Category Archives: Clean Air Act

Energy Efficiency and Carbon Pollution Standards: Double Dividends for Climate and Consumers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has embarked on a vital effort — accompanied by extensive outreach to states, power companies, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders, including you — to establish the nation’s first limits on carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

EPA was directed to take this critical step for public health and the environment in the President’s Climate Action Plan that was released last summer. Protective and well-designed Carbon Pollution Standards will provide important benefits for all Americans.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants emit 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution, as well as significant amounts of mercury, acid gases, and pollutants that contribute to smog and particulates.

That’s why it is critical to get these rules right, and to mobilize common sense solutions proven in red and blue states alike in reducing carbon pollution from the power sector.

Of all the available ways to reduce carbon pollution, one of the most cost-effective and time-tested approaches is to reduce demand for fossil fuel electricity through end-use energy efficiency (EE).

EE measures encompass countless improvements, large and small, in the ways we use electricity in our offices, factories, and homes. All of those improvements can add up to big savings, not only in our monthly energy bills but in the total amount of fossil generation needed to power our society.

Dozens of states and power companies are already investing heavily in EE, and have built up decades of experience in measuring and verifying the many benefits it can yield for consumers and for the environment.

Incredible Potential to Cut Emissions and Save Money by Reducing Wasted Electricity

States and power companies around the country have been implementing EE programs for decades, and have increased their efforts in recent years as experience with the benefits of EE has grown.

26 states in diverse regions of the country, from Arizona and Colorado in the Southwest to industrial Midwest states like Ohio and Illinois, now have “energy efficiency resource standards” or similar policies that require utilities to achieve a certain amount of energy savings each year.

State spending on EE programs increased by 28 percent between 2010 and 2012.

As EE policies and investments have grown, so have energy savings.

In 2011, state EE programs saved a total of 22.9 million megawatt-hours — roughly equivalent to the entire annual output of seven 500 megawatt coal-fired power plants.

These savings increased 22 percent since 2010 and, importantly, count only those savings achieved in the first year these EE measures are in place.

Because most EE measures continue to yield energy savings years or even decades after they are installed, the cumulative savings from these state EE programs are much larger.

A recent study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that EE programs and policies are a key reason why residential and commercial electricity demand has remained stable since 2007.

As impressive as these developments are, they only scratch the surface of what could be achieved if we were to fully unlock the potential for EE to save energy and reduce emissions.

An exhaustive 2009 analysis by McKinsey & Company, for example, found that rigorous investment in cost-effective EE could reduce the country’s total energy consumption by 23 percent in 2020.

Energy savings on this scale would yield massive emission reductions — about 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxidein 2020 alone (more than 30 percent of power sector emissions today) – and at a cost per kilowatt-hour saved that is about 85 percent less than the average retail price of electricity.

The report also estimated that realizing these energy savings would create about 600,000 to 900,000 jobs through 2020.

Other national and regional studies have similarly found that EE represents a tremendous “win-win” opportunity for our climate, for families and consumers, and for the economy as a whole.

In 2012, for example, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) issued a report focusing on the potential benefits of scaling-up EE programs in six Southwestern states (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming).

Based on the track record of “best practice” EE programs around the country, SWEEP found that these six states could reduce their electricity demand in 2020 by more than 20 percent while achieving net benefits of about $20 billion – amounting to $2,650 for every household in the region (largely in the form of lower energy bills).

Investments in EE at this scale would also create about 30,000 additional jobs in the region by 2020, and increase wages and salaries by more than $1 billion.

At the same time, these EE measures would reduce carbon pollution by more than 30 million metric tons in 2020, (a 16% reduction relative to expected emissions in 2020), while also reducing thousands of tons of pollutants that contribute to smog, acid rain, and harmful particulate pollution.

EE and the Carbon Pollution Standards

If you’ve read my colleague Megan Ceronsky’s earlier blog, you’ve already heard about section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

That section provides bedrock authority for EPA to issue Carbon Pollution Standards for existing power plants.  It also provides a broad, flexible framework for states and companies to deploy EE and other flexible approaches to reducing carbon pollution from the power sector.

Under section 111(d), EPA and the states will work together to reduce emissions from existing power plants.  EPA will issue “emission guidelines” that identify the “best system of emission reduction” for carbon pollution from existing power plants and the emission reductions achievable using that system.  The states then have the responsibility to develop plans that implement standards consistent with those guidelines.

