Selected category: Greenhouse Gas Emissions

President Trump’s mystery math

By this time, your eyes may have glazed over from reading the myriad of fact checks and rebuttals of President Trump’s speech announcing the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. There were so many dizzying falsehoods in his comments that it is nearly impossible to find any truth in the rhetorical fog.

Of all the falsehoods, President Trump’s insistence that compliance with the Paris accord would cost Americans millions of lost jobs and trillions in lowered Gross Domestic Product was particularly brazen, deceptive, and absurd. These statements are part of a disturbing pattern, the latest in a calculated campaign to deceive the public about the economics of reducing climate pollution.

Based on a study funded by industry trade groups

Let’s be clear: the National Economic Research Associates (NERA) study underpinning these misleading claims was paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) – two lobbying organizations backed by fossil fuel industry funding that have a history of commissioning exaggerated cost estimates of climate change solutions. When you pay for bad assumptions, you ensure exaggerated and unrealistic results.

In the past five years alone, NERA has released a number of dubious studies funded by fossil fuel interests about a range of environmental safeguards that protect the public from dangerous pollution like mercury, smog, and particulate matter – all of which cause serious health impacts, especially in the elderly, children, and the most vulnerable. NERA’s work has been debunked over and over. Experts from MIT and NYU said NERA’s cost estimates from a 2014 study on EPA’s ozone standards were “fraudulent” and calculated in “an insane way.” NERA’s 2015 estimates of the impacts of the Clean Power Plan, which are frequently quoted by President Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and others, have also been rebutted due to unrealistic and pessimistic assumptions.

The study does not account for the enormous costs of climate pollution

In his speech about the Paris agreement, President Trump crossed a line that made even NERA so uncomfortable that it released a statement emphasizing that its results were mischaracterized and that the study “was not a cost-benefit analysis of the Paris agreement, nor does it purport to be one.”

The most important point embedded in this statement is that the study does not account for the enormous benefits of reducing the carbon pollution causing climate change. Climate change causes devastating impacts including extreme weather events like flooding and deadly storms, the spread of disease, sea level rise, increased food insecurity, and other disasters. These impacts can cost businesses, families, governments and taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars through rising health care costs, destruction of property, increased food prices, and more. The costs of this pollution are massive, and communities all around the U.S. are already feeling the impacts – yet the President and his Administration continue to disregard this reality as well as basic scientific and economic facts.

Cherry-picking an impractical and imaginary pathway to emission reductions

The statistics the President used were picked from a specific scenario in the study that outlined an impractical and imaginary pathway to meet our 2025 targets designed to be needlessly expensive, as experts at the World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council have noted. The study’s “core” scenario assumes sector by sector emission reduction targets (which do not exist as part of the Paris accord) that result in the most aggressive level of mitigation being required from the sectors where it is most expensive. This includes an almost 40 percent reduction in industrial sector emissions – a disproportionate level not envisioned in any current policy proposal – which results in heavily exaggerated costs.

An expert at the independent think tank Resources for the Future, Marc Hafstead, pointed out:

The NERA study grossly overstates the changes in output and jobs in heavy industry.

Yale economist Kenneth Gillingham said of these numbers:

It’s not something you can cite in a presidential speech with a straight face … It’s being used as a talking point taken out of context.

The NERA analysis also includes a scenario that illustrates what experts have known for decades – that a smarter and more cost-effective route to achieving deep emission reductions is a flexible, economy-wide program that prices carbon and allows the market to take advantage of the most cost-effective reductions across sectors. Even NERA’s analysis shows that this type of program would result in significantly lower costs than their “core” scenario. Not surprisingly, that analysis is buried in the depths of the report, and has been entirely ignored by the Chamber of Commerce and ACCF as well as President Trump.

Study ignores potential innovation and declining costs of low carbon energy

Finally, the NERA study assumes that businesses would not innovate to keep costs down in the face of new regulations – employing pessimistic assumptions that ignore the transformational changes already moving us towards the expansion of lower carbon energy. Those assumptions rely on overly-conservative projections for renewable energy costs, which have been rapidly declining. They also underestimate the potential for reductions from low-cost efficiency improvements, and assume only minimal technological improvements in the coming years.

