How Seattle stakeholders put the brakes on the city’s proposed gas ban
Tom DiChristopher, S & P Global Market Intelligence, September 24, 2019
A diverse group of stakeholders succeeded in delaying a proposed natural gas ban in Seattle, showing how industry and labor groups are learning to push back against the sudden rise of municipal ordinances that prohibit gas for heating and cooking in new buildings. The effort halted the advance of legislation that took the Seattle business community by surprise when City Councilman Mike O’Brien unveiled it in early September. O’Brien had planned to advance the bill through the Sustainability and Transportation Committee on Sept. 17 and hold a full council vote Sept. 23. But O’Brien delayed the committee vote last week amid an outcry from labor unions, real estate groups, appliance manufacturers and retailers, and local gas utility Puget Sound Energy Inc. The stakeholders succeeded by turning the truncated timeline into a rallying call, arguing that lawmakers were rushing to the finish line without doing due diligence.
Our Take: An all too common theme – “ lawmakers had neither sought their input on the legislation nor produced adequate analysis on its potential impacts on ratepayers, their businesses, and electric and gas systems.” Fortunately, stakeholders outnumbered environmentalists in a recent meeting, forcing a delay in this harmful legislation.
U.S. Chamber to Re-Examine Climate Policy That Cost It Members
Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Bloomberg, September 24, 2019
A decade after companies fled the Chamber of Commerce over its reluctance to combat climate change, the nation’s biggest business lobbying group is taking a fresh look at the issue. The chamber on Tuesday announced the formation of a “task force on climate action,” meant to examine how the phenomenon is affecting member companies’ business decisions and how they are approaching climate policy. The open-ended initiative — modeled after a similar effort on data privacy — could spur a shift in the chamber’s approach to environmental policy. As the nation’s largest business trade association, with a nearly $200 million annual budget, the chamber’s approach to the issue carries weight in Washington. “The number of companies that are thinking about this and taking actions on their own has just grown tremendously in the past few years,” said Neil Bradley, the group’s executive vice president and chief policy officer. This new group could help the chamber in “getting to the bottom of a solution that ultimately works for the entirety of the business community.”
Our Take: Great move by the chamber!
Capturing VOCs Emissions – and Methane
Mark Green, API Energy Blog, September 24, 2019
A key factor in EPA’s recent decision not to directly regulate methane is the simple fact that existing regulation of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with natural gas and oil production also reduces methane as a co-benefit. It might surprise some, but on this point current EPA officials are aligned with their agency predecessors under President Obama. As discussed here, EPA’s recently proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) modifications – to reduce duplication with state programs and clarify regulatory compliance for industry – not only make sense, they could further lower methane and other emissions and protect the environment. Still, the decision was met with claims EPA was retreating from environmental protections. However, improving regulation and fostering greater clarity for working to comply with regulation is smart and promotes desired outcomes.
Our Take: Reducing regulations can be good: “while some keep pressing for separate methane regulation, those emissions are being reduced as a co-benefit of existing VOCs regulation, negating the need for another layer of government regulation.”