Texas Lawmakers Are Holding a Billion Dollars of Clean Air Funds Hostage

By Christina Wolfe

Houston skyline

What do you think that healthy communities, opportunities for businesses to expand, and diesel engines have in common?

The answer: in Texas, they’re tied together through a successful voluntary program called the Texas Emissions Reductions Plan (TERP).

TERP helps our state by:

  1. Working toward making sure all Texans breathe clean air
  2. Supporting business growth by ensuring that both Clean Air Act requirements are met and that businesses can attract talent to Texas
  3. Modernizing heavy-duty vehicle and equipment fleets through incentives for replacing the oldest, most polluting vehicles and equipment with clean technologies

TERP has been heralded by many diverse cheerleaders. We have talked about TERP’s success (and areas for improvement) in the past on Texas Clean Air Matters, but we aren’t alone in our support for the program. In fact, the program’s achievements were recently mentioned by Secretary of Energy and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who talked about TERP during his confirmation hearing opening statement. The program is also supported by both the Texas Association of Business as a 2017 Legislative Priority, and the Texas Clean Air Working Group (comprised of many local government officials, including air quality planners and others) which advocates for full funding of the program.

Unfortunately, despite strong support for the program from diverse stakeholders, the Texas Legislature is holding hostage $1.2 billion in TERP funding that has been collected by Texas taxpayers and businesses.

Revenues In, Revenues Out?

TERP is funded through a variety of mechanisms, as detailed below in the left-hand column on the table (“TERP Inflows”). TERP programs receive appropriations from the Texas Legislature each biennium, as is shown below in the right-hand column (“TERP Outflows”). To date, more than $2.4 billion has been collected since the program’s inception in 2001, but only $1.2 billion has been spent on clean air projects.

The unspent $1.2 billion is not being used for its intended purpose, but instead has remained on account to balance the state budget. Over the years, this amount grew because the Texas Legislature failed to fully appropriate all revenues that were collected for TERP and instead held funds back, growing the state’s coffers instead.

Moreover, the 2017 Texas Legislature appears to be considering holding back even more funds from TERP (see Senate Finance Committee Decision Document) as recently as last week. This means that the balance in the TERP account will continue to exceed the amount that has been spent on clean air projects. This is not only dishonest to Texas taxpayers and businesses who are paying for TERP, but the Texas Legislature is literally choking Texans by halting potential emissions reduction projects that could be helping improve air quality.

Several of Texas’ metropolitan regions are experiencing more days of moderate, unhealthy, or very unhealthy air quality than they do good days. For example, in 2016, the number of “good” air quality days in key Texas cities was only:

  • Houston-Woodlands-Sugarland – 164 good days (202 days that were classified as moderate or unhealthy)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington – 218 good days (148 days that were classified as moderate or unhealthy)
  • El Paso – 201 good days (164 days that were classified as moderate or unhealthy)
  • San Antonio-New Braunfels – 268 good days (98 days that were classified as moderate or unhealthy)
  • Austin-Round Rock – 280 good days (86 days that were classified as moderate or unhealthy)

It’s time that Texas lawmakers do the right thing by Texans – spend this money that has been collected from Texans for clean air rather than keeping it in state coffers. It’s time to restore this clean air funding so that all Texans can breathe easier.

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10 Things You Should Know About the Clean Power Plan

By Tomas Carbonell

Just hours after President Trump signed an executive order to weaken a wide range of America’s important climate and heath protections, the Administration filed a motion to delay the D.C Circuit court’s review of the Clean Power Plan case.

That’s only the first of what we expect will be many attacks on the Clean Power Plan – our only nationwide limit on climate pollution from power plants. However, the Clean Power Plan is popular with Americans across the country, and an extraordinarily broad and diverse group of leaders and experts from across America have announced their support for the Clean Power Plan since the executive order.

You’ll likely be hearing a lot about this story in the near future. While you follow the news, here are 10 things you should know about the Clean Power Plan.

1. The Clean Power Plan is expected to save thousands of lives and protect the health of Americans across the country. According to EPA’s analysis, when fully implemented the Clean Power Plan will:

    • Prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths each year
    • Prevent up to 1,700 heart attacks each year
    • Prevent up to 90,000 asthma attacks each year
    • Prevent up to 300,000 missed work days and school days each year

    2. The Clean Power Plan’s pollution reduction targets are eminently achievable.

    Carbon pollution from the power sector has decreased by more than 20 percent since 2005, meaning that we’re already more than two-thirds of the way toward meeting the Clean Power Plan standards for 2030. In fact, most states that are litigating against the Clean Power Plan are on track to meet these pollution limits. The Clean Power Plan is essential to ensure that this momentum is sustained and that power sector investments in clean energy are deployed in a way that maximizes their pollution reduction benefits.

