Selected category: Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan’s enormous climate benefits – in one graphic

In addition to the vital public health benefits it offers, the Clean Power Plan is the nation’s most significant action to date to address climate change’s number one culprit – heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions.

Now, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is trying to revoke the Clean Power Plan. Here’s a look at the enormous benefits we could lose.

When the Clean Power Plan is fully in place by 2030, the avoided annual carbon dioxide emissions relative to business-as-usual (350 million metric tons) are equivalent to preventing:

  • 40 billion gallons of gasoline consumed, or
  • 380 billion pounds of coal burned, or
  • 810 million barrels of oil consumed, or
  • 850 billion miles driven by an average car.

In order to get the same climate benefits that the Clean Power Plan would deliver, we would need to:

  • Replace 12 billion incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, or
  • Take 75 million cars off the road

Click to enlarge

 

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Science| Read 1 Response

Underhanded maneuvers to repeal the Clean Power Plan put Americans’ lives and health at risk

(EDF’s Ben Levitan co-authored this post)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt says he will sign a proposal tomorrow to repeal the Clean Power Plan – America’s only nationwide limits on carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants.

If the proposal matches what we’ve already seen in a leaked draft, it would be one of the most deeply harmful and reckless actions an EPA Administrator has ever taken. It would cost thousands of American lives, harm public health in myriad other ways, and lead to years of costly delays in combating the urgent threat of climate change.

Administrator Pruitt would have to go to great lengths to obscure and ignore these harmful consequences. When EPA issued the Clean Power Plan in 2015, it estimated that the plan would create up to $54 billion in annual benefits, including:

  • The prevention of up to 3,600 premature deaths every year
  • The prevention of 90,000 childhood asthma attacks every year
  • The prevention of 300,000 missed school and work days every year.

By comparison, EPA concluded that the annual costs would be much lower. And in the two years since the Clean Power Plan was issued, new analyses – including this one from New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity – have concluded that compliance with the Clean Power Plan has become dramatically cheaper as a result of the plummeting costs of clean energy.

Yet the draft proposal for repealing the Clean Power Plan seems to rely on a significantly higher costs estimate, and much lower benefits. How is that possible?

A careful look at the numbers shows that the Administrator Pruitt’s EPA cooked the books for this proposal. They used discredited methodologies to artificially inflate costs, and to mask the consequences for our climate and obscure the thousands of lives that could be lost as a result of their repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

Here are four tactics that Administrator Pruitt has employed in the leaked proposal to inflate the costs and hide the benefits of the Clean Power Plan:

1. Disregarding lives saved by the Clean Power Plan

EPA’s original analysis of the Clean Power Plan found that it would avoid thousands of premature deaths each year by reducing particulate matter pollution – yielding up to $34 billion in annual health benefits in 2030.

According to the American Lung Association, particulate matter pollution causes permanent damage to lung development in children, aggravates asthma and other respiratory problems, increases hospitalizations, and increases deaths from heart and lung diseases including lung cancer.

The Clean Power Plan would reduce exposure to this pollution across the country – avoiding these health harms and premature deaths.

Administrator Pruitt’s draft proposal assumes away those benefits by asserting – contrary to established medical research – that there is zero health impact from reducing particulate matter pollution below certain “threshold” levels. The proposal also suggests that EPA can count only the climate benefits associated with carbon pollution, with no consideration to any health benefits at all.

This claim that there is a “threshold” level of particulate pollution below which it does not harm human health is directly contradicted by the American Heart Association and was completely discredited many years ago by an expert panel convened by EPA under the George W. Bush Administration. It also runs contrary to EPA’s long-standing practice.

As EPA itself recently explained in a court brief:

The best scientific evidence, confirmed by independent, Congressionally-mandated expert panels, is that there is no threshold level of fine particulate pollution below which health reductions are not achieved by reducing exposure.

Ignoring the deaths and harm to Americans’ health that would result from repealing the Clean Power Plan is unconscionable. The plain truth is that undoing the Clean Power Plan would deprive Americans of billions of dollars in health benefits and put then at increased risk for premature death.

2. Artificially inflating the costs of the Clean Power Plan

EPA originally anticipated that parties would comply with the Clean Power Plan in part through investments in demand-side energy efficiency, “a highly cost-effective means” for reducing carbon pollution from the power sector.

Demand-side energy efficiency measures help consumers save electricity, resulting in lower electric bills for hard-working Americans, less pollution, and a more reliable electric grid. Investments in energy efficiency are largely offset by the electricity savings that result.

