Category Archives: Climate Change Legislation

Supreme Court Reaffirms EPA’s Bedrock Legal Authority to Cut Carbon Pollution from Power Plants

Source: Openclipart

The United States Supreme Court issued a long-awaited decision in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA (No. 12-1146) this week, resolving the last of many multi-year legal challenges to EPA’s first generation of climate protections under the Clean Air Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-to-2 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permissibly read the Clean Air Act to require large new or modified industrial pollution sources to deploy modern pollution controls for greenhouse gases. Thus, new and rebuilt large emitters of other regulated pollutants such as particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and oxides of nitrogen subject to the Clean Air Act’s pre-construction review permit program must use the “best available control technology” to control climate pollution.

This is now the third decision in which the Court has affirmed the application of the Clean Air Act to climate pollution.

A 5-to-4 majority of the court also held that EPA must narrow its permit program to avoid applying the permitting program to many smaller sources that EPA itself had taken steps to exclude from regulation.

The UARG case emphatically puts an end to the misplaced claims by some who question EPA’s bedrock authority to address the deleterious carbon pollution from power plants and other industrial sources under section 111 and the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit program of the Clean Air Act. The central question in the UARG case was not whether EPA must address climate-destabilizing pollution from power plants and other industrial sources, but rather how EPA should carry out these essential clean air protections.

When it took up the UARG case, the Supreme Court decided not to review EPA’s rigorous, science-based determination in 2009 that six greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations — the legal foundation for addressing climate pollution under the Clean Air Act. The Court similarly declined to review EPA’s landmark rules in 2010 setting the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger vehicles (the Clean Car Standards). The Supreme Court’s review of UARG was focused exclusively on EPA’s interpretation of the PSD permitting program. Nothing about the Supreme Court’s final decision in UARG affects the Clean Car Standards or the science-based finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare and therefore must be addressed under the Clean Air Act. And in UARG, seven justices of the Court agreed with EPA that large industrial sources that are already required to obtain PSD permits due to their emissions of other regulated pollutants must limit their greenhouse gas emissions with “best available control technology.”

The UARG case also reinforces EPA’s clear legal authority to reduce carbon pollution from the nation’s fossil fuel-fired power plants, which emit nearly forty percent of the United States’ carbon dioxide and are currently subject to no national limits on carbon pollution. As described in detail on our earlier blogs, EPA has proposed long-overdue and much-needed rules under section 111 of the Clean Air Act that would, for the first time, require new power plants to use advanced technologies available for carbon reduction — and would reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 through available cost-effective solutions. Together, these rules would cut carbon pollution from our nation’s largest source, achieve significant reductions in other harmful pollutants that are emitted together with carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants, and spur complementary action in other countries.

The Supreme Court has affirmed time and again EPA’s authority to regulate carbon pollution, and it further reiterated this precedent in UARG:

  • Seven years ago in Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court held that “greenhouse gases fit well within the Act’s capacious definition of ‘air pollutant,’” and are therefore clearly within EPA’s authority to regulate under the Clean Air Act. 549 U.S. 497, 532 (2007). In UARG, the Court rejected requests by some of the parties to overturn this fundamental holding.
  • Four years later in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court explicitly acknowledged EPA’s authority to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants, holding that it was “plain” that section 111 of the Clean Air Act “speaks directly to emissions of carbon dioxide from the defendants’ plants.” 131 S. Ct. 2527, 2537 (2011)
  • During the February 24, 2014 oral argument in UARG, industry attorney Peter Keisler conceded, in response to questioning from Justice Ginsburg, that EPA has clear authority to address climate pollution from power plants under section 111.  The Court specifically acknowledged and reiterated this holding in UARG noting that the section 111 is “not at issue here” and that “no party in American Electric Power argued [section 111] was ill suited to accommodating greenhouse gases.”

