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

A quick roundup of some of the articles that caught my eye on Twitter in the past week or so:

First, U.S. NewsWashington Whispers page has a report out on EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy seemingly snubbing the press after a private event at the National Press Club yesterday where she gave a presentation

EPA released a draft of its Clean Power Plan Rule yesterday, a topic that dominated my Twitter feed all day and already is sharpening the debate on the use of policy and the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon emissions. Our first reaction to the rule was that it likely will have little impact on carbon policy in Washington State. We already enjoy one of the least carbon-intensive energy infrastructures due to the abundance of hydroelectric energy in Washington, and Washington has already negotiated the phase-out of its only coal fired power plant, operated by TransAlta in Centralia, through the passage of Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5769 back in 2011.

Then, yesterday afternoon, the AP released this story with the headline, “EPA says Washington must cut emissions by 72 percent,” and a picture of a coal train in downtown Seattle. The article contains a few quotes from various parties regarding the implications of the proposed Clean Power Plan Rule in Washington. I was curious where the 72 percent number came from, and decided to dig into the draft rule yesterday evening.

Here is what I found:


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On April 29, 2014, Governor Inslee signed Executive Order 14-04, titled “Washington Carbon Reduction and Clean Energy Action.” This order supersedes two orders by Washington’s prior governor (EO 07-02 and EO 09-05) and will serve as the framework for Governor Inslee’s actions on climate change. EO 14-04 is a dense nine pages long, and was informed by the work of the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup, the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group, and other academic and policy information sources. Governor Inslee is taking ten measures to address the issues raised by current research into climate change. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Establishing a Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce: Convening for the first time on the day EO 14-04 was signed, this taskforce is being created to provide recommendations on the design and implementation of carbon emission limits and market mechanisms for Washington. The target for the taskforce’s work is legislation to be introduced by the Governor in the next legislative session. Governor Inslee has put some parameters around the carbon emissions reduction program he wishes to see in Washington, including (1) a cap on pollution emissions, with binding requirements to meet statutory emission limits; and (2) inclusion of market mechanisms needed to meet emission limits in the “most effective and efficient manner possible.”

2.  Coal-Fired Electricity: Continuing the trend that started with the phase-out of the TransAlta’s coal-fired power plant in Centralia, the Governor stated a goal of reduction and then elimination of electric power produced with coal. Besides the TransAlta plant, Washington receives some power from the Colstrip facility in Montana, and Governor Inslee is authorizing the Legislative Affairs and Policy Office to negotiate with utilities on the reduction of use of electricity generated from coal.

3.  Clean Transportation: The Governor sets a number of goals regarding the Washington Department of Transportation, including developing an action plan to advance electric vehicle use, programs related to transportation efficiency (including updating comprehensive plans to maximize transportation efficiency); and identifying increased investment opportunities in multimodal transportation. Nested in this action item is the a study on a low carbon fuel standard, contained in the Governor’s directive to the Office of Financial Management to perform a study on the “technical feasibility, costs and benefits, and job implications of requiring the use of cleaner transportation fuels through standards that reduce carbon intensity of these fuels over time.”

4.  Clean Technology: The Governor sets a number of goals related to clean technology. These include asking the Washington State Energy Program to work with the Utilities and Transportation Commission, the Department of Commerce and other state agencies to review statutes, rules, policies, and incentives for solar energy in Washington.

5.  Energy Efficiency: The Governor is asking the Department of Commerce to work with the Washington State University Energy Program, the State Building Code and other agencies to “develop, and implement to the extent possible and consistent with state and federal law, a new statewide program to significantly improve the energy performance” of both public and private buildings. This sounds like a lofty goal, but arguably is the area where Washington as a state can achieve the most gains from an energy consumption perspective. Reading the Governor’s goals made me think of Denis Haye’s comments on Earth Day with respect to shifting environmental policies, and the increased focus on energy efficiency in building codes.

The Governor also set goals in terms of state government operations, agency coordination, review of greenhouse gas emission limits, and coordination with legislative committees and members.


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