Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act Climate Justice Working Group Presentation 28 June 2021

On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency. I have commented on the advisory panel implementation recommendations presented to the Climate Action Council this year.  This post describes the first Climate Justice Working Group presentation to the Climate Action Council.  Their presentation provided an overview of their expectations and specific comments on two of the advisory panel recommendations.  There is a recording available of the meeting here.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA because I believe the solutions proposed are not feasible with present technology, will adversely affect affordability and reliability, that wind and solar deployment will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and, at the end of the day, meeting the targets cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation: CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Background

Section 75-0111 of the CLCPA mandates that the Department of Environmental Conservation establish a Climate Justice Working Group.  I provided background information on the requirements and the membership in an earlier post.  The post also includes documentation describing the education and affiliation of the members of the working group.

According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.   My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here.

I think there is a controversy regarding the scope of this working group’s charge.  The CLCPA states that each advisory panel is required to coordinate with the climate justice working group while developing their enabling strategies.  There also are requirements that the draft and final scoping plan have to be developed in consultation with the climate justice advisory group.  I interpret that to be a consulting role but it is apparent that this working group believes that they have the responsibility to be the final arbiter whether the advisory panel enabling strategy recommendations adequately address climate justice.  As noted in my previous post, there is little technical expertise on this panel to support that role.  More importantly, their vision excludes any consideration of feasibility or competing interests.

Climate Justice Framework

My words cannot fully capture the tenor and content of the presentation by Elizabeth Yeampierre, the Executive Director of UPROSE.  It would be worth your while to listen to her seven-minute lecture to the Climate Action Council starting at 8:00 in the meeting recording.  I say lecture because my impression was that she believes that the climate justice working group has a mission that is not open to compromise, that the solutions have to come from the communities because they are most impacted, and those solutions have to not only address climate change but also co-pollutants.  Unfortunately, the basis for this climate justice framework is technically flawed and does not recognize that there is no zero-risk way to provide reliable, abundant, and affordable energy.

The rationale for the climate justice framework is that climate change is truly an existential threat.  According to Yeampierre, the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is going show that there are thresholds for climate breakdown that will doom humanity because humans cannot evolve or develop new ecosystems to handle drastic climate shifts. However, humans have adapted their ecosystem to live across an incredible range of temperatures.  At the cold end of the spectrum the humans in the remote village of Oymyakon in eastern Siberia have adapted to an ecosystem where the record low temperature is -96 OF degrees below zero Fahrenheit and the record high is 94.3 OF.  The average monthly temperature in January is -51.5 OF and in July is 58.8 OF a range of 110 Fahrenheit degrees.  At the hottest extreme, Mecca, Saudi Arabia has had a record high temperature of 121.6 OF and record low of 51.6 OF.  The average monthly temperature in January is 75 OF and in July is 96 OF.  The 2.4 million residents of Mecca have adapted their ecosystem to live in a city whose annual average temperature is 87.3 OF.  I rate this claim as bogus.

Yeampierre goes on to point out that we need to act now because of the recent heat waves in the Pacific Northwest.  I believe that the definitive take down of that claim has been prepared by University of Washington meteorologist Dr. Cliff Mass.  The weather and climate of that region is his particular specialty and he explains that the “specific ingredients that led to the heatwave include a high-amplitude ridge of high pressure and an approaching low-pressure area that “supercharged” the warming” and showed that “global warming only contributed a small about (1-2F) of the 30-40F heatwave and that proposed global warming amplification mechanisms (e.g., droughts, enhanced ridging/high pressure) cannot explain the severe heat event”.  Again, her rationale for drastic action has no basis in fact.

In my opinion, the following justice lens diagram describes the Green New Deal which not only calls for public policy to address climate change but to also achieve other social goals and resource efficiency.  The diagram shows the plan to move from today’s “extractive” economy to a future “living” economy.  While I could certainly do a post just on this diagram, I will only summarize it below for the context of the Climate Justice Working Group.

On the left side of the diagram is today’s extractive economy where work’s purpose is exploitation.  The worldview is consumerism and colonial mindset.  Resources are to be extracted – “dig, burn, dump”.  Governance is militarism. 

The right side of the diagram describes the living economy where work and cooperation produce ecological and social well-being.  According to this, resources have to be regenerated, the worldview is caring and sacredness, and governance is by “deep” democracy.

The center of the diagram describes the plan to convert to the living economy.  Solutions that are “visionary and oppositional” will stop the bad and build the new.  If we “starve and stop” to “divest from their power” we can “feed and grow” to “invest in our power” through a values filter.  This filter moves capital by shifting economic control to communities, democratizing wealth and the workplace, advancing ecological restoration, driving racial justice and social equity, making most production and consumption locally based and retaining and restoring cultures and traditions.  All this occurs when the rules are changed to “draw down money and power”. 

I really don’t think that the majority of the politicians that voted for the CLCPA considered that the law to mitigate greenhouse gases to address climate change was also a mandate to move to a socialist utopia as described in this diagram.  I am certain that the majority of the voters would not endorse this plan.  The real question is how far is the Cuomo Administration going to go down this path to appease the environmental justice demographic but not alienate the rest of society.

In Yeampierre’s naïve view of the energy sector front line communities must defend lands and rivers from mines, power plants, mega-projects and industrial agriculture by expanding agro-ecology and transformative economies while building community-controlled energy and food systems.  This post is only going to address energy systems which she believes should be dominated by renewables like wind and solar.  The reality is that in order to convert to wind and solar the extractive impact on lands and rivers will be enormous because the rare earth metals required for those technologies require extensive mining.  Because wind and solar are diffuse, vast tracts of land will be blanketed with turbines and panels.  When those turbines and panels reach the end of their useful life they will have to be decommissioned and the materials disposed in landfills.  My point is that when looked at holistically the probable impact of renewable energy on communities will be larger but, for the urban environmental justice activists the impacts will be moved from their communities elsewhere out of sight and out of mind.

The urban environmental justice activists most hypocritical position regards health impacts.  Yeampierre advocates for a zero-risk approach to air pollution.  It is not enough to meet (with the exception of ozone in New York) the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) that have protected the health and welfare in the United States for decades.  The fact that the concentrations of all the air pollutants have dropped dramatically since the Clean Air Act is irrelevant because there still are elevated levels in disadvantaged communities relative to elsewhere even if those levels are less than the air quality standards.  The activists argue that, for example, power plants in urban areas have to be replaced by renewable energy and energy storage based on epidemiological statistics that claim excess health impacts from air pollution amongst other confounding factors.  That position is hypocritical because the extraction of the rare earth metals necessary for energy storage and renewable energy is done almost exclusively overseas where the health and environment protections are much weaker and labor protections nearly non-existent.   As a result, there are real health and welfare impacts directly attributable to their solution as opposed to the statistical artifacts that support their supposed problem.

There also is hypocrisy associated with their description of the extractive economy.  The unfortunate fact is that child labor is involved in the African mining industry.  It is sad and telling about their objectives that the Climate Justice Working Group has not called for New York renewable energy and energy storage facilities to require that their mineral suppliers are certified by the Responsible Mineral Initiative or something similar.

Working Group Observations on Enabling Initiatives

The working group summarized their observations and general impressions “mainly on the Transportation Advisory Panel recommendations”.  Abigail McHugh-Grifa, the Executive Director of the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, presented the overview (starting at 14:45 in the meeting recording).  She holds a Ph.D. in Music Education, but “decided to give up her career in music to dedicate herself to climate work”.  She exemplifies my concern that the members of this working group lack the background and education to provide meaningful comments on technical issues. 

She explained that the working group decided to present comments on the enabling initiative recommendations from two panels, transportation and housing & energy efficiency, because they represent opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of how well the panels incorporated environmental justice priorities.  In other words, transportation did not address the pre-conceived notions of a “climate just” transportation system but the housing and energy efficiency checked all the boxes for their demands.

I annotated the slide used in her presentation with my italicized comments below:

  • Recognize that goals/benchmarks/accountability is essential
    • The recommendations need clear guidance on how benefits/investments will be defined, measured, tracked, and shared over the long term
    • Scoping plan must ensure data is available to accurately measure the success of implementing the CLCPA
      • I agree with this comment.
    • Better scrutinize every action for justice
      • Some of the recommendations presented false market-based solutions
        • The EJ community has historically been opposed to market-based solutions because they believe that they don’t prevent localized areas of high pollution. In the case of greenhouse gas emissions that is not a relevant concern so their problem is associated with co-pollutants.  The EJ community’s air pollution goal is zero risk, i.e., zero emissions. 
      • Provide greater clarity, reasoning, and purpose
        • Some goals such as the doubling of municipal-sponsored public transportation appear arbitrary without an analysis on the basis of the target
          • None of the enabling initiatives included any substantive documentation. As a result, I agree that more detail is needed to justify the enabling initiative recommendations.
        • Policies with significant implications like a feebate deserve more than a ‘handwave’. It sounds like ‘free money’. How does it actually work in practice?
          • I agree with this comment.
        • Provide explanation of how the social cost of carbon was incorporated
          • As far as I can tell the social cost of carbon has not been incorporated yet. It is another one of those pesky details that should be in the as yet unreleased documentation.
        • Edit jargon to plain speak, and remove vague, squishy language and strive to provide key details
          • In my opinion, the presentations by this working group exemplified vague jargon and a lack of details. Moreover, oftentimes understanding a technical topic requires knowledge of the jargon as detailed in a following section.
        • Increase ambition (using transportation panel recommendation examples)
          • Fill in the gap of connectivity between regions of the state that rely on public transportation by prioritizing high speed rail and long-range bus service
            • I don’t think the state can afford high speed rail and I am sure that the effect on travel in the only corridor (New York – Albany – Buffalo) where it might be feasible would not provide any meaningful reduction in GHG emissions.
          • Refine transit-oriented development strategy to elevate its estimated GHG reduction impact by 2050 from medium to high by placing the most emphasis on vehicle mile travel reduction.
            • Transit-oriented development refers to mixed use (residential, commercial and business) development along public transit lines to reduce the need for personal vehicles. Theory is fine but in practical terms I don’t see this as meaningful solution away from New York City.
          • Deemphasize vehicle electrification as the topmost solution as it fails to address single occupancy vehicle associated issues. This hinders our ability to address the root cause of runaway transportation emissions, and its related link to systemic issues such as racism and poverty
            • Apparently, the environmental justice advocates have issues with single occupancy vehicles. In the suburbs and in rural areas single occupancy vehicles are a necessity.  In order to convince those residents that there is a link to systemic racism and poverty issues there has to be a dialogue with the opportunity to challenge some of the presumptions but that approach was explicitly rejected by Yeampierre in her overview of climate justice.

The McHugh-Grifa presentation also used the transportation presentation as examples of some of the points made for the bullet points above.  One of her concerns was that the transportation panel recommendation outline presentation was filled with jargon and vague or squishy language and gave some examples.  For example, in slide 20, component for delivery, “make ready costs for support facilities”, she complained that “I have been doing this work for a while and I just don’t understand what that means”.  Apparently in her background in music education, she never got around to the obvious issue that if you electrify public transit buses, the transit garages aka support facilities have to be set up to recharge the batteries and service entirely different bus components.  In my conversations with an expert in this field he has pointed out many nuances and complications to this challenge that he has said that even the state’s bus electrification alleged experts don’t understand.  While I agree that the outline doesn’t do an adequate job providing documentation for the recommendations, I also have to point out that the presentation was never intended to educate members of the public who have no background in this sector simply because of space limitations. 

It got worse.  She complained of three problematic themes in the transportation recommendations that were not clear enough.  The first theme was that the recommendations only focused on “encouraging and incentivizing” behaviors rather than “concrete and enforceable policy change that would advance the systemic transformation of our transportation system that the climate crisis demands”.  In the context of single occupant vehicle use that translates to a vehicle mile traveled policy limit which I believe will bring out yellow vest protests the instant it is proposed.  The second theme was the need for clear metrics coupled with enforcement mechanisms as exemplified by the apparent failure of the transportation sector recommendations to meet the expected reductions targets.  I suspect that the transportation panel had some concerns that the reality of the changes to the transportation system needed relative to what is politically palatable led to the lack of specific enforcement mechanisms.  The last theme concerned public engagement.  Recall that a key premise of the climate justice framework is that decisions should be made by the communities.  Absent any technical expertise that is a recipe for disaster.

Just when I thought it could not get any more absurd, McHugh-Grifa complained that the transportation recommendations did not consider the potential effect of climate refugees.  She said that:

As climate conditions worsen, we in our region anticipate that we will see an increase in climate migrants and refugees that move to our area from other parts of the states and countries.  There is no indication that the transportation panel has taken these kinds of population shifts into account or is considering how the transportation needs of any given region may change over the coming decades

I agree that climate refugees will be a problem in New York but it will not be because of people moving into the state.  Instead, if these draconian policies come to pass, there will be a mass exodus out of state.