It is always an important occasion when the Supreme Court weighs in on legal issues affecting the Clean Air Act. It’s especially important when the Court is addressing the climate pollution that presents a clear and present danger to the health of our communities and families and to our prosperity.

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

Executive Action Critical, but not Enough to Fight Global Warming

(This blog was first posted on EDF Voices)

Image: Chuck Kennedy/White House

I received the following comment about Part 1 of this series that warrants its own blog post.

The politics of climate change is an issue The Nation has covered extensively, and I think many of our readers would wonder why Mr. Gaby, in asserting that Congressional legislation is the only means of taking serious federal action against climate change, ignores the argument (put forth by the Center for Biological Diversity, among others) that President Obama and his EPA Administrator already have the authority under the Clean Air Act to order dramatic reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Congress is one way; it is hardly the only way. And since Congress is now blocked by right-wing intransigence, and since the hour (as Mr. Gaby notes) is already very late, surely it behooves us to deploy a readier tool, no?  –  Mark Hertsgaard, environment correspondent for The Nation magazine and  author of numerous books about climate change, including HOT:  Living Through the Next Fifty Years on EarthMr. Hertsgaard is also a Fellow of the New America Foundation.

My response:

Because Congress failed to pass comprehensive climate legislation in 2010, and prospects for action in the current Congress are remote, many environmentalists have been focused on steps President Obama can take on his own. And it is true that the President has authority under the Clean Air Act to take significant action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But while these steps are both necessary and critically important, they do not let Congress off the hook in the long run.

Why? To borrow a line from the 2012 campaign, it’s simple math.

The World Resources Institute recently studied the impact of actions the EPA could take under existing law. In Goldilocks style, they laid out three scenarios – lackluster, middle-of-the-road, and go-getter – based on the aggressiveness of EPA’s approach. Unlike the home-invading blonde of the fairy tale, WRI recommends the most aggressive approach, which would reduce emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. That’s the same level of reductions that would have been achieved by the failed congressional legislation. What’s more, this path would result in a 40% reduction in pollution by 2050.

So what’s the problem?  Well, a 40% reduction is only half of what we need to achieve to avert the worst impacts. In other words, we can’t get to a safe climate from here without action by Congress, even under the most aggressive scenario of executive action. As WRI says, “New federal legislation will eventually be needed, because even go-getter action by federal and state governments will probably fail to achieve the more than 80 percent GHG emissions reductions necessary to fend off the most deleterious impacts of climate change.”

Without that level of commitment, we also won’t see other countries achieve the reductions necessary. While about one-third of the world’s economic output is technically covered by some form of greenhouse gas emissions limit, these rules are far from enough to solve the problem. And while growth-hungry nations in Asia are starting to take steps on climate change, they will likely insist on bold action by the United States before moving as aggressively as is necessary.

The most important short term domestic priority for environmentalists should be ensuring that EPA carries out its obligations under the Clean Air Act*. That would cut billions of tons of pollution and buy us critical time in the fight against climate change. But if we are to prevent the worst impacts of artificially altering the Earth’s natural systems, we need Congress to eventually accept its responsibility to protect the nation.

*EDF economist Gernot Wagner has more details on executive actions President Obama can take to tackle climate change.

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

EDF's Business-Friendly Suggestions for Fighting Climate Change

We’ve been hearing the same question a lot lately – what should President Obama do in his second term to fight climate change?  

In today’s online Harvard Business Review, EDF’s Eric Pooley has some thoughts on that subject. He's laid out a five-point plan to help us address climate change.

Those points range:

[F]rom no-brainer ideas almost everyone can agree on to ambitious items that would require Congressional action

And they all have one thing in common – they are business friendly.

As Eric puts it: 

It is worth remembering that strong business support helped secure passage of the House climate bill in 2009, and though that effort failed in the Senate, no serious legislation can move without the backing of men and women in the engine room of the American economy. To be politically viable, climate solutions must be economically sustainable.

