Author Archives: Fred Krupp

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

The Consequences of Inaction on Climate Change

What a long, hard road it has been getting Congress to pass a strong climate and energy bill. I regret to say that the news is not especially good, though the door is not yet completely closed.

After weeks of intense negotiations among EDF and other environmental organizations, Senate leaders, the White House, and some sympathetic members of the utility industry, we are still several votes short of the 60 required to break a Senate filibuster.

Because of this, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced that the Senate will not take up a limit on global warming pollution before the August recess, though it "may" consider it in September.

With a crowded Congressional calendar, and time running out, this announcement is discouraging. Will the Senate decide to take any meaningful steps? Right now it's a long shot, but we'll continue to work doggedly for a good Congressional outcome.

Consequences of Climate Inaction

While the politics are uncertain, the science is not. The consequences of Senate inaction are real and serious.

To name a few:

The Crisis Isn't Going Away: 2010 is on pace to become the warmest year on record, following the warmest decade on record: 2000-2009. Glacial and polar ice continues to melt at astonishing rates, worsening the threat of sea level rise, coastal flooding, and threatening the supply of drinking water for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Year by year and decade by decade, these and other very serious trends will get worse and worse with no end in sight.

Squandering the House-Passed Bill: To pass legislation, you need to move bills through both houses of Congress. The House of Representatives has already cast a clear, solid vote on this. If the Senate fails to act now, all that hard work will have been wasted and we'll have to start from scratch next year with a new Congress likely to be less inclined to act responsibly.

Inaction Now Only Makes It Harder Later: Science, not politics, is ultimately in charge of this crisis. And the science is very clear. We must begin cutting our emissions now to avoid even more dramatic cuts later. A delay of two or three years only makes the necessary pollution cuts all the more severe and disruptive to our economy and way of life.

I could go on, but the point is clear. Senate inaction will have very serious consequences for our environment, our economy, and, ultimately, our entire civilization.

That's the message we will continue to deliver to Senate leaders and the White House. And we will continue to let you know how you can help us in August and September as we continue to push forward.

One other thing is clear: Whatever the Senate decides in the coming days and weeks, we aren't going anywhere.

Global warming is the most serious environmental threat facing the planet and will remain our top organizational priority, one which we will continue to take on in a variety of ways, including:

  • Promoting local and state actions;
  • Getting our national policies right;
  • Working directly with businesses to improve efficiency and cut emissions; and
  • Negotiating internationally for global pollution limits.

Wherever there is a serious effort to cut global warming pollution, we will be there, fighting for the strongest possible solution.

The hour is late and the window for Senate action this year is closing. But, whatever the future holds, we will continue to fight to prevent the catastrophic threat of run-away global warming.

What a long, hard road it has been getting Congress to pass a strong climate and energy bill.

As someone who has fought with us for landmark legislation, you deserve to know where things stand. I regret to say that the news is not especially good, though the door is not yet completely closed.

After weeks of intense negotiations among EDF and other environmental organizations, Senate Leaders, the White House, and some sympathetic members of the utility industry, we are still several votes short of the 60 required to break a Senate filibuster.

Because of this, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced that the Senate will not take up a limit on global warming pollution before the August recess, though it "may" consider it in September.

With a crowded Congressional calendar, and time running out, this announcement is discouraging. Will the Senate decide to take any meaningful steps? Right now it's a long shot, but we'll continue to work doggedly for a good Congressional outcome.

Consequences of Climate Inaction

While the politics are uncertain, the science is not. The consequences of Senate inaction are real and serious.

To name a few:

The Crisis Isn't Going Away: 2010 is on pace to become the warmest year on record, following the warmest decade on record: 2000-2009. Glacial and polar ice continues to melt at astonishing rates, worsening the threat of sea level rise, coastal flooding, and threatening the supply of drinking water for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Year by year and decade by decade, these and other very serious trends will get worse and worse with no end in sight.

Squandering the House-Passed Bill: To pass legislation, you need to move bills through both houses of Congress. The House of Representatives has already cast a clear, solid vote on this. If the Senate fails to act now, all that hard work will have been wasted and we'll have to start from scratch next year with a new Congress likely to be less inclined to act responsibly.

Inaction Now Only Makes It Harder Later: Science, not politics, is ultimately in charge of this crisis. And the science is very clear. We must begin cutting our emissions now to avoid even more dramatic cuts later. A delay of two or three years only makes the pollution cuts we need to reach needed reduction targets all the more severe and disruptive our economy and way of life.

I could go on, but the point is clear. Senate inaction will have very serious consequences for our environment, our economy, and, ultimately, our entire civilization.

That's the message we will continue to deliver to Senate leaders and the White House. And we will continue to let you know how you can help us in August and September as we continue to push forward.

One other thing is clear: Whatever the Senate decides in the coming days and weeks, we aren't going anywhere!

Global warming is the most serious environmental threat facing the planet and will remain our top organizational priority, one which we will continue to take on in a variety of ways, including:

  • Promoting local and state actions;
  • Getting our national policies right;
  • Working directly with businesses to improve efficiency and cut emissions; and
  • Negotiating internationally for global pollution limits.

Wherever there is a serious effort to cut global warming pollution, we will be there, fighting for the strongest possible solution.

The hour is late and the window for Senate action this year is closing. But, whatever the future holds, we will continue to fight to prevent the catastrophic threat of run-away global warming.

We will keep you fully posted on events as they develop.

Thank you for your continued activism and support,

Posted in Climate Change Legislation| 3 Responses, comments now closed

House Passes Most Important Environmental And Energy Legislation in U.S. History

The American Clean Energy and Security Act is the most important environmental and energy legislation in our nation's history. Today's vote is a huge achievement for the country and the climate, and we applaud Speaker Pelosi, Chairmen Waxman and Markey, and all members of the House who helped craft this landmark legislation and get it passed.

The bill that emerged from the House has the fundamental structure we need to significantly reduce carbon pollution while growing the economy. It puts a strong cap on emissions and reorients our energy market to make low-carbon power the goal. It ensures that utility rates will stay affordable and a competitive playing field for U.S. companies.

Today's vote opens the door for President Obama to sign comprehensive climate legislation into law this year. The extensive negotiations leading up to the vote helped form extraordinarily broad support for the bill as it moves to the Senate. Chairmen Waxmen and Markey bridged the traditional sectoral and regional divides of energy politics to produce legislation that has support from labor unions and businesses across the economy, to rural interests, environmental advocates, and agriculture groups.

The bill puts the U.S. on the path to significant emissions reductions, a stronger economy, and a new position of leadership in the global effort to protect the climate. We look forward to working with the Senate leadership to meet Majority Leader Reid's September target for finishing committee work on the bill.

Posted in News| 12 Responses, comments now closed
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