Climate 411

The deceptive safety claims being used to justify the proposed rollback of the Clean Car Standards

By Jeff Alson, Former EPA engineer who helped develop the Clean Car Standards, current consultant for EDF

The Trump administration is trying to justify its decision to roll back America’s Clean Car Standards — an action that will result in more pollution and greater costs for American families — by claiming that dirtier, more expensive cars will somehow be safer.

Yet the administration’s projection that the rollback will save lives has nothing to do with actual vehicle safety. It relies instead on unsupported assumptions about Americans’ driving habits.

Here are the reasons why the administration’s claim is extremely deceptive and deeply flawed:

The Department of Transportation’s own analysis demonstrates that clean cars are safe

The Trump administration implies that dirtier and less efficient vehicles are safer than cleaner and more efficient vehicles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read More »

Posted in Clean Air Act, Policy / Leave a comment

Seis aportes del nuevo informe sobre el clima

Co-escrito por Ilissa Ocko.

Los efectos tangibles del cambio climático provocado por el hombre son cada vez más visibles. Un estudio reciente, encontró por ejemplo, que la temporada de huracanes 2017 fue más intensa como resultado de nuestro clima cambiante. Limitar los niveles de calentamiento global es esencial para frenar los impactos futuros del cambio climático, pero ¿en qué medida un calentamiento adicional de 0,5 ° C cambia nuestro mundo

El informe especial emitido anoche por el Panel Intergubernamental sobre el Cambio Climático (IPCC), considera los impactos del calentamiento global de 1.5 ° C por encima de los niveles preindustriales, en contraste con los 2 ° C, y cómo puede alcanzarse este objetivo de calentamiento inferior. El informe fue escrito por cientos de científicos provenientes de 40 países diferentes y basado en investigaciones de miles de estudios científicos

Aquí hay 6 puntos clave del nuevo informe del IPCC:

  1. Cuando se trata de calentamiento, 1.5 ° C es mucho más seguro que 2 ° C … pero aún más riesgoso que el presente.

Read More »

Posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Science, Setting the Facts Straight / Comments are closed

Six takeaways from the new climate report

Co-authored by Ilissa Ocko. Haz click aquí para leer en español.

The tangible effects of human-induced climate change are increasingly visible. A recent study, for example, found that the 2017 hurricane season was more intense as a result of our changing climate. Limiting global warming levels is essential to curbing the future impacts of climate change, but how much does an additional half a degree Celsius warming change our world?

The special report issued last night by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considers the impacts of 1.5 °C global warming above preindustrial levels, in contrast to 2 °C, and how this lower warming target can be achieved.The report was written by hundreds of scientists hailing from 40 different countries and based on research from thousands of scientific studies.

Here are 6 key takeaways from the new IPCC report:

1. When it comes to warming, 1.5 °C is much safer than 2 °C…but still riskier than the present.

Limiting warming to 1.5 °C compared to 2 °C has clear and considerable benefits, such as significantly reducing the risks of water scarcity, ill-health, food insecurity, flood and drought, extreme heat, tropical cyclones, biodiversity loss, and sea level rise. Read More »

Posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Science, Setting the Facts Straight / Read 2 Responses

It’s time to close EPA’s harmful new air toxics loophole

This post was co-authored by EDF Legal Fellow Surbhi Sarang

Earlier this year EPA created a pollution loophole that would allow industrial facilities to increase their emissions of toxic air pollutants like benzene, creating a huge risk to public health.

This week EDF and a coalition of seven other environmental, environmental justice, and public health organizations are saying ‘enough,’ and asking the courts to close this outrageous loophole.

Closing this damaging loophole is an important step in our fight to defend long-standing Clean Air Act protections that safeguard families and communities in the nation.

On Monday, the coalition filed an opening brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit explaining our case.

Why this loophole is so problematic

Under the Clean Air Act, large industrial facilities like refineries and chemical plants are required to obey strict pollution control standards (called “maximum achievable control technology” or “MACT” standards) once their emissions of toxic air pollutants exceed certain “major source” thresholds.

These standards are highly effective in reducing pollution – so effective that they often cause industrial facilities to reduce their emissions of air pollution below the “major source” thresholds.

The air pollutants controlled by these MACT standards are known as “hazardous air pollutants” and include 187 separate pollutants, including mercury and lead, that are known or suspected to cause cancer or otherwise seriously harm human health.

