El Paso Electric should protect the city’s water and let solar power shine

By Kate Zerrenner

Resiliency is a hot button word right now. Ten years ago, advocates focused on “adaptation,” or the idea of adapting to the coming effects of climate change. Now the focus is on “resiliency,” the ability to bounce forward – not backward – when something disastrous happens.

For El Paso, a city on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, resilience is critical. A huge city in the middle of the desert with an average rainfall around 8 inches per year, El Paso needs to be hardy, especially when it comes to water.

El Paso Water Utility (EPWU) is on top of the problem, enacting programs and initiatives to ensure El Paso’s water resiliency. Unfortunately, El Paso Electric – the city’s electric utility – is not doing everything it can to use less water.

To protect the city’s water, the utility should fully embrace no-water solar PV energy and not discourage customers from using solar power at their homes and businesses.

History of conservation

El Paso has been a leader in water conservation for decades. For example, the city cut water demand by more than 40 percent – from a high of 225 gallons per person per day (gcpd) in the 1970s to 132 gcpd in 2013, seven years ahead of its target.

How did El Paso do it? It changed the way city residents make decisions about and pay for water. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the city unveiled a 50-year water resource plan, changed prices to conserve water, and started aggressive water conservation programs.

Further, El Paso reuses about 15 percent of its water, much higher than the statewide average of 1 percent (although some cities, like San Antonio, are higher).

After recently coming out of a severe, multi-year drought (along with the rest of the state), El Paso understands that if it doesn’t effectively manage its water, it won’t have a city to run at all.

Solar’s role

But there’s something missing in El Paso’s water equation: the connection between making electricity and water. While El Paso’s water utility is protecting this precious resource, the electric utility isn’t.

El Paso is a very sunny city, averaging about 302 days of sunshine per year, which means a lot of solar energy potential. And solar PV uses no water to create electricity, as opposed to very thirsty traditional power resources like coal and natural gas.

Moreover, findings from an Environmental Defense Fund project with the Texas National Guard found that National Guard installations in El Paso are at the top for both water stress and solar potential. Clearly, there is significant opportunity to ease water stress by increasing solar power in the area.

One El Paso

Despite the opportunity to help save El Paso’s water by using solar power, El Paso Electric is blocking the growth of customer-owned solar power. The utility’s new proposal hits homes and small businesses that use solar panels with a higher monthly charge.

As is the case with most cities and utilities, energy and water in El Paso tend to be viewed separately. Electric utilities are inclined to plan as though they will always have enough water and water utilities do the same with electricity. But if careful planning for water and energy is not undertaken, there won’t be enough of either to go around.

El Paso should be taking every step needed to strengthen its water resilience, including making wise energy decisions. A resilient city facilitates coordination of resources and plans strategically for wise use throughout the entire system.

This post originally appeared on our Energy Exchange blog.

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Four opportunities to strengthen Canada’s draft methane regulations

By Drew Nelson

Canada’s move to reduce methane emissions from its oil and gas sector passed another milestone this week, as the deadline passed for stakeholders to submit comments about the proposed regulations to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). EDF issued extensive comments commending ECCC for moving forward, but urging decision makers to address some critical weaknesses of the draft rules.

EDF is not alone in this thinking. A group of investors from Canada, US, and Europe, which together represent $89 billion CAD in investments, released a synopsis of their comments. Many leading Canadian NGOs, including the David Suzuki Foundation, the Pembina Institute, Environmental Defence (no relation to this EDF), Equiterre, and the Blue Green Alliance, also issued a press release urging ECCC to improve and strengthen the draft regulations.

As Canada’s effort to regulate this potent greenhouse pollutant continues, EDF is focused on ensuring Canada takes advantage of low-cost reduction opportunities, which have the added benefit of improving air quality, eliminating waste, stimulating innovation, and creating jobs. For that to happen, the country’s draft methane regulations need to be strengthened.

Here are four ways that can happen:

  1. Fix the Timeline

In the days before the draft regulations were released in May, the oil and gas industry successfully lobbied government officials to delay implementation of the regulations by as much as three years. This would result in the release of an estimated 55 million additional tons of methane compared to the original timelines. Delaying key provisions for five years is excessive and inconsistent with how – for example – US jurisdictions have regulated methane. We urged ECCC to reset the timetable so the regulations begin in 2019 (not 2020) and full implementation occurs by 2022 (not 2023).