Yet the upside-down accounting in the draft proposal adds those energy efficiency investments to the costs of the Clean Power Plan without deducting the electricity savings those investments yield. This makes it look like the power sector is paying for both energy efficiency and the electricity that it no longer needs to produce. Therefore, this upside-down accounting includes billions of dollars of imaginary electricity costs – for electricity that will never be generated or purchased.

The draft proposal adds the cost of this imaginary electricity to its estimate of Clean Power Plan benefits — to represent the “benefit” of not having to purchase electricity that was never produced in the first place. When comparing costs and benefits, this imaginary electricity is a net wash ­– but it enables EPA to inflate its estimate of the plan’s costs by up to $19.3 billion in 2030.

The draft proposal also uses a higher discount rate of 7 percent for energy efficiency investments – providing no meaningful justification for a choice that further inflates costs by $6.2 billion.

The cumulative effects of adding the cost of imaginary electricity and using a higher discount rate increases costs by up to $25.5 billion in 2030.

3. Shortchanging the benefits of reducing carbon pollution

Administrator Pruitt’s proposal aggressively undercuts the social cost of carbon. That's the estimate of damages that climate pollution causes for our families and communities – from more intense hurricanes and heat waves, more wildfires, and the many other threats of climate change.

By using an unrealistically low figure, the proposal severely undervalues the benefits of the Clean Power Plan’s carbon reductions.

The original Clean Power Plan utilized an estimate of the social cost of carbon developed over many years by experts from a dozen federal agencies who used the best available science and repeatedly considered public input.

The draft proposal for repealing the Clean Power Plan has new, misleading values that use unsound methods rejected by independent experts to yield a lower estimate of the Plan’s benefits.

The draft proposal simply ignores important categories of carbon reduction benefits

The new proposal claims to count only the domestic U.S. impacts of carbon pollution, even though this pollution causes worldwide harm. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences affirmed the importance of counting global benefits, explaining that the benefits of reducing carbon pollution would be dangerously undervalued if every country used a domestic-only social cost of carbon.

The draft proposal’s “domestic-only” cost estimate also ignores significant harms to the U.S. that arise from climate change impacts in other countries – including “global migration, economic destabilization, and political destabilization,” and “[l]ower economic growth in other regions [that] could reduce demand for U.S. exports, and lower productivity [that] could increase the prices of U.S. imports.”

For these reasons, the National Academy of Sciences concluded earlier this year that:

Climate damages to the United States cannot be accurately characterized without accounting for consequences outside U.S. borders.

Administrator Pruitt’s approach flies in the face of that expert advice.

The draft proposal short-changes our children by discounting pollution reduction benefits for future generations

The new proposal also uses a sharply lower value for the benefits that today’s carbon reductions provide to future generations.

The original Clean Power Plan “discounted” the future benefits of carbon reductions at a rate of three percent per year, based upon the findings of the inter-agency working group.

But the new proposal uses discount rates as high as seven percent, without any justification – a value that is much higher than recommended by the National Academy of Sciences or the economics literature.

The cumulative effects of ignoring global impacts and increasing the discount rate are dramatic. In the original Clean Power Plan, EPA estimated climate benefits of $20 billion in 2030 (using a three percent discount rate). The draft proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan estimates climate benefits of just $0.5 billion in 2030.

Click to enlarge

 

4. Ignoring how low-cost clean energy means the Clean Power Plan will be even more affordable

In the two years since EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan, the plan’s goals have become even more achievable and low-cost than originally projected – thanks to electricity sector developments including the sharply declining costs of renewable energy.

But the new draft proposal has made no attempt to update its economic analysis, and does not appear to acknowledge that recent studies of the Clean Power Plan have found compliance costs are now much lower than EPA originally estimated.

Instead, Administrator Pruitt is proposing to repeal this life-saving, economically beneficial public health protection before even bothering to properly consider the latest data.

The recent report from the Institute for Policy Integrity highlights the falling costs of complying with the Clean Power Plan and points to several power sector developments that explain this trend.

The report presents several recent economic analyses conducted by independent, non-governmental entities that estimate substantially lower compliance costs than EPA projected in 2015. For instance, a June 2016 analysis by M.J. Bradley & Associates, using the same electric sector model as EPA but updating several inputs, finds that compliance would cost up to 84 percent less than EPA originally estimated.

EPA recognized and evaluated many of these precise studies as part of its Clean Power Plan deliberations. Yet for the sake of repealing the Clean Power Plan, Administrator Pruitt has decided to ignore these studies.

