Modernizing the Grid

by Daniel Farber | October 24, 2018

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

In my last post, I talked about how Obama's Clean Power plan was the right response to a changing grid. The grid is in the process of changing even more. It was designed for some relatively straightforward tasks. The main power plants, mostly burning coal (but sometimes natural gas or nuclear energy), ran day and night. They were supplemented by other power plants when needed to meet load (customer demand). All the power flowed from these central power plants and was instantly used by consumers, who were billed based on their total consumption and sometimes on their peak demand. The fundamental rule was that increasing demand for power allowed for greater economies of scale, reducing costs. Thus the goal of electric utility companies was to increase demand for electricity, thereby lowering average production costs and increasing their profits.

Power systems today have begun to deviate sharply from this model and will do so even more in the years to come. Power is increasingly coming from solar and wind, which are less predictable and more prone to fluctuations. Consumers may generate their own power from rooftop solar and sell it back to the grid. Storing electricity has become more feasible and is likely to play an increasing role in grid operations. Meanwhile, for both economic and environmental reasons, ever-expanding electricity demand is no longer appealing. Consumers are starting to play a more active ...

Jumping the Fence Line, Embracing the Grid

by Daniel Farber | October 23, 2018
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Click here for the follow-up post. If you've been reading this blog or otherwise keeping up with environmental law, you've probably heard this a hundred times: In rolling back Obama's signature climate regulation, the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration is relying on the idea that EPA's jurisdiction stops at the fence line. That is, according to the Trump folks, EPA can impose measures on each plant, but not measures that go beyond the fence line ...

The EPA's Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule: Putting Money on ACE Is a Bad Bet -- Part II

by Joseph Tomain | October 10, 2018
This post is the second of a pair on the Trump administration's so-called "Affordable Clean Energy" (ACE) rule. You can read the first post here on CPRBlog.  Industry Trends In short, energy projections demonstrate a clear trend for clean energy and away from fossil fuels. These trends, directly and negatively, affect traditional electric utilities. About the time that rooftop solar financing was being consolidated by third parties such as SolarCity and Sunrun, utilities began to worry about a "death spiral." ...

The EPA's Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule: Putting Money on ACE Is a Bad Bet -- Part I

by Joseph Tomain | October 10, 2018
This post is the first of a pair on the Trump administration's so-called "Affordable Clean Energy" (ACE) rule. You can read the second post here on CPRBlog.  On August 21, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule as a substitute for the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP had been stayed from going into effect by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the purpose of the substitute rule is to establish greenhouse gas emissions ...

The Trump Administration's Acknowledgement of Climate Change Is Cynical -- and Potentially Sinister

by Melissa Powers | October 03, 2018
As Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, and Chris Mooney of The Washington Post reported on September 27, the Trump administration seems to finally be acknowledging that climate change is real. But the motivation for recognizing that reality is cynical, at best, so rather than proposing doing something – anything – about climate change, the administration concludes we shouldn't bother trying.  Buried in a 500-page justification for a rule that would prevent California (and, by extension, other states) from regulating emissions of ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Seeking Climate Justice in the Common Law

by Karen Sokol | September 26, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. The 450 Inupiat residents of Kivalina, a small village on the frozen tundra of Alaska at the edge of the Arctic Ocean, are among the first communities in the world to lose their ability to survive because of climate change. With temperature increases that double the global average, Alaska is one of the canaries in the coal mine ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Coastal Storms, Private Property, and the Takings Issue

by John Echeverria | September 25, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the New Jersey shore, claiming dozens of lives and destroying or damaging more than 300,000 homes. Properties along the shore were especially hard hit, with many oceanfront homes lifted off their foundations and tossed inland. All told, business losses were estimated at more than $30 billion. While no single ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Disaster in Disaster: The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act Must Be Enforced

by Rebecca Bratspies | September 24, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. This chapter is excerpted from a law review article that is forthcoming in U. Arkansas Law Review, titled "Taking a Page from FDA’s Prescription Medicine Information Rules: Reimagining Environmental Information for Climate Change." What Happened? In August 2017, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the southern United States in rapid succession. These massive hurricanes wrought widespread devastation — destroying ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- The National Environmental Policy Act and Disasters

