Selected category: What Others are Saying

Scott Pruitt, the public has spoken – and it wants health protections, not rollbacks

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Earlier this year, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced an effort to seek public input on EPA safeguards that should be revoked or rolled back to “reduce regulatory burden.”

What was the overwhelming message he heard in response?

Let EPA do its job and protect Americans from dangerous pollution.

Numerous news articles have detailed the tens of thousands of responses EPA received from individual Americans decrying Pruitt’s biased, predetermined effort to gut important safeguards. These public comments are still being uploaded onto an official website — but already there are more than 183,000 of them, and the overwhelming majority are in favor of strong EPA safeguards.

As one comment reminded Pruitt:

Future generations are counting on us to leave an environment that supports good health, and a world worth living in. Don’t jeopardize the progress that has been made by rolling back regulations that are taking us in the right direction. Your job is to protect the environment for the benefit of all, not to squander progress for the financial gain of a few.

Another citizen noted during a listening session:

I actually enjoy breathing clean air and drinking clean water and would find it quite burdensome not to.

It’s well documented that EPA safeguards are an incredible American success story, saving countless lives and improving health across the country. We’ve made tremendous strides in improving air quality, reducing toxic lead and mercury pollution, addressing acid rain, and other remarkable achievements — all while the economy has grown and added jobs.

We still have more work to do though. According to the American Lung Association, more than 125 million Americans live in communities with unhealthy levels of air pollution.

Industry pushes for rollbacks

EPA senior officials are due to present a report to Pruitt today on their progress in identifying safeguards to repeal or roll back – not even two weeks after the rushed public comment period ended.

It’s hard to know if this report will be made public, but we are starting to get a glimpse of the input that Pruitt and his team are hearing from those who oppose vital safeguards.

For instance, the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) 25-page list of requests includes weakening protections against smog and undercutting common-sense standards to curb harmful methane and toxic air pollution from oil and gas production.

API’s list also complains that EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Panel is “biased” because “it can be difficult for industry representatives to be included on the committees.”

As we wrote about in an earlier post, these industry requests come on top of an earlier solicitation by the Trump Administration for industry proposals to roll back protections — one where trade associations brazenly asked for cuts to important health studies and safeguards.

Politicians target safeguards against mercury, smog, and other dangers

One remarkable letter to EPA came from eight state politicians. As has been well documented, while Scott Pruitt was Oklahoma’s Attorney General he spearheaded an intertwined alliance between state attorneys general and major fossil fuel industries — going so far as to submit industry requests to EPA on Oklahoma letterhead and later noting that’s “actually called representative government in my view of the world.”

In the new letter, Pruitt’s attorney general allies detail a list of twenty bedrock safeguards to weaken or eliminate. These include protections against mercury pollution, smog, soot, and many others.

These eight politicians even ask EPA to reject the agency’s science-based conclusion that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare — a conclusion based on an extensive, exhaustive record that was upheld by a federal court of appeals several years ago. Their letter makes no mention of the citizens who would be sickened and harmed by these roll backs.

The signatories are the attorneys general from Michigan, Oklahoma, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisiana, and South Carolina.

Scott Pruitt: don’t put Americans’ health at risk

With EPA’s help, we’ve made remarkable progress in cleaning up our air and water. The American public just delivered a clear and overwhelming message to Scott Pruitt – don’t risk that tremendous progress, or the health of our families, by rolling back EPA safeguards.

Administrator Pruitt should listen.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Leave a comment

America’s Leaders Weigh in on the Dangers of Proposed EPA Budget Cuts

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Details of President Trump’s budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have started leaking out — and they are alarming, to say the least.

The reported budget cuts outline a disturbingly stark vision for the nation’s guardians of human health and the environment, cutting EPA staff by one-fifth and resources by 25 percent.

This budget would reportedly slash funding to restore the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay, for state air quality grants, for environmental justice programs, for safe drinking water grants to states, and much more.

It would also reportedly gut EPA’s Office of Research and Development, the office responsible for guiding the agency’s approach to science. The Office of Research and Development includes vital work like the Safe and Sustainable Water Resources program.

This short-sighted budget proposal would mean dirtier air and water. It would mean more deaths among American citizens, and more asthma attacks among American children.

That’s why reports of a budget proposal this alarming has drawn criticism from all corners of America, from red and blue states alike.

As Jim Brainard, the Republican Mayor of Carmel, Indiana put it:

I haven't met a Republican or Democrat yet that wants to drink dirty water or breathe dirty air.

Members of Congress from both parties, former EPA administrators serving under both Republican and Democratic Presidents, experts from state and local air agencies, environmental justice groups, and others all agree:

William Ruckelshaus, EPA Administrator for Presidents Nixon and Reagan:

A strong and credible regulatory regime is essential to the smooth functioning of our economy… Budget cuts that hurt programs that states now have in place to meet those duties run the risk of returning us to a time when some states offered industries a free lunch, creating havens for polluters. This could leave states with strong environmental programs supported by the public at a competitive disadvantage compared to states with weak programs. In other words, it could lead to a race to the bottom.

Christine Todd Whitman, EPA Administrator for President George W. Bush:

I haven’t ever really seen anything quite like this,” and on the enforcement of environmental rules, “a lot of that enforcement is protecting people.

Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator for President Obama:

This budget is a fantasy if the administration believes it will preserve EPA’s mission to protect public health… It ignores the need to invest in science and to implement the law… It ignores the lessons of history that led to EPA’s creation 46 years ago. And it ignores the American people calling for its continued support … This is actually going to be devastating for the agency’s ability to protect public health.

