San Antonio Leadership Puts People over Politics by Supporting Clean Power Plan

By: John Hall, Texas state director, clean energy, and Colin Leyden, senior manager, state regulatory & legislative affairs – natural gas. This post originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.

san antonio riverwalk pixabayWhen it comes to clean air and clean energy, Texas cities – and their encompassing counties – know what’s good for them.

San Antonio’s Bexar County Commissioners, for example, recently approved a resolution supporting the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the Clean Power Plan.

Bexar County includes the City of San Antonio and adjoining areas. By endorsing the plan, the broader San Antonio community joins Texas’ largest cities Houston and Dallas, whose mayors are also supporting the sensible, cost-effective clean air measure. (In fact, Houston and Dallas filed an amicus brief together with a large coalition of cities to support the Clean Power Plan in court).

All of this comes in the face of staunch opposition from Texas state leaders, who have used taxpayers’ money to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over these safeguards. Meanwhile, Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff and commissioners passed the resolution unanimously, meaning members from both sides of the aisle put politics aside and voted for healthier air for our communities and families.

In addition to serving as a testament to bipartisan leadership on reducing climate-altering carbon emissions, Bexar County’s support for the Clean Power Plan is a reflection of San Antonio’s clean energy leadership and could help the city meet our nation’s health-based ground-level ozone (more commonly known as smog) standard.

San Antonio climbing clean energy ranks

Since the Clean Power Plan will encourage investment in cleaner energy sources, it should come as no surprise that San Antonio’s Bexar County backs the effort – the city is already a leader in that area. San Antonio was recently ranked 7th in terms of solar energy capacity in the Shining Cities Report – the only Texas city to make the top 10. And that ranking didn’t even include the solar power that CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipal utility that serves Bexar County, draws from outside city limits.

CPS has also taken a progressive approach to advancing the low-carbon energy future through its New Energy Economy initiative. Launched nearly five years ago, the program aims to increase the use of clean energy resources while investing in the economy of San Antonio. In order to focus on lower-carbon sources, the shift resulted in the decision to shut down a large coal-fired power plant by 2018, about 15 years earlier than expected. Additionally, the New Energy Economy plan encouraged clean energy and innovative technology companies to relocate to the city. As a result, partners like OCI Solar Power, Silver Spring Networks, and Landis+Gyr have landed in the Alamo City, creating more than 840 jobs and $947 million in annual economic impact.

Clean Power Plan will have clean air rewards for the children of Bexar County

San Antonio’s air quality has been at a tipping point for many years, with smog levels just narrowly hovering beneath national health-based standards. The standards, anchored in extensive medical studies, establish the acceptable smog concentrations to ensure healthy air quality, but recent air monitoring data show San Antonio is poised to be designated in “nonattainment” by October 2017. In other words, on many days the air pollution levels are unhealthy and the city and surrounding areas will most likely not meet the standards.

Fortunately, CPS Energy’s New Energy Economy efforts, in addition to reducing harmful carbon pollution, will contribute to San Antonio’s efforts to meet the health-based smog standard. That’s because coal-fired power plants generate substantial amounts of pollutants that lead to the creation of smog. Therefore, replacing power generated by coal plants with power from cleaner sources will lower carbon emissions and smog contributors. And that is very good news for Bexar County’s children, the elderly, and individuals with lung and heart diseases – populations facing serious health threats from unhealthy air.

With both the County Judge and city utility supporting the Clean Power Plan, San Antonio should be on a path to cleaner air. However, many ozone-causing pollutants are drifting from surrounding areas in the state. In fact, recent air quality modeling shows that on some bad air quality days, more than 60 percent of the smog can be attributed to outside sources – including emissions from nearby oil and gas development in the Eagle Ford shale. To address the region’s air quality challenges, perhaps the county commissioners’ bipartisan leadership on clean energy can be an effective voice in urging state leaders to put in place polices that would incentivize surrounding areas to reduce their contribution. It will take many different strategies to reduce smog levels in Bexar County and a truly regional approach will be needed.

