Climate 411

Why accurate reporting of air pollution after Hurricane Harvey matters

By Matt Tresaugue. This post originally appeared in Texas Clean Air Matters.

Hartmann Park, Valero Refinery, Manchester County, Houston Texas.

In addition to dumping historic amounts of rain across southeast Texas, Hurricane Harvey triggered a wave of air pollution, with petrochemical plants and oil refineries releasing 8.3 million pounds of harmful chemicals that exceeded state limits. At least, that is what they told state officials.

Companies, however, reduced those estimates by 1.7 million pounds in later filings with the state, a new Environmental Defense Fund analysis found.

The steep drop suggests that some companies may not have accounted accurately for all Harvey-related pollution increases in their reporting to the state. As a result, people’s exposure to hazardous air pollutants, such as cancer-causing benzene and 1,3-butadiene, may be substantially underestimated.

Industry frequently justified the changes in emissions estimates by arguing that flexible state-issued permits, as well as Gov. Greg Abbott’s suspension of several environmental rules in advance of Harvey, made the pollution legal. Read More »

Also posted in Extreme Weather, Health, Science / Read 1 Response

The Trump-Wheeler Polluting Power Plan: Five Key Takeaways

(Ben Levitan and Rama Zakaria co-authored this post)

The Trump Administration just released another proposal with a title that would floor George Orwell himself.

Less than a month after releasing the Safer and More Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles Rule to make our cars less safe and less fuel efficient, Trump and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler unveiled the Affordable Clean Energy proposal – a plan that is neither clean nor affordable.

This new Trump-Wheeler proposal, ostensibly a replacement for the Clean Power Plan, is actually a major retreat from securing clean and affordable energy for Americans. It would subject our nation to more soot and smog and would vastly increase climate pollution – harming our health in the near term and exacerbating climate damage for generations to come.

Here are five things you should know:

1. The Trump-Wheeler plan would increase pollution and cost American lives.

EPA’s own numbers show the Trump-Wheeler proposal could lead to more than 1,000 annual premature deaths in 2030, compared to leaving the Clean Power Plan in place.

EPA map showing concentrations of additional premature deaths from soot and smog, compared to America under the Clean Power Plan. The areas in red will suffer most. See the Regulatory Impact Analysis, page 4-39.

It could also cause tens of thousands of childhood asthma attacks and more than 100,000 missed school and work days annually.

In 2030, the annual increase in health-harming pollution from the Trump-Wheeler proposal (compared to the Clean Power Plan) would be:

  • Up to 72,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, which contributes to dangerous soot pollution
  • Up to 53,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, which play a major role in smog formation

Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Policy / Read 1 Response

Administration Cooks the Books to Justify Rollback of the Clean Car Standards

This post was written by EDF consultant Chester France, who served as a Senior Executive at EPA and led the development of vehicle standards at the agency

 

The Trump administration is now trying to roll back the Clean Car Standards – a proven American success story created with a mountain of evidence to support it.

From 2009 through 2016, the U.S. government published 10,000 pages of information proving that the Clean Car standards are feasible and cost effective. That’s the most comprehensive and rigorous U.S. automotive technology analysis ever conducted.

Rather than building on that massive technical record, the proposal released on Thursday indicates that the Trump administration has embraced shoddy and biased analysis to support its desired eight-year freeze of the Clean Car Standards at essentially 2018 levels through 2026.

The analysis attempting to justify the proposed rollback is a stunning 180-degree reversal of what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) had found over the last decade. For instance:

  • As recently as 2016, EPA and DOT found that the standards through 2025 would have net societal benefits of almost $100 billion.
  • Now, the administration wants us to believe the same standards will have net societal costs of $200 billion.

That’s a change of almost $300 billion.

The only way to achieve such a massive analytical flip-flop is to “cook the books” – by manipulating design elements and input assumptions in the modeling tool – until the Trump administration arrived at the answers that it wants.

And it’s clear the Trump administration had answers it wanted from the beginning. EDF uncovered an email proving that a long-standing climate denier within the Trump administration had – at the urging of the White House – directed EPA staff to immediately roll back the Clean Car Standards on February 7, 2017. That email reflects a purely political decision within weeks of the President’s inauguration in 2017 – before anyone could have conducted any analysis of the benefits of the program. The facts had no bearing then, and clearly still do not now.

Our experts have identified scores of changes improperly biased in the direction of weakening the standards and making them appear less cost effective. Here are just a few of the most egregious examples:

Read More »

Posted in News / Read 2 Responses

Trump breaks his “jobs” promise in proposal to gut Clean Car Standards

U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum

In March 2017, President Trump held a high-profile event in Ypsilanti, Michigan to announce that his administration was re-opening the mid-term evaluation of America’s Clean Car Standards. He was joined at the event by the CEO’s of General Motors, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford among others.

His action that day kicked-off a process that culminated in today’s release of a proposal that would eviscerate those successful standards.

The Trump administration’s attack on the Clean Car Standards threatens our health and environment, will raise costs on American families, is at odds with the technical progress the industry is making to reduce vehicle pollution, contains attacks on state-authority that are flatly illegal, undermines our safety, and is based on a deeply flawed and biased analysis.

The attack also goes against the purported rationale the President gave in March 2017.

President Trump wanted us to believe that this action was all about jobs. He mentioned “jobs” 14 times in his speech, noting:

“If the standards threatened auto jobs, then commonsense changes could have and should have been made.”

He also said:

“We are going to ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs.”

The odd thing is that the Trump administration’s own analysis finds that its proposal is a job loser.

That’s right: the administration’s own assessment found that its proposal would cost at least 60,000 jobs (Table VII-5; page 784 and 785).

Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Jobs, Policy / Read 1 Response

International trading of emissions reductions could greatly increase global climate ambition

The Arc de Triomphe following the signing of the Paris Agreement. Each party set a Nationally Determined Contribution for emissions reductions.

This post was authored by Gabriela Leslie, Pedro Piris-Cabezas and Ruben Lubowski

Carbon pricing is steadily growing worldwide and increasingly recognized as a way to achieve emissions reductions at lower cost than with standard regulations. A recent economic analysis from Environmental Defense Fund found that these cost savings from international trading of emissions could translate into direct gains for the atmosphere – and could produce nearly double the climate ambition at the same overall cost as countries’ complying with their Paris Agreement targets without international markets.

Read More »

Also posted in Carbon Markets, REDD+ / Comments are closed

Clean Cars Are Safer and Cheaper to Drive

This post was written by EDF consultant Chester France, who served as a Senior Executive at EPA and led the development of vehicle standards at the agency

 

Very soon, the Trump administration is expected to propose dramatically weakening America’s Clean Car Standards under the Orwellian title “The Safer and More Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule.”

Actually, a decade-long record shows lower-polluting cars are safe and can contribute to a continuing reduction in traffic deaths. Strong Clean Car Standards also save Americans money at the gas pump.

The misleading title of the expected proposal — and the findings it insinuates — is just the latest example of the Trump administration manipulating analyses to achieve its desired result. A February 2017 email from Trump transition team member and professional climate denier David Schnare describes a White House order to set these rollbacks into motion, underscoring that this decision was preordained and not based on any analysis of facts or law.

Here are some facts you should know about clean cars, savings, and safety.

Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Policy / Comments are closed