Response to Transportation Advisory Panel Recommendations

Transportation is a key climate justice concern.  However, I think that in general the working group and for that matter the transportation advisory panel vision for transportation is out of touch with the reality of transportation in the suburbs and rural areas.  For example, McHugh-Grifa stated that doubling the service would still be inadequate.  That brings up the question just how much of an improvement to service would be necessary to entice people away from their personal cars.  For example, I cannot conceive of any scenario where I would use public transit to go grocery shopping.  As disappointing as it may be for public transit advocates, the fact is that outside of New York City housing has evolved around the use of automobiles.  Changing that dynamic would require massive transformation of the rest of the state’s infrastructure.

The specific response to the transportation recommendations was presented by Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, who has a B.A. from N.Y.U. and an M.S. in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute.  His presentation starts at 28:20 in the meeting recording

Bautista claims that environmental and climate justices groups across the county are opposed to emissions trading programs like cap and trade. He consistently refers to a single study that claims that these programs not only don’t reduce hot spots but they exacerbate them.  The paper “Carbon trading, co-pollutants, and environmental equity: Evidence from California’s cap-and-trade program (2011-2015)” appears to be consistent with his claims.  Note, however, that a subsequent study that looked at a longer comparison period that “emissions from sources subject to the cap declined 10% between the program’s launch in 2013 and 2018”.  Because GHG emissions are a function of weather and economic conditions there is large annual emissions variability which I believe accounts for the differences between these analyses.  Moreover, the complaint that cap-and-trade programs do not eliminate pollution hot spots demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of air pollution control strategies.  Cap and trade programs are designed to address regional pollution problems like acid rain, ozone and global warming.  For those regional pollutants, concentrations are only a concern over large areas and impacts are not localized.  The Clean Air Act established air quality limits to address air pollution hotspots and every source has been evaluated to determine if it affects compliance with those limits.  With the exception of ozone, New York meets all those air quality limits.  Because ozone is a secondary pollutant, emissions from neighborhood power plants cannot create localized hot spots.  As noted with respect to Yeampierre’s presentation, it appears that the only environmental justice acceptable level for air pollution is zero.

I annotated the slide used in his presentation with my italicized comments below:

  • Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) flaws
    • Best available evidence shows cap and trade systems do not eliminate air pollution hotspots, and often exacerbate them
      • This is a fundamental misunderstanding of air pollution control strategies as described in detail above.
    • Like RGGI, funds generated by TCI are vulnerable to budgetary raids by the Executive and Legislature
      • I agree with this comment
    • Reforms to cap and trade are unlikely to remedy pollution disparities given the program’s inability to surgically reduce mobile source emissions which are more complex to regulate than stationary sources
      • Because cap and trade programs were not specifically designed to address local impacts from any sources this is true.
    • The inherent design flaws of cap and trade result in environmental racism
      • My impression is that environmental racism refers to any disproportionate impact and that the only acceptable solution is no impact whatsoever.
    • The inadequate involvement of EJ groups in the policy process reflects a profound failure of democracy, and bolsters the case for abandoning sector specific carbon pricing policies for a comprehensive carbon fee like that in the CCIA.
      • New York agencies did an extensive outreach process relative to involvement in the Transportation Climate Initiative. I attended several of their meetings and environmental justice advocates were always in attendance and, frankly, it seemed that the majority of attendees were from that segment of society at least at one of the meetings.  I think this is a harsh and unwarranted criticism of the Transportation Climate Initiative stakeholder process.
    • Denial of Home Occupant Justice
      • Protect low and middle income renters by amending the provision on new market rate housing within Transit Oriented Development that is currently limited to home ownership to include renting and rent to own options
        • No comment – way down in the weeds
      • Clean Fuels Standard Concerns
        • Allowing high carbon fuel producers to meet their credit obligations by paying clean producers for their energy is a weak way to enforce the standard -as it lets them offset instead of eliminate their emissions -which by itself won’t guarantee that emission reductions and investments in overburdened communities occur at the necessary speed and scale required by the CLCPA
          • The Transportation Climate Initiative was not designed to meet New York CLCPA net zero societal GHG reduction targets. Instead, they were looking at moderate reductions and this offset option was part of that strategy.  The real question is whether this initiative has value as part of the CLCPA control strategy because these points are valid.
        • Clean air necessitates an ‘electrify everything’ approach.
          • No comment, see below
        • Allowing vehicles to combust lower carbon liquid fuels that still emit criteria pollutants won’t eliminate air pollution hotspots
          • This comment is correct

The second slide had two topics.  Bautista covered the electrify everything that moves topic and at 38:50 of the meeting recording, McHugh-Grifa discussed the hone in on equitable vehicle miles traveled reductions and the extra support for communities facing barriers topics.  She concluded that we need systemic change so we “respectfully request the transportation panel give it another go, ideally with more input from EJ groups or at least more commitment to incorporate the feedback from EJ groups that they have already received”.

  • Electrify Everything that Moves
    • Adopt ZEV for medium and heavy-duty vehicles and carve out explicit targets for trucks and bus conversion that prioritize diesel emission reduction in air pollution overburdened communities
      • As noted previously, widescale implementation of electric vehicles has severe environmental consequences elsewhere
      • As important, advocates for electric vehicles ignore all the downsides that make this technology a non-starter for many.
    • Mandate rapid phase in of the conversion of the state’s fleet to ZEVs
      • While it may be easy to mandate that the state fleet to convert, the question becomes where is the money going to come from.
    • Rapidly expand policies to encourage uptake of EVs –like incentives and enhancement/expansion of charging infrastructure
      • When I attended the TCI stakeholder meetings at least one speaker extolled the virtues of electric cars. Based on my reading I believe that you can make the case for one as the second car in the family which could be used most of the time.  The problem is that there are many instances where an EV does not make sense, e.g., the occasional long trip where in route charging would be necessary.
  • Hone in on Equitable VMT Reduction
    • Establish a New York State-supported Equitable (Fair & Affordable) Transit-Oriented Development (E-TOD) effort via the Regional Economic Development Councils or through a New York Statewide E-TOD Program.
    • Include at least 20% affordable housing minimum for all new TOD
    • Amend Municipal Home Rule Law to explicitly allow fees on new development to offset public transportation service costs
    • Require at least 50% of transportation sector climate monies to be spent on non-car programs
      • As noted before, I don’t think TOD is a viable alternative outside of the NYC metropolitan area so this strategy has limited value
  • Extra Support for Communities Facing Barriers
    • Within the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) of the Regional Economic Development Councils, mandate prospective developers and employers to identify how their prospective projects (and related NYS funding requests) consider public transportation options for low-income workers.
    • Incentivize hiring of disadvantaged workers in transit manufacturing by enabling companies to get a credit for setting aside a certain proportion of their workforce for hiring them
      • No comment

Response to Energy Efficiency (EE) and Housing Recommendations

The Climate Justice Working Group made the point that this panel’s presentation was done better than the transportation panel and that they handled the climate justice considerations better.  The response to the EE and Housing recommendations was presented by Rahwa Ghirmatzion, Executive Director of PUSH Buffalo who studied English literature and economics at University of Buffalo starting at 40:48 in the meeting recording.  Because this article is already too long and because I don’t take exception to much of their comments on this panel’s recommendations my review will be much shorter. 

Ghirmatzion made a good point that the recommendations did not acknowledge New York’s energy affordability goal that households should not be paying more than 6% of their income on energy costs.  The point was also made that the baseline for state goals should be made available with a system to track progress relative to those goals.  I agree completely.

Her presentation discussed the need to support the transition to electric heating/cooling/cooking quickly.  The working group is convinced that people in disadvantaged communities want a “safety net style guarantee of renewable energy to every household”.  I have a hard time reconciling those initiatives that I believe will markedly increase energy costs with EJ advocacy support for them.  Given that there have been programs available for years where consumers can sign up for wind and solar power supply programs but participation has been abysmal, I believe that most ratepayers really only care how much it costs.  How can the advocates push for programs that will increase costs?

In the second slide of the response to the EE and Housing panel, Ghirmatzion recommended additional actions.  Of particular note was the suggestion to calculate costs and benefits holistically with considerations of the health impacts associated with poor indoor air quality and insufficient thermal comfort as well as the cumulative cost burden related to housing, energy, transportation, and healthcare.  Those are very good points.  There has been very little information on costs provided to date and total costs are the key.  One final point regarding the suggestion to tweak energy efficiency programs.  Energy efficiency has been part of New York energy programs for decades.  I have doubts that there is much more that can be done and have yet to see an evaluation of effectiveness relative to the goals.

Because of the length of this post, I am not going to discuss the questions and answers session starting at 48:00 in the meeting recording.

However, I have to mention Yeampierre’s response to the question at 1:35:44 about replicable solutions that could be expanded to further climate justice goals.  Her response at 1:36:49 illustrates my concern about lack of expertise leading to wasted time and effort related to the approach of advocacy panels setting policy.  She argues that current projects that use the industrial waterfront have been successful and suggests that using the waterfront as a delivery hub could be appropriate.  She suggested that this could be a way to connect to economically depressed farmers upstate by way of refrigerated barges to the waterfront to distribute healthy food.  This is a non-starter.  There is a reason that barges are used for bulk commodities that do not have delivery time constraints – they are slow.  Healthy food is fresh food and the range of suppliers within even a day of the New York City waterfront is so small that they could not possibly supply any meaningful fraction of the needs of the City.

Conclusion

I don’t think anyone disagrees with the concept that disproportionate environmental impacts on disadvantaged communities are a bad thing and should be addressed.  Unfortunately, the Climate Justice Working Group approach to this is fatally flawed.  On one hand their overview of climate justice did not include the concept of compromise so their comments on the panel recommendations were not constructive criticisms, they were demands for change.  Their criticism of the lack of detail in the recommendations is warranted but I don’t think the background and education of the working group is sophisticated enough to understand the nuances and unintended consequences of all the panel recommendations anyway.  On the other hand, their apparent goal is elimination of all environmental impacts to disadvantaged communities.  The reality of environmental regulation is that trade-offs and compromises are necessary because zero-risk policies are impossible to implement.  More importantly, pushing for minimal risks in one location means that risks are increased elsewhere as I explained relative to the rare earth metals used for energy storage. 

In my opinion, the Climate Justice Working Group’s rationales and recommendations are driven more by special interests and emotion than fact.  The summary article on the Pacific NW heatwave by Dr. Mass included a section on the politicization and miscommunication of science that was evident in this presentation.  I entirely endorse some of the comments he made:

  • “Hyping global warming puts unrealistic and unnecessary fear into the hearts of our fellow citizens.” 
  • “Global warming is an issue we can deal with, but only if truthful, factual, and science-based information is provided to decision-makers and the nation’s citizens.”
  • Politicians have “put political agendas ahead of truth and we are all the worst for it”.

In this instance I am willing to give the environmental justice advocates a pass on science accuracy especially given that the CLCPA and the state spokesmen have consistently hyped unrealistic global warming fears.  The bigger concern is the attitude of the Climate Justice Working Group vis-à-vis to any modification of their demands.  Because some of those demands are based on scientific mis-understandings and ignore worse unintended consequences it is not in the best interest of society as a whole, as compared to their narrow constituency, to implement all of their demands. 

Contrary to their belief the CLCPA says their role is to consult with the advisory panels and Climate Action Council not be the final arbiter of the enabling strategies of the scoping plan.  My impression is that they have adopted a “take it or leave it” position regarding their recommendations.  It will be interesting to see if the Climate Action Council adopts a scoping plan that addresses the science or bows to the emotion-based approach of the Climate Justice Working Group.

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Climate Justice Working Group

On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  The CLCPA established a council, advisory panels and three working groups.  This is a background post on the Climate Justice Working Group which consults with the advisory panels that recommended enabling strategies to the Climate Action Council.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA because I believe the solutions proposed are not feasible with present technology, will adversely affect affordability and reliability, that wind and solar deployment will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and, at the end of the day, meeting the targets cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation of the CLCPA.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Background

The CLCPA targets are ambitious: relative to a 1990 baseline there is a mandate for a 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and 85% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 as well as a requirement for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040.  There is no requirement for an assessment of technology and cost feasibility. In order to develop the plans to meet these targets the CLCPA set up ten groups to develop the plan to meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of the law: the Climate Action Council, six advisory panels, and three working groups. 

The Climate Action Council  (§ 75-0103) consists of 22 members: 12 agency heads, 2 non-agency expert members appointed by the Governor, 6 members appointed by the majority leaders of the Senate and Assembly, and 2 members appointed by the minority members of the Senate and Assembly.  Given that 14 members are appointed by the Governor and six more members are appointed by the Democratic majority that passed the legislation there isn’t any pretense for unbiased recommendations.   

