* EPA’s public hearing in Charleston, WV, on its proposed decision to revoke the Clean Power Plan was an interesting session, for many reasons. Some people slammed EPA for holding the hearing in Charleston, calling it disingenuous because it presented a kind of false hope to people forced to cling to a coal-based economy. One attorney from Charleston said EPA’s move was pandering and condescending to WV citizens. On the other hand, many others didn’t see it as quite so two-dimensional, pointing out that in the last year or so the State’s broader economy has been growing, not just because of greater clarity around coal but because the state’s industries depend on low-cost energy, whether that’s sourced from coal or not. EPA as a presence stayed largely in the background. Hearing officers were from various EPA Regional offices. Hats off to EPA’s public affairs team which did a great job keeping a difficult process on track and on time.
* It’s no secret that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is a lightning rod for every environmental extreme under the ozone-making sun. Still, Pruitt did an outstanding job in his initial appearance before the US House Energy and Commerce Committee last week. Pruitt was unflappable in the face of some bizarre comments stitched together into questions by some of the Ds on the Committee, or more likely by a staff person. It appeared that for many Reps it was the first time they had seen the “question;” they couldn’t read it out loud without having to stop, repeat, go back a few words, stutter and then finally make it to where someone must have inserted a period. Then they expected a rational “answer.” Pruitt didn’t use any notes, yet referenced a wide range of EPA programs, including specific examples of individual cases and decisions on specific events. Some big issues for Pruitt: making decisions, not letting open issues dither – he referenced, as an example, the West Lake Super Fund case in St. Louis – involving 8000 tons of Manhattan Project uranium, mixed with solid waste – unresolved for 27 years. It won’t remain that way for another 27 years.
* DOE published a Federal Register notice seeking comments and information to evaluate the potential advantages and disadvantages of additional flexibilities in the Department’s U.S Appliance and Equipment Energy Conservation Standards program. Changes could include market-based approaches like those used to set average efficiency standards, “feebate” programs, or other approaches that may reduce compliance costs and/or increase consumer choice while preserving or enhancing appliance efficiency. DOE requests comments on possible program design and insights on possible economic efficiency gains, impacts on consumer and manufacturer costs and on energy savings, and suggestions for a pilot product category and/or phase-in of revisions across the ECS program. As a concept, this has been in the works for a while at DOE. Comments are due by February 26.