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Energy & Environment — US emissions rose in 2022: analysis 

The U.S.’s greenhouse gas emissions rose last year but were still below pre-pandemic levels, according to a new analysis.

Meanwhile, the chair of the Federal Reserve said it would be “inappropriate” for the bank to take on climate change, and the Environmental Protection Agency announced new funds for environmental justice.

This is Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack BudrykSubscribe here.

Emissions below pre-pandemic levels, despite rise

American greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.3 percent last year but did not fully rebound to their levels before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a preliminary analysis published Tuesday by the Rhodium Group. 

Despite the increase from 2021, the report found the emission rebound did not outpace economic growth in 2022 as it did the previous year. In 2021, emissions increased by 6.5 percent, compared to a 5.9 percent rise in gross domestic product.  

  • The report attributes that to a decrease in electric power sector emissions, largely driven by the replacement of coal with natural gas and renewable energy.
  • Emissions from the power sector, the source of more than a quarter of overall U.S. emissions, fell 1 percent last year, according to the report. Meanwhile, coal generation fell 8 percent from the previous year, restarting a longtime decline after 2021 saw a slight uptick.   

Despite this, the report suggests the U.S. is not on track to meet the Biden administration’s goal of cutting national emissions by half compared to 2005 by 2030.

The two highest-emitting sectors in the U.S. — transportation and industry — saw emissions increases of 1.3 percent and 1.5 percent respectively last year.  

Read more about the emissions increase here

Powell: ‘Inappropriate’ for Fed to make climate policy

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday it would be “inappropriate” for the central bank to plunge itself into the fight against climate change. 

In brief remarks during a summit in Stockholm, Powell said while the Fed must make sure banks are prepared for climate-related financial risks, it must not take measures to steer money toward green energy or away from the fossil fuel sector. 

“Without explicit congressional legislation, it would be inappropriate for us to use our monetary policy or supervisory tools to promote a greener economy or to achieve other climate-based goals. We are not, and will not be, a ‘climate policymaker,’” Powell said.

  • Powell argued that going beyond the Fed’s basic mandate of stable prices and maximum employment would “undermine the case” for the bank’s independence from Congress and the White House, which allows it to raise and cut interest rates without approval from elected officials.
  • “It is essential that we stick to our statutory goals and authorities, and that we resist the temptation to broaden our scope to address other important social issues of the day,” Powell said. 

Powell, a Republican who was renominated in 2021 by President Biden, has sought to strike a careful balance on the Fed’s role in the climate change fight amid growing pressure on central banks to lead the charge. 

The Fed under Powell has ramped its efforts to understand the ways climate change and the global shift to cleaner energy could rattle the financial sector and the major banks it supervises. The Fed is also expected to launch a pilot exercise this year meant to help banks understand how their businesses would be affected by several climate-related shocks. 

Read more here, from The Hill’s Sylvan Lane.  

AGENCY UPDATES

1. The Biden administration announced the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) largest-ever availability of funds aimed at addressing environmental inequity.

  • The EPA said about $100 million would be available for projects around the country that are aimed at advancing equitable environmental outcomes for communities that are underserved or face disproportionate amounts of pollution.
  • EPA Administrator Michael Regan told reporters on Tuesday that the grants it will dole out can address a range of issues including surrounding drinking water, climate change impacts and pollution discharges from nearby facilities.
  • Much of the funding from Tuesday’s announcement comes from the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides the EPA with $3 billion in environmental and climate justice block grants. Read more here

2. The Biden administration on Tuesday unveiled a road map for bringing down emissions from the transportation sector to net-zero by 2050.

  • The new road map, from several federal agencies, has both shorter- and longer-term policies, including selling more electric vehicles, investing in rail and other public transportation and making walking and biking safer and more convenient options.
  • The blueprint also includes the use of several “levers” to help the transportation sector reach net-zero, including federal, state and local regulations, investment in infrastructure and new research and development. Read more here

3. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is getting a new director.

  • Elizabeth Klein will assume the role, succeeding Amanda Lefton, who will leave the position next week. Klein was previously a counselor to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and also served at Interior during the Obama and Clinton administrations.
  • At the start of the Biden administration, she was nominated to be Interior’s second-in-command, but her nomination was later pulled. BOEM is in charge of offshore energy development, including oil, gas and wind.

4. Haaland on Tuesday also established a new office in the Department of Interior: the Orphaned Wells Program Office.

  • The office is tasked with dealing with abandoned oil and gas wells. It will utilize funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to do so. 

18 separate billion-dollar disasters hit US in 2022

The United States was hit by 18 weather and climate disasters costing at least $1 billion each during 2022, among the most that has occurred in one year. 

A Tuesday release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) states that last year tied with 2011 and 2017 for the third highest number of billion-dollar disasters in a calendar year, behind 2020 with 22 billion-dollar events and 2021 with 20.  

The events in 2022 killed at least 474 people and cost about $165 billion in total, according to NOAA. Last year was the third most costly year for weather and climate disasters on record, trailing 2017 and 2005.  

The events that cost at least $1 billion were nine severe weather or hail events, three tropical cyclones, two tornado outbreaks, one winter storm or cold-wave event, one wildfire event, one drought and heat-wave event and one flooding event.  

NOAA reported that Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm that made landfall in Florida and killed more than 100 people, was the costliest event last year with $112.9 billion in damages. It was also the third most costly hurricane ever, only behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017. 

Read more here, from The Hill’s Jared Gans.

WHAT WE’RE READING

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🐈 Lighter click: mayoral (or should we say, meow-ral) politics

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.  

Tags emissions emissions reduction EPA Joe Biden natural disasters

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)
In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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