Not one without the other: the challenge of integrating U.S. environment, energy, climate, and economic policy.

Author:Flatt, Victor B.
  1. INTRODUCTION II. CLIMATE CHANGE INTENSIFIES THE CASE FOR AN INTEGRATED MODEL III. CLIMATE CHANGE, ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS, AND POLICY INTEGRATION A. United Nations Conference on Sustainability B. Explicit Issues of Climate Costs in the United States and Why the Nation Must Address Them IV. PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS AT ENVIRONMENT, ENERGY, AND ECONOMIC INTEGRATION A. The Multiple-Use Paradigm B. Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act C. The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act D. State Renewable or Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards E. American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 F. The Endangered Species Act and Renewable Energy on Federal Land V. WHAT GUIDES CHOICES IN AN INTEGRATED ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, AND ECONOMIC POLICY A. Who Gets to Consider the Policy Tradeoffs? B. Prior Overriding Policy Themes 1. Environmental Health Protection As Right 2. The Importance of an Economic System That Provides Sustenance 3. Balancing Other Interests in an Economic Efficiency Comparison C. Interest Group Loss Drives Debate VI. POLITICAL DIVIDE OVER ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND ENERGY DEVELOPMENT A. Historical Perspective: Shifting Political Ideologies and Cooperation B. What Could Remove Some of the Politicization? 1. Recognition of Diverse Interests 2. The Moral Argument 3. Leadership 4. Environmental, Energy, and Economic Development As an Opportunity for Bipartisan Cooperation VII. CONCLUSION I. Introduction

    "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.... This is the interrelated structure of reality."--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1)

    Most people would not think of Dr. King as someone who sought to address issues of energy and the environment. But his famous phrase recognizes the interrelated nature of our societal structure, and he himself recognized that all policy issues can affect economic wellbeing. (2) Energy, environment, climate, and economic development are all interrelated. Energy makes it easier to accomplish tasks, provide services, and make goods. In particular, energy produced in rates above those obtained

    historically from animals or human effort--by using nuclear energy, stored energy in fossil fuels, high temperature or motion sources, solar or wind--enables our modern society to enjoy electronics, instant communication, mass travel, large-scale food production, and leisure. (3) Energy is thus inextricably linked with the economics of the human condition. The term "energy poverty" recognizes this linkage. (4)

    An examination of energy also shows the obvious connection between energy and changes in the environment. The extraction and utilization of fossil fuel resources, for example, are probably the most important contributors to environmental degradation in our modern society. (5) The combustion of fossil fuels creates common air pollutants, is the major force of climate change, and is a large user and degrader of water resources. (6) Even "green" energy comes with environmental costs. (7) Habitat destruction and animal and plant mortality are common in hydropower, solar, and wind energy. (8)

    Despite these obviously important and close connections between energy, the economy, environment, and climate, policymakers rarely consider them simultaneously. (9) Our country lacks even a comprehensive energy policy. (10) Our energy laws and policies focus on national security, cheap energy, or energy that causes less environmental harm, but these interests may work at cross purposes. (11) Increased energy production in the United States may increase energy security, but it is also likely to have significant environmental impacts. (12) Simply reducing dependence on foreign oil may raise the price of energy domestically. (13) The United States has also used resource transfer as a method of economic development. (14)

    Now climate change has entered the mix, creating issues distinct from other environmental harms and forcing closer examination of energy production. (15) Most environmental laws dealing with energy use tend to work in complementary fashion; for example, not mining coal will enhance clean water, clean air, and natural species protection. (16) But simply switching energy sources to account for greenhouse gas emissions may cause other environmental harms. (17) Additionally, the operation of existing environmental or natural resource laws may interact with climate change in such a way as to prohibit energy choices without providing any commensurate benefit. (18)

    Climate also affects the economy of the United States and the world. (19) Rough estimates predict that changing climate or adapting to climate will cause a one to five percent loss in economic growth. (20) Therefore, we need to have a conversation about the environmental, energy, climate, and economic interests of our country at the same time. This Article seeks to further explicate why such integrated policymaking is important, examine prior attempts at pieces of this integration, and suggest policies that can guide a discussion going forward.


    Historically, the environmental impacts of human industrial activity have appeared to be localized, such as the hydrogen fluoride gas from zinc and steel mills in Donora, Pennsylvania, which killed seventy people in 1948--twenty during the inversion episode and fifty in the month after--sickened hundreds, and caused the death rate to remain higher than in surrounding towns even a decade later. (21) Two General Electric capacitor manufacturing plants in New York discharged approximately 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River over thirty years, which contaminated sediments in forty miles of "hot spots" directly downriver from the plants, and resulted in fish advisories and the closure of recreational and commercial fisheries; as PCBs bioaccumulate, they can cause cancer, low birth weight, thyroid disease, and immune system disorders. (22) Anniston, Alabama had an even worse experience with PCBs that Monsanto manufactured in the town, discharged into nearby creeks, and buried in a local landfill. (23) Some residents were found to have PCB levels in their blood twenty-seven times the national average, and the area suffered abnormally high cancer rates. (24) While these examples of pollution had a profound effect on the communities that surrounded the plants, they did not seem to affect the environment further afield. (25)

    By the global reach of localized action, climate change is altering this equation. The effect of increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels worldwide is dissolving the relationship between environmental impacts and locality. This is especially true for the energy sector, where the consequences of burning fossil fuels can be felt far from the nearest coal burning or natural gas-fired power plant. In 2012, Arctic sea ice shrank to the lowest extent ever recorded. (26) In July 2012, Greenland's ice sheet melted over a larger area than at any time in' more than thirty years of observations. (27) And in 2013, the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica--which is the longest on the continent and in danger of collapse due to continual thinning--cracked completely and created an iceberg the size of New York City. (28)

    The recognition of interaction and interconnectedness provides an increasing impetus to consider energy in connection with the environment. (29) At the federal level, this includes new proposed Clean Air Act rules to address greenhouse gases from electricity generating units. (30) Further momentum in this direction is demonstrated by actions such as the designation of "Solar Energy Zones" in six western states. (31) These sites were found, after thorough analysis, to have a minimum environmental impact, and, therefore, to be the locations most suitable for solar energy development. (32) To facilitate utility-scale solar developments on these parcels, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has stopped accepting new mining claims on all BLM land in the solar zones. (33) On the wind side, the first lease in federal waters off Massachusetts and Rhode Island occurred in July 2013, and plans are being made for additional leases in waters off Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey. (34)

    The energy sector itself is also affected by climate change and is being forced to consider the environment more often in planning and operation decisions. (35) Climate change affects the water supplies and water temperatures necessary for resource extraction, such as for fracking, and energy production, such as for steam generating units. (36) This will, by necessity, continue as the United States experiences increasing air and water temperatures, droughts, flooding, sea level rise, and more intense and frequent storms. (37)

    But use of prior statutes, executive actions, and logical private sector choices can only go so far. Our current policy suite for environment, energy, climate, and economics do little to address their interaction. (38) Policy choices are not being made, which forces us into the strange situation of President Obama emphasizing existing policies that are contradictory. (39) He has often called for an "all of the above" energy policy to address energy independence and purportedly economic growth, while simultaneously calling for a reduction in greenhouse gases, which is thwarted by an "all of the above" approach. (40)


    While the perceived economic impacts of environmental regulation were likely a factor in traditional environmental problems, such as the Donora tragedy, (41) climate change is also proving to be a facilitating force in the consideration of economic policy in connection with environmental and energy concerns. (42) This is largely due to the growing economic fallout resulting from the changing climate. (43) Globally, extreme weather and climate change are already shaving 1.6%--about $1.2...

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