Just a few weeks ago, Kate Konschnik, Policy Director of the Environmental Law Program at Harvard Law School, released a report that makes a strong legal case for considering EE as part of the “best system of emission reduction” that underpins EPA’s emission guidelines.

As Konschnik argues, the Clean Air Act grants EPA broad authority to consider flexible measures such as EE as a part of the best system of emission reduction for carbon pollution:

[B]ecause it is adequately demonstrated and cost-effective, imposes minimal environmental costs, and reduces overall energy requirements.

Moreover, as Konschnik points out, methods for quantifying and verifying EE-related energy savings and emission reductions are well-developed.

Over the last two decades, at least 35 states and two regional transmission organizations have adopted protocols for measuring and verifying energy savings from EE projects. These savings are now widely used as the basis for critical regulatory proceedings and market functions, including establishing utility rates, compensating EE in regional capacity markets, and carrying out long-term regional resource planning.

In addition, EPA has already allowed several states to credit emission reductions resulting from EE and renewable energy towards compliance with national air quality standards. EPA has also issued detailed guidance to the states on analytical approaches and tools that could be used for future programs.

Ensuring Smooth Implementation of EE in the Carbon Pollution Standards

Under traditional emissions trading programs such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or California’s cap-and-trade system, the emission reduction benefits of EE are readily observed as emissions from power plants drop.

Under these programs, no separate system for tracking emission reductions from EE is necessary.  As a recent report by RGGI confirms, these programs are also funding significant investments in EE programs that have already helped 815,000 families.

However, some states may choose to directly incentivize EE through policies that credit individual projects and programs for their impacts on energy savings and emissions.

For this reason, EDF has worked with experts in the field to study how measurement and verification for such EE crediting systems could work in a way that is environmentally rigorous and administratively streamlined, and that builds on extensive state and regional experience with existing EE programs.

We recently submitted a report to EPA, developed by the Analysis Group, that lays out one possible framework for ensuring both desirable outcomes:

  • Rigorous measurement and verification of EE projects, and
  • Consistent methods for determining emission reductions that are attributable to EE projects

This framework recognizes the diverse approaches to measurement and verification of EE that are in use around the country. But in developing this framework, we were also struck by the significant progress that a number of organizations have made in developing best practices and consensus protocols for evaluating EE projects.

One example is the Department of Energy’s Uniform Methods Project (UMP), which has organized a multi-stakeholder process to develop rigorous yet streamlined measurement and verification protocols for different types of EE projects.

To date, UMP has released protocols addressing seven major EE project types and five “cross-cutting” evaluation issues. Eight more protocols are expected to be finalized in the coming months.

Other notable efforts to develop and encourage best practices in the field include:

EE: Ready for Prime Time

EE represents a historic opportunity to achieve extensive reductions in emissions of carbon pollution and other power sector pollutants that directly harm public health and the environment.

In many cases, EE measures will actually save families and businesses money over time and help strengthen the economy.

Decades of state and utility experience in designing and implementing EE programs have demonstrated that the benefits of EE are real, and that the policies and tools needed to incentivize EE and measure its effects are available.

EPA should fully mobilize the potential of EE by exercising its authority to consider EE in the design of the Carbon Pollution Standards, and by providing guidance to the states to facilitate the inclusion of EE in state plans implementing those standards.

Also posted in Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, Policy | 2 Responses, comments now closed

The Supreme Court and Climate Pollution: What is – and is not — at stake

(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices)

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case challenging EPA’s interpretation that the Clean Air Act permit program requiring new and rebuilt industrial sources to deploy leading pollution control technology for each pollutant subject to regulation under the Act applies to greenhouse gases, just as these requirements have limited other airborne contaminants for over three decades.

The case is Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA (No. 12-1146)

What’s at stake: Innovation in Addressing Climate Pollution and Clearing the Air about Climate Obstructionism

This case is remarkable for what is not at stake, as well as for what is.

While the Supreme Court is considering only a single legal question of the numerous issues that were raised, this case has important implications.

Exempting climate pollution from these specific provisions of the Clean Air Act would harm innovation, because they were carefully designed by Congress to spur the development of new pollution prevention and control techniques for industrial sources. Putting a stop to these legislatively-crafted incentives to innovation in precisely the area where we so urgently need innovation – in addressing climate-destabilizing pollution — would be a damaging loss and risks “locking in” new high emitting and long lived industrial infrastructure. Such an exemption for climate pollution is patently contrary to Congress’s specific command, in the statutory provisions at issue here, that these innovation-spurring requirements apply to “each pollutant subject to regulation under the Act”.

