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.

Land Use & Local Government Advisory Panel Enabling Strategies Submitted to 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.  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 & Local Government Advisory Panel enabling strategy recommendations.

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.

Land Use & Local Government Emissions

This panel did not propose any strategies to reduce emissions. 

Land Use & Local Government Strategies

According to the meeting slide presentation, this panel’s recommendations encompassed the following themes:

  • Promote efficient land use and smart growth that reduces vehicles mile traveled
  • Maximize natural carbon sequestration potential
  • Facilitating responsible siting and adoption of clean energy sources
  • Provide local governments the tools and resources to lead on climate
  • Commit to environmental justice, disadvantaged communities, and a just transition

After discussing each theme, the advisory panel presentation listed the following key strategies:

  • Expand availability of hands-on support and training for municipalities across a range of climate actions with a focus on increased support to small, resource-constrained, and underserved communities.
  • Develop a centralized portal that offers resources and information to assist communities in navigating, accessing and integrating state programs relative to sustainable community development and clean energy development.
  • Explore options to simplify local government enforcement of evolving building codes such as a statewide permitting system, a tool kit with templates and guidance to assist local building departments, support for implementation of shared services agreements, and third party inspections for the energy code.
  • Establish statewide policies that require consistent advancement on building decarbonization by adopting a highly efficient State Energy Code aligned with CLCPA goals as soon as possible, establishing energy benchmarking and performance standards for buildings, and creating innovative public benefit financing mechanisms.

More detail is available in the recommendations and you can listen to the presentation.   Note, however, that the recommendations are not the same as the key strategies and themes.  I will concentrate my comments on the presentation.

The efforts to reduce vehicle miles traveled overlap with the planning strategies from the Transportation Advisory Panel.  Guiding “future growth, redevelopment, and conservation at the multi-municipal scale through regional planning” sounds innocuous but when the planners recommend that all development occur where they want rather than where the public wants it to go, I suspect there will be friction.  I discussed transit-oriented development in my comments on the transportation panel concluding that while it might work outside of New York City elsewhere the development patterns preclude it from working.  In order to make these projects work they want to “empower local governments” by providing support and “align state funding priorities to prioritize smart growth”.  The smart growth illustrated was a “once-contaminated industrial site now being re-purposed to revitalize the Oswego waterfront with housing, retail and commercial space” (Climate Action Council Meeting Presentation May 10,2021).

This is supposed to illustrate a strategy to reduce vehicle miles traveled, but like so many of the enabling strategies it does not work out all the time.  Oswego is a beautiful location for much of the year and the picture shows one of those days.  Unfortunately, that is not true all year round and the following picture from one of my more memorable commutes to Oswego shows they can get clobbered by snow.   During those periods the idea that people would walk or bike to get groceries or go to work is absurd.  Bottom line you still need to have a car but in the best case you just use it less. 

Another theme was to maximize natural carbon sequestration potential.  They only discussed wetland sequestration and “blue carbon” which is carbon captured by ocean and coastal ecosystems.  The agriculture and forestry advisory panel had strategies for carbon sequestration in agricultural soils and forests.  This panel appears to me to cop out.  Wetlands and ocean and coastal ecosystems are already regulated so it is not clear how much additional planning is needed.  On the other hand, there is a looming issue vis-à-vis the space needed for all the solar panels and wind turbines.  Why land use and local government did not address this trade-off is not immediately obvious.

The next theme is facilitating responsible siting and adoption of clean energy sources.  Excuse my cynicism, but this theme appears to be the reason that the aforementioned tradeoff is not addressed in any meaningful way.  My impression of this theme is that it is not especially concerned with local concerns about renewable developments but more getting all the facilities built.  The strategy for guiding future growth states:

Develop criteria and incentives for regional entities and counties to identify priority development areas (including areas appropriate for clean energy siting) and priority conservation areas in consultation with local jurisdictions and communities. Priority Development Areas may include Brownfield Opportunity Areas, downtowns, central businesses districts, municipal centers, hamlets, former industrial districts, infill projects in developed areas, obsolete fossil fuel-based power plants, re-development/adaptive re-use of existing buildings, TOD/Equitable TOD, disadvantaged communities (as defined by the Climate Justice Working Group), dead/dying malls and vacant property clusters designated by land banks, among others. Priority Conservation Areas may include wetlands, riparian areas, forests, agricultural lands and other natural areas and working lands that preserve and restore vital habitats, landscape connectivity, biodiversity, natural water movement, local food security and passive recreation, among others.

This description seems 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.  Throw in the incompatibility of wind turbines in developed areas and the result is there will be a conflict between the renewable energy development and the priority conservation areas.  This theme and the Guide Future Growth enabling strategy appear to willfully ignore this issue.

The two last themes are throwaways.  Not surprisingly they think local governments need the tools and resources to lead on climate.  One of the recommendations is for a dashboard “of community greenhouse gas emissions inventories to promote local climate action planning, monitor equity considerations, measure progress, and ensure data consistency at the county/municipality level”.  Years of trying to make numbers simple enough for a dashboard has made me complete distrust the value of such a system – it’s pretty but what is it for?  Finally, they propose to “Commit to environmental justice, disadvantaged communities, and a just transition”.

Conclusion

This panel is a specific requirement of the CLCPA but why?  Land use and local government policies don’t directly affect emissions.  On the other hand, those policies do affect implementation of the enabling strategies envisioned by the authors of the CLCPA.  I suspect that it was included to address the difficulties of permitting power generation facilities and all the other land use strategies necessary to meet the CLCPA targets of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030 and an 85% reduction by 2050.

There is a major inconsistency in the enabling strategies vis-à-vis the agriculture and forestry enabling strategy to minizine the loss of farmlands and forests with their carbon sequestration potential versus the land needed to collect diffuse solar and wind energy necessary to meet the CLCPA targets.  Clearly, the land use and local government advisory panel should have addressed this as a priority.  It is a major flaw that it is mentioned only in passing. 

The other shortcoming and one that is consistent across all the enabling strategies is the recommendation for initiatives that work most of the time.  If you stop and think about it many personal choices incorporate some rare need such as people who buy pickups for the occasional big load.  For this panel the mixed-use development approach to reducing vehicle miles traveled was recommended.  However, there are very few locations where such a development is going to preclude the need for a car.  Residents may be using their cars less but the necessity of having a car minimizes the value of this strategy.

Waste Advisory Panel Enabling Strategies Submitted to 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.  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 Waste Advisory Panel enabling strategy recommendations.

I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  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.

Waste Emissions

Although the presentations all follow the same format the details differ.  One of the more important components of the presentations is the emissions estimates and they all include a graphic showing historical emissions in 1990, “preliminary draft” emissions for 2018, and their projections for 2030 and 2050.  Most of the presentations added numbers to the slides so that it was not necessary to try to estimate the numbers.  Such is not the case with the Waste panel presentation. 

Moreover, there are problems with the data presented..  The 1990 emissions were defined in the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Part 496 regulations.  According to Part 496 the 1990 Waste greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 by IPCC sector in Global Warming Potential over a twenty-year time frame (GWP20) totaled 52.88 million metric tons (MMt) of carbon dioxide equivalent[1] (CO2e) broken down as 3.03 MMt of CO2, 49.35 MMt of CH4 and 0.5 MMt of N2O. However, in the following graph the total is well above half the range between 50 and 60.  Assuming that the wastewater component is not included in Part 496 brings the numbers close.  The bigger problem is the claim that waste is 25% of the total in 1990 and 16% of the total in 2018.  I guess the waste emissions in 1990 are 57 MMt and I know the 1990 Part 496 total emissions are 409 so that works out to 14%.  I guess the waste emissions in 2018 are 55 MMt and I estimated that the sum of emissions from all the sides in the advisory panel presentations total 377 MMt and that works out to 15% for the waste % of total NY emissions.  It could be a simple typo but in the absence of numbers in the graphic, readers do not know.


There are two emission reduction targets in the CLCPA: 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and 85% reduction in GHG Emissions by 2050.   The projected total reductions emission reduction goals for the Waste Advisory Panel are a 17.6% reduction from 1990 by 2030 and a reduction of 70.5% by 2050. 