  1. Require Quarterly Leak Inspections

Because methane is invisible and odorless, and many leaks are intermittent, it’s nearly impossible to find methane leaks unless you’re looking for them. Canada’s proposal calls for leak inspections only three times a year; we urged EEEC to implement inspections four times a year instead. This may seem like a minor detail, but the effectiveness of any detection requirement is better with greater frequency. In fact, the International Energy Agency has said “tracking and fixing these [methane] leaks – which can be short-lived and intermittent – requires a systematic effort of measurement, reporting and monitoring, backed up by effective regulation. More regular inspections mean better odds of catching serious but intermittent problems. Across the United States, regulatory best practice is four times a year. Canada’s rules should follow this industry best practice.

  1. Reduce Venting

Unlike leaks, venting is the intentional release of methane, and ECCC has proposed regulations that will significantly reduce venting across Canada. That’s great, but the proposed rules include exceptions and loopholes, and still allow for venting. In recognition of the availability of technologies that eliminate venting, leading U.S. jurisdictions increasingly prohibit venting. Strengthening the venting provisions will ensure that Canada is in line with regulatory best practices on venting.

  1. Ensure “equivalent” really means equivalent

Canadian law allows provinces to develop their own regulations and have those regulations take place instead of federal regulations if there are “provisions that are equivalent to a regulation.”  We urged ECCC to ensure that any equivalency agreement show that equal or greater reductions are achieved. If a province’s rules don’t achieve the reductions the federal rules would, they shouldn’t be considered “equivalent.”

These are simple, commonsense steps that are squarely consistent with the goals and intent of the policy, which can make implementation faster, cheap and more effective. We hope the Canadian government will consider these opportunities as they review public comments. Final regulations are expected late this year or early next.

Image source: Flickr user davebloggs007

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The Trump Administration outlines its plans for EPA – and it’s bad news for our health

By Martha Roberts

Across Republican and Democratic administrations alike, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regularly identified and shared with the public a detailed list of the agency’s upcoming priority policy actions – safeguards that will help protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, assure the safety of chemicals in everyday products, and provide for proper handling of hazardous wastes.

But the Trump Administration unveiled its first such blueprint last week – and it takes dead aim at fundamental public health and environmental safeguards that are essential to protecting our communities and families. It’s an agenda that would lead to more pollution, fewer common sense safeguards, and more asthma attacks and premature deaths in communities across the country.

Here are a few key targets in the Trump Administration’s plan to dismantle vital public health and environmental safeguards:

Imperiled: the Clean Power Plan. The blueprint reiterates the Trump Administration’s intention to withdraw the Clean Power Plan. The agenda indicates no intent to provide a replacement program to limit dangerous climate pollution from existing power plants – one of America’s largest sources of this harmful pollution – despite the growing urgency of climate disruption, and despite three separate Supreme Court decisions underscoring EPA’s duty to protect Americans from this harmful pollution. The agenda’s justification for rolling back the Clean Power Plan rests on faulty legal reasoning that has been forcefully rejected by legal experts and is at odds with EPA’s past practices.

  • What’s at stake? The Clean Power Plan is one of the most significant actions America has ever taken to combat climate change. EPA estimates that when fully implemented, it would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and up to 90,000 asthma attacks per year.

Imperiled: limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. The Trump Administration also underscored its plans to end existing limits on carbon pollution from new power plants – an important complement to the Clean Power Plan. Yet again, this announcement includes no intention for a replacement safeguard.

  • What would be the result? New fossil fuel-fired power plants, which have lifespans in the decades, and emit staggering quantities of carbon pollution over their lifetimes, could be built with needlessly outdated, lower performing technologies.

Imperiled: pollution controls for oil and gas facilities. The Trump Administration’s plan also commits EPA to review pollution limits on new oil and gas facilities. These limits include measures for leak detection and repair – measures that save otherwise wasted natural gas, reduce pollution in surrounding communities, and create well-paying jobs. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has already taken steps to suspend these protections. His actions meant that more than 18,000 natural gas wells across America were no longer required to fix pollution leaks. While Administrator Pruitt’s suspension was recently found unlawful by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the threat remains that EPA may fully revoke these important safeguards.

