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.

Comments on Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Land Use Advisory Panel Strategies

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 Transportation 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.  In brief, 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 – Note that this is pretty much the same for all my advisory panel posts

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 Land Use 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 chance that environmental victory.  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 on wind power and biodiversity habitat sensitivity maps for the CLCPA resource development planning and siting process.

Specific Comments

The Land Use and Local Government advisory panel presented ten strategies from three subgroups. I will address each of the strategies below.

In the Land Use Strategies category five strategies were proposed.  The “promote and facilitate county and inter-municipal smart growth planning efforts, including focusing development in priority growth centers” and “promote coordinated regional approaches to meet climate goals while integrating transportation, housing, and land conservation needs” smart growth strategies rationales support conservation of areas.  Supposedly smart growth will support the development of open space conservation areas and conserve natural and working lands.  However, 35,200 MW of on-shore wind energy and 39,262 MW of utility-scale solar estimated by the Analysis Group will likely consume far more land than can be saved by smart growth.  The panel should address this contradiction.

The remaining three strategies proposed are:

      • Streamline and incentivize Smart Growth project review
      • Coordinate State planning funds/activities/entities to ensure that transportation, housing, and conservation actions are not in conflict and achieve reduce vehicle miles, clean energy, and equity goals
      • Build capacity at the regional level and provide support to municipalities to promote smart growth, facilitate clean energy siting, and reduce vehicle miles traveled

All three strategies are intended to facilitate smart growth development.  I think there is a huge disconnect between smart growth advocates and the rest of society.  There are reasons why society evolved to today’s land use patterns in New York and smart growth development is an attempt to change those choices all in the name of it’s for your own good.  If their case is good then fine but what this all means should be publicized more.

Three clean energy strategies were proposed:

      • Establish statewide higher energy codes, benchmarking, building performance mandates, and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing to avoid a patchwork of policies.
      • Encourage local governments to initiate Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs and community campaigns to increase local access to clean energy products and services.
      • Overcome legal, financial, regulatory, and technical barriers to greening municipal building, facilities, and fleets

I don’t think that there are any surprises in these strategies.  I do have a reservation about the CCA programs that are touted to allow energy choice.  Those programs cannot pay their own way so someone has to support them.  As more and more of these programs are implemented fewer and fewer will have to provide more and more support.  Unless you can guarantee that this initiative does not increase the number of people with unacceptable energy burdens it should not be included.

There were two Adaptation and Resilience Strategies:

      • Develop policies, programs and resources to reduce risks associated with acute climate hazards
      • Seek to ensure State and local investments assess climate change and resiliency impacts of projects

I support adaptation and resilience efforts because they are no regrets solutions to problems that are not going to go away.  However, I cannot help but take exception to the rationale used because whenever I have evaluated climate data the results don’t support the narrative that climate change effects due to mankind are showing up now.  The CLCPA in general and this characterization in particular confuse weather and climate.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service “Weather reflects short-term conditions of the atmosphere while climate is the average daily weather for an extended period of time at a certain location.”  The referenced article goes on to explain “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”  The reality is that any possible climate effect on extreme weather in the foreseeable future is a small tweak much smaller than normal variations.  Nonetheless acute weather hazards are a problem that should be addressed.

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 agriculture and forestry panel are in the best position to develop a strategy to address this problem.

The Problem with Innumeracy

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

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

Meteorology

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

Emissions

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

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

Global Warming

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

Conclusion

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

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

UPDATE – Revised on January 14, 2021

That brings me to the Election of 2020.  From what I have observed there were sufficient irregularities in the presidential election results that an open and transparent audit of the election results was appropriate.  For example, a verification analysis similar to ones I have done in the past looked at data with an algorithm looking for instances of unusually large sudden additions of votes in batches much faster than almost all the others, and far above the “normal” pace. “Odd” in this case means absurdly unusual — in Minnesota one dump at 5:30am was a net gain of 113,755 Biden votes at 19 standard deviations from normal or a probability of 1 in 1081. I am aware of one instance of a computer forensics analysis of the Dominion Voting System in one county in one state.  Something similar is needed anywhere “odd” data were observed.  These issues do not prove anything except that further review is needed.  I hope that there were valid reasons for the irregularities but now it appears we will never know.

In my opinion the failure to follow up and determine exactly what was going on with these irregularities was a massive failure and anyone who argues that it was unnecessary doesn’t understand, does not want to understand, or is covering up.   The failure to reconcile the data undermines my trust in the process and the system itself.

 

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

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Deep Carbonization Workshop

On December 8, 2020, the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hosted the “Deep Decarbonization Workshop”.  Given the enormous challenges ahead of New York trying to transition the electric energy system to be completely free of fossil-fired generation by 2040 I naively assumed that the workshop would focus on decarbonization technologies that could be used to help New York achieve its ambitious Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) goals.  Instead, with one exception, it was an infomercial for solutions that ignored New York’s specific needs and any limitations of the technologies described.

Background

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.  It was described as the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country when Cuomo signed the legislation.  I have summarized the schedule, implementation components, and provide links to the legislation itself at CLCPA Summary Implementation Requirements.

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 political appointees and supported by agency staff are charged with this responsibility. 

Many of these political appointees were chosen to satisfy particular constituencies rather than for their technical expertise.  I maintain that it would be appropriate for them all to be given an overview of how the energy system, in general, and the electric system, in particular work.  Without that foundational knowledge I fear that their strategy recommendations will either not be grounded in reality or not be effective solutions.  Against that backdrop I hoped the workshop would address this need.

Instead, ”The workshop will feature presentations from nationally renowned technical experts such as the keynote speaker, Saul Griffith, a distinguished energy systems expert, inventor, entrepreneur, and engineer. Mr. Griffith, along with other experts, will discuss the opportunities and challenges around innovative climate solutions such as carbon capture; utilization and storage; green-hydrogen; hydrofluorocarbon replacements and process chemicals; and long-duration storage. The workshop will also feature a roundtable discussion with leading environmental justice advocates across New York State to explore how innovation in decarbonization can help advance environmental justice priorities.”

The CLCPA is the embodiment of the idea that political will can implement policies to meet stringent greenhouse gas reduction targets.  I believe many of the appointees accept that without question.  If anything, this workshop further misled those people.  Nothing in the workshop suggested that there might not be readily available proven technologies capable of replacing fossil fuels, much less the possibility that nothing exists today to solve the multi-day winter doldrum problem. This post briefly describes the presentations and missing context relative to the CLCPA.

Keynote Presentation

Saul Griffith set the tone of the workshop in his keynote presentation. His 15-minute presentation featured 53 slides so you can imagine his carnival barker schtick.  Don’t get me wrong the guy is brilliant. According to the Rewiring America website: “As Founder and Chief Scientist at Otherlab, an independent R&D lab, Saul Griffith helps government agencies and Fortune 500 companies understand energy infrastructure and deep decarbonization. He’s been a principal investigator and project lead on federally-funded research projects for agencies including NASA, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-e), National Science Foundation and United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM). He was awarded the MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 2007.”

Unfortunately, his spiel is unrealistic magical thinking.  The underlying premise of his presentation was that a commitment to electrification and decarbonization makes it substantially easier to meet our energy demands.  He claims that 25% of our primary energy needs can be eliminated using distributed renewable energy generation because it reduces energy losses in production and transmission.

He goes on to claim that electrification of heating using heat pumps for homes, offices and some industry eliminates 6-7% more.  He illustrated how that is supposed to work in the following slide.

I will end my description of his presentation with this comment.  Griffith is from Australia and lives in the San Francisco area.  He is not familiar with the Upstate New York winter reality.  Here is my house in a typical winter.  His proposed plan is never going to work here.  By the way it usually is this cloudy and the snow was not particularly deep in this picture.  I can tell because I did not clean the snow off the roof.  One other issue with our winters is the occasional ice storm.  What do these people think will happen when there is no electricity for extended periods? 

Long Duration Storage

Scott Litzelman from U.S. Department of Energy – Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy gave the most relevant presentation “Long-Duration Energy Storage as a Decarbonization Enabler”.  The organizers should have explained the connection between this resource and the E3 analysis Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in New York State – Final Report . E3 has explained that Firm capacity is the amount of energy available for power production which can be guaranteed to be available at a given time. As the share of variable resources like wind and solar grows substantially, firm capacity resources will be needed to ensure year-round reliability, especially during periods of low renewables output.”   While it should be obvious that long-duration storage is needed for firm capacity resources I don’t think that all of the political appointees recognize the enormity of the particular challenge in New York.  The workshop squandered what would have been a perfect opportunity to make the point that if they cannot solve that problem this won’t work.

