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The Morphology of Streams Restored for Market and Nonmarket Purposes: Insights from a Mixed Natural-Social Science Approach

This analysis uses geomorphic surveys to quantify the differences between restored and nonrestored streams as well as the differences between streams restored for market purposes (compensatory mitigation) and those restored for nonmarket programs. In addition, it examines the social and political-economic drivers of the stream restoration and mitigation industry using policy documents and interviews with key personnel, including regulators, mitigation bankers, stream designers, and scientists. Among the findings: Restored streams are typically wider and geomorphically more homogenous than nonrestored streams. Streams restored for the mitigation market are typically headwater streams and are part of a large complex of long restored main channels and many restored tributaries; streams restored for nonmarket purposes are typically shorter and consist of the main channel only. Interviews reveal that designers integrate many influences, including economic and regulatory constraints, but traditions of practice have a large influence as well. Thus, social forces shape the morphology of restored streams.

Authors: Martin W. Doyle, Jai Singh, Rebecca Lave, and Morgan W. Robertson

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Water

Journal Articles

Why Have Greenhouse Emissions in RGGI States Declined? An Econometric Attribution to Economic, Energy Market, and Policy Factors

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a consortium of northeastern U.S. states that limit carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation through a regional emissions trading program. Since RGGI started in 2009, regional emissions have sharply dropped. This analysis uses econometric models to quantify the emissions reductions due to RGGI and those due to other factors such as the recession, complementary environmental programs, and lowered natural gas prices. It shows that without RGGI, emissions would have been 24 percent higher. The program accounts for about half of the region’s post-2009 emissions reductions, which are far greater than those achieved in the rest of the United States.

Authors: Brian C. Murray and Peter T. Maniloff

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Climate & Energy

Environmental Economics

Climate Change Policy

Energy Sector

Modeling

States & Regions

State Policy

Journal Articles

Preparing for CO2 Regulations for Existing Power Plants: Key Points to Look for in the Final Clean Power Plan Rule

In June 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its Clean Power Plan rule, developed pursuant to section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s fleet of existing electric generating units. The agency will release the final version of the rule in August 2015. This final rule is expected to reflect some, perhaps significant, changes addressing the more than 4 million public comments on the proposed rule. This policy brief identifies the key elements in the final rule that could affect state implementation choices. These elements include potential changes in final state emissions targets, treatment of natural gas combined cycle units and under-construction nuclear units, rules and flexibility regarding rate-to-mass conversion, submission deadlines for state plans, and guidance regarding multi-state trading.

Authors: Julie DeMeester, David Hoppock, Sam Helton, Jonas Monast

 

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Climate & Energy

Clean Air Act

Policy Briefs

Financing Land Use Mitigation: A Practical Guide for Decision-Makers

This report, produced as part of a U.S. Department of State-funded project by Winrock International, serves as a practical guide for those seeking finance to implement specific actions to reduce emissions from land use. It is intended to assist national policy makers and other decision makers in accessing and leveraging financial mechanisms to support activities that reduce forest greenhouse gas emissions and increase forest carbon stocks. It features an in-depth exploration of efforts to raise finance for low-emission, sustainable land use activities in Mexico and Ethiopia—two countries with ambitious REDD+ and LED goals but with widely differing natural environments, macroeconomic conditions, and institutional experience. These conditions allow Mexico and Ethiopia to offer important lessons to other countries seeking to develop low-emission and sustainable land use strategies.

Authors: Charlotte Streck, Brian Murray, André Aquino, Leslie Durschinger, Manuel Estrada, Charlie Parker, and Alemayehu Zeleke

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Adaptation

Land

Environmental Economics

Natural Resources

Sustainability

International

REDD

Reports

Best Practices for Integrating Ecosystem Services into Federal Decision Making

Federal agencies take many actions that influence ecosystem conditions and change the provision of ecosystem services valued by the public. To date, most decisions affecting ecosystems have relied on ecological assessments with little or no consideration of the value of ecosystem services. Best practice for ecosystem services assessments is to apply quantitative measures and methods that express both an ecosystem’s capacity to provide valued services and, through those services, social benefit (value). Although preference evaluation methods are well established, their implementation can be infeasible because of time or resource constraints, particularly when new data need to be collected. In such cases, the minimum standard recommended for an ecosystem services assessment is to use measures that go beyond narrative description and that are carefully constructed to reflect the ecosystem’s capacity to provide benefits to society but that stop short of a formal assessment of people’s preferences. These measures of ecosystem services are benefit-relevant indicators (BRIs). Their use ensures that ecosystem services assessments measure outcomes that are demonstrably relevant to human welfare, rather than biophysical measures that might not be relevant to human welfare. If ecosystem service values or BRIs are not used in some manner, ecosystem services are not being assessed, and no direct insights can be drawn about effects on social welfare. This minimum best practice is broadly achievable across agencies and decision contexts with current capacity and resources.

