Category Archives: Policy

When it comes to carbon, pay now or pay more later

(This post originally appeared on ensia.com

Economics is largely just organized common sense, and it doesn’t get much more common sense than benefit-cost analysis. Want to decide whether to buy that apple, make that investment or pass that clean air rule? Tally up the benefits. Tally up the costs. If benefits outweigh costs, do it.

Although in many ways climate change is a problem in its own league, the same principles apply. Secretary of State John Kerry recently said, “The costs of inaction are catastrophic,” and they most likely would be. While climate change ought to be a risk management problem — an existential risk management problem on a planetary scale — that realization alone may not always be good enough. Despite the inherent risks and uncertainties, sometimes we need a specific number that we can plug into a benefit-cost analysis.

The U.S. government makes lots of regulatory decisions that have important implications for the climate. Any benefit-cost analysis of these decisions ought to include their climate impact. If a particular decision will lead to more greenhouse gas emissions — building the Keystone XL pipeline, for example — that figure ought to go on the cost side of the ledger. If the decision will lead to fewer greenhouse gas emissions — such as carbon pollution standards for power plants — that figure adds to the benefits side.

Such benefit-cost analyses require a dollar figure for the social cost of carbon pollution. The best we currently have is around $40 for each ton of carbon dioxide emitted, calculated by averaging results from the three of the most prominent and well-established climate-economic models. Uncertainties around the $40 value notwithstanding, putting in $0 is not an option. That, sadly, is what some with clear stakes in the outcome are arguing, however weak the ground they stand on.

In fact, $40 is very likely on the low end of the true cost of CO2. By definition, it only includes what is known and currently quantifiable. It doesn’t include many things we know are linked to a changing climate that aren’t so easily quantified, such as respiratory illness from increased ozone pollution, the costs of oceans turning ever more acidic and impacts on labor productivity from extreme heat. If these were factored in, the $40 figure would certainly be higher.

And the list of what’s missing in the current calculation goes on, as a recent commentary in Nature points out. For example, the models used to calculate the $40 figure are based on costs associated with higher average temperatures rather than costs of increased weather extremes. Taking extreme events seriously in the social cost calculation would increase the $40 figure further still.

We know climate change is and will be costly. How costly exactly is up for discussion, but it’s clear that we should at the very least use the $40 per ton figure in any benefit-cost analysis that involves climate impacts. That’s common sense, too.

Also posted in Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions | 1 Response

Top takeaways from the latest IPCC report

(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices)

Yesterday, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its last report in a three-part series that makes up the fifth assessment report (AR5) on the latest data and research on climate change. The reports have been issued approximately every five years since 1990.

This latest round of reports began in September 2013 with anupdate on the latest science behind climate change (known as Working Group I). Last month, the second report was released and discussed climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability already observed and projected in the future (known as Working Group II).

The new report released yesterday (known as Working Group III) discusses actions to limit the magnitude and rate of climate change, termed mitigation. Over 400 experts from over 50 countries were involved in the development of the report, which was accepted by representatives from 195 nations.

Here are 5 key findings from the new lPCC report:

1. Global emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities have continued to rise. Emissions are dominated by carbon dioxide (mainly from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes), which account for 78% of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1970 to 2010 (when other gas emissions are weighted to incorporate warming capability relative to CO2). Greenhouse gas emissions have grown more rapidly between 2000 and 2010 than in previous decades despite a recent push to limit emissions; economic and population growth are driving these increases and continue to outgrow emission savings from energy improvements.

2. Action to limit the magnitude and rate of climate change is needed immediately. Climate conditions are changing rapidly as shown in Working Group I, and the impacts to society and ecosystems are unequivocal, consequential, and increasing as shown in Working Group II. Scenarios to limit warming to 2ºC (3.6ºF) relative to preindustrial levels require drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century through large-scale changes in energy systems and land-use practices. The longer we delay action, the more expensive it will be.

3. It is key to reduce energy demand, deploy low-carbon technologies, and better conserve and manage forestry and agriculture. There is a range of technological and behavioral options for sustainable climate actions; nearly one thousand scenarios were analyzed in the report.

  • Near-term reductions in energy demand through efficiency enhancements in transport, buildings, and industry sectors are cost-effective, provide flexibility for decarbonizing in the energy supply sector, reduce risks in energy supply, and prevent future lock-in to carbon-intensive infrastructures.
  • Behavioral and lifestyle changes—such as lower energy use in households, buying longer-lasting products, changing dietary habits, and reducing food waste—can considerably lower greenhouse gas emissions alongside technological and structural changes. Further development and implementation of low-carbon energy and/or carbon removal technologies is important.
  • Renewable energy technologies—such as wind, hydro, and solar power—have finally achieved a level of maturity to enable large-scale deployment. However, steep challenges exist, including varying costs, regional circumstances, and the existing background energy system.
  • The best climate actions for forestry include afforestation, sustainable forest management, and reducing deforestation. For agriculture, best practices include cropland and grazing land management, and restoration of organic soil. Sustainable agriculture practices can also promote resilience to climate change impacts.