Waste Strategies

According to the meeting minutes, the advisory panel proposed the following enabling strategies:

  • Reducing methane generating wastes from disposal in landfills and combustors;
  • Identifying and reducing fugitive emissions at waste and water resource recovery facilities;
  • Reducing the need for new consumer products;
  • Ensuring proper end-of-life materials management, with a focus on solid waste management hierarchy;
  • Supporting domestic recycling facilities and markets for recovered resources, by emphasizing the highest and best use for recycling end products; and
  • No promotion of new fossil fuel energy infrastructure.

The recommendations are available in a slide presentation.  I am not going to critique these strategies individually because it would take far too long.  Instead, I will comment on a few things with an emphasis on inconsistencies and implementation issues. 

Clearly landfills have to be the target for reductions because it is the largest source.  The plan is to achieve the “aggressive goals of Beyond Waste, the New York State Solid Waste Management Plan (e.g., 90% paper recycling and 65% food waste diversion by 2030)”.  This program was adopted 12/27/10 but beyond mentioning that meeting the goals was necessary there was no further mention of the plan in the presentation or recommendations.  Under the “Ease of implementation” category for Initiative #1: Organic Waste Reduction and Recycling, there is the following description: “Easy; The technologies exist, the challenges are financial (e.g., investment & end markets), behavioral, and logistical (e.g., siting, etc.)”.  During the question-and-answer period of the presentation Anne Reynolds asked about the status of the goals of the over ten year old Beyond Waste Program as a means of assessing how difficult achievement of the recommendations presented today might be and Ms. Rowland noted that “the State is roughly one-third of the way to 90% on the paper recycling and traditional recyclables, with significant work left to do on organics, as only about 2-3% is diverted.”  In my opinion, the financial, behavioral, and logistical challenges defined as “easy” are not.  Note that many of the recommended initiatives require legislative and regulatory action to make these “easy” changes.

There are folks involved with this process that have convinced themselves, contrary to the text of the law, that the zero-emissions mandate refers to all emissions and not just GHG emissions.  I suspect that they are disappointed that the panel projects no reduction projected from existing combustor facilities will be needed to handle municipal solid waste remaining after reduction, reuse, and recycling strategies.

The advisory panel process and the Climate Action Council meetings provide a window into the hopes and dreams of the segment of the population that is driving the concept that the existential crisis of climate change can be solved simply by ending fossil fuel use as quickly as possible.  The “no promotion of new fossil fuel energy infrastructure strategy” is the result of their concerns. Many of the most vocal people in this process are as passionate about this cause as they are clueless about the complexity of the energy systems and tradeoffs of their purported solutions. Renewable natural gas is a very good example of the resulting problem. 

According to EPA:

Renewable natural gas is a term used to describe biogas that has been upgraded for use in place of fossil natural gas. The biogas used to produce RNG comes from a variety of sources, including municipal solid waste landfills, digesters at water resource recovery facilities (wastewater treatment plants), livestock farms, food production facilities and organic waste management operations.

The ultimate problem replacing fossil fuels with renewable wind and solar energy is providing power during periods when both 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 during these periods “firm, zero emission resources, such as bioenergy, synthesized fuels such as hydrogen, hydropower, carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear generation could provide a number of benefits”.  In my opinion, those benefits include keeping the lights on.

In light of the critical need for these 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 developing those resources.  However, there are passionate ideologues 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)”.   Nonetheless the panel’s enabling initiatives included biogas recovery and agency staff argued for its use. 

Most of the other strategies proposed identifying leaks and eliminating them.  As part of New York’s irrational war on methane the new leak detection technology that has identified many new sources of methane is considered a rationale for eliminating the use of natural gas instead of an opportunity to make the source of energy that enabled most of the observed GHG reductions since 1990 even better.  Because the residence time of methane is on the order of 12 years eliminating leaks has much value.

There is another aspect to the leak issue related to the cluelessness of some panel members.  One of the other panels has a strategy that includes a public relations campaign to remove the label “natural” from natural gas because they allege that the name was chosen for advertising purposes.  They presume that if the public only understood it was not natural then they would not be so likely to use it.  The problem with that of course is that it is called natural gas because it is a naturally occurring gas.  Wherever a geologic formation that contains natural gas is exposed to the air, natural gas can be released to the atmosphere.  For example, western New York’s Eternal Flame Falls has a vent that seeps natural gas, and someone, sometime lit it off.  It remains to be seen if this natural vent will be sealed off in the name of climate change mitigation but the bigger issue is what to do about all the other sources of naturally-occurring methane.         

Conclusion

There are consistency issues with some of the numbers presented that I could not reconcile.  Using the numbers provided, this sector generates under 15% of the total New York GHG emissions but it is notable that the strategies are only expected to reduce emissions 18% in 2030 as opposed to the target of 40% and only 71% in 2050 as opposed to the target of 85%.  Clearly, this panel recognizes that there are limits to what can be achieved even though the results are disappointing.

Even though the enabling strategies do not meet the CLCPA targets, the results of the 2010 Beyond Waste, the New York State Solid Waste Management Plan suggest that even these strategies may be too optimistic “as only about 2-3%” of food waste is diverted as opposed to the 65% goal.  The concession that no reduction is projected from existing combustor facilities needed to handle municipal solid waste remaining after reduction, reuse, and recycling strategies also suggests these are aspirational strategies.

The ideologues involved in this process hinder rational mitigation approaches.  Collecting and using methane wherever possible not only addresses an emissions problem but also helps address a major concern related to reliability.  It is scary that irrational concerns about using renewable natural gas were not cut off as untenable at the outset.  Another example is not recognizing that natural gas leak detection technology advances are an opportunity to reduce emissions from the resource that has provided most of the recent co-pollutant and CO2 emission reductions rather than a reason to eliminate its use.

[1] The amount of carbon dioxide by mass that would produce the same global warming impact as the given mass of another greenhouse gas over a specific time frame, as determined by the IPCC, and as provided in Section 496.5 of this Part.

Air Pollution and Health Impact Projections

The recently released Fossil Fuel End Game report claims that peaking power plants should be replaced with wind, solar and distributed battery storage because it would save money and lives.  However, the basis for that claim ultimately comes down to the belief that there is no acceptable level of air pollution.  This post explains why I think that is absurd and explains how this concept is misused by activists. 

I am a retired air pollution meteorologist with over 40 years-experience analyzing the relationship between air quality and environmental standards.  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 Clean Air Act, which was last amended in 1990, requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (40 CFR part 50) for six principal pollutants (“criteria” air pollutants) which can be harmful to public health and the environment.  The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) “provide public health protection, including protecting the health of ‘sensitive’ populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly”.  My career is based on the presumption that air quality that meets those standards is acceptable.

In order to achieve and maintain air quality that meets the NAAQS the Environmental Protection Agency working with state and local regulatory agencies have developed extensive procedures.  In this instance the important thing to know is that they have been monitoring air quality ever since the Clean Air Act was enacted and they have developed air quality models that can be used to predict ambient concentrations.  Importantly, the numerical models are based on observations and have been verified as being accurate since the Clean Air Act has been enacted.  Using those tools over the years they have a very good understanding of the status of air quality relative to the NAAQS.  According to the EPA nonattainment/maintenance status summary, there are multiple counties that do not attain the NAAQS for ozone and New York County does not meet the coarse particulate matter standard.  Note that all of New York State meets the inhalable particulate NAAQS.  All the other pollutants are in attainment.

Discussion

There is no question that air pollution can cause health effects.  The issue is whether there is a threshold when the health effect is so weak that it can be ignored.  The linear no threshold model (LNT) is a conservative model used to estimate health effects from small doses of radiation. According to the LNT model, “radiation is always considered harmful with no safety threshold, and the sum of several very small exposures are considered to have the same biological risk as one larger exposure (linearity)”. It is being used today to claim health effects for air pollution levels below the NAAQS. 

