February 28, 2023
February 2023 at Policy Integrity
- Groundbreaking Court Decision Calls for Considering Climate in Drilling Permitting, Citing Policy Integrity
- Defending a Much-Needed Update to Climate Damage Metrics
- EPA Restores Legal Foundation to Limit Mercury & Air Toxics from the Power Sector
- Reducing Methane and Other Harmful Pollution from Oil & Natural Gas Operations
- Fine-Tuning Emissions Pricing to Reduce Ground-Level Pollution
- More From This Month
Groundbreaking Court Decision Calls for Considering Climate in Drilling Permitting, Citing Policy Integrity
In a precedent-setting decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit found that the Department of the Interior must consider the cumulative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollution when reviewing oil and gas drilling applications under the National Environmental Policy Act. The court adopted and cited the arguments in our amicus brief in the case, which explained that Interior inappropriately minimized the climate impacts of drilling projects by comparing their emissions to nationwide totals instead of using more precise estimates of climate impacts, such as the social cost of greenhouse gases.
In November, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new up-to-date estimates for the social cost of greenhouse gases, a key climate damage metric. Citing Policy Integrity research dozens of times, the social cost of carbon’s central value was adjusted from $51-per-ton to $190 (for emissions in 2020).
Together with partner groups, we submitted comments commending EPA and bolstering the agency’s consideration of global climate damages and choice of discount rates. In parallel, we urged other agencies to apply the up-to-date social cost of greenhouse gases values to estimate the climate benefits of proposed rules, such as new energy efficiency standards.
This month, EPA restored the legal foundation for regulating emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from coal- and oil-fired power plants. In the final rule, the agency found that this regulation is “appropriate and necessary” after weighing its significant public health benefits, costs, and other factors. EPA adopted an approach that gives weight to all of the advantages and disadvantages of its decision, including unquantified benefits and the significant co-benefits of reducing non-HAP emissions such as particulate matter, though the agency found that the rule would be appropriate even without considering co-benefits. Policy Integrity has long recommended that EPA consider unquantified effects and co-benefits, as is consistent with the best economic practices and the law, including through our comments on the 2022 proposed rule.
Oil and gas operations are a significant source of methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 times the global warming potential as carbon dioxide. These operations also release volatile organic compounds, which contribute to public health hazards such as smog and air toxics. Recently, EPA expanded its proposed rule to limit methane emissions from new and existing sources in the oil and gas sector. Our comments explain how the agency can strengthen the rule’s underlying analysis to more fully account for the costs and benefits of the proposal and better assess their distribution to prevent further harm to the most vulnerable communities.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are a precursor to ground-level ozone, a pollutant that endangers human health and ecosystems. Despite a steady decline in NOx emissions from power plants over the past two decades, episodic high-ozone events prevent many areas from attaining air quality standards set by EPA. Targeted regulation could help reduce these events by incentivizing power plants to reduce NOx emissions when they are most likely to form ozone. Our new working paper, written in collaboration with Resources for the Future, finds that spatially and temporally differentiated pricing has the potential to be significantly more cost effective at reducing high-ozone events than uniform emissions pricing.
More From This Month
The New York Times highlighted our joint study, which found that a carbon trading scheme for New York City buildings would lead to deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and lower the cost of complying with the law.
Our new policy brief examines the legal dynamics for Massachusetts utilities’ transition away from gas service given their obligations to serve.
We also submitted comments to: