Environmental Economics Program News

Study Identifies Spill Risk of Hydraulically Fractured Wells

New analysis in the journal Environmental Science & Technology finds that 2 to 16 percent of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells across Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania spill hydrocarbons, chemical-laden water, hydraulic fracturing fluids and other substances each year. It examines state-level spill data to characterize spills associated with unconventional oil and gas development at 31,481 wells hydraulically fractured or "fracked" in the four states between 2005 and 2014, identifying 6,648 spills in the 10-year period. Authors conclude that making state spill data more uniform and accessible could provide stakeholders with important information on where to target efforts for locating and preventing future spills. However, reporting requirements differ across states, requiring considerable effort to make the data usable for analysis.

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Energy Discussions Live on as EPA Rule Faces Death ($)

If there's an enduring upside to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's doomed Clean Power Plan, ClimateWire reports, it's that it spurred some much-needed discussions about energy on the state level. "There really was not much going on in terms of coordination and dialogue between energy and environmental regulators at the state level before all this," said Brian Murray, director of the Environmental Economics Program at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. But since the Clean Power Plan was proposed in 2014, Murray said, there has been an "improved understanding of how the power sector works by environmental regulators."

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Murray Reappointed as Interim Director of Energy Initiative

Brian Murray will serve for a second year as Interim Director of the Duke University Energy Initiative in 2017. As in 2016, Murray will retain a half-time appointment with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, where he is the Director of the Environmental Economics Program. The search for a full-time permanent Director of the Energy Initiative will launch in the spring, with a target appointment date of January 1, 2018. 

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Legal Headaches Await Efforts to Ax Social Cost of Carbon ($)

Gutting a controversial method that federal agencies use to weigh climate change damages could come at a high legal price, analysts say. Under the Obama administration, agencies used a metric, known as the social cost of carbon, to estimate the hidden costs of carbon dioxide emissions. That is, they assigned a dollar value to asthma attacks exacerbated by poor air quality or damage wrought by rising seas. Billy Pizer, faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, comments in ClimateWire.

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Exploring a New Mechanism to Cut Carbon Pollution in RGGI

On the Natural Resources Defense Council blog, Jackson Morris writes that the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is one of the most successful climate programs ever created. In a webinar co-sponsored by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Morris notes that he will help explore one of the ways we might make it even better, through creation of a new Emissions Containment Reserve (ECR). The basic idea: an ECR is a potential tool that could help us cut carbon pollution faster, at a lower cost. 

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Where will Clean Power Plan Organizers Refocus their Efforts? ($)

Think tanks and other groups around the country for the past few years have convened officials and run modeling looking at how states could comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. As the fate of the Clean Power Plan remains uncertain under the Trump administration, those organizers turn their focus to the contemporary questions states face as they navigate a still-changing electricity system. In ClimateWire, Tim Profeta, director Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, said the Nicholas Institute's work "on climate policy and clean energy extends beyond a single policy. Ultimately, power sector planning does not occur in four- or even eight-year increments."

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$500,000 USDA Grant Funds Study on Impacts of Using Oilfield Wastewater for Irrigation

Duke faculty have received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to lead a multi-year project evaluating the potential human health impacts and sustainability of using produced water from oilfields to irrigate crops. The research will focus on the use of the wastewater on agricultural lands in California’s Central Valley.

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Report Recommends New Framework for Estimating the Social Cost of Carbon

To estimate the social cost of carbon dioxide for use in regulatory impact analyses, the federal government should use a new framework that would strengthen the scientific basis, provide greater transparency, and improve characterization of the uncertainties of the estimates, says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report, which was put together by a committee that included Nicholas Institute faculty fellow Billy Pizer, also identifies a number of near- and longer-term improvements that should be made for calculating the social cost of carbon.

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Nicholas Institute Publishes Paper on CO2 Strategy ($)

Even if judges or his successor scrap President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, federal law gives regulators and interest groups other ways to push the issue, a team that includes researchers from Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and UNC Chapel Hill said in a paper released today. The paper authors say that one likely channel is an expansion of the “ambient” air-quality standards that now target well-known pollutants like carbon monoxide, lead and ozone, the Durham Herald Sun reports.

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Proposed Carbon Tax Equals Higher Fuel, Utility Prices; Southern Utah Representatives Respond

In an effort to address climate change and clean air issues in Utah, Rep. Joel Briscoe of House District 25 recently stated he intends to propose a carbon tax during the 2017 legislative session similar to that enacted in 2008 by British Columbia. The St. George News article cites a study by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the University of Ottawa’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainable Prosperity showed a 5 to 15 percent decrease in emissions with “little net impact, either negative or positive, on provincial economic performance.”

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