It makes sense for Texas to embrace the Clean Power Plan: The plan will maximize our state’s plentiful clean energy resources, leading to public health benefits and water savings. City Council member Ray Lopez put it best when he said, “We know here in San Antonio that clean power means clean air, a healthy planet, and a strong economy.” While our state decision-makers use our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to obstruct clean air safeguards, our cities are leading the way in protecting our communities and families from unhealthy air pollution and forging a strong clean energy economy.

Posted in Clean Power Plan, News, Partners for Change| Comments are closed

Experts Agree: The Clean Power Plan has a Rock Solid Legal and Technical Foundation

rp_Gavel_iStock000003633182Medium1-300x199-300x199-300x199.jpgAn extraordinarily broad coalition of states, cities, leading companies, members of Congress, medical associations, consumer and ratepayer experts, and organizations from across the country underscored their support for the Clean Power Plan earlier this month, filing a host of legal briefs in court to defend the Plan against attacks by major polluters.

As EDF’s president Fred Krupp noted, the breadth and rigor of these filings are a powerful demonstration of the “unstoppable momentum for climate action in America.” They underscore the huge stakes for our public health and economic well-being as the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit considers legal challenges to the first limits on emissions of carbon pollution from existing power plants – the nation’s largest source of climate-destabilizing carbon emissions.

This broad coalition of support was especially compelling due to the tremendous experts with deep experience who filed briefs addressing the legally and technically solid foundation of the Clean Power Plan and its strong anchor in precedent.

In this post, I highlight just a few of these expert briefs, and look at how they reinforce the robust case for the Clean Power Plan.

(EDF has compiled all of the briefs filed in the case – you can read them here)

Former EPA Administrators under Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush

Support for the Clean Power Plan’s legal approach was emphasized by two tested experts — former Republican Administrators of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who have extensive firsthand experience implementing the Clean Air Act.

William Ruckelshaus was appointed by President Nixon to serve as the first EPA Administrator and was subsequently appointed to serve as Administrator by President Reagan. William Reilly was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to serve as the seventh EPA Administrator.

Based on their own tremendous experience, the Administrators forcefully explained that the Clean Power Plan is “the very kind of pollution control program” that they “endorsed during their service at EPA”:

The Plan is a pragmatic, flexible, and cost-effective pollution control program, which properly respects State sovereignty by affording States substantial authority and latitude to decide whether and how best to administer its provisions. The Clean Power Plan also falls well within the bounds of an Administrator’s authority to embrace reasonable interpretations of broadly worded statutory language to address unforeseen problems without the need to resort to congressional amendment of current law. Finally, the Clean Power Plan’s careful consideration of the emissions-reduction potential available on the modern interconnected electricity grids, and specifically the Agency’s endorsement of fuel switching among other pollution control techniques, falls squarely within EPA’s purview as the nation’s pollution regulator.  (Administrators’ Brief at page1, emphasis added)

As their brief notes, Administrators Ruckelshaus and Reilly:

[A]re familiar with, and implemented, many of the Clean Air Act provisions centrally relevant to this case [and] responded to similarly consequential regulatory challenges under the Clean Air Act and other federal environmental laws. (Administrators’ Brief at page 3)

Key Authors of the Clean Air Act

This theme — emphasizing the Clean Air Act’s compelling legal basis for the Clean Power Plan — is echoed in a separate amicus brief filed by Leon Billings and Thomas Jorling, two former Congressional staffers who “are widely recognized as ‘architects’” of the Clean Air Act. (Clean Air Act Experts’ Brief at page 3) 

As these experts explain:

[The Clean Air] Act was intended to create a comprehensive framework empowering the federal and state governments to regulate emissions of any and all air pollutants that harm human health and the environment … [The Clean Power Plan] furthers the intent underlying the Act’s comprehensive framework and is an appropriate and intended exercise of [EPA’s] authority under the Act. (Clean Air Act Experts’ Brief at pages 3 and 4, emphasis added)

Leading Experts on the Operation of the Electric Grid

The Clean Power Plan is firmly based in the realities of the modern power sector and consistent with current industry trends and practices, according to a separate brief by several nationally-known experts on the operation of the electric grid.