    3. The Clean Power Plan can reduce electricity bills for families.

    The Clean Power Plan gives states and power companies tremendous flexibility in deciding how to meet the pollution reduction targets – including through cost-effective energy efficiency measures that save families money. Independent analyses of the Clean Power Plan have found that average bills could decline by as much as 11 percent as a result of these measures. That’s why leading consumer and ratepayer advocates, including Consumers Union, support the Clean Power Plan.

    4. Our vibrant clean energy sector employs millions of Americans and it is thriving.

    According to a recent assessment by Advanced Energy Economy, the United States clean energy sector is now a rapidly-growing, $200 billion industry that employs 3.3 million Americans.

    5. Clean energy is creating economic opportunities in communities across the nation.

    The American Wind Energy Association estimates that 70 percent of wind farms are located in low-income counties, and that wind developers currently pay $222 million a year in lease payments to U.S. farmers, ranchers and other rural landowners. AWEA also estimates that wind energy has created more than 25,000 manufacturing jobs in 43 states.

    6. The Administration’s promises that revoking climate and clean air protections will bring back coal jobs are false, as the coal industry itself recognizes.

    Independent analyses have found that employment in the coal industry has been falling steadily since 1975, due largely to changing methods of coal production and – in more recent years – by competition from inexpensive natural gas. These trends cannot be reversed by revoking the Clean Power Plan or other protections for clean air and clean water. Even coal company executives have acknowledged that the executive order can’t bring mining jobs back.

    7. An extraordinarily broad and diverse coalition is supporting the Clean Power Plan in court.

    This coalition includes, among others: eighteen states and sixty municipalities; power companies that own and operate nearly ten percent of the nation’s generating capacity; leading businesses like Amazon, Apple, Google, Mars, and IKEA; former Republican heads of EPA; public health and environmental organizations; consumer and ratepayer advocates; faith organizations; and many others.

    8. Large majorities of Americans in red and blue states alike support reducing climate pollution from existing power plants.

    According to a recent national poll, 69 percent of Americans support placing limits on climate pollution from existing power plants – including a majority of Americans in every Congressional district in the country.

    9. The nation’s leading businesses support policies to reduce climate pollution.

    Just this month, over 1,000 companies and investors called on the Trump Administration to continue low-carbon policies, noting that “failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk” and that “the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.”

    10. The Clean Power Plan rests on a rock-solid legal foundation.

    The Supreme Court has held on three separate occasions that Congress has vested EPA with the responsibility – and the tools – to reduce carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. Numerous legal experts –  including drafters of the Clean Air Act, former EPA Administrators who served under Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bush, and former state energy and environmental officials – have affirmed the strong legal basis for the Clean Power Plan 

    Attacks on the Clean Power Plan and our other clean air protections present an unprecedented attack on our children’s health. It takes our nation backwards – to more pollution, more disease – even though Americans support forward progress towards clean air and clean energy.

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    Congress just fixed TSCA – yet is now gearing up to re-impose the worst flaws of the old law across the entire Federal government

    By Richard Denison

    Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

    I noted in a recent post EDF’s grave concerns about the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), which passed the House on January 11.  A shorter but still very concerning version of it may soon be introduced in the Senate, modeled on last Congress’ Senate version of RAA.  This bill would add dozens of burdensome and time-consuming hurdles to the rulemaking process, effectively crippling it and eliminating the health and safety protections rules are intended to provide.  To get a feel for all of the requirements, see this dizzying RAA flow chart.

    Among other things, the RAA would mandate multiple rounds of cost and impact analysis of a potentially unlimited number of regulatory alternatives; require that all major rules go through an entirely new pre-proposal step, adding months if not longer to the rulemaking process; generally require that agencies choose the lowest-cost regulatory option, regardless of whether or not it is the best option or even sufficient to meet a law’s requirements; and require lengthy and resource-intensive public hearings on many rules.  To top all this off, the bill would require an agency to finalize a proposed rule within 2 years (subject to a 1-year extension) – a timeframe almost impossible to meet now without all of the additional requirements the Act would impose; if that deadline was not met, the agency would have to start over.