In reality, clean energy is outpacing previous forecasts and clean energy jobs are booming. There are more jobs in solar energy than in oil and natural gas extraction in the U.S. right now, and more jobs in wind than in coal mining.

The truth is that the clean energy revolution is the economic engine of the future. President Trump’s announcement that he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord cedes leadership and enormous investment opportunities to Europe, China, and the rest of the world. His faulty math will not change these facts.

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, Jobs, News, Policy| Comments are closed

Suspension of clean air standards for the oil and gas industry: an urgent health threat for Americans

(This post first appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange)

Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt officially suspended vital air pollution safeguards that will reduce harmful methane, smog-forming volatile organic compounds and toxic air pollutants like benzene from new and modified sources in the oil and natural gas sector – a move that puts the health and safety of Americans across the country at risk.

EDF, together with a coalition of environmental groups, filed a legal challenge and an emergency motion as soon as the suspension was published.

Our brief asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to immediately block Administrator Pruitt’s dangerous action from taking effect. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, EPA litgation, Policy| Comments are closed

Take these first steps to lower your impact on climate change

Happy Earth Day

The average household in the United States emits almost 100,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. That is about the same weight as 10 adult African elephants.

Earth Day is tomorrow, and at this time of the year, many of us are thinking about those kinds of facts. We wonder how we can personally help the climate by reducing our individual impacts.

A simple internet search will yield a laundry list of actions that may be overwhelming, and often will be far less than satisfying. You may find suggestions that are not indicative of the actual size of your impact (turning off your lights versus not flying from east to west coast, for example – they are not equivalent). You may also find information that is irrelevant to your specific lifestyle (for example, the recommendation to cut out meat when you are already a vegetarian).

Because each of our lives is unique (click here to see how carbon footprints vary by zip code), we really need to have a good understanding of our personal and professional impacts on the climate before we can determine good actions to take, and choices to make, to reduce those impacts.

Here is a table with some great resources, to help you get started:

 

PERSONALPROFESSIONAL
Calculate your carbon footprint AND determine specific actions you can take to reduce your impactUse this calculator to:

1. Determine your personal carbon footprint (broken down by travel, housing, food, goods, and services)

2. Develop your unique action plan tailored to your personal impacts (includes emissions saved, dollars saved, and upfront costs)
Use this calculator to:

1. Determine your business carbon footprint (broken down by travel, facilities, and procurement)

2. Develop your unique action plan tailored to your business impacts (includes emissions saved, dollars saved, and upfront costs)
Make better choicesLearn how to save energy and money at home, on the move, at the store, in the yard, at the curb, and at work
Learn how to be more energy efficient at home, in buildings, and in plants, and to buy more efficient products and new homes.
Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Energy, Partners for Change, Science| Comments are closed

American leaders support clean air and climate progress — regardless of Trump’s executive order

A sample of the diverse groups that have come out against President Trump's Executive Order on climate change.

By Charlie Jiang

President Trump’s executive order seeking to unravel critical public health and climate protections — including the Clean Power Plan — is being met with strong rebuttals and a clear demonstration of ongoing climate leadership from across the country.

An extraordinary diversity of American faith and justice leaders, businesses, health and security experts, and elected officials have spoken out against Trump’s actions or vowed to continue reducing carbon pollution and move towards a low-carbon future.

The overwhelming response to these recent attacks on our vital climate safeguards shows that Americans are coming together to protect our communities. Millions of Americans — a majority of adults in every congressional district — support limiting carbon emissions to guard against climate instability.

Here are some highlights from the many powerful statements made in the last week:

Leaders from at least 15 faith communities raised alarm at the dangerous impacts rolling back climate progress would have on America’s most vulnerable communities:

  • The United Church of Christ’s national leadership said: “Because climate change makes all other injustice worse, now is the time for us to step up.”
  • “The Clean Power Plan [gives] states a framework for progress in the sacred work of safeguarding our earth’s natural resources,” affirmed Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner on behalf of Reform Judaism groups.
  • “The absence of a strong climate policy means more dangerous pollution that harms the unborn and children,” warned Evangelical Environmental Network President and CEO Mitch Hescox.
  • "This is a challenge for us," said Vatican leader Cardinal Peter Turkson, a chief architect of the Pope’s “Laudato Si” encyclical on climate change. “Fortunately, in the United States, there are dissenting voices, people who are against Trump’s positions.”

