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Reservoir Sedimentation and Storage Capacity in the United States: Management Needs for the 21st Century

The United States federal government invested significant resources to build dams in the mid-twentieth century to increase water storage capacity nationwide; while only 5% of the dams in the United States are federally owned, they account for 61% of the total national storage capacity. Society is increasingly dependent on reservoir storage capacity due to increased water demand, increased population growth on floodplains protected by flood control dams, or increased demand on hydropower as a critical part of the electricity grid. Simultaneously, reservoir sedimentation diminishes storage capacity. Thus, there is a persistent chronic loss of the very resource upon which many aspects of modern society depend. Not measuring, assessing, and managing this resource undervalues it, and also perpetuates ignorance of threats to existing beneficiaries as well as obscuring opportunities for additional benefits. In order to most efficiently use the nation’s increasingly scarce reservoir storage capacity, the authors propose three modest actions for the hydraulic engineering community in the Journal of Hydraulic Engineering: expand nationwide reservoir sedementation surveys, supplement RESSED with initial planned sedimentation rates, and share responsibility for building reservoir sedimentation knowledge. 

Author(s): Charles Podolack, Martin Doyle

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Water

National

States & Regions

Journal Articles

Regulating existing power plants under the U.S. Clean Air Act: Present and Future Consequences of Key Design Choices

In June 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposed rules to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel power plants, triggering considerable debate on the proposal’s design and its environmental and economic consequences. One question not addressed by this debate is this: What if the EPA regulations turn out to be inadequate to address future mitigation goals? That is, what will the landscape for future policies look like if these regulations turn out to be just an interim measure? This analysis in the journal Energy Policy compares potential short- and long-term consequences of several key regulatory design choices, including mass-based versus rate-based standards, tradable versus non-tradable standards, and differentiated versus single standards. It finds that long-term consequences may be significant in terms of the legacy they leave for future policy revisions: tradable standards lead to lower electricity prices and become weaker over time; differentiated tradable standards lead to relatively greater investment in coal retrofits; non-tradable standards lead to relatively greater retirement of coal capacity. It may be the case that key policy choices entail one set of tradeoffs if proposed EPA rules are viewed as relatively permanent and final and another set of tradeoffs if the rules are viewed as an interim solution.

Author(s): Brian Murray, William Pizer, Martin Ross

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Climate & Energy

Clean Air Act

Policy and Design

Environmental Economics

Climate Change Policy

National

Journal Articles

Exploring Biomass Market Participation and Decision Making

Individual biomass producers will play a large role in the emergence of robust and sustainable bioenergy markets. Despite recognition of producer differences, there are few comparative studies of what actually contributes to bioenergy market participation decisions across different producer groups. This policy brief, which draws on research descibed in Exploring the Determinants of Emerging Bioenergy Market Participation, addresses this gap and compiles lessons from the existing body of work on the factors that influence producer decision making. The literature finds that many non-production objectives, structural and social constraints, and market-related attributes can influence bioenergy market participation decisions—in particular, asset specificity, or the market or end-use flexibility of a given feedstock. A quantitative analysis highlights those independent and dependent variables most often found to be significantly associated—information that can improve representation of bioenergy market participation decision making in future modeling efforts. A social network analysis sheds light on the hypothesis that there exists in the literature a differential treatment of feedstock production decision making across feedstock categories, producer groups, and geographic regions. The finding of potential differences is confirmed through QAP regression analysis for two feedstock types (residues and commodities) and one producer type (woodland owners). If producer group- and feedstock-specific differences are indicative of fundamentally different socio-economic conditions in their respective markets, policies targeted to individual markets may be more effective than uniform national policies. Targeted policies could reflect location-specific feedstock production techniques, non-production objectives, and other attributes related to market participation decisions. Furthermore, this analysis revels that a greater number of factors are associated with dedicated feedstock production decisions than with residues or traditional commodity feedstock production decisions. It follows that policies seeking to increase production of dedicated feedstocks should consider a broader array of tools, approaches, or incentives than those seeking to increase production of residues or traditional commodities.