Here’s the (very) short version of Eric’s plan:

  • Feed the conversation
  • Reduce climate accelerants
  • Start a clean energy race
  • Use the Clean Air Act
  • Put a price on carbon

If you’d like to read the whole plan, you can find it here: A Business-Friendly Climate Agenda for Obama's Second Term

Also posted in Economics, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy| Comments closed

EDF Congratulates the President on Re-Election Amid Increased Need for Climate Action

EDF would like to congratulate President Obama on his re-election. In the wake of super storm Sandy and with the election campaigns behind us, it is more important than ever for the president and elected officials to address the increasing threats from climate change, a pivotal issue of our time.

In a statement, EDF President Fred Krupp said:

“Congratulations to President Obama on his re-election to a second term, and to all of those who will be serving in the 113th Congress. We look forward to working with them to solve our country’s most pressing environmental problems, including global climate change. As the President declared last night, ‘we want our children to live in an America … that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.’

"Exit polls confirm that for millions of American voters, Hurricane Sandy and climate change were decisive factors in this election. As the historic storm just reminded us, we have no time to waste; we must get serious about climate solutions in order to protect our loved ones and communities from terrible impacts — extreme weather disasters, droughts, heat waves, and other dangerous consequences of global warming. Especially in the wake of Sandy, which demonstrated that doing nothing about climate change is much costlier than taking action, this issue clearly should be a top priority for our leaders in government.”

Earlier this week EDF VP Nat Keohane discussed the pressing challenges and priorities for the next president in regard to climate action in Bloomberg Businessweek.

He said:

“…The magnitude and urgency of the challenge have not diminished. If we needed any reminder of that fact, Hurricane Sandy should have provided it—especially coming on the heels of devastating drought, record-breaking temperatures through the spring and summer, and a record low in the extent of Arctic sea ice.

"…Addressing global warming will be politically challenging—but presidents are not elected to do the easy things, and political realities are not set in stone. The first step to tackling climate change is to start talking about it, not just once in a while but routinely, as a fact of life rather than a special-interest issue.

"The next president must build public understanding of the issue, connecting the dots between our own actions and the extreme weather we are already seeing. He must engage folks from across the political spectrum on the possible solutions. And he must be willing to spend political capital to get something done.”

See Keohane’s full Bloomberg Businessweek article for specific steps the president could take to address the growing threat of climate change.

Also posted in News, Policy, What Others are Saying| Comments closed

Day Two of Landmark Clean Air Cases: Courtroom Arguments Wrap Up

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. heard its second and final day of oral arguments, today, in a landmark group of cases about EPA’s critical climate protections.

Today’s arguments focused on EPA’s actions to require cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reductions from the largest sources, like power plants — while shielding smaller sources.

I was at the courthouse again today. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

The judges began by examining EPA’s decision to initially focus climate protections on the largest sources of pollution. The judges closely questioned the Solicitor General of the State of Texas about how this focus on large sources harmed the state.

In a pointed exchange, Chief Judge Sentelle noted that the remedy Texas seeks — invalidation of the large-source thresholds — would seem to cause Texas injury where, under EPA’s current program, none exists. 

The Chief Judge underscored the seeming irrationality of this position, noting that Texas’s argument:

[D]oesn’t even make good non-sense.

The questioning then turned to EPA’s long-standing rules describing the workings of the permitting system for the largest sources of pollution. Those rules are more than 30 years old.

In this series of exchanges, Judge Tatel focused on provisions of the Clean Air Act that capture “any air pollutant” within this program. He questioned the Petitioners about how this language, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, could possibly allow the agency to exclude greenhouse gas pollutants.

Like yesterday, the judges closely examined EPA’s legal authority. Today, they pointedly questioned both Petitioners and EPA. 

It was another fascinating day in the courtroom with important implications for protecting human health and the environment from the clear and present danger climate pollution poses.   

Now, we’ll all have to wait for the court’s decisions –probably sometime in the summer. We’ll bring you updates as soon as anything happens.