Health associations representing more than 500,000 doctors and medical experts emphasized the public health imperative of reducing air pollution and addressing climate change:

  • “Implementing the Clean Power Plan alone would prevent 90,000 asthma attacks and 3,600 premature deaths every year once fully in place, wrote the American Lung Association. “Our nation needs these lifesaving protections.”
  • The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health said “As medical professionals, many of our members know firsthand the harmful health effects of climate change on patients.”
  • “Clean air should not be a luxury, and it should not be determined by ZIP code,” said the American Academy of Pediatrics.

At least 75 mayors, state governors, and attorneys general who represent more than 149 million people — nearly half of the U.S. population — reiterated the need to combat climate change and protect the communities they serve:

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said: “The science of climate change is settled and the President’s actions today turn the federal government’s back on Pennsylvania’s environment and our economy.”
  • Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said: “We will keep building a clean energy future that creates Colorado jobs, improves our health and addresses the harmful consequences of a changing climate.”
  • A coalition of 23 attorneys general and local legal counsels from states including California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, and Virginia wrote: “We won’t hesitate to protect those we serve—including by aggressively opposing in court President Trump’s actions that ignore both the law and the critical importance of confronting the very real threat of climate change.”
  • Mayors from 47 cities including Houston (TX), Knoxville (TN), Durham (NC), Fayetteville (AR), Los Angeles (CA), Chicago (IL), and New York City, released a letter reading, “Climate change is both the greatest single threat we face, and our greatest economic opportunity for our nation.”

Power companies owning generating capacity able to power roughly two-thirds of all homes in the U.S. spoke out to recommit to providing ever more clean energy in the wake of the executive order. Here is a sample:

  • “We intend to keep moving forward with a low-priced, clean energy strategy that provides the economical, clean energy our customers want,” said Ben Fowke, CEO of Xcel Energy.
  • “Going forward, we anticipate an increase in renewable generation capacity and declining utilization of coal,” said Southern Company spokesperson Terrell McCollum.
  • "We will continue our transition to more natural gas and renewables as we balance out our generation portfolio and provide cleaner energy,” said a spokesperson for American Electric Power.
  • “Because of the competitive price of natural gas and the declining price of renewables, continuing to drive carbon out makes sense for us,” said Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good.

Reducing carbon emissions and moving to cleaner sources of energy is good for business, say Fortune 500 companies including Apple, General Electric, and Walmart.

  • “We’re disappointed the administration has decided to roll back climate regulations such as the Clean Power Plan and others,” said Edward Hoover, a senior executive at Mars Inc.
  • Fighting climate change is “good for the business, our shareholders and customers,” said a Walmart
  • “We believe climate change should be addressed on a global basis,” wrote General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt. “We hope that the United States continues to play a constructive role in furthering solutions to these challenges.”
  • “We believe that strong clean energy and climate policies, like the Clean Power Plan, can make renewable energy supplies more robust and address the serious threat of climate change while also supporting American competitiveness, innovation, and job growth,” a group of tech companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon said in a statement.

Leading national security experts warned of the impact President Trump’s order will have on American security.

  • The non-partisan American Security Project said: “While energy independence is a credible goal, the actions suggested will not lead to real energy security. Rather, the order removes basic programs, such as the Clean Power Plan and climate resilient development, which bolster the security of our country.”
  • Alice Hill, a former resilience policy advisor to the National Security Council under President Obama said: “Deliberately ignoring the devastation brought by climate change will leave us anything but secure.”

Officials who served administrations in both parties criticized moving backwards on climate:

  • “This is not just dangerous; it’s embarrassing to us and our businesses on a global scale to be dismissing opportunities for new technologies, economic growth, and U.S. leadership,” said Gina McCarthy, former EPA administrator under Barack Obama.
  • Asked about rumors the Trump Administration could abandon the Paris Agreement, Christine Todd Whitman, an EPA administrator under George W. Bush, said, “We lose any ability, any moral authority, to say to any other country, ‘You have to clean up your act.’”
  • Trump’s order "is reckless, arrogant policy that ignores the safety and well-being of our country and our children," said former Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern, who helped broker the Paris Agreement.

