State Policy Program News

Building a Blue Economy in North Carolina

The ocean economy contributed $2.1 billion and 43,385 jobs to North Carolina’s economy in 2013, according to a new report by North Carolina Sea Grant and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. Ocean and coastal resources played an even larger role in the state’s coastal counties, providing 6.5 percent of gross domestic product, or GDP, and supporting 13 percent of employment. And according to “North Carolina’s Ocean Economy: A First Assessment and Transitioning to a Blue Economy” report co-author Tibor Vegh, these figures are most likely low. “Our estimates represent a snapshot in time only for the sectors where we could find economic data,” Vegh, a policy analyst with the Nicholas Institute, tells CoastWatch.

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Guess Who’s for a Carbon Tax Now

New York Times op-ed on carbon tax mentions a paper co-authored by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions' Brian Murray on British Columbia's carbon tax. Introduced in 2008, it started low, as it had at other places, so that people could shift their energy practices, and then increased yearly. The paper found that the tax worked; emissions in British Columbia dropped more than three times as much as in the rest of Canada. And economic growth was not affected. 

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Alumnus Robert Bonnie Returns as a Rubenstein Fellow to Explore Conservation in Rural America

Robert Bonnie, a Nicholas School of the Environment alumnus and former Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, returns to Duke as a Rubenstein Fellow to address issues related to climate change and natural resource conservation in rural America. Bonnie is the fifth expert to join Duke’s Rubenstein Fellows Academy, which brings leaders with deep expertise in issues of global importance to campus each year for in-depth engagement with students and faculty.  His 12-month term begins April 3. As a Rubenstein Fellow, Bonnie will work with students, staff and faculty in the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the Nicholas School and the Sanford School of Public Policy to develop strategies to tackle conservation challenges for rural America that rely on collaboration and incentives to address environmental issues while providing economic opportunity. Bonnie will also share his experiences in environmental policymaking with students through seminars and career advising sessions.

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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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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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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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In the Past Decade, Fracking Caused Nearly 2 Spills a Day in Just These 4 States

Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and North Dakota saw more than 6,600 spills from fracking wells — or more than one spill for every five wells — from 2005 to 2014, according to a study released Wednesday by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. The results suggest that the oil and gas industry needs to have stronger, more consistent reporting requirements for spills, which can include oil, chemical-laden water, and other substances, researchers said. “As this form of energy production increases, state efforts to reduce spill risk could benefit from making data more uniform and accessible to better provide stakeholders with important information on where to target efforts for locating and preventing future spills,” lead author Lauren Patterson told ThinkProgress.

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The Southeast Has an Energy Problem, and Minorities Are Hit the Hardest

Energy poverty has become so severe in the Southeast, the Pacific Standard reports, that many households pay 600 percent more of their annual income on energy than the national average. The article cites research by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Georgia Institute of Technology that indicates that the South is the largest and fastest growing region in the United States, with 36% of the nation’s population and a considerably larger share of the nation’s total energy consumption (44%) and supply (48%). At a simplistic level residents of the south are using more energy per square foot than their counterparts in the rest of the nation.

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Fracking Fluid is Leaking More Often than We Thought

Hydraulic fractured oil and gas wells spill pretty often, according to a recent study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, led by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. That study, along with a companion paper which appeared in the journal Science of the Total Environment, analyzed spill data and behavior across four states—Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania—with the goal of identifying common causes of spills to help industries improve, reports Popular Science.

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