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  • The Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases: An Overview Cover

    The Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases: An Overview

    A Primer on EPA’s Updated Values for Policymakers and Practitioners

    In December 2023, EPA finalized updated values for the social cost of greenhouse gases (SC-GHG), following public comment and expert peer review. The agency derived these estimates using the best available science and economics, and the estimates represent a significant step forward in our ability to properly value climate effects. The brief is intended to introduce policymakers and practitioners to the SC-GHG, break down EPA's updated values, and explain why they represent a powerful tool that can streamline decisionmaking and policy analysis.

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  • Regulatory Antecedents and the Major Questions Doctrine Cover

    Regulatory Antecedents and the Major Questions Doctrine

    Published in the Georgetown Environmental Law Review

    In recent years, federal courts have increasingly assessed the legality of regulatory action by considering its antecedents, or lack thereof, in prior agency actions. Yet as this article explains, federal agencies have insufficiently adapted to this increased judicial focus on regulatory antecedents. While significant agency rulemakings typically include extensive dockets with many different types of analysis, they have generally provided limited analysis of regulatory antecedents. This article suggests that agencies more extensively catalog regulatory antecedents at all stages of the rulemaking process, from drafting to promulgation.

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  • Within Its Wheelhouse Cover

    Within Its Wheelhouse

    EPA’s Latest Power Plant Regulations Rely on Traditional Approaches Left Available After West Virginia v. EPA

    In May 2023, EPA proposed new limits for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from certain fossil-fuel-fired power plants under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. Some critics have suggested that EPA’s new rule triggers the major questions doctrine. Under that doctrine, a court should look skeptically on the agency action in extraordinary cases involving unprecedented and transformative applications of agency authority. But the major questions doctrine is inapplicable to EPA’s use of CCS in its proposed regulations. Rather than propose a new approach that would transform its exercise of statutory authority, EPA has embraced one of its most traditional and well-established regulatory practices: setting emission limits based on pollution controls that cause a regulated source to operate more cleanly. This policy brief details why EPA’s latest proposal to limit GHG emissions from power plants fits neatly within the bounds of the legal authority left intact after West Virginia. It then explains how states and operators retain flexibility to use emission trading and averaging programs to implement EPA’s regulations.

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  • Defining “Adequately Demonstrated” Cover

    Defining “Adequately Demonstrated”

    EPA’s Long History of Forward-Looking Standards Under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act

    In May 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new limits for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from certain fossil-fuel-fired power plants under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. Section 111 requires EPA to set limits reflecting the emission reductions achievable by applying what the agency determines to be the “best system of emission reduction” (BSER) that “has been adequately demonstrated,” and that meets certain other statutory factors. This policy brief summarizes the legal framework of Section 111 (including the legislative history and caselaw relevant to understanding its technology-forcing nature), walks through how courts have interpreted “adequately demonstrated,” reviews EPA’s past use of Section 111 to drive technology improvements, and explains why a potential Supreme Court decision that eliminates or curtails Chevron deference (a legal doctrine providing deference to reasonable agency interpretations of ambiguous statutory language) would not affect the longstanding interpretation of “adequately demonstrated.”

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  • Multi-Objective Transmission Expansion Cover

    Multi-Objective Transmission Expansion

    An Offshore Wind Power Integration Case Study

    Our paper describes a multi-objective, multistage generation, storage and transmission expansion planning model to facilitate efficient and resilient large-scale adoption of offshore wind power. Recognizing regulatory emphasis and, in some cases, requirements to consider externalities, this model explicitly accounts for negative externalities: greenhouse gas emissions and local emission-induced air pollution. Our results indicate that accounting for negative externalities necessitates greater upfront investment in clean generation and storage (balanced by lower expected operational costs). Optimizing POIs could significantly reshape offshore topology or POIs, and lower total cost. Finally, accounting for extreme operational scenarios typically results in greater operational costs and sometimes may alter onshore line investment.

