Category Archives: What Others are Saying

Americans Have Caught the Fever

This is an amazing, exciting time. I, like so many millions of Americans, have been completely swept up in the groundswell of exhilarating national pride peaking just as we are about to celebrate our 238th anniversary as an independent nation.It’s time to wave that flag high and proud!

Flickr/Little Baby G

Flickr/Little Baby G

Americans have caught on to a movement that most of the rest of the world has long embraced. From Germany to England, France to Mexico, Brazil to South Korea, it unites so much of the world in a common purpose, a shared sense of hope and global cooperation. And over these last few weeks, I have rejoiced as Americans have caught the fever.

No, I’m not referring to the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament – though that has been a real treat to watch. And hats off to the inspiring performance of the Stars and Stripes squad in Brazil. What an amazing effort against Belgium. As a parent of a young soccer player, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Actually, I’m talking about the overwhelming support Americans are showing for real climate action since the EPA announced its landmark Clean Power Plan to slash carbon pollution from America’s power plants.

And how inspiring it is. We Americans have been debating national climate policy since I was in high school in the first Bush administration. Here we are (gulp) a quarter century later, and we now have a proposal to — for the first time ever — limit dangerous climate pollution from America’s fossil fuel-fired power plants, the largest source of climate pollution in the U.S.

Can you imagine that we have spent all this time with NO NATIONAL LIMITS on climate pollution from power plants? Frankly, it’s shocking.

We’ve spent years debating a national cap and trade bill, a carbon tax, and a wide range of renewable energy standards to drive down America’s dependence on fossil fuels. And, we’ve made some progress.

But, all along, our fossil fuel-fired power plants were left unchecked, allowed to spew carbon dioxide into our atmosphere with no national limits.

That’s why the EPA Clean Power Plan is so essential and it’s why every American who cares about clean energy and a safer climate future should take action and support strong limits.

When the EPA announced its proposal a month ago, it was supposed to be divisive. It was supposed to ignite a furor of debate. The vaunted Big Carbon PR machine was supposed to be geared up and ready to grind the proposal to a pulp.

But, something funny happened on the way to cleaner energy. In the weeks since the EPA announced its pollution reduction plan, there has been a profound and perplexing lack of coherent or competent response from the richly financed corporate public relations industry. Yes, the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, the National Mining Association, and others are using this as a wedge issue to ramp up political pressure.

But, these squawking voices have been countered by former Republican EPA Administrators and former Republican Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who have stepped up in recent weeks to support climate action. Even some utility companies have warmed to the proposal.

Overall, public support has been overwhelmingly positive. Washington Post poll last month found that as many as 70 percent of all Americans support carbon pollution limits for power plants — including 63 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Independents.

Let’s be very clear about this. There are precious few political issues these days that garner 70 percent support – across all political lines. That’s important. And it is heartwarming evidence that America is ready to act on climate.

So, on this Independence Day, I’m planning to celebrate our great country by watching some World Cup soccer, enjoying the day off with my family, and rejoicing in the hope and opportunity we have as a country to unleash our clean energy future.

Go, go USA. I believe that we will act!

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, 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 Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News| Comments closed

New paper outlines the legal foundations for strong Carbon Pollution Standards for power plants

On June 25th, at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama issued a stirring call to action on climate change, saying:

As a president, as a father and as an American, I am here to say we need to act.  I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.

In that speech, President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan — a suite of actions that his Administration will take to curb dangerous emissions of heat-trapping pollutants.

In that Climate Action Plan, the President directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop Carbon Pollution Standards for new and existing power plants.

Power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gases in America, and there are currently no federal limits on the amount of climate-destabilizing pollutants that these plants can put into the air.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the attacks on the Carbon Pollution Standards had begun months earlier.

Those attacks included the usual sensational, defeatist, and wholly-unsupported claims designed to delay, deny, and obstruct progress.

Quieter but no less sensational are the attacks launched by the lawyers of obstructionist fossil fuel interests. Hunton & Williams, on behalf of the opaque Utility Air Regulatory Group, is leading the pack.

The legal attacks on the standards for existing power plants effectively boil down to this:

  1. EPA does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to establish any actual limits on carbon pollution.
  2. If EPA does have that authority, there are no demonstrated measures to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, so any required emission reductions must at most be "minimal."

We disagree. 

In this white paper, we lay out the legal foundation for EPA’s authority to work with the states to ensure implementation of strong and cost-effective Carbon Pollution Standards for existing power plants.

