News affecting the US energy and environmental areas happens. CCES will keep you up-to-date on important issues quarterly. We may not cover every issue and jurisdiction. Make sure you work with a qualified professional to determine how such news affects your business and career. But we hope this will help keep you up with changing US trends.
Reducing Methane Emissions
The Obama Administration is entering its final months, and there is concern that they have not properly tackled all options concerning reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in response to climate change. While the focus has been on reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, it is understood that methane (CH4) emissions (21 times more potent than CO2) must be reduced, as well. There is a debate on how to do this. Recent technological advances, such as fracking, has encouraged conversion of coal and oil plants to natural gas, effectively reducing CO2 emissions. However, increased usage of natural gas means greater leakage and emissions of CH4 such that GHG emissions are not being cut significantly in total. While the Republican candidates for President have not discussed the issue, different factions of the Democratic Party have different strategies, ranging from a total ban on fracking to supporting fracking under certain conditions, such as minimizing water and CH4 leakage. The platform of the Democratic Party deals with this in compromise form, requesting minimizing CH4 leakage, requiring companies to publicly list the chemicals used in fracking, and banning fracking in communities or states that oppose it.
The Obama administration has pledged to reduce CH4 emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45% below 2012 levels by 2025, and has begun to draft standards for CH4 emissions through the Clean Air Act, although they will likely not become law until the next administration.
US Court of Appeals Delays Hearings on Clean Power Plan
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit announced that it was delaying oral arguments concerning the Clean Power Plan until September 27 in front of the entire Circuit. The Clean Power Plan would establish federal standards for CO2 emissions from existing power plants. The timing is such that a decision by the full Circuit would probably be made after this November’s elections. Who becomes the new President may itself alter the landscape and breadth of the Clean Power Plan. The losing party to a Court of Appeals decision after Election Day would likely appeal it to the US Supreme Court which could hear arguments and rule by June 2017.
The Obama Administration and the USEPA believe they have the statutory authority to amend the Clean Air Act to include such regulations. Arguments against the Clean Power Plan include whether the USEPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act to set CO2 emission standards that rely on emissions beyond a facility’s control (if other facilities combust high-GHG emitting fuels or use renewables). The Clean Air Act allows the USEPA to only regulate activities at the actual power plant to reduce emissions (e.g., efficiency improvements). The USEPA responded by stating that the Clean Air Act allows it to take “generation-shifting” measures to determine emission reduction targets.
Obama Administration’s Initiative for Solar for Low, Moderate Income Housing
The federal government announced in mid-July the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative, aiming to increase the use of alternative energy by 10-fold in low and moderate income housing. See https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/07/19/fact-sheet-obama-administration-announces-clean-energy-savings-all.
The program aims to increase solar use by about 1 GW by 2020, covering about 1 million additional low and moderate income homes.
Key elements of the Initiative:
• New guidance to use Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing;
• A “Community Solar Challenge” to award teams in many communities up to $100,000 in cash or technical assistance, to develop innovative models to increase solar installations and reduce low income communities’ electric bills;
• DOE will provide technical assistance to qualified low income housing groups;
• Solar-related job training for low- and moderate-income people; and
• Over 120 housing authorities, rural electric co-ops, power companies, and others in over 36 states have committed to investing $287 million for over 280 MW of solar energy projects in low- and moderate- income communities.
New NPDES Standards for Discharges from Construction
The USEPA is expected to shortly update its NPDES General Permit for Discharges from Construction Activities (GCP) to go into effect next year. The proposed updates to the GCP are intended to clarify current permit language and contain new requirements that non-stormwater discharges from external building washdown not contain hazardous materials such as PCBs, revise current effluent limits, require cover or other appropriate temporary stabilization for all stock or debris piles unused for 14 or more days, require waste containers to be closed or covered when not in use, and impose requirements on the demolition of structures exceeding 10,000 sq. ft. of floor space, which were built before 1980, to limit PCB-containing building materials entering stormwater.
We hope that this information is useful to you and your firm. Please speak to professionals in the appropriate fields before implementing any strategy or addressing any regulation. CCES can provide the technical advice to help you comply with a new environmental or energy regulation and to help you prosper as you do so. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or by email at karell@CCESworld.com. And feel free to comment on these articles or suggest topics of interest.