Verchick in Slate: Connecting the Dots Between Climate Change and Our Vulnerable Energy Grid

by Brian Gumm | August 29, 2016

It's common knowledge that our energy choices impact the planet's climate, but less widely known is how climate change and its intensified storms, heat waves, droughts, and water shortages affect our energy grid. Already vulnerable, the grid can suffer catastrophic damage when a storm like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy strikes. 

In an Aug. 26 article in Slate, Center for Progressive Reform Board President Rob Verchick explores these vulnerabilities and connects the dots between climate change and the grid. He writes:

From rancid food to emergency-room nightmares, communities take a punch when the lights go out. The nation's aging power grid leaves us very susceptible to such risks. And the growing intensity of floods and storms on account of climate change make things even worse.

We hear a lot about how energy policy will affect climate impacts. Less appreciated, but equally important, are the ways that climate impacts will affect energy policy.


  • Extreme weather events juiced up by global warming will knock out power plants and transmission systems across the continent.
  • Rising seas and higher tides will swamp some of our most important power plants and substations on the coasts.
  • Higher temperatures will slow high-voltage transmission speeds and increase outages related to sagging power lines. (And because more air conditioners will be blowing, electricity demand will jump at the same time.)
  • Water shortages and warming rivers will ...

'Cultural Cognition' Theory Offers a Path to Climate Change Progress

by Matthew Freeman | August 25, 2016
Over the course of the last few decades, one of the great communications challenges facing progressives has been, and continues to be, how we talk about climate change. The difficulty in persuading politicians and the public about the need for action isn’t just that the effort has run head-long into a massive and well-funded industry campaign designed to sow confusion. It’s also that the policy changes needed to  make a difference fairly drip with disruption of one sort or another ...

Federal District Court: Feds May Not Regulate Fracking on Federal Lands

by Hannah Wiseman | June 22, 2016
In a merits opinion issued on June 21, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming (Judge Skavdahl) held that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management--the agency tasked with protecting and preserving federal lands for multiple uses by the public--lacks the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on federally-owned and managed lands. Using a Chevron step 1 analysis (one standard used to review agencies' interpretation of the meaning of statutes that grant agencies authority), the court finds that "Congress has directly spoken ...

Local Governments' Lost Voice in Energy Decisions

by Hannah Wiseman | June 07, 2016
The Colorado Supreme Court's decisions last month holding that local governments in Colorado could not ban or place long-term moratoria on hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") added to the growing list of states that have preempted local control over this oil and gas production method. This is a troublesome trend and one that calls for closer scrutiny as more states follow this path. Local governments are "merely" arms of the state, and, therefore, states do have the power to take back the ...

Caution: Unabashed Bragging Ahead

by Matthew Freeman | June 03, 2016
We have an in-house guideline about bragging on CPRBlog, which is that we try to keep it to a minimum. It’s not so much a matter of modesty as it is that we think the work our Member Scholars and staff do speaks for itself. But we’re going to suspend our usual practice for a moment to note that a recent list of the 20 most-cited administrative and/or environmental law faculty in the United States includes seven CPR Member Scholars. ...

Op-Ed: Prosecuting Safety Violations that Lead to Worker Deaths

by Matthew Freeman | June 01, 2016
CPR’s Rena Steinzor and Katherine Tracy had an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee over the weekend highlighting the reluctance of police and prosecutors to treat worker deaths as if they were anything but mere accidents. In fact, they’re often the result of illegal cost-cutting and safety shortcuts by employers, behavior that sometimes warrants criminal charges. They write: When a worker dies because a trench collapses, and it turns out that managers sacrificed safety to get the job done faster, that’s a crime. When managers operate factories ...

Center for Progressive Reform Welcomes New Communications Director

by Matthew Freeman | March 29, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: CPR Welcomes New Communications Director Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) announced that Brian Gumm has joined the organization as its communications director. Gumm will serve alongside the group’s staff and Member Scholars in their efforts to protect our health, safety, and environment. “I’m excited to welcome Brian Gumm to our team,” said Matthew Shudtz, executive director of CPR. “CPR’s network of legal experts has incredible insights into the heated national conversations about environmental health, climate change, ...

Roberts Denies Mercury Stay

by Daniel Farber | March 03, 2016
Chief Justice Roberts turned down a request this morning to stay EPA’s mercury rule. Until the past month, this would have been completely un-noteworthy, because such a stay would have been unprecedented. But the Court’s startling recent stay of the EPA Clean Power Plan suggested that the door might have been wide open.  Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be true. In some ways, a stay in this case would be even more shocking than the earlier one. Only the states, not industry, were ...

