Climate 411

Coming Soon: Trump EPA is Expected to Sign a Final “Air Toxics Loophole” That Will Increase Public Health Risk

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is expected to soon sign a final rule creating an “Air Toxics Loophole” in the Clean Air Act. That loophole would allow large industrial facilities nationwide to avoid complying with rigorous limits on hazardous air pollutants such as benzene and mercury.

EPA’s own analysis indicates that this radical new policy would affect thousands of major pollution sources, such as refineries and chemical plants, located in almost every state. EPA’s analysis also shows this policy risks increasing harmful air pollution by millions of pounds each year.  Many of the facilities that could take advantage of the Air Toxics Loophole are located in low-income communities and communities of color that are already suffering disproportionate burdens from air pollution and are most vulnerable to the health impacts of poor air quality.

The signing of the final Air Toxics Loophole will be only the latest in a series of outrageous Trump administration attacks on fundamental climate, clean air, and health protections that have taken place just since the coronavirus pandemic began – and one of at least 100 attempted rollbacks of environmental and public health protections that have taken place since 2017. EDF will forcefully oppose any final rule that weakens our nation’s bedrock safeguards against hazardous air pollution from industrial facilities. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Policy / Read 1 Response

Our new report shows the importance of “accelerating to 100% clean” vehicles

Drone photo of busy highways over Denver’s Elyria-Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods and schools. Credit: Chance Multimedia

Air pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world. In the U.S. almost half of all people live in communities with unhealthy levels of air pollution. More than 20,000 Americans die prematurely every year as a result of the motor vehicle pollution on our roads and highways, according to a new peer reviewed study by EPA  experts. Pollution from our roadways disproportionately harms people of color and lower income communities. Transportation sector pollution is now also the largest source of climate pollution in the U.S.

A new EDF report includes these facts and other comprehensive information about the dangers of transportation sector pollution and about strategies to address it. The report, Accelerating to 100% Clean: Zero Emitting Vehicles Save Lives, Advance Justice, Create Jobs, compiles the best and most recent information on the issue.

Here are a few key findings. Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Green Jobs, Jobs, News, Policy / Comments are closed

The broad coalition defending America’s state and national clean car standards in court

The legal battle over America’s Clean Car Standards is now in full swing.

EDF and a broad coalition that includes 23 states from all regions of the country recently filed court documents defending both state and national clean car standards against attacks from the Trump administration.

23 states from across the country have joined the coalition defending our nation’s Clean Car Standards.

The Trump administration recently finalized a rule that would roll back our national Clean Car Standards. This rollback would cause more than 18,000 premature deaths, cost Americans $244 billion at the gas pump, and produce as much climate pollution as running 68 coal plants for five years. The administration has also launched an unprecedented attack on states’ long-standing authority to protect people from vehicle pollution.

EDF and a group of public health and environmental groups, state and local governments, and businesses from across the economy have filed petitions challenging the rollback in court. And we recently filed a brief in a separate lawsuit arguing against the administration’s attack on state authority to limit vehicle emissions.

The broad coalition litigating to defend clean car standards includes:

  • 23 States and several cities that comprise a majority of America’s population and represent every region, from Michigan to North Carolina, Colorado, and California (seen in the map above)
  • Three Air Quality Management Districts responsible for maintaining safe, healthy air in their regions
  • 12 Public Health, Consumer, and Environmental Organizations including EDF, Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Communities for a Better Environment, Conservation Law Foundation, Consumer Federation of America, Environment America, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Dozens of Major Businesses from across the economy, including Advanced Energy Economy (whose more than 70 members include Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Lyft, Cummins, Bloomberg Energy, Comcast, Trane, and Apex Clean Energy), National Coalition for Advanced Transportation (whose 17 participating members include Tesla, Rivian, Chargepoint, and Plug In America), and 20 major power companies

In litigation over the attack on state clean car standards, our coalition has been joined by a dozen amici curiae, who have filed briefs as “friends of the court” in support of state authority. These amici include:

  • 147 Members of Congress from 32 states and the District of Columbia
  • Five Former Department of Transportation Secretaries and Four Former EPA Administrators from both Democratic and Republican administrations, as well as former EPA officials Michael Walsh and Margo Oge and Clean Air Act architect Thomas Jorling
  • Leading Researchers and Professors including University of Michigan law professor Leah Litman, New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity, and seven climate science professors at California universities
  • Five Major Medical and Public Health Organizations including the American Thoracic Society, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, and California Medical Association
  • Four State and Local Government Organizations including the National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and International Municipal Lawyers’ Association, as well as the National Association of Clean Air Agencies
  • Two National Parks Organizations including the National Parks Conservation Association and Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
  • Edison Electric Institute, the trade association representing all U.S. investor-owned power companies
  • Lyft, which has recently committed to providing 100% of its rides using electric vehicles by 2030

Additionally, six major automakers – Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, Rolls Royce, and Volvo – have independently entered into voluntary frameworks with California for continued nationwide pollution reductions from their vehicles, in recognition of California’s authority under the Clean Air Act and the continuing need for state leadership.

Protecting well-established state authority

Last September, the Trump Administration purported to withdraw California’s authority to set vehicle pollution standards at a more protective level than the federal government, as well as other states’ authority to adopt these California standards. The Clean Air Act has always recognized California’s authority, which is based on the state’s historic leadership in setting vehicle standards and the need to address its serious pollution problems.