4. Effective actions will only be achieved by international cooperation. Climate change is a global problem because most heat-trapping gases accumulate over time and mix globally. Therefore, emissions by an individual, community, company, or country, affect the globe. The number of institutions for international cooperation is increasing, and sharing knowledge and technologies with other nations speeds up finding solutions. The issue is complicated by the fact that different countries’ past and future contributions to atmospheric greenhouse gas levels are different, as is their capacities to implement actions to limit climate change and build resilience.

5. Co-benefits strengthen the basis for undertaking climate action. Measures to limit energy demand (efficiency, conservation, and behavioral changes) and renewable alternatives can reduce the risk of energy supply, improve public health and the environment by limiting pollution, induce local and sectoral employment gains, support good business practices, improve security of energy supply at the national level, and eradicate poverty. Adverse side effects, such as reduced revenue from coal and oil exporters, can be to a certain extent avoided by the development of carbon capture and storage technologies.

The IPCC will conclude the AR5 in October 2014 with a final report that summarizes the three-part series, recapping the major findings of the physical science of climate change, its effects on society and ecosystems, and actions to avert catastrophic climate change.

There are many ways YOU can help promote climate actions, such as supporting the U.S. to continue its emission-reducing efforts like the EPA’s power plant standards.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, International, News, Science | 1 Response, comments now closed

Toxic mercury pollution limits survive major court challenge

(This post was co-authored by Pamela Campos, Attorney, and Mandy Warner, Climate & Air Policy Specialist)

Some environmental threats are hard to explain. Toxic mercury is not. A dangerous neurotoxin that threatens young children, developing babies, and others, almost everyone reacts viscerally at the idea of ingesting it. And the scientific evidence endorses that instinctive response.

That’s why today’s decision by a federal court to uphold the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics rule is cause for celebration. For decades, power plants have been spewing out mercury. It ends up in our lakes and rivers, in fish, and ultimately in our bodies. It’s been closing favorite fishing holes and, more ominously, delaying mental development for our children. Even spiders in the Sonoran desert and trout in Colorado’s highest mountain lakes are affected.

When the EPA finally issued rules under the Clean Air Act to limit mercury pollution, the owners of the dirtiest power plants sued to stop it. Just like with every other major air pollution rule, they claimed it would be unaffordable, ignoring clear evidence that clean air protections are consistently shown to have public health benefits that far exceed the pollution control costs.

So this morning’s decision is a big deal for protecting our health. The court was sweeping in its denial of industry challenges, confirming that EPA’s technical and legal judgment was sound.

While some power companies are investing in lawyers and lobbyists to obstruct these vital health protections, other power companies are investing in clean air solutions. The reality on the ground shows that many power companies are already complying with the rule. Compliance costs fall as new standards are implemented. The health benefits of preventing exposure to toxic pollution are lifelong.

While some opponents claimed it would not be possible to install controls before the rule took effect, but as of the end of 2012, the Energy Information Administration recently reported that 70% of coal-fired capacity already meets the *standards.

Power companies such as American Electric Power, Southern Company and First Energy that fought EPA’s clean air protections claimed the costs would be too high to make pollution reductions. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the final Mercury and Air Toxics Standards on December 21, 2011 at Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. Within months of EPA’s announcement, these same power companies were adjusting their cost estimates downward and touting to investors that the compliance costs with the historic Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were plummeting:

  • On July 20, 2012 American Electric Power CEO Nicholas Akins confirmed that the company’s projected costs have come down nearly 25% from what AEP originally projected. He added, “[W]e expect it to continue to be refined as we go forward”. In other words, costs will come down even further. (Nicholas Akins, American Electric Power Co., Inc. Q2 2012 Earnings Call transcript, July 20, 2012).
  • On May 15, 2012 Southern Company CEO Thomas Fanning stated that the amount the company projects for compliance costs “could be $0.5 billion to $1 billion less, because of the new flexibility that [the company has] found in the final rules of the MATS regulation.” (Thomas Fanning, CEO of Southern Company, Deutsche Bank Clean Tech, Utilities and Power Conference, May 15, 2012).
  • On August 8, 2012, First Energy CEO Anthony Alexander stated, "[W]e have significantly reduced our projected capital investment related to MATS compliance." (Anthony Alexander, Q2 2012 Earnings Call (transcript) August 8, 2012).

