Author Archives: Fred Krupp

New Carbon Pollution Standards Will Protect Health, Drive Innovation

Source: The Guardian

(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices)

The Environmental Protection Agency announced the nation’s first-ever carbon pollution standards for new power plants this morning—a major victory in the fight against climate change. Right now, there are no limits at all on carbon pollution from power plants, the single largest source of this pollution in the United States.

These standards are a necessary, common sense step that will ensure cleaner power generation that helps protect our children from dangerous smog and our communities from extreme weather. They will also drive innovation, so that America can continue to lead the world in the race to develop cleaner, safer power technologies.

Anticipated direct health consequences of climate change include injury and death from extreme weather events and natural disasters, increase in climate-sensitive infectious disease, increases in air pollution-related illness, and more heat related, potentially fatal, illness. Within all of these categories, children have increased vulnerability compared with other groups.

Scientists warn that the buildup of greenhouse gases and the climate changes caused by it will create conditions, including warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful ambient ozone levels. Higher temperatures can enhance the conditions for ozone formation. Even with the steps that are in place to reduce ozone, evidence warns that changes in climate are likely to increase ozone levels in the future in large parts of the United States.

If physicians want evidence of climate change, they may well find it in their own offices. Patients are presenting with illnesses that once happened only in warmer areas. Chronic conditions are becoming aggravated by more frequent and extended heat waves. Allergy and asthma seasons are getting longer. . . . Rising air and water temperatures and rising ocean levels since the late 1960s have increased the severity of weather, including hurricanes and droughts, and the production of ground-level ozone. That means more asthma and respiratory illnesses, more heat stroke and exhaustion, and exacerbation of chronic conditions such as heart disease.

Cost-effective, low-carbon energy solutions are already helping spur the economy, create good jobs and reduce harmful pollution in red and blue states across the country. Industries are recognizing that these smart power solutions are not only good for people and the environment, but also very good for business.

Many major power companies have recognized the need to address carbon. When these standards were initially proposed, the CEO of PSEG, Ralph Izzo, said, “[t]he Agency’s action establishes a logical and modest standard for new electric power plants and provides the industry with much needed regulatory certainty. The EPA provides a framework for the industry to confront this problem in a cost effective manner.” And the CEO of American Electric Power, Nick Akins, said in June that the new Climate Action Plan can be carried out “without a major impact to customers or the economy.”

Wind topped all new power deployed in 2012, with especially strong growth in Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota and Oklahoma.  So-called “microgrids”—local generation networks that can run independent of the grid—are unlocking on-site clean power that expands clean energy choices for communities and consumers. And new financing models are driving more efficient use of energy at scale, cutting pollution while saving businesses and families money.

We know we must act now.

The costs of climate inaction are hitting home across the country as extreme weather events batter our communities. From the recent heartbreaking severe floods in Colorado to last year’s devastation from Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast, from crippling drought to terrible wildfires in the West, extreme weather is here and made worse by rising temperatures. The two million Americans who supported the EPA’s initial proposal last year know that doing nothing about climate change is not free. We are paying costs now and will inflict even greater costs on our children and future generations if we do not begin taking aggressive action to reduce carbon emissions.

As Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said earlier this week, “every ton we emit you can check it off against our children and grandchildren.” The naysayers, as always, are out in force and will do everything they can to derail action on climate. Please join Americans across our nation and lend your voice of support during this crucial time. Together with health and environmental groups, businesses, parents and states – red and blue – we can work together to meet this challenge.

Posted in Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, Policy | Comments closed

The President takes the lead on climate change

(This post first appeared on Tuesday, June 25th on EDF Voices)

From whitehouse.gov

Today President Obama took an important step toward meeting the promise of his inaugural address to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

In a Climate Action Plan announced at Georgetown University, the President laid out his vision for putting in place common sense policies that will cut carbon pollution while driving innovation, cutting energy waste and energy bills, creating jobs, and protecting public health. The President’s Plan pledged to:

  • Cut carbon pollution in the United States by putting in place tough carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants, accelerating investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and innovative technologies, reducing emissions of highly potent greenhouse gases such as methane and HFCs, and putting in place fuel-saving standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks;
  • Work with local communities and vulnerable sectors of the economy to prepare for climate impacts that can no longer be avoided; and
  • Couple action at home with leadership internationally to forge a truly global solution to this global challenge. (Read more about the international aspects of the plan on ourClimate Talks blog.)