Climate Action Council Advisory Panels (§ 75-0103,  provide recommendations to the council on specific topics, in its preparation of the scoping plan, and interim updates to the scoping plan, and in fulfilling the council’s ongoing duties.  The law established advisory panels on transportation, energy intensive and trade-exposed industries, land-use and local government, energy efficiency and housing, power generation, and agriculture and forestry and another panel on waste was added last fall.  The panels are also supposed to provide input to the state energy planning board’s adoption of a state energy plan which will incorporate the recommendations of the council.  Ostensibly the members of these panels were supposed to be subject matter experts but the reality is that the majority of members did not understand the complexities of the subjects of their panel and were more interested with social justice concerns and their personal advocacy agendas. 

Consider, for example, the makeup of the power generation advisory panel.  Because electrification of everything is a key implementation strategy, it can be argued that this is the most important panel.  The CLCPA states that the “council shall convene advisory panels requiring special expertise”.  It is no simple matter understanding how the New York electric system works and I believe that it requires a hard science education or electric sector experience.  In my opinion, only five of the fourteen Power Generation panel members have the special expertise necessary.  The draft and final enabling initiatives produced by this panel have been described as showing that New York has no idea whatsoever how to “decarbonize” its electric grid.

The Council and the advisory panels were populated mostly by people with overt agendas for greenhouse gas mitigation means that the scoping plan for decarbonizing the NY system will be based more on ideology than reality.  Unfortunately, it gets worse because the CLCPA includes three working groups that make not attempts whatsoever to incorporate alternate considerations.  The Just Transition, Environmental Justice, and Climate Justice Working Groups were all included in the CLCPA to cater to specific political demographics with only peripheral consideration of the alleged goal to address the “existential” threat of climate change.

The first group, Just Transition Working Group (§ 75-0103), was included to appease organized labor because the closure of fossil-fired power plants will have direct effects on union jobs.  This panel is supposed to:

Prepare and publish recommendations to the council on how to address: issues and opportunities related to the energy-intensive and trade-exposed entities; workforce development for trade-exposed entities, disadvantaged communities and underrepresented segments of the population; measures to minimize the carbon leakage risk and minimize anti-competitiveness impacts of any potential carbon policies and energy sector mandates.

They are also charged with preparing a report that includes: the number of jobs created to counter climate change, which shall include but not be limited to the energy sector, building sector, transportation sector, and working lands sector; the projection of the inventory of jobs needed and the skills and training required to meet the demand of jobs to counter climate change; and workforce disruption due to community transitions from a low carbon economy.  Note that there is no explicit requirement to determine the number of jobs lost directly due to the CLCPA or indirectly when businesses have to flee the state because of higher energy costs.

This post addresses the other implementation working group, the Climate Justice Working Group (§ 75-0111).  The advisory panels are required to “coordinate with the climate justice working group”.  The draft scoping plan that outlines how the CLCPA targets will be achieved “shall be developed in consultation with the climate justice working group”.  Not surprisingly the final scoping plan has to also be “developed in consultation with the climate justice advisory group”.  The group is also responsible for defining “disadvantaged communities” and will meet annually thereafter to review the criteria and affected communities.

The final working group established by the CLCPA is a permanent organization.  The Environmental Justice Working Group (§ 75-0101).  During the implementation phase each advisory panel is required to coordinate with the environmental justice advisory group and both the draft and final scoping plan are to be developed in “consultation with the environmental justice advisory group”.

The Climate Justice and Environmental Justice working groups have explicit charges. As noted, they are both supposed to coordinate with the advisory panels during the development of the draft and final scoping plans.  The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) may establish an alternative compliance mechanism to be used by sources subject to greenhouse gas emissions limits to achieve net zero emission and are required to “consult with the council, the environmental justice advisory group, and the climate justice working group.   In addition, the Climate Justice working group has specific requirements. 

The CLCPA has an 85% emission reduction target but it also is “net zero”.  The emissions from the remaining 15% are supposed to be offset by §75-0101,10 “Greenhouse gas emission offset projects”.  These projects include: “natural carbon sinks including but not limited to afforestation, reforestation, or wetlands restoration; greening infrastructure; restoration and sustainable management of natural and urban forests or working lands, grasslands, coastal wetlands and sub-tidal habitats; efforts to reduce hydrofluorocarbon refrigerant, sulfur hexafluoride, and other ozone depleting substance releases; anaerobic digesters, where energy produced is directed toward localized use; and carbon capture and sequestration; ecosystem restoration”   The final type of emission offset projects are those recommended by the council in consultation with the climate justice working group that “provide public health and environmental benefits, and do not create burdens in disadvantaged communities”.

In order to engender support for the Climate Act, legislators included §75-0115, community air monitoring program.  This mandate requires DEC to prepare a program demonstrating community air programs in consultation with the climate justice working group.  It is currently fashionable for environmental justice advocates to claim that the current air monitoring network established by the Clean Air Act to protect human health is inadequate.  The “solution” is to do hyper-local air quality monitoring.  I wrote a post on this topic concluding that inadequate monitoring technology and quality control specifications make the results from these systems barely credible.

Nonetheless, the CLCPA includes a second associated mandate that requires DEC, in consultation with the climate justice working group, to develop a strategy to reduce emissions of toxic air contaminants and criteria air pollutants in disadvantaged communities affected by a high cumulative exposure burden.  I believe that the basis for this strategy will rely at least in part on the results from the community air monitoring program.  One of the primary targets of this campaign against sources in disadvantaged communities are peaking power plants and I have written a series of posts on this topic.  As far as I can tell, ozone and inhalable particulate health impacts provide the basis for the claims that these power plants are dis-proportionally affecting environmental justice communities.  The fact that both are secondary pollutants that do not directly affect the neighborhoods around these power plants has been ignored to date.

The point should be made that participation on these panels is a burdensome chore.  Over the past year, participants have had to endure many meetings and working sessions as well as reviewing information in preparation for the meetings.  Many of the participants work for companies that will directly benefit from the transition like renewable energy developers and many more work for non-governmental advocacy organizations whose primary purpose is to foist the clean energy transition on the public in the name of solving the “existential” crisis of climate change.  It is not immediately clear why environmental and social justice advocates would be willing to invest their time in this process.  Cynic that I am I believe that following the money is a primary motivator.

Section § 75-0117, Investment of funds of the CLCPA mandates that:

State agencies, authorities and entities, in consultation with the environmental justice working group and the climate action council, shall, to the extent practicable, invest or direct available and relevant programmatic resources in a manner designed to achieve a goal for disadvantaged communities to receive forty percent of overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects or investments in the areas of housing, workforce development, pollution reduction, low income energy assistance, energy, transportation and economic development, provided however, that disadvantaged communities shall receive no less than thirty-five percent of the overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects or investments and provided further that this section shall not alter funds already contracted or committed as of the effective date of this section.

The point has often been made that the 40% goal is the floor and that more is appropriate.  Of course, the primary discussion is just what programs should be funded and the Climate Justice Working Group is positioning itself to be the final arbiter of those decisions. 

Unfortunately, the reality is that the CLCPA is supposed to be a greenhouse gas mitigation program and that funding of any project that does not directly lead to emissions reductions dilutes the cost-effectiveness of the investments.  For example, the investments made with the proceeds of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have only been responsible for 5% of the observed reductions at a $858 per ton reduced rate because monies have been diverted like this mandate and because clean energy and efficiency programs are not very cost effective.  Coupled with the facts that mitigation efforts are going to be expensive and the CLCPA does not incorporate a funding mechanism, this mandate will make reaching the targets even more difficult.

Climate Justice Working Group

This section describes the specific mandates of the Climate Justice Working Group (§ 75-0111).

The climate justice working group has been created within DEC.  There are representatives from: environmental justice communities, DEC, the Department of Health, the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, and the Department of Labor.  

Environmental justice community representatives shall be members of communities of color, low-income communities, and communities bearing disproportionate pollution and climate change burdens, or shall be representatives of community-based organizations with experience and a history of advocacy on environmental justice issues, and shall include at least three representatives from New York city communities, three representatives from rural communities, and three representatives from

upstate urban communities.

I think the biggest responsibility of the working group is to develop the criteria that define disadvantaged communities.  The working group is supposed to work with DEC and the departments of health and labor, the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, and the environmental justice advisory group to “establish criteria to identify disadvantaged communities for the purposes of co-pollutant reductions, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, regulatory impact statements, and the allocation of investments”.

The CLCPA establishes guidelines for the disadvantaged communities criteria.  In general, there are supposed to be identified based on geographic, public health, environmental hazard, and socioeconomic criteria.  Of course, the devil is in the details but those criteria “shall include but are not limited” to:

  • Areas burdened by cumulative environmental pollution and other hazards that can lead to negative public health effects;
  • Areas with concentrations of people that are of low income, high unemployment, high rent burden, low levels of home ownership, low levels of educational attainment, or members of groups that have historically experienced discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity; and
  • Areas vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as flooding, storm surges, and urban heat island effects.

Once the draft guidelines are prepared there are requirements for hearings, a public comment period and “meaningful opportunities for public comment for all segments of the population that will be impacted by the criteria, including persons living in areas that may be identified as disadvantaged communities under the proposed criteria”.  Once the criteria have been established the group will meet no less than annually to review the criteria and methods used to identify disadvantaged communities.  They “may modify such methods to incorporate new data and scientific findings”. Finally the climate justice working group shall annually “review identities of disadvantaged communities and modify such identities as needed”.

Membership

I researched the background of the nine at large members and four members from state agencies and summarized that information here.  There is a significant spread of the quality of the at large members.  Several are nationally recognized experts on environmental justice issues.  Others have extensive experience advocating for environmental justice.  Those people all are working at well known organizations.  On the other hand, a few have little environmental justice background and seem to have been chosen to fulfill the geographical requirements.

With regards to the geographical requirements for three each representing New York City, Upstate Urban and Rural communities I don’t think rural disadvantaged communities are represented well.  In the first place two represent the Adirondacks.  That area is a special case with unique constraints for communities within the Adirondack State Park.  No one comes from the communities in Appalachia and I think the needs and interests of those disadvantaged communities should have been represented.

There is another important point.  While the background of many of the members is well suited for the charge to advise the Climate Action Council with respect to climate justice issues for disadvantaged communities, I did not see any member with appropriate technical education or experience to critique the technical enabling strategies of the advisory panels with one exception.  There are some members with planning experience that could provide meaningful comments to the land use and local government advisory panel.  As a result. I don’t think that technical criticisms from this working group on the advisory panel enabling strategy recommendations should carry much weight.

Conclusion

Similar to all the other panels and working groups, the membership of the Climate Justice Working Group is a mixed bag.  Some are clearly experts in their fields.  However, that does not necessarily mean that their opinions on all topics are meaningful.  Moreover, given that advocacy appears to have been a primary criterion for membership the passion for their “cause” should be considered in the context of society as a whole. 

At the time of this writing there isn’t much to draw any conclusions on the value of their recommendations.  They have commented on a couple of advisory panel enabling strategies which I will discuss in an upcoming post but they have not proposed criteria for the definition of disadvantaged communities.  Because at least 35 to 40% of the CLCPA project funding will be targeted to those communities that definition is important.  Cynically, I believe that designs on that funding is a prime driver of the rationale to become a member.

Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act Heat Pump Propaganda

On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.   My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here. This post addresses one aspect of the Energy Efficiency & Housing Advisory Panel enabling strategy recommendations, namely heat pump propaganda.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Background

In my post on the Energy Efficiency & Housing Advisory Panel scoping plan recommendations to the Climate Action Council I noted that in their presentation the first mitigation strategy is an initiative to modify building codes and standards as shown in the following slide.  The plan is to amend the state codes for new construction, including additions and alterations, to require solar PV on “feasible” areas, grid-interactive electrical appliances, energy storage readiness, electric readiness for all appliance and electric vehicle readiness.  They propose to adopt these all-electric state codes for single family residences by 2025 and for multifamily and commercial buildings by 2030. The presentation notes that by 2030, more than 200,000 homes per year will be upgraded to be all-electric and meet enhanced energy efficient standards.

I think garnering support for this initiative is a major challenge for proponents.  New York homeowners have extensive experience dealing with winter weather and heating their homes.  Selling the changeover to an electric heating system will be a heavy lift particularly for anyone who has lived through a multi-day wintertime electric outage.   

The panel recognizes this and included education as a possible mitigant many times throughout their recommendations.  For example, one of the components required for delivery for Energy Efficiency & Housing Advisory Panel Enabling Initiative #4: Public Awareness and Consumer Education is to:

Support and scale up multilingual public and consumer education efforts through a large-scale, coordinated awareness, inspiration and education campaign; traditional and broad reaching media, digital communication, “influencer” style campaigns, user-generated campaigns, out of home displays, magazines, mailers, virtual tours; resources for installers, distributors, home-visiting workforce, other supply chain actors to educate consumers, customer-facing resources and tools.