We examined this again and companies like AEP and FirstEnergy continue to lower compliance cost estimates downward from the claims they asserted during the mercury and air toxics rulemaking with AEP lowering its costs estimates by half and FirstEnergy lowering cost estimates by nearly 70 percent.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards provide crucial emission reductions of toxic pollutants including mercury, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, and chromium from the single largest source of toxic air pollution in the U.S. – coal-fired power plants. These standards will save thousands of lives every year, prevent heart attacks and asthma attacks, and help protect the hundreds of thousands of babies born in America every year who are exposed to unsafe levels of mercury in the womb. While the costs of compliance have plummeted from the public debate during the development of the standards, these vital health protections for our communities and families are enduring.

The court’s decision today demonstrates that EPA’s rule was carefully developed, and we can all rest more easily tonight knowing that we breathe cleaner air.

*Energy Information Administration, http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=15611

Posted in Policy | 1 Response, comments now closed

Energy Efficiency and Carbon Pollution Standards: Double Dividends for Climate and Consumers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has embarked on a vital effort — accompanied by extensive outreach to states, power companies, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders, including you — to establish the nation’s first limits on carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants.

EPA was directed to take this critical step for public health and the environment in the President’s Climate Action Plan that was released last summer. Protective and well-designed Carbon Pollution Standards will provide important benefits for all Americans.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants emit 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution, as well as significant amounts of mercury, acid gases, and pollutants that contribute to smog and particulates.

That’s why it is critical to get these rules right, and to mobilize common sense solutions proven in red and blue states alike in reducing carbon pollution from the power sector.

Of all the available ways to reduce carbon pollution, one of the most cost-effective and time-tested approaches is to reduce demand for fossil fuel electricity through end-use energy efficiency (EE).

EE measures encompass countless improvements, large and small, in the ways we use electricity in our offices, factories, and homes. All of those improvements can add up to big savings, not only in our monthly energy bills but in the total amount of fossil generation needed to power our society.

Dozens of states and power companies are already investing heavily in EE, and have built up decades of experience in measuring and verifying the many benefits it can yield for consumers and for the environment.

Incredible Potential to Cut Emissions and Save Money by Reducing Wasted Electricity

States and power companies around the country have been implementing EE programs for decades, and have increased their efforts in recent years as experience with the benefits of EE has grown.

26 states in diverse regions of the country, from Arizona and Colorado in the Southwest to industrial Midwest states like Ohio and Illinois, now have “energy efficiency resource standards” or similar policies that require utilities to achieve a certain amount of energy savings each year.

State spending on EE programs increased by 28 percent between 2010 and 2012.

As EE policies and investments have grown, so have energy savings.

In 2011, state EE programs saved a total of 22.9 million megawatt-hours — roughly equivalent to the entire annual output of seven 500 megawatt coal-fired power plants.

These savings increased 22 percent since 2010 and, importantly, count only those savings achieved in the first year these EE measures are in place.

Because most EE measures continue to yield energy savings years or even decades after they are installed, the cumulative savings from these state EE programs are much larger.

A recent study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that EE programs and policies are a key reason why residential and commercial electricity demand has remained stable since 2007.

As impressive as these developments are, they only scratch the surface of what could be achieved if we were to fully unlock the potential for EE to save energy and reduce emissions.

An exhaustive 2009 analysis by McKinsey & Company, for example, found that rigorous investment in cost-effective EE could reduce the country’s total energy consumption by 23 percent in 2020.

Energy savings on this scale would yield massive emission reductions — about 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxidein 2020 alone (more than 30 percent of power sector emissions today) – and at a cost per kilowatt-hour saved that is about 85 percent less than the average retail price of electricity.

The report also estimated that realizing these energy savings would create about 600,000 to 900,000 jobs through 2020.

Other national and regional studies have similarly found that EE represents a tremendous “win-win” opportunity for our climate, for families and consumers, and for the economy as a whole.

In 2012, for example, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) issued a report focusing on the potential benefits of scaling-up EE programs in six Southwestern states (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming).

Based on the track record of “best practice” EE programs around the country, SWEEP found that these six states could reduce their electricity demand in 2020 by more than 20 percent while achieving net benefits of about $20 billion – amounting to $2,650 for every household in the region (largely in the form of lower energy bills).

Investments in EE at this scale would also create about 30,000 additional jobs in the region by 2020, and increase wages and salaries by more than $1 billion.

At the same time, these EE measures would reduce carbon pollution by more than 30 million metric tons in 2020, (a 16% reduction relative to expected emissions in 2020), while also reducing thousands of tons of pollutants that contribute to smog, acid rain, and harmful particulate pollution.

EE and the Carbon Pollution Standards

If you’ve read my colleague Megan Ceronsky’s earlier blog, you’ve already heard about section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

That section provides bedrock authority for EPA to issue Carbon Pollution Standards for existing power plants.  It also provides a broad, flexible framework for states and companies to deploy EE and other flexible approaches to reducing carbon pollution from the power sector.