Imperiled: protections for Americans from smog. The Trump Administration’s plan also highlights Administrator Pruitt’s decision to suspend his duty to identify the regions that are failing to meet national air quality standards for ground-level ozone, commonly known as smog. Smog is a dangerous air pollutant linked to premature deaths, asthma attacks, lower birth weight in infants, and serious heart and lung diseases. EPA analysis indicates that Administrator Pruitt’s announced one-year suspension alone will lead to as many as 230,000 more asthma attacks among children.

Imperiled: protections for downwind communities from interstate air pollution. EPA has a long-standing responsibility to ensure that upwind facilities are good neighbors and do not discharge pollution that imperils public health in downwind states. The Trump Administration’s blueprint recognizes that there are six separate petitions pending before EPA in which downwind states are seeking the agency’s assistance to protect themselves against pollution drifting into their communities from dozens of upwind power plants. It is crucial that EPA carry out this responsibility to ensure that all Americans can breathe easier – but the agency is currently failing to act, and its blueprint provides no commitment to act despite clear legal responsibility under our nation’s clean air laws.

Changes to underlying EPA transparency protections

At the same time that the Trump Administration’s blueprint outlines a host of rollbacks for important pollution controls, it also identifies that the administration will be moving ahead with changes to underlying, fundamental EPA procedures and operational practices.

Here’s just one example:

  • Under review: EPA’s open records requirements. Under the Freedom of Information Act, EPA is required to share public records with the public. The Trump Administration’s agenda notes that EPA will be updating its own policies for implementation of the agency’s requirements under this vital transparency law. During Administrator Pruitt’s tenure as Oklahoma Attorney General, he had an extensive, troubling record of stonewalling these types of open records requests.

These changes are just as important to watch carefully, to ensure essential transparency and rigor in the administration’s conduct. So far, Administrator Pruitt has given ample reason for concern: shutting the public out of key decisions; refusing to share how he spends his time and with whom he meets; and a long history of intertwined relationships with the industries he’s supposed to oversee.

Are more rollbacks possible? President Trump and Administrator Pruitt signal yes

The above summary is hardly complete. The Trump Administration’s blueprint also highlights a host of harmful potential rollbacks for important protections for water, hazardous waste, and beyond.

Moreover, this blueprint may not reflect the full scope of future attacks. In other contexts, President Trump and Administrator Pruitt have taken aim at even more EPA protections against air pollution. For instance, President Trump has signaled his willingness to reconsider standards for emissions from cars and trucks – despite their record of saving consumers money, driving auto innovation, and reducing pollution. And Administrator Pruitt’s EPA has moved to pause litigation over mercury protections while the agency evaluates its position. (In the past, Pruitt even expressed doubt about mercury pollution’s well-established harmful impacts on brain development in kids.)

These risks are critical. But together we can turn back these threats, ensure healthier lives for all Americans, address dangerous climate pollution, and grow our clean energy economy.

Here at EDF we will be working to stop these rollbacks. Please join us, and take action! Click here to let EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt know that you support America’s public health and environmental protections.

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Waiting for Perry: Leaked draft gives us a glimpse into the study he should release

By Jim Marston

It’s been 100 days (and counting) since Secretary Perry ordered the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct a 60-day study of the U.S. electricity system. We expect the final report to be issued any day now.

The initial focus of the study was clear: to determine whether renewable energy policies or regulations have accelerated the retirement of coal and nuclear plants. Perry himself admitted the so-called study was intended to reassess “politically driven policies driven by a hostility to coal,” implying he intends to use the study to discriminate against renewables in favor of dirty, expensive coal.

But a bombshell recently hit. A leaked draft of the study seems to contradict Sec. Perry’s pro-coal thesis and rhetoric.

The draft is thoughtful, and it boils down to some conclusions that Sec. Perry’s political appointees – ahem, editors – will be hard pressed to massage into policy recommendations that call for more coal. Namely, America’s grid reliability remains strong with more clean energy and less coal.

Top 5 takeaways

Environmental Defense Fund conducted a detailed analysis of the draft, outlining the top five takeaways that demonstrate a clean grid is a reliable grid. EDF’s analysis can be found here.

