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Court Delays Clean Power Plan Again
On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order placing litigation on the Clean Power Plan in abeyance for another 60 days. The court also rejected a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) request for indefinite suspension of the litigation and ordered the EPA to provide status updates every 30 days.
The Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015, seeks to regulate emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. This is the fifth time since April 2017 that the court has issued a temporary stay of the plan—as the Trump administration eyes rolling back or replacing the rule.
In the order, the judges—Wilkins, Tatel and Millett—express their reluctance to abide further delays. Judge Tatel, joined by Millett, wrote:
“ … I have reluctantly voted to continue holding this case in abeyance for now. Although I might well join my colleagues in disapproving any future abeyance requests, I write separately only to reiterate what I said nearly a year ago: that the untenable status quo derives in large part from petitioners’ and EPA’s treatment of the Supreme Court’s order staying implementation of the Clean Power Plan pending judicial resolution of petitioners’ legal challenges as indefinite license for the EPA to delay compliance with its obligation under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases.”
Study: Methane Leaks from U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Higher Than Thought
A newly released study in the journal Science indicates that, the United States oil and gas industry emits fugitive emissions of methane at a rate of 13 million metric tons per year. The study suggests that methane, a powerful driver of global warming and the main ingredient in natural gas, is 60 percent higher each year than estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“This paper shows that the emissions of methane from the oil and gas industry are a lot higher than what is currently estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Ramón Alvarez, a study author from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). According to EDF, the researchers found that 2.3 percent of total production per year is leaked into the air. EPA estimates a 1.4 percent leak rate.
“The fact is that the magnitude of emissions are so large that it has a material impact on the climate impact of natural gas as a fossil fuel,” he said.
The authors suggest that the discrepancy owes to the way that the U.S. oil and gas industry measures and monitors methane emissions—at known intervals and at specific parts of equipment—without verification of the leak volume at a given facility as a whole. This methodology means that the industry does not count surprise leakage events, which the authors find are relatively common.
According to the study, methane leaks from natural gas facilities have nearly doubled the climate impact of natural gas. The authors suggest that the 13 million metric tons of methane emitted each year by U.S. oil and gas operations is equal to the climate impact of carbon dioxide emissions from all U.S. coal-fired power plants operating in 2015.
The study, which used infrared cameras and involved more than 400 well sites, suggests that methane leaks from operator errors and equipment failures, unless controlled, might lessen the effectiveness of switching to gas from coal as a climate strategy.
Ontario Plans Exit from Carbon Market
Doug Ford, Ontario’s incoming premier, plans to deliver on his campaign promise to scrap Ontario’s cap-and-trade scheme and leave the North American carbon trading program. Ford announced that he intends to block participants in California and Quebec from trading allowances with Ontario entities after he takes office June 29.
The withdrawal from the joint market would leave Ontario out of the next carbon allowance auction, scheduled for Aug. 14. The news has left California, which began holding joint auctions with Ontario and Quebec in February, exploring its options.
“Pulling them out in a formal way is actually going to take a regulatory change,” the head of California’s cap-and-trade program, Rajinder Sahota, said at a California Air Resources Board workshop. Ontario’s involvement in the program expanded the size of the market by about a quarter.
The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions