Climate 411

Andrew Wheeler takes the helm at EPA. What’s next for crucial safeguards?

Just last week, the Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler as EPA administrator. His installation signals a broader pivot point in defending EPA safeguards.

Over the last two years, the Trump administration’s efforts to categorically suspend crucial safeguards without public notice or comment failed across the board.

Looking ahead, Wheeler has almost two years to build on his troubling record by finalizing numerous deeply harmful major rollbacks. These rollbacks, if successful, risk thousands of premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks, and billions of tons of additional climate-destabilizing pollution.

We need to be making more, faster progress towards a clean energy and transportation future – not tearing down the safeguards we have in place.

Here’s a look at where we stand on three major issues — the opportunities we could seize, as well as the challenges ahead.  Read More »

Also posted in Cities and states, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Jobs, News, Policy / Read 2 Responses

Trump administration ends talks with California, presses ahead with Clean Car Standards rollback

EDF attorney Erin Murphy co-authored this post 

The Trump administration announced today that it will end negotiations with California and press ahead with its attempts to roll back America’s successful Clean Car Standards.

Rolling back the Clean Car Standards would increase pollution and raise costs for American families. The administration’s justification for weakening these safeguards is based on a deeply flawed and biased analysis that contradicts the technical progress the auto industry is making to reduce pollution. An earlier expose highlighted the roll of the oil industry in pushing and benefiting from the administration’s rollback.

State leadership under attack

The administration says it is pressing ahead with its attacks on long-standing state authority to enforce tougher standards than those implemented at the federal level.  Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Air Act, EPA litgation, Jobs, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Read 1 Response

Andrew Wheeler’s record shows he is unfit to lead EPA

Sad but true: since he became acting head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Andrew Wheeler has ramped up Scott Pruitt’s relentless attack on public health and environmental safeguards.

Wheeler is leading efforts to severely weaken or altogether eliminate meaningful limits on the largest sources of climate pollution – including cars, power plants, and oil and gas production. He is undermining policies that protect against toxic and smog-forming air pollution. He is systematically weakening the new bipartisan law that protects Americans from toxic chemicals.

These rollbacks risk thousands of additional early deaths and hundreds of thousands of additional asthma attacks every year.

After Scott Pruitt’s disastrous tenure, EPA needs a leader who will return to the agency’s life-saving and essential mission of protecting communities from harmful pollution. Yet President Trump has said he will nominate Andrew Wheeler to officially serve as EPA Administrator.

Wheeler’s existing record as Acting Administrator shows he is hostile to EPA’s mission and would double down on attacking core safeguards. He is unfit to lead EPA.

Here are a dozen safeguards Wheeler has attacked in his six months as acting head of EPA. This isn’t an exhaustive list — unfortunately there are other vital protections Wheeler has attacked, further imperiling clean water, clean air, and healthy communities across America. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy, Pruitt, Smog / Read 1 Response

Year in Review: 18 numbers that tell 2018’s story of the environment, health, and climate

2018 brought with it a torrent of stories that now shape the world we live in and will shape 2019 and years to come.

From a disgraced EPA Administrator, to urgent reports on climate change, the year showed how far we’ve come and how much work remains—especially as President Trump and his administration continue to assault safeguards and deny the reality of a warming world.

Here, we recap the 18 numbers that encapsulate the year that was, and what we’ll be keeping a close eye on in the year to come.