As these experts explain:

The Rule’s design is eminently sensible: it reflects the regional nature of the power system, facilitates familiar compliance approaches such as emissions trading, and gradually accelerates industry trends already underway, as aging coal-fired units are replaced with cheaper, cleaner natural gas and renewable energy generation … [The grid experts] believe that the Rule is consistent with the grids’ twin aims: power reliability and affordability for all consumers. Petitioners’ claims that the Rule will result in grid “restructuring,” “reliability problems,” and other dire consequences are unfounded, and stem from fundamental misunderstandings, or misrepresentations, of how the grids respond to pollution controls. (Grid Experts’ Brief at pages 2 and 3, emphasis added)

Sixteen Former State Energy and Environmental Officials from States Including Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Indiana

Sixteen former state officials emphasized that the emission reduction targets in the Clean Power Plan are eminently achievable and consistent with current policies and investment plans at the state level:

As a result of market forces and state efforts to support energy efficiency, renewable energy, and emissions trading programs, many states already have or can easily achieve CPP emission targets.(Former State Officials’ Brief at page 9, emphasis added)

The former state officials’ brief also explains that the Clean Power Plan respects and preserves traditional state authority over energy policy.  Among other things, the brief describes how the Clean Power Plan provides each state with extensive flexibility to adopt solutions that are appropriate for local needs and priorities, can readily be implemented through familiar emissions management programs that are in widespread use in the power sector, and have been applied by dozens of states:

The CPP’s flexible approach offers states the opportunity to choose options that best meet their energy, environmental, and economic objectives …The CPP does not change the states’ role in regulating the power sector … By design, the CPP respects and preserves the fundamental roles of grid operators and the jurisdiction of state regulatory bodies, including environmental agencies and Public Utility Commissions (PUC).  (Former State Officials’  Brief at pages 2, 3, and 4)

The Experts Agree

This strong support for the Clean Power Plan comes from a remarkable breadth of experts responsible for crafting and implementing our nation’s clean air laws, working to address important public health and environmental challenges within the cooperative federalism framework of the Clean Air Act,  and carrying out energy and environmental policy in the states — efforts that have led to dramatic declines in harmful air pollution in recent decades, all while America has maintained robust economic growth as well as reliable, affordable electricity supplies.

These experts agree — the Clean Power Plan is a vital next step in America’s successful efforts to combat air pollution and climate change. The legal and technical foundations of the Clean Power Plan are rock solid.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, News, Policy| Comments are closed

American Cities are Defending the Clean Power Plan in Court – Even Against their Own State Politicians

Pop quiz: what do these cities have in common?

  • Boise, Idaho
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Houston, Texas
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Reno, Nevada

The answer may surprise you.

These cities have joined a coalition of 54 cities, counties, and mayors to file an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief to support the Clean Power Plan — our nation’s first-ever standards to limit dangerous carbon pollution from power plants – against litigation brought by some of our nation’s largest polluters and their allies.

These 54 cities joined six additional major municipalities that filed in support of the Clean Power Plan as intervenors in the case.

In total, sixty municipalities are on record supporting the Clean Power Plan as sensible, cost-effective clean air measures that will deploy innovative climate solutions and protect millions of Americans from adverse impacts. It’s yet another example showing that support for the Clean Power Plan covers our whole country.

Power companies, state and local officials in forty-one states are also supporting the Clean Power Plan in court – either through their attorney general’s office, a local power company, or a municipality.

18 states, the District of Columbia, 60 municipalities and 11 utilities have filed in support of the Clean Power Plan. All generating assets were identified from company websites.

18 states, the District of Columbia, 60 municipalities and 11 utilities have filed in support of the Clean Power Plan. All generating assets were identified from company websites.

