Selected category: EPA litgation

Pruitt listens to industry — not the public — on important decisions that affect public health

My EDF colleagues and fellow attorneys won an important victory for public health this month when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an effort by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to suspend vital limits on oil and gas pollution. 

There’s an important detail to this story that you might have missed. Turns out the public got no opportunity to provide any feedback on Pruitt’s decision, even though it put their health at risk. Instead, Pruitt abruptly declared he was granting this suspension through a letter to industry, with no formal notice given to the public until well afterwards — and no opportunity provided for public input.   

Unfortunately, this is just one example of a consistent pattern of conduct. Again and again, Pruitt has shut the public out of key decisions while giving a direct line to industry laggards and their allies.

Public safeguards undermined without public input 

Early in his tenure, one of Pruitt’s very first actions was to withdraw a request for information on pollution levels from oil and gas facilities — acting unilaterally, with no advanced notice and no opportunity for public input.

Most of what we know about Pruitt’s decision comes from Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas, who has battled pollution safeguards while fundraising from fossil fuel interests, mirroring Pruitt’s approach as Oklahoma Attorney General.

Paxton openly bragged about his role in driving Pruitt to eliminate this information request:

I personally handed him the letter, and the next day the rule was personally withdrawn.

While Paxton got an opportunity for input, the public never had a chance to weigh in on this decision. Not surprisingly, Pruitt’s announcement hailed the withdrawal’s benefits for the oil and gas industry while ignoring Americans’ right to know about harmful pollution from oil and gas facilities.

A pattern of shutting out everyday Americans

This practice has been repeated across different sectors and different safeguards.

Pruitt delayed the implementation of health-based limits on ground-level ozone, commonly called smog, without any opportunity for public input. The standards would prevent 230,000 childhood asthma attacks every year.

Pruitt delayed toxic wastewater standards for power plants without public input. Same for a program to manage risks of accidents at petroleum refineries and other major chemical plants.

A recent rollback request from the landfills industry called for a delay to important improvements to pollution standards that had not been substantially updated in 20 years. The request was granted via a letter from Pruitt to industry representatives with no opportunity for public comment — and formal public notice wasn’t provided until more than two weeks after the delay was granted.  

Who is guiding Pruitt’s decisions? The public is in the dark

Pruitt has made the unusual and troubling decision to end public access to his calendar and the calendar of senior EPA managers in spite of a bipartisan EPA history of making those calendars public. Without access to the calendars, it’s impossible to know who is meeting with the Administrator or his senior staff — and who is informing their decision-making.

What little information we’ve learned about his calendar is that it’s been “filled” with meetings with industry interests. Many of these meetings are with the same individuals or companies benefiting from his rollbacks. In just one example, Pruitt gathered with the American Petroleum Institute board of directors behind closed doors early in his tenure, soon before rolling back oil and gas protections.

Pruitt’s intertwined relationship with major industry interests goes back to before he became EPA Administrator to his time as the Attorney General of Oklahoma. In a 2014 exposé, he was documented copying and pasting industry requests and sending them to EPA, nearly word for word, on Oklahoma Attorney General letterhead. Pruitt has defended this conduct as “representative government in my view,” begging the question of who Pruitt thinks he’s supposed to represent.

Industry representatives in senior leadership

Pruitt isn’t only hearing from industry voices outside the agency. Within EPA, his leadership team is filled with former industry representatives.

In just one recent example, the agency’s new senior deputy general counsel, Erik Baptist, was previously a top lawyer at the American Petroleum Institute — which has been lobbying, among other things, to repeal EPA safeguards that reduce harmful methane pollution from oil and gas operations. Baptist is just the latest example of the pervasive conflicts of interest among Pruitt’s senior staff.

Accountable to the law 

Fortunately, Pruitt’s practice of leaving the public in the dark is getting pushback. The recent D.C. Circuit decision in the oil and gas methane case is an important step in holding him accountable to the law. Pruitt must listen to all voices — including those of members of the public — as he makes decisions with serious implications for public health and welfare. 

 

Also posted in News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Comments are closed

Suspension of clean air standards for the oil and gas industry: an urgent health threat for Americans

(This post first appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange)

Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt officially suspended vital air pollution safeguards that will reduce harmful methane, smog-forming volatile organic compounds and toxic air pollutants like benzene from new and modified sources in the oil and natural gas sector – a move that puts the health and safety of Americans across the country at risk.

