CSG Director of Energy and Environmental Policy Brydon Ross outlines the top five issues for 2014, including upcoming Clean Air state implementation plans, EPA cooling water intake regulations, increased scrutiny on crude oil transportation safety, potential rate and policy disputes involving net metering, and lingering impacts that drought may pose for states and water infrastructure.  

Last term the Supreme Court heard two Clean Water Act case.  This term the Court has accepted two significant Clean Air Act (CAA) cases—one involving regulating upwind states who pollute downwind states and the other involving regulating greenhouse gases from stationary sources.  Both cases involve states siding with or against the EPA and each other.  The Supreme Court agreed to hear the latter case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, earlier this month. 

Tesla Motors, the makers of high-end electric vehicles, is expected to post its first ever profit due in large part to an environmental credit program managed by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) under the Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate. Under the regulation, 15 percent of all new car sales in California must come from vehicles classified as "zero emission" by 2025. According to Wall Street analysts, the ARB's credit program could be worth up to $250 million for Tesla.

The EPA recently announced that US greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) dropped 1.6% from 2010 to 2011, which continues a downward trend that observers believe is due in large part to increasing vehicle fuel economy standards and the large fuel-switching underway by electric utilities from burning coal to natural gas.

CSG Director of Energy and Environmental Policy Brydon Ross outlines the top five issues for 2013, including the future of coal, Clean Water Act legal actions, energy infrastructure hardening, managing the energy wave, and EPA air regulations. 


An interesting article was featured in today's Billings Gazette covering the increase in natural gas "flaring" occurring at oil wells and other tight formations in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. Flaring essentially burns off excess natural gas that cannot be captured or transported from the wellhead to a storage facility due to a lack of pipeline infrastructure. It is one the few related aspects of hydraulic fracturing, which has brought about huge swaths of oil and natural gas production, that receives minor attention by the public. 

The Environmental Protection Agency in December 2011 issued new stringent regulations called the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, Rule to limit mercury emissions and other hazardous substances from fossil fuel power plants. The standards have been controversial because of industry concerns with costs and grid reliability. The EPA, however, contends the standards are reasonable, provide billions of dollars in public health benefits and will prevent thousands of premature deaths.

At the recently concluded National Leadership Conference held in La Quinta, California, the CSG Executive Committee approved eight policy resolutions on a wide range of topics, including export promotion, preventing Medicaid fraud, exploring a telehealth interstate compact, state sales taxation on e-commerce, and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments encourages federal legislative and oversight actions such as, but not limited to, the Congressional Review Act  to subject MATS to further analysis for its potential negative impacts on jobs, state economies and their recovery, electricity prices for consumers, domestic manufacturing, and international competitiveness  in addition to the bipartisan Fair Compliance Act sponsored by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Dan Coats (R-IN) that would harmonize MATS compliance deadlines with pre-construction and construction timelines to install emission reduction technologies, construct replacement capacity, implement transmission reinforcement or other mitigation measures to assure electricity prices are reasonable, and the reliability of the electric grid is maintained without changing the final rule’s stringency or reduction levels.  

Today the EPA announced proposed standards to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. The move was hailed by environmental groups and it is expected to largely impact the construction of new coal-fired power plants by essentially requiring their emissions output to mirror those of efficient natural gas units - either through capture or storage of CO2 emissions. Industry advocates opposed the new rule because of cost impacts to states heavily reliant on coal for electricity production and that the Administration is essentially mandating new technology which is not yet commercially feasible.