The extensive coalition of cities is defending the Clean Power Plan because cities are the first responders when it comes to addressing climate change impacts — and these communities are already getting hit hard, along with many others across the country.

In the brief:

  • Seven Florida cities, including Miami, highlighted how sea level rise is taking a grim toll on their welfare — including hundreds of millions of dollars being spent now on protecting critical infrastructure, and the creation of a long-term threat to drinking water supplies and insurance availability.
  • Other coastal cities, including Houston, Baltimore, and Jersey City, experienced billions of dollars in damage from enormous, destructive storm surges caused by superstorms like Hurricanes Ike, Isabel, Katrina, Rita, and Sandy.
  • Western cities, including Fort Collins, Missoula, and Portland, emphasized how increased heat waves intensify and worsen dangerous, deadly wildfires.
  • Dallas, Boulder County, and Madison each faced extraordinary, record-setting rainfalls that caused millions — or even billions — of dollars in property damage.

These cities are doing what they can within their borders to act on climate. But they are calling on the court to uphold the Clean Power Plan because it provides a framework that can drive needed carbon pollution reductions in a sensible, flexible, cost-effective manner. The Clean Power Plan will also prevent an estimated 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks annually once it is fully implemented.

Twenty-seven of the cities in the coalition supporting the Clean Power Plan are actually located in states with Attorneys General who are challenging the Clean Power Plan in court. They are fighting to protect the health and well-being of their citizens from the threat of climate change — while facing state officials who are actively undermining them.

Here’s the list of those municipalities:

Arizona

  • Tucson

Colorado

  • Boulder County
  • Fort Collins

Florida

  • Coral Gables
  • Cutler Bay
  • Miami
  • Miami Beach
  • Orlando
  • Pinecrest
  • West Palm Beach

Georgia

  • Clarkston

Indiana

  • Bloomington
  • Carmel

Michigan

  • Ann Arbor
  • Grand Rapids

Montana

  • Missoula

Nevada

  • Henderson
  • Reno

New Jersey

  • Hoboken
  • Jersey City

North Carolina

  • Chapel Hill

Ohio

  • Newburgh Heights

Texas

  • Dallas
  • Houston

Utah

  • Salt Lake City

Wisconsin

  • Madison
  • Washburn

In addition to this far-reaching network of cities, a host of supporters are standing up in court for climate progress by highlighting the rock solid technical and legal foundation for the Clean Power Plan.

The cities join our nation’s leading business innovators (including Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft), leading legal experts, top health and medical experts (including the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics), leaders on consumer protections and the interests of low-income ratepayers (including Consumers Union and Public Citizen), more than 200 current and former members of Congress, and many others. They are all are part of the broad, diverse coalition that is supporting the Clean Power Plan in court.

It’s yet another sign that Americans recognize the importance of securing a safe climate for our health, our economy – now and for the generations to come.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, News, Policy| Read 2 Responses

Why Google and the Rest of Corporate America Needs the Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan is topping the news as major coalitions of supporters have filed amicus briefs with the D.C. Circuit Court. With leading brands like Google, Apple, Adobe, Amazon, IKEA, Mars and Microsoft all stepping up and voicing support, you might wonder – what’s in it for them?

The plan, which will lower the carbon emissions from existing power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, is a practical, flexible way for the U.S. to cut climate pollution and protect public health. President Obama has called it "the single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change.”

It’s encouraging to see many states, cities, power companies, public health and medical associations, and environmental organizations continue to push for smart environmental policy. The full list of Clean Power Plan supporters is here.

We are particularly excited about the range of private sector support for the Clean Power Plan.

When it’s fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan will create $155 billion in consumer savings—putting more money back into the pockets of customers. And, a successful Clean Power Plan will help companies meet their renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets.