The President’s decision to focus his administration on addressing the serious problem of methane’s contribution to climate change is an additional, welcome part of his announcement.

He is in step with most Americans, who have moved past the old debates about climate change and are now dealing with the impacts. Reducing carbon pollution will help drought-stricken farmers in the Midwest, coastal residents from Florida to Connecticut rebuilding after storms, communities ravaged by wildfire in the West, children suffering from asthma, and taxpayers everywhere who have to foot the bill for the impacts of climate change.

Most Americans would be shocked to know that there are no current limits on carbon pollution from power plants. By setting the first standards in history for carbon pollution from power plants in the United States – which produce 2 billion tons of this pollution each year, or about 40% of the nation’s total – the President will help modernize our power system, ensuring that our electricity is reliable, affordable, healthy and clean. He can do so in a way that can give industry the flexibility it needs to make cost-effective investments in clean energy technologies.

I’m seeing plenty of reasons for hope these days. California recently put in place nearly economy-wide limits on carbon pollution – in the ninth largest economy in the world. Two weeks ago, the United States and China agreed to work together to reduce powerful greenhouse gases known as HFCs. And last week in the city of Shenzhen, the Chinese launched the first of seven emissions trading pilot programs.

But U.S. leadership is needed to help build on this progress and secure the reductions in carbon pollution scientists tell us we need at home and around the world. And the President today showed leadership, aligning common sense action with a vision of the future that will create a stronger America for our children and grandchildren.

We expect Members of Congress to strongly support the President. We know the usual naysayers will soon be claiming that we can’t afford to deal with this problem. The truth is we can’t afford not to. Those who oppose the President’s actions today apparently want no limits at all on carbon pollution. That’s a highly irresponsible position in the face of a scientifically established threat. In fact, failure to act now will only saddle our children’s generation with huge additional costs. Those who say they are concerned about the burden of fiscal deficits on coming generations should also worry about the enormous, and growing, costs of climate change.

Thanks to the President, the days of silence and inaction on climate are over. This plan could become an important part of his legacy.

We still have a long way to go. Now it’s up to all of us to join with the President in confronting the defining challenge of our time.

Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy | Comments closed

New Report: Ambition Is the Key to Reaching Climate Goals

Ambition matters.

We all know this, because America is a nation of strivers — innovative, creative people who understand that ambition and drive can make the difference between success and failure. It's true in business. It's true in life.  And it's true in environmental protection.

Today the World Resources Institute (WRI) released a report that shows how crucial national ambition is when it comes to charting an effective pathway for climate action.

The report — Can the U.S. Get There From Here?is a searching examination of the potential for reducing carbon pollution under existing federal laws and with state leadership.

It finds that, with ambitious action by the federal government and the states to curb carbon pollution, the United States can cut its emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

That hopeful news comes not a moment too soon, because the bad news about climate change is all around us.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announced that 2012 was the tenth warmest year on record for the planet, continuing the trend of rising global temperatures in which each decade has been hotter than the one before.

In the continental United States, 2012 was the warmest year on record, with the second most extreme weather — record-breaking high temperatures, the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, widespread drought, rising corn prices, and grim wildfires. Eleven weather disasters in 2012 carried a greater than $1 billion price tag, with the recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy expected to top $60 billion. And while our cities are flooding, crops are dying, and forests are burning, Congress is fiddling.

So let's look more closely at WRI’s hopeful news about what we can achieve under existing laws.

