State Policy 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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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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States' Data on Fracking Well Spills Inadequate for Comprehensive Study, Researchers Say

The nation's regulation of oil and gas development is a mish-mash of disjointed state oversight that makes it difficult to quantify the environmental impacts of drilling, reports Inside Climate News. A new study highlights just how inconsistent spill reporting is, showing that the range in requirements makes it impossible to compare states or come up with a comprehensive national picture. The research, published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, pulled together some of the disparate data and found there have been about 5 spills each year for every 100 wells that have been hydraulically fractured. Of the states examined, North Dakota had the highest rate of spills while Colorado companies reported just 11 spills per 1,000 wells annually.

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Fracking Studies Reveal Need for Standard Reporting Requirements on Spills

Two papers on unconventional oil and gas development highlight the need for states to develop standardized data collection and reporting requirements for spills to better identify and manage risks for nature and people, reports the Nature Conservancy's Cool Green Science blog. “State spill data holds great promise for risk identification and mitigation. However, reporting requirements differ across states, requiring considerable effort to make the data usable for analysis,” said Lauren Patterson, policy associate at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the study’s lead author. “Given the rapid recent development of unconventional oil and gas development, data are scarce on both how often spills happen, what causes them, what materials are spilled, and what the long-term environmental effects are. There is a need to better quantify risk to people and nature.”

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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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