  1. Public Health Threat #1: Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Former coal lobbyist Wheeler took the reins after the end of Scott Pruitt’s destructive tenure, and picked up right where Pruitt left off. Since then, Wheeler has targeted several foundational health and environmental safeguards. It’s now expected that Wheeler will be nominated for the post permanently. Keep reading to see how dangerous that could be to the American people and our planet.
  2. Two mothers who lost their sons because of exposure to methylene chloride, a dangerous chemical in common paint strippers, met with Pruitt and members of Congress from both parties. These moms asked EPA to support a ban on consumer and most commercial uses of methylene chloride. Over 6 months ago, Pruitt said he’d do so, but no action has been taken since.
  3. As for other chemicals the Trump EPA is flouting 2016’s Toxic Substance Control Act amendments, allowing potentially dangerous chemicals into the marketplace and consumers’ homes. Here are three examples.
  4. Wheeler is proposing to gut the EPA methane rules, a move that could result in more than 400,000 tons of additional potent methane, even though some leading companies have asked EPA to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas.
  5. Check out this list of five states that took bold action on climate change this year, showing the kinds of common-sense, economic solutions that can be implemented at scale while protecting people, our economy and our environment.
  6. According to the World Health Organization air pollution kills an estimated 600,000 children every year under the age of 15 and accounts for almost 1 in 10 deaths in children under five. The report found links between air pollution and childhood cancers, asthma, pneumonia and other respiratory infections, making it one of the leading threats to child health.
  7. It’s not all doom and gloom. Prompted by the urgency to act on climate and the advancement of affordable, renewable energy technologies, we’ve seen seven signs that the global energy economy is in transition.
  8. Eight hurricanes formed in Atlantic waters this year, two of which—Hurricanes Florence and Michael—devastated states across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. These kinds of super storms are becoming more powerful—and more destructive—due to warmer water, higher seas, shifting weather patterns and increased moisture in the air.
  9. On the other side of the country, California saw wildfires ravage the state, destroying entire towns and killing scores. In total, the fires are expected to cost insurers more than $9 billion and signal the kind of climate dangers the world could face more regularly if greenhouse gases are allowed to pollute our air unchecked.
  10. Might that have something to do with the fact that fossil fuel industries outspent clean energy advocates on climate lobbying by a startling 10 to 1?
  11. By EPA’s own calculations, the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards prevent as many as 11,000 deaths per year, yet the Administration reportedly wants to undercut the rule anyway, with a proposal expected imminently.
  12. A concentrated effort by the oil industry to fight back against clean car standards resulted in more than a quarter of the 12,000 “public” comments submitted to the federal register reflecting the language written by a pro-industry group. Marathon Petroleum, the country’s largest refiner, lobbyists for Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Phillips 66, joined a network funded by the Koch Brothers network in a massive effort to fight standards that would reduce pollution from vehicles and save Americans money at the gas pump.
  13. The National Climate Assessment, issued by 13 federal agencies, sounded the alarm on the impacts America stands to suffer from climate change, yet went largely ignored by the Trump Administration, which has chosen to side with special interests and industry allies.
  14. 414 investors across the globe—with $31 trillion under management—called for governments to take serious steps to curb climate pollution, citing the “ambition gap” between government commitments and what is needed to sufficiently prevent the world from reaching warming of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  15. 2015 saw the adoption of the landmark Paris Agreement, setting nations on a hopeful path toward emissions reduction. Since then, the leadership once shown by America in critical climate talks has been abdicated, left vacant by an administration that chooses to cover its ears and place the world’s children and grandchildren at risk. This year’s climate summit, COP24, saw the creation of a “rule book” to implement the Paris agreement, but also showed that much more needs to be done.
  16. A letter sent by coal baron Robert E. Murray to Vice President Mike Pence listed 16 wishes that the administration has largely taken up as policy. Several among them have led the administration to foolishly attempt to prop up the coal industry despite economic signals diminishing coal’s viability, not to mention its severe health and environmental effects.
  17. After 17 months of countless scandals and reckless attempts to assault bedrock environmental protections, Scott Pruitt resigned his post as EPA Administrator. This list could extend dozens of items longer if we were to count Pruitt’s many offenses. American families and children will not miss him.
  18. A cheery and hopeful note as we head toward the new year: 2018’s midterms saw a wave of pro-environment and climate candidates elected to office across the country. Those candidates-elect—ranging from governors and representatives, to mayors and councilwomen—are leading a charge toward ambitious climate action.

Read More »

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Policy, Science / Comments are closed

A growing call for environmental integrity

The recent introduction of bipartisan carbon fee legislation is demonstrating an important pattern taking hold as policymakers focus on climate change solutions. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, like the MARKET CHOICE Act introduced earlier this year by Republican Rep. Curbelo, recognizes that any carbon fee aimed at meeting the challenge of climate change must be designed with environmental performance in mind.

The new legislation is the first time in a decade that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have come together to put forth serious climate policy. And like the MARKET CHOICE Act, it uses a fee to reduce pollution across the economy and includes “environmental integrity mechanisms” (EIMs) — provisions that tie a carbon fee to clear, measurable pollution reduction goals and keep us on track to meet those goals. EIMs are still a relatively new concept on the climate policy scene, but leading thinkers have begun to pay them significantly more attention, and it is clear they are emerging as a critical component of any serious carbon fee proposal: and with good reason.

A carbon fee – which sets a price per unit of pollution – prompts the economy to respond by providing powerful incentives to reduce that pollution, but it cannot guarantee the environmental result. While energy and economic modeling tools can provide critical insight into possible or likely outcomes, they cannot provide certainty over the magnitude of the impact. That’s why it is critical to include EIMs designed to provide greater assurances that a fee will deliver on its pollution reduction potential. Read More »

Also posted in Carbon Markets, Climate Change Legislation, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed

Colorado Decides Whether to Adopt State Clean Car Standards – Here’s What You Should Know

This post was co-authored by EDF legal fellow Laura Shields.

Colorado will decide this week whether to join 13 other states and implement protective state clean car standards.

