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Curbing Climate Change Has a Dollar Value — Here’s How and Why We Measure It

Ambulance and cars surrounded by Hurricane Sandy flood waters in Hoboken, New Jersey.

By , Harvard University

President Trump is expected to issue an executive order soon to reverse Obama-era rules to cut carbon pollution, including a moratorium on leasing public lands for coal mining and a plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

Trump and his appointees argue that these steps will bring coal miners’ jobs back (although coal industry job losses reflect competition from cheap natural gas, not regulations that have yet to take effect). But they ignore the fact that mitigating climate change will produce large economic gains.

Brain Drain: Engineers and Managers Flee Southern Company’s Troubled Kemper ‘Clean Coal’ Plant

This is a guest post by Dan Zegart of the Climate Investigations Center

With builder Southern Company still promising that the Kemper power plant will go online soon, a group of key engineers and managers who work on the plant's so-far-inoperable gasifier has left the company.

Earlier this month, Southern Company posted a cluster of want ads on its web site for a “gasification owner,”  a “refinery technician-mechanic,” a “refinery technician-entry level,” and a “gasification technician.”

Those four positions are located at the gasification island, home to the patented TRIG technology developed by Southern Company and Kellogg Brown & Root that is supposed to turn lignite coal from an adjacent mine into a cleaner burning syngas to produce electricity.  The project's twin gasifiers, however, have been troubled by frequent shutdowns and lengthy repairs.

Now Under Attack, EPA’s Work on Climate Change Has Been Going on for Decades

Factory smokestack releasing clouds of pollution

By , University of Oregon

The Trump administration intends to roll back two pillars of the Obama administration’s climate policy — regulations to limit carbon emissions from vehicles and power plants.

Under President Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency was central to these regulations. But new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has said he plans to return the agency to its “core mission” of ensuring clean air and clean water, rather than addressing climate change.

California Democrats Who Got Big Gifts From Oil Industry Gave Big Gifts Back

This is a guest post by David Pomerantz originally published by Energy and Policy Institute

California’s legislators received $253,771.98 in 2016 in free trips, dinners, and hotel stays from groups at least partly funded by or affiliated with companies from the oil industry, according to legislators’ financial disclosure forms released last week. The Energy and Policy Institute analyzed the disclosures, and we found a correlation between who got the most valuable gifts from Big Oil and the Democrats who voted with the oil industry the most.

With large Democratic majorities in California, the oil industry has pinned its hopes in the state on a group of so-called “moderate” Democrats that it has assiduously courted in recent years. (Republicans have tended to vote in lock-step with the oil industry.) Reporters have investigated how the oil industry has showered those Democrats with campaign contributions, but our analysis is the first that systematically looks at the gifts that oil companies and their allies have given to Democrats, in the form of free international and domestic travel, hotel stays, dinners, baseball tickets and bottles of wine and booze.

Trump Administration Pressing for Appeal, Dismissal of Climate Lawsuit

This is a guest post by Dan Zegart crossposted from Climate Investigations Center

The Trump administration is asking an Oregon federal judge in the Our Children's Trust case to let a higher court review her decision to permit a historic climate change lawsuit to proceed, and to halt the case pending the outcome of that review.

In 2015, a group of 21 young plaintiffs aged 9 to 20 from all over the United States, along with renowned climate scientist James Hansen, who is acting as guardian for future generations, sued the federal government for allegedly violating their constitutional rights via policies that promote global warming.

The suit, filed by the non-profit Our Children's Trust organization, claims there is a “public trust” obligation by the federal government under the constitution to take necessary measures to protect the climate.  In a November 10, 2016 decision, federal District Court Judge Ann Aiken agreed with the OCT plaintiffs, and ruled they were entitled under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to a trial to decide if the government failed in that duty, a startling decision.