What’s in it for Companies? The Clean Power Plan will provide:

  • Greater access to renewable energy sources. The Clean Power Plan will increase access to renewable energy by an estimated 30%. Google has already said the Clean Power Plan will help the company derive all electricity for its data centers from wind and solar.
  • Lower average electricity bills. In 2030, when the plan is fully implemented, electricity bills are expected to be about 8 percent lower than under business as usual.
  • Opportunity for job growth and investment. The Clean Power Plan will drive investment in low cost clean energy technologies, creating quality jobs and positioning American business to lead the transition to a low-carbon economy.
  • Long–term price stability on energy. Companies will be able to reduce risk from energy cost uncertainty, like volatile fossil fuel prices, and improve long-term forecasting and business strategy.

The 365 companies that have previously shown their commitment to the Clean Power Plan are a step ahead. But other businesses can still catch up. This is an unprecedented opportunity for companies to align their internal sustainability goals with climate policy.

Over the past week dozens of other private sector organizations have stepped forward to support the Clean Power Plan. Leading power generators, large electricity consumers and other iconic brands all recognize the broad, society-wide benefits of the flexible approach at the heart of the Clean Power Plan.

These companies have demonstrated that there is a new bar for corporate climate leadership: standing up for specific, impactful, cost-effective policy, and stating in the brief, “policies like those embodied in the Clean Power Plan—will create a virtuous cycle of accelerated innovation, further price declines, and additional [clean energy] deployment.”

What you can do

There is still time for your company to take this next leadership step. As the hearing on the merits of the Clean Power Plan moves forward this June, here’s what you can do:

  1. Call on your state to move forward with state planning efforts to advance rigorous analysis, climate protections and new economic incentives, pollution reduction progress, and regulatory stability.
  2. Follow the Clean Power Plan case and be ready to publicly join leaders like Google, Microsoft and others in the voicing your support
  3. Set public goals to shift your power consumption to renewable sources.
  4. Share best practices around corporate sustainability.

Private sector leadership can help shape the future of energy and benefit your company, the economy and environment. The Clean Power Plan helps assure that both business and the planet can thrive.

See all the briefs in support of the Clean Power Plan here.

The chorus of corporate voices supporting smart climate policy is getting larger and louder – it’s time to join in.

This post originally appeared on our EDF+Business blog.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, News, Partners for Change, Policy| Comments are closed

The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health – a Sobering New Report

We have even more information this week about the ways climate change poses a threat to human health.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program just released its newest report—The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States. This scientific assessment is the culmination of three years of work by hundreds of experts, and builds on the more general National Climate Assessment released in 2014.

The report concludes that every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change.

Health Threats from Climate Change graphic

Graphic created by Ilissa Ocko, EDF Scientist

Scientists have known for decades that climate change threatens human health via excessive heat, worsened air quality, water related illnesses, food safety, diseases transmitted by pests like fleas and mosquitos, and mental stress. The new report thoroughly characterizes our current understanding of these impacts.

Because scientific understanding has advanced significantly in recent years, the authors also reviewed new information and insights from several recent scientific, peer-reviewed publications and other publicly available resources.

For example, new data revealed that the Ragweed season has grown by as much as 27 days in the central U.S. from 1995 to 2011, and the incidence of Lyme disease in the Northeast has doubled from 2001 to 2014, both consistent with warming trends.

Recent modeling studies have also improved quantification estimates of and confidence in projected health outcomes from climate change. By midcentury, scientists project that there will be as many as thousands of additional ground-level ozone (smog) related illnesses and premature deaths, and the majority of the western U.S. will have a 500 percent  increase in the number of weeks with risk of very large fires. By the end of the century, scientists project that there will be an additional 27,000 summertime heat-related deaths annually in over 200 U.S. cities (that are currently home to 160 million people), and harmful toxin-producing algal blooms could develop up to two months earlier and persist for up to two months longer.