Community organizers working for environmental justice condemned President Trump’s attacks on America’s most vulnerable communities:

  • “The decision by President Donald Trump to roll back the hard fought progress made on clean air and clean energy is extremely disappointing and dangerous,” said NAACP President & CEO Cornell William Brooks. “We are now on a dangerous path that puts workers, communities and the planet in harm’s way.”
  • Former Kentuckians for the Commonwealth chairperson Dana Beasley Brown said: “As Kentuckians, we have to work for the kinds of solutions we know can provide good jobs, allow people to stay and live in their communities, take care of their families, and not have to make the choice between being healthy and having a good job.”
  • Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network said “Indigenous peoples will not stand idle as we tell the world the Earth is the source of life to be protected, not merely a resource to be exploited and abused.”

President Trump’s executive order will only take us backwards to an era of more pollution and more disease.

But it is clear from the overwhelming pushback that community leaders, businesses, and health and security experts, as well as millions of Americans across the country, support maintaining strong climate and public health protections and moving forward on clean energy — not turning back the clock.

Read more responses to last week’s Executive Order here.

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Policy| Comments are closed

Putting profits over our children’s health

By Sarah Vogel

The same week President Trump signed an Executive Order aimed at undermining crucial climate and health protections, the House Science Committee held a hearing that had no purpose other than to flaunt the latest in industry funded pseudo-science on climate change. This committee has a track record of lacking scientific rigor, and with the Chairman literally questioning whether Science Magazine or the industry-funded Heartland Institute was more reliable as a source, this hearing was no different.

These events are part of a long term, unrelenting effort on the part of well-funded, entrenched fossil fuel interests to fight climate safeguards at every turn, prioritizing polluter profits above the health of the American people. Make no mistake; there are serious human health consequences to ignoring the facts on climate change, including more asthma attacks, the expansion in disease migration, heatstroke, and increased mortality.

How in the world—after decades of research and overwhelming scientific evidence—could these peddlers of pollution have such a prominent voice in this Congress and Administration? Simple: they’re selling a surprisingly effective product: doubt. Selling doubt has been used for decades to keep deadly products on the market.

We’ve seen this game before.

The tobacco lobby denied smoking caused lung cancer for decades

By the 1950s, the strong link between smoking and lung cancer had become increasingly well identify in the scientific literature. Additional research and growing pressure from prominent health associations led to the 1964 declaration by the Surgeon General that smoking causes lung cancer and presents significant health risks, including emphysema and heart disease.

The tobacco industry knew better than anyone the state of the science. And for nearly fifty years, the industry skillfully seeded and manufactured scientific doubt and effectively spread propaganda to delay and slow a global public health response to a deadly and addictive—not to mention highly lucrative— killer. In 1994, the chairman of a major tobacco company, came before the U.S. House of Representatives and still declared that he did not believe that nicotine was addictive. It wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s that smoking bans in public and private spaces in the U.S. finally took hold, however tobacco use continues to be a global health epidemic.

How have tobacco companies succeeded in expanding the market for this deadly product when the science has been so clear for so long? The strategy was succinctly captured in a 1969 memo by a tobacco executive: “doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” (See Merchants of Doubt for more on the connections between the tobacco and climate doubters.)

The lead industry fought against the link between lead and childhood poisoning for a good sixty years

When the story of lead in Flint’s water supply finally gained national attention, Americans were dismayed, and knew there was a problem. This is because the public trusts the best science including that being done by the Centers for Disease Control which called lead poisoning “the most common and societally devastating environmental disease of young children in the United States,” and declares that there is no safe level of lead in children’s blood.

This, however, was not always the case. Lead was once commonly added to gasoline and paint and used in the pipes that deliver water to homes. Lead poisoning in children was a national issue by the 1940s and 1950s, and yet lead-based paint continued to be used to cover the walls of most American homes and was aggressively marketed to families through the late 1970s. Lead-based paint continues to be the primary source of children’s exposure to this chemical. Major policies to limit the use of lead in paint, gasoline, and food cans were enacted in the late 1970s, and we’ve seen levels in children’s blood decline ever since (see EDF’s interactive graph of the impacts of lead policies on lead exposure in children.)