When I read this I cringed because there are so many instances when the climate-related proclamations from the state are not just a little wrong they are off-scale wrong and can only be call propaganda. Propaganda is defined as material disseminated by the advocates of a doctrine or cause.  There are many propaganda techniques including “card stacking”.  This technique is a feature of the CLCPA:

It involves the deliberate omission of certain facts to fool the target audience. The term card stacking originates from gambling and occurs when players try to stack decks in their favor. A similar ideology is used by companies to make their products appear better than they actually are.

In this post I will present an email I recently received from the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority describing the use of heat pumps for home heating and cooling in the following section.  I will then discuss aspects of the email that make heat pumps appear better than they actually are.

Even when the CLCPA was still a proposal it was obvious that electric heating would be necessary to meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets proposed.  I wrote a post titled Air Source Heat Pumps In New York over two years ago that explains how heat pumps work and describing a research study that showed the problems with heat pumps in cold climates that make them worse than the NYSEDA description.  I will summarize the technology and the fundamental problem here but if you are interested in more details, I refer you to my previous post.

According to the Department of Energy heat pumps are very efficient because they move heat rather than converting it from a fuel like combustion heating systems do.  Air source heat pumps move energy from the air and ground source heat pumps move energy from underground water.  Note that because ground source heat pumps require digging, air source heat pumps are the preferred retrofit technology.  Unfortunately, there is a big problem with air source heat pump systems and improperly designed ground source heat pumps.  In particular when the weather gets really cold there is insufficient energy in the air or underground water to provide adequate heat when it is transferred. 

Myth Buster: The Heat Pump Edition

The following is the text from a NYSERDA email titled “Myth Buster: The Heat Pump Edition”.  It also is available in a web link.

With the beautiful days of summer upon us, there’s no better time to reevaluate your home’s current heating and cooling options than right now.

If your current system is reaching its end-of-life or if you’re just looking for ways to save energy and money while keeping your home as comfortable as possible this summer, you may want to consider a heat pump as an alternative heating and cooling option. Heat pumps provide even, clean, and energy-efficient heating and cooling throughout your home, without the random hot and cold spots that other types of heating systems are known for.

You’ve probably heard a few things around heat pumps and the New York State climate that may have you scratching your head, but we’re here to help dispel four of the most common myths around heat pumps to help put your mind at ease.

Myth #1: Heat pumps don’t work in cold climates. 

This is one of the most common myths we hear about heat pumps – that they’re only effective in warm environments. The truth is, today’s heat pumps are equipped with the most up-to-date technology that allows them to produce efficient, superior heating in temperatures as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit. Even in subzero temps, high quality heat pump units can heat up quickly and provide even, comfortable heating without cold spots throughout your home and without the need for supplemental heat.

Myth #2: Heat pumps create heat. 

Heat pumps don’t actually create heat — they simply move it from one place to another. Even during the winter, there is some degree of heat that still exists in the air or the ground. Heat pumps remove this heat and transfer it into your home.

Myth #3: Heat pumps are useless during the summer months.

Although they are called “heat pumps,” these systems are actually two-in-one, capable of heating and cooling. During the summer, heat is drawn out of the home, and, through the use of a reversing valve, which essentially flips the flow of coolant through the system, allows air to be cooled before re-entering the home. 

Myth #4: There is only one kind of heat pump.

When it comes to heat pumps, you actually have two primary options – a ground source heat pump or an air source heat pump. Also known as a geothermal heat pump, ground source heat pumps draw air from the ground and transfer it evenly into your home, and reverse the process during the summer. Air source heat pumps extract heat from the air outside and distribute it evenly into your home. As with geothermal heat pumps, the process is reversed during warmer months.

Discussion

I will address the propaganda in the components of the NYSERDA email below.

In the introduction, NYSERDA claims “Heat pumps provide even, clean, and energy-efficient heating and cooling throughout your home, without the random hot and cold spots that other types of heating systems are known for.”  A moment’s thought raises the question: how can the type of heating system affect hot and cold spots?  In order to make a heat pump viable, the structure has to be very well insulated and any air infiltration reduced as much as possible.  That kind of structure will reduce the number of random hot and cold spots.  As I understand it, the retrofit approach is to replace a fossil-fired furnace with a heat pump replacement.   Any random hot and cold spots from issues with the existing duct system won’t be addressed by a heat pump per se.  To address those issues the heating system ductwork would have to be replaced.  Moreover, in order to make the heat pump viable the insulation and infiltration issues need to be addressed.

The first myth addressed is “Heat pumps don’t work in cold climates”.  The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy published a paper that illustrates the cold climate region problem with air source heat pumps:  Field Assessment of Cold Climate Air Source Heat Pumps (ccASHP).  The report describes a Center for Energy and Environment field study in Minnesota where cold climate air source heat pumps were directly compared to propane and heating oil furnaces.  The report notes that “During periods of very cold temperatures when ccASHPs do not have adequate capacity to meet heating load, a furnace or electric resistant heat can be used as backup.”  The NYSERDA document does not mention the need for a backup system and, frankly, it is not clear how retaining a fossil-fired backup system will be allowed by the CLCPA.  As a result, the backup system will be highly inefficient radiant electric heat.

Figure 2 from the document graphically shows the problem.  In this field study homes were instrumented to measure the heat pump and furnace backup usage.  Backup furnace usage was relatively low and the heat pump provided most of the heat until about 20 deg. F.  For anything lower, heat pump use went down and the furnace backup went up.  Below zero the air source heat pumps did not provide any heat and furnace backup provided all the heat.  NYSERDA claims “The truth is, today’s heat pumps are equipped with the most up-to-date technology that allows them to produce efficient, superior heating in temperatures as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit”.  Obviously when the temperature is lower than -13 aka when you want heat the most, an air source heat pump is worthless.

The second myth is “Heat pumps create heat”.  I have no issue with the response itself but the comment “Even during the winter, there is some degree of heat that still exists in the air or the ground” does not address the flaw described earlier.  In particular, there always is some heat in the air but the question is when does the amount of heat become so low that extracting usable heat is not viable.

The third myth is “Heat pumps are useless during the summer months”.  This is a great advantage to this technology because they can be used in reverse in the summer to provide air conditioning.  In more southerly locations this makes the technology a good choice as long as there is backup heating capability for the rare cold snap. 

The last myth is “There is only one kind of heat pump”.  I have no issue with this response.

Conclusion

To sum up my discussion, I believe that there are two problems with the plan to deploy air source heat pumps.  While air source heat pumps might work most of the time the fact is that when the need for heat is greatest in New York, they won’t provide sufficient heat so a backup system is needed. I believe radiant electric heat will be the preferred option for air source heat pump conversions. When the CLCPA mandate for all electric heating is implemented along with electric vehicles I am sure that local electric distribution systems will have to be upgraded at considerable expense.  Ultimately the problem is that these worst-case conditions for heat correspond to the worst annual wind and solar resource availability.  Where is the energy for this heating boondoggle going to come from? 

In several different proceedings I have voiced my concerns about air source heat pump technology in Upstate New York when temperatures are below zero.  In those comments I referenced the results from Field Assessment of Cold Climate Air Source Heat Pumps.  I recommended that NYSERDA do a similar analysis using the newer technology that allegedly eliminates the issues raised in the study.  The response has been crickets.  Until such time that there is a follow up study that supports NYSERDA’s claims and refutes the results of this study, I don’t believe any heat pump propaganda from NYSERDA.

There is another aspect to the plan to electrify home heating.  I don’t think the system is going to work well during typical cold snaps and I have serious doubts about the worst-case polar vortex outbreaks.  Unfortunately, the very worst case is an electric outage in the winter.  I survived a multi-day electric outage in the winter using a gasoline powered generator to provide power to my natural gas furnace.  The Department of Energy heat pump description noted that heat pumps move heat because they move heat rather than converting it from a fuel like combustion heating systems do.  That overlooks the ability of combustion heating systems to store fuel for use when needed.  That is a critical resource for electric outages that proponents of heat pumps ignore.

At the end of the day, I think there will be tremendous pushback when the all-electric heating requirements are rolled out.  For me personally, the requirement for an all-electric home is a deal breaker for remaining a resident of the state.  I don’t think I am the only one.

Investment of RGGI Proceeds Report for 2019

This is the fourth installment of my annual updates on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) annual Investments of Proceeds update.  This post compares the claims about the success of the investments against reality.  As in my previous posts I have found that the claims that RGGI is a success are unfounded.

I have been involved in the RGGI program process since its inception.  I blog about the details of the RGGI program because very few seem to want to provide any criticisms of the program. The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Background

RGGI is a market-based program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It has been a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector since 2008.  New Jersey was in at the beginning dropped out for years and re-joined in 2020. Virginia joined in 2021.  According to a RGGI website: “The RGGI states issue CO2 allowances which are distributed almost entirely through regional auctions, resulting in proceeds for reinvestment in strategic energy and consumer programs. Programs funded with RGGI investments have spanned a wide range of consumers, providing benefits and improvements to private homes, local businesses, multi-family housing, industrial facilities, community buildings, retail customers, and more.” 

The latest update was released on June 28, 2021.   The Investment of RGGI Proceeds in 2019 report tracks the investment of the RGGI proceeds and the benefits of these investments throughout the region. According to the report, the RGGI states invested $217 million in auction proceeds and expect  lifetime benefits of the RGGI investments made in 2019 to include $1.3 billion in lifetime energy bill savings and 2.5 million short tons of CO2 emissions avoided.  The report notes that energy efficiency investments made up 40% of the 2019 total. Greenhouse gas abatement programs, which include carbon-reducing beneficial electrification projects, received 15% of 2019 investments and 18% of investments were directed to clean and renewable energy programs, with direct bill assistance receiving 19%.  Not directly mentioned but available in the data are the estimates that administrative costs took up 6% of the proceeds and RGGI Inc a little over 1%.

Emissions Reductions

In my article on the 2018 proceeds report, I argued that RGGI mis-leads readers when they claim that the RGGI states have reduced power sector CO2 pollution over 50% since 2005.  I argued that the implication in the 50% claim is that the RGGI program had something to do with the observed reduction but the reduction between 2005 and the start of the program was 26% so clearly something else has been going on. 

The important question is why did the emissions go down.  I believe that the real measure of RGGI emissions reductions success is the reduction due to the investments made with the auction proceeds so I compared the annual reductions made by RGGI investments.  The biggest flaw in this report is that it

does not provide the annual RGGI investment CO2 reduction values accumulated since the beginning of the program.  In order to make a comparison to the CO2 reduction goals I had to sum the values in the previous reports to provide that information.  The table Accumulated Annual Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Benefits Through 2019 lists the annual avoided CO2 emissions generated by the RGGI investments from five previous reports.  The accumulated total of the annual reductions from RGGI investments is 3,259,203 tons while the difference between total annual 2005 and 2019 emissions is 83,494,425 tons.  The RGGI investments are only directly responsible for 3.9% of the total observed annual reductions over the 2005 to 2019 timeframe!  I believe that the average of the three years before the program started is a better baseline and using that metric there was a 63,756,767 annual ton reduction (50%) to 2019 and RGGI investments accounted for 5%.  Better but still pathetic.

Although proponents claim that this program has been an unqualified success I disagree.  Based on the numbers there are some important caveats to the simplistic comparison of before and after emissions.   The numbers in the previous paragraph show that emission reductions from direct RGGI investments were only responsible for 5% of the observed reductions.   In a detailed article I showed that fuel switching was the most effective driver of emissions reductions since the inception of RGGI and responsible for most of the reductions.

Cost Efficiency

There is another aspect of this report that is mis-leading and after arguing with RGGI and New York State about the issue, I have concluded that the deception is intentional.  In particular, I believe that a primary concern for GHG emission reduction policies is the cost effectiveness of the policies and I have argued that this report should provide the information necessary to determine a cost per ton reduced value for control programs for comparison to the social cost of carbon.  If the societal benefits represented by the social cost of carbon for GHG emission reductions are greater than the control costs for those reductions, then there is value in making the reductions.  If not, then the control programs are not effective.

In order to compare the cost effectiveness of the RGGI investment proceeds to the social cost of carbon, annual CO2 reductions must be used because the social cost of carbon is an estimate, in dollars, of the present discounted value of the benefits of reducing annual emissions by a metric ton. (note that my numbers do not include the relatively small conversion to metric tons for a proper comparison to the social cost of carbon.) The Proceeds report always includes a caveat that the states continually refine their estimates and update their methodologies, but the annual numbers are not updated to reflect those changes.  Ideally to get the best estimate of the annual numbers the RGGI states should provide the revised annual numbers for each year of the program.