Under section 111(d), EPA and the states will work together to reduce emissions from existing power plants.  EPA will issue “emission guidelines” that identify the “best system of emission reduction” for carbon pollution from existing power plants and the emission reductions achievable using that system.  The states then have the responsibility to develop plans that implement standards consistent with those guidelines.

Just a few weeks ago, Kate Konschnik, Policy Director of the Environmental Law Program at Harvard Law School, released a report that makes a strong legal case for considering EE as part of the “best system of emission reduction” that underpins EPA’s emission guidelines.

As Konschnik argues, the Clean Air Act grants EPA broad authority to consider flexible measures such as EE as a part of the best system of emission reduction for carbon pollution:

[B]ecause it is adequately demonstrated and cost-effective, imposes minimal environmental costs, and reduces overall energy requirements.

Moreover, as Konschnik points out, methods for quantifying and verifying EE-related energy savings and emission reductions are well-developed.

Over the last two decades, at least 35 states and two regional transmission organizations have adopted protocols for measuring and verifying energy savings from EE projects. These savings are now widely used as the basis for critical regulatory proceedings and market functions, including establishing utility rates, compensating EE in regional capacity markets, and carrying out long-term regional resource planning.

In addition, EPA has already allowed several states to credit emission reductions resulting from EE and renewable energy towards compliance with national air quality standards. EPA has also issued detailed guidance to the states on analytical approaches and tools that could be used for future programs.

Ensuring Smooth Implementation of EE in the Carbon Pollution Standards

Under traditional emissions trading programs such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or California’s cap-and-trade system, the emission reduction benefits of EE are readily observed as emissions from power plants drop.

Under these programs, no separate system for tracking emission reductions from EE is necessary.  As a recent report by RGGI confirms, these programs are also funding significant investments in EE programs that have already helped 815,000 families.

However, some states may choose to directly incentivize EE through policies that credit individual projects and programs for their impacts on energy savings and emissions.

For this reason, EDF has worked with experts in the field to study how measurement and verification for such EE crediting systems could work in a way that is environmentally rigorous and administratively streamlined, and that builds on extensive state and regional experience with existing EE programs.

We recently submitted a report to EPA, developed by the Analysis Group, that lays out one possible framework for ensuring both desirable outcomes:

  • Rigorous measurement and verification of EE projects, and
  • Consistent methods for determining emission reductions that are attributable to EE projects

This framework recognizes the diverse approaches to measurement and verification of EE that are in use around the country. But in developing this framework, we were also struck by the significant progress that a number of organizations have made in developing best practices and consensus protocols for evaluating EE projects.

One example is the Department of Energy’s Uniform Methods Project (UMP), which has organized a multi-stakeholder process to develop rigorous yet streamlined measurement and verification protocols for different types of EE projects.

To date, UMP has released protocols addressing seven major EE project types and five “cross-cutting” evaluation issues. Eight more protocols are expected to be finalized in the coming months.

Other notable efforts to develop and encourage best practices in the field include:

EE: Ready for Prime Time

EE represents a historic opportunity to achieve extensive reductions in emissions of carbon pollution and other power sector pollutants that directly harm public health and the environment.

In many cases, EE measures will actually save families and businesses money over time and help strengthen the economy.

Decades of state and utility experience in designing and implementing EE programs have demonstrated that the benefits of EE are real, and that the policies and tools needed to incentivize EE and measure its effects are available.

EPA should fully mobilize the potential of EE by exercising its authority to consider EE in the design of the Carbon Pollution Standards, and by providing guidance to the states to facilitate the inclusion of EE in state plans implementing those standards.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Cleaner Cars Trifecta: Benefits for Health, Businesses, and the Environment

A set of national clean car standards that have long been debated are, finally, a reality.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced those standards, commonly known as Tier 3, today.

The terrific news is that these rigorous tailpipe and cleaner fuel standards will deliver vital and swift health benefits for our communities and families.

Tier 3 is indeed a win-win-win for public health and the environment, the economy, and businesses.

EPA’s Tier 3 standards will provide benefits from day one by reducing dangerous pollutants in fuel.

They’ll cut even more vehicle and fuel emissions when the standards take full effect in 2017 – including reducing the levels of nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds, air toxics, and fine particulate matter – better known as soot.

The health benefits at stake are so high that almost 500 health and medical professionals recently wrote to President Obama, urging prompt finalization of Tier 3 standards:

“Unhealthy air imposes the risk of serious health impacts on millions of Americans. We see those impacts on our patients’ health, in public health, and in our research.”

