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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Methane + carbon: A parallel strategy for clean power and climate action

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held public hearings in Pittsburgh and three other cities on the Clean Power Plan it released earlier this summer. The proposed rules would limit carbon pollution from existing power plants using its authority under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. The hearings attracted hundreds of speakers and thousands of observers, including environmentalists, coal miners, and other stakeholders. 

The hearings sparked a high level of engagement in large part because Pennsylvania is the nation’s fastest growing producer of natural gas. Because of this, we can reasonably expect natural gas to play a significant role in Pennsylvania’s approach to future climate rules. Natural gas produces half the carbon dioxide of coal when burned and emits fewer ozone precursors and sulfur dioxide. It also produces almost no particulate matter or mercury. 

But natural gas production creates another air pollutant that is just as responsible for warming the climate as carbon dioxide – methane. Methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that traps 84 times more heat than carbon dioxide over its first 20 years in the atmosphere. While addressing carbon dioxide will help us stabilize the climate 100 years from now and is important, addressing methane will start slowing the rate of warming today and is equally important

Many policymakers look at carbon dioxide and methane as two separate options for addressing climate change. But just like diet and exercise produce better weight loss results when used in conjunction with one another, addressing both carbon and methane will deliver the best possible outcome for our climate

The longer we allow climate change to continue, the harder it will be to slow the rate of warming. A recent White House report found that the cost of delayed policy actions on climate would result in substantial economic damage in addition to climate damage. Climate change mitigation costs would rise by 40 percent if delayed just 10 years. 

Acting now on carbon dioxide and methane is a smart solution to an increasingly urgent problem. Failing to act on methane will reduce the effectiveness of carbon-focused rules like 111(d). We need to deploy both options for best results

Andrew Sharp is PennFuture's director of outreach and is based in Philadelphia. He tweets at @RexBainbridge. 

Preparation is key for extreme weather, says Pa. Congressman

Protecting public health and safeguarding our human life, natural resources, and our economy in the face of climate change is an urgent task which PennFuture has been dedicated to since our founding. We're pleased to add our support to U.S. Congressman Matt Cartwright's Preparedness and Risk management for Extreme weather Patterns Assuring Resilience (PREPARE) Act

In Rep. Cartwright's announcement of the legislation last week, PennFuture joined with a diverse set of stakeholders -- including the U.S. Green Building Council, National Parks Conservation Association, members of the insurance and building industries, and conservation groups -- to support this commonsense, bipartisan effort to immediately begin preparing for extreme weather as it increases in our changing climate.

The Congressman represents Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District in Northeastern PA which includes the cities of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, Easton and surrounding municipalities -- and has a population of over 700,000. In much of Pennsylvania and this district, most of our major weather disasters are due to flooding. But whether extreme weather consists of floods, wildfires, or droughts, this bill ensures that the federal government takes steps now to share information and prepare plans to address them. According to Rep. Cartwright"In the last two years, there have been 20 extreme weather events that have each inflicted at least $1 billion in damage and have taken a total of 409 lives. Right here in northeastern Pennsylvania, many of our citizens are at risk of flooding. The Susquehanna River threatens Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding neighborhoods...This common sense, zero cost legislation builds off the GAO’s recommendations and some planning procedures already in place." 

Rep. Cartwright recently blogged on this as part of the Congressional Safe Climate Caucus.

Kate Gibbons is PennFuture's Northeastern Pennsylvania outreach coordinator and is based in Wilkes-Barre.