Because that is not the case, I have had to rely on the original annual numbers provided in previous editions of the report.  As noted previously, I had to sum the values in the previous reports to provide that information as shown in the table Accumulated Annual Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Benefits Through 2019.  The accumulated total of the annual reductions from RGGI investments is 3,259,203 tons through December 31, 2019. According to Chart 5 in the Proceeds report, RGGI investments total $2.796 billion over that time frame.  The appropriate comparison to the social cost of carbon is $2.796 billion divided by 3,259,203 tons or $858 per ton reduced. 

The Proceeds reports only provide the avoided tons of CO2 over the lifetime of the RGGI investment funded control programs.  Dividing the $2.796 billion by the lifetime avoided CO2 emissions yields a value of $65.  The Biden administration is re-evaluating the social cost of carbon values but for the time being has announced an initial estimate of $51 per ton which is close to the lifetime avoided value. 

Conclusion

The 2019 RGGI Investment Proceeds report tries to put a positive spin on the poor performance of RGGI auction proceeds actually reducing CO2.  The alleged purpose of the program is to reduce CO2 from the electric generating sector to alleviate impacts of climate change.  Since the beginning of the RGGI program RGGI funded control programs have been responsible for 5% of the observed reductions.  The report does not directly provide the numbers necessary to calculate that estimate which I have come to believe is deliberate.

Another example of deliberate obfuscation is the publication of lifetime avoided emissions but not the cumulative annual emission reductions for RGGI-funded control programs.  The value of GHG emission reduction programs is “proven” if the cost per ton is less than the social cost of carbon.  However, the social cost of carbon value is for an annual reduction of one ton.  When the report only publishes the lifetime avoided emissions it is easy to assume that the total investments divided by the lifetime avoided emissions provides a value that can be compared to the social cost of carbon especially when no caveat is included warning of this problem.  As a result, a naïve conclusion would be that RGGI investments are providing $65 per ton for emission reductions when in fact the investments cost $858 per ton reduced.  That order of magnitude difference has been glossed over in response to my comments on this issue.  I think it is obvious that proper accounting provides an inconvenient result.

Update on Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act Emissions and the Value of Carbon

On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency. Earlier this month I documented issues with the benefits calculations methodology that I expect will be used to show that the “benefits” of Greenhouse Gas emission reductions outweigh the costs.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently updated their Value of Carbon guidance and this post describes the changes and, more importantly, the lack of one change I recommended.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation: CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Background

The DEC updates to their Value of Carbon Guidance are available at Value of Carbon Guidance and updated supplemental materials. The most notable change is that DEC settled on a 2 percent discount rate as the central value, but will also report impacts at one and three percent.  All calculated values are updated in the new version as a result of this action. 

In my previous post I noted that the Guidance includes a recommendation how to estimate emission reduction benefits for a plan or goal.  I believe that the guidance approach is wrong because it applies the social cost multiple times for each year of an emission reduction.  I submitted comments and recommended that the Guidance be revised.  When I reviewed the recent revisions, I noted that the there was no change to the guidance so I sent a follow up email asking whether my concern had been discussed.  My correspondence with DEC on this topic is available here

In brief my concern is that the Guidance section entitled “Estimating the emission reduction benefits of a plan or goal” includes the following example:

The net present value of the plan is equal to the cumulative benefit of the emission reductions that happened each year (adjusted for the discount rate). In other words, the value of carbon is applied to each year, based on the reduction from the no action case, 100,000 tons in this case. The Appendix provides the value of carbon for each year. For example, the social cost of carbon dioxide in 2021 at a 2% discount rate is $123 per metric ton. The value of the reductions in 2021 are equal to $123 times 5,000 metric tons, or $635,000; in 2022 $124 times 10,000 tons, etc. This calculation would be carried out for each year and for each discount rate of interest.

I explained that it is inappropriate to claim the benefits of the annual reduction over any lifetime or to compare it with avoided emissions.  Consider that in this example, if the reductions were all made in the first year the value would be 50,000 times $123 or $6,150,000, but the guidance approach estimates a value of $36,410,000 using this methodology. The social cost calculation sums projected benefits for every year subsequent to the year the reductions are made out to the year 2300.  Clearly, using cumulative values for this parameter is incorrect because it cumulatively counts those benefits repeatedly.  I also contacted social cost of carbon expert Dr. Richard Tol about the use of lifetime savings and he stated that “The SCC should not be compared to life-time savings or life-time costs (unless the project life is one year)”.  Note that Dr. Tol is using the social cost of carbon nomenclature rather than value of carbon label. 

I received the following response:

We did consider your comments and discussed them with NYSERDA and RFF. We ultimately decided to stay with the recommendation of applying the Value of Carbon as described in the guidance as that is consistent with how it is applied in benefit-cost analyses at the state and federal level. 

When applying the Value of Carbon, we are not looking at the lifetime benefits rather, we are looking at it in the context of the time frame for a proposed policy in comparison to a baseline. Our guidance provides examples of how this could be applied. For example, the first example application is a project that reduces emissions 5,000 metric tons a year over 10 years. In the second year you would multiply the Value of Carbon times 10,000 metric tons because although 5,000 metric tons were reduced the year before, emissions in year 2 are 10,000 metric tons lower compared to the baseline where no policy was implemented. You follow this same methodology for each year of the program and then take the net present value for each year to get the total net present value for the project. If you were to only use the marginal emissions reduction each year, you would be ignoring the difference from the baseline which is what a benefit-cost analysis is supposed to be comparing the policy to. 

The integration analysis will apply the Value of Carbon in a similar manner as it compares the policies under consideration in comparison with a baseline of no-action. 

Discussion

DEC believes that their comparison of policies under consideration relative to the no-action baseline is appropriate but they ignore the ultimate purpose of the value of carbon.  At the end of the day, it should be used to determine whether the control policies instituted to meet the reduction targets of the CLCPA provide social value by reducing GHG emissions at a control rate ($ per ton) that are less than the projected social costs. Instead, the integration analysis will compare not only the emission reductions per year but also the avoided emissions relative to a no-action baseline over the time frame of the policy. 

 The calculation of avoided emissions is a public relations ploy along the lines of the claim that an emissions reduction policy is equivalent to taking so certain number of cars off the road.  It may be a very nice number but what is it good for?  Consider, for example, the CLCPA target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 1990 levels by 2030.  In order to evaluate compliance with that target the state will calculate emissions in 2030 and compare them to 1990 levels.  Evaluation of the CLCPA targets includes no consideration whatsoever of avoided emissions or cumulative reductions.

More importantly, in the context of the value of carbon, it is absolutely incorrect to use avoided emissions or lifetime reductions.  DEC’s Value of Carbon guidance defines the social cost of carbon as:

An estimate, in dollars, of the present discounted value of the future damage caused by a metric ton increase in emissions into the atmosphere in that year or, equivalently, the benefits of reducing emissions by the same amount in that year. It is intended to provide a comprehensive measure of the net damages—that is, the monetized value of the net impacts—from global climate change that result from an additional ton of emissions.

Glaringly, there is no mention of avoided emissions or cumulative reductions.

Conclusion

If the societal benefits of GHG emission reductions are greater than the control costs for those reductions, then there is value in making the reductions.  If that is not the case then New York should re-think its mitigation targets and policies and concentrate on “no regrets” policies such as adaptation and resiliency investments.  If New York wants to make a contribution to climate change mitigation, then money should be invested in research and development to produce mitigation measures that are cheaper than the social costs.

It is obvious listening to the Climate Action Council meetings that the “plan” is to prove the value of the advisory panel emission reduction recommendations by calculating the social costs and comparing them to the reduction costs.  Obviously, this is “thimble and the pea” time and the CLCPA hucksters will be inflating the benefits at every opportunity and discounting the costs at the same time.  DEC’s response to my comment concluded that “The integration analysis will apply the Value of Carbon in a similar manner as it compares the policies under consideration in comparison with a baseline of no-action”.  In the first place the concept of a value on carbon is contrivance designed to justify mitigation policies. Secondly the DEC values of carbon proposed exceed the Federal values to further inflate the “benefits” by choosing assumptions that get higher values.  To top it all off, now we know that the CLCPA integration analysis will use the values of carbon incorrectly to further inflate the benefits.

Another theme in the Climate Action Council meetings is constant reference to their allegiance to the “science”.  In this instance the science says apply the value of carbon only to emission reductions and not to avoided emissions or cumulative emission reductions.  That fact is inconvenient so the real “science” is ignored. 

The Problem with Climate Innumeracy

I am a numbers guy and I am terrified by what appears to be the general perception that numbers don’t matter when it comes to an emotional issue or pre-conceived idea.  This post explains what I mean by numeracy and offers examples of the problems I worry about related to climate.

The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Meteorology

One of my responsibilities over my career was reporting data from meteorological monitoring stations to regulatory agencies primarily concerned with air pollution transport.  The first problem is that the monitors had to be located where they measured the wind speed and direction that represented the flow in the area.  Ideally the site had to be located in an open field with no nearby obstructions that could affect the wind direction.  Once the wind vane was up and running it was not enough to just report all the data collected.  There is a vital quality control check to make sure the data are realistic.  To do that I developed a program to review the data for oddities.  For example, if the wind direction did not vary at all for several hours that period would be flagged for further review.  If the temperature was below freezing and there was precipitation at the monitor then I would check the local weather station for freezing rain.  If that was observed then it was clearly appropriate to flag the data as missing and note in the data submitted to the regulatory agency that there was freezing rain.  The regulatory agency could easily check that decision and in the end, everyone was confident that the data submitted accurately represented the air pollution transport conditions in the area.

Emissions

Another responsibility of mine was to report data from continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) from power plants.  Coming from my background it seemed logical that the data should be reviewed in a similar fashion as the meteorological data.  The problem is that there are physical relationships between weather parameters that make it much easier to flag problems.  Eventually I developed a system to review the data in a reproducible manner basically by looking for outliers and trends in the data.  My process flagged data that needed to be checked.  It was possible to compare the raw data against operating information and other information to see if the outlying data were just odd or incorrect.  The analysis did not say that the data were wrong only that they needed to be reviewed and validated. 

In some cases, the numbers were measured correctly but were not representative. For example, during startup and shutdown fuel combustion processes are inefficient and some pollutant levels are high.  However, if your concern is the long-term average you don’t want to weigh those short-term values too much because they bias the result.  The Environmental Protection Agency uncritically used the CEMS data[1] in a couple of instances and proposed inappropriate limits as a result.

Global Warming

I am irritated by those who make claims that climate change effects are being observed now whenever there is an extreme weather event or a new weather record and have documented instances where the message is incorrect.  In the first place, the message is never that there might be good news associated with warming and more CO2 but always it is a sign of imminent, inevitable Armageddon.  I could write many posts on examples of this but just want to make a point about temperature trends.  Recall that when setting up a meteorological sensor you have to consider whether it will make representative measurements.  When measuring temperature trends, a big concern is whether conditions around the sensor are changing and over long periods of time that is difficult.  In addition, changes to the observing methods or instruments themselves all affect the trend and have to be considered when evaluating the results.  Ultimately measuring temperature trends is not easy and picking and choosing trends has over-hyped the observed global warming.  Not considering the data correctly for the task at hand undermines the concept that CO2 is the control knob for climate change.

There is another major problem.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publishes the “official” temperature trends and it has been shown that there is a very strong correlation between the average temperature adjustments (final vs. raw) and the atmospheric CO2 concentrations.  This is clear evidence that the adjustments to the temperature record are being made to match the CO2 is the control knob of climate theory.

https://realclimatescience.com/2020/10/alterations-to-the-us-temperature-record/

Conclusion

Data numeracy recognizes that irregularities need to be reviewed.  Inconsistent data patterns do not prove that there is a problem only that further review is necessary.  If the data are audited in an open and transparent manner then everyone can be confident in the result.  Sadly, too many people will not accept numerical results that run counter to their pre-conceived notions and biases. 

My personal experiences with data reporting were in regulatory contexts that in the big scheme of things don’t matter much.  But I think the data I submitted was unambiguous and believe that my results could withstand scrutiny.  On the other hand, the implications of global warming are a big deal because they are being used as the rationale to completely over-haul the entire energy system of New York and the world.  Unfortunately, much of the numerical evidence purportedly proving that global warming is occurring is ambiguous and the results do not standup to close scrutiny.  My concern is that when I have gone through the process to evaluate data to check a climate change impact and shown that the claim is not supported by the evidence it has not been uncommon that people reject the results.


[1] For example, an arithmetic average of mostly startup data was used to say that facilities were not using their air pollution equipment correctly.