EDF, together with a coalition of environmental groups, filed a legal challenge and an emergency motion as soon as the suspension was published.

Our brief asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to immediately block Administrator Pruitt’s dangerous action from taking effect. Read More »

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

EDF, coalition partners urge the D.C. Circuit to decide the Clean Power Plan case

Environmental Defense Fund and fourteen other public health and environmental organizations filed a brief yesterday urging the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to issue a decision on the merits in the litigation over the Clean Power Plan – America’s only nationwide standards limiting harmful carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel power plants.

Other parties supporting the Clean Power Plan also filed briefs, including 18 states and 7 municipalities, power companies representing nearly 10 percent of the nation’s generation, and associations representing America’s vibrant $200 billion clean energy industry.

The latest filings all respond to a recent D.C. Circuit order which temporarily suspended the litigation and directed the parties to submit briefs on whether to continue the suspension (known as an “abeyance”) or terminate the case and hand the matter back to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for further review (known as “remand”).

This order addressed a motion filed by the Trump Administration on March 28, which asked the court to suspend the Clean Power Plan litigation indefinitely and refrain from deciding the legal merits of the Clean Power Plan.

Here’s what’s at stake at this critical juncture in the Clean Power Plan litigation – and a few things we can count on regardless of how the court rules on yesterday’s filings.

 Real World Consequences for Healthier Air and a Safer Climate

The briefs have vital real-world consequences for everyone who cares about healthier air and a safer climate.

As legal experts have noted, the Administration’s move is a brazen, eleventh-hour attempt to prevent the D.C. Circuit from issuing a timely opinion on legal issues that are central to EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act to protect the public against climate pollution. The Administration filed its March 28 motion almost a year after the parties submitted briefs in the case, and six months after ten judges of the D.C. Circuit held an exhaustive seven hour-long oral argument.

Because the Supreme Court voted 5-to-4 to temporarily block the enforcement of the Clean Power Plan while the courts reviewed the legal challenges, the Administration’s motion would also indefinitely delay the enforcement of these urgently needed and long-overdue limits on carbon pollution.

The Administration’s motion asked the court for an indefinite pause in the litigation while EPA undertakes the long process of reviewing – and likely rescinding or weakening – the Clean Power Plan. However, if the court declines to decide the central legal questions in this case now, the same issues would likely have to be re-litigated again after EPA has completed its review. This would add years of unnecessary delay at a time when the urgency of action to mitigate climate pollution has never been greater.

Americans have been waiting for protection from climate pollution from power plants for almost twenty years — with no relief:

  • In 1998, EPA’s General Counsel Jonathan Cannon concluded in a memorandum to the EPA Administrator that EPA has authority to regulate carbon dioxide from power plants under the Clean Air Act – but EPA took no action to address the issue.
  • In 2003, environmental organizations filed a complaint against EPA in federal district court seeking carbon dioxide standards for fossil fuel-fired power plants under section 111 of the Clean Air Act.
  • In 2006, states and environmental organizations filed a legal challenge in the D.C. Circuit to EPA’s failure to establish carbon dioxide standards for power plants under the Clean Air Act.
  • In 2007, the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, which affirmed that climate pollution is subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. The D.C. Circuit then remanded the 2006 lawsuit to EPA to address the issue of establishing carbon dioxide standards for power plants.
  • In 2010, states, public health, and environmental organizations reached a settlement with EPA in which the agency committed to finalizing carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants by 2012 – a deadline that the agency failed to meet.
  • In 2011, the Supreme Court relied on EPA’s authority under section 111 of the Clean Air Act as a basis for dismissing suits filed by states for common law damages against some of the nation’s most polluting power companies — holding that section 111 “speaks directly” to the problem of climate pollution from power plants.
  • In 2015, after almost two years of intensive public outreach and after considering millions of public comments — and using its authority under section 111 of the Clean Air Act — EPA adopted the Clean Power Plan.
  • In 2016, a closely divided Supreme Court voted 5-to-4 to temporarily block the enforcement of the Clean Power Plan pending judicial review of the merits.

Affected communities and vulnerable populations have waited long enough for action to protect our health and climate, while more and more climate pollution is accumulating in the atmosphere. That’s why the court should decide this case now rather than leaving climate protection in long-term legal limbo.