By 2030, the emission reductions from the tightened fuel and vehicle standards will prevent:

  • Up to 2,000 premature deaths
  • 2,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits
  • 19,000 asthma attacks
  • 30,000 upper and lower respiratory symptoms in children
  • 1.4 million lost school days, work days and days of minor-restricted activities

The monetized net benefits of the avoided health impacts are as much as $19 billion every year.

And we get all of this for the cost of well under a penny per gallon of gas.

It comes as no surprise then that the Tier 3 standards enjoy broad support among diverse stakeholders including car companies, manufacturers, environmental justice groups, health groups and medical professionals, labor, blue and red states, environmental groups, faith groups, and advocates for consumers.

Utah has had to confront its growing air pollution problem, and its leaders have expressed support for the Tier 3 standards and improving air quality. Republican Governor Gary Herbert reiterated Utah’s commitment in his January 29th State of the State address:

“…We will accelerate the transition to cleaner Tier 3 gasoline and the next generation of lower-emission vehicles. Because nearly 60 percent of our pollution during inversions comes from tailpipes, and the technology already exists to do something about it, there is absolutely no reason to wait. By taking initiative, we ensure these cleaner gasolines and lower-emission vehicles, which burn 80 percent cleaner than current models, are made available in Utah as soon as possible.” 

In addition to the public health benefits of the cleaner fuel and vehicles, Tier 3 standards will help many domestic businesses.

Emissions control technology makers will see growing business from implementation of the standards. Tier 3 will also help the auto industry meet greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards, and deliver its “cleaner vehicles” promise to America.

Many individual oil refiners have stated that Tier 3 will not materially impact their business. In fact, refiners in California are already producing ultra-low sulfur fuel.

In the fuel clean-up process at oil refineries, Tier 3 standards could create nearly 25,000 jobs in construction, as oil refineries modernize their facilities. The standards could also create more than 5,000 permanent operations jobs.

For every dollar invested in meeting the Tier standards we will receive up to 13 dollars in benefits.

This is a significant victory for cleaner air, and it would not have been possible without the tremendous efforts of the more than 47,000 of you who wrote to EPA in support of Tier 3!

I now have another favor to ask of you — please send a thank you note to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and her team at EPA for their diligence in getting these life-saving standards across the finish line.

And my immeasurable thanks to all of you for your efforts in the fight for cleaner, safer air!

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Health | Comments closed

The Supreme Court and Climate Pollution: What is – and is not — at stake

(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices)

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case challenging EPA’s interpretation that the Clean Air Act permit program requiring new and rebuilt industrial sources to deploy leading pollution control technology for each pollutant subject to regulation under the Act applies to greenhouse gases, just as these requirements have limited other airborne contaminants for over three decades.

The case is Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA (No. 12-1146)

What’s at stake: Innovation in Addressing Climate Pollution and Clearing the Air about Climate Obstructionism

This case is remarkable for what is not at stake, as well as for what is.

While the Supreme Court is considering only a single legal question of the numerous issues that were raised, this case has important implications.

Exempting climate pollution from these specific provisions of the Clean Air Act would harm innovation, because they were carefully designed by Congress to spur the development of new pollution prevention and control techniques for industrial sources. Putting a stop to these legislatively-crafted incentives to innovation in precisely the area where we so urgently need innovation – in addressing climate-destabilizing pollution — would be a damaging loss and risks “locking in” new high emitting and long lived industrial infrastructure. Such an exemption for climate pollution is patently contrary to Congress’s specific command, in the statutory provisions at issue here, that these innovation-spurring requirements apply to “each pollutant subject to regulation under the Act”.

Climate obstructionists will undoubtedly twist the meaning of the case to suggest broader implications, despite the court's decision to review only one narrow question. While the Administration is judiciously carrying out its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act to address climate pollution – in accordance with the authority that was twice affirmed by the United States Supreme Court — climate obstructionists will use this case to sow havoc and attack the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Indeed, these forces have already attacked EPA by unsuccessfully litigating virtually every aspect of EPA’s first generation climate protections in court over a span of many years. Unfortunately, they will continue to attack EPA in the public square invoking the polarizing rhetoric that most Americans associate with divisive Beltway politics – not real world solutions.

What is not at stake in this case is the EPA’s determination that six greenhouse gases –carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride –endanger the health and welfare of current and future generations. This is the bedrock for EPA’s manifest authority to adopt climate protections for cleaner cars and cleaner freight trucks, for reducing the potent methane leaked and vented from oil and gas development activities in the same way that Colorado has adopted methane emissions standards, and for cutting the massive carbon pollution from power plants — the nation’s single largest source of carbon pollution and one of the largest in the world.

The history behind the case

For the past four years, big polluters and litigants such as the Attorney General of Texas have been suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over all aspects of EPA’s climate protections for America – including the science-based endangerment finding, and the historic Clean Cars Standards that are saving Americans money at the gas pump while strengthening our nation’s energy security and reducing pollution. By contrast, the U.S. Automakers have consistently supported the clean car standards.

