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Pam Faggert
Vice President and Chief Environmental Officer, Dominion

Pam Faggert

Pam Faggert is vice president and chief environmental officer for Richmond, Va.-based Dominion, one of the nation’s largest energy companies. She previously was director for Air Division of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. ALL POSTS

Well-designed offsets needed

Verifiable and permanent greenhouse gas offsets that meet rigorous environmental standards should be part of the nation's comprehensive climate and energy policy.

Offsets are real and equivalent reductions. They just occur somewhere else, either in this country or elsewhere. Given that this a global issue, location should not matter.

The concept of offsets is not new.  It has been used successfully for decades.  Under the Clean Air Act's air permitting program, new facilities may obtain offsets from others that have reduced their emissions more than required.  Similarly, under the Clean Water Act, facilities that impact wetlands can offset their impacts by creating new wetlands.

Offsets can be part of a cap-and-trade system, with the emission reduction being purchased by the generator. They also can also be part of a tax system, with tax payments being used to pay for others to reduce emissions.

Offsets also have a number of potential benefits.

-- They can be the most cost-efficient control technology. For example, sealing off natural gas leaks in the production and transportation process not only reduces the volume of methane released into the atmosphere. It also saves money for utility customers who otherwise would have to cover the cost of the lost gas in their rates.

-- Some offsets, such as preserving forests, directly protect and promote a diverse habitat.

-- In many cases, the technology is already developed. That makes early action more feasible.

-- They can provide an economic boost to low-income regions of the world, as is the case of the United Nations offsetting its carbon emissions by investing in renewable energy generation in rural India.

We need to have access to all of the creative and cost-effective solutions. It makes sense to have offsets as one of the potential tools.

By Pam Faggert  |  October 21, 2009; 5:35 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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A greenhouse gas is a greenhouse gas. The different gasses absorb and retain heat at different rates (methane is 40 times more powerful in absorbing and retaining hear than carbon dioxide), and can exist in the environment for varying times. There are no 'good' or 'bad' greenhouse gasses, EXCEPT when they cause climate change. EXCEPT when there are too many greenhouse gasses for the environment to handle without change.

You can think of greenhouse gasses as similar to water - frozen in snow, then melting; falling as a gentle rain over several days or weeks; 'training' rain systems; the remnants of a tropical storm system; etc. Rain is good, until you get too much of it for the environment to handle, then it can and does cause floods. Most floods are not considered good for the environment.

Posted by: critter69 | October 25, 2009 9:34 PM
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Dear Pam,

Can you explain to me how one is supposed to determine the difference between "good" vs "bad" greenhouse gases?

Also, since you have used the example of "offsets" , a concept which I am trying to undertstand, let me ask who and how does one determine an offset "value" for preserving" a forest? Who is the arbiter of this mess? Isn't it a fact that the "offsets" are not globally coordinated? If they are, is their a body of non-Americans who will determine what is best for our country?

Finally, do you believe that the "cap and trade" bill is a direct assault on our liberty? If not, why?

Many thanks,


Posted by: jgdonahue | October 25, 2009 11:22 AM
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