The new report finds that progress in four key areas will be essential:

  1. Implementing rigorous federal carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants, transitioning the power sector towards a cleaner, more modern, and more resilient electricity generation system
  2. Eliminating use and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, extremely potent heat-trapping gases
  3. Developing comprehensive federal emission standards to stop the methane leaks in oil and gas extraction and transport processes
  4. Improving the energy efficiency of our economy

Leadership by states to cut emissions and invest in clean energy and efficiency will be needed to compliment and amplify action at the federal level.

The analysis also demonstrates that no matter how rigorous our nation is in carrying out existing laws to cut carbon pollution, we will need new legislation to achieve the deeper emission reductions climate science demands by mid-century.

In the meantime, there is much that we can do. Now. And with these actions, we can start to transform our aging energy infrastructure and forge a prosperous clean energy, low-carbon future.

This is my favorite sentence of the report:

[T]he single most important factor influencing emissions reductions is political and policy ambition.

Ambition matters. So let’s be ambitious here, where it matters so very much to our future, our children’s futures, and our planet’s future.

Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Partners for Change, Policy, What Others are Saying | 1 Response, comments now closed

A Great Day for Clean Air: Court Upholds EPA Actions to Reduce Climate Pollution

Today is a great day for climate progress in America.

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a unanimous, strong and clear opinion affirming the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) historic measures to reduce harmful climate pollution. 

The court’s opinion held that EPA’s climate protections are firmly rooted in science and the law, and grounded in more than 18,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications.  

The court didn’t mince words. The decision says:

EPA’s interpretation of the governing CAA provisions is unambiguously correct.

Even sharper was this part of the decision, in which the court noted that EPA properly relied on comprehensive scientific assessments by authorities such as the National Academies of Science and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: 

This is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.

(Read more on EDF’s website, in our press release and our highlights page, and in our Texas Clean Air Matters blog)

But even in the wake of a compelling court opinion, some continue to focus on the politics of delay, deny and obstruct.  

Responding to the court’s decision, a representative of the National Association of Manufacturers indicated today that it will continue to invest in lawyers and lobbyists to block clean air progress, telling AP:

[w]e will be considering all of our legal options when it comes to halting these devastating regulations.

Fortunately, there are many more who are investing in America’s future. Business leaders, numerous states, and policy makers are working together to reduce harmful carbon pollution. 

America’s automakers defended EPA’s common sense measures to make our cars more efficient, which will save families' hard-earned money at the gas pump, help break our addiction to imported oil, and reduce climate pollution.

In filings in federal court, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers have characterized these important standards as:

valid, mandated by law, and non-controversial.

Similarly, a dozen states – California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington – have intervened in defense of EPA’s clean car standards. 

And small business voices spoke out today in support of EPA’s clean air measures, saying these measures:

are strongly supported by small business owners because they will boost their bottom lines and help secure our nation’s position in the emerging clean energy economy. 

The court’s decision today reaffirms that a strong, diverse set of voices stand ready to work together, building from the bedrock foundation of this historic decision to reduce climate pollution and build a stronger America.

Our EDF experts are poring through all 82 pages of the decision. Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis about what it means, and where we go next.

But for right now, we should all take a moment to celebrate this great news.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, Science, What Others are Saying | Comments closed

EPA's Historic Proposal to Limit Carbon Pollution from Power Plants

Today we are making history. 

Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever nationwide emission standards to limit dangerous carbon pollution from new coal- and gas-burning power plants. 

Today we take the first critically important step towards addressing the climate-destabilizing pollution emitted by power plants. 

Today we take a vital step towards protecting Americans’ health and strengthening our economy.

With these standards and EPA's landmark clean car standards, we’re beginning to address the clear and present danger of carbon pollution from the two largest emission sources in our nation.

Power plants are responsible for 40 percent of the carbon pollution emitted in America. U.S. power plants are one of the largest sources of carbon pollution in the world. 

Power plants are responsible for 40% of carbon pollution emitted in the U.S.

We have the technology and the know-how to change this.

The carbon pollution emission standards proposed by EPA today would halve the carbon emissions from a new coal-fired power plant over its lifetime. 