These dozens of lawsuits were considered together by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit – which upheld EPA’s climate protections and rejected the legal challenges. In 2012, a three Judge panel of that court held that EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act was “unambiguously correct.” Then-Chief Judge David Sentelle, appointed to the Court by President Ronald Regan, was a member of the three Judge panel that unanimously affirmed EPA’s action.

Opponents filed numerous petitions seeking review by the Supreme Court, which refused to entertain most of their challenges.

Instead, the Court granted review of a single question – whether, under the terms of the Clean Air Act, EPA’s regulation of climate pollution from cars triggered the requirement for pre-construction permits limiting the climate pollution discharged by large, new and rebuilt industrial sources of that pollution in the same way these requirements have applied to other air pollutants from these sources for over 35 years.

Bottom line

We need all available safeguards under the Clean Air Act to address the urgent challenge of climate change – including the advanced pollution control measures required as an essential protection in construction permits for large industrial sources. These measures are vital if we hope to minimize industrial climate pollution.

Further, one of the principal legal theories being advanced by petitioners would have adverse consequences for EPA’s long-standing interpretation of the law – spanning the Presidencies of Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush – that has expansively applied the protections of the Clean Air Act’s pre-construction review permit program to all regulated air pollutants. This line of attack, designed to narrow the air pollutants subject to these limits, would call into question the application of the program to pollutants such as hydrogen sulfide, fluorides and sulfuric acid mist.

Finally, we need to tell the truth to the public, to policymakers and to the highest Court in the land that EPA is judiciously carrying out its responsibilities under the nation’s clean air laws to protect human health and the environment from climate pollution. We must take a stand against the sharply polarizing rhetorical excess leveled at EPA. For the real world solutions that have won far reaching support, look no further than the cleaner cars on the road today that are strengthening our energy security, saving families hard earned money at the gas pump, and cutting carbon pollution.

This is why EDF will be at the Supreme Court today.

Editor’s Note: Environmental Defense Fund is a party to the case before the Supreme Court and participated in the presentation of oral arguments when the case was before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  A coalition of states and NGO allies are also vigorously defending these clean air protections against legal attack — including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the city of New York.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News | 1 Response, comments now closed

We’re on the Road to Cleaner, More Fuel-Efficient Trucks

America started down the road toward cleaner, more fuel-efficient freight trucks today.

President Obama, joined by leading freight truck manufacturers and major fleet owners, announced plans to draft a second generation of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for America’s heavy-duty trucks.

The new standards will build on the successful first round, which are yielding far-reaching benefits for America’s security, economy and environment.

As the President said in his 2014 State of the Union Address:

We’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars.  In the coming months, I'll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

Opportunity

Climate pollution from our nation’s freight trucks is projected to increase by more than 130 million tons between now and 2040 – the largest increase in emissions from any single end-use, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Recent analyses, however, indicate that rigorous second generation fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for new freight trucks can cost-effectively reduce this climate pollution, improve our nation’s energy security, and save truckers money.

Consider this:

  • By 2025, strong second generation truck standards could reduce fuel consumption by up to 40 percent compared to 2010. That’s more than 800,000 barrels of oil savings per day beyond what’s achieved by current standards.
  • Most technologies needed to achieve this reduction have payback periods of three years or less.

Making our nation’s fleet of trucks more efficient is also good for consumers.

Improving efficiency means cutting the costs associated with transporting goods. That means companies can sell those goods for less, which in turn means that American families will save money.

A recent report by the Consumer Federation of America found:

  • Net savings of $250 to consumers, rising to $400 per household in 2035 as fuel prices and transportation services increase.

Solutions

Cost-effective, made-in-America solutions are available to help achieve these important environmental, economic and energy security benefits.

Rigorous second-generation clean trucks standards can help deploy these made-in-America technologies.

Strong standards are also critical to spur investment and innovation leading to the next generation of clean truck solutions.

For instance:

Just yesterday, Walmart unveiled “Jetson,”a prototype tractor-trailer powered by a revolutionary combination of a microturbine, battery storage, and electric motor, with advanced aerodynamics and a carbon-fiber trailer.

Broad-Based Support

These common sense solutions have resulted in broad support.

Many of the same companies that stood with the President today also collaborated on the first generation clean trucks standards.

Among those supporting the President today included the nation’s major manufacturers and fleets such as Conway, Cummins, Eaton, Wabash National, Waste Management and the American Trucking Association.

Proven Success

These second generation clean truck standards build on a foundation of success — including first and second generation clean cars standards and first generation clean trucks standards.