America deserves better

The Clean Power Plan is the most significant step the U.S. has ever taken to address the crisis of climate change. Once fully implemented, it will provide enormous public health benefits – making Americans safer, healthier, and more productive.

If Administrator Pruitt is intent on rolling back a life-saving protection for human health and the environment, the American people at least deserve an honest evaluation based on the best available data.

Unfortunately, it looks like he’s using underhanded maneuvers and deceptive accounting gimmicks to justify rescinding the Clean Power Plan instead – and the consequences for the health and safety of Americans will be all too real for decades to come.

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Five takeaways from Scott Pruitt’s reported proposal to revoke the Clean Power Plan

Today, a draft proposal emerged of the latest step in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s attack on clean air and climate security – a proposal to revoke the Clean Power Plan, America’s only nationwide limit on carbon pollution from power plants.

The proposal offers no commitment to do anything to address dangerous carbon pollution from existing power plants – our nation’s largest industrial source of this harmful pollution.

Here are five key takeaways from the proposal that emerged today.

1. Devaluing the health and well-being of all Americans

The Clean Power Plan would deliver tremendous benefits to American communities by reducing harmful pollution. For example, EPA estimates the Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks every year once it is fully implemented.

But in a vivid example of how little Administrator Pruitt prioritizes public health, this proposal uses discredited methods to justify the view that premature deaths and other significant health impacts from harmful air pollution don’t exist and don’t matter. It even undercuts the harms we face from carbon pollution by using methods at odds with leading experts, including the National Academy of Sciences.

Administrator Pruitt is trying to paint over the fact that undoing the Clean Power Plan will expose Americans to dirtier air, and will delay urgently needed action to address climate change.

Asthma attacks, heart attacks, floods and storm surges, wildfires, droughts, and heat waves hurt real people. EPA has a responsibility to protect the public — but Pruitt has made a priority of protecting the fossil fuel interests that have propelled his political career.

2. Repeal-without-replace

Across America, the past weeks of extreme weather have provided a tragic reminder of the threats we face from climate change. Hurricanes exacerbated by climate change – like Maria, Harvey, and Irma – have left millions reeling, with lives lost and communities profoundly disrupted for years to come.

Yet the draft proposal makes no commitment to protect Americans from dangerous climate change. Instead it “continues to consider” whether to protect Americans from carbon pollution from existing power plants (ignoring settled law that EPA must issue safeguards against climate pollution under the Clean Air Act – as the Supreme Court has already concluded three times.)

Administrator Pruitt chastised others for asking about climate change after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit, saying the timing was “insensitive.” But at that same time, he was working to roll back our nation’s most significant effort to protect Americans from climate change.

3. America should be moving ahead on clean power – not going backwards

Power market trends are moving towards cleaner power sources, creating jobs and shared economic prosperity across the country.

More and more evidence shows that achieving the Clean Power Plan’s goals will be even cheaper than expected. Yet Administrator Pruitt’s draft uses accounting gimmicks to claim costs would somehow be higher than originally anticipated.

If anything, the Clean Power Plan’s targets should be stronger. But Administrator Pruitt now seems to be pulling out the stops to shield polluting power plants from taking any steps to reduce their harmful impacts.

4. Who benefits? Pruitt’s political allies

Scott Pruitt built his political career by suing relentlessly to block EPA safeguards, including the Clean Power Plan.

Pruitt’s campaigns and political organizations received extensive contributions from Clean Power Plan opponents, including $25,000 from coal company Murray Energy just one month before the Clean Power Plan oral argument.

Those Clean Power Plan opponents now stand to benefit from this draft proposal – at the expense of the health and safety of American families.

5. Americans speak out for the Clean Power Plan

When President Trump issued an executive order in March that threatened to roll back the Clean Power Plan, Americans across the country responded with an outpouring of support.

Groups supporting the Clean Power Plan included: faith organizations; health associations; at least 75 mayors, state governors, and attorneys general representing nearly half the U.S. population; power companies; and leading companies like Apple, General Electric, and Walmart.

A similarly broad and diverse coalition has been defending the Clean Power Plan in court –including eighteen states and sixty municipalities across the country; power companies that own and operate nearly ten percent of the nation’s generating capacity; consumer and ratepayer advocates; and many others.

In a recent nationwide poll, almost 70 percent of Americans expressed support for strict limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants – including a majority of Americans in every Congressional district in the country.