by Joel Mintz | September 21, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. In August, 2017, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma brought widespread devastation to the southeastern United States, destroying buildings, flooding neighborhoods, and taking lives. Harvey shattered the national rainfall record for a single storm, dropping over 50 inches of rain in a 36-hour period. The Houston area suffered massive flooding, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers attempted to balance ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Hazardous Waste and Disaster Preparedness

by Victor Flatt | September 20, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. What Happened According to the Houston Chronicle, there were more than 100 releases of hazardous substances into land, air, and water during and after Hurricane Harvey. At least one dozen of the Superfund sites listed in or near Houston were flooded during the storm. On September 3, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged breaches at 13 ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Emergency Waiver of Health, Safety, and Environmental Rules

by Victor Flatt | September 19, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. On August 23, 2017, Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Harvey approached the Texas Coast. That state of emergency was ultimately expanded to 60 counties in Texas. Emergency declarations in Texas (as in many states and for the federal government) allow the governor to unilaterally suspend specific rules and regulations if they are ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Worker Health and Disaster

by Katie Tracy | September 18, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. Lachlan Brain, a 22-year-old electrical lineman from Tennessee, traveled to Houston following Hurricane Harvey to help with the relief effort, working for T&D Solutions, a company that specializes in maintaining and repairing power lines and related equipment. While working inside a bucket truck on August 25, 2017, Brain leaned across an electrical line, came into contact with a ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Stormwater Infrastructure and Management: Unsafe for Human Contact

by Evan Isaacson | September 17, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. As millions of Americans in Houston and throughout Florida and Puerto Rico are acutely aware, the most dangerous aspect of a hurricane is the water. In Houston, the 50 inches of water that fell over the course of a few days broke records and overwhelmed the city’s flood control system. In Florida, Hurricane Irma’s storm surge ravaged coastal ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Energy Infrastructure: Beyond Repair

by Joseph Tomain | September 14, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. We have seen the pictures before. A man and his dog, both wet and disheveled, gliding down the middle of a residential street in a rowboat past downed power lines. As they drift, they pass the tops of cars parked at the curb, immobile. As they drift further, they see a woman and child standing on the roof ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Relocation and Migration

by Maxine A Burkett | September 13, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. The 2017 hurricane season demonstrated the “second disaster” phenomenon. Climate-fueled storms are the first, named disaster. The second disaster is the tragedy that results from the lack of preparedness of decision-makers — at all levels — who have failed to plan in a manner consistent with the risks presented.  Perhaps few phenomena underscore that more than the post-disaster ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- State and Local Planning

by Alice Kaswan | September 12, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. Three months before Hurricane Irma hit Florida, the state relaxed what many had considered to be one of the best building codes in the country. That wasn’t an anomaly. A report by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety found that many states along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts either lack building codes or have relaxed ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- The National Flood Insurance Program: Back to the Future

by Christine Klein | September 11, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Eileen and Jeff Swanson faced the unthinkable. They had just paid off the last of the mortgage on their $225,000 home in the Canyon Gate neighborhood of Houston, where they lived with two sons, one of whom is severely developmentally disabled. During the storm, a foot of water inundated their home, and ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- FEMA and Disaster Resilience

by Daniel Farber | September 10, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. “No power, no water, no transport, roads were closed, many streets broken, houses destroyed and people crying.” Those were the words of Maria Meléndez, the mayor of Ponce, the largest city in southern Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. She had good reason to complain. As pointed out in the Economist, “[e]ven ...

Climate Change

Human-caused climate change poses a profound threat to the future health of the planet and all that live on it. We know what causes it, and how to slow it down. But we have barely  begun to make real policy progress, in the face of heavily bankrolled opposition from the energy industry and its allies. CPR Member Scholars are focused on mitigating and preventing climate change, and adapting to what climate change we are too late to prevent.

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