In the meantime, you can read more about the EPA's endangerment findings and the attacks on EPA's climate change protections on our website, or from my earlier blogs posts – a preview of the case, or a look at yesterday’s proceedings.

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

Credible Sources Agree: EPA’s Rules will have Modest Economic Impacts

We’ve posted so many stories like this that sometimes it’s hard to keep count, but here is yet another slew of reputable sources finding the EPA rules will not destroy the economy.  In fact, it may just be the boost it needs.  The Director of Regulatory Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute just wrote a piece that sums it up nicely.  Here are some facts he rounded up on the air toxics rule:

  • Economic Policy Institute (EPI)- forecast to have a modest, positive net impact on overall employment—likely leading to the creation of 84,500 to 117,000 jobs between now and 2015
  • Congressional Research Service (CRS)- The benefits are also large, according to EPA, ranging from $37 billion to $90 billion annually.  The benefits mostly reflect the monetized value of avoiding up to 11,000 premature deaths annually.
  • Congressional Budget Office (CBO)- “On balance, CBO expects that delaying or eliminating those [EPA air] regulations regarding emissions would reduce investment and output during the next few years.”

Read the full article here: http://www.epi.org/blog/toxics-other-epa-rules-economic-effect/.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, What Others are Saying| Comments closed

Landmark Environmental Court Battle on Horizon

On February 28th and 29th, the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. will hear oral arguments in challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark clean air measures to protect American's health and well-being from the clear and present danger of climate pollution.

In one corner states like Texas and large industrial polluters are challenging EPA's action.  In the other, EPA’s defenders include a dozen states, business like the U.S. auto makers, and environmental groups like EDF.

There are a group of clean air rules in question:

  • The Climate Pollution Endangerment Finding- On December 15, 2009, EPA determined that six greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations. EPA based this finding on more than 100 published scientific studies and peer-reviewed syntheses of climate change research.  The finding follows from the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, where the Court held that greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and instructed EPA to determine — on the basis of science — whether these gases endanger human health and welfare.
  • Clean Car Standards- landmark fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks.  These standards are supported by U.S. auto makers, the United Auto Workers, and a dozen states – among others – because they will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce harmful greenhouse gas pollution, and save consumers money.
  • Application of Climate Pollution Protections to Largest Emitters – EPA requires new large, industrial emitters (like power plants) deploy the best available cost-effective strategies to reduce harmful climate pollution in a timely fashion- a requirement EPA has phased in, focusing on the largest industrial sources of climate pollution while shielding small sources.

There is much at stake for our nation's environment and economy, but we’ll be in the courtroom and giving you updates every step of the way.

If you’re looking for more background, EDF has compiled detailed information about the cases. You can read more about the rules and the parties involved, and find the court briefs. You can also read about the EPA's endangerment findings.

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy| Comments closed

In Defense of Unlikely Partnerships

Jigar Shah's blog post about The Climate War made me sad. Not because he missed the point of my book or had unkind things to say about people I admire — the man is entitled to his opinion. The piece saddened me because it gave voice to an incredibly damaging green stereotype: the notion that we enviros are ideological purists more interested in being right than being successful, and that we can’t work with anyone who doesn’t meet our high standards.

I'd thought Shah knew better. After all, he runs an NGO that works with industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions–and he and I have even discussed the need to reach out to corporations if we're going to turn the carbon tide. (I call it the Willie Sutton rule: If you want to cut pollution, you have to talk to polluters.) That's certainly the approach of Environmental Defense Fund, which Shah disparages in his post. EDF has always embraced the power of unlikely partnerships, including the one with Duke Energy that so annoys Shah.