These standards can support our nation’s transition to a cleaner, safer, smarter power infrastructure and deliver the reductions in carbon pollution we so urgently need.

In the President’s words:

Our progress here will be measured differently, in crises averted, in a planet preserved. But can we imagine a more worthy goal? For while we may not live to see the full realization of our ambition, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be better off for what we did.

America is united by these hopes and dreams for a better world. Thanks to the ingenuity of our engineers and inventors, and the skill of our workers, the solutions are at hand to build a cleaner power sector and to use energy more efficiently.

The Clean Air Act provides a framework under which EPA and the states can work together to deploy these solutions. We need only work together — in red states, blue states and purple states alike — to meet this challenge.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy| Comments closed

Widespread Support for Proposed New Carbon Pollution Limits on Power Plants

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its historic standards to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, helping ensure cleaner power for the future that will help us meet our climate goals.

These proposed standards will serve as the first ever national limit on carbon pollution from the nation’s largest source of emissions.

The reality of climate change has driven broad and diverse constituencies to raise their voices in support of action to reduce carbon pollution. Health groups, power companies, environmental justice groups, Latino groups, businesses, labor, moms, environmental groups, investors, and the NAACP have expressed support for EPA’s carbon pollution standards for new power plants.

Here is a round-up of just a few statements made on last week’s historic announcement:

Addressing carbon pollution will help protect public health. Higher temperatures can enhance the conditions for ozone (smog) formation. Even with the steps that are in place to reduce smog, evidence warns that changes in climate are likely to increase the risk of unhealthy smog levels in the future in large parts of the United States. More smog means more childhood asthma attacks and complications for others with lung disease.

These updated standards to limit carbon pollution from new power plants will help fight climate change; spur our economy to innovate and move to cleaner, renewable sources of energy; and help the American economy become more energy efficient in the years to come. The rules are an important part of President Obama’s comprehensive plan for responding to the threat of climate change that will create and maintain jobs all across the economy.

…Calpine supports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) efforts to regulate GHG emissions as mandated under the Clean Air Act. The newly proposed GHG New Source Performance Standard for new electric generating plants is an important first step in the EPA’s plans to address climate change.

Climate change could add as much as 10% to portfolio-wide risk in the next two decades, putting trillions of dollars of institutional investors’ assets at risk…These new standards will reinforce what forward-looking investors already know: that climate change poses real financial risks and opportunities and that the future of the electric power sector depends on investing in cleaner technologies and more efficient resources – investments that create jobs and economic benefits.

This is another major step forward to protect future generations from deadly pollution… Forty percent of all energy-related emissions of greenhouse gases in 2012 came from power plants, and most of that came from coal-burning power plants. This pollution has the most harmful effect on low-income communities and communities of color.

Generations of Latino ranchers, farmers and farmworkers have played a fundamental role in our agricultural economy… As farmers and ranchers, we have experienced the ravages of climate change first-hand. Droughts and floods have devastated our crops and land, threatening our livelihoods and our ability to continue to provide healthy fruits and vegetables to households across the U.S… The EPA’s announcement today is a first step in combatting the real consequences of climate change that are impacting our communities and we are ready to be a part of the solution.

While we would have preferred that Congress enact legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions, today's action by EPA takes an important first step in establishing standards for new electric power plants that will provide certainty for the industry and the framework for Agency action on existing plants.

The new standards will reinforce what forward-looking companies already know: that climate change poses real financial risks and opportunities and that the future of the electric power sector depends on investing in cleaner technologies and more efficient resources – investments that create jobs and economic benefits.

The far-reaching effects of climate change will be felt throughout our society, in our economy and day-to-day lives.

The health impacts of climate change are apparent as temperatures rise. Higher temperatures mean more deadly ozone pollution.

The costs of extreme weather, from Hurricane Sandy to recent flooding in Colorado, provide a glimpse of the threat to human life and the economic costs associated with these events — which are more likely to occur and be worsened by climate change.

It is clear that the human and economic costs of climate change are growing.

Please send a note to EPA supporting these new historic standards.

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

The Tier 3 Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Standards: Benefits from Day One

The comment period for the Tier 3 vehicle and fuel emission standards has now closed and hundreds of thousands of Americans have weighed in to support these important, lifesaving clean air standards.

Many, many thanks to the almost 336,000 of you who submitted comments through EDF's website or through our friends and colleagues' websites.

