Stories for April
Pacific Catalyst Announces Projects to Strengthen Fisheries Management
Pacific Catalyst, a partnership of fishery management experts in collaboration with the University of the South Pacific (USP), officially launched in March and announced four projects currently underway. The group also introduced its new website at PacificCatalyst.org .

With experience in fisheries policy and management, economic impact evaluation, and education and training, Pacific Catalyst team members will work to provide policy analysis that may be useful to organizations such as the Forum Fisheries Agency, Pacific Community, and other established institutions to enhance both the sustainability and value of marine resources in Pacific Island communities. Their work will focus on tuna fisheries to begin but could eventually involve nearshore fisheries as well.

In addition to USP, Pacific Catalyst is currently supported by The University of Wollongong, Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, and Environmental Defense Fund.
March Publications

Sarah Marie Jordaan and  Kate Konschnik

Tracking and reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations needs an innovative approach, according to new report from the C.D. Howe Institute. In “Measuring and Managing the Unknown: Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Value Chain” authors Sarah Marie Jordaan and Kate Konschnik highlight the growing pressure on industry and policymakers to address the “unknown” factor in greenhouse gas emissions and propose a regulatory approach that remains open to new technologies.

The Canadian government has pledged with its North American neighbours to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure 40–45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025. Methane packs a powerful punch with up to 36 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time frame. However, scientists have not reached consensus on how much methane escapes from leaky oil and gas infrastructure in Canada and across North America.

Jennifer Chen  and Gabrielle Murnan

The fight over which resources power the grid and how much is required has intensified as flattening electricity demand, low natural gas prices, and preferences for non-emitting technologies push less efficient power plants to retire. The focus has been on substantive solutions, and most recently on attempting to “accommodate” state energy policies in the regional electricity markets—with disappointing results to states, consumer advocates, and clean energy businesses. Missing from this debate is process reform. How decision-making power is balanced between state and federal regulators determines whose goals are prioritized—state environmental and economic development policies, or generator revenue sufficiency and investor confidence in the regional electricity markets, among others. This paper looks at how the balance of power between state and federal regulators differs across multistate transmission organizations and concludes that existing mechanisms in one region could be adopted in another to enable meaningful state input. States dissatisfied with federal decision-making, therefore, have a range of options short of re-regulating or leaving the markets.

Jonas J. Monast, Franz T. Litz, and  Kate Konschnik

Cost-of-service states with vertically integrated utilities can manage a rapidly changing electricity sector by expanding opportunities for competition, even while maintaining the traditional vertically integrated utility. In fact, competition has been deployed successfully by cost of service states to meet customer needs, bring down costs, and encourage innovation. Building on these models, states can strategically create new opportunities for competition between utilities and third-party providers to manage the risks of a changing sector while seizing new benefits for electricity customers, utilities and third-party providers. This policy brief identifies ways that cost-of-service states can increase third-party participation or utilize competition to spur new utility strategies, products, and services.

Jess Siegel

Throughout the Southeast, state and local leaders are recognizing the benefits of electric vehicles (EVs) and beginning to develop goals and strategies to increase EV penetration. Regional collaboration will be an important aspect of the EV build-out to truly offer expanded transportation options for families and corporate fleets, especially when travel crosses state lines. The development of a consistent regional standard for EV charging stations—including administration and interoperability—will simplify the process of building infrastructure throughout the Southeast as well as make it less costly to develop. A concerted effort to develop policies that standardize infrastructure in support of EVs as an accessible option for travel across state borders will increase EV adoption in the Southeast.


Most major rivers in the United States are managed by a system of reservoirs; many of which were built more than a half century ago. These reservoirs were designed based on environmental, societal, and regulatory assumptions at the time of construction. Since then, we have learned that climate is not stationary, population growth is being decoupled from energy needs and water demand, and new regulations (such as the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act) affect how river systems are managed. This study explores changing environmental, societal, and regulatory conditions relevant to the design and operation of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs across the conterminous United States. Results demonstrate large geographic variability in how these conditions have changed over time. In the south‐western United States, there is an amplified trend towards drier conditions and less reservoir flexibility with warmer temperatures, less precipitation, high sedimentation rates, and large population growth. In the north‐eastern United States, the impacts of increased temperature on reservoirs may be masked by greater precipitation and lower water demand. Environmental, societal, and regulatory changes can reduce the flexibility of reservoir operations and, in some instances, make it challenging for the reservoir to meet its intended purpose as designed decades ago. This study is the first step towards formalizing a process for monitoring broad trends relevant to water resources management for the purpose of moving towards adaptation of infrastructure. An interactive tool was developed for each condition:  https://nicholasinstitute.duke.edu/reservoir-national-trends/

Lauren A. Patterson , Mary Tchamkina, and  Martin W. Doyle

Reservoirs are critical infrastructure typically built to function as designed for 50 to 100 years. The majority of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs are more than 50 years old. The environmental, societal, and regulatory conditions surrounding the reservoir, that is, the reservoir's expected conditions, shaped its design. Many of these expectations assumed a future similar to the past. However, recent decades have experienced warming climates, cyclical changes in precipitation, the introduction of new regulations, and populations concentrating in urban environments. The design documents for nine U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were obtained to compare the expected conditions when reservoirs were authorized with the conditions experienced since the reservoir began operating. In some instances, we found large differences between expectations and reality. Average precipitation at Philpott, North Carolina was 15% less than expected whereas the sedimentation rate at Redmond, Kansas was twice the expected rate. Reservoirs can adapt to changing conditions by updating water control plans, which has occurred at five of these reservoirs in the last decade. Reallocations are sometimes needed to address more significant changes. For example, Redmond has reallocated storage space due to higher than expected sedimentation, and Falls, North Carolina is seeking reallocation due to higher than expected population growth and water demand. As conditions change, controversies and litigation around Corps reservoir management will likely continue. This highlights the importance of clearly documenting changing conditions through consistent and ongoing data collection and analysis to facilitate adapting reservoir operations in a timely manner, thereby minimizing controversy. An interactive tool was developed for each condition:  https://nicholasinstitute.duke.edu/reservoir-national-trends/

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Illuminating Hidden Harvests   (IHH) is a collaborative study between Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and  Nicholas School of the Environment , the   Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.  (FAO), and  WorldFish . The study will assess the diverse contributions and drivers of change of small-scale fisheries globally, encompassing harvest and post-harvest activities.
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