Shah criticizes EDF and its president, Fred Krupp, for working with Duke CEO Jim Rogers in the fight to pass climate legislation, and "for not holding Rogers to a high enough standard before giving him a seal of approval." Shah writes that Krupp was "charmed" by Rogers and blind to Duke's environmental record. To make that demonstrably inaccurate argument, Shah ignores all of the times EDF has gone into battle against Duke. Here are just a few:

  • EDF sued Duke Energy to force it to install pollution scrubbers on old power plants when it refurbished them. EDF took the case all the way to the Supreme Court and won in a 9-0 ruling handed down in 2007. The case, Environmental Defense, et al. v. Duke Energy Corp, is a landmark of environmental law. Shah doesn't mention it.
  • When Duke proposed to build two massive new coal units in North Carolina, EDF and its partners challenged the need for the plants before the North Carolina Utilities Commission pointing to cleaner and more cost-effective alternatives. We secured a landmark decision in which the Commission denied Duke's request for one of the two units.  
  • EDF and its allies sued Duke again over its plan to build the Cliffside Unit 6 power plant, the remaining coal unit, without first determining whether the plant would meet Clean Air Act standards. EDF won again, and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld this victory.
  • When Duke sued to block federal clean air standards requiring far-reaching pollution reductions from eastern coal plants, EDF stepped in. And we successfully reversed the court decision halting the implementation of these vital clean air protections while EPA took corrective action. 
  • Shah writes that Duke fought a proposed renewable portfolio standard in North Carolina and backed off “under heavy pressure.” He doesn’t mention that much of that pressure came from EDF, which was a leader in passing the renewable standard.

EDF, in other words, is more than willing to stand up to polluters–but it will also sit down with them if there's a chance to make progress on key goals. That's why, in the middle of these courtroom battles, Krupp and Rogers began working together to pass comprehensive climate legislation. Duke joined EDF in a coalition called the United States Climate Action Partnership, or USCAP. In The Climate War, I describe their uneasy alliance–squaring off during tough negotiations over the contours of the bill, collaborating on ad campaigns and opinion pieces, jawboning senators and congressmen in a multi-year effort to cap carbon. Along the way, Duke even resigned from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and the National Association of Manufacturers because those two groups were devoted to killing climate legislation.

Shah doesn't acknowledge that Rogers' support was crucial to passing climate legislation in the House, and he never mentions the real opponents of the bill or the myriad social and political forces that were allied against us. He claims that Rogers was “only involved in climate legislation efforts to make sure that new laws enrich his shareholders."

That's a simplistic view of a complicated figure. And if Shah is waiting for power bosses like Rogers to support legislation out of the goodness of their hearts, he's going to be waiting a long time. Altruism is not going to get this done. The whole point of climate legislation is to give polluters a reason to clean up — to create incentives for doing the right thing instead of the wrong thing. Fred Krupp never held any illusions that Rogers or other the members of USCAP were trying for sainthood. These companies fought for climate legislation because they saw it as vital to their long-term economic well-being. That’s the point.

Of course Duke's environmental record is mixed. My book lays out those facts in great detail. For Shah, that’s reason enough to shun Rogers. The title of his piece asks whether enviros should work with their “enemies”– and since Duke is not always on our side, he believes that makes it an enemy. That approach –“you’re either with us or you’re against us”– has failed us too often. It’s time we retired it for good. Environmentalists should not be an elite fraternity that refuses to consort with those who are less enlightened.

The people at EDF understand that. They deal with the world as it is, not as they wish it to be. That's why, when I decided to leave journalism and join the environmental movement, EDF is where I chose to hang my hat. I've been here less than a month, and in that time we've launched tough actions against American Electric Power, which is trying to delay new air pollution standards, and United and Continental airlines, which have been greenwashing while opposing common sense rules to reduce pollution. We're calling out corporations who delay progress while cooperating with those willing to clean up. We're interested in working with anyone who wants to march down the path to a clean energy future. But we never have, and never will, demand that they march in lockstep.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Partners for Change, Policy| Comments closed

Economists save the planet

Why are we so "gung-ho" about cap and trade? The term might be banned from Washington and much of our vocabulary at the moment, but it's still far from a trick question.