There is a fundamental problem with this approach for radiological assessments:

The problem is that, at very low doses, it is practically impossible to correlate any irradiation with certain biological effects. This is because the baseline cancer rate is already very high and the risk of developing cancer fluctuates 40% because of individual life style and environmental effects, obscuring the subtle effects of low-level radiation. Therefore, it is very difficult to validate this model.

Because it is so conservative there are consequences.  It assumes that all radiation is bad and that the health effects increases linearly with dose from the threshold of zero.   As a consequence: “The probabilistic nature of stochastic effects and the properties of the LNT model make it impossible to derive a clear distinction between ‘safe’ and ‘dangerous’, and this creates some difficulties in explaining the control of radiation risks.”

Despite those inherent problems the LNT model has been applied to air pollutants too.  Whenever you hear a claim that such and such a regulation will reduce air pollution and there will be some number of reduced health impacts the LNT model of air pollution impacts was used.  This presumes there is no threshold of an effect on an individual.  It extrapolates observed health effects on a population at high concentration down to low concentrations.  When the resulting small impact is multiplied by a large number of individuals then proponents of this approach claim reducing air pollution will result in a quantitative reduced health impact.

I think this is absurd as I will show in this example.  No one questions the fact that prolonged exposure to wood smoke can cause health problems.  I have no doubt that there are health studies that have conclusively shown that at high pollution levels people have contracted cancer.  For the sake of argument assume that the health studies have found that wood smoke at a continuous dose of 100 ppm for one year causes cancer.  The LNT model can be extrapolate that dose response down to 0.00019 ppm per minute.  Using that extrapolation model if 5,256 people sitting around campfires were exposed to the 100-ppm dose for one minute then the LNT models claims one of them will get cancer from that dose.  Anyone who has sat around a campfire probably has been downwind of the smoke and received a dose of wood smoke.  It does not matter what the actual health impact dose response rate is, if you extrapolate that down to the dose of people sitting around a campfire and multiply that by all the people sitting around campfires the LNT model predicts an impact.

Environmental activists combine the LNT model with epidemiological studies of air pollution to contrive health impact benefits particularly for inhalable particulates.  For example, in September, 2011 US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified to Congress that fine particles kill hundreds of thousands of people in America every year, a claim based on EPA epidemiology and extrapolated projections.  However, Enstrom tested the validity of this relationship and found no effect of fine particulates.  Nonetheless, these results have been used for years to justify regulations and legislation.

Conclusion

I do not accept the premise that there isn’t a threshold of acceptable air pollution.  This presumption is behind the cost benefit analysis of most recent EPA air quality regulations.  Now it is being used in New York to justify the legislative phase-out of fossil fuels.  Coupled with the absence of evaluation of the life cycle environmental and economic impacts of fossil fuel alternatives this is a recipe for poor policy.

Fossil Fuel Phase Out Claptrap

Truthout is a nonprofit news organization dedicated to providing independent reporting and commentary on a diverse range of social justice issues.  According to the about description “Truthout works to spark action by revealing systemic injustice and providing a platform for progressive and transformative ideas, through in-depth investigative reporting and critical analysis. With a powerful, independent voice, we will spur transformations in consciousness and inspire both policy change and direct action.”  If the article Fossil Fuel Phase Out Must Begin Where the Industry Has Hurt People the Most is any indicator, however, their platform is based on emotion and not facts.  The alleged problems with peaking power plants and neighborhood power plant impacts on local health are exaggerated and nearly fact free.  The proposed solution is untested and likely to make the lives that they want to improve worse.

I am a retired air pollution meteorologist with over 40 years-experience analyzing the effects of meteorology on electric operations.  While doing consulting work for the Environmental Protection Agency I evaluated air quality model performance and later worked at a utility company where I was responsible for ambient monitoring networks in the vicinity of power plants and evaluating their air quality impacts.  I have been involved with peaking power plants in particular for over 20 years both from a compliance reporting standpoint and also evaluation of impacts and options for those sources.  This background served me well preparing this post.  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 article is prefaced with a note that “this story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story”.  The author is Leanna First-Arai. “a freelance journalist who covers environmental and climate (in)justice. Her work has appeared in Undark, Sierra Magazine, Yes! Magazine, Outside Magazine, on New England Public Radio and elsewhere”.

The Fossil Fuel Phase Out Must Begin Where the Industry Has Hurt People the Most article describes the claims made in the recently released Fossil Fuel End Game report that I described here.  The basic premise is that New York City peaking power plants only operate a limited days per year, they are usually old and dirty plants located in disadvantaged communities, and they received around $5 billion to keep running in the last decade.  Therefore, they should be the first fossil plants to be replaced by clean energy.

I have been following this peaking power plant initiative for about a year and summarized my work here.  This article is the latest iteration of advocacy releases based on the Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers (PSE) for Healthy Energy report Opportunities for Replacing Peaker Plants with Energy Storage in New York StateI discussed the PSE report last year and the PEAK Coalition report entitled: “Dirty Energy, Big Money” in two detailed technical posts.  The first post provided information on the primary air quality problem associated with these facilities, the organizations behind the report, the State’s response to date, the underlying issue of environmental justice and addressed the motivation for the analysis.  The second post addressed the rationale and feasibility of the proposed plan relative to environmental effects, affordability, and reliability. 

Oswego Harbor Power Plant

In order to show that this article is based on emotion and not facts consider the description and allegation related to the Oswego Harbor Power Plant.  In this section I have annotated (indented and italicized) my comments after each sentence from the relevant paragraph in the article.

Residents living within a one-mile radius of the Oswego Harbor Power Plant, one of only a handful of such plants left in Upstate New York, are ranked in the 99th percentile for incidence of heart attacks, based on an analysis of New York State Health Department data by the nonprofit research institute Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE).

The insinuation here is that the residents within one-mile of the power plant have a high rate of heart attacks because of the power plant. 

The 73-year-old plant only went online six times in 2018 (the most recent year for which data are available).

There is a description of the plant in a US Army Corps of Engineers harbor infrastructure report that explains that there are two 850 MW units in operation and in service since 1975 – 46 years not 73.  The older units have been retired since before the turn of the century. The units burn residual oil that is stored on-site.  At the time of their construction residual oil was cheaper than coal and for many years residual oil was cheaper than natural gas so the units ran a lot in the late 1980’s.  The fuel price differential no longer supports the use of residual oil.  However, in times of great need the facility can generate 1,700 MW of dispatchable power without regard to weather-caused outages.

 The EPA Clean Air Markets Program Database provides data for the most recent quarter within 45 days so more recent data are available than claimed.  Table 1 lists annual data through 2020.  The important point in the context of this discussion is that emissions from the plant are minimal which is not surprising because of the short operating times.

 Table 1: Oswego Harbor Power Annual Emissions and Operations Data

Unit IDYear Operating Time Gross Load SO2 NOx CO2
  (Hours)(MW-h)(tons)(tons)(tons)
520169218,071442417,309
6201614623,212632423,659
520179219,132452517,426
6201714122,678562320,811
5201818626,025683225,075
6201816526,600652423,976
520199515,394371914,225
6201924023,600582522,407
5202024926,736693426,760
6202012523,906622521,024

But if residents suspect hazier-than-usual skies, no federal air quality data exists to help make sense of the short-lived plume of pollution, as the closest Environmental Protection Agency monitors are 40 and 70 miles away, respectively, in Syracuse and Rochester.

The insinuation that the DEC, EPA and owner of the plant know nothing about the plume of pollution is completely baseless.  The author clearly knows nothing about air quality regulations, air quality meteorology, or the Oswego Harbor plant.  The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is responsible for maintaining air quality that meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standard limits under the guidance of EPA.  They do that by monitoring near emission sources and modeling facility emissions to estimate air quality impacts. 

