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Sharing Groundwater: A Robust Framework and Implementation Roadmap for Sustainable Groundwater Management in California

This working paper offers a framework and roadmap for development of a robust groundwater-sharing system consistent with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires communities in priority areas to prepare groundwater sustainability plans. The proposed system draws on global experience. Robustness is its signature feature. Opportunities are maximized by a suite of robust local governance, allocation, and administrative arrangements. Additionally, the proposed system incentivizes innovation, stimulates investment, and facilitates low-cost adjustment to changes in groundwater demand. Among the dynamic components underlying this sharing system are a share register that records ownership and transfers of ownership in the basin’s available shares. These unit shares are fungible; each represents a proportional stake in access to the basin’s groundwater resources. Volumetric allocations are made in proportion to the number of shares held during determined periods throughout the water year.  These allocations are recorded in bank-like water accounts, affording account holders an efficient means to manage their resource but also ensuring that they cannot use more than is available. Unused water can be saved for later use. At the start of the transition to the new system, users are given an allocation buffer so that they have flexibility and time to adjust. Those who want to can make quick non-contestable trades at low cost.

Authors: Mike Young and Bryce McAteer

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Environmental Markets

Western

Water Policy

Environmental Economics

State Policy

Working Papers

Fish and Invertebrate Flow-Biology Relationships to Support the Determination of Ecological Flows for North Carolina

Following recent droughts in North Carolina, the General Assembly convened an Ecological Flows Science Advisory Board to develop a strategy for establishing flow regimes that could protect the ecological integrity in the streams and rivers of North Carolina. A new article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association describes the method developed to characterize fish and invertebrate responses to flow alterations in the state of North Carolina to aid in setting ecologically sensitive flows that achieve appropriate environmental objectives.

Authors: Jennifer Phelan, Tom Cuffney, Lauren Patterson, Michele Eddy, Robert Dykes, Sam Pearsall, Chris Goudreau, Jim Mead and Fred Tarver

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Water Policy

State Policy

Journal Articles

Flow-Biology Relationships Based on Fish Habitat Guilds in North Carolina

The health of freshwater animal and plant life is dependent on streamflow, yet identification of the flow regimes required to maintain ecological integrity remains challenging to states in the U.S. seeking to establish ecological flows that achieve environmental objectives. A new article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association tests the relationship between decreases in streamflow and Shannon-Weaver diversity index of fish species for four flow-based habitat guilds: riffle, riffle-run, pool-run, and pool in North Carolina. The study finds that species who prefer shallow habitats, such as riffles and riffle-runs were the most sensitive to decreases in streamflow, while using all fish data greatly underestimated the response of fish species to decreases in flow. Since ecological flows are designed to protect the integrity and diversity of aquatic ecosystems, ecological flows should be established to protect those species most sensitive to changes in flow.

Authors: Lauren Patterson, Jennifer Phelan, Chris Goudreau and Robert Dykes

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Water Policy

State Policy

Journal Articles

Evaluating Flow Metric-Based Stream Classification Systems to Support the Determination of Ecological Flows in North Carolina

Streamflow is a main determinant of the ecological health of rivers and streams. Assignment of streams to classes is suggested as an initial step in the process of establishing ecological flow standards that ensure the appropriate environmental objectives are achieved. A new article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association evaluated a hydrological model with two distinct hydroecological river classification systems of stream classes in North Carolina and found that stream classification was inconsistent between all three models and highly dependent on the period of record of the underlying data. Based on these results, it was surmised that classification systems based on streamflow metrics are not a reliable approach for guiding ecological flow determinations.

Authors: Michele C. Eddy, Jennifer Phelan, Lauren Patterson, Jessie Allen and Sam Pearsal

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Water Policy

State Policy

Journal Articles

Revisiting the NAAQS Program for Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act

The future is uncertain for the regulation of greenhouse gases from power plants, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which covers existing plants. The rule is under review in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court has indicated its interest in hearing the case. Moreover, during his presidential campaign, president-elect Donald Trump promised to “scrap” the Clean Power Plan. If the rule is overturned or is severely weakened, whether through litigation or executive action, stakeholders are likely to litigate to seek to force the EPA to use other authorities under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

This working paper examines the opportunities and challenges associated with regulation of greenhouse gases under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) program, drawing a comparison with the Clean Power Plan’s approach under a different section of the Clean Air Act. The paper offers no opinion on the Clean Power Plan litigation, nor does it advocate for the Clean Power Plan or the NAAQS approach. Its focus is on understanding how the NAAQS program might incorporate greenhouse gases in in the event that the EPA pursues that approach.

Authors: Christina Reichert, Franz Litz, Jonas Monast, Tim Profeta, and Sarah Adair

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Climate and Energy

Clean Air Act

Environmental Economics

State Policy

Working Papers

Unconventional Oil and Gas Spills: Materials, Volumes, and Risks to Surface Waters in Four States of the U.S.

A new article in the journal Science of the Total Environment examines spill data associated with unconventional oil and gas wells from Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania from 2005 to 2014. The authors used the data to evaluate the environmental risk of spills. They found that there were 21,300 unconventional wells and 6,622 reported spills. Across all states, the average distance of spills to a stream was highest in New Mexico, followed by Colorado, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania spills occurred in watersheds with a higher relative importance to drinking water than the other three states.