The Urgent Need for Limits on Carbon Pollution from the Nation’s Power Plants

The Clean Power Plan is a common sense climate and public health protection that will carbon reduce pollution from one of the nation’s largest sources, saving thousands of lives each year and protecting the health of all Americans.

The Clean Power Plan gives states and power companies tremendous flexibility in deciding how to reduce carbon pollution, including through cost-effective energy efficiency measures that save families money. Investments in clean energy and energy efficiency are already growing rapidly, employing over three million Americans and bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year to low-income and rural areas.

That’s why a strikingly broad and diverse coalition emerged to defend the Clean Power Plan in court. The coalition includes: eighteen states and sixty municipalities; power companies that own and operate nearly ten percent of the nation’s generating capacity; leading businesses like Amazon, Apple, Google, Mars, and IKEA; former Republican heads of EPA; public health and environmental organizations; consumer and ratepayer advocates; faith organizations; and many others.

Coal producers, coal-intensive power companies, and their political allies have waged a massive, years-long litigation effort to thwart any limits whatsoever on climate-destabilizing pollution from power plants. Their campaign recently got an assist when the Trump Administration issued an executive order on March 28 that took aim at the Clean Power Plan and many other vital clean air protections.

In response to that executive order, an extraordinary array of leading businesses, faith leaders, medical associations, state and municipal officials, and other stakeholders have spoken out against the Administration’s threats to climate and health protections or vowed to continue moving towards a low-carbon future.

In recent weeks, dissent has emerged even within the coalition challenging the Clean Power Plan: North Carolina formally withdrew its challenge to the Clean Power Plan on February 23.

Millions of Americans in red and blue states – including a majority of Americans in every Congressional district in the country – support strong action to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. This public chorus reflects an understanding of the growing hazards of climate change, which is already affecting public health and well-being in a host of ways.

America has been demanding action from EPA since 2003, has been told multiple times by the Supreme Court that EPA has authority to act, and is now counting on the D.C. Circuit to resolve key legal questions about the scope of that authority. For that reason, our brief argues that the most fair and efficient course of action for the Court is to resolve those questions now.

EPA is Required to Act. It’s Up to All of Us to Make Sure EPA Fulfills That Obligation

Regardless of how the Court rules on today’s filings, a few critical facts will remain unchanged:

  • EPA has a clear legal obligation to protect the public from carbon pollution. The Supreme Court has affirmed EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act three times since 2007, including EPA’s authority to limit carbon pollution from power plants under the Clean Air Act provision that is the basis for the Clean Power Plan.
  • EPA’s carbon pollution standards for new power plants remain in full force and effect. Separate from the Clean Power Plan, EPA adopted carbon pollution standards for new, modified, and reconstructed fossil fuel-fired power plants in August 2015. Although those standards have also been the target of legal challenges by polluters and their allies, the enforcement of those standards has not been blocked by the courts.  They will remain in full force and effect regardless of how the Court acts.
  • EPA can’t roll back the Clean Power Plan or the carbon pollution standards for new power plants without public comment or judicial review. Even if the court declines to issue an opinion and instead suspends the litigation or remands the rule to EPA, the Clean Power Plan would still be the law of the land. Any attempt to withdraw or modify the Clean Power Plan (or the carbon pollution standards for new power plants) would first have to go through the same rigorous public notice and comment process that EPA carefully followed in adopting them. Such changes would also be subject to judicial review in the federal courts, and would be set aside if they are contrary to the Clean Air Act or do not rest on sound technical and policy foundations.

Americans all across the country are demanding an end to the era of unlimited carbon pollution from power plants.

In the face of the Trump Administration’s assault on common sense protections, the Environmental Defense Fund is ready to fight harder than ever for healthier air and a safer climate for our children.

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

Scott Pruitt wants to end his own Clean Power Plan lawsuit—but can’t set aside EPA’s duty to protect the public from climate pollution

(This post was co-authored by Tomas Carbonell)

Before he became Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt was relentless in suing to oppose the Clean Power Plan, America’s first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

So relentless, in fact, that as Attorney General of Oklahoma he brought suit four times to block these common sense, cost-effective protections—including litigating to block the proposal, before the Clean Power Plan was even finalized.