    There is extreme irony in the advancement of the RAA in this Congress:  Just last June, both houses of Congress passed – with overwhelming bipartisan support – major reforms to the obsolete Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The Lautenberg Act removed from the original TSCA several major constraints on the rulemaking process that had so tied the hands of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it could not even restrict asbestos, a known carcinogen that kills more than 10,000 Americans every year.  There was widespread agreement among industry and other stakeholders that those provisions of the old TSCA were detrimental or unnecessary to an efficient regulatory system and were undermining public and market confidence in the federal chemical safety system – not to mention failing to protect public health.

    So here’s the irony:  The RAA would impose those same knot-tying strictures that the Lautenberg Act just got rid of – and expand them to rulemakings undertaken by any federal agency.  Let’s look at some of these crippling requirements, based on last Congress’s Senate version of the RAA:  

    COST-BENEFIT CONSIDERATIONS:  As interpreted by the 5th Circuit in Corrosion Proof Fittings v. EPA, in order to regulate a chemical under the old TSCA, EPA had to conduct quantitative cost-benefit analysis (CBA) on a potentially limitless number of regulatory alternatives, regardless of whether information was available.  This requirement, coupled with the “least burdensome” requirement discussed below, is widely regarded as the most fatal flaw of the old TSCA, imposing virtually impossible evidentiary and analytic burdens on EPA.

    The Lautenberg Act fixed these problems:  It requires EPA only to “consider and publish a statement on” the economic effects of a rule, and to do so only:  i) “to the extent practicable,” ii) “based on reasonably available information,” and iii) “for the 1 or more primary alternatives considered by” EPA.  It provides EPA with considerable discretion to limit the extent of analysis so that it is feasible.

    Enter the RAA:  EPA and other federal agencies would have to evaluate “any substantial alternatives or other responses identified by interested persons,” regardless of how many alternatives that would be and whether or not information on them is reasonably available.  Literally anyone could tie an agency in knots merely by suggesting options that the agency would then have to analyze.  For major or high-impact rules, formal CBA would be required to be conducted on each such alternative, with virtually no discretion afforded the agency based on availability of information or practicality, and the agency would have to demonstrate that the “benefits … justify the costs.”

    LEAST-COST REQUIREMENT:  The original TSCA required that EPA prove its selected regulatory requirement was the “least burdensome” of all possible options sufficient to address the problem.  The Lautenberg Act struck this requirement entirely.

    Yet under the RAA, for all major or high-impact rules, EPA and other agencies would be required generally to adopt the “least costly” rule and prove that no lower-cost option is sufficient; an exception is provided where EPA could demonstrate, through even more analysis, that the additional benefits – which could not count any ancillary benefits – of a more costly rule justify the additional costs.  Yet, in contrast to costs, many benefits are very difficult to quantify or monetize and hence get short shrift in such cost-benefit analyses.

    RULEMAKING STANDARD:  As just noted, TSCA originally required that EPA’s regulation to address an identified risk protect adequately against such risk using the “least burdensome requirements.”  It allowed a rule that did not actually eliminate the risk if the rule was deemed too costly.  A key reform made by the Lautenberg Act is that it precludes EPA from adopting a rule that does not eliminate an identified risk, which is to be determined without consideration of cost; then, in regulating such risk, EPA must consider costs – but only in deciding among different regulatory options each of which is sufficiently protective.  Moreover, these cost factors are only required to be considered, and EPA is not required to prove that an option meets a specific test (e.g., lowest-cost).

    The RAA only generally indicates that a rule is to “meet relevant statutory objectives” – a vague term that does not require that a rule be sufficient to meet all requirements of the law that mandates or authorizes it.  In contrast, the bill’s language on cost requirements does not make clear that a rule not meeting a health-based standard would not be allowed.

    REQUESTS FOR HEARINGS:  Under the old TSCA, any person could request EPA to hold a public hearing on any rule.  The Lautenberg Act struck this provision as unnecessary and overly time- and resource-intensive.  It was struck based on agreement among stakeholders that hearings were not needed and would make it impossible for EPA to meet the new law’s rulemaking deadlines.

    Under the RAA, any person would be able to request a hearing on any major or high-impact rule, other than a rule “required by law” that is not a high-impact rule.  An agency would generally have to grant the request if any factual issue is in dispute, which is nearly always the case at some level.  Under this approach, any entity that wanted to drag out and obstruct a rule would have a ready opportunity to do so.

