Environmental Economics Program News

A Look at How Trump's Moves on Coal will Affect the Industry

President Donald Trump's move to roll back Obama-era regulations aimed at curbing climate change comes as the coal industry is reeling from job losses, bankruptcies, pollution restrictions and growing competition from natural gas, wind and solar. In an executive order, Trump set forth a review of the Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants, and the lifting of a moratorium on the sale of coal mining leases on federal lands. Coal’s share of the electric sector dwindled in the last decade to about 32 percent last year while gas and renewables have made gains as hundreds of coal-burning power plants have been retired or are on schedule to retire soon. “[Utilities] are not going to flip a dime and say now it’s time to start building a whole bunch of coal plants because there’s a Trump administration,” said Brian Murray, director of the Environmental Economics Program at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, told The Associated Press.

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Public Voices Concerns About Plans for CHP Plant on Campus

Supporters and opponents of a proposed Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant on Duke’s campus both presented passionate opinions at an open forum Monday night, sponsored by Duke’s Campus Sustainability Committee.Forum moderator and committee co-chair Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, opened by thanking participants for taking part in this process. A previous open forum on the same topic in October was attended largely by Duke students and faculty, while last night’s forum saw a large turnout from community members, many of whom carried signs in opposition to the plant. The committee is charged with making recommendations on the plant, including whether to proceed with or reconsider the plant proposal.

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Trump Moves Decisively to Wipe out Obama’s Climate-Change Record

President Trump will take the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record Tuesday, instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions. The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions. Tim Profeta, who directs Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, told The Washington Post that regulators from more than a half-dozen states in the Southeast are now talking about how to chart their own path forward. Having met for nearly three years, the group stopped discussing how to comply with the Clean Power Plan after November’s election, but it is still talking. “We are now talking about the evolution of the power sector in an environment of uncertainty,” Profeta said. “We’re seeing the beginning of states taking control of their destiny.”

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Public Meeting on Proposed CHP Plant at Duke Monday

The public will be able to comment on a proposal by Duke Energy to build a new natural gas combined heat and power (CHP) plant on Duke University’s campus at a meeting on Monday evening. The university’s Campus Sustainability Committee has been charged with making recommendations on the plant, which will be released in early April. The public comments will help inform the university’s decision to proceed with or withdraw from the plant proposal. Committee co-chair Tim Profeta, who is the director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, will moderate Monday’s session, which will run from 6:30-8 p.m. in Gross Hall on Science Drive.

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A Delayed Winter Forum: Students Look at Failures in U.S. Energy Access

When lights burn all night and heat is plentiful on the Duke campus, it can be hard for students to fathom that there are people down the road who lack the money to pay for electricity. How that can be true—and how to rectify the problem—were topics touched upon at Duke’s 2017 Winter Forum, Power to the People: Tackling Energy Inequality through Clean Energy Solutions. Brian Murray, Environmental Economics Program director at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and interim director of the Duke University Energy Initiative, both of which co-sponsored the annual global issue forum for undergraduates, told students: “We see a substantial part of the world’s population unable to meet their most basic energy needs.Even in our own backyard of Durham, there are people who may have physical access to energy but face great economic hardship in meeting their energy needs. We view it as a moral imperative to provide greater access to affordable, reliable and clean energy for all.” 

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As Trump Targets Carbon Rules, Green Groups Promise a Legal Fight ‘at Every Step’

With President Trump poised to issue an executive order aimed at undoing a key pillar of the Obama administration’s climate-change agenda, environmental activist groups have joined forces for what they say will be a tooth-and-nail legal battle that could drag on for years. “Altering a final rule, like the Clean Power Plan, isn’t as simple as the stroke of a pen. It will likely require the EPA to undertake a new rulemaking process including public notice and comment that could last a few years,” Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, told The Washington Times.

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News Tip: Expert Available to Comment on Climate Rules Executive Order

President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to dismantle Obama-era climate rules, including the Clean Power Plan, which sets limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil-fueled power plants. Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions director Tim Profeta is available for comment.

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Energy Star Program Could be Targeted for Budget Cut

Congress is awaiting President Donald Trump's budget proposal with the details about his vision of government, and some preliminary elements of that plan are trickling out. According to some reports, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may lose as much as a quarter of its budget. The Energy Star Program, which identifies and promotes energy efficiency in products, could be targeted. Billy Pizer, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions faculty fellow and Sanford School of Public Policy professor, comments for Marketplace.

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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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