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Science, Law & the Environment Emerging Topics in Environmental Law

What We Are Reading November 7, 2014: More Election Fallout, Peak Coal in China, and Salmon

Posted in Clean Energy, Emerging Policy, Geeky Science Stuff

This week’s “what we are reading” naturally has an election theme:

First, I briefly touched on the threat the Republican takeover of the Senate poses to the President’s Clean Power Plan in my reaction to the elections on Tuesday. This article over at Scientific American (reprinted from Environment & Energy Publishing) goes into much more detail on the political and legal challenges the President’s plan may be facing.

On a regional level, Earth Fix compared Oregon and Washington election results, noting that Oregon’s results shift it closer to a carbon tax. The failure of the Democrats to gain control of the Senate here in Washington is getting quite a bit of press, but Governor Inslee remains “undaunted and optimistic” despite these results. He even has come out linking a price on carbon to part of the solution for the McCleary mandate—although I’m not sure you can get that concept to pencil out (or get the concept past the Republican-majority Senate).

Shifting a bit on the climate change front, the International Energy Agency released a “sneak preview” of its upcoming Medium-Term Coal Market Report, where it concludes that China demand for coal is unlikely to peak in the next decade. This preview of the MTCMP 2014 report provides a good summary of market and economic forces that drive coal demand in China, which are particularly relevant to the Pacific Northwest given the ongoing efforts to export Powder River Basin coal through PNW ports. Demand for coal is one of the main drivers of the efforts to export coal from the United States, so this forecast, if true, suggests that the overseas demand for coal from the United States will not wane anytime soon.

Finally, a couple salmon-relevant pieces that I ran across this week. The first is this article from the Peninsula Daily News on new habitat utilization at the mouth of the Elwha River. It is remarkable to see how rapidly the river is responding to the removal of the dams, and the pictures alone are worth reviewing as they dramatically demonstrate how much sediment has come out of the Elwha drainage after the removal of both dams. And, just down the street from our offices is a massive construction project to replace the aging Seattle Seawall. Part of that project will be nearshore habitat improvements, the details of which are nicely summarized over at the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.