These standards will help further the progress we are making towards a cleaner, more secure future for energy in America. We will use our nation's electricity resources more efficiently to cut energy costs for families and businesses, mobilize Made in the USA technologies and fuels for cleaner energy generation, and ensure that America will lead the global race to a clean energy economy.

States, communities and businesses across our nation are already leading the way:

  • 29 states have adopted policies to expand reliance on cost-effective clean energy resources.
  • States including Washington, Montana, Oregon, Minnesota, New York and California have adopted (or are now putting in place) limits on dangerous carbon pollution from fossil-fueled power plants.
  • A McKinsey & Company report found that we could meet our nation's growing electricity needs by using existing resources more wisely — and could cut energy costs for American families and businesses at the same time.
  • Innovative businesses like Solar City are creating new solutions and technologies to deliver cleaner, safer energy. Solar City, founded in 2006, is installing solar systems that lower utility bills with no upfront investment by the customer. Solar City has 20,000 projects in 14 states that are either completed or underway– including a one billion dollar project to put solar systems on military housing.
  • Hundreds of U.S. companies are capitalizing on new, multibillion-dollar market opportunities to make our electric grid as smart, flexible, and innovative as the internet — enabling a wholesale shirt to clean, community-based energy resources.

There are also fundamental shifts in the energy market that are driving a change in our electricity supply.

Much has been written about the structural market shift to natural gas, which has been enabled by new drilling technologies. Some have tried to deny this market shift and claim that EPA’s clean air protections are stopping new coal plants, but the truth is that basic economics — low natural gas prices— are driving these decisions.  But don't take our word for it. Check out these quotes.

  • Jim Rogers is the CEO of Duke Energy, which provides electricity to the Carolinas, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. He told the National Journal:

The new climate rule is in line with market forces anyway. We're not going to build any coal plants in any event. You’re going to choose to build gas plants every time, regardless of what the rule is.

  • Thomas Fanning, CEO of Southern Company, recently told investors on an earnings call on January 25, 2012:

Four years ago…we were about 70% of our energy from coal and about, I don’t know, 16% from nuclear, about 12% from gas and the balance from hydro.  In the fourth quarter – this was really surprising to me, maybe not surprising considering how cheap gas is now – our energy production was 40% coal, 39% gas. … Now moving forward, given where gas prices are, we will continue to see much more gas production.

Inexpensive natural gas is the biggest threat to coal. Nothing else even comes close.

The immense natural gas resources recently made commercially accessible in the United States must be developed responsibly if we are to protect our water and ecosystems, and prevent wasteful leakage that will undermine the carbon pollution advantages of natural gas.  But America can meet this urgent challenge.

We also know how to harness the power of the wind, the sun, and geothermal resources. By making the energy foundation of our economy cleaner and more diverse, we will improve our national security, improve public health, and protect our climate.  Today we took a big step down that road.

The stakes are high.

Climate impacts are already affecting American communities, and scientists tell us that the impacts will intensify as atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions rise.

The United States Global Change Research Program has determined that if carbon pollution emissions are not reduced, it is likely that American communities will experience increasingly severe impacts, including:

  • Rising levels of dangerous smog in cities — which will lead to an increased risk of respiratory infections, more asthma attacks, and more premature deaths
  • Increased risk of illness and death due to extreme heat
  • More intense hurricanes and storm surges
  • Increased frequency and severity of flooding
  • Increases in insect pests and in the prevalence of diseases transmitted by food, water and insects
  • Reduced precipitation and runoff in the arid West
  • Reduced crop yields and livestock productivity
  • More wildfires and increasingly frequent and severe droughts in some regions

I mentioned earlier that American states, communities and businesses are already taking steps to address these threats. Starting today, they don’t have to do it alone. With today’s announcement, our entire country will fight the widespread and varied threats we face from climate change.

I think EPA deserves a standing ovation for that.  

Please join me in supporting EPA’s efforts to protect our families, our communities, and our economy from these threats. 

