Author Archives: Peter Zalzal

We’re on the Road to Cleaner, More Fuel-Efficient Trucks

America started down the road toward cleaner, more fuel-efficient freight trucks today.

President Obama, joined by leading freight truck manufacturers and major fleet owners, announced plans to draft a second generation of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for America’s heavy-duty trucks.

The new standards will build on the successful first round, which are yielding far-reaching benefits for America’s security, economy and environment.

As the President said in his 2014 State of the Union Address:

We’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars.  In the coming months, I'll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

Opportunity

Climate pollution from our nation’s freight trucks is projected to increase by more than 130 million tons between now and 2040 – the largest increase in emissions from any single end-use, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Recent analyses, however, indicate that rigorous second generation fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for new freight trucks can cost-effectively reduce this climate pollution, improve our nation’s energy security, and save truckers money.

Consider this:

  • By 2025, strong second generation truck standards could reduce fuel consumption by up to 40 percent compared to 2010. That’s more than 800,000 barrels of oil savings per day beyond what’s achieved by current standards.
  • Most technologies needed to achieve this reduction have payback periods of three years or less.

Making our nation’s fleet of trucks more efficient is also good for consumers.

Improving efficiency means cutting the costs associated with transporting goods. That means companies can sell those goods for less, which in turn means that American families will save money.

A recent report by the Consumer Federation of America found:

  • Net savings of $250 to consumers, rising to $400 per household in 2035 as fuel prices and transportation services increase.

Solutions

Cost-effective, made-in-America solutions are available to help achieve these important environmental, economic and energy security benefits.

Rigorous second-generation clean trucks standards can help deploy these made-in-America technologies.

Strong standards are also critical to spur investment and innovation leading to the next generation of clean truck solutions.

For instance:

Just yesterday, Walmart unveiled “Jetson,”a prototype tractor-trailer powered by a revolutionary combination of a microturbine, battery storage, and electric motor, with advanced aerodynamics and a carbon-fiber trailer.

Broad-Based Support

These common sense solutions have resulted in broad support.

Many of the same companies that stood with the President today also collaborated on the first generation clean trucks standards.

Among those supporting the President today included the nation’s major manufacturers and fleets such as Conway, Cummins, Eaton, Wabash National, Waste Management and the American Trucking Association.

Proven Success

These second generation clean truck standards build on a foundation of success — including first and second generation clean cars standards and first generation clean trucks standards.

Manufacturers are meeting these standards in advance of compliance deadlines, doing so for lower costs, and delivering substantial, real-world benefits.

For example, here are some compelling achievements by passenger cars and trucks as a result of efficiency standards:

  • Since October 2007, per driver greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. have dropped by 20 percent, according to the University of Michigan’s Eco-Driving Index.
  • EPA estimates that between model years 2004 and 2012, average carbon dioxide emissions from cars decreased by 18 percent, and fuel economy increased by 22 percent.
  • 28 percent of projected model year 2013 vehicle production already meets the model year 2016 carbon dioxide emissions targets, and about 5 percent of projected 2013 production could meet the 2025 carbon dioxide emissions targets, according to EPA’s fuel economy trends report.

The cleaner cars and freight trucks being made in America today show that when our nation works together we can achieve lasting progress for our economy and our environment.

Environmental Defense Fund stands ready today to work with President Obama, freight truck and trailer manufacturers, and fleet owners on common sense policies to advance and secure the transformative cleaner freight trucks of tomorrow.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy| Comments closed

EDF Goes Back to Court to Support Climate Pollution Reductions

Another high-profile clean air case played out yesterday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

A three-judge panel heard oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas and some industry petitioners.

The lawsuit challenges EPA’s efforts to ensure smooth, uninterrupted permitting for large new industrial sources of climate pollution in Texas.

EDF was part of a coalition of clean air advocates that filed two briefs in the case. We filed in support of EPA, along with Conservation Law Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club.

At issue in the case are State Implementation Plans, or SIPs as they’re commonly known.

