Tag: Greenhouse gasses

How the Northeast’s Push for Hydroelectric Power Demonstrates the Challenges and Future Considerations for Renewable Energy

The United States’ continued build out of renewable energy, is giving rise to tensions between competing environmental interests.[1] One such conflict is between constructing more renewable energy infrastructure and the ecological damage that comes with it.[2]

Renewable energy is needed more now than ever as the U.S. continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels.[3] Most domestic greenhouse gas emissions are still caused by burning coal, natural gas, and hydrocarbons.[4] Despite a seven percent drop in global carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 due primarily to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting transportation emissions, these numbers figure to rise again as pandemic restrictions are lifted and travel resumes.[5] Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy will mitigate water and air pollution, excessive water and land use, ecological loss, public health concerns, and climate change.[6]

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Tongass National Forest

Trump Administration Moves to Open More Public Land to Industry in Tongass National Forest Proposal

The state of Alaska’s 2018 request to exempt Tongass National Forest from environmental protections has cleared a major step in its evaluation process.[1]  The U. S. Forest Service released a study indicating that loosening protections would not have significant impacts on Tongass, though environmental advocates are skeptical of its conclusions.[2] The Service’s Final Environmental Impact Statement considered several alternatives, but ultimately recommended a full exemption to the Roadless Rule for Tongass.[3]

Seeking Exemption to the Roadless Rule, a Clinton-Era Protection of National Forests  

National Forest System lands are protected by the 2001 Roadless Rule, which “establishes prohibitions on road construction, road reconstruction, and timber harvesting on 58.5 million acres” of public land.[4] After weighing national policy concerns against giving discretion to local decisionmakers, the final rule was adopted in 2001 with the intention of providing lasting protection.[5] It concluded that local exemptions to nationwide protections could have significant negative impacts on lands subject to roadless protections.[6] The rule therefore opted for complete protection of 58.5 million acres of “roadless” areas, comprising just two percent of the United States’ continental landmass.[7] Successive Alaskan administrations, however, have pushed for Roadless Rule exemptions, and the current proposal would open 9 million of Tongass’ 16 million acres to commercial activity.[8]

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Bipartisan Bill Clears Greenhouse Gas Emissions Hurdle on Hydrofluorocarbon Reduction

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been negotiating a proposal within a senate energy bill that would result in an 85% cut to hydrofluorocarbon greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.[1] Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are commonly used in refrigeration, air-conditioning, building insulation, fire extinguishing systems, and aerosols.[2] The American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA) is a bipartisan energy innovation bill targeting investment in clean energy technologies.[3] The bill’s proposed HFC amendment is a legislative response a 2017 federal court ruling striking down 2015 EPA regulations on HFCs.[4]

Despite general bipartisan support, the bill encountered hurdles related to HFC reduction and failed to move forward in March.[5]  The addition of HFC provisions to the AEIA resulted in contentious negotiations that stalled the bill, but a bipartisan agreement was reached on September 10.[6]  The HFCs amendment to the AEIA authorizes a 15-year, 85% phasedown of HFCs[7] and addresses a myriad of concerns voiced during negotiation, such as exemptions for HFC “essential uses” and the creation of 150,000 jobs through alternative manufacturing.[8]

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