Manufacturers are meeting these standards in advance of compliance deadlines, doing so for lower costs, and delivering substantial, real-world benefits.

For example, here are some compelling achievements by passenger cars and trucks as a result of efficiency standards:

  • Since October 2007, per driver greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. have dropped by 20 percent, according to the University of Michigan’s Eco-Driving Index.
  • EPA estimates that between model years 2004 and 2012, average carbon dioxide emissions from cars decreased by 18 percent, and fuel economy increased by 22 percent.
  • 28 percent of projected model year 2013 vehicle production already meets the model year 2016 carbon dioxide emissions targets, and about 5 percent of projected 2013 production could meet the 2025 carbon dioxide emissions targets, according to EPA’s fuel economy trends report.

The cleaner cars and freight trucks being made in America today show that when our nation works together we can achieve lasting progress for our economy and our environment.

Environmental Defense Fund stands ready today to work with President Obama, freight truck and trailer manufacturers, and fleet owners on common sense policies to advance and secure the transformative cleaner freight trucks of tomorrow.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News | 1 Response, comments now closed

Powerful Testimonies at EPA Hearing on Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants

If you were busy watching the Winter Olympics, you may have missed another important–if slightly smaller–event that happened last Thursday:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a hearing in Washington, D.C. on the proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants.

U.S. power plants are one of the largest sources of carbon pollution in the world. Carbon pollution is the main reason for climate change.

EPA’s proposed standards will set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from new fossil fuel power plants.

I had the privilege of testifying on behalf of EDF and its 750,000 members.

It was uplifting to hear testimony from so many diverse groups in support of these historic proposed standards.

Among those testifying were:

  • U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island
  • Moms Clean Air Force, on behalf of hundreds of thousands of moms across America
  • Public health groups
  • Environmental justice groups
  • Veterans and national security groups
  • Groups representing clean energy companies
  • Latino groups
  • Faith groups

and many more …

But climate change is an issue that threatens communities and families across America.

That’s why it was especially touching to hear the personal stories of how climate change impacts people, including one woman from Virginia who testified about raising a daughter with asthma, about the financial impacts of the disease–and about how the costs of pollution are not borne by the emitters, but by the public–and by families like hers.

Carbon pollution is a problem that we can fix.

Consider these facts:

  • Clean energy continues to grow, and it is clear that America can generate affordable, clean electricity.
  • Wind generation increased by more than 40 percent in the United States between 2011 and October of 2013.
  • In April of 2013, the United States had a record month for wind power with generation of more than 17,000 gigawatt hours.
  • In 2012, rooftop solar panels cost approximately one percent of what they did 35 years ago.
  • Since 2008, as the cost of a solar module dropped from $3.80 per watt to 80 cents per watt, solar deployment has jumped by about 10 times.
  • U.S. solar jobs grew 20 percent last year. The industry now supports more than 140,000 jobs.
  • Renewable energy is expected to account for 28 percent of the growth in electricity generation from 2012 to 2040.

At the hearing, some opponents of EPA’s common-sense standards testified, representing groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coal Council.

They repeated claims we have heard time and again about clean air standards costing too much or technology not being available.

We have heard similar claims in the past—claims that were subsequently disproved—about scrubbers and mercury controls.

EPA has found that carbon pollution controls, like carbon capture and storage, are adequately demonstrated for new coal-fired power plants—and that finding is based on an extensive body of technical information.

It is clear from the more than four million people who have weighed in with EPA in support of these standards that many Americans are ready for a clean energy future, and believe it is imperative that we address the largest source of carbon pollution in our country.

You can help the fight to limit the carbon pollution from power plants by urging EPA to adopt strong standards. You can submit comments to EPA through our EDF website.

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

New Truck Efficiency Standards Are Great News for American Innovation

We've partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I'll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

- 2014 State of the Union Address

First, here’s the bad news:

Climate pollution from America’s heavy trucks is projected to increase by more than 130 million tons between now and 2040. That’s expected to be the largest increase in emissions from any single source.

The average new heavy-duty diesel truck sold last year got slightly less than six miles per gallon.

Most of these trucks travel upwards of 120,000 miles and burn more than $80,000 worth of fuel per year.

This inefficiency has real costs for our economy. We import millions of barrels of oil to fuel heavy-duty trucks. Businesses, both small and large, spend billions on the fuel needed to move freight. You and I pay for this too, when we buy those products.

Now here’s the good news:

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have the tools today that we need to change this.

We have the technology to decrease freight truck emissions. We can cut 20 percent off our current trajectories by 2030, and go much further by 2040.

In fact, a recent analysis by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found that it’s realistic to expect new trucks to achieve something approaching a 40 percent fuel consumption reduction, compared to 2010 trucks, within the next decade,

Well-designed federal standards can foster the innovation necessary to bring more efficient and lower emitting trucks to market. Manufacturers need to be confident in market demand in order to develop and launch efficiency improvements. Scaled production can drive down costs, further enhancing the payback truck fleets will experience through lower fuel bills.

