This week the White House is launching a major effort to shore up support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan. The historic and ambitious rule, proposed by EPA on June 18, 2014, (79 Fed. Reg. 34830), seeks to cut emissions of carbon dioxide from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants by 30 percent by 2030. The rule is the centerpiece of President Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) on July 22, 2014, held a webinar in conjunction with Pollution Engineering Magazine on the rule. The webinar can be viewed online for a limited time.
The comment period on the proposal closes on October 16, 2014. EPA states that it has already received over 300,000 comments on the proposed rule. In an effort to garner additional public input and support for the rule, this week EPA will host hearings in four cities: July 29 – 30 in Atlanta, Denver, and Washington, and July 31 – August 1 in Pittsburgh. Some 2,000 individuals have registered to participate in the hearings.
The proposed rule has sparked vigorous debate. With the rhetoric heating up, the White House today released a report stating that that the costs of inaction on climate change would be catastrophic for the economy. Entitled The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change, the report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers finds that delaying policy actions by a decade increases total mitigation costs by approximately 40 percent, and failing to take any action would risk substantial economic damage. According to the report, a delay that results in warming of 3° Celsius above preindustrial levels, instead of 2°, could increase economic damages by approximately 0.9 percent of global output. To put this in perspective, 0.9 percent of estimated 2014 U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is approximately $150 billion. The incremental cost of an additional degree of warming beyond 3° Celsius would be even greater. Moreover, these costs are not one-time, but are incurred year after year because of the permanent damage caused by increased climate change resulting from the delay. The report further states the cost of delay for hitting a specified climate target suggests that net mitigation costs increase, on average, by approximately 40 percent for each decade of delay.
Citing inaction by Congress on climate change, Obama is also poised to sidestep lawmakers with a new suite of executive actions on climate change. Today Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will unveil a series of actions, partnerships and stakeholder commitments to help modernize the nation’s natural gas, transmission and distribution systems and reduce methane emissions. And in what the White House calls “a major step to advance the President’s Climate Data Initiative,” the Obama administration today will host leaders of the technology and agricultural sectors to the White House to discuss new collaborative steps to unleash data that “will help ensure our food system is resilient to the effects of climate change.” Today’s convening at the White House will include commitments by private-sector companies and nongovernmental organizations to support the President’s Climate Data Initiative by harnessing climate data in ways that the White House claims will increase the resilience of America’s food system and help reduce the contribution of the nation’s agricultural sector to climate change. Microsoft Research, for instance, will grant 12 months of free cloud-computing resources to winners of a national challenge to create a smartphone app that helps farmers increase the resilience of their food production systems in the face of weather variability and climate change; the Michigan Agri-Business Association will soon launch a publicly available web-based mapping tool for use by the state’s agriculture sector; and the U.S. dairy industry will test and pilot four new modules –energy, feed, nutrient, and herd management – on the data-driven Farm Smart environmental-footprint calculation tool by the end of 2014.