California has used this authority to set pathbreaking standards like its Zero Emission Vehicle standards, which 11 other states have adopted. Most recently, Nevada has joined New Mexico and Minnesota in announcing its plans to adopt these standards. This is just one recent example of states and businesses leading the way to lower transportation emissions. Others include California’s ongoing work to develop Advanced Clean Car 2.0 standards, its recently-finalized Advanced Clean Trucks standards (which will lead to electrification of all new medium- and heavy-duty trucks in the state by 2045), a clean trucks agreement by 15 states representing 35% of the national truck fleet (which aims to electrify 30% of new trucks in these states by 2030 and all of the states’ new trucks by 2050), and Lyft’s announcement that, in partnership with EDF, it will reach 100% electric vehicles by 2030. Defending California’s authority will be key in maintaining this momentum.

EDF and our allies have brought a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s attack on state authority. We recently filed briefs arguing that the administration’s reckless departure from longstanding precedent is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to applicable law. The dozen amicus briefs added further breadth and depth to our coalition’s legal support for state authority.

Defending the Clean Car Standards from a rollback that harms public health, the economy, and the environment

On April 30, the Trump Administration finalized a rollback that would eviscerate the national Clean Car Standards, cutting the required annual reduction in fleetwide climate pollution from about 5% to just 1.5%. Analysis by EDF and others shows that the rollback will result in an additional 1.5 billion tons of climate pollution, cause more than 18,000 premature deaths, cost Americans $244 billion at the gas pump, and lose as many as 200,000 jobs.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told the New York Times that the rollback will be especially harmful to auto industry jobs in her state, so it’s no surprise that many automakers disagree with the administration’s approach. Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, and Rolls Royce have declined to defend the rollback in court and reaffirmed their voluntary frameworks with California. And electric vehicle manufacturers Tesla and Rivian are among the businesses challenging the rollback.

The rollback is based on massive technical and economic errors and fails to meet core statutory requirements to reduce pollution and maximize fuel economy. In fact, by the Administration’s own analysis, the rollback will result in net harm to Americans.

Protective clean car standards deliver critical climate, health, and consumer benefits, and EDF – along with our many partners and allies – will continue working to defend them.

You can find all the legal briefs in the cases on our website.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Cities and states, Clean Air Act, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Comments are closed

The Trump administration’s air toxics loophole would intensify environmental injustice

One of the most disturbing aspects of the new coronavirus crisis is that people already struggling with underlying respiratory conditions seem to be at greater risk. This means that vulnerable communities already bearing the brunt of the health harms from dangerous pollution may suffer even more.

Yet the Trump administration has spent the last few weeks racing to roll back policies that safeguard the air we breathe. These rollbacks often impact vulnerable communities the most as well.

One such roll back is the proposed air toxics loophole, which would allow thousands of large industrial facilities nationwide to evade pollution controls and emit more toxic air pollution. In a previous post, we presented analysis of EPA’s own data indicating that the loophole could lead to an increase in emissions of hazardous air pollutants like benzene and mercury by over 49 million pounds across 48 states. We’ve now done further analysis and found that the facilities likely to increase toxic air pollution under this loophole are disproportionately located in vulnerable communities – leading to increased exposure to these dangerous pollutants for primarily minority and low-income neighborhoods.

Read More »

Also posted in Cities and states, Clean Air Act, Policy / Comments are closed

California must defend rules to protect health, especially now

This post was coauthored by Katelyn Roedner Sutter, Pablo Garza and Lauren Navarro.

A man walks his two kids along the road during San Francisco Bike & Roll to School 2018. San Francisco Bicycle Coalition via Flikr.

A public health emergency is precisely the wrong time to undermine measures meant to improve air quality, address environmental health disparities, or ensure the sustainability of our common resources. In fact, the COVID-19 public health crisis makes it more essential that California upholds its bedrock environmental and health rules, and ensures clean air and water for all.

A preliminary nationwide analysis by Harvard University shows COVID death rates are higher in counties that had higher levels of air pollution in advance of the pandemic. This underscores the vital importance of pollution protections for human health, both during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Understanding the importance of having rules to protect California’s health, environment and natural resources, 37 California legislators, led by Assembly Member Eloise Gomez Reyes, have called on Governor Gavin Newsom to “resist efforts to roll back any current protections” and to focus on the health and environmental impacts in the state’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. They know that weakening these safeguards will mean more cancer, more asthma attacks, more heart and lung problems, and more loss of life for Californians.

The following summarizes some key programs and protections that appear to be under threat, and where California should heed the call of these legislators to stand firm:

Read More »

Also posted in California, Cars and Pollution, Cities and states / Comments are closed

Public records confirm EPA’s “censored science” proposal was an end-run around Congress

Earth as seen from a NOAA weather satellite. Photo: NASA

The Trump administration is reportedly expanding its dangerous plan — originally proposed by former Administrator Scott Pruitt — to limit the scientific evidence that the agency can consider when establishing public health protections.

According to a story in the New York Times today, the new proposal will be even more damaging than Pruitt’s version – which was flatly illegal and would have left Americans more exposed to dangerous contaminants in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the products we use.

The original proposal was based on failed congressional legislation whose sponsor “pitch[ed]” the idea to former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. But newly released public documents show that the origins of the “censored science” proposal are more cynical than we knew.

EDF sued to obtain the public records after EPA violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by not releasing them, with Earthjustice representing us in the litigation.

The new public records reveal just how explicitly Trump’s EPA is attempting to defy Congress by implementing its “censored science” policy through administrative rulemaking. It turns out that – from the beginning – EPA’s overt goal was to implement the same damaging ideas that the Senate refused to pass. Read More »

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, Pruitt, Science, Setting the Facts Straight / Comments are closed