Through climate and weather changes and disruptions to ecosystems and societal systems, here are the main concerns about climate change impacts on human health:

  • Temperature Related Death and Illness — Future climate warming could cause up to tens of thousands of additional deaths each year from heat in the summer, from loss of ability to control internal temperature, and worsened chronic cardiovascular and respiratory diseases
  • Air Quality Impacts — The future could include limited productivity at work and school due to exacerbated ground-level ozone (smog) health impacts from modified weather patterns conducive to ozone formation, and worsened allergy and asthma conditions from more airborne pollen and longer pollen seasons
  • Vectorborne Disease — The seasonality, distribution, and prevalence of vectorborne diseases, including Lyme disease and West Nile virus,  may change with changing temperature and rainfall patterns due to altered geographic and seasonal distributions of mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas
  • Water-Related Illness — Risk of exposure to illnesses increases as the growth, survival, spread, and toxicity of water-related pathogens and toxins is impacted by temperature and extreme rainfall events, and aging water infrastructure is vulnerable to failure with extreme events and storm surges
  • Food Safety, Nutrition, and Distribution — Rising temperatures, changing weather patterns, and extreme events have consequences for contamination, spoilage, and the disruption of food distribution, whereas higher carbon dioxide levels lower nutritional value of crops despite boosting plant growth
  • Extreme Weather — Fatalities, injuries, and infrastructure damages are imminent with increases in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme precipitation, hurricanes, coastal inundation, drought, and wildfires
  • Mental Health and Well-Being — Mental health conditions may develop with exposure to disasters or worsen by extreme health

Overall, the report is a sobering portrait of the risks we face because of climate change — and it underscores the urgency for climate action.

 

 

 

Posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Extreme Weather, Health, News, Plants & Animals, Science| Comments are closed

The Bar for Corporate Leadership on Climate Has Been Raised

As the legal briefings pile up over the Clean Power Plan (CPP), I’m inspired by the growing number of companies and business organizations standing up for the most significant step in U.S. history toward reducing climate pollution.

The bar continues to rise for companies that want to lead on sustainability, and it’s great to see companies aligning their corporate sustainability strategy and policy advocacy. Today’s corporate-led amicus briefs in support of the Clean Power Plan and smart climate policy are the latest example.

IKEA, Mars, Blue Cross Blue Shield MA and Adobe (collectively called Amici Companies) praised the EPA’s Clean Power Plan as a viable solution that will create market certainty and directly benefit their organizations. “It is important to the Amici Companies that they reduce their carbon footprints by procuring their electricity from zero- and low-emitting greenhouse gas (GHG) sources, not only to be good stewards of the environment, but to also because it preserves their economic interests.”

Tech industry leaders Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft (collectively called Tech Amici) also threw their weight behind the plan, saying, “delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment.”

These leading companies represent half a trillion dollars in revenue, demonstrating robust business sector support for the Clean Power Plan. Their filings continue the important momentum started in July 2015 by 365 companies and investors that sent letters to governors across the U.S. stating their support as being “firmly grounded in economic reality.”

Dynamic power sector voices are supporting the rule as well. Three advanced energy associations, representing a $200 billion industry, have stepped up to intervene in defending the Clean Power Plan. Numerous major power companies are also defending the rule in court: Just today, Dominion Resources filed a brief endorsing the Plan's "flexible, accommodating" approach.

In fact, leading companies argue that inaction on climate will “subject companies to unacceptable risks” — risks that force businesses to bear economic and social disruptions to their operations due to the uncertainty of future energy resources. Companies who support the Clean Power Plan are major energy consumers and purchasers; planning for future energy resourcing is critical to their long-term business strategy.

Sixty percent of the largest U.S. businesses have established public sustainability and clean energy goals. That’s fantastic, but literally billions of kilowatt hours are still needed to meet renewable energy goals. Companies no longer want to rely on unstable fossil fuels. They are looking to the Clean Power Plan to spur investment and increase reliability, energy efficiency and low-cost clean energy options. Kudos to the industry leaders that are standing up to outdated views and the false choice between business and the environment.  Real corporate sustainability leadership takes courage and a willingness to support the smart policy changes required to preserve the natural systems that people and the planet rely on.

I’m looking forward to seeing more businesses follow their lead.

This post originally appeared on our EDF+Business blog.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Energy, EPA litgation, Policy| Comments are closed
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