1. Learn more and download slides at eesi.org/040214southwest

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014——The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing examining the current and projected impacts of climate change in the Southwest and regional efforts to manage these risks.

    Speakers were:

    Eleanor Bastian, Legislative Director, Office of Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO)

    Patrick Gonzalez, Ph.D., Climate Change Scientist, U.S. National Park Service
    Download Dr. Patrick Gonzalez's slides: files.eesi.org/PatrickGonzalez040214.pdf

    Chris Treese, External Affairs Manager, Colorado River District
    Download Chris Treese's slides: hhttp://files.eesi.org/ChrisTreese040214.pdf

    Margaret Bowman, Acting Environment Program Director, Walton Family Foundation
    Download a summary of Margaret Bowman's remarks: files.eesi.org/MargaretBowman040214.pdf

    Louis Blumberg, Director, California Climate Change Program, The Nature Conservancy
    Download Louis Blumberg's slides: files.eesi.org/LouisBlumberg040214.pdf

    The Southwest is already the driest and hottest region in the United States, and California is in the midst of a historic drought. The draft Third National Climate Assessment (NCA) -- the final version is expected soon -- projects that the region's climate may become even more severe. These changes are having substantial adverse effects on the regional economy and quality of life, forcing local leaders to develop creative solutions to combat drought and other extreme conditions. How can the Southwest best address current impacts while also building climate resiliency to manage risk and foster long-term prosperity?

    The effects of climate change already are being felt in the Southwest, which the NCA defines as Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. Snowpack levels have fallen over the past 50 years, limiting a key source of the region's water supply. From 2001-2010, the streamflow of the region's major rivers was 5-37 percent lower than the 20th century average. Prolonged droughts and insect infestations have made forest ecosystems more vulnerable to wildfires and disease. Rising sea levels have increased flooding and erosion in California's coastal areas.

    Climate change is expected to disrupt the livelihoods of many in the Southwest. Today, 56 million Americans live in the region. By 2050, its population is projected to rise to 94 million, putting additional strain on water resources. Water scarcity threatens the region's irrigation-dependent agriculture sector, which accounts for 79 percent of regional water withdrawals. The Southwest is home to more than half of the nation's high-value specialty crops, such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Because these crops are particularly vulnerable to weather extremes, climate change will likely reduce yields.

    Many state and local authorities in the Southwest are moving forward with climate adaptation initiatives. California released a draft revision of its adaptation strategy in December 2013. New Mexico's Active Water Resource Management program, which gives the state the tools to administer scarce water resources in cases of drought, has been cited as a model for other states. Salt Lake City, Tucson and Flagstaff formed the Western Adaptation Alliance in 2010 to share resources and best practices to improve local resiliency. The Alliance has grown to include Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and others.

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  2. Learn more and download slides at eesi.org/040114altfuels

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014——The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing, hosted in coordination with Transportation Energy Partners (TEP) and NAFA Fleet Management Association, about the strides public and private sector vehicle fleet managers in nearly every state are making in converting to alternative fuels (e.g., biofuels, electricity, natural gas, propane).

    Speakers for this forum were:

    Richard Battersby, Executive Director, East Bay Clean Cities Coalition, California, and Board Member of Transportation Energy Partners
    Download Richard Battersby's slides: files.eesi.org/RichardBattersb...

    Claude T. Masters, Manager of Acquisition and Fuel, Florida Power & Light, and President of NAFA Fleet Management Association
    Download Claude T. Masters's slides: files.eesi.org/ClaudeMasters04...

    Jeffery L. Jeter, Fleet Manager, Chesterfield County, Virginia
    Download Jeffery L. Jeter's slides: files.eesi.org/JefferyJeter040...

    Steven W. Saltzgiver, Vice President of Fleet Management, Republic Services Inc.
    Download Steven W. Saltzgiver's slides: files.eesi.org/SteveSaltzgiver...

    This was a chance to learn first-hand about why they are converting their fleets, the challenges they face, and the importance of federal and state incentives in overcoming these challenges.

    The United States has reduced its oil imports, but still spends $1 billion per day on imported oil. Transportation is responsible for more than 70 percent of all U.S. oil use and over 30 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. The number of alternative fuel vehicles in the United States has grown to 1.2 million, but this is less than one-half of one percent of the nation's fleet. Through the application of innovative technology, American industry has demonstrated that the United States has the opportunity to become a world leader in alternative fuels and related industries, with appropriate Federal policies.

    TEP is an independent, non-profit, organization that works closely with nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions in 46 states, which are part of the Department of Energy's Clean Cities program. These coalitions have played a leading role over the past 20 years in implementing local projects and programs to deploy cleaner vehicles and clean-fuel infrastructure. NAFA Fleet Management Association is the leading association for managers of fleets of sedans, public safety vehicles, trucks, and buses of all types and sizes, including a wide range of military and off-road equipment for organizations across the globe.

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  3. Learn more and download slides at: eesi.org/032814budget

    Friday, March 28, 2014——The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) -- in partnership with the House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus -- held a briefing on the energy efficiency and renewable energy implications of the fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget proposal released by President Obama on March 4.

    Speakers:

    Ashley Johnson, Office of Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA)

    Jason Walsh, Senior Advisor, Dept. of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
    Download Jason Walsh's slides: files.eesi.org/JasonWalsh03281...

    Fred Sissine, Energy Policy Specialist, Congressional Research Service (CRS)
    Download Fred Sissine's slides: files.eesi.org/FredSissine0328...