WE ACT for Environmental Justice:

Trump's proposed cuts to EPA's programs are racist and an attack on EJ communities nationwide.

Dominique Browning, founder of Moms Clean Air Force:

No mom — whether Republican, Democrat, or Independent — voted for air pollution. No mom voted for anything that would endanger her children’s health. We’ve come a long way in cleaning up air pollution, and cutting back EPA’s efforts to enforce the rules that protect us — in favor of polluters’ profits — runs completely against what mothers and fathers across the country want: safe and clean air.

National Association of Clean Air Agencies director Bill Becker:

These cuts, if enacted by Congress, will rip the heart and soul out of the national air pollution control program and jeopardize the health and welfare of tens of millions of people around the country… I can guarantee with certainty that at least in the air pollution area, there will be many more people who will die prematurely and tens of thousands, perhaps millions more, who will get sick unnecessarily… [the cuts will have] a direct and serious adverse health impact on almost every major metropolitan area in the country.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho):

There’s not that much in the EPA, for crying out loud. (Simpson also noted that Republicans had already reduced EPA’s budget significantly in recent years.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma):

EPA has been cut by over 20 percent in the last few years. The discretionary budget has been lowered pretty dramatically compared to how it was in 2009, and it’s under what [Speaker] Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) thought it would be in his budget.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware):

Reckless cuts to the EPA — the agency responsible for protecting public health and our environment — are not what Americans voted for in November.

Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio):

[W]e’re not going to let that happen, we’re going to continue to oppose cuts to the [Great Lakes Restoration Initiative] and we’re going to mobilize our voting forces to let them know that this isn’t going to stand.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI):

[Proposed cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative are] outrageous … this initiative has been critical to cleaning up our Great Lakes and waterways, restoring fish and wildlife habitats, and fighting invasive species, like Asian carp… I call on President Trump to reverse course on these harmful decisions.

John Stine, Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency:

It would cut across every area of our work… It would hurt the people who look to [our] programs for protecting the quality of their health and the quality of the places they live… We need people to understand that this work is not just … abstract, these are all people and places that are at some level of risk.

American Lung Association:

Slashing funding for programs that are proven to save lives is a disastrous strategy; cuts to key lung health programs at EPA and HHS make Americans less secure and less protected from known health threats such as the next influenza pandemic and air pollution. Our nation's scientists and doctors will be less likely to find cures and better treatments for the millions of Americans with lung cancer, COPD and asthma.

Clean air, water, and other environmental safeguards are essential to Americans’ lives. The vast majority of Americans across the country support EPA’s mission – a mission the agency has been carrying out under both political parties for almost half a century, and one that that has led to incredible progress in cleaning and protecting our air and waters.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Partners for Change, Policy| Comments are closed

Pope Francis and climate change: Thoughts from a Catholic environmentalist

Source: Flickr/Catholic Church

It’s not often that my Catholic faith intersects with my work communicating about international climate change issues.

That’s changed now that Pope Francis is expected to release a statement of official church teaching this summer on the environment and climate change. It’s making headlines again this week, as the pope convenes a summit on climate change.

Known as an encyclical, it’s expected to reflect on Catholic teaching as it applies to the world today, and focus on the moral obligation to protect creation and humankind – especially the world’s most vulnerable people.

That Pope Francis – dubbed the “rock star pope” – will make such a statement on environmental protection is not surprising to those familiar with his and the Catholic Church’s position on the environment, the latter of which has long taught the importance of humans taking care of the Earth.

Caring for Earth part of our faith

The encyclical will formally be on “ecology,” with climate change playing a central role.

Climate touches everything, including people. Pollution that causes global warming also triggers asthma. Warmer temperatures mean crops and people’s livelihoods are jeopardized, while diseases such as West Nile and Lyme disease spread. Sea-level rise means people lose their homes.

These effects can still make climate change seem unrelated to the faith, far in the future and overwhelming. But Pope Francis is calling on us to see that it’s none of those.

Similarly, when I taught Sunday school to young children, we didn’t address the complexities of Catholic theology. We focused on Catholics’ belief that God provided humans with nature and its animals, trees and air for us to enjoy and protect.

The poor feel brunt of climate change

As an environmentalist, I’ve helped bring attention to my Environmental Defense Fund colleagues’ work with people who are feeling the impact of climate change first-hand.

In Brazil, the country with the world’s largest Catholic community, indigenous groups are already experiencing changes in the Amazon’s rainfall and river levels, fire patterns and climate systems they used to depend on for growing crops. And in India, farmers and rural women are already experiencing weather events consistent with a changing climate.

We know there are solutions to climate change. The United States and the world made important advances on climate and energy in the past year, and we believe we can stop the rise in greenhouse gas emissions and see them begin to decline in thenext five years.

Timing of pope’s document critical

The encyclical is a call to action for all of us to read the document and think more deeply about our relationship with the world. It asks us to consider what we can do – personally, in our community and parish, at the state and national level, and internationally.

The release of the encyclical comes in advance of international climate negotiations in Paris this December, where countries will seek to build an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

By staking out the Vatican’s position on climate change, the pope is telling the world that protecting the environment is not a niche issue – it’s a human, personal and moral issue.

This post originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

Also posted in Partners for Change, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Comments are closed

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 are 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 are 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 are closed
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