Author: Christopher S. Galik

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Climate & Energy

Bioenergy

Regional Bioenergy

Policy and Design

National

Policy Briefs

Incentivizing the Reduction of Pollution at Dairies: How to Address Additionality When Multiple Environmental Credit Payments Are Combined

Anaerobic digesters (ADs) can reduce waste volumes and capture methane emissions from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), but their adoption rate is low because their cost is high relative to other forms of waste management. Farmers who use ADs can attempt to sell carbon credits and nutrient credits as well as renewable electricity certificates (RECs) generated by on-site electricity production from captured methane. These credits and RECs can be used as marketable “offsets” that buyers can use to help meet their greenhouse gas and nutrient pollution reduction goals. One issue that arises is whether a single operation can sell into multiple credit markets by “stacking” credits—that is, receiving multiple environmental payments to finance the conversion to AD technology. This practices introduces the possibility that some credits might be “non-additional”—i.e., produce no incremental pollution reductions and thus be suspect pollution offsets. Non-additionality in environmental credit stacking occurs when multiple payment streams do not produce incremental pollution reductions, thus allowing the credit buyer to pollute more than is being offset by the AD project. A possible solution to the stacking problem may be to allow stacking of all credits available at the time of AD installation, but to prohibit any further stacking if new credit streams become available after installation.

Authors: Brian C. Murray and Tibor Vegh

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Environmental Markets

Policy and Design

Agriculture

Land

Environmental Economics

Energy Sector

National

Working Papers

Environmental and Economic Implications of Regional Bioenergy Policy

The unique generation, landownership, and resource attributes of the southeastern United States make the region a ripe and important test bed for implementation of novel renewable energy policy. This policy brief describes the environmental and economic implications of one policy intervention: a hypothetical region-wide renewable portfolio standard (RPS) with separate biomass targets or “carve-outs.” A study of this intervention shows that over time the dominant contributor to such an RPS would be forest biomass and that existing resource conditions would influence patterns of biomass harvesting, resulting in a spatially and temporally diverse forest carbon response. Net forest carbon storage in the Southeast would be greater with the hypothetical RPS than without it in all but the final years of the modeled time period, but when displaced fossil fuel emissions are accounted for net greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions over the period could be substantial. The methods and findings presented here are also relevant to a broader array of policies that could increase biomass demand from the region, including pellet exports from the United States to the European Union and regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Authors: Christopher Galik, Robert C. Abt, Gregory Latta, and Tibor Vegh

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Bioenergy

Regional Bioenergy

Policy Briefs

Exploring the Determinants of Emerging Bioenergy Market Participation

Individual biomass producers will play a strong role in the emergence of robust and sustainable bioenergy markets. Substantial, but fragmented research on what drives their participation exists. Through narrative review and network analysis, a new review of the bioenergy market participation literature in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews generates both an increased appreciation of how bioenergy market participation is assessed in existing research and how social network analysis may be further employed as a tool for literature review. The analysis reaches two central conclusions: 1) A variety of non-production objectives, structural and social constraints, and market-related attributes influence bioenergy market participation decisions, and 2) Assessment of these factors varies significantly across the literature for both user group and feedstock type. These findings collectively suggest that there may not be a single agreed-upon methodology for assessing bioenergy market participation. Furthermore, if the user group- and feedstock-specific differences found across the literature are indicative of fundamentally different socio-economic conditions in their respective markets, then policies specific to individual markets may be more effective in encouraging participation than uniform national policy initiatives. 

Author(s): Christopher S. Galik

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Bioenergy

Regional Bioenergy

Journal Articles

Enhancing Compliance Flexibility under the Clean Power Plan: A Common Elements Approach to Capturing Low-Cost Emissions Reductions

As states and stakeholders evaluate compliance options under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, many recognize the potential economic benefits of market-based strategies. In some states, however, market approaches trigger administrative and political hurdles. A new policy brief by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions offers a compliance pathway that allows states to realize the advantages of multistate and market-based solutions without mandating either strategy. With the common elements approach, states develop individual-state plans to achieve their unique emissions targets and give power plant owners the option to participate in cross-state emissions markets. Power plant owners can transfer low-cost emissions reductions between states whose compliance plans share common elements--credits defined the same way and mechanisms to protect against double counting. The common elements approach offers the following benefits: (1) allows cross-state credit transfers without states negotiating a formal regional trading scheme, (2) leaves compliance choices to power companies, (3) builds on existing state and federal trading programs, and (4) maintains the traditional roles of state energy and environmental regulators.