 At this time there are no DEC air monitoring stations closer than Rochester and Syracuse.  EPA does not monitor air quality in New York.  However, that does not mean that there never was any air quality monitoring closer to the plant.  I know because I as responsible for submitting the data from the network around the Oswego plant.  After several years of not measuring any exceedances from the power plant DEC and EPA agreed that it was no longer necessary to run the monitoring network and it was retired by 1990.   At one time most, if not all power plants, had monitoring networks but one of two things happened.  If, like at Oswego, no measurements indicating problems were found then the networks were retired.  If problems were found then the emission limits were changed for the facility until the monitoring found that there were no problems.  Also note that these data were used to verify that the air quality models used to predict ambient levels near the plants were correct.  Under contract to EPA, I did that verification work using those data sets and later also compared the Oswego Harbor plant modeled impacts to observations.  That work proved that the models correctly characterize nearby air quality.

 It is not surprising that the modeling never showed anything approaching an exceedance of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards or that the highest observed monitored concentrations were accompanied with the smell of chocolate from the Nestles plant that was located in the opposite direction.  The stacks at Oswego are 700’ high and the plume rise from the hot gases pushes the plume higher.  As a result, the pollution plume is nowhere near the ground within a mile of the plant. 

The insinuated claim that the Oswego Harbor Power Plant is somehow associated with local high incidents of heart attacks is unsubstantiated.  The article states that the plant only ran six times in 2018 and the data show it only ran 352 hours so it was online for less than three days at a time.  Present operations are about 1% of the operating times and rates as in 1988 when the monitoring network that showed the plant did not adversely affect air quality.  If I had to guess why there is a high rate of heart attacks my money would be on the fact that Oswego is in the lake-effect snow belt and when it snows, it snows a lot.  Snow removal is a notorious cause of heart attacks.

Peaking Power Plant Replacements

The author and the advocates quoted in the article are unaware of the fundamental problem with the PSE report Opportunities for Replacing Peaker Plants with Energy Storage in New York State.  PSE defined peaking power plants by their current time of operation not by their design capabilities.  The Oswego Harbor Power Plant is the best example of this problem.  The plant was designed to provide base load power when it was thought that residual oil would continue to be a cost-effective fuel.  The two 850 MW units operated well when that was true but with today’s fuel costs it only offers support to system as backup capacity.  There are three nuclear plants within ten miles of the facility and if there is a problem with those units then the power plant can step in to replace their output.  For example, in the 2004 blackout Nuclear Regulatory Commission operating rules required the nuclear units to go offline and the Oswego Harbor Power Plant was called on to support the system until the nuclear units were allowed to go back online.  The units also come online when loads are very high and all power generation is needed.  There are other power plants in New York that operate much less than they were designed to operate that fulfill similar reliability needs.

The PSE report claims that all of the plants that they claim are peakers can be replaced by renewable energy and storage.  The problem with that is that their definition is based solely on operating times and does not consider the capabilities of the peaking units.  The New York electric system has more stringent rules than Texas.  In the wake of the blackouts last February, Texas is wrestling with how to prevent similar problems in the future by asking should power generators be required to guarantee that they can provide a certain amount of electricity?  New York’s response to this issue includes capacity payments to Oswego Harbor Power for 1700 MW of power six times a year.  This resource is dedicated to that need and can provide that capability because the capital investments necessary have already been paid, even though the fuel is relatively expensive it provides concentrated energy capable of 1700 MW, and the costs to maintain that much power capability are relatively low. 

The first problem with the PSE report claims that the steam turbine units like Oswego that provide peak capacity support can be replaced by renewable energy and storage is that the capital cost to develop enough energy storage to replace all those units has to be paid for a rarely used resource.  A major reason that New York’s capacity payments are as low as they are is because the resources needed to meet New York’s requirements has paid off those costs.  Replacing those facilities with anything will be much more expensive.  The second problem is that the renewable and energy storage approach proposed has never been implemented at the scale needed for New York’s electric resource requirements.  Replacing a system that has worked for decades with unproven technology could very well lead to reliability issues as the system is de-bugged.

Conclusion

All these analyses vilify peaking power plants oblivious to their value to the grid.  The PSE study estimated that they received around $5 billion in the last decade but only ran less than 5% of the time.  The New York electrical system pays for these units to provide capacity and ancillary services so that the electric system can reliably provide power when it is needed most.  The Texas energy system does not have a similar policy in place.  While Texas average prices are lower than New York prices their system is vulnerable to blackouts when peaking power is unavailable.  Simply put, New York peaking power plants are an insurance policy to prevent Texas-style blackouts.  The February 2021 Texas blackouts caused dozens of deaths and tens of billions of dollars in damages.  The New York peaking power plant insurance policy looks like a good deal to me.

Another big driver in the vilification of peaking power plants is the claim that they adversely affect air quality in neighboring disadvantaged communities. However, I don’t think that the PSE approach made a convincing case that the peaking power plants are a primary driver of environmental burdens on neighboring communities.  My primary objection to this claim is that the health effects attributed to peaking power plants are based on air quality impacts from ozone and particulate matter.  However, ozone is a secondary air pollutant and the vast majority of ambient PM2.5 from power plants is also a secondary pollutant.  As a result, there is enough of a lag between the time emissions are released and creation of either ozone or PM2.5, that the impact is away from the adjoining neighborhoods.  That means that the accused peaking power plants do not create the air quality impact problems alleged to occur to the environmental justice communities located near the plants.  In fact, because NOx scavenges ozone the peaker plants reduce local ozone if they have any effect at all.

The claims that peaking power plants are dangers to neighboring environmental justice communities are based on emotion.  The existing simple cycle peaking turbines in New York City are old, inefficient and much dirtier than a new facility and clearly should be replaced.  However, they reliably produce affordable power when needed most. Importantly regulations are now in place that ensure that they are retired or that their pollution control equipment is upgraded on a schedule that guarantees in-kind replacement of capacity and ancillary services.   In order to maintain existing levels of affordability and reliability I think it is best to rely on a proven solution using fossil fuels.  The solar plus energy storage approach advocated by PSE and the PEAK Coalition will likely increase costs significantly if it works.  I cannot over-emphasize the fact that it may not work because wind, solar, and energy storage is not a proven technology on the scale necessary to provide New York City’s peaking power requirements.  Sadly, in the rush to prove politically correct credentials this unproven technology may be chosen despite the risks to power reliability.  It is the height of hubris that the New York legislature has pending bills to over-ride the reliability planning process and existing environmental regulations without including a feasibility study to define the wind, solar and energy storage resources needed, the technological readiness of those resources at the scale needed and the costs of that approach.

Finally, I do not disagree with the premise that disproportionate environmental risks to disadvantaged communities need to be addressed.  However, that goal has limits.  First, and foremost, it simply is not good policy to expect the removal of all environmental impacts.  For example, a replacement state-of-the-art natural gas fired combustion turbine that reduces existing impacts substantially should be an acceptable choice because it provides a proven affordable solution and reduces well-known impacts.  The proposed alternative of renewable energy and energy storage is unproven technology at the scale needed, is costly when the cost to provide uninterruptable power is considered, and could very well lead to worse overall environmental impacts especially when the effects of the rare earth metals needed for those resources is included.  The result is there is a high likelihood of problems with affordability, reliability, and environmental impacts due to the implementation of the proposed solution.  If those problems occur then the disadvantaged communities that these advocates want to protect will be disproportionately impacted.  I don’t think that the advocates understand that those impacts could be worse than the problems that they want addressed.

Community and Climate Investment Act Climate Pollution Fee

In the spring of 2021, the New York state Senate introduced the Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA).  Coming on the heels of the Texas energy debacle one might think that politicians would not propose any changes to energy and environmental laws until the causes of that disaster were understood or would at least make implementation contingent upon feasibility studies to determine if the ambitious goals of this legislation don’t risk a similar outcome in New York. Such is not the case, however as I will show in this post

I have written extensively about implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) because I believe it will adversely affect affordability and reliability as well as create more environmental harm than good. The CCIA will make those impacts worse.  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 sponsor memo for this proposed regulation lists specific provisions in the proposed legislation.   I prepared an annotated version of the draft bill that includes internal links to the sections of the bill corresponding to those provisions.  The summary of Senate Bill S4264A states:

Enacts the climate and community investment act; prioritizes the allocation of public investments in disadvantaged communities; addresses climate change challenges through the expansion and growth of clean and renewable energy sources; adopts best value requirements for the solicitation, evaluation and award of renewable energy projects;  establishes a community just transition program; establishes a climate pollution fee and a household and small business energy rebate; and creates the climate and community investment authority.

