Climate Change: CPUC Tops Agencies in GHG Reductions

By Published On: January 13, 2012

The California Public Utilities Commission is at the head of the class in reducing greenhouse gas emissions among state agencies, according to The 2012 State Agency Greenhouse Gas Reduction Report Card. CPUC programs--like renewable energy and energy efficiency standards--cut statewide greenhouse gases by 3.5 million metric tons in 2009 and by 5.8 million metric tons in 2010. Next in line is the California Energy Commission. The agency’s programs--such as appliance efficiency and building standards--cut greenhouse gases by 1.7 million metric tons in 2009 and 3 million metric tons in 2010. In third was the California Air Resources Board. Its programs--like motor vehicle emissions standards--cut emissions by 0.5 million metric tons in 2009 and 1.1 million metric tons in 2010. The Air Board is in charge of administering the state’s climate protection law, AB 32. * * * * * Stanford and Massachusetts of Technology researchers concluded that it’s likely technologically feasible to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere--but hardly affordable. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers wrote that it likely would cost about $1,000/ton to remove carbon dioxide from the air, compared to about $50 to $100/ton to remove it from coal power plant smokestacks. That would be like adding a tax of $10 on each gallon of gasoline sold, they wrote. * * * * * The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency released its 2010 measurement of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other stationary emitters. Power plants, in particular coal- fired ones, are by far the largest sources of carbon dioxide pollution, spewing out 2,325 million metric tons. The next largest stationary source of carbon gases is the petroleum refining industry at 183 million metric tons in 2010. California power plants and refiners emitted 71 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, according to the EPA. “The GHG Reporting Program data provides a critical tool for businesses and other innovators to find cost- and fuel-saving efficiencies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and foster technologies to protect public health and the environment,” Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, stated Jan. 11. EPA’s greenhouse reporting program, adopted in October 2009, requires the reporting of carbon emissions from large sources across a range of industry sectors. * * * * * In an ongoing inquiry, Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) is pressing the California Air Resources Board for more details about how it coordinated automotive greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards with the Obama Administration. After receiving a response to his initial 13-page list of questions concerning the standards (Current, Nov. 11, 2011), Issa--who chairs the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform--sent another letter to Nichols shortly before Christmas outlining further questions and seeking more documents. He charged that those involved in coordinating the closely aligned California and federal standards pledged a “vow of silence” and agreed not to put anything in writing. Air Board chair Mary Nichols noted in a Jan. 9 response to Issa’s latest inquiry that the Air Board in its initial response conveyed “over 4,000 pages of documents and communications regarding this process. These included voluminous technical analyses, engineering studies, reports, and model runs, letters between agencies detailing our agreements to work together, and details of hundreds of meetings between agency staff and with manufacturers.” Nichols disputed that there had ever been any “vow of silence.” She added that she knew of no agreement to avoid information in writing. * * * * * The jig is up. The California Air Resources Board said Jan. 8 that all businesses and organizations subject to its carbon cap-and-trade program have to register with the agency by the end of the month. That includes power generators, utilities, electric service providers, co-generators, and other industries. To make it easy, the Air Board announced an on-line registration process.

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