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New Source Review and Coal Plant Efficiency Gains: How New and Forthcoming Air Regulations Affect Outcomes

Forthcoming carbon dioxide regulations for existing power plants in the United States have heightened interest in thermal efficiency gains for coal-fired power plants. Plant modifications to improve thermal efficiency can trigger New Source Review (NSR), a Clean Air Act requirement to adopt state-of-the-art pollution controls. This article in the journal Energy Policy explores whether existing coal plants would likely face additional pollution control requirements if they undertake modifications that trigger NSR. Despite emissions controls that are or will be installed under the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and Clean Air Interstate Rule or its replacement, 80% of coal units (76% of capacity) that are expected to remain in operation are not projected to meet the minimum NSR requirements for at least one pollutant: nitrogen oxides or sulfur dioxide. This is an important consideration for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state policymakers as they determine the extent to which carbon dioxide regulation will rely on unit-by-unit thermal efficiency gains versus potential flexible compliance strategies such as averaging, trading, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. NSR would likely delay and add cost to thermal efficiency projects at a majority of coal units, including projects undertaken to comply with forthcoming carbon dioxide regulation.

Author(s): Sarah Adair, David Hoppock, and Jonas Monast

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Climate & Energy

Clean Air Act

Policy and Design

State Utility Regulation

Climate Change Policy

Energy Sector

National

State Policy

Journal Articles

Devolved Access Modalities: Lessons for the Green Climate Fund from Existing Practice

This analysis was developed for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board, which is considering modalities to enhance country ownership of climate change-related projects and programs—that is, to devolve certain operational funding decisions to accredited funding entities rather than require project approval by the governing board. This approach could allow the GCF to operate at scale but also could create tension between the GCF and these entities if their objectives—for example, with regard to national development—differ. This analysis uses seven case studies to illustrate current practices that could provide ideas and insights about how the GCF might design its own approach (or set of approaches) for a decentralized/devolved access modality.

Author(s): Benito Müller and William Pizer

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Climate & Energy

Working Papers

Transitioning to a New Blue Economy: Proceedings of the Economics of the Ocean Summit

Government's role in ocean environmental policy is often viewed as an economic cost to business rather than a boost to the economic value of the sea. But new evidence shows that the new blue economy can improve environmental quality in the ocean while generating new business opportunities. Furthermore, government has a key role to play in making, creating, and catalyzing this new blue economy. In December 2013, the Swedish government and Duke University hosted a meeting at the House of Sweden in Washington D.C. to discuss how innovative policy making and new business approaches together can improve the value and sustainability of the natural capital in our seas and estuaries. Decision makers, “big thinkers,” and practitioners came together for two days to share ideas and to catalyze discussion with a focus on the experiences of the United States and Sweden, two maritime countries that are forging new ocean economies.

Editors: Lisa Emelia Svensson and Linwood Pendleton 

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Oceans & Coasts

Working Papers

Refining Models for Quantifying the Water Quality Benefits of Improved Animal Management for Use in Water Quality Trading

Water quality trading (WQT) allows point-source permittees to meet their water quality obligations by purchasing credits from other point or nonpoint sources that have reduced their discharges. Improved management of animal operations could reduce nutrient discharges into waterways and thereby generate credits for WQT programs. But first, methods for quantifying pollutant reductions resulting from animal management changes must be adapted for use in such programs. This report explains the Clean Water Act underpinning of WQT programs and how animal operations fit into them. It surveys models of animal production of nutrient waste, surface water transport, and the transport and transformation of pollutants in watersheds. It also describes how direct measurement and monitoring of nutrient losses is evolving. Finally, it presents ideas on how to improve models’ accuracy and usability. The report reflects insights from three supplemental papers: Management Practices to Improve Water Quality on Central and Western Rangelands, Assessing Potential Impacts of Livestock Management on Groundwaterand Management Options for Animal Operations to Reduce Nutrient Loads

Author(s): Lydia Olander, Todd Walter, Peter Vadas, Jim Heffernan, Ermias Kebreab, Marc Ribaudo, Thomas Harter

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Ecosystem Services

Land

Reports

Carbon Market Lessons and Global Policy Outlook

Although markets for trading carbon emission credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have stalled in United States federal policy-making, carbon markets are emerging at the state level within the U.S. and around the world, teaching us more about what does and doesn't work. Authors discuss in a Policy Forum piece in Science key lessons from a decade of experience with carbon markets.