Despite decades and decades of clear and ample scientific evidence of lead’s toxicity, this industry expanded its market in the U.S. and globally. Using similar tactics of manufacturing scientific doubt, lobbying, and propaganda, the industry stayed focused on protecting its profits and in the process robbed millions of children of healthy and prosperous lives.

We won’t be fooled

You wouldn’t know it from looking at Washington these days, but not only is the House Science Committee vastly out touch with science – which now clearly indicates that human are causing climate change– they are also at odds with the American people who overwhelmingly say climate change is happening.

They are also working against the tide of the American economy; there are now over 3 million Americans working in clean energy, well past the number employed in coal, with many of these jobs in Republican districts. Over 1,000 top businesses have also committed to staying on a low-carbon path, stating that addressing climate change is good business.

Some polluters and their well-paid lawyers (including firms that literally worked on the tobacco fight) continue to manufacturer doubt and pedal in climate denial propaganda, and the House Committee gave them a prominent platform to do so last week. Such boldfaced efforts to put profits over our children’s health—as was done with tobacco and lead—must be confronted by the truth. To call out these lies, to demand integrity and truth in the face of deceit, is what we all must do.

Please help us fight back>>

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Health, Science| Read 2 Responses

The Tenth Anniversary of Massachusetts v. EPA

U.S. Supreme Court

If it feels like we’re being inundated with bad news about federal climate policy, here’s a cause for hope – today marks the tenth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, one of the most important environmental cases in our nation’s history.

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Massachusetts came when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the George W. Bush administration was refusing to carry out its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act to address climate pollution.

The case arose from a petition filed in 1999 by citizens, conservation and environmental groups that asked EPA to limit climate pollution under the Clean Air Act. But under President Bush, EPA disavowed its obligation to address climate pollution. At the time, EPA relied on the dubious argument that dangerous climate pollutants emitted into the air somehow didn’t qualify as “air pollutant[s]” under the statute.

Massachusetts, states, cities and a coalition of environmental organizations – including EDF –sought judicial review of that decision, and on April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court rejected EPA’s unlawful claim, ruling that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases qualified as air pollutants “without a doubt … The statute is unambiguous.”

The Supreme Court also forcefully rejected the Bush EPA’s “laundry list of reasons” not to address climate pollution. The high Court held that protection of human health and the environment from air pollution under our nation’s clean air laws — including protecting the millions of Americans afflicted by the clear and present danger of climate change — must be rooted in science, not politics or expediency.

This historic Supreme Court decision settled that addressing climate pollution is EPA’s responsibility in carrying out the Clean Air Act, holding:

[G]reenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act’s capacious definition of ‘air pollutant.’

Protecting Americans from climate pollution — dangerous air pollution — is the intent, is the purpose, and is provided for under our nation’s vibrant bipartisan clean air laws.

In honor of Massachusetts v. EPA’s tenth anniversary, let’s celebrate this firm and enduring Supreme Court decision and the real-world benefits it has for millions of Americans — and let’s prepare to defend the vital safeguards that followed it. We also celebrate signs of climate progress across society, such as the more than 1,000 businesses and investors that have committed to addressing climate change through implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Climate Protections under Massachusetts v. EPA

As it turns ten, Massachusetts v. EPA is more relevant than ever. To carry out its responsibility to protect human health and the environment from dangerous climate pollution, EPA has established common sense limits on the pollution discharged from tailpipes, smokestacks, and oil and gas development activities. These actions are fundamental to our nation’s response to climate change and provide enormous health, economic, and environmental benefits to the American people.

Once Clean Cars Standards are fully implemented in 2025:

  • Increased efficiency will provide savings of more than $8,000 in gasoline over the lifetime of a vehicle, compared to a similar vehicle in 2010. Across America, the Clean Cars Standards will save Americans more than $1 trillion at the pump.
  • Americans will have saved 12 billion barrels of oil, increasing U.S. energy security.
  • When new cars are purchased with financing—as they are for most Americans—the fuel savings produce immediate net benefits for American consumers.
  • The auto industry has been beating these standards while adding jobs and achieving record vehicle sales.