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Adaptation and Resilience Recommendations

On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.   My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here. This post addresses the Land Use and Local Government Advisory Panel Adaptation and Resilience Recommendations presented at the June 8, 2021 Climate Action Council meeting.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation: CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Background

Buried in the CLCPA are two amendments to § 9. Chapter 355 of the laws of 2014, constituting the community risk         and resiliency act that add two new sections 17-a and 17-b.  The amendments read as follows:

  • 17-a. The department of environmental conservation shall take actions to promote adaptation and resilience, including:

(a) actions to help state agencies and other entities assess the reasonably foreseeable risks of climate change on any proposed projects, taking into account issues such as: sea level rise, tropical and extra-tropical cyclones, storm surges, flooding, wind, changes in average and peak temperatures, changes in average and peak precipitation, public health impacts, and impacts on species and other natural resources.

b) identifying the most significant climate-related risks, taking into account the probability of occurrence, the magnitude of the potential harm, and the uncertainty of the risk.

(c) measures that could mitigate significant climate-related risks, as well as a cost-benefit analysis and implementation of such measures.

  • 17-b. Major permits for the regulatory programs of subdivision three of section 70-0107 of the environmental conservation law shall require applicants to demonstrate that future physical climate risk has been considered. In reviewing such information, the department may require the applicant to mitigate significant risks to public infrastructure and/or services, private property not owned by the applicant, adverse impacts on disadvantaged communities, and/or natural resources in the vicinity of the project.

One of the tenets of pragmatic meteorologists is that extreme weather is going to happen with or without climate change.  Therefore, adaptation and resilience measures for known extreme weather risks is an obvious “no-regrets” approach to mitigate weather-related impacts.  This post will discuss the approach proposed and the solutions suggested for adaptation and resilience. 

Adaptation and Resilience Recommendations

The Land Use and Local Government Advisory Panel outlined the perceived problem, described 12 adaptation and resilience recommendations in three categories, and claimed a number of benefits and impacts in the presentation to the Climate Action Council (recording here).  

One of the ironies of the presentation was that there were repeated appeals to the “science” even as the discussion ignored the scientific process.  Central to the scientific method is the idea of empirical falsification whereby theories are scrutinized and tested using data and facts.  Importantly, this means evaluation of all the data.  Albert Einstein once said, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.”  The CLCPA process routinely picks and chooses its supporting science arguments but ignores any conflicting evidence.

In order to justify the adaptation and resilience recommendations there was a slide listing “New York’s climate vulnerabilities”.  The CLCPA rationale for the transition away from fossil fuels is that climate change is a reality and our future is at stake.   I recently summarized recent articles debunking the “climate emergency” meme.  I have also set up a page that provides links to posts on the claims that the effects are being seen now and there is a climate emergency that dictates action now.  I also have a page with posts highlighting the  difference between weather and climate which is constantly mistaken by Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) advocates.  Based on that work, I believe the slide is mostly cherry-picked baloney.

The justification for action veers even further from the science in the slide “Significant risk in continuing GHG emissions”.  The claim that there could be 100s of billions of dollars of damages per year is only possible “under a high emissions scenario”.  That scenario has been described as “increasingly implausible with every passing year”.  Roger Pielke, Jr. explains “Evidence indicates the scenarios of the future to 2100 that are at the focus of much of climate research have already diverged from the real world and thus offer a poor basis for projecting policy-relevant variables like economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions.”  Nonetheless, the CLCPA advisory panels and state agencies trot out this propaganda at every opportunity.  The fact is that they pick and choose the quotes that support their claims for inevitable climate catastrophe and ignore all contradictory findings.  That is not “science”.

The panel proposed 12 enabling strategies in three categories.  Under “Building Capacity” they proposed four enabling strategies: AR1: Commit to creating, implementing and updating a comprehensive and equitable state climate change adaptation and resilience plan; AR2: Incorporate equitable adaptation and risk-reduction considerations into relevant state funding and regulatory programs, projects and policies; AR3: Strengthen meaningful community engagement and public education, and build adaptive capacity across all sectors; and AR4: Identify and evaluate options for supporting equitable adaptation and resilience practices and projects, and to enhance insurance protection.  The “Communities and Infrastructure” theme had five strategies: AR5: Provide state agency planning and technical support for equitable regional and local adaptation and resilience plans and projects; AR6: Evaluate opportunities to ensure equitable consideration of future climate conditions in land-use planning and environmental reviews; AR7: Develop policies, programs, and decision support tools to reduce risks associated with coastal and inland flooding; AR8: Develop policies and programs to reduce human risks associated with new patterns of thermal extremes; and AR9: Ensure the reliability, resilience and safety of a decarbonized energy system.  The last category, “Living Systems” had three enabling strategies: AR10: Develop policies and programs to reduce risks threatening ecosystems and biodiversity; AR11: Enhance climate resilience and adaptive capacity of agricultural community, while preparing to take advantage of emerging opportunities; and AR12: Develop policies and programs to preserve and protect the ability of forest ecosystems to sequester carbon.  I am not going to address each of these strategies but will highlight some issues with some of them.

“Building capacity” refers to yet another plan with its associated bureaucracy, including adaptation and risk-reduction considerations into relevant state funding and regulatory programs, projects and policies; identification and evaluation of options for supporting equitable adaptation and resilience practices and projects. Finally, there is the indoctrination recommendation to “strengthen meaningful community engagement and public education” no doubt continuing the theme of carefully selected “science” as the rationale for all this planning.

I agree with the concept of a state adaptation and resilience plan but I believe that it would be more appropriate to emphasize observed extreme weather rather than alleged climate impacts.  Most of the people involved in the CLCPA implementation don’t understand, don’t want to understand, or understand but have vested interests to ignore the fact that we don’t understand the climate system well enough to project how much of an effect, if any, reductions in GHG emissions will have on observed weather.  The fact is that society does not have a resilient plan for extreme weather so even though the rationale is wrong, the concept of a plan to address extreme weather is a good one. 

The proposal includes an update the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) ClimAID report.  The last edition squandered a lot of money for climate scientists to run models and claim that they could distinguish the climate signal in New York.  Naturally all the results were consistent with New York’s climate agenda.  I expect nothing different this time.  Unfortunately, the enabling strategies continually refer to using the projections from this analysis in their planning processes.  If the analyses use the inappropriate emissions projections described above, the result will over-estimate potential effects and unnecessary resources will be expended for unlikely projections.

The theme of “communities and infrastructure” is to develop a planning process that incorporates consideration of future climate conditions. Specific strategies for coastal and inland flooding as well as “new patterns of thermal extremes” are proposed.  The benefit of implementation is: ”reduction of climate risks results in direct health and safety benefits”.  This includes the biggest oversight in the presentation.

The final enabling strategy for communities and infrastructure is “Ensure the reliability, resilience and safety of a decarbonized energy system.”  The Climate and Community Investment Act’s Legislative findings and declaration stated that Superstorm Sandy “caused at least 53 deaths and $32 billion in damage in New York state”.  In February 2021, severe winter weather in Texas caused at least 151 deaths, property damage of $18 billion, economic damages of $86 billion to $129 billion, and $50 billion for electricity over normal prices during the storm.   For years prior to the storm about $66 billion was spent on wind and solar in Texas.   In addition, the wind and solar sectors collected about $21.7 billion in local, state, and federal subsidies and incentives.  The problem in Texas is that when electricity is needed most, weather conditions are least conducive to wind and solar production.  New York is embarking on the same approach, has the same renewable resource availability problem, and should expect the same sort of impacts if a winter storm knocks out the electric system when heating and transportation are electrified.  This enabling strategy is critical but not because of climate impacts.  It is much more likely that the transition to renewable energy to meet the CLCPA targets will be the problem that affects reliability, resilience and safety.

The theme “living systems” had three enabling strategies: policies and programs to reduce risks threatening ecosystems and biodiversity, “enhance climate resilience and adaptive capacity of agricultural community” and policies and programs to preserve and protect the ability of forest ecosystems to sequester carbon.  These enabling strategies suffer from the same oversight as the previously discussed reliability, resilience and safety strategy.  The greatest threat to New York’s living system is the land needed to build all the wind and solar facilities needed to produce enough renewable energy to replace fossil fuels.  An analysis done for NYSERDA on wind power and biodiversity found that: “5,430 square kilometers (1.3 million acres) of land in New York that are both suitable for wind power development and avoid areas that are likely to have high biodiversity value. Using an estimate of 3.0 MW/square kilometers, this translates to a megawatt capacity estimate of 16,300 MW (± 9,000 MW) for New York’s terrestrial landscape.”  The latest projections suggests that twice as much wind power development will be required which obviously means that development will occur in areas of high biodiversity value.  Surely the space needed for wind and solar development will also adversely affect agriculture lands and forests.  Also unrecognized is the fact that in rural areas where electric outages are common residents commonly use wood stoves for backup.  When the requirement for all electric homes kicks in, I think the demand for wood for heating will soar which will adversely affect the ability of forest ecosystems to sequester carbon.

Benefits and impacts

The presentation to the Climate Action Council had three slides describing benefits and impacts.  The first argued that because disadvantaged communities are most vulnerable to climate change it presents an opportunity for the CLCPA implementation to address those vulnerabilities.  While I have no issue with the concept that disadvantaged communities should be targeted, I worry that the potential for all the programs to increase energy costs will mean that many of those least able to afford higher energy prices will not get the support they need to prevent energy poverty.  The disconnect between inevitable higher energy prices with very little direct benefits to those least able to afford those increases and the support for programs that cause higher energy prices by environmental justice organizations befuddles me.  Ultimately poorer people will have a more difficult time adapting and becoming more resilient to extreme weather and the alleged effects of climate change.  I will address this issue when I post on the recommendations from the Climate Justice Working Group

Health benefits are commonly ascribed to actions that consider climate change.  The presentation’s slide lists direct health benefits.  Someone, somewhere following the climate change funding bandwagon has undoubtedly made claims for those benefits.  I leave it the reader to consider how likely these alleged benefits could be linked to climate change as opposed to other factors

Another common theme for CLCPA proponents is that implementing these programs will create jobs.  During this process no one has raised the possibility that higher energy prices might force businesses to re-locate or go out of business so job losses are a real potential.    There is one other aspect of this slide that needs to be highlighted.  There is a graphic image that includes a quotation that states that UCLA professor Christa Tirado said in 2011 “in 2020, the UN has projected that we will have 50 million climate refugees”.  It is 2021, and rather than relying on a ten-year old projection I believe it would be more appropriate to document where the climate refugees are.  Absent that verification I can only label this as another example of cherry-picked propaganda.

Conclusion

In my 45-year air pollution meteorology career there has been more than one instance where I got the right answer but for the wrong reason.  For example, while evaluating air quality models that predict the impacts of power plants, I found that the models were protective of human health and welfare because they conservatively predicted downwind concentrations compared to observations.  However, there were instances when the models predicted the highest concentrations for one set of meteorological conditions and the observed highest concentrations occurred during a different set of conditions.  Right answer for the wrong reason.

In my opinion this sums up the CLCPA adaptation and resilience recommendations.  I agree that this is something that should be done because our current infrastructure is not resilient to observed extreme weather.  However, the rationale for these recommendations is that they need to be done because of climate change impacts.  Proponents of the CLCPA believe that any unusual weather is due to climate change caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.  That opinion flies in the face of the “science” that the naïve believe supports their position and common sense.  Given that climate has always been changing and that historical CO2 levels have varied more than current observations, common sense says that whatever effect anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have on weather is a tweak and not the primary driver of observed weather variations. 

Finally, I showed that the greatest threat to the reliability, resilience, and safety of the electric system is not climate change but the proposed plan to rely on intermittent and diffuse wind and solar resources to provide most of the electric energy in the state.  Furthermore, the greatest threat to ecosystem biodiversity is the land use that will have to be converted to utility-scale wind and solar facilities.  There simply is not enough land suitable for wind development that does not have high biodiversity value to prevent development where it will have significant impacts.

NY Office of Renewable Energy Siting Heritage Wind Decision

On June 4, 2021 the New York Office of Renewable Energy Siting determined that some provisions of local laws were “unreasonably burdensome” in light of the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) goals and the environmental benefits of the proposed 185 megawatt Heritage Wind Project. This post discusses the specifics of this ruling.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Background

In early April 2020, NYS passed the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act (AREGCBA) as part of the 2020-21 state budget.  This legislation was intended to ensure that renewable generation is sited in a timely and cost-effective manner.   The law established the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES), housed within the Department of State, that is supposed to “consolidate the environmental review of major renewable energy facilities and provide a single forum to ensure that siting decisions are predictable, responsible, and delivered in a timely manner along with opportunities for input from local communities”.  All large-scale, renewable energy projects 25 megawatts or larger will be required to obtain a siting permit from the Office of Renewable Energy Siting for new construction or expansion. ORES has the authority to issue a single permit for the construction of major renewable energy facilities from both a state and local law perspective, but applicants will still be required to obtain any approvals necessary under federal law, including federally-delegated permits. 