Call them what you want, environmental markets are fundamentally the most scientifically sound, economically efficient, and often the only way forward.

No wonder countries the world over are adopting or planning to adopt them.

We are starting a new blog specifically focused on market forces and why re-guiding them is the only solution to many of our environmental problems.

Individual volunteerism won't do. Blocking market forces won't do. Subscribing to the new blog won't make the world a better place all by itself either, but it probably doesn't hurt.

Also posted in Economics| Tagged | Comments closed

The New Path Forward on Climate Change

This was originally posted on the Huffington Post.

Every major reform in our nation's history has suffered defeats on the path to victory. From free trade to civil rights, setbacks have been a part of progress. But ultimate victory comes to those who learn from their defeats and press forward with new determination and perseverance.

The failure of the United States Senate to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation this year was a serious setback for America, and for the world. The continuing cascade of scientific evidence shows that we are dangerously changing our climate, and the urgent need to act remains. So what do we do?

Our view is that we must be much more aggressive in pursuing pollution reductions under existing law, through America's never-ending ability to innovate, and through partnerships with companies that can transform the marketplace. There are many companies making real change, and we intend to work with them.

However, we have well-financed enemies in this fight, and it is time to sharpen the nation's focus on the businesses that obstruct vital progress.

For EDF, that means our historic interest in cooperation over confrontation will be recalibrated. We will always negotiate where possible, and we will continue to look for collaborative opportunities and flexible solutions. That is who we are, and we will continue to pursue those goals.

But there are companies that continue to choose short-term profits over public health, and who feel they are better off opposing progress. These companies have friends in the Congress, and they believe they will have more political leverage against the Environmental Protection Agency as the balance of power shifts in Washington next year.

Meanwhile, they are already marching into the courts to challenge virtually every breath EPA takes in this area. Our view is that the public and the investor community need to have far greater awareness of the companies engaged in indiscriminate obstructionism. We will look for ways to hold them accountable through every reasonable lever at our disposal. We will learn to be as tough with them as they have been with us.

We are evaluating everything from engaging more actively in corporate governance — the annual meeting of shareholders and outreach to boards of directors — to more active involvement in state Public Utility Commissions where the rubber meets the road on the scope of pollution — or pollution reductions — associated with major capital investments. And we are looking at a variety of ways to involve the public more actively in a conversation about who the big emitters are, where they operate, and what steps they are taking to reduce their pollution.

It doesn't have to be this way, and we would rather spend our time working on smart policy and win-win solutions. But we have no choice. We cannot allow the efforts of a few powerful companies to block necessary progress for the rest of us.

At the same time, we must accept the reality that climate change has a political problem. For too many people, opposing a solution to climate change has become a political and ideological dogma. As long as many in Congress feel required to oppose any measure in this area, we will not succeed.

If we are going to de-carbonize our economy, we have to de-polarize the politics surrounding the conversation. It is worth remembering that no major environmental law has ever passed without substantial bipartisan support. This has always been the case — but the incoming Congress is a fresh reminder that bipartisanship must be the foundation of future progress.

In short, while being more aggressive and vigorously fighting to achieve critical emissions reductions, we — the environmental community — must be more open. Our response to this political problem must be to engage more widely and listen more carefully, not dismiss or belittle those with whom we disagree.

We will have to reach out to new partners, make new allies, and engage new constituencies. We have done so with a large part of the business community, and we will learn to do so with others.

We cannot expect that the public will support change without understanding the reasons for it. But we cannot browbeat our way to a broader understanding of the science behind climate change and the benefits of taking action. We need to start with the real problems people face in America today – from jobs and energy security to clean air and water — and work with them to find answers to those problems and the common challenge that faces all of us.

Fortunately, even in this difficult year, there is a path emerging that will allow us to begin to solve climate change, and there is a foundation upon which to build.

Within the last year, a controversial and overly complex but important climate bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives and received serious consideration among a number of Senate offices. Even where substantive disagreements remained, a new and significant understanding of policy issues and solutions was achieved — which is essential to move forward.