Here’s some background on the case

U.S. clean air laws require that large new industrial sources obtain construction permits providing for cost-effective modern solutions to mitigate climate pollution. The states are empowered to provide those permits – through their SIPs.

In 2010, EPA found that 13 states, including Texas, lacked the ability to carry out that requirement.

All those states except Texas worked with EPA to ensure permitting authority was in place. That allowed large new industrial sources in those states to obtain the needed construction permits.

In an August 2, 2010 letter to EPA, Texas wrote that it:

ha[d] neither the authority nor the intention of interpreting, ignoring, or amending its laws in order to compel the permitting of greenhouse gas emissions.

That brings us to the lawsuits.

Here’s a look at what happened in court yesterday

Judges Judith Rogers, David Tatel, and Brett Kavanaugh heard oral arguments.

The judges closely questioned Texas and industry petitioners about the impact of the court’s recent decision in another case that we’ve written about.

In that challenge to the Endangerment Finding, before the same court, judges upheld EPA’s first-generation climate protections.  The decision in that case said that EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act was:

unambiguously correct

In light of that earlier ruling, EPA argued that its actions were necessary to ensure that sources in Texas could get permits.

That became one of the main points of discussion during oral arguments yesterday – as the judges pressed Texas and the industry petitioners to describe how EPA’s actions caused them any injury.

What’s at stake in the case

This case is part of an extensive suite of litigation Texas has mounted to oppose some of America’s most important climate protections.

Those protections include:

  • EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and the environment
  • EPA’s Clean Cars standards, which will save consumers money, reduce pollution, and help protect our nation’s energy security
  • EPA’s requirement that large sources of greenhouse gas emissions deploy modern pollution controls

If successful in this case, the upshot of Texas’s actions would be to eliminate any authority from which new industrial sources in the state of Texas could obtain permits addressing their greenhouse gas emissions – permits which these sources need for lawful construction.

Texas is suing even though EPA has taken great pains to create a reasonable and fair process:

  • EPA has acted in the most limited, surgical fashion to ensure businesses in Texas can obtain permits consistent with the nation’s clean air laws.
  • EPA has provided federal authority only for climate pollution, and Texas is administering the balance of the requirements.
  • Even with respect to greenhouse gases, EPA has urged Texas to take delegated authority over permitting.

Unfortunately, as Texas continues to devote scarce public resources to suing over the common-sense climate protections of U.S. clean air laws, communities in Texas are already suffering from the weird weather linked to climate change – like last year’s debilitating drought.

And in an ironic twist, at the same time that Texas is using public resources to fight common-sense climate pollution standards, Texas leads the nation in wind power — a zero-emitting resource.

In 2012, wind power led the entire nation in the overall deployment of new electricity generating resources, with 13,124 megawatts.  Much of that came from the Heartland — Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

That means Texas is looking at a … well … Texas-sized economic opportunity – as well as an opportunity for climate progress.

What a shame they’re choosing to waste their time and money in court instead.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News| Comments closed

Day Two of Landmark Clean Air Cases: Courtroom Arguments Wrap Up

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. heard its second and final day of oral arguments, today, in a landmark group of cases about EPA’s critical climate protections.

Today’s arguments focused on EPA’s actions to require cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reductions from the largest sources, like power plants — while shielding smaller sources.

I was at the courthouse again today. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

The judges began by examining EPA’s decision to initially focus climate protections on the largest sources of pollution. The judges closely questioned the Solicitor General of the State of Texas about how this focus on large sources harmed the state.

In a pointed exchange, Chief Judge Sentelle noted that the remedy Texas seeks — invalidation of the large-source thresholds — would seem to cause Texas injury where, under EPA’s current program, none exists. 

The Chief Judge underscored the seeming irrationality of this position, noting that Texas’s argument:

[D]oesn’t even make good non-sense.

The questioning then turned to EPA’s long-standing rules describing the workings of the permitting system for the largest sources of pollution. Those rules are more than 30 years old.

