Clean Air Task Force

Shortcut Navigation:
Switch Styles:

Ahead of the Curve 

The Last Climate Frontier: Arctic Council Leadership on Methane and Black Carbon Must Start at Home

October 22nd, 2014 by Jonathan Banks, Senior Climate Policy Advisor

Warming from climate change in the Arctic is happening twice as fast as at lower latitudes, and the Arctic is now “ground-zero” in the struggle against climate change. Arctic and near-Arctic emissions of short-lived climate forcing pollutants, including methane and black carbon, have a disproportionate impact on increasing Arctic temperatures and melting. Methane and black carbon emissions from oil & gas activities in the Arctic are projected to rise as development increases in the coming years.

As the United States prepares to take over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, the Obama Administration has announced that climate change will be a central theme of its tenure. In a new report, the Clean Air Task Force identifies specific ways that, under U.S. leadership, the Arctic Council can seize the opportunity to curb emissions of black carbon and methane and help buy the Arctic environment precious time as global measures to check greenhouse gas emissions are developed and implemented. In particular, the recommendations identify concrete steps that the Council could take to begin to address methane and black carbon emissions from oil and gas exploration, production and development including working towards an agreement by developers to adhere to best environmental practices through consensus dialogue with all Arctic stakeholders until nations can promulgate protective regulations.

Read the rest of this entry »

To make good on forest pledge, US and EU must rein in biofuels

October 1st, 2014 by Jonathan Lewis, Senior Counsel - Climate Policy

Given the challenges that have beset previous deforestation efforts, the pledges made last week by leading multinational firms to help cut deforestation rates in half by 2020 and to stop deforestation by 2030 may or may not prove noteworthy—but they have definitely proven newsworthy. “With political efforts to slow global warming moving at a tortuous pace,” wrote The New York Times, “some of the world’s largest companies are stepping into the void, pledging more support for renewable energy, greener supply chains and fresh efforts to stop the destruction of the world’s tropical forests.” As part of the New York Declaration on Forests, the companies pledged to “eliminate deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, paper, and beef by no later than 2020.” USA Today hailed the pledges as the product of an “unprecedented partnership.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Carbon Capture Works — Guaranteed

September 25th, 2014 by John Thompson, Director, Fossil Transition Project

This month marks the groundbreaking for a major project at the W.A. Parish coal-fired power plant in Texas that will result in 90 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) from a 240 MW unit at the plant being captured and stored deep underground. That’s 1.6 Million (with an M) tons of CO2 release avoided every year.

Next month, SaskPower will officially open its carbon-capture project at the Boundary Dam coal-fired power plant in Canada. Boundary Dam will capture 90 percent of the CO2 from a 110 MW unit. That project will avoid the release of 1.1 Million tons of CO2 every year.

These developments are good news for the planet. And they are bad news for critics of EPA’s proposed CO2 performance standards for new power plants. EPA’s proposed CO2 emission limit for power plants is based in part on just this kind of carbon capture and storage technology (CCS). Its critics claim that CCS technology vendors won’t offer guarantees and warranties on their products and therefore that these projects can’t be built. The argument goes like this: if there are no guarantees then projects can’t be built, and if projects can’t be built, then EPA can’t base the plant standards on CCS.
Read the rest of this entry »

Recent Expert Reports: Diverse Zero Carbon Options Needed to Manage Climate

September 21st, 2014 by Armond Cohen, Executive Director

As we enter Climate Week, it’s a useful moment to review some recent expert reports suggesting the need for a broad suite of zero carbon energy technologies to manage climate change. In particular, these reports highlight the potentially critical role of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and nuclear energy alongside such options as wind and solar.

The first report is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report on climate mitigation, released this spring. The IPCC report synthesizes the work of dozens of research groups from around the world that attempted to model various scenarios to contain climate change within a variety of temperature boundaries. A principal finding of the report is that nuclear and CCS are central options to reducing the costs of climate mitigation. In the chart below, IPCC displays its finding that CCS availability might reduce the cost of achieving a median 450 ppm carbon limit by about 50% and as much as 65%. Nuclear’s contribution to reducing the total cost of climate mitigation is more modest, in the range of 5-10%, roughly on par with solar and wind.
Read the rest of this entry »

Clean Up All Local Gas Distribution Leaks (Not Just Underground!)