The resistance to these standards by entrenched fossil fuel-dependent industries will likely be fierce, but together our voices can move these vitally important policies forward. 

Posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy | 1 Response, comments now closed

State of the Union Address: A Nation "Built to Last" on Clean Energy

President Obama delivered his State of the Union Address last night, and energy issues played a starring role in the speech.

 Here are some of the comments that caught my attention:

 The President drew some firm lines in the sand.

The address was a strong defense of the importance of clean energy to America’s long-term economic prosperity. The President said:

 “I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy."

In the speech, the President called for Congress to pass a clean energy standard and extend clean energy tax credits, while ending a century of tax subsidies for oil companies. 

The President again rejected the false choice between a clean environment and jobs.

He said:

“We don't have to choose between the environment and our economy."

His description of the remarkable comeback of American vehicle manufacturers, which are rapidly innovating to meet aggressive fuel economy standards, proved his point.

A mixed bag on natural gas.

On natural gas, the President committed to full disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on federal lands.

 But — he missed an opportunity to lay out the bargain that must be struck.

We can help revolutionize America’s energy picture with our newly abundant supplies of gas, but to do so responsibly, we must get the environmental rules right to protect our air, land and water wherever "fracking" wells are drilled. 

Getting the environmental rules right means disclosure of the chemicals used in drilling. It also means reasonable standards to ensure high-integrity well design, safe water and chemical management, and methane gas containment to prevent additional harm to our climate.

With those kinds of safeguards in place, gas can reduce our environmental problems instead of increasing them.

The blueprint for action already exists in the recommendations of the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board. They must be swiftly implemented.

Standing by new mercury standards

The President ended 2011 with historic action to reduce mercury in our air, water, and food. 

As you probably remember, EDF was a strong advocate for those groundbreaking new standards.

Last night, the President stood by his action, declaring:

"I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury poisoning, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean."

Last night’s speech wasn’t the only time President Obama has talked about a clean energy future recently.

Earlier this month, he spoke to EPA staff and told them:

"We don't have to choose between dirty air and dirty water or a growing economy. We can make sure that we are doing right by our environment, and, in fact, putting people back to work all across America.

He's right about that, but make no mistake – in the weeks and months ahead, there will still be efforts in Washington to block efforts to change the environmentally-destructive and irresponsible course on which the nation, and the world, are bound.  

We at EDF will continue working to remind our lawmakers, and all Americans, that the science of climate change is clear and so are the economics. 

The fact is that we can build a more sustainable future using market-based approaches that preserve public health and the environment while creating new businesses and new jobs for American workers.

Posted in News, Policy | 1 Response, comments now closed

New Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Will Protect Children and Save Lives

This is one of the best weeks I’ve had in a long time.

Right on the heels of today’s landmark court decision upholding European laws to reduce airplane pollution, we got another historic moment for the environment and public health.

Today, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson unveiled the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which will place our country’s first-ever national limits on mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

Every decade or so, the United States takes a giant step forward on the road to cleaner, healthier air. Getting the lead out of gasoline was one. Reducing acid rain was another.

Today’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, 21 years in the making, are a new giant step forward.

Power plants are responsible for half of all manmade mercury emissions, as well as 75 percent of acid gases, and 60 percent of arsenic.

Mercury exposure can cause brain damage in infants, and can affect children’s ability to walk, talk, read and learn. Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of babies are born each year with potentially unsafe levels of mercury in their blood.

Many of the other toxic pollutants also controlled by the new rules — such as chromium, arsenic, dioxin and acid gases — are known or probable carcinogens and can attack the brain, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Cost-effective and tested technology solutions are available to reduce mercury pollution and other toxic air contaminants from power plants by more than 90 percent. Many states have already led the way in adopting policies to control mercury emissions, helping to drive investment in technology solutions, but this is the first time we’ll have a national standard.