Under EPA’s Clean Trucks Standards:

  • Over the lifetime of vehicles covered by the Phase 1 Standards (model years 2014-2018), the standards will save 530 million barrels of oil and yield fuel savings of $50 billion. An operator of a large freight truck is expected to have net savings up to $73,000 over the useful life of a new truck.
  • Over the lifetime of vehicles covered by the Phase 2 Standards (model years 2019-2029), the standards will reduce 1 billion tons of carbon pollution, save nearly 2 billion barrels of oil and save truck owners $170 billion in fuel costs. The Phase 2 benefits are in addition to the benefits of simply leaving the Phase 1 Standards in place.
  • These fuel cost savings will save hard-earned money for truckers and U.S. consumers alike. The Consumer Federation of America found that rigorous fuel economy and climate pollution standards could save American households $250 annually in the near term and $400 annually by 2035 on goods and services.

Once the Clean Power Plan — our first and only national limits on climate pollution from existing power plants — is fully implemented:

  • Americans will breathe cleaner air, which will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks every year.
  • Average electric bills could decline by as much as 11 percent, due in part to cost-effective energy efficiency measures.
  • Existing power plants’ carbon dioxide pollution will fall approximately 32 perent from 2005 levels. The U.S. has already achieved about two-thirds of that reduction.

Under EPA’s methane pollution standards for new oil and gas operations:

  • Methane pollution will be reduced by 510,000 short tons in 2025, which has the same 20-year climate benefit as closing 11 coal-fired power plants or taking 8.5 million cars off the road.
  • Less natural gas will be wasted, preserving America’s natural resources.
  • These common-sense limits on methane will also reduce 210,000 tons of dangerous smog-forming pollution and 3,900 tons of toxic, carcinogenic pollutants like benzene in 2025.
  • These clean air standards are extremely cost-effective.
  • These standards will also boost America’s vibrant methane mitigation industry—which is already creating jobs and investment in at least 500 different locations across 46 states, especially in major energy-producing states like Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The protections that flow from Massachusetts v. EPA are helping to yield a safer climate for our children, protect the health of our communities, save energy and money for families across America, and build a prosperous clean energy economy. It is not surprising that these safeguards have broad support across red, blue and purple America. In every Congressional district, a majority of adults supports limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.

Scott Pruitt Is Evading his Obligations under Massachusetts v. EPA

Unfortunately, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is trying to evade his obligation to address climate pollution. Since taking his oath as Administrator, Pruitt has repeatedly tried to sow doubt as to whether climate pollution should be regulated under the Clean Air Act — demonstrating a profound disregard for the Supreme Court’s holding in Massachusetts.

Make no mistake – EPA’s obligation to address climate pollution under the Clean Air Act is a settled question in American law.

Climate Pollution Meets the Definition of “Air Pollutant” under the Clean Air Act

Under the Bush Administration, EPA argued that climate pollutants could not be “air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act on the convoluted grounds that “EPA lacks regulatory authority to address global climate change.”

But in Massachusetts, the Supreme Court held that “the Clean Air Act’s sweeping definition of ‘air pollutant’” clearly authorizes EPA to regulate climate pollution.

Moreover, the Court recognized that the Clean Air Act was intentionally written with “broad language … to confer the flexibility necessary to” meet challenges like climate pollution, and EPA cannot dodge its obligations with “policy judgments … [that] have nothing to do with whether greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change.”

In other words, EPA has to base its actions on law and science, not politics.

Massachusetts involved a petition to regulate pollution from motor vehicles, but the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that climate pollution from other sectors, including power plants, is also subject to Clean Air Act regulation.

In American Electric Power v. Connecticut (AEP), the Court determined:

Massachusetts made plain that emissions of carbon dioxide qualify as air pollution subject to regulation under the Act … And we think it equally plain that the Act ‘speaks directly’ to emissions of carbon dioxide from the … [power] plants.

The Court went on to identify a specific section of the Clean Air Act under which EPA could issue such protections. EPA subsequently finalized pollution limits — including the historic Clean Power Plan — under that very section.

A few years after AEP, in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the Court stood by its finding that the Clean Air Act covered climate pollution from power plants and held that new and modified industrial facilities must also limit their climate pollution.