This article discusses the climate pollution fee which is another name for carbon pricing.  In theory, this supposedly measures the cost of the accumulated damage for centuries to come from emitting a ton of carbon dioxide today.  According to Resources for the Future (RFF), carbon pricing is a climate policy approach that works by charging industrial sources for the tons of emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) they emit.  The problem is that there is a large gap between the elegant theory of carbon pricing described by RFF and real world carbon pricing.  In theory applying a carbon price across the globe on all sectors could incentivize the market to find the most efficient solution to provide energy at the lowest cost and not unduly affect the public by using the revenues to replace existing taxes.  The reality of the CCIA climate pollution fee proposed is that it is in one limited area with the funding going to special interests. As a result, tt is a regressive tax and a prescription for potential leakage and misapplied price signals.

The CLCPA mandated that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) stablish a value of carbon.  At the end of 2020 DEC published this guidance document.  The Value of Carbon Guidance provides values for carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide for use by State agencies along with recommended guidelines for the use of these and other values by State entities. The guidance Value of Carbon Guidance  document summarizes the methodology and rationale.  The recommended values are provided in the Appendix: Social Cost Values. The CCIA legislation shows no sign that the months long CLCPA process to develop an appropriate system for valuing carbon was considered, much less incorporated.

Discussion

In order to address the recognized problems of a climate or carbon pollution fee in just New York, the proposed regulation includes a border carbon adjustment fee.  The fee applies to any carbon-based fuel sold, used or brought in the state by an applicable entity.  Consequently, the logistical requirements to calculate border adjustments is a big effort. 

The premise of a climate pollution fee is that it will incorporate the future cost to society of CO2 emissions today.  The DEC Value of Carbon guidance bases its recommendations upon the work of the Federal Integrated Working Group (IWG) social costs of carbon.  Dr. David Kreutzer explains that:

Estimating the social cost of carbon is susceptible to political pressure and model-gaming. The assumptions in play—about unsupportable time horizons, exaggerated emissions projections, overly high estimates of carbon dioxide’s impact on warming, and others—are all too easily corrupted, resulting in wildly varying estimations.

In fact, reasonable assumptions can push the social cost of carbon negative (which implies that a policy of subsidies for carbon dioxide emissions is the answer). However, the single input that has the most potential to overstate the social cost of carbon is understating the discount rate.  The constant pressure to justify ever lower discount rates for social cost of carbon calculations is almost comical when it mistakes wealth for poverty.

It is worth noting that the DEC Value of Carbon guidance did not follow the IWG recommendation for the discount rate recommended choosing instead to pick a lower value.  The CCIA fee appears to use the IWG recommended discount rate of 3%.

The fee calculation methodology is complicated.  The price is adjusted by year and a newly defined environmental integrity metric.  That metric adjusts the price based on the state’s reductions relative to a defined trajectory.  For example, the 2021 statewide GHG emission target is set at 85% of the 2018 GHG emissions.  DEC has not released its draft emission inventory for years since 1990 but my money is on an increase since 2018 simply because the State closed down 1,070 MW of nuclear capacity in 2020 and is closing another 1,080 MW of nuclear capacity this year.  I estimate that the power needed to replace those facilities will generate over 8,000,000 tons of CO2.  The CLCPA Climate Action Council process is underway and I believe is charged with determining the appropriate reduction schedule.  It is very likely that the schedule in the proposed law will not be consistent with the CLCPA recommendation.

I have given up trying to figure out how the environmental integrity metric will affect the price because of its complexity.  Without a lot more work I cannot determine how the five-year metric using cumulative actual and target emission reductions could affect the differing adjustments to the carbon pollution fee.  My impression is that the methodology and values chosen will ensure that the maximum increase (10%) of the climate pollution fee is inevitable.

The last statewide GHG emissions inventory developed by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority estimated that the total emissions in 2016 were 377 million metric tons of CO2e.  Assuming that emissions will be the same in 2022 when the proposed legislation starts applying the fee the annual fee will be over $16 billion.  The annual adjustments keep the fees about the same for five years or so but then the reductions in emissions reduce the fees collected.  Obviously when all the GHG emissions have been eliminated the fee will also be eliminated. 

My biggest problem with this proposed legislation is mandates for specific information that is already available elsewhere.  In order to determine the tax levy, the emissions must be known.  The regulation includes a section for the calculation of emission factors which when combined with electricity production data can be used to estimate emissions.  This is a flawed approach for those facilities that actually monitor and report their emissions.  Direct measurements are a more accurate methodology than this approach.  Moreover, the DEC and NYSERDA already have a process in place to calculate emissions.  Importantly, the New York Independent System Operator has proposed a carbon pricing scheme that includes a methodology to estimate emissions for its fees.  Both systems are incompatible with this law.

There is a section for exemptions and deductions.  In order to prevent double payments a source affected by 6 NYCRR Part 242 (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) can deduct “the amount it paid to purchase CO2 emission allowances”.  Exemptions for de minimis quantities of emissions are also allowed.

Emissions leakage refers to a situation where a policy in one jurisdiction moves the emissions out of that jurisdiction to a less restrictive one such that the total emissions are not actually reduced.  The CCIA law includes a mitigation policy that calls for studies of ways to reduce this effect.  Leakage has been a concern in the CLCPA implementation process so the scoping plan recommending policy measures to prevent emissions leakage is redundant except for the fact that the CLCPA evaluation has not included an explicit cost like the $16 billion annual CCIA fee.

The legislation creates funds within the authority including 33% for the “community just transition fund”, 30% for the “climate jobs and infrastructure fund”, 30% for the “low-income and small business and household energy rebate fund”, and 7% for the “worker community assurance fund”. 

Finally, the climate pollution fee includes a requirement for report on the implementation of the fund.  The report is supposed to include the total revenues, the effectiveness of the fee to reduce GHG emissions, the amount of leakage, and overviews of the benefits and costs.

Conclusion

Dr. Steven McKitrick evaluated carbon pricing policies in Canada and explained that “there may be many reasons to recommend carbon pricing as climate policy, but if it is implemented without diligently abiding by the principles that make it work, it will not work as planned, and the harm to the Canadian economy could well outweigh the benefits created by reducing our country’s already negligible level of global CO2 emissions”.  This is entirely analogous to New York and the CCIA.   Importantly he notes:

However, a beneficial outcome is not guaranteed: certain rules must be observed in order for carbon pricing to have its intended effect of achieving the optimal balance between emission reduction and economic growth. First and foremost, carbon pricing only works in the absence of any other emission regulations. If pricing is layered on top of an emission-regulating regime already in place (such as emission caps or feed-in-tariff programs), it will not only fail to produce the desired effects in terms of emission rationing, it will have distortionary effects that cause disproportionate damage in the economy. Carbon taxes are meant to replace all other climate-related regulation, while the revenue from the taxes should not be funnelled into substitute goods, like renewable power (pricing lets the market decide which of those substitutes are worth funding) but returned directly to taxpayers.

The CCIA violates all these rules.  New York has emissions regulations for Part 242 and the CLCPA that both mandate specific reductions.  The revenue from the climate pollution fees won’t even be used to support renewable energy development and only a small fraction will be returned to ratepayers.  This is simply a regressive tax that will dis-proportionally adversely affect those it purports to want to help.

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Lesson from the German Energiewende

The German Energiewende (“energy transition”) is often touted as an example for the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).  I agree but, as explained in a recent article Daniel Wetzel at German national daily Die Welt, the attempt to transition to green energy has shown that there are significant problems using today’s technology.

I have summarized the schedule, implementation components, and provide links to the legislation itself at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have written extensively in posts on implementation of the CLCPA because I  believe it will adversely affect affordability and reliability as well as create more environmental harm than good which affects my future as a New Yorker.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulations, listed the scoping plan strategies, summarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and 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.