According to EPA, the new rules will:

  • Prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths each year
  • Prevent up to 4,700 heart attacks each year
  • Prevent up to 130,000 asthma attacks each year
  • Prevent up to 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits each year
  • Prevent up to 540,000 missed work or school days each year

The rules will also provide employment for thousands. The updating of older power plants with modern air pollution control technology will support:

  • 46,000 new short-term construction jobs
  • 8,000 long-term utility jobs

The value of the air quality improvements for human health alone will be as much as $90 billion each year.

I can’t overstate the importance of these new standards. We should all thank President Obama, Administrator Jackson, and everyone at EPA for protecting our air – and our health.

This is the perfect holiday gift for America.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Health, Jobs, News, Policy | Comments closed

House Votes for TRAIN Act – and Against Cleaner, Healthier Air

Today was an exceptionally bad day in the history of environmental legislation.

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed the TRAIN Act (H.R. 2401) by a vote of 249 to 169.

The TRAIN Act is a sweeping anti-clean air bill that blocks many critical public health safeguards. Among its worst offenses is that it indefinitely delays two important and long-awaited air pollution standards – the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

The TRAIN Act would delay those two standards until 2018 at the earliest, and cost about 125,000 American lives.

And as I mentioned earlier, the delay could be indefinite.

This was no less than a fight about the integrity of the Clean Air Act, and clean air lost.

The air pollution standards in question would reduce the amount of smog, soot, mercury and acid gases that are in the air we all breathe.

Opponents of these common-sense rules make the patently false argument that we can’t have both clean air and a strong economy. Actually, analysis has shown that the economic benefits of enforcing the Clean Air Act outweigh the costs 30 to 1. The same protections that the TRAIN Act strips have been widely supported by responsible corporations. Companies across the country are eagerly waiting to supply the equipment to achieve these new clean air goals – and create jobs in the process — while utilities are sitting on billions in cash that could be put to work

But today, the House showed that it has bought the false argument that we need to choose between protecting lives and creating jobs. House members made a stark choice, and put pollution over children’s health.

Some of the House members voting against healthy air today may really believe the misleading notion that public health protections kill jobs. But many are old enough to know better – because they voted in favor of these same common-sense environmental rules two decades ago. And they saw that smart regulations cut pollution ahead of schedule and at a fraction of the estimated cost – and create jobs in the process. Yet these same members are now voting against the successful regulations they championed in 1990.

Now it is up to the Senate to stop this destructive bill. Hopefully, our Senators will understand that clean air saves American lives.

But just in case, you should call your Senators and remind them how much clean air means to you.

Posted in Clean Air Act, News, Policy | 2 Responses, comments now closed

The New Path Forward on Climate Change

This was originally posted on the Huffington Post.

Every major reform in our nation's history has suffered defeats on the path to victory. From free trade to civil rights, setbacks have been a part of progress. But ultimate victory comes to those who learn from their defeats and press forward with new determination and perseverance.

The failure of the United States Senate to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation this year was a serious setback for America, and for the world. The continuing cascade of scientific evidence shows that we are dangerously changing our climate, and the urgent need to act remains. So what do we do?

Our view is that we must be much more aggressive in pursuing pollution reductions under existing law, through America's never-ending ability to innovate, and through partnerships with companies that can transform the marketplace. There are many companies making real change, and we intend to work with them.

However, we have well-financed enemies in this fight, and it is time to sharpen the nation's focus on the businesses that obstruct vital progress.

For EDF, that means our historic interest in cooperation over confrontation will be recalibrated. We will always negotiate where possible, and we will continue to look for collaborative opportunities and flexible solutions. That is who we are, and we will continue to pursue those goals.

But there are companies that continue to choose short-term profits over public health, and who feel they are better off opposing progress. These companies have friends in the Congress, and they believe they will have more political leverage against the Environmental Protection Agency as the balance of power shifts in Washington next year.

Meanwhile, they are already marching into the courts to challenge virtually every breath EPA takes in this area. Our view is that the public and the investor community need to have far greater awareness of the companies engaged in indiscriminate obstructionism. We will look for ways to hold them accountable through every reasonable lever at our disposal. We will learn to be as tough with them as they have been with us.