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission will hold public meetings tomorrow and Friday – and then they’ll vote on whether the Centennial State will adopt standards to protect people from climate pollution and other dangerous pollution from cars.

The proposed standards follow current Governor John Hickenlooper’s executive order directing the state Air Pollution Control Division to establish a clean car program. Newly elected Governor Jared Polis has also expressed his strong support for the state clean car standards.

Here are a few more things you should know before this week’s vote:

Colorado can drive health, environmental and economic protections forward – while the Trump administration takes the nation in reverse

State leadership on climate security and public health initiatives has never been more important.

The Trump administration has proposed to roll back our national Clean Car Standards, but Colorado’s adoption of state clean car standards will protect important environmental and economic benefits in the state.

In joining the coalition of states that have adopted more protective programs, Colorado can also help other states take up state clean car standards, thus catalyzing the important leadership of states all across the country who are protecting climate and clean air safeguards in the wake of damaging Trump administration rollbacks.

The coalition of states implementing state clean car standards currently covers more than a third of the new car market. As this coalition grows, states can ensure the health, environmental, and economic benefits of cleaner cars for their residents even in the absence of a protective national program.

State clean car standards will secure significant air pollution reductions in Colorado

EDF analysis indicates that Colorado’s adoption of the state clean car standards will bring significant climate and health benefits to the state, securing statewide climate pollution reductions of more two million metric tons annually in 2030, and more than four million metric tons annually in 2040.

The standards will also  secure important reductions in smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Smog causes serious health problems, including asthma attacks, long-term lung damage, and premature death.

The Regional Air Quality Council, which is responsible for air quality planning in the Denver Metro–North Front Range region, voiced strong support for Colorado’s adoption of clean car standards to guard against impacts of the Trump administration’s proposed national Clean Cars rollback, saying:

“Any increase in future automobile emissions that impact local air quality and/or our climate is unacceptable.”

Colorado’s adoption of state clean car standards will also move the state closer to achieving its climate pollution reduction goals, which is now more important than ever.

State clean car standards will bring massive cost savings to all Coloradans 

Colorado’s adoption of the state clean car standards will protect the fuel cost savings Coloradans would realize under the national Clean Car Standards.

An analysis by MJ Bradley & Associates shows that the average Colorado family could save more than $2,300 in net cost savings over the first six years of car ownership – or almost $400 each year – at the gas pump. The extensive fuel cost savings far offset increased technology costs.

Colorado’s lower-income families stand to gain even more from the state’s adoption of a state clean car program. Additional analysis shows that under the current national standards lower-income households save a higher percentage of their annual income compared to higher-income households. Adoption of the state clean car standards will protect these cost savings and ensure that Colorado’s lower-income families are not disproportionately impacted by the Trump administration’s damaging rollback.

Colorado clean car standards have broad support

Colorado’s proposed adoption of a state clean car program has received broad support from a diverse set of stakeholders.

A local government coalition of ten cities and counties – including the City and County of Denver, Jefferson County Public Health, the City of Fort Collins, and the County of Pueblo – has urged adoption of the standards:

“Many Colorado communities are already experiencing the impacts of a warming climate in the form of reduced snowpack, earlier snowmelt, increased risk of high-intensity wildfires and their associated air pollution, extreme weather events, and an increased number of ‘high heat’ days. Far from being a problem of the future, climate change is impacting Coloradans now in a number of ways … Continuing a clean car program that includes the most stringent reductions possible is critical to achieving Colorado’s climate commitments.”

The American Lung Association expressed strong support for Colorado’s adoption of state clean car standards in the face of the Trump administration’s proposed rollback:

“As the federal government takes steps to weaken our national vehicle emissions programs, adopting stronger vehicle standards provides assurances that our residents will be protected to the greatest extent possible under the Clean Air Act – even if the federal standards move backwards.”

A coalition of Colorado businesses commented in support of Colorado’s adoption of low-emission vehicle and zero-emission vehicle standards, noting the positive impact a state clean car program will have on the Colorado’s business community:

“[Electric vehicles] have lower maintenance costs and both [zero-emission vehicles] and [low-emissions vehicles] have lower fuel costs, reducing the risks associated with fuel cost and supply volatility. These savings benefit not just our bottom line, but also our commuting employees and customers.”

The Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association (MECA) applauded Colorado’s commitment to state clean car standards:

“MECA commends the Colorado [Air Quality Control Commission] for taking important steps through this proposed rulemaking to reduce criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty vehicles in the state.”

Colorado’s adoption of state clean car standards will bring immense benefits to residents of the state, and will position Colorado as a leader in implementing policies that improve climate security, protect human health, and save our families hard-earned money.

Also posted in Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Comments are closed