According to Clean Energy Wire’s guide to the Energiewende, “Germany’s experience offers valuable insights and can serve as an example on how to wean a major economy off fossil fuels, even for countries with their own unique conditions and challenges”.   However, a German Government Audit report warns that the Energiewende is causing higher costs, and that there is a real danger of electricity shortfalls.  Pierre Goslin summarizes the report in “Explosive” German Government Audit Report: “Energiewende” Has Become “A Danger to all Germany”.

Goslin reports:

The “Energiewende” (transition to green energies) has seen Germany recklessly rush into wildly fluctuating wind and solar energy without properly planning the grave impacts they would have on the power supply grid and prices.

The German auditors had already voiced harsh criticism three years earlier in another special report, whose main focus had been on the high cost of the Energiewende. The latest report now also includes “an explosive analysis” on power supply instability and the high probability of power shortfalls.

The report finds that not only have the costs spiraled out of control, but that the German federal government “does not have a sufficient view of the emerging, real dangers to the security of supply” and that “ever higher electricity prices” are to be feared in the current system.

German electricity are among the highest in the world, and there is still no end in sight for the cost spiral. One study found that another whopping 525 billon euros will be needed by 2025 to upgrade the power grid, according to Die Welt.

The development of green energies in Germany has gotten so bad that the Federal Audit Office sees the risk the Energiewende could “endanger Germany as a business location and overburden the financial sustainability of electricity-consuming companies and private households.”  “This can then ultimately jeopardize the social acceptance of the energy transition,” warned Scheller.

Die Welt characterizes the Government Audit report as “explosive” and a long overdue wake-up call. The auditors accuse the federal government of not having properly taken into account the consequences of the coal phase-out, making assumptions that seem “unrealistic or are outdated by current political and economic developments” and making overly optimistic assumptions on the future available wind and sun.

Advocates for the CLCPA believe that wind and solar provide an economic way to transition off fossil fuels.  David Wojick recently published an article that succinctly explains why that approach why one factor makes that a false assumption: the Minimum Backup Requirement (MBR).  Wojick explains that “The minimum backup requirement is how much generating capacity a system must have if it is to reliably produce the electricity we need when wind and solar don’t.”  I have written about this issue but was unable to simply describe it this well.

Michel at the Trust, yet Verify blog evaluated the potential effect of increased electricity production from intermittent energy sources in a post using a simple solar and wind capacity increase data analysis model and found that in Belgium in enormous amounts of over-building are required to cover periods with low wind and solar.  With help from Michel we did a similar analysis for New York and I found that even with unrealistic assumptions about the “best case” availability of solar and wind capacity, there are periods with significant deficits. In order to prove the extraordinary claim that solar and wind can replace existing fossil the State of New York, a similar type of analysis using actual data to estimate realistic energy production must be done. That is the only way to provide the extraordinary proof showing just how much energy storage will be required to prevent deficits.

Conclusion

The Government Audit report accuses the federal government of making assumptions that seem “unrealistic or are outdated by current political and economic developments” and making overly optimistic assumptions on the future availability of wind and sun available.  The draft plans for the CLCPA are going down that same path.  I believe the German results will also occur in New York.

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Off-shore Wind Resiliency

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency. 

The CLCPA was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation but there is one massive flaw.  The lawmakers who enacted this law presumed that the transition of the state’s energy system could be implemented by political will so did not include feasibility conditions in the targets or schedules.  This post is a short description of one aspect of the many implementation problems of this law.

I have summarized the schedule, implementation components, and provide links to the legislation itself at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.  I have written extensively in posts on implementation of the CLCPA because I  believe it will adversely affect affordability and reliability as well as create more environmental harm than good which affects my future as a New Yorker.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulations, listed the scoping plan strategies, summarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and 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.

One of the targets of the CLCPA is to develop 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035.  This is considered necessary because off-shore wind has a higher resource availability.  Importantly this is just the start of what is accepted as a much larger offshore wind capacity that eventually will be needed for the ultimate goal of a net-zero emissions economy in New York in 2050.  For example, the Brattle Group analysis for the NYISO, New York’s Evolution to a Zero Emission Power System, estimates that 25,000 MW of offshore wind will be needed in 2040.  This article considers resiliency of the offshore wind capacity needed for the CLCPA.

Tony Heller writing at  Real Climate Science does an amazing job digging up newspaper accounts of past weather events like this description of the “Greatest Cataclysm in American History”.   In that article he uses newspaper archives and other contemporaneous accounts to describe the extreme weather on March 27, 1913 when there was widespread flooding in Indiana and Ohio, a massive tornado hit Omaha, NE, and tornadic storms ranged east into Pennsylvania.  One can only imagine the hysterical cries of climate change impacts if this situation were to repeat itself today. 

I think that comparing the weather of the past to today is important to understand that natural variability causes most of the observed extreme weather observed.  Historical weather observations should also be used to evaluate plans for the future.  If we cannot plan for the past then we shouldn’t even try to plan for the future.  Heller recently described a 2014 report from the Swiss Reinsurance (Swiss Re) Company titled “The Big One, the East Coast’s USD 100 billion hurricane event” that is the impetus of this post.  In the report Swiss Re examines how the 1821 Norfolk and Long Island hurricane would impact the region today. 

The Swiss Re report’s introduction describes the storm:

Nearly 200 years ago, a powerful hurricane decimated the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast United States. Packing wind gusts of over 156 miles per hour, the Norfolk Long Island Hurricane of 1821 surged up the Eastern Seaboard creating chaos and wreaking havoc from the Outer Banks of North Carolina all the way up to the Boston metropolitan area. If this hurricane was measured by today’s standards, it would be a strong Category 4 storm — unlike anything the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast have recently seen or experienced.

In comparison, Hurricane Sandy, with its unique track, 1,000-mile-wide wind field, and low central pressure, pushed record-breaking storm surge into the New York and New Jersey coasts, destroying businesses, homes, and lives in a short 24-hour period. But for all the devastation and damage that Hurricane Sandy brought, its intensity at landfall, measured by 1-minute maximum sustained winds, was equivalent to a weak Category 1 hurricane. Other events in recent years (Irene, Isabel, Gloria, and Bob), while significant, weakened prior to landfall, coming onshore as either Category 1 or Category 2 hurricanes, and not the major hurricanes originally anticipated and feared.

The report states that “If the 1821 Hurricane were to happen today, it would cause 50% more damage than Sandy and potentially cause more than $100 billion in property losses stemming from storm surge and wind damage.”  I had never heard of this storm but I knew about the “Great Hurricane of 1938” which decimated Long Island and New England leaving over 700 dead.  The question is how would a hurricane similar to these storms New York’s proposed offshore wind facilities.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Offshore Wind Projects site describes the current status of the program to reach the 9,000 MW target by 2035.  As of early 2021 there are five offshore wind projects in active development.  The following figure from the website shows where the projects from the first two offshore wind procurements are located.

I wondered whether a storm with the same track as the 1821 and 1938 hurricanes would affect these locations. The Swiss Re report reconstructed the storm track and wind field for the 1821 hurricane:

The New York City National Weather Service has a web page describing the Great Hurricane of 1938 that includes a wind field map developed by Dr. Isaac Ginis at the University of Rhode Island:

The answer to my question whether a storm similar to the 1821 and 1938 hurricanes would affect the five offshore wind projects is unequivocally yes.  The Forward of the Swiss Re report makes an important point regarding this threat:

It’s been two years since Hurricane Sandy reminded us that the Northeast United States is vulnerable to hurricanes, and for those still recovering from the storm’s aftermath, the trauma of the hurricane continues. Yet despite Sandy being the third largest hurricane loss on record, the majority of New York, New Jersey, and other Northeast residents did not experience how devastating a hurricane could be. For many of us Sandy is little more than a distant memory of a temporary inconvenience.

In the months following Sandy many experts told us that Hurricane Sandy was a very unusual event. It was unusual in terms of its westward storm track, its interaction with the jet stream, the high tide, and how it intermingled with the continental weather systems. They tell us that the probability of a similar storm taking the same perpendicular track as Sandy is at least one in 500 years.