1 – “Baseload” resources, as Perry defines them, are not necessary to preserve grid reliability

Sec. Perry refers to coal and nuclear plants as “baseload power plants,” and wants them to appear as critical to grid reliability. But “baseload” is not even a term industry uses to describe reliability.

The draft notes that “baseload” is a dated term and is not a core ingredient of reliability.

“[B]aseload power was useful to a well-functioning grid over the decades from 1960 to 1990, when these plants were initially built. But with technology and market changes, the bulk power system has changed markedly and high-value market and reliability require different services and capabilities to attain high reliability and resilience.”

In other words, America’s energy system is evolving, and coal and nuclear plants aren’t needed like they used to be.


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2 – Coal and nuclear plants have been retiring primarily due to low gas prices and flattened demand

The draft study concludes that many baseload retirements are consistent with observed market forces, stating quite plainly, “Many baseload plant retirements are not premature.” Nor are they the result of regulations:

“Retirements have been due primarily to flattened demand and low electric prices and the inability to compete successfully due to plant age, inefficiency and capital needs rather than regulatory burdens.”

The draft cites outside studies that address the cause of baseload power plant retirements, noting the key role of low natural gas prices and flattened demand.

Conclusion: You can’t blame coal’s woes on renewable energy.

3 – The U.S. grid is operating reliably, with ample resources to meet demand

This quote pretty much says it all: “Most of the common metrics for grid reliability suggest that the grid is in good shape despite the retirement of many baseload power plants.”

But there’s more. Reserve margins – a measure of whether the grid has extra energy capacity to satisfy potential demand – are “comfortably or significantly higher than the levels which would raise a resource adequacy flag or signal potential reliability problems.”

4 – Renewable energy sources like wind or solar can improve grid reliability

The draft includes an entire section named “High levels of wind penetration can be integrated into the grid without harming reliability.”

The reality is, renewables can be – and have already been – integrated into the grid, and reliability remains strong.

The vice president of Texas’ grid operator, ERCOT, himself recently confirmed “We can perform reliably with renewable generation; there are just things you have to do with renewables that you don’t have to do with (conventional) power generation.”

5 – Clean energy can lower costs for customers

The draft carefully points out that future electricity costs are hard to predict. But it suggests a diversified fuel mix, including more renewable energy, can help control costs to customers.

For example, the draft reports that:

  • Coal and nuclear power have become more costly while natural gas has remained at historic lows;
  • Wind and solar generation’s marginal cost is nearly zero; and
  • Trying to keep aging baseload plants “may end up raising rather than lowering the average cost of wholesale electricity for many customers.”

Perhaps most important, the draft notes what polling has shown for years: Americans, over 80% in fact,  want more renewable energy.

Fortunately, wind and solar has significant momentum, regardless of policies. The draft asks, “Will removing renewables subsidies and [renewable portfolio standards] make renewable generation go away (and presumably put less pressure on coal and nuclear plants)?” The answer: “No.”

The real vs. the political

The draft study has real conclusions, which should be included in Perry’s final version. But standing between the draft and the final study is a review by Sec. Perry’s political appointees at DOE. Given the administration’s promise to “bring back coal” and attempts to slash important clean energy and efficiency DOE programs, we anticipate Perry’s final study may look quite different from this initial draft. A DOE spokesperson has already confirmed that large chunks of the draft have been deleted.

Extensive research and analysis supports the initial draft’s conclusions, which you can find on EDF’s website here. If Perry’s final study conflicts with these fact-based findings, the administration’s coal propaganda will be on full display.

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Goodbye, internal combustion! Electric Vehicles are rolling in

By EDF Blogs

By Rory Christian and Larissa Koehler

Electric vehicles (EVs) don’t make much noise on the road, but they’re generating a lot of buzz about the future of this technology and what it means for business and the environment.

Cars, buses, and trucks are the second biggest source of pollution in the U.S. after electricity production. They are responsible for over 26 percent of emissions that adversely affect the health and well-being of the population, and put communities located close to highways and other major thoroughfares at risk. These communities, typically low-income, are often plagued by elevated asthma rates and other pollution-induced health conditions.