Those friends and colleagues include numerous groups representing health care, the environment, faith, business, labor, and moms — and they've all stated their support of the Tier 3 standards.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now has to get to work reviewing and responding to the comments and crafting the final standards.

We expect EPA will finalize the standards by the end of the year, enabling automakers to gear up to meet the standards.

Organizations representing domestic and international automobile interests were among the many groups I mentioned that submitted comments to EPA. Their comments demonstrate the ability of the industry to meet strong vehicle and fuel emission standards.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers also commented on the benefits of strong Tier 3 standards — benefits that begin from day one:

“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 like the United Auto Workers also weighed in:

“[Tier 3] standards will create jobs and are estimated to prevent thousands of deaths each year, in turn providing billions of dollars in public healthcare savings …We call for an immediate finalization of the proposed Tier 3 rules and the use of similar widely-beneficial regulations to ensure our commitment to creating the next generation of clean and efficient vehicles.”

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.”

The broad support for these common-sense standards demonstrates, once again, the unique intersection of clean air as a value for diverse American citizens, communities and businesses – a value that will have benefits for all, from day one.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Policy| Comments closed

The Not-So-Strange Bedfellows on Tier 3 Clean Car Standards

Most Americans rely on cars every day — cars that transport us to work and school, but that emit harmful soot, smog, and other dangerous air pollutants that impact human health.

We’ve posted before about a new way to clean up that pollution – the Tier 3 standards.

EPA has introduced these modern clean air standards to reduce harmful emissions from two sources — new cars and gasoline.

These complementary standards will ensure healthier, longer lives for millions of Americans – all for less than a penny a gallon.

Like so many other clean air issues, this one has brought together a strong, diverse coalition of groups in support of the updated, common-sense standards.

Supporters include car companies, manufacturers, environmental justice groups, health groups and medical professionals, labor, states, environmental groups, faith groups, and advocates for consumers.

EPA recently held two public hearings about the Tier 3 standards, in Philadelphia and Chicago.

We posted earlier about strong support for these clean air standards in Philadelphia. And EDF’s Graham McCahan testified on our behalf in Chicago, and said the turnout and support for Tier 3 was impressive there too. (You can read Graham’s testimony here).

Representatives of many of those other diverse organizations testified at the public hearings as well, in support of the Tier 3 clean air protections for Americans.

Here are a few quotes from the testimony:

Tier 3…is yet another example of the auto industry working with the Federal government, the state of California and other stakeholders to develop a harmonized approach that benefits all fifty states. It builds upon the successes we’ve had in the 2012­­–2016 and 2017­–2025 national greenhouse gas and fuel economy programs. It stays true to the simple principle of providing the cleanest vehicles to everyone throughout this great country.

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.

Low sulfur gasoline not only enables advanced technologies to achieve intended emission benefits, it has an immediate and significant effect on the 250 million vehicles on the road today, lowering emissions and helping states achieve attainment of ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

  • Chrysler Group LLC

Our analysis estimates that by 2030, these standards under consideration today will prevent more than 2,500 premature deaths and more than 15,000 asthma attacks each year.

Building cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars creates jobs by sending money otherwise spent on fuel back into the U.S. economy, and also through the development and production of new, more efficient vehicle components. The Tier 3 standards will only bolster the auto industry’s ability to meet a strong fuel efficiency standard and generate these net positive economic outcomes.

These compelling testimonials are just a few of the comments made in favor of the Tier 3 standards.

If you didn’t have a chance to testify, you can still make your voice heard by sending an email to EPA. EDF has created a website to make it easy for you to stand up for the Tier 3 standards.

When America works together, we can achieve vital public health protections for our families and our communities – and create a stronger nation.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, News, Policy| Comments closed
  • About this blog

    Expert to expert commentary on the science, law and economics of climate change.

  • Categories

  • Get blog posts by email

    Subscribe via RSS

  • Meet The Bloggers

    Megan CeronskyMegan Ceronsky
    Attorney

    Nat KeohaneNat Keohane
    Vice President for International Climate

    Ilissa Ocko
    High Meadows Fellow, Office of Chief Scientist

    Peter Zalzal
    Staff Attorney

    Gernot Wagner
    Senior Economist

    Graham McCahan
    Attorney

    Mandy Warner
    Climate & Air Policy Specialist

    Pamela Campos
    Attorney

    Kritee
    High Meadows Scientist