Author(s): Jonas Monast, Tim Profeta, Jeremy Tarr, and Brian Murray

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Climate & Energy

Clean Air Act

Policy and Design

State Utility Regulation

State Policy

Policy Briefs

Get the Science Right When Paying for Nature's Services

Payments for Ecosystem Services mechanisms leverage economic and social incentives to shape how people influence natural processes and achieve conservation and sustainability goals. Beneficiaries of nature's goods and services pay owners or stewards of ecosystems that produce those services, with payments contingent on service provision. Integrating scientific knowledge and methods into Payments for Ecosystem Services is critical. Yet many projects are based on weak scientific foundations, and effectiveness is rarely evaluated with the rigor necessary for scaling up and understanding the importance of these approaches as policy instruments and conservation tools. Part of the problem is the lack of simple, yet rigorous, scientific principles and guidelines to accommodate Payments for Ecosystem Services design and guide research and analyses that foster evaluations of effectiveness. The Nicholas Institute's Lydia Olander, along with other scientists and practitioners from government, nongovernment, academic, and finance institutions, propose a set of such guidelines and principles in a new Science article.

Author(s): S. Naeem, J. C. IngramA. VargaT. AgardyP. BartenG. BennettE. BloomgardenL. L. BremerP. BurkillM. CattauC. ChingM. ColbyD. C. CookR. CostanzaF. DeClerckC. FreundT. GartnerR. Goldman-BennerJ. GundersonD. JarrettA. P. KinzigA. KissA. KoontzP. KumarJ. R. LaskyM. MasozeraD. MeyersF. MilanoL. Naughton-TrevesE. NicholsL. OlanderP. OlmstedE. PergeC. PerringsS. PolaskyJ. PotentC. PragerF. QuétierK. RedfordK. SatersonG. ThoumiM. T. VargasS. VickermanW. WeisserD. WilkieS. Wunder

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Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

National

Journal Articles

Signed Peer Reviews as a Means to Improve Scholarly Publishing

In a new article in the Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solution's Linwood Pendleton discusses peer review. Pendleton notes that peer review is necessary process with a long history of complaints, including over-solicitation of a small number of reviewers, delays, inadequate numbers of reviewers, and a lack of incentives to provide strong reviews or avoid reviews with little helpful information for the author. In the era of web-based distribution of research, through working paper or project reports, anonymous peer reviews are much less likely. The Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics will use signed peer reviews and an open communication process among authors, reviewers, and editors. This approach, to be developed over time, should lead to stronger communication of research results for the journal's readers.

Author(s): Linwood Pendleton 

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Oceans & Coasts

Environmental Economics

Journal Articles

Vulnerability and Adaptation of U.S. Shellfisheries to Ocean Acidification

Ocean acidification is a global, long-term problem whose ultimate solution requires carbon dioxide reduction at a scope and scale that will take decades to accomplish successfully. A new perspective published in Nature Climate Change offers the first nationwide look at the vulnerability of our country’s $1 billion shellfish industry to the global, long-term problem of our oceans becoming more acidic due to the absorption of increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Author(s): Julia A. EkstromLisa SuatoniSarah R. CooleyLinwood H. PendletonGeorge G. WaldbusserJosh E. CinnerJessica RitterChris LangdonRuben van HooidonkDwight GledhillKatharine WellmanMichael W. BeckLuke M. Brander, Dan RittschofCarolyn DohertyPeter E. T. Edwards, and Rosimeiry Portela

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Climate & Energy

Oceans & Coasts

Journal Articles

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