Given that history, you’d think that Pruitt would be eager to for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court to continue the current litigation over the Clean Power Plan, which Pruitt helped initiate when he was Attorney General.

Instead, the Trump Administration launched a full-court press to stop the court’s deliberations in their tracks.

The administration filed a motion on March 28 asking the court to suspend the litigation indefinitely – almost a year after the last briefs were filed in the case, and more than six months after oral argument took place before the full en banc court.

Why the sudden aversion to the court considering the case, after such a long history of litigating?

Perhaps Pruitt was afraid that the court would see the Clean Power Plan for what it is – a common sense and achievable plan, firmly grounded in the law and in science, which responds to the most urgent environmental challenge of our time.

Pruitt repeatedly argues that the reason to repeal the Clean Power Plan is because it is “illegal.” Without a D.C. Circuit opinion, all we have are his own claims on that point – and maybe Pruitt prefers it that way, given his poor record in past legal challenges to common sense EPA safeguards.

Whatever the reason, Pruitt pressed ahead to stop the very same case he was instrumental in creating. Last week, the D.C. Circuit partially granted his request. The court put the Clean Power Plan litigation on hold for 60 days, and asked for more information so it can decide how to handle the case going forward.

EPA has a duty to protect Americans from dangerous climate pollution

While last week’s order is disappointing, it has not changed the fact that EPA has a clear duty to act under our nation’s clean air laws to protect the public from harmful climate pollution. That duty is enshrined in three separate Supreme Court opinions that confirm EPA has the authority and responsibility to address climate pollution under the Clean Air Act.

EPA’s obligation to address climate pollution under the Clean Air Act is a settled question in American law. And EPA’s history of successfully addressing climate pollution from cars and other sources speaks for itself.

The Clean Power Plan itself has a rock solid legal and technical foundation – as recognized by a huge and varied coalition of supporters including former Republican EPA Administrators, the attorneys general of eighteen states, legal experts who helped draft the Clean Air Act, and the nation’s leading experts on the power grid.

As these experts recognize, the Clean Power Plan relies on strategies that are already being deployed successfully across the power sector—continuing and amplifying a transition to low- and zero-carbon energy that is reducing climate-destabilizing pollution while bringing jobs and economic opportunities to communities across the country. America’s clean energy sector is a rapidly growing $200-billion industry that employs 3.3 million Americans.

Regardless of any legal maneuvers, the fundamental truth remains – EPA has a duty to act to protect the public from dangerous climate pollution. Given the clear and present threat that climate change poses to the well-being of communities across America, this duty is urgent.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, News, Policy| Read 1 Response

The Tenth Anniversary of Massachusetts v. EPA

U.S. Supreme Court

If it feels like we’re being inundated with bad news about federal climate policy, here’s a cause for hope – today marks the tenth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, one of the most important environmental cases in our nation’s history.

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Massachusetts came when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the George W. Bush administration was refusing to carry out its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act to address climate pollution.

The case arose from a petition filed in 1999 by citizens, conservation and environmental groups that asked EPA to limit climate pollution under the Clean Air Act. But under President Bush, EPA disavowed its obligation to address climate pollution. At the time, EPA relied on the dubious argument that dangerous climate pollutants emitted into the air somehow didn’t qualify as “air pollutant[s]” under the statute.

Massachusetts, states, cities and a coalition of environmental organizations – including EDF –sought judicial review of that decision, and on April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court rejected EPA’s unlawful claim, ruling that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases qualified as air pollutants “without a doubt … The statute is unambiguous.”

The Supreme Court also forcefully rejected the Bush EPA’s “laundry list of reasons” not to address climate pollution. The high Court held that protection of human health and the environment from air pollution under our nation’s clean air laws — including protecting the millions of Americans afflicted by the clear and present danger of climate change — must be rooted in science, not politics or expediency.

This historic Supreme Court decision settled that addressing climate pollution is EPA’s responsibility in carrying out the Clean Air Act, holding:

[G]reenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act’s capacious definition of ‘air pollutant.’

Protecting Americans from climate pollution — dangerous air pollution — is the intent, is the purpose, and is provided for under our nation’s vibrant bipartisan clean air laws.