Please join us to fight for the Clean Power Plan. You can take action here.

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Climate and clean energy progress continues in spite of Clean Power Plan repeal rumors

According to news reports, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is planning to start the process of repealing the Clean Power Plan very soon.

This seriously flawed and misguided effort would be a dangerous step backwards for public health and climate protections.

However, as the Trump Administration continues to unravel these protections, the transition to a clean energy future is accelerating. States, cities, and power companies are responding to the ongoing attacks by forging ahead with ambitious actions to slash carbon pollution in order to respond to the threat of climate change and accelerate the clean energy revolution.

Clean Power Plan repeal?

The Clean Power Plan is a common-sense rule to safeguard public health by reducing carbon pollution from power plants to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Clean Power Plan would prevent:

  • 3,600 premature deaths each year
  • 1,700 heart attacks each year
  • 90,000 asthma attacks each year

Administrator Pruitt reportedly intends to propose repealing the Clean Power Plan in the coming days.

If so, EPA will likely issue an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” (ANPR) to solicit public input on a replacement rule – a protracted process that is likely to lead to a far weaker standard.

The ANPR process could lead to years of harmful and unjustified delay in implementing urgently needed limits on carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants.

Forging ahead to a clean energy future

The U.S. power sector has already made enormous strides in deploying clean energy resources and slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

American Wind Energy Association

 

Solar Jobs Census 2016The Solar Foundation, interactive map

Globally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported yesterday that renewables accounted for almost two-thirds of new capacity installed.

  • Solar additions worldwide grew faster than any other fuel last year, including coal and natural gas.
  • Over the next five years, the IEA projects renewable capacity to grow by over 920 gigawatts – a 43 percent increase by 2022.

Meanwhile, by the end of 2016, carbon pollution from U.S. power plants had already declined to 25 percent below 2005 levels – meaning the power sector is already almost 80 percent of the way to achieving the Clean Power Plan’s 2030 targets.

A new report by the Institute for Policy Integrity highlights the falling costs of complying with the Clean Power Plan. The report points to several market and policy developments including low natural prices, declining renewable energy costs, the 2015 renewable energy tax credit extensions, and state programs supporting the adoption of clean energy technologies.

The Clean Power Plan targets have become a floor for forward-looking states and companies that acknowledge the Clean Power Plan was a first step towards realizing the promise of a low-carbon power sector.

Yet this shift towards clean energy – driven by market forces and accelerating subnational action – is no substitute for decisive federal action that will ensure continued and accelerated progress in achieving the emissions reductions required to stem the tide of climate change.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that without the Clean Power Plan, carbon emissions from the power sector will increase by 2030 – reversing the current downward trajectory in the United States and leaving the country behind as the global clean energy revolution continues.

To keep us moving forward, state and local officials are stepping up their game by cutting carbon pollution and switching to clean energy in spite of — and in direct response to — President Trump’s rollbacks.

  • Fourteen states and Puerto Rico, accounting for more than 10 percent of U.S. carbon emissions from the power sector, pledged as part of the new U.S. Climate Alliance to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, as well as meet or exceed their Clean Power Plan targets.
  • 381 mayors (and counting) representing more than 67 million Americans also pledged to honor the Paris Agreement goals and work to meet the 1.5° Celsius global temperature target. Dozens of cities have committed to move to 100 percent clean energy.
  • Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed an executive order in July 2017 committing the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2026, consistent with U.S. goals under the Paris Agreement. “The vast majority of our residents, and indeed the country, expect us to help lead the way toward a clean and affordable energy future,” Governor Hickenlooper said in a press release.
  • Nine states comprising the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in August announced a proposal to cut carbon pollution from the power sector an additional 30 percent between 2020 and 2030 – a 65 percent reduction below the original 2009 pollution cap. The proposal demonstrates bipartisan commitment to combat climate change, with five Republican and four Democratic governors helming the RGGI states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont). Meanwhile, both New Jersey gubernatorial frontrunners have pledged to rejoin RGGI after this year’s election.
  • Virginia regulators are working to establish a “trading-ready” program to slash power plant carbon emissions in response to an executive order Governor Terry McAuliffe signed in May 2017. “Today, I am proud to take executive action to cut greenhouse gases and make Virginia a leader in the global clean energy economy,” Governor McAuliffe said when he signed the order.
  • California affirmed its position as a global leader on climate progress with a bevy of actions in the past year. In September 2016, legislators passed SB 32, which requires the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. In July 2017, the state secured a 10-year extension to its landmark cap-and-trade program and strengthened tools to improve local air quality in a bipartisan effort. “All over the world, momentum is building to deal seriously with climate change,” Governor Jerry Brown said in July. “Despite rejection in Washington, California is all in.”
  • At least 20 states and the District of Columbia have adopted ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, with most aiming for an 80 percent reduction by 2050 below baselines ranging from 1990 to 2006. Twenty-nine states and D.C. have binding renewable portfolio standards in place, while eight more have set renewable portfolio goals. Twenty states have set mandatory energy efficiency targets, while eight more have set energy efficiency goals.