Climate obstructionists will undoubtedly twist the meaning of the case to suggest broader implications, despite the court's decision to review only one narrow question. While the Administration is judiciously carrying out its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act to address climate pollution – in accordance with the authority that was twice affirmed by the United States Supreme Court — climate obstructionists will use this case to sow havoc and attack the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Indeed, these forces have already attacked EPA by unsuccessfully litigating virtually every aspect of EPA’s first generation climate protections in court over a span of many years. Unfortunately, they will continue to attack EPA in the public square invoking the polarizing rhetoric that most Americans associate with divisive Beltway politics – not real world solutions.

What is not at stake in this case is the EPA’s determination that six greenhouse gases –carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride –endanger the health and welfare of current and future generations. This is the bedrock for EPA’s manifest authority to adopt climate protections for cleaner cars and cleaner freight trucks, for reducing the potent methane leaked and vented from oil and gas development activities in the same way that Colorado has adopted methane emissions standards, and for cutting the massive carbon pollution from power plants — the nation’s single largest source of carbon pollution and one of the largest in the world.

The history behind the case

For the past four years, big polluters and litigants such as the Attorney General of Texas have been suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over all aspects of EPA’s climate protections for America – including the science-based endangerment finding, and the historic Clean Cars Standards that are saving Americans money at the gas pump while strengthening our nation’s energy security and reducing pollution. By contrast, the U.S. Automakers have consistently supported the clean car standards.

These dozens of lawsuits were considered together by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit – which upheld EPA’s climate protections and rejected the legal challenges. In 2012, a three Judge panel of that court held that EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act was “unambiguously correct.” Then-Chief Judge David Sentelle, appointed to the Court by President Ronald Regan, was a member of the three Judge panel that unanimously affirmed EPA’s action.

Opponents filed numerous petitions seeking review by the Supreme Court, which refused to entertain most of their challenges.

Instead, the Court granted review of a single question – whether, under the terms of the Clean Air Act, EPA’s regulation of climate pollution from cars triggered the requirement for pre-construction permits limiting the climate pollution discharged by large, new and rebuilt industrial sources of that pollution in the same way these requirements have applied to other air pollutants from these sources for over 35 years.

Bottom line

We need all available safeguards under the Clean Air Act to address the urgent challenge of climate change – including the advanced pollution control measures required as an essential protection in construction permits for large industrial sources. These measures are vital if we hope to minimize industrial climate pollution.

Further, one of the principal legal theories being advanced by petitioners would have adverse consequences for EPA’s long-standing interpretation of the law – spanning the Presidencies of Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush – that has expansively applied the protections of the Clean Air Act’s pre-construction review permit program to all regulated air pollutants. This line of attack, designed to narrow the air pollutants subject to these limits, would call into question the application of the program to pollutants such as hydrogen sulfide, fluorides and sulfuric acid mist.

Finally, we need to tell the truth to the public, to policymakers and to the highest Court in the land that EPA is judiciously carrying out its responsibilities under the nation’s clean air laws to protect human health and the environment from climate pollution. We must take a stand against the sharply polarizing rhetorical excess leveled at EPA. For the real world solutions that have won far reaching support, look no further than the cleaner cars on the road today that are strengthening our energy security, saving families hard earned money at the gas pump, and cutting carbon pollution.

This is why EDF will be at the Supreme Court today.

Editor’s Note: Environmental Defense Fund is a party to the case before the Supreme Court and participated in the presentation of oral arguments when the case was before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  A coalition of states and NGO allies are also vigorously defending these clean air protections against legal attack — including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the city of New York.

Also posted in EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy | 1 Response, comments now closed

Powerful Testimonies at EPA Hearing on Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants

If you were busy watching the Winter Olympics, you may have missed another important–if slightly smaller–event that happened last Thursday:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a hearing in Washington, D.C. on the proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants.

U.S. power plants are one of the largest sources of carbon pollution in the world. Carbon pollution is the main reason for climate change.

EPA’s proposed standards will set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from new fossil fuel power plants.

I had the privilege of testifying on behalf of EDF and its 750,000 members.

It was uplifting to hear testimony from so many diverse groups in support of these historic proposed standards.

Among those testifying were:

  • U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island
  • Moms Clean Air Force, on behalf of hundreds of thousands of moms across America
  • Public health groups
  • Environmental justice groups
  • Veterans and national security groups
  • Groups representing clean energy companies
  • Latino groups
  • Faith groups

and many more …

But climate change is an issue that threatens communities and families across America.

