This op-ed was originally published in the Washington Post.
Ask just about any New Orleanian to name the most exasperating thing about the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, and you’ll get the same answer. It isn’t the floodwater. Or the roof damage. It’s something more familiar but equally as threatening to life, health and property: power failure.
This week, Entergy, Louisiana’s largest power company, warned customers to brace for several days or even weeks without power. That means no light, no microwave oven, no refrigerator — and getting by on candles and canned food. It means no air conditioning amid an often-triple-digit heat index, no computer and no Internet, unless you can get online with a smartphone — which you don’t have power to charge. Gas stations are closed because electric pumps can’t pump. In some neighborhoods, toilets don’t flush because sewage plants have conked out.
The problem started soon after Ida made landfall, when all eight of our region’s high-voltage transmission lines failed. In one instance, a 400-foot-tall transmission tower supporting power lines spanning the length of more than 10 football fields across the Mississippi River crumpled like a foil candy wrapper.
It came as no surprise to environmentalists this week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) most recent climate report paints a stark picture: Climate change is happening faster than previously predicted, and the precipice we’re standing on is quickly disintegrating. But there are still plenty of things we can do to battle the climate crisis and adapt to current and future impacts.
Building off the IPCC’s last report in 2013, this assessment brought more than 200 scientists together from around the world to consider all climate research available. The result is the most comprehensive analysis on climate change to date.
Since the last assessment, climate models have become increasingly accurate, making the links between human activity and climate change irrefutable and drawing direct correlations between specific weather events and climate change.
Other key findings:
Season 5 of the Center for Progressive Reform's Connect the Dots podcast continues with Episode 4: That's an Order. Keep reading for a summary and to listen to the episode.
President Biden put climate policy front and center on his campaigning platform and wasted no time in pushing his agenda when he took office. The president has proposed $14 billion in spending on initiatives to fight the crisis in the nation’s 2022 budget, and he has appointed cabinet officials with informed backgrounds to offer guidance. He’s also altered tax incentives to favor clean energy over fossil fuels and promised to spur a job revolution that will protect workers in this sector. But the U.S. is operated by three branches of government and federal powers are limited. It’s often the case that the "real work" is done on state and local levels. So, how …
This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.
The COVID pandemic has provided a vivid picture of what happens when ill-prepared governments are suddenly hit with huge responsibilities. Underfunded state and local public health agencies were overwhelmed, while governors and local officials found themselves struggling to obtain and distribute vital supplies, from respirators to vaccines. Efforts to accelerate the transition away from carbon, such as a green stimulus, may run into similar problems if we neglect the agencies that will have to implement policies.
People tend to think of the energy transition in terms of wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, and charging stations for electric vehicles. That can presumably be accomplished through mandates to utilities or financial incentives. The trouble is that all of these changes have to function in connection with a power system that wasn’t built to accommodate them. That requires …
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 …
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 like requiring more use of renewable energy of a coal or natural gas generator. I've blogged previously about why this argument might not even apply because reducing your operating hours is something you can accomplish without getting close to the fence, let alone crossing it.
But today I want to talk a little more generally about why EPA should have some flexibility in interpreting the law to …