The nation’s largest power companies are similarly pledging to slash carbon pollution and deploy renewable energy resources as they embrace the rapid transition to a clean energy economy.

  • The CEO of American Electric Power (AEP), the country’s largest generator of electricity from coal, had this to say in response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement: “I think it's really important for us to stay engaged from an international community standpoint, particularly addressing large issues. And not withstanding that, we're continuing on our path of moving to a clean energy economy.” AEP has cut carbon pollution by 44 percent since 2005, and has plans to add more than eight gigawatts of wind and solar in the coming years.
  • Duke Energy, the nation’s largest power producer, this year announced plans to reduce carbon emissions to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. “Our next major investment platform focuses on generating cleaner energy,” said CEO Lynn Good. “Our retirement of more than 40 older, less efficient coal units, coupled with the addition of clean natural gas plants and renewables, is driving our emissions reduction.”
  • DTE Energy Co. announced plans in May 2017 to curb its carbon emissions more than 80 percent by 2050 by closing coal-fired power plants and adding new gas-fired generation and renewables. “Not only is the 80 percent reduction goal achievable – it is achievable in a way that keeps Michigan's power affordable and reliable,” DTE Chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson said. “There doesn't have to be a choice between the health of our environment or the health of our economy; we can achieve both.”
  • Xcel Energy committed in June 2017 to achieving a 60 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, relative to 2005 levels. In August, the company announced plans to retire two coal-fired units in Colorado, continuing its progress towards a cleaner generating portfolio. In addition, Xcel’s massive new investments in renewable energy –including a proposal to add 3,380 megawatts of wind generation across seven states –will help the company generate 40 percent of its energy from renewables by 2021.
  • Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary MidAmerican Energy has announced a goal to provide 100 percent renewable energy, including a $3.6 billion project to add 2,000 megawatts of wind, which will expand wind energy to 85 percent of the company’s sales. Said CEO Bill Fehrman: “Our customers want more renewable energy, and we couldn’t agree more.”
  • Minnesota Power, a division of ALLETE, plans to provide 44 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025. Said one executive, “We look forward to working with our customers and regulators to continue down the path toward a safe, reliable, cleaner and affordable energy future.”

The imperative of addressing climate change, overwhelming public support for climate action, and clear market trends towards lower-carbon energy resources are driving states, cities, and power companies to lead the way to a low-carbon future.

If governors, mayors, and power sector CEOs continue to take steps to reduce carbon pollution, they will realize the tremendous benefits of a clean energy economy — thousands of new jobs, critical public health protections, and increasingly resilient communities and infrastructure.

The Trump Administration’s effort to repeal the common-sense Clean Power Plan – its latest attack on life-saving safeguards for our children’s health – will not change the reality of climate change or the accelerating transition to an economy powered by low-carbon energy.

However, without a quick return to meaningful federal progress, the U.S. will fall further behind in the global clean energy revolution – one that could lead to shared prosperity and enormous opportunities for millions of Americans.

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Scott Pruitt’s relentless distortions of climate science and law

This summer was anything but quiet for climate policy.

In June, President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit blocked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt's attempt to suspend protections from climate-destabilizing oil and gas pollution, calling the move “unauthorized” and “unreasonable.”

In August, two judges of the same court reminded EPA of its “affirmative statutory obligation to regulate greenhouse gases,” citing longstanding Supreme Court precedent.

Now, the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey and the record strength of Hurricane Irma are showing us what’s at stake, as sea level rises and extreme weather becomes more frequent.

Meanwhile, Administrator Pruitt has continued his pattern of deeply misleading statements about climate change and EPA’s responsibility to protect public health and the environment.

Pruitt uses these statements in an attempt to justify rolling back vital public health and environmental safeguards. In just his first four months in office, he took action against more than 30 health and environmental protections, including the Clean Power Plan — our first and only national limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants.