    DEADLINES:  The old TSCA imposed no deadlines on EPA to identify or take action to address unreasonable chemical risks.  The Lautenberg Act imposes judicially enforceable deadlines on EPA’s proposal and finalization of risk management rules.  Critically, however, failure to meet a deadline does not relieve EPA of its obligation to complete the rulemaking.

    The RAA perverts the very accountability that deadlines under the new TSCA and most federal statutes are intended to provide.  If an agency did not complete a rulemaking with 2 years of proposal (subject to a 1-year extension), the rule would be voided and the agency would have to start over – further delaying needed action to protect health or achieve a law’s key objectives.  This “reverse deadline” would apply to all rules.  Two years is highly ambitious to meet even under current rulemaking procedures, and agencies have rarely done so.  Coupled with all of the new procedural, analytic and evidentiary hurdles to rulemaking imposed by RAA, this deadline would be virtually impossible to meet and would mean virtually no regulations of any substance could be finalized.

     

    Less than a year after Congress overwhelmingly adopted the Lautenberg Act – the first major federal environmental legislation enacted in over two decades – some in Congress are now threatening to impose across all of government the same paralyzing mandates that were just removed from the original TSCA by passage of the Lautenberg Act.

    Lest anyone think I’m suggesting simply exempting the Lautenberg Act from the RAA, let me be clear that is no solution at all.  Congress passed the Lautenberg Act in order to restore public and market confidence in a key element of the federal safety net.  This step was also acknowledged as necessary to provide the business community with the regulatory certainty it needs to operate.  These are needs that cut across the entire federal landscape.

    The very real threats – to public health, to our communities and to our environment – posed by the RAA suggests some in Congress have very short memories.

     

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    States Underscore U.S. Methane Momentum, Latest Reason for Canada to Press Ahead

    By Drew Nelson

    U.S. states are accelerating steps to reduce oil and gas air pollution. Just last week Ohio – which has a Republican Governor, and Republican-controlled Senate and House – joined the list of states targeting oil and gas emissions with a new methane policy that requires operators to check for leaks at compressor stations four times a year. Showing that it’s not a matter of politics, but smart policy to require oil and gas companies to regularly inspect for and repair leaky equipment.

    At the same time, Canada is developing its own requirements to cut oil and gas methane emissions by 45 percent, an effort that some in industry are resisting over concerns of possible U.S. federal policy changes. But Canada needs to keep its eyes on the states where action has taken hold for good reason.

    Methane, a powerful pollutant, has emerged as a key energy and environmental challenge.

    Natural gas is mostly methane. When it leaks and is vented from thousands of oil and gas facilities, methane loss to the atmosphere is wasted energy that hurts not only businesses but local economies.

    Oil and gas operations also release smog-forming pollution that degrades air quality and can impact the health of people living near this development.

    Companies in the oil and gas sector are among the largest sources of man-made methane emissions, which are responsible for about 25 percent of today’s warming.

    States see clear benefits

    Tighter controls for oil and gas emissions are popping up in red and blue states – including California, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming.

    Colorado was the first state to institute methane standards in 2014, and the pay-off has already been seen across the state. A recent industry survey reveals that the majority of companies have found the benefits outweigh the costs of complying with Colorado’s methane regulations.

    States are seeing the job creation potential by managing methane emissions. There are hundreds of companies in the U.S. that manufacture products and provide methane mitigation services – and the prospects are growing to put thousands of more people to work.

    Individual companies are also realizing the financial upside of controlling their emissions. In Wyoming, for example, one operator was able to boost operational efficiencies and recoup $5 million in what otherwise would have been wasted gas by enhancing leak detection and repair practices.

    Will Canada catch up?

    Reports find that similar routine leak inspection and maintenance efforts are a low-cost, high-impact opportunity that Canada can use to deliver sizeable methane emission reductions. In 2014 alone, nearly $550 million dollars (CAN) of natural gas (110 billion cubic feet) leaked from Canada’s industry. That’s enough gas to serve all of the households in Montreal every year – a terrible waste.

    Right now, the Canadian federal government is developing oil and gas methane standards as part of its Pan-Canadian Climate Framework. And Alberta is working on its own set of methane regulations. Getting these regulations right and following in the steps of several U.S. states that have proven methane regulations are a win-win, will help Canada not only fulfill its climate goals but ensure that oil and gas companies operating in Canada and the states remain on an even playing field.