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  • Hydrogen Co-Firing and the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Limits for Power Plants Cover

    Hydrogen Co-Firing and the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Limits for Power Plants

    Policy Strategies for Meaningful Emission Reductions

    In May 2023, EPA proposed new limits for carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. The proposed rule reflects a decade of careful development from EPA and embraces an approach consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling in West Virginia v. EPA. In order to follow that approach, EPA based the limits for certain natural gas-fired turbines on the emission reductions achievable through hydrogen co-firing (i.e., burning a blend of natural gas and hydrogen). Unlike fossil fuels, hydrogen does not release CO2 when burned, but producing hydrogen can cause significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions depending on how its produced. Given these potential emissions, it is important to consider what type of hydrogen a power plant will co-fire with—otherwise this approach to reducing emissions could exacerbate climate change. This report explains the role of hydrogen co-firing in EPA’s proposed rule, discusses how EPA should design its final rules to achieve the specified GHG-reduction goals, and highlights additional actions that EPA and other regulators can take to further minimize the emissions (and the resulting climate harm) from hydrogen co-firing.

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  • Animals in Cost-Benefit Analysis Cover

    Animals in Cost-Benefit Analysis

    Forthcoming in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform

    Federal agencies’ cost-benefit analyses do not capture nonhuman animals’ interests. This omission matters. Cost-benefit analysis drives many regulatory decisions that substantially affect many billions of animals. That omission creates a regulatory blind spot that is untenable as a matter of morality and of policy. Valuing animals could have mattered for many cost-benefit analyses, including those for pet-food safety regulations and a rear backup camera mandate. As a sort of “proof of concept,” this Article shows that even a simple breakeven analysis from affected animals’ perspective paints even the thoroughly investigated policy decision at issue in Entergy Corp. v. Riverkeeper, Inc. in an informative new light.

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  • Accounting for the Increasing Benefits From Scarce Ecosystems Cover

    Accounting for the Increasing Benefits From Scarce Ecosystems

    As people get richer, and ecosystem services scarcer, policy-relevant estimates of ecosystem value must rise

    Governments are catching up with economic theory and practice by increasingly integrating ecosystem service values into national planning processes, including benefit-cost analyses of public policies. Such analyses require information not only about today’s benefits from ecosystem services but also on how benefits change over time. We address a key limitation of existing policy guidance, which assumes that benefits from ecosystem services remain unchanged. We provide a practical rule that is grounded in economic theory and evidence-based as a guideline for how benefits change over time: They rise as societies get richer and even more so when ecosystem services are declining. Our proposal will correct a substantial downward bias in currently used estimates of future ecosystem service values.

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  • Reducing Pollution Without Sacrificing Reliability Cover

    Reducing Pollution Without Sacrificing Reliability

    A Breakdown of the Respective Roles that FERC, EPA, and State Regulators Play to Support a Cleaner & More Reliable Electric Grid

    Multiple federal and state regulators must coordinate their efforts to ensure electric grid reliability, particularly during a period of major transition, and it is important to understand what role each of them plays. This report reviews the respective roles of FERC, RTOs/ISOs, other transmission operators, state public utility commissions, and state environmental regulators. EPA’s duty to reduce GHG emissions that endanger public health and FERC’s duty to steward grid reliability will require them to coordinate each other’s respective expertise as they work with RTOs/ISOs, state regulators, and utilities to implement EPA rules.

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  • The Climate Costs and Economic Benefits of LNG Export Cover

    The Climate Costs and Economic Benefits of LNG Export

    Gas provides nearly a quarter of the world’s total energy supply. As part of that supply chain, gas is shipped between continents in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The United States is now the world’s largest LNG exporter following a surge in gas exports since 2016, but these exports have generated controversy due to their climate effects.This policy brief provides an analysis to support an effort to balance the full range of impacts from LNG exports. Using DOE’s own published studies, we compare the climate cost per unit of LNG export to the economic benefit (measured using consumer welfare). We find that climate costs likely exceed economic benefits. While the precise difference depends on several factors, gross climate damages greatly exceed economic benefits under all scenarios evaluated. These findings provide useful insights as DOE prepares to re-evaluate the LNG export program.

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