When thinking about ways to reduce pollution, EVs can make a world of difference. And, when charged using renewable energy sources, they produce no emissions and can be much cheaper to operate than traditional, internal combustion vehicles. As such, let’s take a look at the global EV market and impacts in the U.S. on the electric grid in two environmentally progressive states ‒ New York and California.

The global market – and future outlook

More and more automakers are shifting their focus to EVs, a market that is expected to grow faster every year. A few examples:

These exciting developments all point to a trend where electric cars are much more than just a niche – indeed, they show that global competition is heating up quickly and that companies around the world see EVs as key to the automobile industry. These movements should not be understated, as it gives a hint of a clean energy future that can’t come fast enough.

EVs on the grid

Overall, strategic deployment of charging stations will be essential to EV growth – drivers need convenient places to charge. What’s more,

EV expansion must be paired with strategies for how best to integrate them without negatively impacting the electric grid.

Here’s what we can do now to prepare for a clean car economy:

  • Chase innovation: Testing out more nascent technologies, such as vehicle-to-grid capabilities, will ultimately help make EV charging more convenient and ensure the electric grid can cleanly and reliably handle a significant uptick in electrified transport.
  • Educate consumers: Utilities must ensure their customers are well-positioned to take advantage of EV benefits by educating them about how their charging behavior can impact the grid and the integration of renewable energy. More specifically, utilities must exercise load management via well-designed rates and other means in order to ensure their customers are charging their vehicles at times when renewables (rather than fossil fuels) are abundant and when the grid can best handle it. By reaching out to their customers through multiple means and languages, utilities can better ensure the robust participation needed in order to bring success.
  • Emphasize vulnerable communities: Plans must genuinely consider benefits to and impacts on communities most likely to be harmed by pollution. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) recommends a minimum percentage of charging stations be placed in these communities where applicable, and that all projects focus on enhancing transportation electrification in areas positioned to benefit them most.

New York

Earlier this year, New York State committed to the purchase of two thousand electric vehicles by 2025, more than doubling its current fleet of government automobiles.

New York is also doing its share to expand electrification to make it easier for customers to buy and use electric vehicles. The State’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) aims to align utility needs with marketplace innovations, and is doing the following:

  • Decentralizing the electric grid so customers can make and buy renewable energy, New York is working toward a future where EVs and less pollution are commonplace.
  • Developing favorable electricity rates to encourage charging of EVs at times when renewable energy is readily available and affordable. This way, EV adoption will benefit the grid and the environment.

Con Edison’s Smart Charge NY program, an early stage effort in New York City,  is paving the way for mainstream EV use; the results will be an example for how other cities can adopt the policies and tools necessary to seamlessly integrate EVs.


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California

With over 300,000 EVs and more than 12,000 charging stations, California leads the nation in clean car sales. Moreover, that number is poised to grow rapidly ‒ California EV sales rose 91 percent in the first quarter of 2017 from the same time last year.

Even in the face of threats from the current Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt to take away California’s waiver allowing the state to exceed national clean car standards, the Golden State has made clear its progress won’t be stalled anytime soon. State legislators, cities, and agencies have taken a tremendous amount of initiative on EVs, including:

  • The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining stronger vehicle emissions standards.
  • Volkswagen updated its plan for investing $800 million to accelerate electrified transportation in California, with input from CARB.
  • Senate Bill 350 (SB 350) prioritizes widespread transportation electrification.
  • In Los Angeles, half of all municipal vehicle purchases will be electric starting this year, and that share will increase to 80 percent by 2025. The city is also moving forward with a pilot EV ride share program to extend their benefits to communities with fewer car owners.

Moreover, as part of SB 350, investor-owned utilities filed applications with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for investments in light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty sectors.

The utility plans in particular represent an exciting new opportunity to accelerate electric transportation in all its forms. With planned projects from placing charging infrastructure for passenger EVs in single family homes, to providing car dealers with incentives and education to sell more EVs, to electrifying buses and ship ports – and everything in between – these plans are well-designed to clean the sector most responsible for harmful emissions.

Still, changes to the utility proposals would further strengthen them. EDF recommended to the CPUC that the plans focus more on load management as well as the other key elements listed above.

Forging ahead

Despite obvious benefits, widespread EV adoption around the U.S. faces a number of challenges. For example, some analysts believe that even California will need another 200,000 charging stations to properly serve the number of EVs expected by 2030.

The internal combustion engine has had a long run, but it’s about to burn out. As we work to address domestic barriers to EV adoption, it is important to note that even if it is a global effort, this is a race the U.S. may need to catch up on. As the electric vehicle market continues to flourish, EDF will continue to advocate and make sure environmental benefits follow financial rewards.

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California Models Climate and Air Pollution Action with Balanced Approach

By Quentin Foster

Air pollution visible in downtown Los Angeles | Photo by Diliff, via wikipedia comms

California is once again demonstrating its bold climate leadership. As Washington, D.C. continues to abdicate its role as a climate champion, California is stepping up to extend its landmark cap-and-trade program, address local air pollution, and push California businesses forward toward a cleaner economy.

Environmental Defense Fund strongly supports AB 398 (E. Garcia) and AB 617 (C. Garcia), as well as their authors, Legislative leadership, and the Brown Administration. We commend their vision and initiative on a bill package that addresses the growing threat from climate change and improves public health outcomes by addressing local air pollution in the most impacted neighborhoods.

AB 398: Extending the cap-and-trade program

This bill seeks to extend California’s groundbreaking cap-and-trade program until 2030, with a 2/3 vote. We support this bill for 3 key reasons:

  1. This bill maintains the environmental integrity of California’s cap on emissions. By introducing a price ceiling on allowances, the Air Resources Board with the Legislature’s guidance provides greater certainty on costs. Done poorly, such a ceiling can put environmental outcomes at risk. This proposal addresses that concern by requiring that any excess emissions be made up for by high-integrity emissions reductions outside the cap. This ensures that California does not bust through its emissions cap.
  2. This proposal extends the economic benefits of cap and trade. California has added over a million jobs since cap and trade launched in 2013, and this bill includes important provisions to further develop a green workforce for the 21st century economy. At the same time, cap and trade encourages investments in alternative forms of fuel. This decreases our dependence on fossil fuels, which protects consumers from volatile gas prices.
  3. Extending cap and trade sets a national example for other states to follow. California is on track to meet our 2020 target of reducing emissions to 1990 levels, and the 2030 goal is even more ambitious. We are demonstrating that emissions reduction and a thriving economy can go hand-in-hand. And we will not leave our most vulnerable communities behind.

AB 617: Clean air for California’s most vulnerable communities

The second part of this essential package is an unprecedented air quality bill which seeks to address local air pollution in California’s most impacted neighborhoods. For EDF, these are the 3 main reasons we are committed to supporting this bill:

  1. This measure targets neighborhoods burdened by multiple sources of air pollution. California communities like Richmond, Modesto, or Torrance aren’t polluted by just cars or one refinery – they have many different sources of air pollution. This bill identifies these neighborhoods and focuses monitoring and emissions reduction plans based on burden, rather than source.
  2. Industrial facilities are required to upgrade their technology. There are many facilities that have not been upgraded in decades. This means they emit far more pollution than if current technology were used. This bill requires that industrial sources covered by cap and trade are retrofitted to a standard that reflects technological advances, but are also cost-effective.
  3. This bill increases penalties for big polluters. Many air pollution penalties haven’t been adjusted since the 1970’s. This bill increases these so big polluters no longer have an advantage over facilities that follow the law. This is critically important to hold polluters accountable, especially for the residents who live nearby.

Yes, there is still compromise in politics

California can address climate change without leaving communities behind.

The ability to compromise seems absent from most political arenas these days. The zero-sum strategies of filibusters and government shutdowns are more the norm than a negotiated settlement. However, the California State Senate and Assembly Leadership, along with Governor Brown’s Administration have re-discovered the art of the possible, and isn’t that what politics is all about? They have managed to find the compromise with stakeholders that addresses the twin challenges of climate pollution and air quality.

This package is a path forward that demonstrates to the country and to the world that California can address climate change without leaving communities behind.

There is no silver bullet to accomplish this, despite what we all wish. The environmental community needs businesses to thrive so California’s economy remains strong. Business needs the environmental community to hold them accountable. The Legislature needs all of us to help continue setting the standard on climate policy. We don’t get to take our ball and go home because things aren’t going our way.

