Action on climate change should be one of the first things President Obama takes on in his second term. There are countless steps the President might take, but perhaps one of the easiest things for him to do on that front is to instruct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to release eight Department of Energy (DOE) rules regarding energy efficiency currently under OMB’s review. Regular readers will know that OMB is a kind of regulatory purgatory where rules can be held up seemingly indefinitely or sent back to the agencies responsible for them to be reconsidered in light of OMB’s widely questioned cost benefit analysis. As Earthjustice and others have noted, President Obama could make substantial progress on climate change by telling his own OMB that it needs to move on the rules.
Some of the DOE rules have been at OMB for well over a year, and the benefits of energy efficiency are being foregone while they are held up. DOE’s Fossil Fuel Energy Consumption Reduction for New Construction and Major Renovations of Federal Buildings rule, for instance, has reached the final rule stage but has been stuck at OMB since August of 2011. Beginning one year after it is finalized, the rule would require that new federal buildings and those that undergo major renovations adhere to new limits on their fossil fuel consumption. Five years after that, stricter limits would go into effect for further renovations or constructions. So, the sooner OMB releases the rule the sooner the rule will take effect and we can start realizing its significant benefits.
DOE estimated the rule will bring significant emissions reductions: in the first year after the rule takes effect it will prevent 52,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide, 111 metric tons of methane, 53 metric tons of nitrogen, and 151 metric tons of sulfur dioxide from entering the atmosphere. These reductions will increase rapidly as other buildings are renovated and the standards are tightened at five-year intervals.Full text
Today CPR releases a new briefing paper explaining how states can spearhead improving energy efficiency standards for home appliances. The paper, States Can Lead the Way to Improved Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards, draws on ideas discussed in Alexandra B. Klass’s article State Standards for Nationwide Products Revisited: Federalism, Green Building Codes, and Appliance Efficiency Standards. I co-authored today’s paper with CPR Member Scholars Klass and Lesley McAllister.
Traditionally a strongly bipartisan issue, support for energy efficiency has been eroded by anti-regulation sentiments. Without strong political support or adequate resources, the Department of Energy (DOE) has struggled to promulgate adequate efficiency standards. Regulatory efforts at the federal level have come up short, resulting in weak and delayed standards, or often no standards at all. In the absence of a dramatic shift in political will at the federal level, the most effective way to bring about improved efficiency standards and realize their attendant benefits will be to establish a system that retains strong federal standards while allowing states to set alternative, more stringent standards.
Such a system could be implemented by amending DOE’s existing regulations. First, DOE should clarify the existing state waiver process and respond more favorably to such requests so that states can successfully obtain waivers granting them permission to adopt improved appliance efficiency standards. Second, DOE should amend its regulations to allow states to adopt another state’s approved standard, thereby making improved standards available nationwide. Finally, DOE should ensure that there is only one standard in addition to the federal baseline for an appliance at any time.
Allowing states to take the lead in improving appliance energy efficiency standards will benefit consumers, manufacturers, and the environment. Consumers will save money on their electric bills and enjoy updated appliances at a lower cost as a result of improved standards. Manufacturers stand to gain from increased sales and lowered production costs. The environment will benefit from reduced natural resource consumption and lowered greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, these benefits are not currently realized due to numerous delays at both the political and federal agency levels. These delays will result in at least $28 billion in unrealized energy savings by 2030. To avoid this result, DOE can work with states to allow them to take the lead in achieving meaningful efficiency gains without creating a 50-state patchwork of regulation for manufacturers.Full text
Continuing their crusade to undermine the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), the most prominent worldwide database of toxicological profiles of common chemicals, House Republicans held yet another hearing Thursday morning to review how the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) chemical risk assessment program interacts with and informs regulatory policy. This time, witnesses descended from politics into the weeds of science policy, doing their best to pretend that scientific risk assessments that say how “safe” dioxin is or isn’t have the same supposedly “job-killing” impact as all those actual environmental, health and safety regulations they’ve been maligning for the past year.
The witnesses, a peculiar mix of industry-funded scientists and hostile state regulators, were united by the fact that they don’t seem to know the difference between a straightforward scientific assessment of the potential risks of chemicals, and a regulation to do something about those risks. IRIS provides the former – scientific assessments of risk. Once those assessments are completed, regulators can get to work weighing the costs and benefits of diminishing whatever risks the chemicals pose, and perhaps promulgating a regulation. The honest scientific assessment is a starting point. Industry wants to characterize IRIS risk assessments themselves as regulations in a blatant attempt to slow and weaken the risk assessment process.
Michael Honeycutt, of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, provided testimony that was largely concerned with public perception of EPA risk assessments and the potential impacts of risk assessments on future remediation efforts. Honeycutt’s concern about public perception and remediation would be more fruitfully directed at those agencies and regulations designed to consider such possibilities in the decision-making process, such as the Food and Drug Administration for his food safety examples and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act for standards required by remediation efforts.
Jerry Cook, Chief Technological Officer of Chemical Products Corporation, also conflated risk assessment and regulation. He used his testimony as a forum to impugn the EPA. Cook’s primary focus was barium, no surprise given that he is employed by a barium producer and depends on the substance for his livelihood. However, even Cook took no issue with EPA’s current IRIS risk assessment for barium. Rather, he voiced frustration that the most recent IRIS assessment has yet to be rolled into regulations promulgated under RCRA. This by no means a criticism of IRIS, and is in fact evidence of IRIS efficacy.