Bill Hogan at the Kennedy School (shameless plug for alma mater) kindly asked me to speak at a meeting this week of the Harvard Electricity Policy Group. I’ve titled my talk “Carbon Policy When There Is No Carbon Policy.” Several items that came across the wires in the past few days buttress the theory behind my presentation, which is that our current carbon policy really is “A little bit of this, a little bit of that.”
First, Phillip Brooks, director of EPA’s Air Enforcement Division, told an ALI/ABA forum that EPA’s NSR enforcement initiative is alive and well and that it expects to continue to send out information requests to potential enforcement targets concerning those targets operation and maintenance activities. Brooks predicted more closures of old coal plants as a result of EPA’s NSR enforcement.
Second, a report just released on the economic impact of air emissions supports EPA’s Transport Rule, asserting that each dollar spent on upwind emissions reductions results in $50 to $100 dollars in avoided environmental costs in downwind states. Greenwire subtly noted that the research was funded by Excelon, which owns the largest fleet of nuclear power plants in the nation.
Third, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just affirmed a decision by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to require construction companies to assess the indirect air emissions resulting from construction projects and potentially to reduce such such emissions or pay a mitigation fee. The decision in National Association Of Home Builders v. The San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District is likely to provide additional momentum to state and local efforts to regulate land use decisions as a way to reduce sprawl and, as a result, GHG emissions.
So, what’s our carbon policy today? A little bit of enforcement of existing regulations, a little bit of new federal regulations of traditional pollutants, and a potentially increasing dose of state and local land use regulation.