That’s why it was especially touching to hear the personal stories of how climate change impacts people, including one woman from Virginia who testified about raising a daughter with asthma, about the financial impacts of the disease–and about how the costs of pollution are not borne by the emitters, but by the public–and by families like hers.

Carbon pollution is a problem that we can fix.

Consider these facts:

  • Clean energy continues to grow, and it is clear that America can generate affordable, clean electricity.
  • Wind generation increased by more than 40 percent in the United States between 2011 and October of 2013.
  • In April of 2013, the United States had a record month for wind power with generation of more than 17,000 gigawatt hours.
  • In 2012, rooftop solar panels cost approximately one percent of what they did 35 years ago.
  • Since 2008, as the cost of a solar module dropped from $3.80 per watt to 80 cents per watt, solar deployment has jumped by about 10 times.
  • U.S. solar jobs grew 20 percent last year. The industry now supports more than 140,000 jobs.
  • Renewable energy is expected to account for 28 percent of the growth in electricity generation from 2012 to 2040.

At the hearing, some opponents of EPA’s common-sense standards testified, representing groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coal Council.

They repeated claims we have heard time and again about clean air standards costing too much or technology not being available.

We have heard similar claims in the past—claims that were subsequently disproved—about scrubbers and mercury controls.

EPA has found that carbon pollution controls, like carbon capture and storage, are adequately demonstrated for new coal-fired power plants—and that finding is based on an extensive body of technical information.

It is clear from the more than four million people who have weighed in with EPA in support of these standards that many Americans are ready for a clean energy future, and believe it is imperative that we address the largest source of carbon pollution in our country.

You can help the fight to limit the carbon pollution from power plants by urging EPA to adopt strong standards. You can submit comments to EPA through our EDF website.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy | Comments closed

Super News in Crossing the Goal Line to Cleaner Cars and Healthier Air

This is a big week for major events, from State of the Union address last night to the Super Bowl this weekend.

But there’s one more milestone you might not have heard of yet — America is poised to make major progress in crossing the goal line to cleaner cars and cleaner gasoline.

The Tier 3 tailpipe and low sulfur gasoline standards are undergoing final review now at the White House.

Tier 3 standards will pave the way for a fleet of cleaner cars beginning in model year 2017 by reducing the emissions that contribute to dangerous soot and smog.

You can read more about what Tier 3 is and why it matters here.

Cars and light trucks are the second largest emitters of oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in the U.S. Those are the primary pollutants that form ozone.

According to EPA, the Tier 3 standards as proposed would slash the level of those pollutants by 80 percent.

By 2030, the Tier 3 standards will prevent 2,400 deaths every year, prevent tens of thousands of cases of respiratory illnesses in children, and provide total health-related benefits worth up to $23 billion per year.

The proposed Tier 3 standards would also establish a 70 percent tighter standard for particulate matter.

Particulate matter, more commonly known as soot, is one of the most dangerous types of air pollution. It has been linked to asthma attacks, bronchitis, heart attacks and other types of heart and lung diseases.

We need your help ensuring these clean air protections for our communities and families cross the goal line.

The Tier 3 standards enjoy wide support from states, businesses, public health associations, environmental groups, environmental justice organizations, and auto manufacturers.

Here are some of their comments:

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers said:

 Sulfur inhibits the catalytic converter’s ability to reduce vehicle emissions, so lower sulfur at the pump means fewer exhaust emissions in the air. And because lower sulfur reduces emissions from all vehicles, the proposed sulfur reductions would achieve Day One benefits, immediately reducing emissions from every gasoline-powered vehicle on our roads, no matter how old.

Labor groups such as the United Auto Workers have also weighed in with their strong support:

Upon full implementation, the proposed rule will reduce the amount of sulfur in our gasoline by two-thirds. This is one of the most cost-effective ways for us to get cleaner and healthier air while strengthening our domestic auto sector and creating thousands of new jobs.

A broad coalition of health organizations – including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Thoracic Society, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Trust for America’s Health, Healthcare Without Harm, and the National Association of City and County Health Officials – had this to say:

These standards are urgently needed and will help protect the health of millions of Americans who continue to breathe unsafe air … Abundant scientific evidence exists on the health effects of ozone, particulate matter and other pollutants from tailpipe exhaust. Tier 3 standards will be effective tools to reduce such pollution and improve air quality.

