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A Look Back at U.S. Climate Policy in 2011

As the year winds down, it’s a good time to take stock of climate policy in the United States. Here’s a quick round up of what happened -- or didn’t happen -- in 2011.

The year began with big questions about what the Obama Administration and states would do to address climate change and clean energy, absent a comprehensive federal climate policy. This year’s record was decidedly mixed. Not as much happened as some would have liked, but it was in total better than many feared as the year began.

EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Rules for Power Plants: 20+ Years in the Making

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prepares to release new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), some people may be wondering about the history and timeline for these standards. One Senator recently claimed that EPA is “charging ahead” with them.

These standards, however, have been in development for over 20 years. These are standards that many plants are already meeting. Furthermore, 11 of the 15 largest coal utilities, roughly half of the nation’s coal fleet, have informed their shareholders that they are well positioned to meet them.

This post unwraps the history, standards, and timelines for compliance.

EPA Mercury Rules: Keeping the Lights on While Removing Toxics from Our Air

Next week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finalize new rules to reduce mercury and other toxic air emissions that will affect dozens of antiquated power plants currently operating without pollution controls.

These rules have stirred debate in some circles as to whether retrofitting or retiring outdated plants will cause shortfalls in electricity capacity. How will new EPA mercury rules influence the electricity system? This post updates earlier assessments by taking a close look at recent studies on the reliability of the electricity grid to answer that question.

Myths and Facts about U.S. EPA Standards

In recent months, the debate over U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations of greenhouse gas emissions took on a heated tone across the country. At the federal level, the Senate voted down several amendments (detailed summaries available here) that would have restricted EPA’s ability to regulate dangerous greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. During the same week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would severely restrict EPA’s authority to regulate GHGs, while taking the highly unusual step of overturning a scientific finding. Meanwhile, opponents of pollution controls continue to press for further debate and additional votes on bills that would restrict or eliminate EPA’s authority.

Throughout the debate, some of the loudest voices have argued that EPA’s actions would be harmful to industry and the economy. Looking closer, however, we find that these claims are largely inaccurate – many of them are exaggerations or, in some cases, outright misinformation. WRI analysts set the record straight.

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