Author Archives: Peter Zalzal

A Little-Known Federal Rule Brings Invisible Pollution Into Focus

Cropped rig houseLegal fellow Jess Portmess also contributed to this post.

Unlike an oil spill, most greenhouse gas emissions are invisible to the naked eye. Though we can’t see them, this pollution represents a daily threat to our environment and communities, and it is important to understand the extent of this pollution and where it comes from.

This is why in 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule requiring facilities in the oil and gas industry to report yearly emissions from their operations.

The Rule is part of a larger greenhouse gas measurement, reporting, and disclosure program called for by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. By coincidence, the rule is known as Subpart W.

The emissions data required by the Rule helps communities near oil and natural gas development better understand pollution sources, and gives companies better ways to identify opportunities to reduce emissions.

As these policies have gotten stronger under the Obama administration, industry has continued to fight them in federal court. Read More »

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

Court Hears Arguments on Fuel Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Standards for Big Freight Trucks

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. heard oral arguments today in challenges seeking to overturn historic, first-generation standards to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large trucks and buses.

The standards were finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2011.

The standards apply to vehicles manufactured between 2014 and 2018. They are based on commonsense, highly cost-effective technologies that will make our nation’s fleet of large trucks and buses more efficient — reducing harmful climate-destabilizing pollution, limiting our dependence on foreign oil, and saving money for both truckers (in the form of lower fuel costs) and consumers (in the form of lower shipping costs).

EPA estimates that, over the lifetime of vehicles sold between 2014 and 2018, the standards will:

  • Reduce climate pollution by more than 270 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent
  • Reduce oil consumption by more than 530 million barrels
  • Result in net savings of up to $73,000 in avoided fuel costs over the lifetime of a new long-haul truck.

These cross-cutting benefits engendered broad-based support for the standards, including support from our nation’s truck and engine manufacturers, from states, and from public health and environmental groups.

In response to the President’s announcement of these first generation standards in 2010, many of these organizations sent letters of support. Here are just a few examples:

Cummins Inc. recognizes the benefits for the country of a National Program to address greenhouse gases (OHOs) and fuel efficiency from medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses. Cummins fully supports the adoption of such a National Program and welcomes this opportunity to be a partner in helping to advance that goal.

[Daimler] is committed to working with EPA and NHTSA, the states, and other interested parties to help address three of the most pressing issues facing the U.S. today and into the future: greenhouse gas reductions, fuel efficiency improvements, and increased energy security.

As 2015 begins, these clean air measures are now in their second year of effectiveness, and they are driving technological innovations that are cleaning the air and helping American truck manufacturers to thrive.

Through October of 2014, sales of fuel efficient trucks were 20 percent higher than their 2013 levels. 2015 is projected to be even stronger, with forecasts suggesting it will be the third strongest year ever for truck sales.

Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, put it succinctly:

[T]hese standards “are very good examples of regulations that work well.”

None of these truck and engine manufacturers were in court today challenging the first generation truck standards, which are based on rigorous technical information and firmly grounded in the law. The standards are a testament to the fact that collaboration among truck manufacturers, states, and other interested parties can reduce pollution, enhance our nation’s energy security, and save truckers and consumers money.

That is very good news, because President Obama recently announced that EPA and NHTSA will issue second-generation greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for large trucks.

Many of the same companies that stood with the President in announcing a blueprint to develop the second phase standards also collaborated on the first generation clean trucks standards. Among those supporting the President’s announcement of second phase standards included the nation’s major manufacturers and fleets such as Conway, Cummins, Eaton, Wabash National, Waste Management and the American Trucking Association.

When our nation stands together, we can forge big gains in strengthening our economy and protecting our environment.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Partners for Change| Comments are closed

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| Read 1 Response

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 are 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 are 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| Read 1 Response
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    Megan CeronskyMegan Ceronsky
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