As we demonstrate how to address climate change and air pollution, let’s also demonstrate to Washington, D.C. how to compromise. We urge the Legislature to support AB 398 and AB 617.

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Two more rockfish species declared “rebuilt”

By Shems Jud

Photos: Vicky Okimura

Rapid comebacks mean greater fishing opportunities, more sustainable seafood for U.S. markets

EDF’s Pacific team is pleased to share the news that stocks of both Bocaccio and Darkblotched rockfish have been declared rebuilt on the West Coast, well ahead of schedule. Commercial fishermen – who have worked for years to avoid catching the species – will soon be much freer to harvest them and to supply consumers with these beautiful, delicious, sustainable rockfish.

Previously declared overfished, Bocaccio and Darkblotched are among several species that have been under strict rebuilding plans in recent years.  As such, they’ve been among the “constraining species” that fishermen have intentionally avoided catching since 2011, when the trawl fishery’s quota-based catch share management system was implemented. (Fishermen sought to avoid them prior to 2011 also, but under less effective management systems.)

Partly due to the fact that Bocaccio and Darkblotched commingle with many more abundant stocks, the rebuilding plans have required not just cooperation, but real sacrifice from fishermen.

A record of remarkable progress

According to NOAA: “(West Coast) Lingcod was declared rebuilt in 2005, and Widow rockfish in 2012. Both Petrale sole and Canary rockfish were declared rebuilt in 2015. Rebuilding plans remain in place for three remaining overfished species: Cowcod, Pacific Ocean perch, and Yelloweye rockfish. New assessments for Pacific Ocean perch and Yelloweye rockfish will be reviewed this summer and may be adopted in September. Cowcod is expected to be rebuilt by 2019.”

As NOAA said in their announcement, “(Rebuilding) plans required sharp reductions in commercial and recreational fisheries targeting groundfish, which included widespread fishing closures through the establishment of Rockfish Conservation Areas off the West Coast and other measures. Since 2003, managing overfished species through area closures such as the Rockfish Conservation Areas has helped to reduce fishing impacts and rebuild overfished groundfish species. In addition, the groundfish fleet has had to limit fishing for other more abundant species to avoid unintentional catch of the overfished stocks.”

EDF has worked with fishermen for years during this rebuilding process, as they’ve adapted to the new management structure and taken the painful steps necessary to avoid constraining species. They deserve a great deal of the credit for this remarkable conservation win. As Barry Thom, Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region put it, “By working together, we’ve brought Bocaccio and Darkblotched rockfish back to where they will again be part of a sustainable West Coast groundfish fishery that creates renewed opportunity for the fishing fleet, as well as more options for seafood consumers.”

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The secret sauce for preventing another Aliso Canyon-sized gas leak in California

By Adam Peltz

More than a year and a half after the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility caused more than 100,000 tons of methane to leak into the atmosphere – amounting to be our nation’s largest-ever gas leak,  California regulators continue to labor away at improving the rules  that could prevent another gas storage disaster.

That leak was a wake up call to regulators around the country charged with protecting workers, people and the environment from gas storage facility accidents.  

In early 2016, California implemented some “emergency” standards for the state’s gas storage facilities, and is currently in the process of developing a more permanent solution through a rulemaking with the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), which just wrapped up its public comment period.

It is widely accepted that more oversight and smarter management of gas storage facilities can go a long way to prevent another disaster from happening. Adopting a few key improvements to the leading standards in the current rulemaking will give California the most robust, protective gas storage regulatory program in the United States.

A smart and successful natural gas storage program must include proper risk management and emergency response planning. That’s a lot of the secret sauce right there. These plans should outline the risks each facility faces, the practices and procedures for reducing those risks, and the playbook for dealing with problems. If California gets that right – along with a number of targeted rules on well integrity, monitoring and maintenance — the state will be in good shape to deal with whatever lies ahead.

California can and should be a leader on gas storage regulation in the United States. Many jurisdictions, the federal government included, are looking closely at their gas storage rules in the wake of the Aliso Canyon disaster, and California’s experience will have a huge impact on how this issue is handled at the 400+ gas storage facilities around the country. If California gets this right, it will help reduce safety and environmental risks from gas storage nationwide.

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