CLIMATE CHANGE ROUNDUP: Interagency Move to Regulate Carbon Capture & Storage

By Published On: April 16, 2010

Next week, three state agencies plan to kick off an effort that could lead to California regulations and legislation governing carbon capture and storage and its role in carrying out the state’s climate protection law, AB 32. State regulators are convening a panel of experts to develop policies addressing the role of carbon capture and storage in meeting the state’s energy needs and greenhouse gas reduction goals. They plan to issue a report making specific recommendations after several meetings. The California Public Utilities Commission, California Energy Commission, and California Air Resources Board are sponsoring the joint effort, which begins with an April 22 meeting in Sacramento. Representatives of the State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Conservation also are expected to be on hand. * * * * The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tightened its New Source Review rules for permitting and emission offset requirements in the San Joaquin Valley. The region, deemed “an extreme” non attainment area for ozone or smog, is home to numerous power plants. The stricter rule is estimated to impact 350 facilities in the area emitting more than 10 tons per year of ozone creating pollutants. The current rule threshold is 25 tons per year. Expanding the rule’s reach would require more facilities to seek emission offsets. That could shrink the amount of available emission offsets, said Kerry Drake, EPA assistant director of Region IX’s air division. The revision of the federal Clean Air Act rule is part of an ongoing effort to improve air quality in the San Joaquin Valley. “Air quality in the San Joaquin Valley is consistently among the worst in the nation,” Deborah Jordan, director of the air division for the EPA’s Region IX Pacific Southwest region, stated April 13. * * * * Requiring power plants, oil refineries and cement plants to cut carbon dioxide emissions directly would have the ancillary benefit of reducing toxic and smog-forming air pollution, according to report by a group of California professors released this week. Mandating direct cuts, rather than allowing them to meet greenhouse gas reduction requirements through offset projects like planting trees, would particularly benefit the often poor and minority populations that live around heavy industries, the report said. The study comes as the state works to develop a carbon cap-and-trade program that would allow almost half of required greenhouse gas emissions reductions under California’s climate protection law, AB 32, to be fulfilled by emission offsets. The professors, including Manuel Pastor of the University of Southern California, did the study with the help of a William and Flora Hewlett Foundation grant. * * * * Following a scathing report on bogus home products awarded the Energy Star label, the two federal agencies responsible for the program that cuts energy use and associated greenhouse gases announced they’ve revamped its verification, testing, and enforcement procedures. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy stated April 14 they have changed their Energy Star product certification process. “The safeguards we’re putting into effect are essential for the millions of consumers who rely on Energy Star products to help save energy, money and the environment,” stated Gina McCarthy, EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation. “Consumers trust the Energy Star brand to save them money and reduce carbon pollution,” added Cathy Zoi, DOE assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. Going forward, manufacturers that want to qualify their products as Energy Star must submit complete laboratory reports and results for the EPA’s approval. EPA said it will no longer rely on company self certification. The Government Accountability Office submitted some sham products, which quickly were awarded the Energy Star label with no verification (Current, April 2, 2010). All new product applications are to be approved individually by EPA. Beginning at the end of 2010, manufacturers also must submit test results from an approved, accredited lab for any product seeking the Energy Star label. Testing in an accredited lab is currently required for certain product categories including windows, doors, skylights and compact fluorescent lighting. * * * * U.S greenhouse gas emissions dropped nearly 3 percent from 2007, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA’s 2008 U.S. inventory report, released April 15, attributes the 2.9 percent emissions decrease to lower fuel and electricity consumption. Total emissions of the six key greenhouse gases in 2008 were estimated to be the equivalent to 6.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. The gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. Emissions in 2008, however, were 13.5 percent higher than they were in 1990. EPA’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2008 was submitted to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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