National Association of Clean Air Agencies said:

The emission reductions that would result from the Tier 3 program proposed by EPA will benefit the citizens in every state and locality across the country… State and local air pollution agencies are relying on EPA to adopt the Tier 3 rule.

Please join the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are lending their strong support to ensure these clean car standards cross the goal line and deliver super health benefits for our nation.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Health, News, Policy | Comments closed

A Milestone in a Vitally Important Clean Air Act Case Before the Supreme Court

This week, we saw another milestone in a vitally important Supreme Court case about the Clean Air Act and our environment.

On Tuesday, EDF and a coalition of environmental groups joined with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and 15 states in filing briefs to defend EPA’s rules requiring new and rebuilt industrial sources to use cost-effective technology to limit climate pollution.

(The states are New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, plus the City of New York. You can read all the briefs here.)

In October, the Supreme Court denied review of EPA’s historic endangerment finding and clean cars standards, and granted review of a single question: whether EPA permissibly concluded that the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles triggered the application of the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V permitting programs to sources of greenhouse gases.

The permitting programs at issue – PSD and Title V – ensure that large new industrial sources use modern cost-effective solutions to mitigate climate pollution in the same way they have effectively addressed other pollutants under the nation’s clean air laws, and facilitate compliance with the entire range of Clean Air Act programs.

The Clean Air Act is clear that both programs apply to large sources emitting “any air pollutant,” and EPA’s regulations have required PSD and Title V permits for large sources of air pollutants subject to regulation for decades.

The petitioners in this case and those filing amicus briefs on their behalf, many of whom are tied to a $900 million effort to obstruct progress on climate and clean energy, want to upend these long-standing protections.

In the process, they present readings of the Clean Air Act that would exclude common-sense modern pollution controls for climate pollution — as well as hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric acid mist, and other air pollutants long regulated under our nation’s clean air laws.

The central theme in their arguments? Someday, EPA might apply these clean air protections to too many emissions sources.

So let’s take a look at greenhouse gas permitting over the last three years:

  • As of this writing, approximately 140 permits have been issued nationwide.
  • Permits cover industries ranging from iron and steel plants to cement plants to power plants.
  • Almost all states are handling their own greenhouse gas permitting.

Meanwhile, EPA is carefully considering next steps for greenhouse gas permitting requirements, including options for lowering the number of sources that might require permits in the future.

The next milestones in the case are coming up soon. Reply briefs are expected on February 15, and the Court will hear oral argument on Monday, February 24.

In the meantime, you can read more about the case here.

Also posted in EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy | Comments closed

New Power Plant Rule: Strong, Smart, and Legally Sound

Yesterday EPA published its revised proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for new power plants. When finalized, these standards will be the first national limits on the amount of carbon pollution emitted by new power plants in the United States. The standards will finally require new coal-fired power plants — the largest source of carbon pollution in our country — to install carbon capture technology and sequester the climate-destabilizing carbon pollution they produce underground.

Back in 2011, after testing this technology at a power plant in West Virginia, American Electric Power’s former CEO and president Mike Morris told investors:

We’re encouraged by what we saw. We’re clearly impressed with what we learned and we feel that we have demonstrated to a certainty that carbon capture and storage is in fact viable technology for the United States and quite honestly for the rest of the world going forward.

It is now 2014. The technology is being deployed across the world, and here at plants in Canada, Mississippi, California, and at two plants in Texas. EPA’s standards will ensure that the United States is leading the energy revolution — in carbon capture technologies as well as in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Of course these realities did not stop the attacks from industry lawyers.

Jeff Holmstead, Counsel to the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council — a coalition of coal-dependent energy companies — released a statement arguing that we just can’t do it … can’t produce clean, safe, affordable power. He is wrong. These standards are common sense and legally sound. Not only are carbon capture technologies — long in use in other industries — being deployed in the power sector across the world, but renewables are taking off.

Between 2011 and October of 2013, wind generation in the United States increased by over 40%.  In April of 2013, the United States had a record month for wind power with generation of over 17,000 gigawatt hours. In 2012, rooftop solar panels cost approximately 1 percent of what they did 35 years ago. Since 2008, as the cost of a solar module dropped from $3.80/watt to $.80/watt, solar deployment has jumped by about 10 times.

We can, and we will build the low-carbon power sector of the 21st century—and we will not let those companies still investing in the dangerous, harmful energy technologies of the past dictate our future.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight | Comments closed

EPA Publishes Proposed Standards to Limit Carbon Pollution from New Power Plants

November of 2013 was the warmest November on record.