August 7th, 2014 by David McCabe, Atmospheric Scientist

The US Department of Energy and EPA’s Inspector General have called attention in the past two weeks to an important issue – harmful methane emissions from the systems that distribute natural gas in cities and towns. There’s been some effort to clean up methane from natural gas systems in recent years. For example, EPA’s 2012 rules covering hydraulically fractured gas wells and some new equipment will reduce methane from some specific sources as a “co-benefit” (the rules target other pollutants in gas, not methane). Some states, including Colorado, have also issued important rules. However, these rules have focused on production of oil and gas (EPA’s rules have a few measures that regulate pollutants from gas processing plants, too). Unfortunately, EPA and the states have neglected cleanup of local gas distribution systems, as the IG’s report makes clear. This is an important issue, and both DOE and the EPA IG have proposed useful, and important, ideas to speed up replacement of leaky, unreliable, outdated, and sometimes hazardous distribution pipelines made of cast iron or unprotected steel.
Read the rest of this entry »

CCS 101 on Capitol Hill

July 18th, 2014 by Kurt Waltzer, Special Projects Director and Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration (CCUS) Coordinator

This posting originally appeared in the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (GCCSI) ‘Insights‘ blog.

I was recently on a panel at a Capitol Hill briefing held by the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute about the status of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the need for financial incentives. Held this May in Washington DC, the audience included staff from Congressional offices, the media, and other interested stakeholders from industry and NGOs. CCS is one of those technologies for which people have strong, and sometimes not very well informed opinions. Some environmental advocates have depicted CCS as being simply a fig leaf for the coal industry, while some in industry have claimed it’s a science experiment that we need to conduct for the next several decades before we can use it to regulate carbon emissions.
Read the rest of this entry »

Flaring in Focus: A Close Look at Natural Gas Flaring in North Dakota

June 26th, 2014 by Lesley Fleischman, Technical Analyst, and Jonathan Banks, Senior Climate Policy Advisor

A considerable amount of attention has recently been directed at the high rate of flaring in US oil and gas fields, specifically the Bakken formation in North Dakota. Local residents, state government, and Federal officials have voiced concerns over the volume of flaring, as recent data (from 2013) shows that industry flared 32% of all gas produced in the Bakken.
Read the rest of this entry »

EPA’s proposed rule for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants is a good opening bid

June 7th, 2014 by Conrad Schneider, Advocacy Director

Nearly a year ago, the Obama Administration released the President’s Climate Action Plan reaffirming the U.S. commitment to reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050. This week, EPA proposed the second pillar in that plan, a carbon pollution rule for existing fossil power plants (the so called ESPS) following the proposed rule for new fossil plants proposed last fall. When finalized and sustained from legal and political attacks, these regulations will begin to put the U.S. on a path towards the low-carbon energy system necessary to meet the nation’s mid-century goal.  Together, the rules can provide a spur to innovation, commercialization, and wide-scale deployment of cleaner energy technologies by sending a market signal that uncontrolled carbon pollution from the power system is no longer acceptable.
Read the rest of this entry »

EPA’s Clean Power Plan reduces climate pollution – despite leaks from natural gas

June 5th, 2014 by David McCabe, Atmospheric Scientist

Clean Air Task Force is strongly supportive of EPA’s new proposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. We have also been pushing EPA hard to clean up the air emissions – including methane, a powerful greenhouse gas – from drilling, producing, processing, transporting, and distributing natural gas. And, we have noted many times that emissions are alarmingly high from a number of oil and gas production areas and that EPA’s figures for the amount of methane emitted by oil and gas systems are certainly too low.

EPA predicts that their new proposal for CO2 from power plants will, in part, shift generation from coal-fired power plants to gas-fired power plants. Under the newly proposed policy, power plant gas consumption would be higher in the next decade than expected in the absence of a new policy. If power plants use more gas, more gas will be produced – meaning that natural gas systems will emit more methane.
Read the rest of this entry »

Regulation Is Needed: Making “Best” Practices Standard Practice

April 15th, 2014 by Jonathan Banks, Senior Climate Policy Advisor

The recent release of the Administration’s comprehensive strategy for reducing methane emissions raises the question of how best to reduce methane emissions, especially from the oil and gas sector.  Can voluntary programs really lead to the methane reductions we need, or are mandatory regulatory programs necessary?  While voluntary programs can identify important technologies and practices to reduce emissions, without direct federal regulation of methane from the largest sources in the oil and gas industry we won’t see the reductions we need to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, protect public health, and improve public safety.

As part of the Administration’s strategy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today (April 15) set a course for possible regulations by issuing a series of white papers investigating five key sources of methane in the oil and gas sector for peer-review and comment.  We will be engaging with the Agency to ensure that they have considered all the relevant information on these sources and the available means to clean them up.  This fall, EPA will determine whether regulation of oil and gas methane emissions, from all, some (or none) of these sources, is warranted.  The regulations would be finalized by 2016.
Read the rest of this entry »