Once in 500 years is misleading. Although Sandy was unusual in a meteorological sense, it wasn’t a particularly intense storm and lacked the widespread high winds and rainfall that can occur with a Northeast hurricane. It’s highly unlikely that we will see a hurricane with the same characteristics as Sandy. However it’s very likely (1 in 50 years) that we will see, and in fact, have seen, other hurricanes in the Northeast that would have caused economic damages equal to or greater than those caused by Hurricane Sandy if they were to occur today. Sandy is a harsh reminder of what greater event potentially awaits us.

Conclusion

The official story is that renewable energy like offshore wind will be more diversified and resilient than the current electrical system. Different types of fuels at existing power plants truly provide a redundant and flexible power system that can provide reliable electricity when needed.  In contrast wind and solar power which are utterly dependent upon the vagaries of weather cannot be called flexible and certainly are not dependable without additional energy storage and grid support services that markedly increase the cost.  The claim that wind and solar are less prone to massive outages is absurd given that every night with calm winds causes an outage of both of these generating resources.  

Unfortunately, resiliency in the event of extreme weather is an even bigger problem. There is no question that a hurricane with stronger winds than Sandy will go through the area where New York is developing offshore wind.  The fact that two hurricanes with winds well over 100 mph have passed over New York’s offshore wind development areas should be a major concern.  I worry that New York will invest billions in these resources, get to a point where they are necessary for reliability only to see one storm come through and knock out the resource for an extended period. 

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Environmental Justice Tradeoffs

On January 11, 2021 the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) Generation Advisory Panel met as part of the Climate Action Council Scoping Plan development process.  During that meeting one discussion considered the health effects of New York City peaking power plants on environmental justice communities.  The CLCPA process focus on this problem needs to consider the impacts of the solutions proposed as alternatives.

On July 18, 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the CLCPA which establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  I have written extensively on implementation of the CLCPA closely because its implementation affects my future as a New Yorker.  I have described the law in general, evaluated its feasibility, estimated costs, described supporting regulations, listed the scoping plan strategies, summarized some of the meetings and complained that its advocates constantly confuse weather and 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.

Background

The January 11, 2021 the Generation Advisory Panel notes document the discussion about New York City peaking power plants.  Following the publication of the  Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers (PSE) for Healthy Energy report Opportunities for Replacing Peaker Plants with Energy Storage in New York State last summer, these plants became a touchstone for environmental justice issues in New York City.  I discussed how the analysis was used in the PEAK Coalition report entitled: “Dirty Energy, Big Money”.  In another post provided information on the primary air quality problem associated with these facilities, the Peak Coalition organizations, the State’s response to date, the underlying issue of environmental justice and addressed the motivation for the analysis.  A second post addressed the rationale and feasibility of the proposed plan relative to environmental effects, affordability, and reliability.  All three reports were also summarized.

Since the Power Generation Advisory Panel meeting, I prepared a post explaining that the Peak Coalition analysis of peaking plants misses the point of peaking plants and their environmental impacts.  The claimed air quality health impacts are from ozone and inhalable particulates.  Both are secondary pollutants that are not directly emitted by the peaking power plants so do not affect local communities as alleged.  On the other hand, the proposed solutions have much greater health impacts than the air quality problems that are present in New York City’s environmental justice communities.

NYC PM2.5

I prepared a post specifically on New York City PM2.5 because the primary public health reference in the PEAK Coalition report was the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Air Pollution and the Health of New Yorkers report.  The PEAK coalition description of air quality public health impacts quotes the conclusion from the DOHMOH report: “Each year, PM2.5 pollution in [New York City] causes more than 3,000 deaths, 2,000 hospital admissions for lung and heart conditions, and approximately 6,000 emergency department visits for asthma in children and adults.”  These conclusions are for average air pollution levels in New York City as a whole over the period 2005-2007.

In my analysis I found that the DOHMOH report claimed that:

Even a feasible, modest reduction (10%) in PM2.5 concentrations could prevent more than 300 premature deaths, 200 hospital admissions and 600 emergency department visits. Achieving the PlaNYC goal of “cleanest air of any big city” would result in even more substantial public health benefits.

It is rarely noted by environmental activists that PM2.5 air quality has improved markedly since 1999 mostly because of national reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions.  The NYS DEC air quality monitoring system has operated a PM2.5 monitor at the Botanical Garden in New York City since 1999 so I compared the data from that site for the same period as this analysis relative to the most recent data available (Data from Figure 4. Baseline annual average PM2.5 levels in New York City). The Botanical Garden site had an annual average PM2.5 level of 13 µg/m3 for the same period as the report’s 13.9 µg/m3 “current conditions” city-wide average (my estimate based on their graph).  The important thing to note is that the latest available average (2016-2018) for a comparable three-year average at the Botanical Garden is 8.1 µg/m3 which represents a 38% decrease.  That is substantially lower than the PlaNYC goal of “cleanest air of any big city” scenario at an estimated city-wide average of 10.9 µg/m3.

Note that in DOHMOH Table 5 the annual health events for the 10% reduction and “cleanest” city scenarios are shown as changes not as the total number of events listed for the current level scenario.  My modified table (Modified Table 5. Annual health events attributable to citywide PM2 5 level) converts those estimates to totals so that the numbers are directly comparable.  I excluded the confidence interval information because I don’t know how to convert them in this instance. I estimated the health impact improvements due to the observed reductions in PM2.5 as shown in the last three columns in the modified table.  I estimate that using the DOHMOH methodology the observed reduction in PM2.5 concentrations prevented nearly 1,300 premature deaths, 800 hospital admissions and 2,400 emergency department visits. It is important to note that New York’s power generation fleet cannot do much more to continue these health improvements simply because the emissions are so low now tht comparable emission reductions are not possible.  In any event the peaker units in the city don’t contribute to these secondary pollutant impacts.

Environmental Justice Hypocritical Tradeoffs

The apparent preferred option to fossil-fired power plants is to use energy storage ultimately powered using renewables. Energy storage, wind generation and solar generation technology all require rare earth metals found in terrestrial rocks in infinitesimal amounts which have superb magnetic, catalytic and optical properties needed for these resources.  Therein lies an environmental justice problem unless it is addressed in the CLCPA process..

French journalist and documentary filmmaker Guillaume Pitron has been following the global trade in rare earth metals. Unfortunately, mining these materials come with heavy environmental and social costs. Mining generates massive amounts of polluted wastewater, which left untreated, poisons crops and makes people sick. Guillaume documents these issues in his 2018 book “Rare Metals War’.  Recently his work was summarized in the article “Toxic secrets behind your mobile phone: Electric cars, wind turbines and solar panels… how our so-called green world depends on the mining of rare metals which is a filthy, amoral industry totally dominated by China”.

 

Pitron explains that he visited the Weikuang Dam – an artificial lake into which metallic intestines regurgitate torrents of black water from the nearby refineries. He looked ten square kilometres of toxic effluent.  He went to a village called Dalahai on another side of the artificial lake. Here, the thousands of inhabitants breathe in the toxic discharge of the reservoir as well as eating produce, such as corn and buckwheat, grown in it.  What he found was a real environmental nightmare:

Cancer affects the local population and many villagers have died. The hair of young men barely aged 30 has suddenly turned white. Children grow up without developing any teeth.

One villager, a 54-year-old called Li Xinxia, confided in me despite knowing it’s a dangerous subject. He said: ‘There are a lot of sick people here. Cancer, strokes, high blood pressure… almost all of us are affected. We are in a grave situation. They did some tests and our village was nicknamed “the cancer village”. We know the air we breathe is toxic and that we don’t have that much longer to live.’

The provincial authorities offered villagers compensation to relocate but these farming folk were reluctant to move to high-rise flats in a neighbouring town.

In short, it is a disaster area.

