Climate 411

Bad news and good news on cutting climate pollution

Climate change is an urgent threat and we must overcome significant hurdles to address it — beginning with the reckless polices of the Trump administration.

Some countries are on track to meet their commitments under the Paris agreement, some are falling behind, and many will not start in earnest until compliance rules are agreed to at the UN climate conference in Poland.

The climate action story so far is a mix of positive and negative trends. As has been well-covered in the media, the US is trying to pull out of the Paris Agreement and global emissions rose in 2018. Those hard facts cannot be dismissed. But there are also larger market and technology trends which, combined with the actions of responsible governments, are creating some positive indications, too. Which side wins out will depend on the action of political leaders, investors, engineers, voters, and activists.

The positive examples below are not simply individual bits of good news, but signs of a world economy in the midst of transition: Read More »

Also posted in Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Paris Agreement, Setting the Facts Straight / Comments are closed

The deceptive safety claims being used to justify the proposed rollback of the Clean Car Standards

By Jeff Alson, Former EPA engineer who helped develop the Clean Car Standards, current consultant for EDF

The Trump administration is trying to justify its decision to roll back America’s Clean Car Standards — an action that will result in more pollution and greater costs for American families — by claiming that dirtier, more expensive cars will somehow be safer.

Yet the administration’s projection that the rollback will save lives has nothing to do with actual vehicle safety. It relies instead on unsupported assumptions about Americans’ driving habits.

Here are the reasons why the administration’s claim is extremely deceptive and deeply flawed:

The Department of Transportation’s own analysis demonstrates that clean cars are safe

The Trump administration implies that dirtier and less efficient vehicles are safer than cleaner and more efficient vehicles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read More »

Also posted in Policy / Comments are closed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why this loophole is so problematic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Air Toxics Loophole is filled with fatal legal flaws

In our opening brief, we show that:

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

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

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

Also posted in Health, Partners for Change, Policy, Pruitt / Comments are closed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read More »

Also posted in Health, News, Policy / Read 1 Response

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

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

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

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

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

Read More »

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

The science is clear: We need a stronger smog standard

By Ananya Roy

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

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

We can and must do better.

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

Also posted in Health, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight / Comments are closed