As America’s proven, life-saving environmental protections come under attack, here are four facts about climate law and science to help cut through Pruitt’s distortions.

  1. EPA has an affirmative statutory obligation to regulate climate pollution

Administrator Pruitt frequently questions EPA’s ability and authority to regulate climate pollutants under the Clean Air Act. But contrary to Pruitt’s claims, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the Clean Air Act covers climate pollution.

  • In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Court held that climate pollutants “without a doubt” and “unambiguous[ly]” meet the definition of “air pollutant” under the Clean Air Act.
  • In its subsequent American Electric Power v. Connecticut (AEP) opinion, the Supreme Court found that section 111 of the Clean Air Act — the section under which EPA issued the Clean Power Plan — “speaks directly” to the regulation of climate pollution from existing power plants. (Even opponents of climate protections conceded that point during oral argument.)
  • The Court again recognized EPA’s authority to regulate climate pollution in a third decision, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA (UARG).

Former EPA administrators serving in both Republican and Democratic administrations have recognized that “Congress has already made the policy decision to regulate” air pollutants that EPA determines — based on scientific factors — endanger the public health or welfare.

That’s why we now enjoy protections from air pollutants like cancer-causing benzene, brain-damaging lead, and lung-impairing particulates. We may not have had those protections if former EPA Administrators had shared Pruitt’s myopic view of the agency’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act.

As the Supreme Court stated in Massachusetts v. EPA, Congress:

underst[oo]d that without regulatory flexibility, changing circumstances and scientific developments would soon render the Clean Air Act obsolete. The broad language … reflects an intentional effort to confer the flexibility necessary to forestall such obsolescence.

In issuing the Clean Power Plan and other climate protections, EPA scrupulously fulfilled the mandate with which Congress entrusted it. The Clean Power Plan also reflected the Supreme Court’s finding in AEP that climate pollution from existing power plants was covered by section 111.

Administrator Pruitt has seriously misconstrued judicial rulings that conflict with his policy goals.

For example, he claimed that the Supreme Court’s UARG decision “said the authority the previous administration was trying to say that they had in regulating carbon dioxide wasn’t there.”

Pruitt overlooks the fact that the UARG opinion upheld the vast majority of what EPA had done, including the requirement that sources subject to certain permitting obligations under the Clean Air Act utilize “best available control technology” for climate pollution. The Supreme Court only took issue with EPA’s potential regulation of a subset of sources constituting a small percentage of total emissions, which did not implicate EPA’s fundamental obligation to regulate climate pollution.

2. EPA’s obligation to regulate climate pollution is based on scientific factors, not the Administrator’s policy preferences

Administrator Pruitt’s most dangerous Supreme Court misinterpretation might be his twist on Massachusetts v. EPA, a landmark decision that set the foundation for many of the climate protections that followed.

In Pruitt’s reading, when it comes to climate pollution, the Supreme Court held only that EPA “must make a decision whether [to] regulate or not.”

But the Supreme Court actually held that EPA was required to determine — again, based on scientific factors — whether climate pollution endangers public health or welfare.

In 2009, EPA concluded that climate pollution indeed poses a clear danger to public health and welfare, based on an exhaustive review of an expansive array of published studies and surveys of peer-reviewed literature prepared by the U.S. government’s Global Change Research Program, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The D.C. Circuit upheld this Endangerment Finding against a barrage of legal attacks, finding that it was based on “substantial scientific evidence.”

After issuing the Endangerment Finding, EPA was statutorily obligated to follow the Clean Air Act’s process for regulating the dangerous pollution.

Administrator Pruitt’s position more closely resembles the losing argument in Massachusetts v. EPA. The George W. Bush Administration had justified its decision not to regulate climate pollution based on factors completely unrelated to public health or welfare. But the Supreme Court brushed aside EPA’s “laundry list of reasons not to regulate” and ruled that the agency was not free to — in Pruitt’s words — “make a decision” not to regulate. Rather, EPA must conduct a science-based evaluation of the risks that climate pollution poses to public health and welfare, and if the science supports an Endangerment Finding, regulation must follow.

3. The scientific evidence of climate change is overwhelming

Climate change is happening now. As climate pollution continues to accumulate in the atmosphere, it will bring melting sea ice and glaciers, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather including heat waves, floods, and droughts.

Administrator Pruitt attempts to minimize this threat by focusing on uncertainty. In Pruitt’s parlance, we still have more to learn about “the precision of measurement” when it comes to the effects of climate pollution. But the fact that there are still productive areas for research doesn’t mean we should disregard the vast amount that we already know.