In honor of Massachusetts v. EPA’s tenth anniversary, let’s celebrate this firm and enduring Supreme Court decision and the real-world benefits it has for millions of Americans — and let’s prepare to defend the vital safeguards that followed it. We also celebrate signs of climate progress across society, such as the more than 1,000 businesses and investors that have committed to addressing climate change through implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Climate Protections under Massachusetts v. EPA

As it turns ten, Massachusetts v. EPA is more relevant than ever. To carry out its responsibility to protect human health and the environment from dangerous climate pollution, EPA has established common sense limits on the pollution discharged from tailpipes, smokestacks, and oil and gas development activities. These actions are fundamental to our nation’s response to climate change and provide enormous health, economic, and environmental benefits to the American people.

Once Clean Cars Standards are fully implemented in 2025:

  • Increased efficiency will provide savings of more than $8,000 in gasoline over the lifetime of a vehicle, compared to a similar vehicle in 2010. Across America, the Clean Cars Standards will save Americans more than $1 trillion at the pump.
  • Americans will have saved 12 billion barrels of oil, increasing U.S. energy security.
  • When new cars are purchased with financing—as they are for most Americans—the fuel savings produce immediate net benefits for American consumers.
  • The auto industry has been beating these standards while adding jobs and achieving record vehicle sales.

Under EPA’s Clean Trucks Standards:

  • Over the lifetime of vehicles covered by the Phase 1 Standards (model years 2014-2018), the standards will save 530 million barrels of oil and yield fuel savings of $50 billion. An operator of a large freight truck is expected to have net savings up to $73,000 over the useful life of a new truck.
  • Over the lifetime of vehicles covered by the Phase 2 Standards (model years 2019-2029), the standards will reduce 1 billion tons of carbon pollution, save nearly 2 billion barrels of oil and save truck owners $170 billion in fuel costs. The Phase 2 benefits are in addition to the benefits of simply leaving the Phase 1 Standards in place.
  • These fuel cost savings will save hard-earned money for truckers and U.S. consumers alike. The Consumer Federation of America found that rigorous fuel economy and climate pollution standards could save American households $250 annually in the near term and $400 annually by 2035 on goods and services.

Once the Clean Power Plan — our first and only national limits on climate pollution from existing power plants — is fully implemented:

  • Americans will breathe cleaner air, which will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks every year.
  • Average electric bills could decline by as much as 11 percent, due in part to cost-effective energy efficiency measures.
  • Existing power plants’ carbon dioxide pollution will fall approximately 32 perent from 2005 levels. The U.S. has already achieved about two-thirds of that reduction.

Under EPA’s methane pollution standards for new oil and gas operations:

  • Methane pollution will be reduced by 510,000 short tons in 2025, which has the same 20-year climate benefit as closing 11 coal-fired power plants or taking 8.5 million cars off the road.
  • Less natural gas will be wasted, preserving America’s natural resources.
  • These common-sense limits on methane will also reduce 210,000 tons of dangerous smog-forming pollution and 3,900 tons of toxic, carcinogenic pollutants like benzene in 2025.
  • These clean air standards are extremely cost-effective.
  • These standards will also boost America’s vibrant methane mitigation industry—which is already creating jobs and investment in at least 500 different locations across 46 states, especially in major energy-producing states like Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The protections that flow from Massachusetts v. EPA are helping to yield a safer climate for our children, protect the health of our communities, save energy and money for families across America, and build a prosperous clean energy economy. It is not surprising that these safeguards have broad support across red, blue and purple America. In every Congressional district, a majority of adults supports limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.

Scott Pruitt Is Evading his Obligations under Massachusetts v. EPA

Unfortunately, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is trying to evade his obligation to address climate pollution. Since taking his oath as Administrator, Pruitt has repeatedly tried to sow doubt as to whether climate pollution should be regulated under the Clean Air Act — demonstrating a profound disregard for the Supreme Court’s holding in Massachusetts.

Make no mistake – EPA’s obligation to address climate pollution under the Clean Air Act is a settled question in American law.

Climate Pollution Meets the Definition of “Air Pollutant” under the Clean Air Act

Under the Bush Administration, EPA argued that climate pollutants could not be “air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act on the convoluted grounds that “EPA lacks regulatory authority to address global climate change.”

But in Massachusetts, the Supreme Court held that “the Clean Air Act’s sweeping definition of ‘air pollutant’” clearly authorizes EPA to regulate climate pollution.