It was also was the 345th consecutive month (that’s almost 29 years!) with a global temperature above the 20th century average, according to the most recent data from NOAA.

So while some folks may be dismissing climate change because of the current blisteringly cold weather in parts of the U.S., we are still very clearly seeing the long-term trend of warming that experts at leading scientific and government agencies (like NASA and many, many others) agree is occurring.

This long-term trend of warming and the serious consequences at stake underscores the need to address carbon pollution now.

Here’s some good news on that front:

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its proposed standards to limit carbon pollution from new power plants in the Federal Register.

There are currently no national limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the single largest source of this pollution in the United States.

The standards published today will help ensure that we get our power from cleaner sources, and that we reduce climate-destabilizing pollutants like carbon dioxide.

Cleaner power means healthier lives for millions of Americans.

We are learning more and more about the impact of climate change on human health. From increased asthma attacks to disease and sanitation concerns, a changing climate will have a significant impact on Americans’ health now and in the future.

  • In one recent study, Harvard researchers found that high temperatures correlated with more hospital visits for five conditions including kidney, glandular, and urinary tract problems; accidents; and self-harm.
  • In another study, researchers found that those suffering from allergies or asthma are likely going to have to cope with earlier pollen seasons for some allergenic species in a changing climate.

Health groups, states, moms, environmental groups, and businesses have all expressed support for common-sense limits on carbon pollution. About four million Americans have written to EPA in support of carbon pollution standards for power plants.

This opinion piece from the American Medical Association may best sum up the health risk if we don’t act:

If physicians want evidence of climate change, they may well find it in their own offices. Patients are presenting with illnesses that once happened only in warmer areas. Chronic conditions are becoming aggravated by more frequent and extended heat waves. Allergy and asthma seasons are getting longer. . . . Rising air and water temperatures and rising ocean levels since the late 1960s have increased the severity of weather, including hurricanes and droughts, and the production of ground-level ozone. That means more asthma and respiratory illnesses, more heat stroke and exhaustion, and exacerbation of chronic conditions such as heart disease.

Fortunately, we have the technology to meet our clean energy and human health goals, and EPA’s standards will play a key role in getting us there.

Cost-effective, low-carbon energy solutions are being deployed across the country now. They are creating homegrown, good jobs while protecting Americans health and prosperity.

In fact, ALL of the new electric power that came online in November in America was from renewable energy.

In 2012, wind power was:

[T]he number one source of new U.S. electric generation capacity for the first time—representing 43 percent of all new electric additions and accounting for $25 billion in U.S. investment.

However, there are opposition forces working to derail EPA’s efforts to address carbon pollution.

We need all of the support we can muster to ensure EPA goes forward with its commonsense standards that will help ensure the healthier, clean energy future we know we must achieve for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

Please tell EPA you support a clean energy future for our children

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy | Comments closed

EDF Goes to Court to Defend the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule

Last week, at the same time that the Supreme Court was considering states’ good neighbor obligations to protect  the health of residents in downwind states by controlling pollution from sources within their own states, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was hearing challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics rule.

The Mercury and Air Toxics rule is a major public health rule that is the result of a decades long effort to ensure power plants clean up the mercury, acid gases, and toxic metals that are released into our environment from burning coal.

At the core of the case is one issue:

  • Did Congress intend to give power plants a sweetheart deal on air toxics when they passed the Clean Air Act Amendments in 1990?

Or:

  • Was Congress merely asking EPA to stop and check whether other programs that were passed at the same time might do enough to address the risks of toxic air pollution from power plants?

The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments did a great deal to strengthen our air pollution laws. In addition to limiting the pollution that led to acid rain and ozone, Congress tightened enforcement and monitoring requirements, and completely overhauled regulation of toxic air pollution to speed up and strengthen EPA’s previously slow regulation efforts on toxics.

In court last week, while counsel for the utility industry tried to suggest that Congress has intended an entirely separate, distinct, and less stringent toxics plan just for the utility industry, the court seemed skeptical, asking if this was just a political deal to give industry more time.

Power companies also argued that EPA should have taken cost into consideration when deciding whether to regulate them.

Both EPA and EDF’s counsel give an apt response –the cost of control technology isn’t relevant to deciding whether EPA should regulate toxic pollution from power plants. Instead, cost is taken into account when setting the pollution standards – either indirectly, by looking at what industry has already installed (and thus what is cost-effective), or directly, when setting standards that go “above the floor” of what has already been achieved by the best performing plants in the industry.