EDF has set out a blueprint for rigorous greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards. Through smart, well designed policies and American innovation, we can cut climate pollution and save fuel costs while strengthening our security and winning the race to deploy clean energy technologies in the global marketplace.

Many companies already have developed — and are bringing to market — the tools we need to meet a strong standard.

Examples include:

Eaton, a manufacturer of truck transmissions — they’ve launched a powertrain package that can improve fuel efficiency by up to six percent.

Cummins, Inc. and Peterbilt Motors Co., which build truck engines and manufacture trucks, respectively – they partnered last year to build a truck that uses 50 percent less fuel than typical long-haul tractors, according to an article in the Indianapolis Star. It averaged 9.9 miles a gallon in road tests. They did this through a suite of improvements; including capturing otherwise wasted thermal energy.

Smart Truck Systems, a supplier of aerodynamic products to the trucking industry – they have a product that can cut fuel consumption from tractor-trailer combination trucks by over 10 percent through advanced aerodynamics.

Also available to us:

To understand the positive economic potential of adopting strong truck fuel efficiency standards, we only need to look back to the start of this month.

On January 1st, our nation’s biggest trucks became subject – for the first time ever – to fuel efficiency standards. These standards cover trucks from large pick-ups to tractor-trailers. They will cut climate pollution by almost 300 million tons while saving truck operators $50 billion.

For combination tractor-trailer trucks, these standards will cut annual fuel costs by more than $18,000 at today’s prices. The fuel savings will pay back the increase in upfront costs in less than five months.

Companies that rely on trucking to move goods stand to benefit significantly too. These companies will see a decrease of around eleven cents in the total cost-per-mile to move freight. Across their supply chain, large freight shippers will save millions of dollars each year because of this rule.

These are real savings that businesses, big and small, are starting to see in their bottom line today.

These first generation standards were created with the broad support of the trucking industry and many other key stakeholders. Among the diverse groups that supported the standards were the American Trucking Association, Engine Manufacturers Association and the Truck Manufacturers Association, the United Auto Workers — and of course EDF.

But this is just the beginning.

With the right political and commercial will, we can build on the partnership created during the development of the current standards to find common ground on the next phase of truck efficiency rules.

We can do this in a way that enables American businesses to thrive, cuts the need for imported oil by hundreds of millions of barrels a year, and slashes climate pollution by more than 100 million tons a year.

That’s why it was great to hear President Obama’s call to action in the State of the Union Address about the next phase of truck standards. We already knew that we could do it – now it looks like we will.

(Click here to read more about this issue, including EDF's blueprint for rigorous greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards)

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions | Comments closed

Super News in Crossing the Goal Line to Cleaner Cars and Healthier Air

This is a big week for major events, from State of the Union address last night to the Super Bowl this weekend.

But there’s one more milestone you might not have heard of yet — America is poised to make major progress in crossing the goal line to cleaner cars and cleaner gasoline.

The Tier 3 tailpipe and low sulfur gasoline standards are undergoing final review now at the White House.

Tier 3 standards will pave the way for a fleet of cleaner cars beginning in model year 2017 by reducing the emissions that contribute to dangerous soot and smog.

You can read more about what Tier 3 is and why it matters here.

Cars and light trucks are the second largest emitters of oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in the U.S. Those are the primary pollutants that form ozone.

According to EPA, the Tier 3 standards as proposed would slash the level of those pollutants by 80 percent.

By 2030, the Tier 3 standards will prevent 2,400 deaths every year, prevent tens of thousands of cases of respiratory illnesses in children, and provide total health-related benefits worth up to $23 billion per year.

The proposed Tier 3 standards would also establish a 70 percent tighter standard for particulate matter.

Particulate matter, more commonly known as soot, is one of the most dangerous types of air pollution. It has been linked to asthma attacks, bronchitis, heart attacks and other types of heart and lung diseases.

We need your help ensuring these clean air protections for our communities and families cross the goal line.

The Tier 3 standards enjoy wide support from states, businesses, public health associations, environmental groups, environmental justice organizations, and auto manufacturers.

Here are some of their comments:

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers said:

 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 such as the United Auto Workers have also weighed in with their strong support:

Upon full implementation, the proposed rule will reduce the amount of sulfur in our gasoline by two-thirds. This is one of the most cost-effective ways for us to get cleaner and healthier air while strengthening our domestic auto sector and creating thousands of new jobs.

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.

National Association of Clean Air Agencies said:

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.

Please join the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are lending their strong support to ensure these clean car standards cross the goal line and deliver super health benefits for our nation.

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