In order to keep these dramatic air pollution reductions in place, since 1995 — under administrations of both parties — EPA has required large industrial facilities to continue complying with the strict MACT standards for as long as they operate.

EPA has done so for an important reason – if a facility could simply “opt out” of a MACT standard because complying with the standard caused it to reduce its emissions below the threshold, that facility would then be free to stop or reduce its use of those required pollution controls and increase pollution once again. That would harm the health of people nearby and defeat the very purpose of the Clean Air Act.

But in January, heeding requests from a number of industry trade groups, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt suddenly reversed this long-standing policy. He did so unlawfully – in a four-page memo issued without consulting with the public and without even considering the damage this would cause to our environment and public health or the disproportionate impact this would have on environmental justice communities.

The loophole is a profoundly harmful and abrupt policy decision that – according to analyses published by EDF and other organizations – could allow thousands of industrial facilities across the country to become subject to much weaker or even no air pollution controls.

Unfortunately, it’s part of a larger pattern in which this administration is systematically dismantling vital Clean Air Act protections – which has included attacks on protections against climate pollution and toxic air pollution from power plants, protections on pollution from oil and gas facilities, and clean car standards.

The Air Toxics Loophole is filled with fatal legal flaws

In our opening brief, we show that:

  • It allows industrial facilities to “opt out” of mandatory pollution control standards in a way that is inconsistent with the language and structure of the Clean Air Act, and defeats Congress’s intent in creating these air pollution control requirements.
  • It fails to acknowledge or grapple with the legal and policy rationales for EPA’s long-standing prior policy – or even consider the potential impacts on public health.
  • It disregards warnings about the impacts on air pollution and public health by EPA’s own staff, state environmental officials, and other stakeholders that the agency received when it hinted it might adopt a similar policy back in 2007.
  • EPA’s failure to provide any public notice or opportunity for public comment violates a basic legal requirement for all changes in Clean Air Act regulations.

The state of California, which is also challenging the loophole, has filed a separate brief with the D.C. Circuit.

We expect the court will set oral argument for early next year – and we look forward to making a strong case against this dangerous loophole.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Health, Partners for Change, Policy, Pruitt / Comments are closed

Five things you should know about the Trump Administrations latest assault on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

In 1990, while I was busy with kid priorities like learning to roller-skate, Congress was updating the Clean Air Act – kicking off a process to reduce mercury and other air toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Fast-forward several decades to 2012, the year my first daughter was born, and we finally had the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in effect.

Unfortunately, after that 20-year journey to get strong protections against mercury pollution, the Trump Administration is now trying to move us backward.

Trump’s Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler has confirmed that he’s “reconsidering” the legal foundation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – a move that could allow him to topple our national safeguards against the pollution linked to cancer, lung disease, and brain damage in babies.

What’s worse, Wheeler proudly announced the move on National Child Health Day.

Here are five things you should know about the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – and Wheeler’s assault against them:

Read More »

Posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy / Read 1 Response

7 reasons avoiding double counting of emissions reductions helps countries, and the environment

Photo credit: iStock

Meeting the Paris Agreement’s ambitious goal – to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial level” – will necessitate dramatic reductions in total emissions of greenhouse gases.

Market-based approaches that follow well-established “rules of the road” for emissions accounting and transparency have a powerful role to play in helping countries to meet their near-term commitments as efficiently as possible, and in encouraging and even accelerating the broad and ambitious long-term climate action that the Paris Agreement demands.

By affirming a role for market-based approaches in Article 6, the Agreement recognizes the realities on the ground, where emission-trading systems are already at work in over 50 jurisdictions home to nearly 2 billion people. More than half of the world’s countries have so far expressed an interest in using carbon markets to meet their pledges, including for achievement of conditional targets, in their NDCs (“nationally determined contributions”) under the Paris Agreement.

But if the Paris Agreement goals are to be met, the risk of “double counting” emissions reductions must be avoided.

That is why the Paris Agreement rulebook to be finalized this December in Poland at COP 24 should clearly and unambiguously state that any country that voluntarily chooses to transfer some of its emissions reductions must transparently “add back” a corresponding amount of emissions to its own emissions account. This is known as a “corresponding adjustment,” and it should apply to all transfers: whether the transferred reductions occur inside or outside the country's NDC; and whether the reductions are being transferred to another country or to the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

A corresponding adjustment has clear environmental benefits for both participating countries and our shared climate. Here are 7 of them:

Read More »

Posted in Aviation, Carbon Markets, Paris Agreement, United Nations / Comments are closed