In papers filed Monday, in Eugene, Oregon, U.S. Department of Justice attorneys requested permission from Judge Aiken to appeal her decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — and also asked that the process be expedited due to “the significance of the issues raised and the burden on Federal Defendants that discovery is likely to impose.”

Donald Trump Once Believed in Clean Energy, So What Happened?

Trump international hotel and tower sign in Chicago

This is a guest post by Dave Anderson, originally posted on the Energy and Policy Institute.

President Donald Trump is well known for his record of over-the-top attacks on clean energy, but properties managed by the Trump Organization have taken advantage of state energy efficiency incentives to save money and reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

As first reported by Hiroko Tabuchi in today’s New York Times, the Trump Tower at City Center in White Plains, New York, benefited from a lighting upgrade, the addition of a combined heat and power (CHP) system, and other energy efficiency improvements. The project received more than $280,000 in incentives from the Multifamily Performance Programrun by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). A low-interest loan from NYSERDA covered the remainder of the cost.

Red State Rural America Is Acting on Climate Change — Without Calling It Climate Change

Wind turbins dot farm fields in the Midwest

By , University of North Dakota

President Donald Trump has the environmental community understandably concernedHe and members of his Cabinet have questioned the established science of climate change, and his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued the EPA many times and regularly sided with the fossil fuel industry.

Even if the Trump administration withdraws from all international climate negotiations and reduces the EPA to bare bones, the effects of climate change are happening and will continue to build.

In response to real threats and public demand, cities across the United States and around the world are taking action to address climate change. We might think this is happening only in large, coastal cities that are threatened by sea-level rise or hurricanes, like Amsterdam or New York.

Research shows, however, that even in the fly-over red states of the U.S. Great Plains, local leaders in small- to medium-size communities are already grappling with the issue. Although their actions are not always couched in terms of addressing climate change, their strategies can provide insights into how to make progress on climate policy under a Trump administration.

Southern Company Says Its Delayed Kemper Power Plant Not Viable as Coal Plant

Aerial view of Kemper coal gasification plant under construction

This is a guest post by Dan Zegart, originally posted on Climate Investigations Center.

In an apparent first salvo in a public relations campaign to shift blame for the Kemper power plant boondoggle away from himself and corporate management and onto state regulators, Southern Company chief executive officer Tom Fanning admitted this week that the Kemper plant is not economically viable as a coal-burning power plant.

The startling reversal came during an earnings call Thursday at a time when Southern faces intense scrutiny from federal and state regulators and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) — and as its Mississippi Power Company subsidiary, the plant's owner, faces a Moody's downgrade over Kemper's skyrocketing costs and failure to operate despite being three years past its promised operating date.  Southern took a 27 percent hit to its fourth quarter net income thanks to Kemper schedule delays.

Oil Lobbyists Use Three State Governors as Puppets for Dakota Access Pipeline

A woman holds a sign reading, "We can't drink oil! #NoDAPL."

This is a guest post by Jesse Coleman of Greenpeace USoriginally published on Huffington Post

The Governors of three states involved in the Dakota Access pipeline are marching to the orders of a PR company hired by the Dakota Access pipeline’s builders.

On October 25th of last year, the Governors of North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa sent a letter to the Army Corp of Engineers demanding approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

A Greenpeace investigation has revealed that the first draft of this letter was written by LS2Group, a PR firm contracted by Energy Transfer Partners, the Dakota Access Pipeline’s (DAPL) main builder.

“Hell To Pay” If Trump Targets EPA Climate Science, Says U.S. Chamber Official

Sign at a rally showing "I heart science"

This is a guest post by Dave Anderson, cross-posted from Energy and Policy Institute 

A senior energy official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently warned that there will be “hell to pay” if the Trump administration tries to rescind the EPA’s science-based endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions.  

In typical U.S. Chamber fashion, Christopher Guith dismissed current concerns about climate change as based on “religion” — not “scientific facts” — while speaking at a January 26th event in the coal state of Kentucky. Guith is the senior vice president for policy at the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.

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