As the American Meteorological Society recently told a different Trump Administration official:

[S]kepticism and debate are always welcome,” but “[s]kepticism that fails to account for evidence is no virtue.

In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court held that EPA cannot decline to regulate climate pollution due to:

some residual uncertainty … The statutory question is whether sufficient information exists to make an endangerment finding.

EPA answered that question in its 2009 Endangerment Finding, and since then, the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused climate change has continued to grow.

In the final draft of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s latest Climate Science Special Report — which is currently under review by political officials in the Trump Administration — climate scientists determined that, in the last few years:

stronger evidence has emerged for continuing, rapid, human-caused warming of the global atmosphere and ocean.

The year 2016 marked the third consecutive year of record-high global surface temperatures, and 2017 marked the third consecutive year of record-low winter Arctic sea ice. Meanwhile, the rate of sea level rise is increasing.

In contrast to the extensive scientific research demonstrating the role of climate pollution in destabilizing our climate, Administrator Pruitt has proposed a (possibly televised) “red team/blue team” exercise in which opposing teams of government-selected experts debate climate science.

Christine Todd Whitman, who served as EPA Administrator under President George W. Bush, characterized the red team/blue team exercise as “a shameful attempt to confuse the public into accepting the false premise that there is no need to regulate fossil fuels.”

Pruitt has acknowledged that he is “not a scientist” but nonetheless suggested that his red team/blue team exercise would represent “what science is all about.” Anticipating that some scientists might be reluctant to participate, he taunted:

If you’re going to win and if you’re so certain about it, come and do your deal.

But for most scientists, their “deal” is a careful process of observation, experimentation, and peer review — even when it doesn’t fit between commercial breaks.

However Pruitt manages his red team/blue team exercise, it can’t alter the conclusions of the massive body of climate research developed by thousands of scientists over decades of conscientious inquiry.

4. The American public supports policies to address climate change

One argument that Administrator Pruitt advanced for his red team/blue team exercise is that “the American people would be very interested in consuming that.”

Actually, Americans in every state have already shown an appetite for addressing climate change.

A recent survey found that large majorities of Americans support regulating greenhouse gases as a pollutant, setting strict carbon dioxide limits on existing coal-fired power plants, and requiring utilities to produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.

In fact, each of those policies garnered majority support in every Congressional district in America.

A majority of Americans opposed the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, as did the CEOs of many prominent businesses.

And the Clean Power Plan was supported in court by a broad and diverse coalition of 18 states, 60 cities, public health experts, leading business innovators (including Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft), leading legal and technical experts, major consumer protection and low-income ratepayer organizations (including Consumers Union and Public Citizen), faith groups, more than 200 current and former members of Congress, and many others. (You can read their legal briefs on EDF’s website.)

Administrator Pruitt’s legal and scientific distortions show no sign of abating, and neither does his destructive rollback of public health and environmental protections. But his efforts have been rife with legal deficiencies. As EDF President Fred Krupp recently wrote, Pruitt “may have finally met his match: the law.”

Shortly after the D.C. Circuit blocked Pruitt from suspending protections from oil and gas pollution, and in the face of legal challenges from EDF and many others, Pruitt withdrew his unlawful delay of another Clean Air Act protection – the implementation of a national health-based smog standard.

EDF will continue to demand that Pruitt fulfill his solemn responsibility to protect the health of our communities and families under our nation’s bipartisan and time-tested environmental laws.

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy, Science, Setting the Facts Straight| Comments are closed

The Trump Administration outlines its plans for EPA – and it’s bad news for our health

Across Republican and Democratic administrations alike, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regularly identified and shared with the public a detailed list of the agency’s upcoming priority policy actions – safeguards that will help protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, assure the safety of chemicals in everyday products, and provide for proper handling of hazardous wastes.

But the Trump Administration unveiled its first such blueprint last week – and it takes dead aim at fundamental public health and environmental safeguards that are essential to protecting our communities and families. It’s an agenda that would lead to more pollution, fewer common sense safeguards, and more asthma attacks and premature deaths in communities across the country.

Here are a few key targets in the Trump Administration’s plan to dismantle vital public health and environmental safeguards:

Imperiled: the Clean Power Plan. The blueprint reiterates the Trump Administration’s intention to withdraw the Clean Power Plan. The agenda indicates no intent to provide a replacement program to limit dangerous climate pollution from existing power plants – one of America’s largest sources of this harmful pollution – despite the growing urgency of climate disruption, and despite three separate Supreme Court decisions underscoring EPA’s duty to protect Americans from this harmful pollution. The agenda’s justification for rolling back the Clean Power Plan rests on faulty legal reasoning that has been forcefully rejected by legal experts and is at odds with EPA’s past practices.