Administrator Pruitt has publicly doubted whether EPA has the “tools” under the Clean Air Act to address climate change. This is just a feeble variation of the George W. Bush Administration’s stale claim rejected by the Supreme Court a decade ago. In fact, the Supreme Court has recognized that multiple programs under the Clean Air Act are suitable for addressing climate pollution — and EPA has adopted several achievable, common-sense climate safeguards that are already protecting American communities while supporting cost-saving efficiencies. Administrator Pruitt is invoking long-discredited arguments to avoid responsibility for addressing life-threatening pollution.

The Science of Climate Change is Clear

A few weeks ago, Administrator Pruitt told CNBC that he “would not agree that [carbon dioxide is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

But as far back as Massachusetts, the Supreme Court found that “[a] well-documented rise in global temperatures has coincided with a significant increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere” as recognized by “[r]espected scientists” and called carbon dioxide “the most important species … of a ‘greenhouse gas.’”

Following Massachusetts, EPA initiated a rigorous, scientific, peer-reviewed analysis of the effects of carbon dioxide and five other climate pollutants. In 2009, after reviewing an expansive body of scientific evidence reflecting hundreds of peer reviewed studies, EPA determined that the pollutants:

[M]ay reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare.

EPA’s determination, or Endangerment Finding, was resoundingly upheld in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, based largely on the “substantial record evidence that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases ‘very likely’ caused warming of the climate over the last several decades.”

In the CNBC interview, Administrator Pruitt offered no evidence to support his views about carbon dioxide and climate change. That’s unsurprising because the scientific evidence is not on his side. As EPA observed in its 2015 carbon dioxide standards for new power plants, since the Endangerment Finding was finalized:

The facts, unfortunately, have only grown stronger and the potential adverse consequences to public health and the environment more dire.

The science overwhelmingly shows that climate pollution is causing dangerous climate change. EPA has a statutory obligation to address it under the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act is a Statute to Protect Public Health and the Environment

Massachusetts prohibited EPA from touting “some residual uncertainty” about climate science as an excuse for inaction. EPA must act if it can “mak[e] a reasoned judgment” that “greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.”

When a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld EPA’s Endangerment Finding, it explained that the Clean Air Act’s:

[L]anguage requires a precautionary, forward-looking scientific judgment about the risks of a particular air pollutant, consistent with the [Act’s] precautionary and preventive orientation. Requiring that EPA find ‘certain’ endangerment of public health or welfare before regulating greenhouse gases would effectively prevent EPA from doing the job Congress gave it. (internal citations omitted)

The science, which was already clear when the Supreme Court decided Massachusetts in 2007, has only grown clearer in the intervening decade. For instance:

  • Since record keeping began in 1880, the five hottest years globally have all occurred since 2007.
  • Sea levels have risen at increasing rate.
  • The ten summers with the lowest minimum Arctic sea ice extent coincide exactly with the ten summers since Massachusetts was decided. And 2017 has already attained a grim status as the third consecutive year with a record low extent of winter Arctic sea ice.
  • In February 2007, atmospheric carbon dioxide averaged 383.90 parts per million. In February 2017, it averaged 406.42 ppm. The years 2015 and 2016 saw the two biggest annual increases ever recorded.

The Clean Air Act does not require us to watch idly as coastlines disappear, increased instanced of extreme weather such as severe flooding and superstorms cause loss of life and alter lives forever, and more frequent heatwaves threaten vulnerable populations like children and the elderly. It requires action. EPA has an obligation to act to protect public health and the environment by addressing climate pollution in order to reduce the tragic consequences of climate change, which are already unfolding.

The Legacy of Massachusetts v. EPA

Ten years on, Massachusetts v. EPA stands for EPA’s responsibility to address climate change based on law and science. Massachusetts also stands for the ability — and the imperative — to achieve victories for public health and the environment under adverse political conditions. With Administrator Pruitt at the helm of environmental policymaking in the U.S., we have no illusions about the challenges that lie ahead. But there will also be opportunities – opportunities to secure near-term reductions of dangerous pollution, and opportunities to lay the foundation for more progress in the years ahead, all anchored in law and science.

We can’t afford to let climate change accelerate unchecked for the next four years, and Massachusetts inspires us to keep working to protect all Americans from this clear and present danger.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, Policy| Comments are closed
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