Thursday, August 27, 2009

Obama administration moving forward on climate

As the nation mourns the loss of Senator Kennedy and we await Senate action on climate (likely delayed by the healthcare issue), the wheels continue to turn within the Obama administration.

This week, the White House (at long last) began its review of upcoming greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles along with tougher fuel efficiency standards. A government web site notes the review by the Office of Management and Budget began on Tuesday Aug. 25.

You may recall the Obama administration announced its deal with the car industry and the state of California last May. It’s high time they put these new standards into place.

The review suggests that EPA is nearing a final “endangerment” finding that global warming emissions threaten health and the environment. That decision – the right response to the big Supreme Court decision on global warming -- may be interpreted by some as a polite reminder to the Senate that it cannot ignore the climate issue. The EPA finding could be the starting point for additional administrative action on climate if the Senate fizzles.


A related item under current OMB review: final EPA greenhouse gas reporting rules, explained here:

The FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on December 26, 2007, authorized funding for EPA to “develop and publish a draft rule not later than 9 months after the date of enactment of this Act, and a final rule not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act, to require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions above appropriate thresholds in all sectors of the economy of the United States.” The accompanying joint explanatory statement directed EPA to "use its existing authority under the Clean Air Act" to develop a mandatory greenhouse gas reporting rule. The joint explanatory statement went on to say that "The Agency is further directed to include in its rule reporting of emissions resulting from upstream production and downstream sources, to the extent that the Administrator deems it appropriate.” Accordingly this rulemaking would establish monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements on facilities that produce, import, or emit greenhouse gases above a specific threshold in order to provide comprehensive and accurate data to support a range of future climate policy options

As some of you may know, the oil industry met with the White House earlier this month to raise concerns about the rule:


Finally, something of a sleeper: a cautionary note from the EPA that pumping carbon dioxide underground could damage groundwater aquifers that supply drinking water. The basic concern, as an excellent story in today’s Energy Daily points out, is that “if carbon dioxide injected underground were to migrate to shallow aquifers, concentrations of arsenic and other heavy metals in the groundwater could increase and thus contaminate the water. “ Oh, that.

Capturing and pumping this stuff underground, of course, is, as Energy Daily notes, is “seen as crucial to the continued use of coal for electricity generation in a carbon-constrained regula­tory environment.”

Here is some relevant background, including EPA’s new “notice of data availability” and the interesting research by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory:

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