  • What’s at stake? The Clean Power Plan is one of the most significant actions America has ever taken to combat climate change. EPA estimates that when fully implemented, it would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and up to 90,000 asthma attacks per year.

Imperiled: limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. The Trump Administration also underscored its plans to end existing limits on carbon pollution from new power plants – an important complement to the Clean Power Plan. Yet again, this announcement includes no intention for a replacement safeguard.

  • What would be the result? New fossil fuel-fired power plants, which have lifespans in the decades, and emit staggering quantities of carbon pollution over their lifetimes, could be built with needlessly outdated, lower performing technologies.

Imperiled: pollution controls for oil and gas facilities. The Trump Administration’s plan also commits EPA to review pollution limits on new oil and gas facilities. These limits include measures for leak detection and repair – measures that save otherwise wasted natural gas, reduce pollution in surrounding communities, and create well-paying jobs. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has already taken steps to suspend these protections. His actions meant that more than 18,000 natural gas wells across America were no longer required to fix pollution leaks. While Administrator Pruitt’s suspension was recently found unlawful by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the threat remains that EPA may fully revoke these important safeguards.

Imperiled: protections for Americans from smog. The Trump Administration’s plan also highlights Administrator Pruitt’s decision to suspend his duty to identify the regions that are failing to meet national air quality standards for ground-level ozone, commonly known as smog. Smog is a dangerous air pollutant linked to premature deaths, asthma attacks, lower birth weight in infants, and serious heart and lung diseases. EPA analysis indicates that Administrator Pruitt’s announced one-year suspension alone will lead to as many as 230,000 more asthma attacks among children.

Imperiled: protections for downwind communities from interstate air pollution. EPA has a long-standing responsibility to ensure that upwind facilities are good neighbors and do not discharge pollution that imperils public health in downwind states. The Trump Administration’s blueprint recognizes that there are six separate petitions pending before EPA in which downwind states are seeking the agency’s assistance to protect themselves against pollution drifting into their communities from dozens of upwind power plants. It is crucial that EPA carry out this responsibility to ensure that all Americans can breathe easier – but the agency is currently failing to act, and its blueprint provides no commitment to act despite clear legal responsibility under our nation’s clean air laws.

Changes to underlying EPA transparency protections

At the same time that the Trump Administration’s blueprint outlines a host of rollbacks for important pollution controls, it also identifies that the administration will be moving ahead with changes to underlying, fundamental EPA procedures and operational practices.

Here’s just one example:

  • Under review: EPA’s open records requirements. Under the Freedom of Information Act, EPA is required to share public records with the public. The Trump Administration’s agenda notes that EPA will be updating its own policies for implementation of the agency’s requirements under this vital transparency law. During Administrator Pruitt’s tenure as Oklahoma Attorney General, he had an extensive, troubling record of stonewalling these types of open records requests.

These changes are just as important to watch carefully, to ensure essential transparency and rigor in the administration’s conduct. So far, Administrator Pruitt has given ample reason for concern: shutting the public out of key decisions; refusing to share how he spends his time and with whom he meets; and a long history of intertwined relationships with the industries he’s supposed to oversee.

Are more rollbacks possible? President Trump and Administrator Pruitt signal yes

The above summary is hardly complete. The Trump Administration’s blueprint also highlights a host of harmful potential rollbacks for important protections for water, hazardous waste, and beyond.

Moreover, this blueprint may not reflect the full scope of future attacks. In other contexts, President Trump and Administrator Pruitt have taken aim at even more EPA protections against air pollution. For instance, President Trump has signaled his willingness to reconsider standards for emissions from cars and trucks – despite their record of saving consumers money, driving auto innovation, and reducing pollution. And Administrator Pruitt’s EPA has moved to pause litigation over mercury protections while the agency evaluates its position. (In the past, Pruitt even expressed doubt about mercury pollution’s well-established harmful impacts on brain development in kids.)

These risks are critical. But together we can turn back these threats, ensure healthier lives for all Americans, address dangerous climate pollution, and grow our clean energy economy.

Here at EDF we will be working to stop these rollbacks. Please join us, and take action! Click here to let EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt know that you support America’s public health and environmental protections.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy| Comments are closed
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