Fossil Fuels


Projects

Costs and Benefits of Federal Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards

The Obama administration enacted a variety of regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel production and use. These regulations are now under attack, in part due to perception that they will impose excessive costs on regulated industries and society as a whole. But according to federal projections, the benefits of these regulations would significantly outweigh the costs. We added up the projected economic impacts of major federal rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and found that the net benefits could reach nearly $300 billion per year by 2030. The rules will also generate a variety of non-monetized benefits, such as improved public health outcomes and the creation of jobs, as well as climate mitigation benefits that will extend well beyond 2030.

Federal Coal Leasing Programmatic EIS

In March 2016, the Department of Interior (DOI) issued a Notice of Intent to conduct a programmatic environmental review of the federal coal leasing program. DOI intends to use the review as a platform for modernizing the program in a manner that will address environmental concerns and also ensure that American taxpayers are receiving a fair return from the development of these publicly owned resources. The Sabin Center has been actively involved in the review process. Key inputs have included:

Engagement With Other Agencies on Fossil Fuel Development

The Sabin Center has also submitted numerous letters to other agencies encouraging them to conduct a more comprehensive review of life cycle greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts when considering whether and how to proceed with proposals that involve the development of fossil fuel resources or infrastructure. These letters are available on our comments and briefs page.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration

The Sabin Center undertakes research on legal issues relating to the storage of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel power plants and other sources in underground geologic formations. The Center has partnered with scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to assess the potential for carbon dioxide storage off the northeast U.S. coast. The study will assess the legal and regulatory framework for offshore storage at the federal level and in the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.


Featured Publications

Policy Readiness for Offshore Carbon Dioxide Storage in the Northeast, Michael Gerrard and Romany Webb (June 2017)

Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is vital to mitigate climate change. To date reduction efforts have primarily focused on minimizing the production of carbon dioxide during electricity generation, transport, and other activities. Going forward, to the extent that carbon dioxide continues to be produced, it will need to be captured before release. The captured carbon dioxide can then be utilized in some fashion, or it can be injected into underground geological formations – e.g., depleted oil and gas reserves, deep saline aquifers, or basalt rock reservoirs – where, it is hoped, it will remain permanently sequestered (“carbon capture and storage” or “CCS”).

Research is currently being undertaken into the possibility of injecting carbon dioxide into the seabed. One study, involving researchers from Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, aims to identify possible injection sites in the seabed along the northeast coast of the U.S. It is anticipated that, following identification of suitable sites, a demonstration project will be undertaken to assess the feasibility of offshore CCS. This paper outlines key regulatory requirements for the demonstration project and any subsequent commercial operations.

A Mitigation-Based Rationale for Incorporating a Climate Change Impacts Fee into the Federal Coal Leasing Program, Michael Burger (September 2016)

This paper describes the legal and policy rationale for imposing a fee on federal coal that reflects the costs of the climate change impacts generated by that coal. It notes that the federal government has a duty to mitigate climate impacts from the federal coal leasing program, and that the Department of Interior (“Interior”) and the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) have ample authority to impose a climate change impacts fee on coal leases as a form of compensatory mitigation for those coal leases. The paper also discusses technical issues that should be considered when assessing the effectiveness of this mitigation option, such as what metrics should be used to establish an appropriate fee and how a fee might work with carbon sequestration efforts and other emissions offsets.

Will Greenhouse Gas Rules Prohibit New Coal Power Plants?, Ethan I. Strell & Christine A. Fazio (October 2013)

On September 21, 2013, the EPA issued a revised proposed rule that would limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new fossil fuel-fired power plants.  The re-proposal was intended to address concerns about the first proposal from last year, which was widely viewed as prohibiting in practice any new coal power plants from being built in the United States.  However, the re-proposal, like the first proposal, is receiving significant criticism by industry and elected officials in states that depend on coal, because new coal plants will not be able to meet the proposed limits unless they install costly and commercially untested carbon capture and storage technology.

Carbon Capture and Storage Policy in China, Yan Gu (October 2013)

Given China’s projected growth and its likely continued reliance on coal for the foreseeable future, CCUS may prove a critical strategy for controlling China’s carbon emissions. This paper first collects government policies that impact or support CCUS technology research and project deployment. The paper also summarizes several existing laws that may prove relevant for the regulation of CCUS, in an effort to understand their potential applicability in regulating future CCUS activities. Finally, the paper examines several of the most prominent international collaborative efforts underway in China.

NEPA and Downstream Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Coal Exports, Elizabeth Sheargold & Smita Walavalkar (August 2013)

As U.S. coal exports increase and new infrastructure is proposed to improve access to markets in Asia, controversy has arisen regarding the scope of environmental review that should be carried out by government.  In particular, there is significant disagreement as to whether the end-use of exported coal and the emissions generated by its combustion fall within the scope of environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).  This paper considers this issue, examining the requirements of NEPA and its implementing regulations, as well as current practice by Federal agencies.

Hydraulic Fracturing Litigation Digest, Smita Walavalkar (Jan 2013)

As U.S. coal exports increase and new infrastructure is proposed to improve access to markets in Asia, controversy has arisen regarding the scope of environmental review that should be carried out by government.  In particular, there is significant disagreement as to whether the end-use of exported coal and the emissions generated by its combustion fall within the scope of environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).  This paper considers this issue, examining the requirements of NEPA and its implementing regulations, as well as current practice by Federal agencies.

 

All fossil fuel-related publications are available here.


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