Alan Muller, Executive Director
January 6, 2017
Mr. Shawn Garvin, Secretary, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
The DNREC has scheduled a “hearing” or “listening session” on January 8, 2017, to take public comment on the EPA proposal to “repeal” the “Clean Power Plan.”
(This event is variously, in DNREC materials, called a “hearing,” “listening session,” “public meeting,” etc. It would be a good idea to be consistent in terminology.)
The DNREC previously held a “listening session” on the CPP on Nov. 5, 2014.
The DNREC also held a “Clean Power Plan Proposal – Listening Session,” on Nov. 10, 2015
It also appears that the DNREC held a “workshop and listening session” on Mar. 1, 2016, and two “community engagement sessions” in Sept, 2016. (We are not clear on whether a 3rd announced session was rescheduled.)
These events, and related public comments and transcripts, posted by the DNREC (http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/Air/Pages/CleanPowerPlan.aspx) make clear that: The Department has repeatedly solicited public input related to the CPP, and diverse views have been presented in response.
So, for the DNREC to hold another “listening session” is consistent with past patterns and very appropriate given the present poor conduct of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Green Delaware has been pointing out for many years that Delaware is the lowest-lying US state (mean elevation above sea level) and as such has a unique vulnerability to global warming. We have also pointed out that Delaware depends on climate-dependent industries such as agriculture and tourism….
(In spite of this, and various comments submitted, I do not find Green Delaware mentioned anywhere on the Department’s CPP page.)
While the precise relationships between atmospheric chemistry changes and global climate changes are not knowable in advance, the basic CO2 “greenhouse effect” relationship was published by Svante August Arrhenius in 1896. (Arrhenius relied on data from the American astronomers Frank Washington Very and Samuel Pierpont Langley.)
Nonetheless, global-warming-denial shops have been and are active in Delaware as well as nationally. These have included the American Petroleum Institute, the Caesar Rodney Institute, the Delaware Republican Party, and the “National Center for Policy Analysis.” [Pete Dupont propaganda mill].
The point here is that the basic reality of global warming has been known for so long, and vetted by so many, that the “denial” movement should be regarded as more a matter of intentional misrepresentation than honest difference of opinion. Sadly, and very dangerously, the US federal government, and notably the US Environmental Protection Agency, is now under the control of “denial” interests. This means that responsible action at the state and local levels has become more important than ever.
The Clean Power Plan as published by EPA is weak in many ways. We noted in 2014:
Some fundamental problems with the existing CPP proposal
It doesn’t do nearly enough.
Converting from coal burning to natural gas burning, encouraged in the proposal, quite likely increases rather than decreases global warming. This is because natural gas is methane, and a lot of it leaks, and methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. But, the proposal looks narrowly at powerplant smokestack emissions.
The EPA proposal seeks to encourage the continued operation of old, unsafe nuclear reactors. This is strongly objected to by people familiar with the nuclear industry.
The proposal would also encourage the use of “biomass” and garbage incineration, which are much dirtier than coal in terms of both greenhouse emissions and traditional health-damaging air pollutants. See more here.
Conservation and efficiency, by far the cheapest and cleanest approach, is in the proposal but as the last priority when it should be the first. EPA has apparently overestimated the cost of energy efficiency (“negawatts”) by at least a factor of two.
“Environmental Justice” or “Climate Justice” concerns do not seem to have figured in the plan. This is in contrast to the lip service to “EJ” that the EPA is paying.
It appears that many of the assumptions about the costs and emissions of various fuels and technologies are no longer correct, if they ever were. The “Natural Resources Defense Council” (NRDC, no friend of Green Delaware) has recently produced an analysis of the EPA plan using more current numbers. NRDC concluded:
- The EPA used outdated renewable energy cost and performance numbers, including levelized costs for both wind and solar energy 46 percent above current averages.
- The EPA used extremely conservative energy efficiency costs 68 to 81 percent higher than current averages.
- EPA’s proposed state targets could be met at a total savings of $1.8 billion to $4.3 billion in 2020, instead of EPA’s estimated costs of $5.5 billion and $7.5 billion.
- Total savings would reach $6.4 billion to $9.4 billion in 2030, instead of the EPA’s estimated costs of $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion.
Overall, my sense is that the proposal represents a step forward in a political sense but not very much in a technical sense. Mother nature doesn’t care about out politics.
Now, three years later, the weaknesses of the CPP are even more apparent. The cost of solar and wind power has continued to drop. Storage and efficiency have progressed. The coal industry continues to decline. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have continued to increase and climate change has continued largely un-abated.
At the same time, evidence of the global health impacts of fossil fuel burning continues to accumulate. Such air pollution causes the premature death of hundreds of people per year in Delaware and millions worldwide.
Delaware, as a small state on the downwind edge of North America, is largely impacted by air pollution blowing into the state from elsewhere and cannot manage it’s air quality solely by internal measures. The state is dependent for further progress on effective regional, national, and international regulatory programs. Therefore, present attempts to gut the effectiveness of regulatory programs, including the CPP, are a direct threat to the health and quality of life of Delawareans,
Therefore Green Delaware recommends that:
The EPA should withdraw it’s present proposals to repeal the CPP and/or to replace it with less effective actions.
Instead, the EPA should begin a high-priority effort to update and strengthen the CPP based on up-to-date information and current trends in the electricity industry. Much more aggressive carbon emission reductions from the electricity industry as both practical and essential.
We urge the State of Delaware to continue, where necessary and appropriate, its efforts to prod the EPA into action through litigation.
If these comments raise any questions please feel free to contact us.
Copy to: Ali Mirzakhalili, Valerie Gray, John Kowalko