    Consider this: more oil and gas production is covered by existing or pending U.S. state regulations than what the federal Canadian regulations will cover. This is a powerful data point that speaks to the feasibility of addressing oil and gas methane emissions, both politically and technically.

    There is enormous upside for Canada to move ahead with strong methane rules. The trend toward action among major oil-and-gas producing states, now including Ohio’s quarterly methane leak inspection requirements, is one more sign that the case for methane regulations is clear. Now it’s time for Canada to show that it won’t be left behind.

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    In Early Action, EPA Administrator Pruitt Moves to Block Communities’ Right to Know about Oil and Gas Pollution

    By Peter Zalzal

    Last Thursday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt withdrew the agency’s Information Collection Request (“ICR”) for the Oil and Natural Gas Sector, abruptly halting the gathering of information on harmful methane, smog-forming and toxic pollution from these industrial sources.

    In announcing the move, Administrator Pruitt hailed the benefits for the oil and gas industry, but notably ignored the interests of everyday Americans right to know about harmful pollution from oil and gas facilities.

    Pruitt’s action also stops EPA from obtaining information that can inform future safeguards against this pollution. Even though cost-effective, common-sense best practices and technologies exist to reduce emissions from oil and gas facilities, most existing facilities in this sector are largely exempt from any requirements to control the vast quantities of pollution they emit.

    This flawed decision is at odds with the core tenets of the agency Administrator Pruitt is entrusted to lead and inimical to the health and environmental laws he has committed to faithfully execute. Unfortunately, it is also altogether predictable. Indeed this action—which allows oil and gas companies to withhold vital pollution data from thousands of sites across the country— reflects and reinforces concerns raised about Administrator Pruitt’s ability to lead an agency that he has persistently sought to undermine.

    1. Pruitt Chooses Secrecy Over Transparency.

    EPA has a long bipartisan history of providing data to the public about pollution in their communities. Indeed, during the Reagan Administration, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, which included provisions for EPA to create a publicly-available inventory of toxic chemicals down to the local level. Similarly, President George W. Bush signed a bill requiring EPA to collect and disseminate greenhouse gas emissions data from industrial sources across the country.

    By withdrawing the ICR, Administrator Pruitt aims to shield the oil and gas sector from public scrutiny. Unfortunately, his penchant for secrecy with respect the oil and gas sector is familiar. During his controversial Senate confirmation process, Pruitt sought to withhold thousands of emails related to his ties to major energy interests who have donated to his political causes. While a number of those e-mails have been released, many more remain hidden from public view.

    In the face of last week’s action by Administrator Pruitt, EDF has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for all ICR data that has been submitted along with all records related to EPA’s decision to halt data collection.

    2. Pruitt Places a Premium on the Views of Industry and Their Allies

    In recent years, EPA has undertaken a careful, data-driven process to put in place protections to reduce pollution from the oil and gas sector. Often, EPA undertook such extensive data gathering to address industry concerns. The ICR was the latest data gathering effort, designed to ensure EPA had the full complement of information on existing oil and gas facilities. These existing facilities account for the vast majority of the sector’s pollution in coming years, yet remain largely exempt from any methane pollution control requirements.

    To tailor its data request, EPA carried out two rounds of public comments, assessed significant stakeholder feedback, and substantially altered the request in response in order to leverage existing data and use electronic reporting frameworks.

    In contrast to this careful and deliberative process, Administrator Pruitt withdrew the ICR with just one paragraph of explanation, just one day after receiving a request to do so from the Texas and Oklahoma Attorneys General and others.

    Coincidentally, when Pruitt was Oklahoma Attorney General, he was aligned with the oil and gas industry in legal challenges seeking to undermine EPA’s oil and gas methane standards. It is disappointing, but not surprising, that he did not solicit input or wait to hear from any of the many other stakeholders involved in this process. Pruitt’s decision to withdraw the ICR may likewise raise conflicts of interest and should be closely scrutinized in light of his ethical obligations as administrator of EPA.

    The Administrator has taken similar approaches in the past. As Oklahoma AG, for example, Pruitt simply copied and pasted industry requests and sent them to senior government officials under his own official seal.

    EPA is legally required to protect the public from harmful pollution from oil and gas facilities. In carrying out that obligation, it is critical that public officials base decisions that affect our health and safety on careful review of the most rigorous scientific information available—and not simply accept, without any deliberation or inquiry, the recommendations of parties that have a vested interest in weakening health protections.

    3. Pruitt’s Selective View of States Rights

    As reason for withdrawing the ICR, Administrator Pruitt pointed to the request from the Texas Attorney General and the need to, in his words, “strengthen … our partnership with the states.”