The presentation itself was pretty technical.  For the Climate Action Council and Advisory Panel members the presentation should have addressed the specifics of New York’s targets.  More importantly, there was no discussion whether the technologies discussed might be ready to be deployed in time for use to meet the CLCPA targets.

Hydrogen

Sunita Satyapal, Director- Hydrogen Program, U.S. Department of Energy, presentation “U.S. Department of Energy Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office and Global Perspectives” was a pep talk for a hydrogen economy.  For example, he claimed that there has been a 25-fold increase in deployment in the last decade of electrolyzers that produce hydrogen.  Whether the world-wide deployment of 25 MW in 2019 offers hope or not was not discussed.  Just for context, On September 10, 2020 the Analysis Group presented a discussion of draft recent observations as part of the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) Climate Change Phase II Study.  Their analysis included a generic resource that I think is the biggest problem for the CLCPA.  They call this resource the Dispatchable & Emissions-Free Resource.  It was “included to maintain reliability during the highest load hours of each modeling period” to “provide the majority of energy on the peak winter hour during the CLCPA load scenario”.  Their analysis shows that this category makes up 19% (32,137 MW) of the total capacity for their projected CLCPA load scenario.  Clearly hydrogen deployment with a world-wide deployment of 25 MW has a long way to go to provide any meaningful support to the CLCPA.  The rest of the presentation described many potential hydrogen technologies but completely ignored the context of the implementation needs for the CLCPA.  Completely ignored were the significant technological issues with hydrogen and the weak economic case.

Dr. S. Julio Friedmann, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University gave a presentation entitled “Circular Carbon Economy with Carbon Capture, Carbon to Value, and CO2 Removal”.  His circular carbon economy consists of four components: reducing CO2 emissions, reusing CO2 where possible, recycling CO2 by altering their composition, and removing CO2 after it is produced.  The emphasis was on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) in different forms.  He claimed there are 20 operating plants that are storing 35 million tons of CO2 per year worldwide.  He also claimed that the science and technology is well established.  According to the International Energy Agency there were 33 giga tons of CO2 emissions in 2019.  In other words, CCS is treating about one thousandth of the world’s emissions.  Again, there was no discussion of CCS in the context of New York.  Importantly, for it to be viable in New York there have to be locations where it can be stored but that issue was not discussed.

The final presentation, “Keeping cool without warming the planet (alt: heat pumps that don’t heat the globe), Climate Friendly Alternatives for High GWP Hydrofluorocarbons”, was presented by Kristen N. Taddonio, Senior Climate & Energy Advisor, Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.  According to her, hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) have high global warming potential, climate friendly HFC alternatives can avoid up to 0.5 °C of warming and combining energy efficiency can avoid another 0.5 °C of warming.  I accept that there are climate friendly alternatives but am a little leery of the claims that 1 °C of warming can be avoided.  Just how much warming are they expecting?  More importantly is the New York context.  New York’s CLCPA 1990 emission inventory only has a total of 0.05 million metric tons global warming potential of HFC (less than 0.1% of the total) and the latest NYSERDA inventory has 10.37 million metric tons global warming potential of HFC which is less than 5% of the total.  We will have to wait to see what the current emission inventory fraction of HFC will be but I have no reason to believe it will be a significant fraction of the total emissions inventory. 

Conclusion

The CLCPA deep de-carbonization workshop wasted a perfect opportunity to bring some reality to the implementation challenges to: reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% from the 1990 baseline by 2030, produce all electricity from zero-emission sources by 2040, and reach net-zero by 2050.  Based on my observations of panel discussions I believe many of the individuals charged with the responsibility for developing the scoping plan to implement strategies to meet those goals do not understand the enormity of this task.  A workshop to explain how energy systems work and quantify how much energy is needed and where to provide reliable power would give the panel members a common basis. 

Instead, the workshop mostly reinforced the notion that CLCPA targets will be met because of the political will of the State.  Long-duration energy storage is the key need and the presentation provided some hope in this regard.  Unfortunately, the presentation did not address the availability or applicability to New York so it is not clear if there is a viable solution to this critical requirement in the timeframe needed.  The keynote, hydrogen, and carbon sequestration presentations all sound great superficially but no context relative to the New York needs was given and they all have serious technological or implementation issues.  The hydrofluorocarbon presentation showed that there may be a solution to address this greenhouse gas but there was no mention of the fact that this is not a big deal for New York.