The coalition defending the rule is extraordinarily broad:

  • Lawyers for Massachusetts spoke on behalf of their own state and for Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia,.
  • Calpine and Exelon gave a view from inside the industry, pointing out to the court that petitioners were trying to use the rule to game the system so that the dirtiest plants could remain dirty.
  • EDF’s counsel, Sean Donahue, spoke on behalf of a broad coalition that included NAACP, American Lung Association, American Nurses Association, NRDC, Sierra Club, and host of other environmental and public health associations. (Click here for a list of the parties in both the Mercury case and the Cross-State case)

Each year, between 300,000 and 600,000 American children are born with methylmercury blood levels high enough to impact their brain development.

All fifty states in the U.S. have fish-consumption advisories because of mercury.

Many states cannot meet water quality advisories based on deposition of mercury from air pollution.

Many power companies have found implementing the rule to be cheaper and easier than expected.

Regulating mercury from power plants carries health benefits that may be up to ten times greater than the costs, and realizes a promise Congress made to Americans more than twenty years ago with the Clean Air Act amendments.

Let’s hope the D.C. Circuit agrees that getting mercury out of the air is one of the best gifts we can give our kids.

Also posted in Health, News, Policy | Comments closed

Broad Coalition Presents Case for Clean Air to the Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court just heard arguments in a case over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) critically important Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule would clean up the pollution from power plant smokestacks across the eastern U.S. that drifts downwind, up to hundreds of miles, transforming into lethal particulates and ground-level smog.

A coalition of states, cities, leading health associations, power companies, and environmental groups – including EDF – presented a strong case to the High Court to defend these clean air protections for 240 million Americans.

This is not the first time that the Supreme Court has addressed the issue of the interstate transport of air pollution. In 1907, the State of Georgia sued Tennessee Copper Company for polluting its air and its forests. In enjoining the harmful air pollution at issue, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated:

[i]t is a fair and reasonable demand on the part of a sovereign [in our federal system] that the air over its territory should not be polluted on a great scale … by the act of persons beyond its control.

This week, the Supreme Court gave modern meaning to its decision from over a century ago. The Justices peppered attorneys with questions about the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, and the questions indicated that they recognize the important role of the federal government in protecting the citizens in downwind states from upwind pollution sources.  Indeed, modern air quality monitoring systems, measurements of the emissions from smokestacks, and advanced modeling plainly show that interstate transport is a serious 21st century air pollution problem.

EPA estimates that about 30 percent to 90 percent of smog and 50 percent to 90 percent of soot pollution in areas that are out of compliance with national health-based air quality standards are caused by power plants, factories and other sources in states upwind.

Unfortunately, when EPA stepped in to address the issue (which the Clean Air Act also requires) with its science-based and cost-effective Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Rule.

EDF joined EPA, plus a host of other environmental and public-health organizations, states and cities, and power companies in filing briefs with the Supreme Court asking it to overturn the D.C. Circuit’s decision. Several more parties, representing a wide-range of interests and expertise, filed amicus (or “friend of the Court”) briefs in support of EPA’s clean air protections.

Fortunately, during this week’s oral argument a number of Supreme Court Justices seemed open to EPA’s cost-effective solution to the difficult problem of interstate air pollution.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, the Justices:

 expressed sympathy for the Environmental Protection Agency's approach to air pollution that crosses state lines.

One of the most noteworthy moments in this week’s argument occurred when Justice Breyer said:

with this [Cross-State] plan, we get the job done at much lower cost.  Now, where in the statute does it say they can’t do that?

Similarly, Justice Kagan stated:

what the EPA said here was . . . we’re going to distinguish between States that . . . have put a lot of technology and a lot of money into this already and on the other hand States that have lots of cheap and dirty emissions. And why isn’t that a perfectly rational thing to do under this very statute?

At Environmental Defense Fund, we have fought hard for these clean air safeguards — from their genesis to the highest Court in the land — so that 240 million Americans can breathe easier. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will make that possible by ruling in favor of clean air.

Also posted in EPA litgation, News, Policy | Comments closed

Setting the Record Straight — What this Week's Supreme Court Order Really Means

This week the Supreme Court denied numerous legal attacks seeking further judicial review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) determination that greenhouse gas emissions are dangerous to human health and welfare, and of other key aspects of EPA’s first generation of climate policies.

The Court agreed to hear arguments on one narrow issue, relevant to one specific Clean Air Act permitting program.