    But Pruitt’s notion of cooperative federalism bears no resemblance to the collaborative approach that EPA and states have taken to solving air pollution problems over the last four decades. Indeed, the Administrator seems comfortable with states’ rights when those states are seeking to hide emissions information and block clean air safeguards, but opposes states’ rights when they want stronger protections for their citizens.

    For instance, large oil and gas producing states like Colorado and California have in place standards to reduce oil and gas sector emissions. Last Thursday, Ohio adopted stronger standards for certain sources. Eleven states – including major energy-producing states like New Mexico and California – have intervened in court to defend the same EPA emission standards for the oil and gas sector that the Texas Attorney General and his allies attacked in their letter. And many states have likewise supported EPA’s information collection request.

    The Administrator’s decision ignores these views and undermines stronger state-level partnership. This is the very same disregard for state efforts to reduce pollution that Administrator Pruitt demonstrated when, during his confirmation hearing, he conveyed reservations about California’s longstanding authority to adopt vehicle emissions standards to address the state’s unique air pollution problems. And, over the weekend, additional reports surfaced suggesting that the Administration was planning attacks on California’s authority, which could be initiated as soon as this week.

    This concept of states’ rights as a one-way justification to erode clean air protections is both dangerous and inconsistent with the Clean Air Act’s framework.

    The underminer

    During his confirmation hearing, Administrator Pruitt committed to carrying out EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment using rigorous data.  Unfortunately, with one of his first actions, he chose to undermine both.

    This post originally appeared on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog.

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    Here’s the proof REDD+ is advancing

    By Chris Meyer

    REDD+ activity has shifted from securing recognition in the global agreement to focusing on development and implementation at the national and subnational levels. Image source: flickr

    The director general of a leading tropical forest research center recently told a Yale conference of international forest experts that Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (known as REDD+) was a “good idea [that] didn’t work,” and has now “disappeared” (video clip at 1hr 9min). But far from having vanished, REDD+ is steadily advancing in countries and states around the world.

    Emerging REDD+ programs at national and subnational levels

    For much of the past decade, REDD+ was a hot topic of global conferences, and a standout success at the UN climate negotiations, where it received explicit recognition in 2015’s international Paris climate agreement.

    Now enshrined at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), REDD+ is experiencing a groundswell of action at the national and subnational levels. Tropical forest countries are designing and implementing their REDD+ programs at home, as well as submitting documentation to the UNFCCC and Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) for review and funding.

    Here are some examples of REDD+ programs and activities that are demonstrating progress at the national and subnational levels:

    • Brazil has taken the lead and submitted to the UNFCCC 1) a national REDD+ strategy, 2) a forest reference level (i.e. a baseline for deforestation), 3) information on safeguards to protect the environment and society, and 4) a national forest monitoring system. These four elements are vital to ensuring that emissions reductions for REDD+ are real, measurable and provide benefits to the environment and society. 

      REDD+ is experiencing a groundswell of action at the national and subnational levels.

    • The Democratic Republic of Congo and Ecuador also submitted their national REDD+ strategies to the UNFCCC.
    • 25 countries have submitted their forest reference levels to the UNFCCC, 10 of which were submitted at the end of 2016.
    • Chile, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mexico all had their REDD+ programs approved by the FCPF in 2016; these programs will begin generating emissions reductions this year. The World Bank plans to sign purchase agreements with some of the programs by the end of 2017.
    • The Green Climate Fund approved in 2016 two REDD+ implementation grants worth tens of millions of dollars for Ecuador and Madagascar.
    • Germany, UK, and Norway pledged $5 billion for results-based payments between 2016 and 2020.
    • The Green Climate Fund will define its criteria for REDD+ results-based payments for approval by April 2017, unlocking another pathway for REDD+ financing.

    Results-based REDD+ financing still needed

    REDD+’s explicit recognition in the Paris Agreement politically secured its future in the post-2020 climate framework. But for REDD+ to be fully implemented, it needs adequate and sustainable financing to support a results-based payment system that includes:

    • The UNFCCC should finish its guidance on International Transfers of Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs), which will facilitate REDD+ market transactions.
    • The Green Climate Fund should complete its REDD+ results-based payments criteria for those countries interested in non-market finance.
    • Other potential compliance markets in California and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) need to give their approval to REDD+ offsets.