Author(s): Richard Newell, William Pizer, Daniel Raimi

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Climate & Energy

Policy and Design

Science

Environmental Economics

Natural Resources

International

National

State Policy

Journal Articles

Biogas in the United States: An Assessment of Market Potential in a Carbon-Constrained Future

Using biogas as a fossil fuel substitute can mitigate the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Therefore, biogas is an attractive renewable energy source in a carbon-constrained future. Although pipeline-quality biogas can augment the natural gas market supply, its long-term potential has been little studied. This report aims to answer the question of whether, and under what conditions, a substantial, decentralized domestic biogas market could develop in the United States by 2040. It finds that (1) biogas could be expanded to supply perhaps 3–5% of the total natural gas market at projected prices of $5–6/MMBtu, (2) the largest potential biogas is thermal gasification of agriculture and forest residues and biomass, (3) using biogas for electricity generation may be more profitable than supplying it to the pipeline, and (4) because market signals have not spurred widespread adoption of biogas, policy incentives are necessary to increase its use.

Author(s): Brian C. Murray, Christopher S. Galik, and Tibor Vegh

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Low Carbon Technologies

Environmental Economics

Climate Change Policy

Energy Sector

Natural Resources

Modeling

Reports

Promoting Innovative and Clean Energy Technology Deployment in Conjunction with GHG Regulation of Stationary Sources under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act

This paper outlines regulatory strategies that could be implemented under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to help states and emissions sources accelerate the deployment of new and innovative clean energy technologies to achieve air, energy, and climate goals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and states already possess the statutory authority to exercise the tools detailed here, which could help minimize barriers to new technology deployment under CAA policies. The appropriate pathway for development and implementation of those tools may vary by strategy, but such technology-stimulating reforms could be deployed in conjunction with the EPA’s establishment of a regulatory program to address greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.

Author(s): Jody Foster and Jeremy M. Tarr

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Climate & Energy

Bioenergy

Clean Air Act

Policy and Design

Low Carbon Technologies

Climate Change Policy

Energy Sector

National

States & Regions

Reports

Working toward a More Valuable Ocean: Concepts and Ideas from Thinkers and Doers

By better defining the economic values of the services provided by ecosystems and integrating these values in the economy, the world will be better equipped to sustainably use these ecosystems and, in turn, increase their capacity. In December 2013, the Swedish government and Duke University hosted a meeting for decision makers, “big thinkers,” and practitioners to discuss how innovative policy making and new business models can augment the value of natural capital in our seas and estuaries. The forum at the House of Sweden revealed the degree to which businesses, governments, and multinational organizations are tackling the challenge of improving ocean health while enhancing human wellbeing and increasing returns to human enterprise. These short essays highlight keynote remarks from U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones, Rear Admiral Jonathon White of the U.S. Navy, Catarina Heder of the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, World Bank senior economist Pawan Patil, and others. 

Author(s): Lisa Emelia Svensson and Linwood Pendleton

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Oceans & Coasts

Marine Ecosystem Services

Law and Policy Mangement

Working Papers

Incorporating Ecosystem Services in Marine Planning: The Role of Valuation

This arcticle in the journal Marine Policy scrutinizes the use of ecosystem services valuation for marine planning. Lessons are drawn from the development and use of environmental valuation and cost-benefit analysis for policy making in the United States and the United Kingdom. Current approaches to marine planning in both countries are presented, and the role that ecosystem services valuation could play in this context is outlined. It highlights steps in the marine planning process during which valuation can inform marine planning and policy making as well as discusses methodological challenges to applying ecosystem services valuation techniques to marine planning. Finally, it makes recommendations to meet these challenges.

Author(s:) Tobias Börger, Nicola J. Beaumont, Linwood Pendleton, Kevin J. Boyle, Phillip Cooper, Stephen Fletcher, Tim Haab, Michael Hanemann, Tara L. Hooper, S. Salman Hussain, Rosimeiry Portela, Mavra Stithou, Joanna Stockhill, Tim Taylor, and Melanie C. Austen

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Oceans & Coasts

Marine Spatial Planning

Marine Ecosystem Services

Journal Articles

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Opportunities for California Agriculture: Outlook for California Agriculture to 2030

California agriculture is diverse and complex, producing several dozen major crop and livestock commodities using the state’s great spatial variation of natural and climate resources and well-developed infrastructure of input delivery systems, processing systems, and marketing services. What, where, and how these commodities are produced reflect biophysical, economic, and policy drivers, all of which have and will continue to change. This report examines the statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and emissions mitigation potential of alternative futures for California agriculture through 2030. It finds that the dairy industry in California has by far the largest GHG emissions of all the state’s agricultural production systems but that the industry’s growth trajectory is uncertain. Three potential growth scenarios suggest that baseline dairy emissions could decrease by as much as 20% or increase by as much as 40% (almost one-quarter of the entire agricultural sector’s current emissions). This variation in baseline emissions projections may be as large as or larger than the industry’s emissions mitigation potential.

Author(s): Daniel A. Sumner 

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Climate & Energy

Agriculture

Ecosystem Services

Land

Climate Change Policy

Natural Resources

Sustainability

States & Regions

Western

State Policy

Reports

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