We are evaluating everything from engaging more actively in corporate governance — the annual meeting of shareholders and outreach to boards of directors — to more active involvement in state Public Utility Commissions where the rubber meets the road on the scope of pollution — or pollution reductions — associated with major capital investments. And we are looking at a variety of ways to involve the public more actively in a conversation about who the big emitters are, where they operate, and what steps they are taking to reduce their pollution.

It doesn't have to be this way, and we would rather spend our time working on smart policy and win-win solutions. But we have no choice. We cannot allow the efforts of a few powerful companies to block necessary progress for the rest of us.

At the same time, we must accept the reality that climate change has a political problem. For too many people, opposing a solution to climate change has become a political and ideological dogma. As long as many in Congress feel required to oppose any measure in this area, we will not succeed.

If we are going to de-carbonize our economy, we have to de-polarize the politics surrounding the conversation. It is worth remembering that no major environmental law has ever passed without substantial bipartisan support. This has always been the case — but the incoming Congress is a fresh reminder that bipartisanship must be the foundation of future progress.

In short, while being more aggressive and vigorously fighting to achieve critical emissions reductions, we — the environmental community — must be more open. Our response to this political problem must be to engage more widely and listen more carefully, not dismiss or belittle those with whom we disagree.

We will have to reach out to new partners, make new allies, and engage new constituencies. We have done so with a large part of the business community, and we will learn to do so with others.

We cannot expect that the public will support change without understanding the reasons for it. But we cannot browbeat our way to a broader understanding of the science behind climate change and the benefits of taking action. We need to start with the real problems people face in America today – from jobs and energy security to clean air and water — and work with them to find answers to those problems and the common challenge that faces all of us.

Fortunately, even in this difficult year, there is a path emerging that will allow us to begin to solve climate change, and there is a foundation upon which to build.

Within the last year, a controversial and overly complex but important climate bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives and received serious consideration among a number of Senate offices. Even where substantive disagreements remained, a new and significant understanding of policy issues and solutions was achieved — which is essential to move forward.

More broadly, public support for action on climate change, energy security, and clean energy remains strong. Just last month, in the largest public referendum on environmental policy, millions in California voted to keep the state's landmark climate law on the books, saying that clean energy jobs are a path forward through a difficult economic climate. Californians rejected polluter-funded attempts to overturn the law by a 22 percent margin despite 12 percent unemployment in the state.

Meanwhile, the level of business support for meaningful climate and energy policy has reached new heights. A number of cities, states and regions across the country remain committed to moving forward. Plans for 130 new coal burning power plants have been canceled. The Administration moved forward with national greenhouse gas standards for vehicles, and talks are beginning for the next phase in 2016.

In order to continue to make progress, a new openness to different solutions will be essential. For our part — long standing advocates of a cap and trade approach — we need to accept that whether policies are cap and trade or something else is less important than whether they collectively provide a clear guarantee that emissions go down. More broadly, every entity looking for solutions to climate change will need to embrace flexibility and creativity in their policy approaches.

We will be guided by three principles as we work toward our pollution reduction goal:

  • We will judge ideas and policies by their potential to produce results. Performance is what matters.
  • Our approaches should be cost effective. This will lead to maximum pollution reduction returns for our investments and broader and durable public support.
  • We will involve as many sources of pollution, and methods for reducing and absorbing pollution, as possible.

How do we actually achieve the goal? National pollution limits established by Congress are still necessary for long term success, but in the short term we can take steps that move us in the same direction.

Our first priority must be to defend the pollution limits already in law, at the federal and state level. EPA has the responsibility under existing law to protect us from pollution, including the carbon emissions that cause global warming. It has done so thoughtfully over the years when regulating other air pollutants, and it can do so here. In fact, there may be no greater governmental success story than the Clean Air Act. We must encourage our neighbors in cities and in the countryside, to understand and protect the benefits of that law to our economy and our health, which have outweighed costs by more than 30 to 1; and to tell the stories of avoided premature deaths and childhood asthma attacks, and the shroud of smog lifted from our cities.