    In conclusion, I do partially agree that REDD+ has “disappeared” in that certain – the parts facets and activities of REDD+ that needed to disappear are no longer. REDD+ activity has – appropriately – shifted from securing recognition in the global agreement to focusing on development and implementation at the national and subnational levels.

    Now, building on the momentum from the Paris Agreement’s entry into force, countries need to expedite the process of creating the results-based payment mechanisms to ensure a sustainable and reliable REDD+ finance system.

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    Companies Want Clean Energy – These 2 EPA Programs Help Them Get It.

    By Liz Delaney

    For companies, future planning is simply good business. This is why many in Corporate America – having long accepted that climate change is real – are continuing to transition towards low-carbon energy options and to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    Recently, it was reported that under the watch of newly-appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the environmental agency’s budget could be cut by 24 percent – to roughly $6 billion, its lowest since the mid-1980’s. If this happens, it may be up to the business community to maintain its vigilant eye on the environment and future while helping today’s economy thrive.

    Here’s a look at just two of the many EPA programs that have helped business transition to a clean energy future.

    The Clean Power Plan

    Many in the business community strongly supported the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) – the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The argument? Dirty sources of energy generation are becoming a growing concern for corporate America. These energy sources are increasingly uneconomic. Fortune 500 companies routinely set renewable energy and emissions reduction goals, but find roadblocks in many energy markets around the country.


    Companies Want Clean Energy – These 2 EPA Programs Help Them Get It.
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    Fortunately, the CPP can open new opportunities for businesses interested in operating in a clean energy economy. The rule’s flexible framework puts states in the driver’s seat to set plans that call for the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions for meeting pollution reduction targets while spurring innovation.

    The CPP is positioned to do the following:

    • Generate $155 billionin consumer savings between 2020-2030
    • Create 3x as many jobs per $1 investedin clean energy as compared to $1 invested in fossil fuels
    • Lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $54 billion, including avoiding 3,600premature deaths in 2030

    The Green Power Partnership

    The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program launched by the EPA to increase the use of renewable electricity in the U.S. Under the program, businesses are armed with resources and provided technical support to identify the types of green power products that best meet their goals. Since its inception, the Partnership has made notable progress in addressing market barriers to green power procurement.

    We don’t know what will happen in Washington over the next few years. But many businesses are moving forward.

    Through the Partnership, companies can reduce their carbon footprints, increase cost savings, and demonstrate civic leadership, which further drives customer, investor and stakeholder loyalty. At the end of 2015, over 1,300 Partners were collectively using more than 30 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, equivalent to the electricity use of more than three million average American homes.

    Long-term economics versus short-term politics

    We don’t know what will happen in Washington over the next few years. But many businesses are moving forward. Rather than shift course, corporations are increasing investments in clean, reliable power, a move that is consistent with sound business practices.

    But business can’t do it alone. The EPA supports responsible companies who have committed to reducing their carbon footprints while safeguarding our planet. It’s time for business to not just leverage their scale and buying power to help accelerate the transition to a clean energy future, but to speak up in favor of maintaining a well-funded agency that continues to make decisions based on sound science and the law.

    This post originally appeared on our EDF+Business blog.

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    Misguided Regulatory Accountability Act Will Increase Red Tape, Obstruct Vital Safeguards for Millions of Americans

    By Martha Roberts

    New legislative proposals on the Hill put long-standing public health, safety and environmental protections at risk.

    These so-called “regulatory reform” efforts sound innocuous, but they would dramatically increase red tape and industry lobbyist influence – eviscerating bedrock statutory protections for American communities.

    Take just one example – the Senate version of the Regulatory Accountability Act from 2015, which is widely seen as a potential foundation for legislation in this new Congress.

    With this legislation, the development of any new protections – new clean air protections, new food safety requirements, new care standards for veterans, new child safety regulations – would be subject to a range of needless additional hurdles. And if the protections couldn’t get through the hurdles in time, then the whole process would have to start again, from scratch. Important safeguards would face time-consuming, costly new burdens – burdens that would fall on the public, on businesses, and anyone trying to participate in the decision-making process.

    These additional, costly hurdles will give powerful interests that can afford expensive lawyers a leg up in the rulemaking process – allowing them to delay and obstruct protections they don’t like, as well as boosting their chances of fighting in court – while tilting the playing field against everyone else.

