Climate Change and Sustainability in Massachusetts in the Current Political Climate Reply

Deregulation around climate change has had scientists, citizens, and organizations deeply unsettled in recent months. If looking from the outside in at the message being sent by the federal government, it appears that the U.S. has deprioritized sustainability and is actively revoking its support for the fight against climate change. It wouldn’t be out of place to think this, either. For example, in recent months, the U.S. has pulled out of the Paris Agreement, passed an executive order to revoke the Clean Power Plan, and most recently, the U.S. has revoked a ruling to ban hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s) in refrigeration and air conditioning.

Regarding HFC’s…

  • On 8/8/17, a federal court ruled that HFC’s cannot be banned.
  • The reversal is due to a technicality in how the Clean Air Act is being used to support the EPA’s effort to ban HFC’s.
  • HFC’s have been and are of increased concern due to their high global warming potential, relative to CO2. In other words, for every one unit of CO2 removed from the environment, a one unit addition of HFC’s to the environment negates the CO2 removed from a global warming standpoint, and leaves the atmosphere with even more greenhouse gas (GHG).

But not so fast! There is a very different story unfolding in Massachusetts (and many other states around the U.S.).

First, for some country-wide good news related to the revoked HFC ban, despite this ruling, U.S. chemical companies are still committed to producing climate friendly HFC alternatives, per the Montreal Protocol in which approximately 150 countries vowed to phase out HFC’s beginning in 2019.

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, on August 11, 2017, Massachusetts published six final regulations to reduce GHG emissions in the Commonwealth. Granted, this was in response to a Supreme Judicial Court ruling (Kain v. DEP, May 2016), requiring the Commonwealth to “beef up” its emission reductions efforts. Enter Governor Baker’s Executive Order No. 569 – “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth” – and the resulting amendments (or new regulations) made to meet 2020 statewide emissions limits set in the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). Below, those regulations are summarized, and more details can be found on the MassDEP website.

 

Regulation 310 CMR 7.72

Reducing Sulfur Hexafluoride Emissions from Gas-Insulated Switchgear (GIS)

What is it? Establishment of annually declining, mass-based limits added to existing max leak rates for SF6.
Who is affected? -Large utilities

-Federal reporting GIS owners

Why Was it implemented? Adding the mass-based limits is accounting for potential SF6 increased emissions associated with deployment of new GIS equipment – not accounted for prior to revision.

 

Regulation 310 CMR 7.73

Reducing Methane Emissions from natural Gas Distribution Mains and Services

What is it? Establishment of annually declining emission limits on Massachusetts gas operators in 2018, 2019, and 2020. This regulation establishes the annually declining limits on GHG emissions.
Who is affected? -All Massachusetts gas operators

-Gas operators with a Gas System Enhancement Plan (GSEP) order from Department of Public Utilities (DPU)

Why Was it implemented? Emissions limits were not established in the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020. It simply required updates and fixes to leaks. Per the GWSA, limits needed to be imposed to ensure reductions.

 

Regulation 310 CMR 7.74

Reducing CO2 Emissions from Electricity Generating Facilities

310 CMR 7.75

Clean Energy Standard

What is it? Two regulations to reduce CO2 emissions from Power plants in Massachusetts.

7.74 sets a minimum percentage of electricity sales that utilities and competitive suppliers must procure from clean energy sources.

7.75 sets a sector-wide, annually declining limit on aggregate CO2 emissions from twenty-one large fossil fuel-fired power plants in Massachusetts.

Who is affected? -All owners and operators of an electric generating facility
Why Was it implemented? These two regulations are intended to increase procurement of clean energy (from utilities) and ensure emissions reductions associated with fossil fuel-powered power plants.

 

Regulation 310 CMR 60.05

Global Warming Solutions Act Requirements for Transportation

What is it? Establishment of annually declining aggregate targets on CO2 emissions from Massachusetts’ transportation system.
Who is affected? -MassDOT; MPO’s; RTA’s; DEP; EOEEA
Why Was it implemented? Previous regulation did not include requirements for the MassDOT to meet enforceable limits on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

 

Regulation 310 CMR 60.06

CO2 Limits for State Fleet Passenger Vehicles

What is it? New regulation setting limits on CO2 from passenger vehicles owned and leased by the Commonwealth’s Executive Offices.
Who is affected? Executive Offices that own or lease 30 or more passenger vehicles, as determined by the MassDEP.
Why Was it implemented? To reduce CO2 emissions from certain Commonwealth owned or leased vehicles through imposition of mass-based limits that decline each year from 2018 through 2025.   This requires each Executive Office to monitor, record, and report CO2 emissions from vehicles.

 

Industry in Massachusetts has stayed on course in terms of preparing for and doing their part to mitigate climate change through often extensive sustainability programs. Consistent with these efforts is the message that Massachusetts continues to stay the course as well, as evidenced by these new regulations.

For more information on this topic, please contact Cristina Mendoza at 508-970-0033 ext. 128 or by cell at 774-249-2418, or email cmendoza@capaccio.com.

U.S. Withdraws from Historic Paris Agreement – Industry’s Reaction Reply

As of June 1, 2017, the United States will be withdrawing from the historic 2015 Paris Agreement.

To refresh your memory, the Paris Agreement is a global climate compact in which almost 200 countries agreed upon the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and the actions to make this a reality. Actions from the agreement would keep the planet from warming by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – a scientifically agreed upon threshold that would safeguard future generations against the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

This Agreement is a global effort, shaped by bold climate actions from each participating country. It is also shaped by commitments from the more stable members of the Agreement to provide climate finance assistance to poorer countries in the Agreement to support their transitions to renewable energy. All countries involved understand that climate change is an issue that transcends borders, and that efforts to combat climate change need to as well.