Decision

Heritage Wind originally filed an Article Ten application but transferred it to ORES.  The plan is for construction of a 184.8 megawatt (MW) Wind Electric Generating Facility located in the Town of Barre, Orleans County.  The Town of Barre code for wind turbines included some provisions that the Developer asked ORES to overrule.  I will address these below.

According to the ORES determination, the office “conducted a thorough review of the Transfer Application, including all exhibits, reports and supporting information”, to determine the Facility’s compliance with the ORES regulation and the “potential need for additional site specific terms and conditions to avoid potential significant adverse environmental impacts from construction and operation of the Facility to the maximum extent practicable”  The Office evaluated each of Permittee’s requests against the local laws and ordinances in effect both at the time of the Siting Board’s December 8, 2020 determination of compliance, and at the time of Permittee’s filing of the Transfer Application with the Office on January 13, 2021. The Office “thoroughly reviewed the Transfer Application and considered all applicable New York State law concerning CLCPA targets and the environmental benefits of major renewable energy facilities, and the detailed information in the Transfer Application concerning CLCPA targets and the environmental benefits of the proposed Facility”.

The Permittee requested relief from the Barre wind turbine noise limit which requires that wind turbine noise be limited to 45 dBA measured at a distance 1,000 feet from the base of the wind turbine.  The permittee claimed that “this standard would be technologically infeasible as no available commercial turbine model meets this standard” and argued that recent Siting Board cases used a noise limit of forty-five (45) dBA Leq (8-hour) at the outside of any non- participating residence and a fifty-five (55) dBA Leq (8-hour) at the outside of any participating residence.  ORES found the code to be “unreasonably burdensome in view of CLCPA targets and the environmental benefits of the Facility, and determined that the Office’s uniform standards for wind facility noise at 19 NYCRR

§§ 900-2.8(b) and 900-6.5(a) were applicable”.  These are the Siting Board noise limits listed above.

The Town also has a night time noise standard and has argued that Heritage Wind has not demonstrated compliance with that standard.  Heritage Wind claimed that there was “no scientific basis to support the more stringent 40 dBA night standard.  ORES sided with the developer and no changes to address the night-time standard were accepted.

Clear Skies Above Barre (CSAB) requested party status and submitted a petition with six issues.  One of the issues raised was support of the Town of Barre’s arguments that the proposed facility would not meet the Town Code.  ORES stated that they granted the minimum relief necessary to the alleged burdensome local regulations.  ORES “respectfully submits that CSAB has failed to raise any substantive or significant issues for adjudication or claims for party status with respect to the Office’s determinations and findings and determinations on unreasonably burdensome local laws and ordinances”.

The Barre Town Code included restrictions on the use of guy wires.  Apparently that provision was modified and ORES did not have to over-rule the provisions.

The Barre Town Code included a provision that “the Facility  be designed such that shadow flicker from an individual wind turbine will not fall on any specific are of a roadway or any portion of a residential structure in excess of 25 hours per year.  In support of its argument, “Permittee noted the lack of basis for the Town standard and that the Siting Board has reviewed the available science and other considerations on shadow flicker and adopted a 30 hour per year shadow flicker limit in recent Siting Board cases”.   ORES sided with Heritage Wind and the shadow flicker requirement is 30 hours per year.

The Barre Town Code includes a restriction that limits the height of wind turbines to 500 feet.  The Permittee claimed that “changing manufacturing standards and available turbine heights, technological needs, CLCPA targets and the environmental and ratepayer needs for affordable renewable energy in New York State”.  ORES sided with Heritage Wind.  ORES “determined not to apply this provision of the Barre Town Code, on the condition that overall turbine tip height shall not exceed 675 feet as limited and requested by the Permittee”.  However, the Town Code was modified to put a limit of 700 feet on turbines making all this moot.

The Barre Town Code includes a requirement for 40% reforestation but Heritage Wind argued that was not feasible or reasonable because open spaces are needed to operate the facility.  ORES “elected not to apply this provision of the Barre Town Code and determined that the Permittee’s proposed landscaping and restoration mitigation measures shall comply with 19 NYCRR §900-10.2(e)(4), which requires Permittee to provide a pre-construction compliance filing consisting of a comprehensive Vegetative Management Plan that will be subject to prior review and approval of the Office before a Notice to Proceed with Construction is granted”. 

The Barre Town Code limited construction to 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. daily with exceptions for emergencies.  ORES “elected not to apply this provision of the Barre Town Code in the limited circumstances requested by Permittee”.   The discussion suggests that Heritage Wind and the Town worked out a compromise that made this finding moot.

The Barre Town Code required that “the foundation top of each wind turbine shall be buried to a depth of four feet below ground, or to the specifications of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets guidelines, whichever is greater”.  Heritage Wind argued that burying the foundation top below grade would cause corrosion.  This is another provision of the Town Code that was subsequently revised making the arguments moot.

The Barre Town Code specified decommissioning timelines and related requirements that Heritage Wind argued did not cover all the reasons why a facility might shutdown other than retirement.  ORES danced around the rationale when decommissioning requirements should kick in.  ORES claims there are no substantive or significant issues requiring adjudication of the Office’s finding but I think applicability is still ill-defined.

A number of other minor issues were mentioned.  None were substantive enough to discuss.

Discussion

For the most part this determination over-ruled the Town of Barre Code when it was more stringent than recent Siting Board decisions.  For example, the Siting Board set a limit of 30 hours of shadow flicker and the Barre Town Code had a limit of 25 hours, so ORES set the limit at 30 hours.  I agree with the concept that there should be consistent requirements across New York.

There is one issue however.  The basis for recent Siting Board decisions and the ORES requirements supposedly represents the “science”.  I described the comments I submitted on the ORES implementing regulations and raised one technical issue on setback distances that is relevant to the rulings described above.  ORES established the setback requirement for non-participating residences in 19 NYCRR §900—2.6(b): (1) 1.5 times turbine tip height from non-participating property lines, public roads, aboveground transmission lines and substations; and (2) 2.0 times turbine tip height from non-participating residences and non-participating  commercial buildings.  In my comments I showed that the ORES wind turbine tower setback is less than the predicted throw distance of material, such as ice shards, from several examples.  I argued that while the American Wind Energy Association claims that no member of the public has ever been injured by a turbine, I believe that is in no small part due to the relatively small number of turbines currently in use.  If New York has to install thousands of turbines, then I believe that the likelihood that a turbine will be close enough to cause damage or injure the public is so high that the ORES setback distances are unacceptable. I recommended a more nuanced approach that considered site-specific considerations and the number of turbines proposed.  Setback distances were not mentioned in the ORES response to comments submitted.  According to the response “ORES reviewed all remaining comments and concluded that no changes were warranted.”

My other comments addressed three shortcomings in the proposed regulation.  Unless a cumulative impact analysis is done by the Office of Renewable Energy Siting the public welfare and environment will be threatened. I believe that is particularly necessary to address concerns related to avian species especially bald eagles.  It may be a misunderstanding on my part but I did not see any provision to require applicants to provide capability information in the applications.  I don’t think it is appropriate to short-change local participation and environmental issues for renewable facilities that will not provide renewable energy credit to New York so I recommended that if a facility cannot prove that the renewable energy credits generated by the facility will be used to meet New York’s goals that they be required to go through the existing Article Ten process.   ORES did not respond to any of these comments.

The greatest deficiency of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act (AREGCBA) is the failure to consider the cumulative environmental impact of the wind and solar resources necessary to replace the fossil-fired electric generating capacity of New York. It can be argued that on an individual or even facility basis that most environmental impacts are acceptable. It is clear that applicants should not be required to address cumulative impacts.  Nonetheless, cumulative environmental impacts are a concern and should be considered with respect to these regulations so ORES should provide that analysis. 

In order to assess the potential impacts on power system reliability in 2040 when meeting the CLCPA target for 100% zero-emissions electric generation, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) contracted with ITRON and the Analysis Group to develop estimates of the necessary resources.  On October 8, 2020 Kevin DePugh, Senior Manager for NYISO Reliability Planning, made a presentation to the Executive Committee of the New York State Reliability Council that summarized their work and provides an estimate of the Generation Capacity resource mix (Table A).  The resource mix for the climate change phase II, CLCPA case is extraordinary.  At the end of 2019 the total New York State wind nameplate capacity was 1,985 MW but this case projects that 35,200 MW will be needed which is the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) projected total technical potential land-based capacity.  Governor Cuomo has announced offshore wind targets totaling 9,000 MW by 2035 but this case projects a need for 21,063 MW by 2040 which is another technical potential estimate limit.  There is a goal for 6,000 MW of solar by 2025 in the CLCPA targets but this projection estimates that 10,878 MW of behind-the-meter solar and 29,262 MW of grid connected solar will be needed. 

Table A: Generation Capacity – Climate Change Phase II Analysis, CLCPA Case

Most concerning to me is that an analysis done for NYSERDA on wind power and biodiversity found that: “5,430 square kilometers (1.3 million acres) of land in New York that are both suitable for wind power development and avoid areas that are likely to have high biodiversity value. Using an estimate of 3.0 MW/square kilometers, this translates to a megawatt capacity estimate of 16,300 MW (± 9,000 MW) for New York’s terrestrial landscape.”  The difference between this number and the NYISO projections suggests that wind turbines will have to be sited within the areas of high biodiversity value.

Conclusion

Based on this first ORES determination it appears that the emphasis is on consistency with previous Siting Board decisions and the ORES standards and requirements.  I agree that is appropriate.

However, the ORES standards themselves were pushed through on an expedited schedule.  Comments inconsistent with the State’s agenda were ignored.  In other words, I don’t accept all their standards and requirements.  As a result, I predict that there will be seriously impacted neighbors when all the solar and wind facilities necessary to meet the CLCPA targets are built.

I also maintain that there will be serious cumulative environmental impacts because the State has not evaluated the cumulative impacts for the enormous number of facilities projected in the last year.  The described disparity between the areas suitable for wind power development not located in areas of high biodiversity value and the total area needed for the projected wind power developments seems to be a prescription for unacceptable cumulative environmental impacts.

Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act GHG Emissions and the Value of Carbon

On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency. This post documents issues with the benefits calculations methodology that I expect will be used to show that the “benefits” outweigh the costs.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   I briefly summarized the schedule and implementation: CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulationssummarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and climate in other articles.  The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

Background

According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration in the Scoping Plan to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide. All these recommendations will be incorporated into the integration analysis which is a modeling effort by the State.  They will develop the scoping plan that outlines what is needed to meet the law’s requirements.  Once the scoping plan is accepted State agencies will implement codes and regulations.     My posts describing and commenting on the strategies are all available here.

Although no costs have been provided there have been discussions at Climate Action Council meetings that indicate that the Council is positioning itself to prove that their investments are “cost-effective”.

I will outline how the benefits analysis should be calculated and how the state is doing it.

Emissions

The first step is to define the emissions. The 1990 emissions were defined in the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Part 496 regulations.  GHG emission inventories have been developed for many years.  Prior to the CLCPA New York State followed the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change guidelines.  It makes a lot of sense to use those guidelines for consistency and inter-comparability.  However, the authors of the CLCPA chose to do things differently

According to the Revised Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS):

Under the CLCPA, statewide greenhouse gas emissions include both greenhouse gas emissions from all sources located within the state and certain sources that are located outside of the state that are associated with in-state energy consumption. In particular, the statute requires that statewide greenhouse emissions include both: (1) “the total annual emissions of greenhouse gases produced within the state from anthropogenic sources,” and (2) “greenhouse gases produced outside of the state that are associated with [a] the generation of electricity imported into the state and [b] the extraction and transmission of fossil fuels imported into the state.” ECL § 75-0101(13). Moreover, the CLCPA defines “carbon dioxide equivalent” as a measurement of global warming potential based on a twenty-year timeframe. ECL § 75-0101(2).

The RIS goes on to explain:

The Energy sector includes five (5) main categories: (a) Fuel Combustion, (b) Fugitive Emissions, (c) Electricity Transmission, (d) Imported Fuels, and (e) Imported Electricity. The latter two categories are not included in IPCC protocol or other governmental greenhouse gas inventories, but as described above are two key distinct requirements of the CLCPA for this rulemaking. These two categories represent an estimate of what may be referred to as the lifecycle, fuel cycle, or out-of-state upstream emissions associated with in-state energy demand and consumption.

