Murray Named Director of Duke University Energy Initiative

Nicholas School of the Environment faculty member Brian Murray has been named as director of the Duke University Energy Initiative, a university-wide interdisciplinary hub for energy education, research, and engagement. Murray has served as interim director of the Energy Initiative since January 2016, in addition to his position as director of the Environmental Economics Program at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. As Energy Initiative director, Murray will continue to serve as a faculty member at the Nicholas School of the Environment. He will also be a faculty affiliate with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Duke Science and Society Initiative.   

Data Infrastructure Investments Could Increase Effectiveness of Reservoir Management

One of the largest repositories of historic reservoir data in the United States is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Its districts have been amassing data on hundreds of reservoirs for decades, but, like many other water data gathers in the United States, it cannot always use its own information to support broad-scale decision making. In a new report by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Lauren Patterson and Martin Doyle of the Nicholas Institute and Samantha Kuzma of the World Resources Institute point out that the federalist structure of the Army Corps and other U.S. agencies has often led to wide variation in data management, requiring development of protocols for standardizing and integrating those data. Pointing out that water management transcends political boundaries—requiring data sharing within and between agencies at the scale of watersheds or river basins—they describe the challenges of and opportunities for using the Army Corps’ historic reservoir data to understand how reservoirs are performing as environmental and societal needs change.

Judith Kelley Named Dean of Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy

Judith Kelley, an expert on human rights, democracy and international elections, has been named dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, President Vincent E. Price and Provost Sally Kornbluth announced Thursday. Kelley’s appointment comes after a national search chaired by Billy Pizer, Susan B. King Professor of Public Policy, associate dean for academic programs at the Sanford School and faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. “Judith Kelley is a tireless, proven leader with deep knowledge of our school and its opportunities,” said Pizer.  “She’s also a recognized public policy scholar who relishes the multiple roles that our school serves. I’m confident she’ll do a great job as dean.”

Mnuchin Poised to Disband Environment and Energy Office ($)

A memo sent to the Office of Environment and Energy international affairs staff announced that all environmental work would be reassigned to the international development section, which oversaw the portfolio before President George W. Bush's Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, created a separate office to raise the profile of environmental finance, reports ClimateWire. Billy Pizer, a faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, shares his take on the disbanding of the office he once headed.

Nuclear Winner

Georgia could have put an end to nuclear plant construction in the U.S., but it didn’t reports Grist. The Georgia Public Service Commission voted unanimously to continue the expansion of the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, located 150 miles east of Atlanta. If the commission had voted against the deal, there would have been no active nuclear energy projects ongoing in the U.S. South Carolina abandoned an over-budget, two-unit expansion to its V. C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station this past summer. According to Tim Profeta, director of Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, nearly 90 percent of the country’s nuclear capacity could sunset in the next 30 years—ending the nuclear era, which started in 1958 when the first reactor opened in western Pennsylvania.

2017 in Court: Regulations, Pipelines and Public Lands ($)

An article from Energywire discusses the numerous legal battles arising in the wake of regulatory rollbacks benefiting energy industries over the past year. The biggest cases centered on methane emissions, hydraulic fracturing and royalty reform. One substantial legal fight focused on Obama's 2015 rule for fracking on public and tribal lands. The long-running litigation took a sharp turn in the spring when the Trump administration announced plans to review the regulation. The Nicholas Institute's Kate Konschnik called it one of the most interesting cases of the year, highlighting "extreme views" from some Western states and other critics about the federal government's authority to regulate federal lands. "That one encapsulates this real push to either privatize public lands or to really minimize the government's oversight of the use of those lands," she said.

News Tip: Expert Available to Comment on Nuclear Plant Decision

The Georgia Public Service Commission will decide Dec. 21 whether to allow construction of two new nuclear reactors at the Plant Vogtle site to proceed or to call for the cancellation of the project. Plagued by delays and escalating costs, the Vogtle reactors represent the only large-scale nuclear construction underway in the United States.

3 Ways the Course of Water Sustainability Changed in 2017

In Greenbiz, Will Sarni writes that the word of the year in the world of water is digital. Digital technologies are gaining ground in the water sector and addressing a range of issues. Adoption of digital technologies is accompanied by an increased recognition that access to water data and analytics is essential to better inform public policies and business decisions. He notes that efforts to improve access to water data and actionable information is gaining support, mentioning the "Internet of Water" report by the Aspen Institute and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions that makes this case. 

Carbon Pricing Structure, Revenue Concerns Raised at Albany Meeting ($)

Key energy stakeholders explored the potential ramifications of an innovative proposal to place a price on carbon emissions in the electric sector, discussing ways to address imports into the state and how to divvy up potential revenues. New York's independent grid operator and utility regulator co-hosted the technical discussion at the Empire State Plaza December 11. Representatives from large energy consumers, environmental groups, state policymakers, public power authorities and in-state and out-of-state electric generators tried to establish principles for how revenue raised by a price on carbon could be used. This article in PoliticPro quotes Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Climate and Energy Program director Kate Konschnik.