In this series of exchanges, Judge Tatel focused on provisions of the Clean Air Act that capture “any air pollutant” within this program. He questioned the Petitioners about how this language, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, could possibly allow the agency to exclude greenhouse gas pollutants.

Like yesterday, the judges closely examined EPA’s legal authority. Today, they pointedly questioned both Petitioners and EPA. 

It was another fascinating day in the courtroom with important implications for protecting human health and the environment from the clear and present danger climate pollution poses.   

Now, we’ll all have to wait for the court’s decisions –probably sometime in the summer. We’ll bring you updates as soon as anything happens.

In the meantime, you can read more about the EPA's endangerment findings and the attacks on EPA's climate change protections on our website, or from my earlier blogs posts – a preview of the case, or a look at yesterday’s proceedings.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Climate Change Legislation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy| Comments closed

Day One of Landmark Clean Air Cases: A Report from the Courtroom

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. heard oral arguments in two of EPA’s critical climate protections: EPA’s finding that six greenhouse gases endanger the human health and welfare of current and future generations; and EPA’s greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks. 

I had the chance to sit in the courtroom and listen to the historic arguments. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.

The courtroom doors opened at 8:00 am. Arguments began a little after 9:00 in front of a packed courtroom. They lasted almost three hours, during which time Chief Judge Sentelle and Circuit Judges Tatel and Rogers focused closely on the legal underpinnings of EPA’s actions.

The questioning often returned to the importance of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. In that decision, the High Court determined that greenhouse gases are “air pollutants” under America’s clean air laws, and directed EPA to determine whether they endanger human health and welfare on the basis of science. 

Against this backdrop, today’s Petitioners forwarded non-scientific reasons that they claimed would permit EPA to avoid finding that greenhouse gases are harmful to human health. That line of reasoning prompted Chief Judge Sentelle to note that:

Sometimes in reading Petitioners’ briefs, I got the feeling that Massachusetts hadn’t been decided.

Among these non-scientific factors: Petitioners urged that EPA must consider humans’ ability to adapt to a changing climate in determining whether greenhouse gases endanger human health.  

In a hypothetical, Judge Tatel probed the flawed implications of that argument – he asked whether Petitioners’ position meant that EPA could determine that a cancer-causing pollutant did not pose a danger to public health on the grounds that society may, at some future point, develop a cure for cancer.     

The court then turned to the second case for the day – the challenge to the clean car standards. Petitioners urged that EPA should have declined to adopt these standards, or delayed adoption indefinitely, on account of the alleged implications such standards would have for large sources of climate pollution.  

The judges’ questions again turned to the plain terms of the Clean Air Act, which directs that EPA “shall” issue emissions standards for new motor vehicles once the agency makes an endangerment determination. The judges questioned Petitioners about why they thought it possible to evade such a clear statutory command. 

U.S. auto makers intervened in this second case in support of EPA’s rules. The car companies noted during today’s arguments that the legal challenges are peculiar for three reasons:

  • No Petitioners are actually regulated by the emission standards
  • The industry that is directly regulated – the automakers – supports the clean car standard
  • No Petitioner has any quarrel with the actual level of the standards.    

All in all, it was a fascinating day for anyone interested in protecting human health and the environment from climate pollution, or for anyone interested in learning more about the rule of law.

We should have more groundbreaking moments tomorrow, when the court hears two more cases involving EPA’s requirements that new, large, industrial emitters deploy the best available cost-effective strategies to reduce harmful climate pollution.

I’m planning to be back in court tomorrow, and I’ll post another wrap-up of the day’s arguments.  

After that, we’ll all have to wait for the court to rule – probably sometime this summer.

In the meantime, learn more about the EPA's endangerment findings and the attacks on EPA's climate change protections on our website, or from my earlier blog.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News| Comments closed

Landmark Environmental Court Battle on Horizon

On February 28th and 29th, the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. will hear oral arguments in challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark clean air measures to protect American's health and well-being from the clear and present danger of climate pollution.

In one corner states like Texas and large industrial polluters are challenging EPA's action.  In the other, EPA’s defenders include a dozen states, business like the U.S. auto makers, and environmental groups like EDF.