    Here’s a head-spinning diagram showing what the process for drafting a new safeguard would look like if this proposed legislation became law:

    Here are just some of the burdensome new requirements included in the 2015 version of this legislation:

    Paralysis by Analysis to Derail Vital Safeguards

    The Regulatory Accountability Act would impose needless analytic requirements on proposed new protections that would add a heavy burden without any benefit. Agencies already exhaustively assess the costs and benefits of new protections, but this legislation would require agencies to analyze and compare a potentially limitless number of proposed alternatives to the plan they think is best, using a variety of new, additional analyses.

    A new crib safety regulation, for example, put forth in response to evidence of a real threat to babies, might have to wait years while an agency completed a host of vague, undefined analyses for each alternative proposed by industry — as detailed in the diagram above. A court would then have broad authority to scrutinize the analyses’ adequacy, giving industry attorneys another chance to challenge and block important safeguards.

    Thumb on the Scale Against Protecting Americans from Serious Harm

    Not surprisingly, within the very long list of additional requirements in the Regulatory Accountability Act, there’s barely a hint of considering any of the benefits of health and safety protections – healthier and safer lives, stronger communities, new jobs in clean energy and health and safety fields, among many others.

    Least Common Denominator

    Under the Regulatory Accountability Act, at the initiation of rulemaking an agency would have to solicit alternatives for accomplishing the objectives of the agency “with the lowest cost.” For many rules, the agency would generally be required to adopt the least-costly option considered – regardless of the benefits of the different options.

    Under this reasoning, a drinking water protection that imposes no costs would beat out one that imposes $1 in costs, even if the latter yielded substantially better protection and major health benefits.

    While the Regulatory Accountability Act would permit an agency to adopt a rule that is “more costly than the least costly alternative,” it would only be authorized where the agency has completed additional burdensome analysis and explanation that would be subject to challenge in court – creating obvious pressure to default to the least protective approach.

    More generally, this rigid requirement would override existing laws and leave safeguards more vulnerable to challenge in court from those opposed to protection.

    Science on Trial

    The Regulatory Accountability Act would allow anyone to request a formal hearing on the record with cross-examination of the parties over disputed facts. This addition would amount to a trial-like procedure at the proposal stage, and could be invoked in a wide range of circumstances. Echoing a theme of this legislation, the burden of proof would be against protection. There’s no clarity about what counts as a disputed fact – meaning that this burdensome, needless exercise could be invoked to rehash long-settled issues about health and environmental risks.

    Consider a new air pollution protection – EPA might now be subject to an entire hearing procedure to re-prove that smog causes asthma attacks and other lung diseases. This requirement would add major delays and costs to implementation of any protection, and would put industry and other moneyed interests at a considerable advantage over organizations and individuals who are less able to retain expensive lawyers and expert witnesses.

    Less Science, More Cost

    The Regulatory Accountability Act includes new requirements for the publication of any and all data that an agency requests, receives, or relies on during a rulemaking process. Transparency is important – and it is a foundation of current rulemaking processes. But these requirements have significant similarities with the misguided Secret Science bill that has been considered in past Congressional terms in that it is incompatible both with ethical and legal requirements to keep personal health records confidential and is designed to obstruct consideration of major rigorous peer reviewed studies that properly rely on but do not disclose private individual health data.

    Safeguard Guillotine

    Under the proposed legislation, if an agency cannot meet newly imposed deadlines for finalizing a rule, it gets one extension. If the agency misses the second deadline, the proposal is null and void, and the agency must start over from scratch. No exceptions — not for veterans, not for airplane safety, not for children’s health, not for common sense, none. The agency must re-propose and start over from square one.

    These arbitrary deadlines would be challenging to meet even under current procedures. With all the requirements imposed by this bill, anyone opposed to a new safeguard would have innumerable opportunities to drag out the process and force an agency to miss this arbitrary deadline – derailing vital safeguards and sending expert agencies back to the drawing board.

    The Result: More Red Tape, Less Protection for Our Communities and Families

    Why are supporters of this legislation arguing for more red tape?

    The Regulatory Accountability Act is not designed to streamline and improve the regulatory process. It’s designed to bog down development of any new safeguard — any new protection. This bill offers countless new hurdles that can block new safeguards, or create new grounds for litigation and lawsuits. For big polluters, that would be great news.

    For everyone else, this legislation would mean more delay, more burden, and more uncertainty in establishing basic protections. Many of these requirements substantially increase barriers for ordinary citizens and small businesses to participate and inform the decision-making process. The result, in practice, would be that big-money interests would have a big edge in influencing final decisions, at the expense of small businesses and everyday citizens.

     

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