Authors: Kelly O. Maloney, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Lauren A. Patterson, Jean-Philippe Nicot, Sally A. Entrekin, Joseph E. Fargione, Joseph M. Kiesecker, Kate E. Konschnik, Joseph N. Ryan, Anne M. Trainor, James E. Saiers, and Hannah J. Wiseman

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Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Use

Water Policy

State Policy

Journal Articles

North Carolina Electricity Planning

The electricity system is facing new pressures from a changing generation mix, new technologies, consumer demand, and evolving utility business models. Planning for these changes will require participants in the process—utilities, regulators, consumers, and other stakeholders—not only to engage with these coming shifts but also to think critically and collectively about ways to address them. In North Carolina, two regulatory bodies share responsibilities for electricity planning: the North Carolina Energy Policy Council (EPC) and the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). The EPC is responsible for setting the state energy plan; the NCUC approves utility-developed integrated resource plans that forecast future electricity demand and options for meeting it. These two planning processes have different stakeholder-engagement opportunities, forecasting requirements, and outcomes. Robust electricity planning that is based on a comprehensive and coordinated policy framework across agencies and that creates strong stakeholder alignment has multiple benefits, including increased regulatory certainty, diverse stakeholder engagement in a common goal, and clear understanding among stakeholders and decision makers of electricity generation, transmission, and distribution options. North Carolina has a range of options to institute comprehensive electricity planning that is aligned with effective planning principles and that builds on its past successes.

Authors: Kay Jowers and Amy Pickle

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State Policy

Working Papers

Transport of Hydraulic Fracturing Waste from Pennsylvania Wells: A County-Level Analysis of Road Use and Associated Road Repair Costs

Pennsylvania’s rapid unconventional oil and gas development—from a single well in 2004 to more than 6700 wells in 2013—has dramatically increased unconventional oil and gas waste transport by heavy trucks. In an article published in the Journal of Environmental Management, researchers at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the U.S. Geological Survey report that transportation of waste associated with the development of unconventional oil and gas in Pennsylvania increases the cost of road repairs not only in Pennsylvania but in counties in the surrounding states of West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and New York. Between July 2010 and December 2013, the estimated cost to repair roads damaged by trucks transporting unconventional oil and gas waste ranged from $3 million to $18 million. Although the majority of these costs were concentrated in Pennsylvania (79 percent), Ohio counties absorbed some of them (16 percent). The study includes an interactive graphic for visualization of the data.   

Authors: Lauren A. Patterson and Kelly O. Maloney

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Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Use

Climate and Energy

Water Policy

Environmental Economics

State Policy

Journal Articles

Ongoing Evolution of the Electricity Industry: Effects of Market Conditions and the Clean Power Plan on States

The electricity industry is evolving as changes in natural gas and coal prices, along with environmental regulations, dramatically shift the generation mix. Future trends in gas prices and costs of renewables are likely to continue moving the industry away from coal-fired generation and into lower-emitting sources such as natural gas and renewables. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) is likely to amplify these trends. The CPP rule regulates emissions from existing fossil generators and allows states to choose among an array of rate-based and mass-based goals. The analysis in this paper uses the electricity-dispatch component of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions’ Dynamic Integrated Economy/Energy/Emissions Model to evaluate electricity industry trends and CPP impacts on the U.S. generation mix, emissions, and industry costs. Several coordinated approaches to the Clean Power Plan are considered, along with a range of uncoordinated “patchwork” choices by states. The model results indicate future industry trends are likely to make compliance with the Clean Power Plan relatively inexpensive; cost increases are likely to be on the order of 0.1% to 1.0%. Some external market conditions such as high gas prices could increase these costs, whereas low gas or renewables prices can achieve many of CPP goals without additional adjustments by the industry. However, policy costs can vary substantially across states, and may lead some of them to adopt a patchwork of policies that, although in their own best interests, could impose additional costs on neighboring states.

Authors: Martin T. Ross, David Hoppock, and Brian C. Murray

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Climate and Energy

Clean Air Act

Environmental Economics

Energy Sector

State Policy

Working Papers

Cost Distribution Impacts of Clean Power Plan Compliance Pathways

Under the Clean Power Plan, different utilities and power producers are likely to be in different positions: some will benefit from the rule, and others will face high compliance costs. This cost distribution may lead to monetary transfers—redistributions of money, income, or value from one party to another that are not necessarily driven by a change in the corresponding cost of production—among utilities and other power producers, between generators and consumers, and among consumers of different utilities. The regulatory system for each state’s electric utilities and the strength of regional electricity markets will play a major role in determining how the cost distribution and potential transfers play out, especially for ratepayers. This policy brief explores the cost distribution impacts for electricity producers of rate-based and mass-based compliance, respectively. It also considers how wholesale markets may mediate these producer impacts of rate- and mass-based compliance. It then turns to the implications for electricity consumers under various market and regulatory structures. Finally, it identifies opportunities to address distributional impacts if states wish to do so. It finds that states adopting a mass-based compliance approach can use allowance allocation to largely control monetary transfers within a state. States adopting a rate-based compliance approach lack this direct control mechanism.

Authors: David Hoppock and Sarah Adair

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Climate and Energy

Clean Air Act

Environmental Economics

Energy Sector

State Policy

Policy Briefs

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