When you consider the immense effort necessary to produce these rare earth metals for batteries I believe it is hypocritical to demand replacement of fossil-fired power plants without considering the environmental impacts of its alternatives.  In the case of New York City power plants, the health impacts associated with the power plants are statistical creations whereas the health impacts of rare earth metal extraction are incontrovertible acute impacts.  While there still is room for improvement in New York, no children are growing up without developing teeth.

Conclusion

One of the fundamental problems with any Greenhouse Gas emission reduction program is leakage.  Pollution leakage refers to the situation where a pollution reduction policy simply moves the pollution around the globe rather than actually reducing it. Similarly, economic leakage is a problem where the increased costs inside the control area leads to business leaving for non-affected areas.  There also is an economic leakage effect in electric systems where a carbon policy in one jurisdiction may affect the dispatch order and increase costs to consumers in another jurisdiction.  I also submit that environmental impact leakage where efforts to reduce much greater impacts are the result elsewhere.

The CLCPA specifically mandates that emissions inventories for the energy sector include 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.  However, because the replacement renewable energy resources are dependent upon rare earth metals there is a large environmental problem associated with their deployment.  It is hypocritical for the CLCPA to demand lifecycle analyses of one aspect of energy development but not all others.  Therefore, the implementation process should demand ethically sourced rare earth metals be used for batteries, wind energy, and solar energy.

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act CLCPA Agriculture and Forestry Advisory Panel Strategies Comments

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) became effective on January 1, 2020 and establishes targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable electricity production, and improving energy efficiency.  The law mandated the formation of the Climate Action Council to prepare a scoping plan to outline strategies to meet the targets.  This is one of a series of posts describing aspects of that process.  This post is my reaction to the Agriculture and Forestry Advisory Panel’s initial strategies.

I am very concerned about the impacts of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) on energy system reliability and affordability.  There are very few advocates for the typical citizen of New York who has very little idea about the implications of the CLCPA on energy costs and personal choices. I am a retired electric utility meteorologist with nearly 40-years-experience analyzing the effects of meteorology on electric operations. I believe that gives me a relatively unique background to consider the potential quantitative effects of energy policies based on doing something about climate change.  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

I have described the implementation requirements in a stand-alone document.  In brief, The CLCPA mandates that a scoping plan outlining the recommendations for attaining the statewide greenhouse gas emissions shall be prepared and approved by December 31, 2021.  The Climate Action Council and seven advisory panels, transportation, energy intensive and trade-exposed industries, land-use and local government, energy efficiency and housing, power generation, waste, and agriculture and forestry consisting of political appointees and supported by agency staff are charged with this responsibility.  Since the formation of the panels in the middle of 2020 they have been holding meetings and preparing strategies.  Each advisory panel is expected to “Identify a range of emissions reductions, consistent with analysis and in consultation with the Climate Action Council, for the sector which contributes to meeting the statewide emission limits.”  They have been asked to present a list of recommendations for emissions reducing policies, programs or actions, for consideration by the Climate Action Council for inclusion in the Scoping Plan and to seek public input to inform the development of recommendations to the Council for consideration.  This post describes the comments that I plan to submit as part of that public process.

General Comments

There are major potential land use and environmental impact ramifications of the CLCPA on agriculture and forest lands.  I believe it is necessary to do a cumulative environmental impact assessment of the Scoping Plan’s projections for wind and solar development and I strongly recommend that this panel work with the land use panel to take the lead in developing a strategy to evaluate those impacts.

At the end of September 2020 the Department of Public Service released the  Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (“CLCPA SGEIS”).  Unfortunately, that analysis only evaluated the 70% reduction by 2030 target and did not even use the latest estimates for the wind and solar developments for that target.  Based on the projections by E3 in their presentation to the Power Generation Advisory Panel on September 16, 2020 and the Analysis Group September 10, 2020  presentation of draft recent observations as part of the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) Climate Change Phase II Study significantly more wind and solar will be required than was analyzed in the CLCPA SGEIS process.  Because the capacity estimates from these analyses and others are so much larger than the latest CLCPA SGEIS estimate I believe that another environmental impact analysis is needed when the Climate Action Council finalizes its Scoping Plan.

I extrapolated results from several projects to estimate the potential cumulative impacts for the extraordinary buildout of wind generation projected by the Analysis Group – 35,200 MW compared to 5,905 MW in the last DPS impact statement that evaluated wind energy cumulative impacts.  If all the wind projects are built on agricultural land, then between 12% and 56% of the agricultural lands will be covered with wind turbines.  Of course, it is more likely that wind turbines will be sited on ridge lines but that will affect forest land use.  Nonetheless that study also projected 39,262 MW of utility scale solar that will have to go somewhere.  It is not just land use that will be affected.  The environmental impacts of this much wind generation could cause the deaths of between 91 and 804 bald eagles a year.

I recommend that the Agriculture and Forestry Advisory Panel develop a strategy that includes preparations for the cumulative analysis of the Scoping Plan recommended wind and solar development.  That process should start soon and determine a threshold for unacceptable environmental impacts.  For example, I am worried about eagles.  If you had told me 30 years ago that I would ever see a Bald Eagle from my home I would have been doubtful.  Now that has occurred and I am not willing to risk that environmental victory for the CLCPA goals.  Because there are a limited number of eagles and their reproduction rates are low, I imagine that wildlife biologists could develop a criterion on the acceptable annual rate of state-wide eagle deaths from wind turbines.  There were 426 occupied bald eagle nest sites in New York in 2017. It is obvious that a more detailed projection of wind turbine impacts on this rare resource is needed.  The ultimate goal should be to refine the NYSERDA  wind power and biodiversity habitat sensitivity maps for the CLCPA resource development planning and siting process.

Comments on Proposed Strategies

The Agriculture and Forestry advisory panel presented 12 strategies in six categories.  It is particularly relevant that the cumulative environmental impacts of all the large-scale renewable energy projects on land use be addressed by this panel.

There were two strategies in the livestock/dairy management category: alternative manure management and precision feed management.  It is not clear to me why these strategies to reduce methane from manure are included because § 75-0109, (2) (b) states “Include legally enforceable emissions limits, performance standards, or measures or other requirements to control emissions from greenhouse gas emission sources, with the exception of agricultural emissions from livestock.”  What is the point of alternative manure management if livestock emissions are exempt?  At the very least accounting for livestock emissions is going to be complicated.  If there are no enforceable emissions limits then should the emissions be included in the inventories?

It appears to me that the strategies in the soil health and nutrient management, nutrient (fertilizer) management and soil carbon sequestration, and agroforestry, silvopasture, alley cropping, and riparian forest buffers, categories are consistent with § 75-0103 (13) (d) “Measures to achieve long-term carbon sequestration and/or promote best management practices in land use, agriculture and forestry”.

I agree that the land conversions category strategies of agricultural protection and access and no net loss of forestland are important and should be included.  However, the CLCPA electric sector targets are going to require enormous amounts of solar and wind energy development.  This factor has to be addressed and it was over-looked in the mitigation strategy slides.  The Agriculture and Forestry and Power Generation Advisory Panels must determine how much agricultural land and forests will be taken out of production for solar and wind development sprawl

There were four forestry strategies: urban forestry, statewide afforestation/reforestation efforts, improved forest management, and increase manufacture and use of harvested wood products, and a strategy to support opportunities to substitute fossil fuels in the bioeconomy category.  I have one overall observation for these strategies.  I believe that the increased costs of energy induced by the CLCPA and the desire to backup electric heating is going to put a lot of pressure on forests as more people turn to wood-fired heating.  The mitigation strategy slides did not mention this issue and I think this Advisory Panel should address it.

Conclusion

I maintain that the fundamental problem with the CLCPA is the lack of a feasibility study.  It is not clear to me that the ultimate problem of trying to supply the energy needs of a mostly electrified New York electric energy system will work during a multi-day winter doldrum if the primary sources of electricity are wind and solar.  The only way this might work will require extraordinary amounts of wind and solar development.  When there is an “official” estimate of those resources clearly a cumulative environmental impact analysis for those resources should be completed as soon as possible.  This panel and the land use panel are in the best position to develop a strategy to address this problem.