The Clean Power Plan: Continuing Momentum after the Supreme Court’s Stay

by Alice Kaswan | February 10, 2016
The Supreme Court’s February 9 stay of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan may have removed the states’ immediate compliance obligations, and it will undoubtedly remove some pressure for action in states resistant to change.  Nonetheless, the extensive data and fundamental state and regional planning processes generated by the Clean Power Plan (the Plan) may continue to bear fruit even as the Plan remains in legal limbo. The Clean Power Plan has already triggered progress.  To determine feasible reductions on ...

Supreme Court Stays Clean Power Plan

by Victor Flatt | February 10, 2016
In a surprising moves to legal experts, the Supreme Court yesterday in a 5-4 ruling stayed the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) supporting greenhouse gas reductions at fossil fuel fired power plants.  The move was surprising because the Supreme Court rarely involves itself in the determinations of whether or not a temporary stay of legal implications is warranted, largely leaving that to lower courts.  The D.C. Circuit, two weeks ago, refused to grant a stay, meaning that ...

President Obama’s Progressive Vision for the Future

by Thomas McGarity | January 13, 2016
President Obama devoted his final state-of-the-union speech to highlighting his administration’s considerable accomplishments, and, more importantly, to articulating a surprisingly robust progressive vision for the future. And that vision properly included a large role for federal regulation.  Noting that “reckless Wall Street,” not food stamp recipients, caused the financial meltdown of 2008-09, the President predicted, “working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the ...

Key Environmental Developments Ahead in 2016

by Daniel Farber | January 04, 2016
Here are seven of the most important developments affecting the environment. 2015 was a big year for agency regulations and international negotiations. In 2016, the main focal points will be the political process and the courts. Here are seven major things to watch for.  The Presidential Election. The election will have huge consequences for the environment. A Republican President is almost sure to try to roll back most of the environmental initiatives of the Obama Administration, undoing all the progress that has been ...

Blankenship Convicted in Massey Coal Mine Disaster

by Rena Steinzor | December 03, 2015
Justice was done today by a hard-working jury in West Virginia that convicted Don Blankenship of conspiracy to obstruct federal mine safety rules.  This conspiracy was the primary cause of an enormous explosion that killed 29 men in the worst mine disaster in 40 years.  Although the jury was not presented with the question of whether Blankenship was directly responsible for the explosion, it did decide that he played Russian roulette with miners’ lives.  By underfunding efforts to comply with and harassing ...

New National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone: A Primer

by Robin Kundis Craig | October 07, 2015
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone pursuant to the federal Clean Air Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 7409. The new regulation reduces both the primary and secondary NAAQS for ozone from 0.075 to 0.070 parts per million (ppm) (or from 75 to 70 parts per billion) averaged over eight hours in order to better protect human health, welfare, and the environment. The new regulation has not yet been ...

John Boehner, Volkswagen, and the Role of Government

by Sidney Shapiro | October 06, 2015
The resignation of House Speaker John Boehner and the VW diesel car scandal -- two rather extraordinary events -- might not initially appear to be related, but there is a connection. The most conservative members of the Republican caucus celebrated Representative Boehner's resignation because they felt he did not fight hard enough to shrink the size of the federal government through more aggressive tactics, like government shutdowns. Although one of government's most important functions is to deter behavior such as ...

Ten Things I Hate About Jeb's Antiregulatory Regulatory Reform Plan

by James Goodwin | October 05, 2015
Consistent with his ongoing efforts to distinguish himself among the Republican presidential candidates as a serious “policy wonk,” Jeb Bush, “rolled out” his “regulatory reform” plan last week.  The sad truth, though, is that the plan contains little of what might be considered sober or intellectually rigorous.   Rather, it is simply a mishmash of warmed over ideas from candidate Mitt Romney’s 2012 regulatory reform plan and from the various antiregulatory bills that have been festering in Congress the last several ...

Nudging Utilities Into the Future

by Joseph Tomain | October 01, 2015
Two of the most important aspects of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) are the flexibility afforded states as they design compliance strategies and the plan’s openness to all energy resources. A state can satisfy its emission-reduction targets through the use of cleaner or more efficient coal-fired generation, natural gas or nuclear power as well as through increased use of renewable resources and energy efficiency. Regardless of this flexibility and openness, investor-owned utilities (IOUs), which have dominated the electricity market for ...

VW Scandal: Can Anyone Still Doubt the Need for Regulation?

by Robert Verchick | September 22, 2015
Center for Progressive Reform President Robert R.M. Verchick issued the following statement today in response to the burgeoning Volkswagen emissions scandal: With the Volkswagen emissions scandal, hard on the heels of the GM settlement, can anyone doubt the importance of strong regulation and tough enforcement? One automotive giant let a safety problem fester for a decade while more than 120 people died as a result. Another conspired to cheat on state emissions tests, pumping outrageous loads of pollution into the ...


When it comes to energy policy, the nation faces difficult choices. Researchers have made important strides on bringing renewable sources of energy into the mainstream, gradually replacing more familiar, but nevertheless unsustainable, high-polluting sources of power for our homes, cars and factories.

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