Tag Archives: new source review

“Surprised and Concerned” About Illegitimate Government-Sponsored CER Trading?

Environmental Leader has reported

that the Hungarian government sold 2 million previously used CERs, the market became tepid. Then when prices fell from more than 12 euro per credit to less than one euro, trading was suspended on two exchanges, Bluenext and Nord Pool.

The NYT provided more details of the transaction, stating

The credits appear to be part of massive blocks of CERs awarded to Eastern European states and Russia after the collapse of Soviet-era industry.  This created a loophole used by Hungary to reintroduce used CERs back into the market…

Carbon traders said countries like Hungary were exploiting the loophole to earn more money from the carbon trading system than they could by selling the credits that they had previously earned under the Kyoto system…

The traders said at least one other E.U. member state had acted similarly earlier this year.

The EU said they were “surprised and concerned” about the situation.  BusinessWeek quoted others who expressed more urgency about the matter:

“The supply and demand dynamics have been changed,” said Paul Kelly, chief executive officer of JPMorgan’s EcoSecurities unit. While the scope of the problem has yet to be determined, buyers are “questioning the authenticity” of what they are buying.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only recent development that may cause market participants concern.  This is just the latest in a barrage of credibility and financial damage for GHG emissions trading, including:

  • Last year swindlers robbed governments of about 5 billion euros in revenues — about $6.8 billion — by selling carbon credits and disappearing before paying the required Value Added Tax on the transactions.
  • In January, swindlers used faked e-mail messages to obtain access codes for individual accounts on national registries that make up the bloc’s Emission Trading System, and then used the stolen codes to gain access to electronic certificates that represent quantities of greenhouse gases.
  • In Australia, recent fraud enforcement involved forcing a green power company, Global Green Plan, to purchase carbon credits it had promised to buy on behalf of customers, but never did.  The government is currently pursuing action against carbon capture company Prime Carbon over allegedly misleading claims made by the firm.
  • In Belgium, authorities have charged three Britons suspected of value added taxes (VAT) fraud on CO2 emissions permits.

In the U.S.,  the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a group of Northeastern U.S. states that have a cap-and-trade program for utilities, faced its own demons.

  • The New Jersey government reallocated about $65 million in funds raised in the RGGI auction. The funds were intended for use in developing renewable energy projects, but instead are going to the state’s general fund, Reuters reports.
  • Last year, New York similarly took $90 million from its carbon fund.

So Now What?

Companies with a major stake in the GHG emissions game must conduct a detailed risk assessment of their GHG programs, solutions and exposures.  Given what has developed in the trading market in the past six months, it would be wide to carry out exposure identification, failure analyses, contingency planning and desktop exercises.

Such analyses and assessments may be critical for publicly traded companies in the United States due to SEC’s recent announcement and the newly effective EPA rule requiring reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel suppliers and industrial gas suppliers, direct greenhouse gas emitters and manufacturers of heavy-duty and off-road vehicles and engines.

Lawrence Heim, Director of The Elm Consulting Group International’s Atlanta office, said

Close to 10 years ago, I began posing the question ‘what if the GHG emissions trading market collapses?’  Assuming cohesive legally-enforceable emissions standards existed, the cost proposition presented by emissions trading in comparison to capital expenditures for pollution control equipment was quite attractive.  The impact of a material failure of the trading framework was significant.  This line of thought became incorporated into client risk assessments even back then.

In the US, we can look at the pollution control expenditures related to EPA’s New Source Review (NSR) enforcement initiative to provide insight into GHG control equipment costs.  Of course, NSR enforcement involves pollutants for which there are well-established and commercially-viable emissions control technologies.  We don’t have that luxury with carbon dioxide, which will likely translate into dramatically higher costs.

Further erosion of the viability of GHG emissions trading could have a significant impact on your company.  Please contact us if you would like to understand more about climate business risk assessments and potential risk mitigation options.

More New of the Same Old

EPA announced two more major Clean Air Act enforcement settlements today that stemmed from the Agency’s long-standing industry New Source Review (NSR) enforcement initiatives.

Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc. of Muncie, Ind. agreed to install pollution control equipment at an estimated cost of $112 million to reduce emissions of NOx, SO2, and PM by approximately 6,000 tons each year. The settlement covers 15 plants in 13 states. This is the federal government’s first nationwide Clean Air Act settlement with a glass manufacturer that covers all of a company’s plants.  In addition, as part of the settlement, Saint-Gobain has agreed to pay a $2.25 million civil penalty.

Lafarge North America, Inc., based in Herndon, Va., and two of its subsidiaries agreed to install and implement control technologies at an expected cost of up to $170 million to reduce emissions of NOx by more than 9,000 tons each year and SO2 by more than 26,000 tons per year at their cement plants.  In addition, as part of the settlement, Lafarge has agreed to pay a $5 million civil penalty.

Companies potentially on EPA’s NSR radar screen should review their environmental audit programs to evaluate how critically the programs evaluate plant changes that could trigger this enforcement.  With the capital cost at stake, investing a small amount in a program review may generate a significant return in the event of NSR enforcement.

EPA Says Happy Holidays in Their Own Way

In case you haven’t yet seen it, EPA wrapped up the year with three significant announcements.

First, the Agency published its 2009 compliance enforcement results.  The summary statistics are here.   A few points from their website

  • In fiscal year (FY) 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement and compliance program concluded civil and criminal enforcement actions requiring polluters to invest an estimated $5.4 billion to reduce pollution, clean up contaminated land and water, achieve compliance and fund environmentally beneficial projects. Civil and criminal defendants committed to reduce pollution by approximately 570 million pounds annually once all required controls are fully implemented.
  • Approximately 57% of pollution reductions and 71% of pollution control investments obtained through the Agency’s FY 2009 enforcement actions focused on water and air pollution priority problems.
  • In FY 2009, EPA opened 387 new environmental crime cases, the largest number of criminal case initiations in five years.

Second, EPA announced it has settled with Duke Energy to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act’s new source review requirements found at the company’s Gallagher coal-fired power plant in New Albany, Ind., located directly across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky.   The lawsuit was filed in 1999.

Under the settlement, Duke will spend approximately $85 million to reduce air pollution at the plant through a combination of fuel switching and air pollution control equipment, $1.75 million on the civil penalty, and another $6.25 million on environmental mitigation projects.

The Duke settlement is the 17th settlement secured by EPA and DOJ as part of a national enforcement initiative targeting coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements.  See the press release.

Lastly, EPA announced it is delaying a decision on the regulatory determination for coal ash.  No timeframe or deadline was offered by EPA.  Read the press release.