This marked the end of the road for years of sustained industry attacks on the scientific and legal foundation for addressing climate pollution under the Clean Air Act. This was a tremendous victory for science and the rule of law.

But some media reporting suggested just the opposite.

This was the lead of USA Today’s story:

Dealing a potential blow to the Obama administration and environmentalists, the Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to consider limiting the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate greenhouse gases.

(We don’t mean to single out USA Today, which has a well-deserved reputation for excellent environmental reporting. Other media coverage was also confusing. We have more examples at the end of this post.)

Given all that, it seems like it might be helpful to look at the facts of what the Court did and did not do:

Fact One

Industry lawyers threw every attack they could think of at EPA’s science-based finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations due to intensifying smog levels, floods, drought, wildfires, and other dangerous climate impacts. The Supreme Court rejected every single industry challenge to the Endangerment Finding.

What this means

This is the end of the road for more than four years of industry regulatory, procedural, and legal attacks on the Endangerment Finding. The End.

But it means more than that. The reason why fossil fuel interests have been so desperate to discredit the Endangerment Finding is because it is the cornerstone for controlling climate pollution under the Clean Air Act — not just for the Clean Car Standards, but also for the forthcoming Carbon Pollution Standards for new and existing power plants and other major sources.

EPA’s Endangerment Finding reflects a vast body of peer-reviewed scientific research by thousands of scientists. Attempts to attack it through litigation have failed. This is a tremendous moment, and an unmistakable sign of the strength of the legal foundation for controlling climate pollution from cars and trucks, power plants, and other major sources under the Clean Air Act.

Fact Two  

The Supreme Court denied every legal challenge seeking review of the Clean Car Standards.

What this means

The landmark Clean Car Standards were strongly supported by U.S. automakers and the United Auto Workers. The Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers helped to defend them in court.

These standards, combined with the second generation Clean Car Standards, mean the U.S. will achieve a fleet-wide average of 54.5 mpg by 2025, cut greenhouse gas pollution by six billion tons, avoid 12 billion barrels of oil imports, and save consumers $1.7 trillion at the gas pump — an average of $8,000 per vehicle by 2025.

Fact Three

The Supreme Court did grant review of a narrow question relevant to one specific (and important) Clean Air Act permitting program — did the regulation of greenhouse gases under the clean car program also make greenhouse gases regulated under the program requiring pre-construction review permits for major stationary pollution sources.

What this means

We believe that the Clean Air Act is clear — on its face — that this permitting program applies to all pollutants, as EPA has implemented it.  We will vigorously defend this interpretation in front of the Supreme Court, and we believe that we will succeed.

Moreover, even some petitioners have recognized — as did U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Kavanaugh in his dissent below — that even if the permit program were limited in the way they assert, the requirement to adopt the best pollution controls for greenhouse gases would still apply to sources that are required to obtain permits due to their emissions of other airborne contaminants regulated under national ambient air quality standards.

What this does NOT mean

The question being reviewed by the Supreme Court is important. But it does not have any effect on the programs going forward to address carbon pollution from the two largest sources in our nation — power plants, under the forthcoming Carbon Pollution Standards, and transportation, under the Clean Car Standards.

Bottom Line

The Obama Administration’s vital plan to protect our communities and families from climate change has NOT been called into question by the Supreme Court’s review of one question related to the permitting program for major stationary sources of emissions.

By rejecting every petition challenging the Endangerment Finding and the Clean Car Standards, the Court has yet again indicated that EPA is fulfilling its statutory duty in addressing greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Building on this firm foundation, EPA has a responsibility to protect Americans’ health and well-being from the threat of climate change. That includes establishing limits on carbon pollution from power plants — the single largest source of climate destabilizing emissions in our nation.

 

(As mentioned above, here are other examples of confusing media coverage from Tuesday morning)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would consider challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s permitting requirements for power plants and other facilities that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, throwing the Obama administration’s regulations into a state of uncertainty. (emphasis is ours)

  • Wall Street Journal (available by subscription only)

The hearings, set for next year, could allow the Court to scale back the Obama Administration’s climate regulations at a time when the chance of passing legislation to limit carbon emissions—long the preferred route of the White House and most environmental groups—seems virtually nil. (emphasis is ours)

At issue is whether the federal Environmental Protection Agency can tighten emission standards for stationary greenhouse gas sources, such as power plants, in what the government says is an effort to stem the effects of global warming. (emphasis is ours)

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, What Others are Saying | Comments closed
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