Authors: Lydia Olander, Robert J. Johnston, Heather Tallis, Jimmy Kagan, Lynn Maguire, Steve Polasky, Dean Urban, James Boyd, Lisa Wainger, and Margaret Palmer

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Ecosystem Services

National Ecosystem Services Partnership

Reports

The Depths of Hydraulic Fracturing and Accompanying Water Use across the United States

Unconventional oil and gas extraction using a combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has transformed natural gas and oil production in North America and raised public concern about its intense water use and potential hazards, including drinking-water contamination. Such extraction is thought to pose no safety concerns for drinking water if it occurs many hundreds of meters to kilometers underground, yet no comprehensive analysis of hydraulic fracturing depths existed until publication of a new article in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Based on reports of fracturing depths and water use at 44,000 wells in the United States between 2010 and 2013, the analysis finds the average fracturing depth was 8,300 feet and the average water use was 2,400,000 gallons per well. Many of these wells (6,900 or 16 percent) were fractured less than a mile from the surface; 2,600 wells (6 percent) were fractured above 3,000 feet. Because hydraulic fractures can propagate 2,000 feet upward, the analysis indicates that shallow wells may warrant special safeguards, including a mandatory registry of well locations, full chemical disclosure, and, where horizontal drilling is used, predrilling water testing to a radius 1,000 feet beyond a well’s greatest lateral extent.

Authors: Robert B. Jackson, Ella R. Lowry, Amy Pickle, Mary Kang, Dominic DiGiulio, and Kaiguang Zha

 

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Climate & Energy

Water

Energy Sector

Natural Resources

National

States & Regions

Journal Articles

Air Quality Impacts and Health-Benefit Valuation of a Low-Emission Technology for Rail Yard Locomotives in Atlanta, Georgia

One of the largest railyard facilities in the southeastern United States is located in the densely populated northwestern section of Atlanta, Georgia, near other industries, schools, and dwellings. It is a significant source of fine particulates (PM2.5) and black carbon (BC). This article in Science of the Total Environment calculates 2011 PM2.5 and BC emissions from the yard and from primary industrial and on-road mobile sources in the area and determines their impact on local air quality using Gaussian dispersion modeling. It also determines the change in PM2.5 and BC concentrations that could be accomplished by transitioning the yard's traditional switcher locomotives to lower-emitting technology. The study finds that the potential reduction in these concentrations facilitates attainment of the PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards in the area and that, based on Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP) modeling, resulting health benefits would surpass conversion costs by approximately 140 million dollars over 10 years.

Authors: Boris Galvis, Michael Bergin, James Boylan, Yan Huang, Michelle Bergin, and Armistead G. Russell

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Climate & Energy

Journal Articles

Environmental Justice Roundtable Report

This report from the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Kenan Institute for Ethics summarizes discussion from a roundtable with experts from Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University and Research Triangle Institute that explored the multiple starting points for environmental justice research in the Triangle area.

Editor (s): Kay Jowers and Suzanne Katzenstein

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State Policy

Reports

The Environmental and Economic Effects of Regional Bioenergy Policy in the Southeastern U.S.

The unique generation, landownership, and resource attributes of the southeastern United States make the region an important test bed for implementation of novel renewable energy policy interventions. This study evaluates the environmental and economic implications of one such intervention, a hypothetical region-wide renewable portfolio standard (RPS) with biomass carve-outs. It utilizes the Forest and Agriculture Sector Optimization Model with Greenhouse Gases (FASOMGHG) to assess the multi-sector and interregional allocation of forest harvest activity, and then uses the Sub-Regional Timber Supply (SRTS) model to assess intraregional variation in forest composition and greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential. The analysis finds that existing resource conditions influence the regional distribution of land use and harvest changes, resulting in a spatially and temporally diverse forest carbon response. Net forest carbon in the Southeast is greater in the RPS Scenario than in the No RPS Scenario in all but the final years of the model run. Accounting for displaced fossil emissions yields net GHG reductions in all time periods. Both research methodology and findings are also applicable to a broader suite of domestic and international policies, including European Union renewable energy initiatives and GHG mitigation under Section 111 of the U.S. Clean Air Act.

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

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Climate & Energy

Bioenergy

Journal Articles

Assessing the Economic Contribution of Marine and Coastal Ecosystem Services in the Sargasso Sea

This report, which was revised April 2015, provides a variety of measures of the Sargasso Sea’s economic value and impact, especially net and gross revenues associated with ecosystem services supported by the sea. It captures just a small portion of these services and does not reflect their complete and total net value. Yet analysis of data on even this small portion suggests that the economic importance of the Sargasso Sea is significant. Economic expenditures and revenues directly or potentially linked to that sea range from tens to hundreds of million of dollars a year.

Authors: L. Pendleton, F. Krowicki, P. Strosser, and J. Hallett-Murdoch, Murdoch Marine

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Oceans & Coasts

Marine Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

Marine

Environmental Economics

Reports

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