Finally, the workshop included an environmental justice representative roundtable discussion.  I did not listen to that, there are no slides from it and no recording has been posted. 

Response to My Comments on Part 496 – Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act 1990 Emissions Baseline

In late October 2020 I submitted personal comments on the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) proposed Part 496 that defined the emissions limits for the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).  That law sets targets based on 1990 emissions and this regulation developed the emission inventory for 1990.  The rule was recently adopted and the regulatory package included a document that assessed public comments.  This post follows up on the post on my comments and describes their response to my comments.  It is relevant to CLCPA implementation because the DEC did not respond to my primary objective – monitoring data do not support the emphasis on methane emissions in the inventory and the CLCPA.

I am following the implementation of the CLCPA closely because it affects my future as a New Yorker.  If DEC gets the 1990 baseline wrong it will be all the more difficult to get to the aggressive CLCPA targets.  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

This 1990 emissions inventory is important because many of the targets of the CLCPA are based on reductions from this baseline.  For example, there is a target to reduce GHG emissions to 60 percent of 1990 emissions levels by 2030.  The CLCPA includes specific requirements for the 1990 emission inventory that I am positive no legislator who voted for the law understood.  

The law mandates an aggressive schedule for developing this inventory.  The CLCPA 1990 baseline is supposed to be set by the end of 2020 but the first statewide greenhouse gas emissions report isn’t due until 2021.  The statewide emissions report is defined as a “comprehensive evaluation of the inventory best available science and methods of analysis, including the comparison and reconciliation of emission estimates from all sources, fuel consumption, field data, and peer-reviewed research”.  It “shall clearly explain the methodology and analysis used in the department’s determination of greenhouse gas emissions and shall include a detailed explanation of any changes in methodology or analysis, adjustments made to prior estimates, as needed, and any other information necessary to establish a scientifically credible account of change”.  The 1990 baseline for the statewide GHG emission limits has similar quality requirements: “In order to ensure the most accurate determination feasible, the department shall utilize the best available scientific, technological, and economic information on greenhouse gas emissions and consult with the council, stakeholders, and the public in order to ensure that all emissions are accurately reflected in its determination of 1990 emissions levels”.

I compared the proposed Part 496 1990 emission inventory with the previous “official” New York greenhouse gas emission inventory that was prepared by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in two earlier posts.  The Part 496 Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) includes a section titled Key Requirements of the 1990 Emission Baseline section that explains the CLCPA mandates that required DEC to develop a new official inventory.   These requirements significantly affect the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission total for the State.  According to the latest edition of the NYSERDA GHG emission inventory (July 2019) Table S-2 New York State GHG Emissions 1990–2016 the New York State 1990 GHG emissions were 236.18 MMtCO2e The proposed Part 496 regulation 1990 emissions inventory total is 401.38 MMtCO2e for an increase of 165.2 MMtCO2e.  When the draft Part 496 regulation came out, I described the differences between these two inventories.

Summary of 1990 Emission Inventories   
Final Rule Regulatory Impact Statement Table 1 Inventory in GWP20.
SectorCO2CH4N2OPFCsHFCsSF6Total
Energy259.9671.761.32  4.00337.04
IPPU1.76  0.900.050.012.72
AFOLU0.0513.074.01   17.13
Waste3.0349.350.50   52.88
Total264.80134.195.830.900.054.01409.77
        
NYSERDA July 2019 Table S-2 Emission Inventory in GWP100
SectorCO2CH4N2OPFCsHFCsSF6Total
Energy168.84 3.120.83   172.80
IPPU1.16   0.349.48 0.17 11.15
AFOLU 4.51 4.25   8.86
Waste 12.2 0.61    12.80
Total170 19.835.790.349.480.17205.61

Response to Comments

To its credit New York State requires that DEC respond to comments on proposed regulations.  Unfortunately, too often the answer is in the back of the book and this is considered just a formality.  In my opinion this was the case with the response to my  comment Part 496.  I consolidated and annotated all the responses to my comments in DEC response to Caiazza Comments.  I will just highlight a few of my concerns with their responses.