As with every pollution limit ever proposed, there will be some who will work to block, weaken, or delay any rules EPA tries to put on paper. We will fight them at every turn, making their full agenda clear to the American public: they seek not only to allow unlimited carbon pollution, but to derail limits on toxic mercury, lethal particulates, and other harmful contaminants in our air. We must remind America that obstructionists are attacking the fundamental public health protections of a bipartisan law that has stood for 40 years.

At the same time, we will encourage forward-thinking utilities and other businesses to reduce their pollution, and work with them to do so. And we will work on policies and programs that will allow for improved efficiency in the ways that we use and distribute energy — work that will save money as well as energy, and making our overall economy more competitive. Many businesses have already seen the benefits — lower energy bills, reduced regulatory issues, greater competitive advantage — and are making real, measurable strides.

These stories of what the world can be, both profitable and sustainable, are essential to return to a useful discussion about national limits for greenhouse gases. These examples will be more persuasive, because they are more concrete, than any other approach. There may be no more critical work that we will do over the next few years.

And we will continue to make the case that America will be stronger when we change the way we make and use energy. We cannot depend on hostile nations for so much of our energy, or slip further behind the Chinese and Europeans in creating new energy technology and jobs. Many of the issues about which we care the most — jobs, dependence, and competitiveness — are directly related to the issues of energy and pollution. But America will not support protective pollution limits or a transition to a cleaner energy economy if it does not believe that the solutions under consideration are solutions to these concerns.

In the long run we believe the path forward will be built from a continuing focus on solutions, and an aggressive approach combined with willingness to find new answers to the challenges we face. We must listen as well as speak, though speak we must. When we take this approach, we can seek out and work with people across the political and cultural spectrums with different approaches to solving our energy or climate challenges, and we can travel the path forward, together.

Posted in Climate Change Legislation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy | Comments closed

40 Years: Celebrating the Clean Air Act and the EPA

An anniversary worth celebrating

When Californians went to the polls earlier this month, they upheld the nation’s strongest global warming law and, in doing so, delivered a rebuke to Washington, where the Senate has conspicuously failed to pass national limits on carbon.

There have been times when America could look to its national leaders, acting in bipartisan fashion, to create strong environmental protections. Take the Clean Air Act and EPA, both of which mark 40th anniversaries this year.

I thought about the Clean Air Act a lot this summer, while vacationing near Mt. Mansfield, in Vermont. I hiked there as a boy, an experience that helped awaken my passion for protecting the environment. Returning so many years later, I was struck by one unmistakable fact: I could see farther than before. The air is much cleaner today.

Science confirms this. In rural Vermont, fine sulfur particles are the primary cause of haze. Sulfur pollution there is down 50% since 1990. Visibility has improved dramatically.

That’s just one of the things for which we can thank the Clean Air Act. By removing tens of millions of tons of pollution from the air, this legislation has also prevented more than 160,000 premature deaths.

Back then, the Act’s opponents predicted it would bring economic doomsday. But the law is one of the best investments Americans have ever made. For every $1 spent complying with it, we have gained $30 in health care savings and increased productivity.

Still, we have a long way to go: Half of Americans continue to breathe unhealthy air, and global warming pollution is on the rise.

Is EPA up to today’s challenges? Under the current administration, the agency is tightening air pollution regulations, a change long overdue.  But our opponents are at it again. The Business Roundtable, an association of corporate CEOs, is trying to delay EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations, saying Congress should pass a climate law instead. But when Congress considered a climate bill, the Business Roundtable opposed it.  I find its position disingenuous.

As opponents intensify their legislative and legal challenges to EPA, we will stand with the agency and defend its right to protect the health of all Americans.

We also will celebrate the Clean Air Act — a law that proved economic growth and environmental protection can go together. Having voted to let their new climate law take effect, Californians are about to demonstrate this again.

Posted in Climate Change Legislation, Policy | 1 Response, comments now closed
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