    Scott Sklar, Chair, Steering Committee, Sustainable Energy Coalition; President, Stella Group, Ltd.
    Download Scott Sklar's slides: files.eesi.org/ScottSklar03281...

    The $3.9 trillion budget proposal reflects the Administration's "all of the above" energy strategy as well as its focus on climate change, following the unveiling of the President's Climate Action Plan in June 2013.

    Speakers from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Congressional Research Service (CRS) gave an overview of the budget requests for various clean energy programs, explained budget priorities, and provided context on how these priorities and trends compared to prior years.

    The proposed 2015 budget increases the Department of Energy's (DOE) funding by 2.6 percent over 2014 enacted levels, but reduces the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) by 3.8 percent.

    The President's budget includes a $1 billion Climate Fund and a $56 billion infrastructure package that the Administration says would be used to "help our communities prepare for the effects of climate change." Related initiatives seek to make the electricity grid more resilient, not only to disasters but to attacks as well. Also of note is a requested increase of 26 percent over 2014 appropriations for the Department of Transportation. The increase is intended to go some ways to address the $86 billion maintenance backlog and help fund more energy efficient modes of transportation.

    The President's budget also calls for the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, while proposing to make tax credits for renewable energy production permanent.

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  4. Learn more and download slides at: eesi.org/032614transmission

    The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and WIRES held a briefing on the modernization of the nation's critical network of high-voltage transmission.

    Speakers for this forum were:

    Laura Manz, Executive Consultant, Smart Wire Grid
    Download Laura Manz's slides
    files.eesi.org/LauraManz032614...

    Judy Chang, Principal, The Brattle Group
    Download Judy Chang's slides
    files.eesi.org/JudyChang032614...

    Jeff Dennis, Director of Policy Development at the Office of Energy Policy & Innovation, FERC
    Download Jeff Dennis's slides
    files.eesi.org/JeffDennis03261...

    Kevin Reeves, Managing Director Energy Trading & Marketing, American Electric Power
    Download Kevin Reeves's slides
    files.eesi.org/KevinReeves0326...

    Jack Halpern, Power Sector Leader for Environmental Services, Stantec
    Download Jack Halpern's slides
    files.eesi.org/JackHalpern0326...

    Dan Belin, Director of Electric Transmission, Ecology & Environment Inc.
    Download Dan Belin's slides
    files.eesi.org/DanielBelin0326...

    Moderator: James Hoecker, former FERC Chairman; WIRES Counsel, Husch Blackwell LLP
    Download James Hoecker's slides
    files.eesi.org/JimHoecker03261...

    Designed and built well before the digital age to serve more localized customer loads, the "grid" is struggling to support active and increasingly competitive wholesale power markets that now operate regionally. It is often congested or inadequate to deliver domestic energy resources that are not close to customers. Its aging facilities have acknowledged weather and cyber vulnerabilities. Moreover, the planning and regulation of this fundamental infrastructure is complex, often uncoordinated, and slow to produce results. However, despite the combined effects of the recession and greater energy efficiency, the grid will be called upon to serve 30 percent more electrical demand over the next two decades.

    Modern transmission is the fundamental enabler of competition, new technologies, and our high standard of living. Upgrading and expanding the system is a priority. Transmission 201 provided a basic understanding of how the high-voltage system works and then moved to key issues affecting the grid: economic regulation; actual siting and permitting of the facilities; the regional markets that transmission supports; and the range of diverse economic, environmental, and operational benefits that transmission provides to the whole electric system and electricity consumers.

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  5. Learn more and download slides at: eesi.org/030614supremecourt

    The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing on the Supreme Court case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is considering whether the EPA's authority to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions of new motor vehicles also extends to stationary sources, such as existing power plants. The case is the result of six separate challenges to EPA authority from industry groups and 12 states. On February 24, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the consolidated case.

    Speakers for this forum were:

    Michael B. Gerrard, Professor, Columbia Law School; Director, Columbia Center for Climate Change Law
    Download Michael Gerrard's slides: files.eesi.org/MichaelGerrard0...

    Amanda Leiter, Associate Professor, American University Washington College of Law
    Download Amanda Leiter's slides: files.eesi.org/AmandaLeiter030...

    This briefing examined the arguments brought forth on February 24 and what can be derived from the line of questioning by the Justices. What is and is not at stake in this case, and what are the potential outcomes of the Court's decision? What does the relatively narrow focus of the case, despite a much broader challenge, mean for future judicial challenges to EPA's regulatory authority concerning greenhouse gases?

    In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts vs. EPA that the environmental agency has the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. The case specifically concerned regulating emissions from motor vehicles. In 2010, EPA issued rules imposing restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from refineries and plants being expanded or modernized. The agency argues that since the Supreme Court determined that greenhouse gases are pollutants and are, therefore, covered by the Clean Air Act, its regulatory authority extends to the stationary sources (factories, power plants, and other structures) that are subject to permitting requirements in the Act, in addition to motor vehicles.

    Fifteen states, including New York, California and Maryland, support the EPA's determination and believe the Clean Air Act gives the executive branch sufficient discretion to address new environmental threats to the atmosphere as they are identified by researchers. The D.C. Circuit, which reviewed the case before it reached the Supreme Court, also sided with the EPA. However, the plaintiffs object, arguing that EPA's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by stationary sources is "one of the most brazen power grabs ever attempted by an administrative agency" (according to the court brief filed by the 12 petitioning states).

    In a separate Supreme Court case on December 17, 2013, the Justices heard arguments on EPA's authority, also under the Clean Air Act, to regulate power plant emissions which cross state lines. The Court's decisions on both cases are expected in July 2014.

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