental reductions in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution.
  • In fact, EPA attributes more than 99 percent of the rule’s monetized health benefits to collateral reductions in PM2.5-related emissions.
  • But about 99 percent of those co-benefits occur in areas projected to be in attainment with the National Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for PM2.5.
  • To calculate the MATS rule’s PM2.5-related health benefits, EPA ascribes equal value to PM2.5 reductions in areas below and above the NAAQS.
  • That is inconsistent with the basic concept of the NAAQS program, which is to set concentration standards at a level “requisite to protect public health . . . allowing an adequate margin of safety.”
  • Once we factor in the lower probability of PM2.5 health effects in areas where exposures are already below the NAAQS, the value of the MATS rule’s co-benefits falls nearly to zero.
  • The lion’s share of EPA-estimated Clean Power Plan health benefits also disappears.
  • Unless EPA makes its impact assessments consistent with its NAAQS determinations, the agency’s benefit estimates will become increasingly overstated and less credible over time.

MATS Back in the News

EPA’s 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, which established maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards for mercury and other hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from power plants, is again in the news. The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition by Michigan and 26 other states to freeze the rule.

Petitioners complained that EPA continued to implement MATS even though the Court last year deemed the rule to be unlawful. The Court held that EPA “strayed well beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation in concluding that cost is not a factor relevant to the appropriateness of regulating [HAP emissions from] power plants.”

Although EPA did not compare costs and benefits when deciding whether to regulate power plant HAP emissions, it did compare costs and benefits when promoting the rule to Congress and the public. EPA boasted that although MATS would cost utilities $9.6 billion to implement in 2016, it would generate $37 billion to $90 billion in health benefits in the same year (77 FR 9306).

However, EPA attributed more than 99 percent of the quantified benefits to coincidental reductions in fine particulate matter (PM2.5)–a pollutant not directly targeted by the rule and not classified as a HAP in the Clean Air Act. Specifically, EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (p. 5-93) claimed that reductions in PM2.5-related emissions would avert 4,200 to 11,000 premature deaths in 2016–annual “co-benefits” valued by the agency at $36 billion to $89 billion.

A study by economist Anne Smith of NERA Economic Consulting finds that even if we accept the epidemiological literature supporting an association between mortality and PM2.5 at today’s historically-low levels (skepticism is justified), the MATS rule’s co-benefit estimates are flimflam. [click to continue…]

Post image for More Good News on Climate

Worse than we thought? Not lately. Consider some recent studies and data on hurricanes, rainfall trends, climate sensitivity, Atlantic Ocean circulation, and Antarctic temperature trends.

Major Hurricane Drought Continues

Not since Hurricane Wilma struck the Florida near Everglades City in October 2005 has a major (category 3 and larger) hurricane made landfall in the United States.

Hall and Hereid (2015), a study published last year in Geophysical Research Letters, reported that the nine-year “drought” in major U.S. hurricane landfalls from 2006 to the end of the 2014 hurricane season was “unprecedented” in the historical record, which extends back to 1851. The two scientists estimated that nine-year periods with no major U.S. hurricane strikes happen, on average, only once every 177 years.

There were also no major U.S. hurricane landfalls in 2015, extending the drought to a full ten years. “According to NASA, a stretch like this is only likely to happen once in 270 years,” CNN reports.

To be sure, our string of good luck is bound to run out eventually. The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season officially opens today, and NOAA says 1 to 4 major hurricanes are possible this year. Nonetheless, a 10-year hiatus in major U.S. hurricane landfalls with a probability of once every 270 years was not what Al Gore told us to expect in An Inconvenient Truth.

No Large Change in Rainfall during Past 150 Years

The most comprehensive study of global rainfall trends ever, based on 1000 weather stations in 114 countries, with each station having at least 100 years of observations, finds that “most trends over a century or longer are consistent with little precipitation change.”

Contrary to popular climate fears, over periods of a century or longer, dry areas are not becoming drier, wet areas are not becoming wetter, and deserts/jungles are not expanding or shrinking due to changes in precipitation patterns. The study, published in the Journal of Hydrology, concludes that “some caution is warranted about claiming that large changes in global precipitation have occurred during the last 150 years.” [click to continue…]

Post image for House Panel Asks McCarthy: How Is EPA’s Continuing Implementation of the Clean Power Plan Legal under the Stay?

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Penn.) today sent an oversight letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy questioning the legality of EPA’s ongoing implementation of the so-called Clean Power Plan despite the Supreme Court’s stay of the rule.

The congressmen note that the Court’s order “expressly and categorically stays the promulgated rule” and was intended to “save states and other stakeholders from taking actions, expending resources and incurring costs in response to a rule that may not be legal.” Yet in the ensuing weeks and months, “EPA has been taking steps to circumvent the Court’s stay and potentially undermine the relief provided by the stay in the first place.”

For example, on April 27, EPA sent a detailed proposal for the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP), a component of the Power Plan, to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review. “This new rulemaking proposal arises directly from the Clean Power Plan and, but for this rule, the new proposal would have no basis.”

“In addition,” the congressmen write, “the agency has confirmed it is moving forward with its proposed ‘Model Trading Rules’ and other regulatory guidance for implementing the Clean Power Plan. These rules and guidance similarly have no basis independent of the Clean Power Plan. To the extent EPA proceeds with any such actions to implement the stayed rule, it deprives states and other stakeholders the benefits of the stay by compelling participation in regulatory processes that inappropriately assume the validity of a rule that may ultimately be struck down.”*

Of particular concern, “EPA officials have also stated that certain compliance deadlines in the Clean Power Plan may not be tolled [delayed] should the stay be lifted—the thrust of which is that states and other stakeholders would be prudent to begin voluntarily preparing now for rule implementation in case its legality is upheld. This ‘take action or else’ messaging underscores indications that EPA, despite the stay, is seeking to coerce additional action to lock in compliance with the mandates of its rule—even if the rule is found to be unlawful.” [click to continue…]