Demand-Side Energy Efficiency in the Final Clean Power Plan

Read the full post at the Climate Law Blog.

Yesterday, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the final version of the Clean Power Plan—the nation’s first ever federal regulatory standards to address carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing power plants. As noted by the President in a press conference on Monday afternoon, this is “the single most important step that America has ever taken in the fight against climate change.”

The final rule establishes interim and final CO2 emission performance rates for fossil fuel-fired power plants that will reduce CO2 emissions from these plants by 32% under 2005 levels by 2030. Although this final target is more ambitious than the proposed rule (which called for a 30% reduction by 2030), the rule also gives states and utilities additional time to submit plans and start making emissions reductions: initial state plans are due in September 2016, with an option to extend the deadline to 2018, and the compliance period for mandatory emissions reductions begins in 2022. During the compliance period, the performance rates will be gradually phased in to provide for a “glide path” of reductions to 2030.

One significant change in the final rule is that EPA is no longer including demand-side energy efficiency as one of the “building blocks” used to determine the CO2 emissions performance rates for existing power plants. The performance rates are now based on the emissions reductions that can be achieved through the deployment of three supply-side measures: (1) heat rate improvements in existing coal plants, (2) increased reliance on combined cycle gas units, and (3) expanded use of renewables as a substitute for fossil fuel-based generation.

Fortunately, energy efficiency can still be used as a compliance measure, and EPA expects that energy efficiency will play a major role in meeting the state targets because it is a “cost-effective and widely-available carbon reduction tool.” EPA will also provide matching funds for early investments in demand-side energy efficiency measures through the newly introduced Clean Energy Incentive Program.

EPA Reaches Agreement with Manufacturer to Stop Use of TCE in Spray Fixative Products Used on Arts and Crafts

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached an agreement with a manufacturer to voluntarily phase-out the use of trichloroethylene (TCE) in an aerosol arts and crafts spray fixative product as part of EPA’s ongoing efforts to reduce the public’s exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

“We are pleased that a company’s voluntary efforts to eliminate TCE from their aerosol fixative product used for arts and crafts will soon mean that all consumer products of this type are TCE-free,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We are also proposing a rule that will give EPA the opportunity to review and, if necessary, block introduction, including imports, of new TCE spray fixative and other consumer products before re-entry into the marketplace. This will ensure a level playing field for American companies who step up and do the right thing. In addition, we are pursuing regulatory action to reduce the risks from exposure to TCE in other products that are not voluntarily addressed.”

TCE is an example of how EPA’s assessment of existing chemicals can lead to real results that protect health and the environment. After identifying health risks associated with a number of TCE uses in its June 2014 Work Plan Chemical Risk Assessment conducted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA worked with the manufacturers of TCE on possible voluntary efforts to reduce exposure.

The PLZ Aeroscience Corporation, of Addison, IL, has committed to cease manufacturing its aerosol spray fixative product containing TCE by September 1, 2015. This type of product is used by artists, picture framers, graphic designers and printers to provide a water repellant and protective finish. It is the only TCE-containing spray fixative product on the market still used in arts and crafts.

EPA is issuing a proposed Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) under TSCA which requires anyone intending to initiate manufacture (including import) or processing of TCE for these uses to notify EPA at least 90 days before doing so. The notification will allow EPA to evaluate the intended use and, if necessary, to prohibit or limit the use prior to entering the marketplace. Current uses of TCE are not subject to the proposed rule.

In addition to the phase-out and SNUR, the Agency is taking a number of additional steps to reduce the risks from exposure to TCE. EPA is encouraging the transition to safer chemicals and greener processes/ technologies, promoting the use of best practices, and pursuing regulatory action under TSCA to reduce or limit the manufacture, import and use of TCE in a range of products.

EPA is requesting a 60 day comment period that will begin upon publication in the Federal Register at www.regulations.gov and searching for EPA-HQ-OPPT-2014-0327.

A pre-publication copy of the proposal and more information can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/tce.html

Learn more about EPA’s TSCA Work Plan Assessments.

Sources: EPA will ease deadlines on pollution rule to help states comply

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The Obama administration has decided to give states more time to comply with proposed regulations that will require dramatic cuts in greenhouse-gas pollution from power plants, people familiar with the plans said Tuesday.

The Environmental Protection Agency will give states an additional two years — until 2022 — to begin phasing in pollution cuts, even as the agency toughens the standards that many states will ultimately have to meet.

At the same time, the EPA will offer credits and other inducements to encourage a rapid shift to renewable energy under the Clean Power Plan, the administration’s ambitious and controversial proposal to cut pollutants blamed for climate change, said two people briefed on internal deliberations.

Outrage over EPA emissions regulations fades as states find fixes

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Even after years of talk about a “war on coal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell startled some of his constituents in March when he urged open rebellion against a White House proposal for cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is “extremely burdensome and costly,” the Kentucky Republican said in letters advising all 50 states to boycott the rule when it goes into effect this summer.

The call for direct defiance was unusual even for McConnell, who has made a career of battling federal restrictions on coal. Yet more striking is what has happened since: Kentucky’s government and electric utilities have quietly positioned themselves to comply with the rule — something state officials expect to do with relatively little effort.

In this coal-industry bastion, five of the state’s older coal-burning power plants were already scheduled to close or switch to natural gas in the next two years, either because of aging equipment or to save money, state officials say. As a result, Kentucky’s greenhouse-gas emissions are set to plummet 16 percent below where they were in 2012 — within easy reach of the 18 percent reduction goal proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in a draft of the agency’s controversial carbon-cutting plan.

Federal court upholds EPA pollutant rule

Read the full story in The Hill.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule on emissions of certain toxic air pollutants at manufacturing plants.

The EPA’s 2012 rule was challenged by both the industry, which said it was too stringent, and environmental groups, which argued it didn’t go far enough.

But the Circuit Court upheld the rule and said the EPA took the steps necessary to justify it on both counts.

Groups sue EPA to regulate hazardous spills

Read the full story from The Hill.

Environmental advocates are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for not issuing regulations to protect communities from hazardous chemicals that spill at industrial facilities.

In a joint lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Natural Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC), the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform and People Concerned About Chemical Safety asked the court to require EPA to issue regulations that prevent hazardous substance spills from these facilities, which include above-ground storage tanks.

Residents Sue Seattle, Saying New Trash Rules Violate Privacy

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Environmental goals about garbage in this and other like-minded cities increasingly come down to three words: Throw less away. So Seattle residents are given different bins to put out on the curb — one for yard and food waste, another for recycling — and are encouraged to use ever-tinier cans for the stuff that really is trash.

The rules were given teeth this year, when Seattle became one of the first cities in the nation to penalize residents for sorting poorly. If, on inspection, more than 10 percent of a garbage can’s contents should have properly been in another kind of bin, the trash collector can pin a bright red tag on the offender’s receptacle. Financial penalties have been authorized but not yet levied. A primary goal of the policy is to keep people from throwing food and recyclable materials into trash cans.

This week, a group of Seattle residents — while stressing that they agreed with the city’s goals — said the inspections violated their privacy, as protected by the Washington State Constitution. What people toss away, the group argued in a lawsuit filed on Thursday, is still theirs to protect, however much, especially in these warm days of summer and rot, they might want to get rid of it all as soon as possible.