There are a group of clean air rules in question:

  • The Climate Pollution Endangerment Finding- On December 15, 2009, EPA determined that six greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations. EPA based this finding on more than 100 published scientific studies and peer-reviewed syntheses of climate change research.  The finding follows from the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, where the Court held that greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and instructed EPA to determine — on the basis of science — whether these gases endanger human health and welfare.
  • Clean Car Standards- landmark fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks.  These standards are supported by U.S. auto makers, the United Auto Workers, and a dozen states – among others – because they will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce harmful greenhouse gas pollution, and save consumers money.
  • Application of Climate Pollution Protections to Largest Emitters – EPA requires new large, industrial emitters (like power plants) deploy the best available cost-effective strategies to reduce harmful climate pollution in a timely fashion- a requirement EPA has phased in, focusing on the largest industrial sources of climate pollution while shielding small sources.

There is much at stake for our nation's environment and economy, but we’ll be in the courtroom and giving you updates every step of the way.

If you’re looking for more background, EDF has compiled detailed information about the cases. You can read more about the rules and the parties involved, and find the court briefs. You can also read about the EPA's endangerment findings.

Posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Clean Air Act, Climate Change Legislation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy| Comments closed

New Website Lets You Find the Largest Sources of Climate Pollution in Your Area

I’m very excited about a brand new website that will let me – and all Americans – learn about sources of climate pollution in my community and across America.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the website today. The consumer-friendly web platform has new greenhouse gas emissions data that will help Americans work together to develop innovative ways to reduce climate pollution.

The public availability of this data means that Americans now, for the first time, have access to accurate information about the heat-trapping greenhouse gases emitted by large industrial sources in their communities.

For a decade and a half now, since 1995, fossil-fuel fired power plants over 25 megawatts have reported their carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. Those reports have created a rigorous database of emissions data for the nation's single largest source sector.

Under the FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in December of 2007 (H.R. 2764; Public Law 110–161), other large emitters of carbon pollution started reporting their emissions too.

Now, that long-awaited data is finally available. The new EPA’s website has climate pollution data for about 6,700 industrial facilities, based on 2010 annual pollution discharges.

The facilities include:

  • Power Plants
  • Cement Plants
  • Iron and Steel Producers
  • Landfills
  • Metals Manufacturing
  • Mineral Production
  • Petroleum Refineries
  • Pulp and Paper Manufacturing
  • Chemicals Manufacturing
  • Government and Commercial Facilities
  • And Other Industrial Facilities

These are sources that emit 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or more per year. Those levels are comparable to the emissions from 131 rail cars of coal consumed, or 58,000 barrels of oil consumed. Collectively, they’re responsible for billions of tons of climate-disrupting pollution.

Churches, cattle, and other small sources of emissions do not have to report their emissions.

The website includes data on emissions of the following climate-disrupting pollutants:

  • carbon dioxide
  • methane
  • nitrous oxide
  • hydrofluorocarbons
  • perfluorocarbons
  • sulfur hexafluoride
  • other fluorinated gasess

The website lets you search for, and sort, emissions information by geographic area and industry sector. You can compare emissions among facilities. You can also share information using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter.

Americans have a right to know about the pollution in their air. All this information will help us make historic progress towards that goal.

The new data promotes transparency and provides a strong foundation for Americans to work together in deploying smart climate. It also will strengthen corporate governance and sustainability by providing rigorous, facility-based pollution data that tracks pollution levels for comparison with other facilities. And, it will provide investors with transparent information, helping to drive investment decisions informed by the companies and facilities that are leading the way in reducing climate pollution and those that are lagging behind.

EPA also released the data as a factsheet. And of course, there’s lots more information on the main EPA website.

But all of us at EDF are especially happy to have the new interactive website – it’s a great tool for fighting climate change.

Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy| Comments closed
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    Megan CeronskyMegan Ceronsky
    Attorney

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    Vice President for International Climate

    Ilissa Ocko
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