While President Trump announced yesterday that the United States will begin the years-long process to officially withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the business community is staying on course to combat climate change. Industry leaders from Facebook, GE, Apple, Tesla, and Microsoft, to name just a few, have outwardly expressed their disappointment with this decision, and plan to commit even more stringently to their climate change mitigation efforts.

A similar reaction has also been seen from state and local governments. Mayor Marty Walsh stated that Boston is still committed to, and even accelerating, its 2015 carbon neutrality goals. Governor Charlie Baker has stated that Massachusetts plans to focus on exceeding the state level goals of the Paris Agreement, and to continue economic growth from clean energy innovation. Governor Jerry Brown of California has similarly stated that California remains committed to the Paris agreement and is working with other states who are making the same commitment.

It’s not every day that industry, business, state and local governments, and the scientific community so urgently respond to a federal government action – but today seems to be that day – and the innovative and expedited responses from each of these sectors is more encouraging than ever.

To talk about what you and your company can do to join efforts to combat climate change, or for more information on this topic, contact Cristina Mendoza at cmendoza@capaccio.com

Paris climate agreement – Historic COP21 Reply

On Saturday night, December 12, 2015, an air of optimism surrounded the topic of climate change after 190 countries unanimously agreed on a unified effort to strategically address this challenge, forming the Paris climate agreement. This United Nations event, COP21, was attended by over 40,000 participants at the host location in Paris. Over 3,000 journalists reporting on the event ensured that the content and messages from COP21 were heard around the globe.

Receiving a unanimous agreement of a global warming temperature limit was the broader, long-term goal. Remarkably, what began as a 2 degree Celsius consensus global warming temperature limit, progressed to a 1.5 degree Celsius consensus limit. This ambitious goal is attainable, but emphasizes the need to implement significant efforts immediately.

The Paris climate agreement is just that, an agreement, and not a legally binding treaty. While this limits enforcement of the content, it allowed the process to be expedited, and not held up in legislation, as it would have been in the United States if presented as a treaty. An accountability system to review country progress every five years will be the alternative form of enforcement.

This agreement is unique in that it encompasses both developing and developed countries, holding them all to emissions reductions targets. Angst did surround the potential roadblocks that the role of developing countries could have posed at the event. One such concern being the cooperation of China and India, as both countries have significant development goals and outlooks. It was noted that the Obama administration played an important role in reaching out to these countries to shift their outlooks. An extra incentive for China was its realization of the opportunity that lies in the manufacture and production of renewables and energy efficient goods.

To support success of the event, despite the challenges mentioned, four pillars were established to guide the negotiations, including,

  1. Climate action plans or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC’s) were required from each country prior to COP21,
  2. A strategy for financing the transition to disrupting the global carbon addiction would be developed,
  3. Engagement of civil society including cities, regions, farmers, energy providers, and energy users must be considered as vital to implementation; and
  4. Outreach to engage the creative community to deliver the positive message that this change is possible must be encouraged.

The agreement is not perfect, and certain timelines and specifics have yet to be sorted. Viewpoints from the scientific community span from full support to harsh critique, some calling the effort ‘too little too late’. However, with creative solutions and innovation as drivers of the movement, as opposed to pessimistic outlooks, the Paris climate agreement has succeeded in establishing worldwide awareness and action on the issue.

Greenhouse gas accountability is the focus in all participating countries, the U.S. being one of those key participants. As a result, tracking and reporting on this topic is very likely to increase in both the private and public sectors. Whether you are required to comply with annual greenhouse gas reporting, attempting to complete a Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) questionnaire, or would like to be proactive and take steps to evaluate and enhance your company’s sustainability program, we are here to help you on this journey by offering all of these services, and more. For more information, please contact Cristina Mendoza at 508-970-0033 ext.128 or cmendoza@capaccio.com.

Third-Party Verification Of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reports No Longer Required By The MassDEP Reply

On August 26, 2015, the MassDEP issued an e-mail to Massachusetts Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reporting facilities that it will no longer require verification of GHG reports by an approved verification body once every three years as stated in 310 CMR 7.71(7).  This decision applies to reports for reporting year 2014 and future years thereafter.  Verification of emission reports for years prior to 2014 must still be completed and submitted to MassDEP.

The reason for the change is that MassDEP believes the third party verification program has been successful in improving the quality of reported GHG emissions data to-date.  Each reporting facility in the state has completed verification for at least one emission year.  MassDEP believes the reviews have resulted in significant changes to many reports and that going forward, facilities will continue to implement these changes in future years as part of their own internal verification processes.

MassDEP intends to publish a draft report on the verification requirement in the near future which will include supporting data that was considered in deciding to no longer require the third-party verification.   MassDEP  will likely be proposing amendments to 310 CMR 7.71(7) to replace the current verification requirement with other verification options such as self-certification of reported emissions.

Despite the removal of the third party verification requirement, the accuracy and consistency of data should remain a priority that needs to be addressed by alternate means such as a periodic peer review or GHG emissions audit.

CAPACCIO works closely with companies in assisting with the tracking of GHG emissions and in the preparation and submission of GHG reports to both the MassDEP and the Federal EPA.  CAPACCIO will continue to provide GHG program audits and peer reviews of GHG tracking systems, programs, and reporting.

CAPACCIO will continue to follow any developments from the MassDEP and our air quality experts can help with all your compliance needs.  If you have questions or require assistance, please contact Bob King at 508-970-0033 ext. 113 or bking@capaccio.com or John Baycroft at 508-970-0033 ext. 144 or jbaycroft@capaccio.com.