For a variety of reasons DEC dismissed my comments suggesting that the documentation was inadequate. I claim that in order to “utilize the best available scientific, technological, and economic information on greenhouse gas emissions and consult with the council, stakeholders, and the public in order to ensure that all emissions are accurately reflected in its determination of 1990 emissions levels”, that DEC must document each value listed in the inventory with the emission factor, activity factors or throughput, and the reference and rationale for each.  DEC claims that they provided the information.  I maintain that it is impossible to replicate their numbers with the information provided because the references are so vague that it is impossible to trace the necessary information back to the references provided.

It is particularly troubling to me that the response to comments does not address changes to the draft and final inventory.  As shown below there were substantive changes to the CO2 and CH4 emissions.   As it stands now the council, stakeholders and public just have to accept the numbers without explanation – hardly a hallmark of “best available scientific, technological, and economic information” required by the CLCPA.  Clearly, if there was adequate documentation he derivation of each number and the differences could be easily explained. 

Difference Between the Proposed Total Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 1990 by IPCC Sector and Gas, in GWP20 and the Final Emissions

SectorCO2CH4N2OPFCsHFCsSF6Total
Energy5.531.640.010007.17
IPPU0.090000.0300.12
AFOLU0000000
Waste01.100001.1
Total5.622.74000.0308.39

My over-arching comment was that there was too much of an emphasis on methane.  DEC summarized my comment as follows: “Some commenters suggested additional or alternative emission limits, including interim limits to maintain momentum or targets that recognize the long-term impacts of GHGs. Otherwise, the law over-emphasizes the role of methane or under-emphasizes the role of carbon dioxide by applying the 20-year rather than the more standard 100-year GWP.”   DEC evaded a direct response by correctly noting that the CLCPA required consideration of the upstream emissions and the 20-year GWP.  The authors of the CLCPA deliberately included those provisions as part of New York’s irrational war against natural gas.  While this accounts for much of the differences between the two inventories, the state’s choice of emission factors also contributes. DEC did not directly respond to a critical question about their inventory.

I have been involved with emissions inventories for over 45 years.   One thing I learned early on was that however much time and effort is spent on an emission inventory the ultimate check on any emissions inventory is comparison of the inventory estimate with observed ambient monitoring.  If there is a high quality, long-term monitoring network that measures the pollutant in the inventory and those measurements do not reflect the trend in the inventory then the inventory is wrong.

Lan et al., 2019 evaluated data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network and determined trends for 2006–2015.  This covers the period when the primary target of the CLCPA upstream emissions requirement, Pennsylvania shale-gas production, increased tremendously.  According to the plain language summary for the report: “In the past decade, natural gas production in the United States has increased by ~46%. Methane emissions associated with oil and natural gas productions have raised concerns since methane is a potent greenhouse gas with the second largest influence on global warming. Recent studies show conflicting results regarding whether methane emissions from oil and gas operations have been increased in the United States. Based on long‐term and well‐calibrated measurements, we find that (i) there is no large increase of total methane emissions in the United States in the past decade; (ii) there is a modest increase in oil and gas methane emissions, but this increase is much lower than some previous studies suggest; and (iii) the assumption of a time‐constant relationship between methane and ethane emissions has resulted in major overestimation of an oil and gas emissions trend in some previous studies.”

As a result of the fact that the relevant high quality, long-term monitoring network does not show a trend consistent with the Part 496 presumption that a big source of methane is from Pennsylvania natural gas extraction, I believe that unequivocally shows these calculations of methane emissions from shale gas are invalid.

Conclusion

The CLCPA mandates that the law will be implemented using “best” science.  Part 496 does not meet that condition.  Francis Menton explains the exposition of the scientific method from physicist Richard Feynman’s classic series of recorded lectures: “[W]e compute the consequences of the [hypothesis], to see what, if this is right, if this law we guess is right, to see what it would imply and then we compare the computation results to nature or we say compare to experiment or experience, compare it directly with observations to see if it works.  If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.  In that simple statement is the key to science. . . . “

I found references that directly contradicted the Part 496 methane emissions and, more importantly, a citation that found that the observed monitoring observations of methane do not support the inflated values used in the inventory.  It disagrees, it’s wrong, so the Part 496 inventory fails a basic tenet of science.  DEC’s response to comments did not address this issue.