The RIS explains the inclusion of a category for imported fuels:

The most significant difference between the 1990 baseline, as set forth in the CLCPA and developed for the proposed rule, and other governmental greenhouse gas inventories is the inclusion of emissions associated with “the extraction and transmission” of imported fossil fuels. Because of the novel nature of this CLCPA requirement, as compared to other standard governmental inventories following the IPCC protocol, the Department undertook an analysis of these emissions in collaboration with NYSERDA. This analysis considered emissions from extraction and processing (production) through transmission or transportation to the New York border, but did not include emissions from infrastructure construction and maintenance outside of the state or from the manufacture of equipment or facilities outside of the state. The fuels included are the same as those addressed in the in-state analysis, or coal, natural gas, distillate, diesel, residual fuel, jet fuel, kerosene, LPG, motor gasoline, and other petroleum fuels (lubricants, petroleum coke, and unspecified napthas).

The inclusion of these two categories adds to the baseline and any reduction benefits are increased.  Importantly, note that the lifecycle, fuel cycle, or out-of-state upstream emissions associated with wind and solar energy development are not included in any state analysis.

Value of Carbon

In section §75-0113, Value of Carbon the CLCPA states that the “social cost of carbon shall serve as a monetary estimate of the value of not emitting a ton of greenhouse gas emissions” and that “As determined by the department, the social cost of carbon may be based on marginal greenhouse gas abatement costs or on the global economic, environmental, and social impacts of emitting a marginal ton of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, utilizing a range of appropriate discount rates, including a rate of zero.”

The total monetary estimate of not emitting NY’s 1990 emissions is shown here for different years.  We don’t know when the emissions occurred or will occur so we need to consider a range.   If every ton is reduced in 2021, the value of carbon benefits at a 2% discount rate is $681,266 million.  If every ton is reduced in 2050, the value of carbon benefits at a 2% discount rate is $1,115,104 million.

Games New York Plays

In late February, 2021 I wrote to DEC and Climate Action Council about a problem with the New York State guidance document Establishing a Value of Carbon, Guidelines for Use by State Agencies (the “Guidance”). In particular the Guidance includes a recommendation how to estimate emission reduction benefits for a plan or goal.  I believe that the guidance approach is wrong because it applies the social cost multiple times for an emission reduction.  I recommended that the Guidance be revised.

In the Guidance section entitled “Estimating the emission reduction benefits of a plan or goal” an example is included:

The net present value of the plan is equal to the cumulative benefit of the emission reductions that happened each year (adjusted for the discount rate). In other words, the value of carbon is applied to each year, based on the reduction from the no action case, 100,000 tons in this case. The Appendix provides the value of carbon for each year. For example, the social cost of carbon dioxide in 2021 at a 2% discount rate is $127 per metric ton. The value of the reductions in 2021 are equal to $127 times 5,000 metric tons, or $635,000; in 2022 $129 times 10,000 tons, etc. This calculation would be carried out for each year and for each discount rate of interest.

The Integrated Working Group (IWG) damages approach value is the net present benefit of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by one ton.  The calculation methodology determines that value from the year of the reduction out to 2300.  It is inappropriate to claim the benefits of the annual reduction over any lifetime.  Consider that in this example, if the reductions were all made in the first year the value would be 50,000 times $127 or $6,350,000, but the guidance approach estimates a value of $37,715,000 using this methodology. 

I also argued that if 1990 emissions were reduced in 2021 the benefits of completely eliminating those emissions equals $681 billion.  If we assume that the emissions are reduced to zero in 2050 by reducing emissions each year by the same amount, the annual reduction times that year’s social cost sums to $886 billion. However, if the social costs are multiplied by the cumulative reductions the costs sum to $15,373 billion, nearly twice as much as summing the annual reduction values.  Furthermore, the cumulative reduction approach is over 23 times higher than if the reductions were all achieved in one year.  My final argument that it is inappropriate is: if the social costs were calculated out to 2300, then when do you stop calculating cumulative reductions for the social cost benefits for permanently retiring a source of greenhouse gas emissions?

New York’s record using this approach goes back to 2020.  The 2010 Climate Action Plan interim report calculated the cost per avoided emissions using cumulative emission reductions.  The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) reports on the investment proceeds from the RGGI tax both improperly use cumulative emission reductions.  The NYSERDA Clean Energy Dashboard also highlights values using cumulative emission reductions.  By the way I have submitted comments regarding this issue to RGGI and NYSERDA and no changes have been made to the reports. 

Conclusion

The use of cumulative emission reductions to claim more benefits is a common New York practice.  New York should include annual reductions in all its GHG emission reduction reports but does not. All emission reduction targets are set based on emissions at a certain time and never include cumulative values.  Social cost of carbon or other carbon reduction valuation schemes also consider reductions at a certain time and exclude cumulative values.  I have raised this issue with New York State agencies and aside from a “thank you we will look into it” from DEC there has been no response.

When the inevitable high costs of CLCPA implementation are released to the public, they will no doubt be couched in some sort of value of carbon benefit comparison.  Obviously, the fundamental problem is that the costs will be real and the benefits will be made up.  This post shows that even the contrived value of carbon arguments are insufficient, that the CLCPA mandates emission categories contrived to increase emissions, and that the state has systematically over-estimated GHG emission reduction benefits in this context for years.

Summary of Enabling Strategies Submitted to the Climate Action Council

On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  This post highlights some of the aspects of the enabling strategies needed to meet the targets that I believe the general public does not know is headed their way.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because I believe the solutions proposed will adversely affect reliability and affordability, will have worse impacts on the environment than the purported effects of climate change, and cannot measurably affect global warming when implemented.   The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.

According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) bulletin dated May 10, 2021, the Advisory Panels to the Climate Action Council have all submitted recommendations for consideration for the Scoping Plan that will be used to achieve the necessary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions economy-wide.  Advisory panels were created to develop recommendations for the Scoping Plan and made presentations at the April 12, 2021 Meeting and the May 10, 2021 Meeting and recordings of the presentations are available.  I provide links to all those recommendations and my posts describing them here.  The following summarizes what has been suggested.

In the past month or so the same politicians who managed to foist the CLCPA upon the citizens of New York advocated for the Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA) which was intended to provide funding to support the CLCPA implementation efforts.  I wrote several posts on the legislation and talked to my local assemblyman’s office about my concerns.  In that conversation a WHAM report that the carbon tax alone would bring in $2.3 billion a year and could increase gasoline costs 55 cents a gallon was mentioned as the main reason the assemblyman was not supporting the legislation.

The costs for the enabling strategies are not known but it will be expensive so this is going to prove very unpopular based on the response to the CCIA.  The Transportation Advisory Panel proposed a strategy to transition to 100% zero-emission light duty vehicle sales which I believe mandate that all light-duty vehicles sold starting in 2035 have to be electric.   The panel claims that by 2028 electric vehicles (EVs) will be comparable in cost to an internal combustion engine.  Of course, all the infrastructure to support EVs in public ($1 billion to the utilities so far) will have to be covered, homeowners who purchase the vehicles will have to purchase at home charging support, and when every home has an EV the local electrical distribution systems will have to be upgraded as I discussed in my comments on the transportation panel strategies.

The energy efficiency and housing advisory panel sector emissions were the highest of any sector.  As a result, the primary mitigation strategy is to phase out fossil fuel use in buildings.  A primary enabling strategy is to change codes and standards as shown in the following slide.  The plan is to amend the state codes for new construction, including additions and alterations, to require a plethora of specific requirements including solar PV on “feasible” areas, grid-interactive electrical appliances, energy storage readiness, electric readiness for all appliance and electric vehicle readiness.  They propose to adopt these all-electric state codes for single family residences by 2025.  Note that a homeowner that chooses to an addition or alteration could be covered by the same requirements.    In 2030, gas/oil replacements will be prohibited when heating and hot water systems have to be replaced in homes and in 2035 electric stoves and driers are mandated replacements.  I expect that there is a requirement that when a house is sold after 2030 that it will have to be all-electric.  If you prefer to use natural gas for home heating, hot water, and cooking you will not have that choice.

The presentation notes that “Resilience is of critical importance”. There is a major disconnect between the advisory panel and the public in this regard.  For the public, a slogan does not keep the house warm.  In the event of extreme weather such as an ice storm many people had experience surviving because of fossil fuel options.  I doubt the public will willingly give up the resilient capabilities of natural gas and fuel oil for heating.  I described these issues in more detail in this post.

The Land Use & Local Government Advisory Panel proposed a theme facilitating “responsible siting and adoption of clean energy sources” apparently oblivious to the fact that clean energy siting requires much more land than available at any of the priority development areas simply because wind and solar energy are diffuse and require large areas to collect it.  The Agriculture and Forestry Advisory Panel proposed enabling strategies to avoid forest conversion and avoid agricultural land conversion because of the role of forests and farmlands in sequestering carbon. There is no recognition or plan to address the extraordinary buildout of wind generation projected by the Analysis Group – 35,200 MW compared to 5,905 MW in the last state impact statement that evaluated wind energy cumulative impacts.  Note that there are less than 2,000 MW of wind turbines today.  Responsible siting, minimizing conversion of sequestration land, and reducing cumulative impacts of thousands of turbines while developing the thousands of wind turbines is a significant challenge.

The waste advisory panel recommendations illustrate one overarching problem with these panels.  In light of the critical need for firm, zero-emissions resources and the fact that the methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills, digesters at water resource recovery facilities, livestock farms, food production facilities and organic waste management operations are a major percentage of the total emissions, it only seems logical to address both problems by collecting and using that gas.  However, as I showed in my analysis of the waste strategies, there are passionate ideologues involved that don’t agree.  The meeting minutes note “concern regarding renewable natural gas, suggesting that there is a limited opportunity for it to contribute to Climate Act goals and believes that efforts in this area benefit the source without contributing additional environmental benefits”. Another member “expressed his concerns about how to move ahead with biogas if it is combusted as this would clearly increase net co-pollutants locally, and suggested the Council consider applications for biogas that would not be combusted (such as fuel cell technology at wastewater treatment plants)”.  

The Energy-Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries Advisory Panel illustrates a less-than flattering aspect of the CLCPA.  The strategies for the small and declining industrial, mining, and manufacturing sector were described as “heterogeneous”.  This means that there are many different sources so economy of scale is not going to reduce costs.  Clearly New York’s unilateral transition off fossil fuels will increase relative energy costs relative to other jurisdictions and industries will have to leave to survive.  They conclude that this sector needs currently unavailable solutions to produce emission reductions and remain viable within the state.  It seems pretty obvious that this advisory panel was included as a political ploy to placate the industrial sector.  Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to reduce emissions significantly or prevent the remaining industries from fleeing the state out of necessity.

The Power Generation advisory panel is arguably the most important because in order to meet the targets all the other sectors will have to be electrified. The recommendations are available in a slide presentation.  I did a review of final recommendations, and, because this panel is most closely related to my background and interest, I posted earlier on the draft recommendations.  At the start of the process, I also posted on the membership of this panel.  The Albany politicians who nominated the members of the panel chose people whose ideological agendas are aligned with the CLCPA presumption that the transition away from fossil fuels is simply a matter of political will.  As a result, they included enabling strategies for the process of, for example, developing off-shore wind, but the related strategy did not include costs for actually developing offshore wind facilities or offer enabling strategies for it.

The ultimate problem replacing fossil fuels with renewable wind and solar energy is providing power during periods when both renewable resources are near zero.  In their presentation to the Power Generation Advisory Panel on September 16, 2020, E3 included the following slide that notes that illustrates the winter doldrum issue.  Incredibly, the panel recommendations did not specifically address this issue. 

Conclusion

This post highlights some of the aspects of the enabling strategies needed to meet the CLCPA emission reduction targets that I believe the general public does not know are headed their way.  Given the constant harping from politicians and the media about the existential threat of climate change many might believe implementing this law is appropriate.  However, the question is just how much is the public willing to pay and how many limitations on personal choice will they accept?

All these recommendations will be incorporated into the integration analysis modeling effort by the State.  Technical staff at the agencies will develop the scoping plan that outlines what is needed to meet the law’s requirements and maintain reliability.  The scoping plan goes to the Climate Action Council for review and comment and the public even gets a chance to respond.  Once the scoping plan is accepted State agencies will implement codes and regulations.  The proponents of the CLCPA are convinced that they have broad public support for these changes in personal choice and the inevitable higher prices.

This year’s CCIA legislation was intended to cover CLCPA implementation costs and the thought that the carbon tax alone would bring in $2.3 billion a year and could increase gasoline costs 55 cents a gallon apparently was too much to bear.  Those costs are a fraction of the CLCPA costs.  The proposed enabling strategy for residential home heating mandates that all new homes built after 2025 be all-electric and that when fossil appliances have to be replaced after 2030 that they be replaced by electric alternatives that the public will have to cover.  All new light-duty vehicles sold in 2035 will be electric.  In order to transition the electric grid Kevin Kilty points out “It took money spent over a century to learn the systems engineering currently built into the grid. It will take a lot of money to duplicate all this for a completely re-imagined grid in a decade.”  New Yorkers need to wake up and ask for the costs of this legislation sooner rather than later.