More broadly, public support for action on climate change, energy security, and clean energy remains strong. Just last month, in the largest public referendum on environmental policy, millions in California voted to keep the state's landmark climate law on the books, saying that clean energy jobs are a path forward through a difficult economic climate. Californians rejected polluter-funded attempts to overturn the law by a 22 percent margin despite 12 percent unemployment in the state.

Meanwhile, the level of business support for meaningful climate and energy policy has reached new heights. A number of cities, states and regions across the country remain committed to moving forward. Plans for 130 new coal burning power plants have been canceled. The Administration moved forward with national greenhouse gas standards for vehicles, and talks are beginning for the next phase in 2016.

In order to continue to make progress, a new openness to different solutions will be essential. For our part — long standing advocates of a cap and trade approach — we need to accept that whether policies are cap and trade or something else is less important than whether they collectively provide a clear guarantee that emissions go down. More broadly, every entity looking for solutions to climate change will need to embrace flexibility and creativity in their policy approaches.

We will be guided by three principles as we work toward our pollution reduction goal:

  • We will judge ideas and policies by their potential to produce results. Performance is what matters.
  • Our approaches should be cost effective. This will lead to maximum pollution reduction returns for our investments and broader and durable public support.
  • We will involve as many sources of pollution, and methods for reducing and absorbing pollution, as possible.

How do we actually achieve the goal? National pollution limits established by Congress are still necessary for long term success, but in the short term we can take steps that move us in the same direction.

Our first priority must be to defend the pollution limits already in law, at the federal and state level. EPA has the responsibility under existing law to protect us from pollution, including the carbon emissions that cause global warming. It has done so thoughtfully over the years when regulating other air pollutants, and it can do so here. In fact, there may be no greater governmental success story than the Clean Air Act. We must encourage our neighbors in cities and in the countryside, to understand and protect the benefits of that law to our economy and our health, which have outweighed costs by more than 30 to 1; and to tell the stories of avoided premature deaths and childhood asthma attacks, and the shroud of smog lifted from our cities.

As with every pollution limit ever proposed, there will be some who will work to block, weaken, or delay any rules EPA tries to put on paper. We will fight them at every turn, making their full agenda clear to the American public: they seek not only to allow unlimited carbon pollution, but to derail limits on toxic mercury, lethal particulates, and other harmful contaminants in our air. We must remind America that obstructionists are attacking the fundamental public health protections of a bipartisan law that has stood for 40 years.

At the same time, we will encourage forward-thinking utilities and other businesses to reduce their pollution, and work with them to do so. And we will work on policies and programs that will allow for improved efficiency in the ways that we use and distribute energy — work that will save money as well as energy, and making our overall economy more competitive. Many businesses have already seen the benefits — lower energy bills, reduced regulatory issues, greater competitive advantage — and are making real, measurable strides.

These stories of what the world can be, both profitable and sustainable, are essential to return to a useful discussion about national limits for greenhouse gases. These examples will be more persuasive, because they are more concrete, than any other approach. There may be no more critical work that we will do over the next few years.

And we will continue to make the case that America will be stronger when we change the way we make and use energy. We cannot depend on hostile nations for so much of our energy, or slip further behind the Chinese and Europeans in creating new energy technology and jobs. Many of the issues about which we care the most — jobs, dependence, and competitiveness — are directly related to the issues of energy and pollution. But America will not support protective pollution limits or a transition to a cleaner energy economy if it does not believe that the solutions under consideration are solutions to these concerns.

In the long run we believe the path forward will be built from a continuing focus on solutions, and an aggressive approach combined with willingness to find new answers to the challenges we face. We must listen as well as speak, though speak we must. When we take this approach, we can seek out and work with people across the political and cultural spectrums with different approaches to solving our energy or climate challenges, and we can travel the path forward, together.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy| Comments closed
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