Climate 411

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colorado clean car standards have broad support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Leave a comment

It’s time to close EPA’s harmful new air toxics loophole

This post was co-authored by EDF Legal Fellow Surbhi Sarang

Earlier this year EPA created a pollution loophole that would allow industrial facilities to increase their emissions of toxic air pollutants like benzene, creating a huge risk to public health.

This week EDF and a coalition of seven other environmental, environmental justice, and public health organizations are saying ‘enough,’ and asking the courts to close this outrageous loophole.

Closing this damaging loophole is an important step in our fight to defend long-standing Clean Air Act protections that safeguard families and communities in the nation.

On Monday, the coalition filed an opening brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit explaining our case.

Why this loophole is so problematic

Under the Clean Air Act, large industrial facilities like refineries and chemical plants are required to obey strict pollution control standards (called “maximum achievable control technology” or “MACT” standards) once their emissions of toxic air pollutants exceed certain “major source” thresholds.

These standards are highly effective in reducing pollution – so effective that they often cause industrial facilities to reduce their emissions of air pollution below the “major source” thresholds.

The air pollutants controlled by these MACT standards are known as “hazardous air pollutants” and include 187 separate pollutants, including mercury and lead, that are known or suspected to cause cancer or otherwise seriously harm human health.

In order to keep these dramatic air pollution reductions in place, since 1995 — under administrations of both parties — EPA has required large industrial facilities to continue complying with the strict MACT standards for as long as they operate.

EPA has done so for an important reason – if a facility could simply “opt out” of a MACT standard because complying with the standard caused it to reduce its emissions below the threshold, that facility would then be free to stop or reduce its use of those required pollution controls and increase pollution once again. That would harm the health of people nearby and defeat the very purpose of the Clean Air Act.

But in January, heeding requests from a number of industry trade groups, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt suddenly reversed this long-standing policy. He did so unlawfully – in a four-page memo issued without consulting with the public and without even considering the damage this would cause to our environment and public health or the disproportionate impact this would have on environmental justice communities.

The loophole is a profoundly harmful and abrupt policy decision that – according to analyses published by EDF and other organizations – could allow thousands of industrial facilities across the country to become subject to much weaker or even no air pollution controls.

Unfortunately, it’s part of a larger pattern in which this administration is systematically dismantling vital Clean Air Act protections – which has included attacks on protections against climate pollution and toxic air pollution from power plants, protections on pollution from oil and gas facilities, and clean car standards.

The Air Toxics Loophole is filled with fatal legal flaws

In our opening brief, we show that:

  • It allows industrial facilities to “opt out” of mandatory pollution control standards in a way that is inconsistent with the language and structure of the Clean Air Act, and defeats Congress’s intent in creating these air pollution control requirements.
  • It fails to acknowledge or grapple with the legal and policy rationales for EPA’s long-standing prior policy – or even consider the potential impacts on public health.
  • It disregards warnings about the impacts on air pollution and public health by EPA’s own staff, state environmental officials, and other stakeholders that the agency received when it hinted it might adopt a similar policy back in 2007.
  • EPA’s failure to provide any public notice or opportunity for public comment violates a basic legal requirement for all changes in Clean Air Act regulations.

The state of California, which is also challenging the loophole, has filed a separate brief with the D.C. Circuit.

We expect the court will set oral argument for early next year – and we look forward to making a strong case against this dangerous loophole.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Partners for Change, Policy, Pruitt / Comments are closed

Five things you should know about the Trump Administrations latest assault on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

In 1990, while I was busy with kid priorities like learning to roller-skate, Congress was updating the Clean Air Act – kicking off a process to reduce mercury and other air toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Fast-forward several decades to 2012, the year my first daughter was born, and we finally had the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in effect.

Unfortunately, after that 20-year journey to get strong protections against mercury pollution, the Trump Administration is now trying to move us backward.

Trump’s Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler has confirmed that he’s “reconsidering” the legal foundation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – a move that could allow him to topple our national safeguards against the pollution linked to cancer, lung disease, and brain damage in babies.

What’s worse, Wheeler proudly announced the move on National Child Health Day.

Here are five things you should know about the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – and Wheeler’s assault against them:

Read More »

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

The Trump administration’s Clean Power Plan replacement – for many states, worse than doing nothing

The Trump Administration’s proposed “replacement” for the Clean Power Plan would not only increase dangerous climate pollution and cost American lives – it would actually be worse than doing nothing at all in many states.

The proposal would severely weaken our nation’s only limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. It would increase climate and health-harming pollution from those plants, and would lead to more premature deaths compared to leaving the Clean Power Plan in place.

But that’s not all – EPA’s own numbers show that the proposal would also increase pollution in many states compared to a world without the Clean Power Plan.

In many states, this proposal would leave communities worse off than if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had done nothing at all.

Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight / Comments are closed

The science is clear: We need a stronger smog standard

By Ananya Roy

A mom rubs her sons back as she murmurs softly “It’s going to be OK. You are going to feel better soon.”“Mom, am I going to miss baseball practice again?” Frustration lacing every word, as the young boy looked longingly at the sunshine streaming through the emergency department waiting area window. The sound of his wheezing carried across the room.

In the U.S. more than 26 million people are known to have asthma, of which 6 million are children. These are the Americans who may face situations like this one. The CDC estimates that asthma costs the U.S. economy more than $80 billion annually in medical expenses, missed work and school days and deaths.

We can and must do better.

Ground level ozone (also known as smog) is an air pollutant with well-established adverse effects on health including worsening of asthma. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required by law to set national air quality standards that protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight / Comments are closed

Experts condemn the Trump administration’s attack on strong Clean Car Standards

Americans are already speaking out in droves against the Trump Administration’s proposal to roll back America’s Clean Car Standards.

The proposal, if finalized, would increase pollution by billions of tons, cost consumers hundreds of billions of hard-earned dollars at the gas pump, and attack long-standing state leadership on clean cars.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are now accepting public comments (you can write to them here) and they’ll hold three public hearings in September – in Fresno, California; Dearborn, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (The administration had originally announced hearings in Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington D.C. – then abruptly cancelled them with no explanation.)

But right from the beginning, before the public comment period even started, people across the country were voicing their concerns about rolling back these critical protections. Automakers themselves, including Ford and Honda, have disavowed the path the Trump administration is taking.

Here are a few of the more recent statements:

Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Read 1 Response