Moreover, the Court recognized that the Clean Air Act was intentionally written with “broad language … to confer the flexibility necessary to” meet challenges like climate pollution, and EPA cannot dodge its obligations with “policy judgments … [that] have nothing to do with whether greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change.”

In other words, EPA has to base its actions on law and science, not politics.

Massachusetts involved a petition to regulate pollution from motor vehicles, but the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that climate pollution from other sectors, including power plants, is also subject to Clean Air Act regulation.

In American Electric Power v. Connecticut (AEP), the Court determined:

Massachusetts made plain that emissions of carbon dioxide qualify as air pollution subject to regulation under the Act … And we think it equally plain that the Act ‘speaks directly’ to emissions of carbon dioxide from the … [power] plants.

The Court went on to identify a specific section of the Clean Air Act under which EPA could issue such protections. EPA subsequently finalized pollution limits — including the historic Clean Power Plan — under that very section.

A few years after AEP, in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the Court stood by its finding that the Clean Air Act covered climate pollution from power plants and held that new and modified industrial facilities must also limit their climate pollution.

Administrator Pruitt has publicly doubted whether EPA has the “tools” under the Clean Air Act to address climate change. This is just a feeble variation of the George W. Bush Administration’s stale claim rejected by the Supreme Court a decade ago. In fact, the Supreme Court has recognized that multiple programs under the Clean Air Act are suitable for addressing climate pollution — and EPA has adopted several achievable, common-sense climate safeguards that are already protecting American communities while supporting cost-saving efficiencies. Administrator Pruitt is invoking long-discredited arguments to avoid responsibility for addressing life-threatening pollution.

The Science of Climate Change is Clear

A few weeks ago, Administrator Pruitt told CNBC that he “would not agree that [carbon dioxide is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

But as far back as Massachusetts, the Supreme Court found that “[a] well-documented rise in global temperatures has coincided with a significant increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere” as recognized by “[r]espected scientists” and called carbon dioxide “the most important species … of a ‘greenhouse gas.’”

Following Massachusetts, EPA initiated a rigorous, scientific, peer-reviewed analysis of the effects of carbon dioxide and five other climate pollutants. In 2009, after reviewing an expansive body of scientific evidence reflecting hundreds of peer reviewed studies, EPA determined that the pollutants:

[M]ay reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare.

EPA’s determination, or Endangerment Finding, was resoundingly upheld in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, based largely on the “substantial record evidence that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases ‘very likely’ caused warming of the climate over the last several decades.”

In the CNBC interview, Administrator Pruitt offered no evidence to support his views about carbon dioxide and climate change. That’s unsurprising because the scientific evidence is not on his side. As EPA observed in its 2015 carbon dioxide standards for new power plants, since the Endangerment Finding was finalized:

The facts, unfortunately, have only grown stronger and the potential adverse consequences to public health and the environment more dire.

The science overwhelmingly shows that climate pollution is causing dangerous climate change. EPA has a statutory obligation to address it under the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act is a Statute to Protect Public Health and the Environment

Massachusetts prohibited EPA from touting “some residual uncertainty” about climate science as an excuse for inaction. EPA must act if it can “mak[e] a reasoned judgment” that “greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.”

When a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld EPA’s Endangerment Finding, it explained that the Clean Air Act’s:

[L]anguage requires a precautionary, forward-looking scientific judgment about the risks of a particular air pollutant, consistent with the [Act’s] precautionary and preventive orientation. Requiring that EPA find ‘certain’ endangerment of public health or welfare before regulating greenhouse gases would effectively prevent EPA from doing the job Congress gave it. (internal citations omitted)

The science, which was already clear when the Supreme Court decided Massachusetts in 2007, has only grown clearer in the intervening decade. For instance:

  • Since record keeping began in 1880, the five hottest years globally have all occurred since 2007.
  • Sea levels have risen at increasing rate.
  • The ten summers with the lowest minimum Arctic sea ice extent coincide exactly with the ten summers since Massachusetts was decided. And 2017 has already attained a grim status as the third consecutive year with a record low extent of winter Arctic sea ice.
  • In February 2007, atmospheric carbon dioxide averaged 383.90 parts per million. In February 2017, it averaged 406.42 ppm. The years 2015 and 2016 saw the two biggest annual increases ever recorded.

The Clean Air Act does not require us to watch idly as coastlines disappear, increased instanced of extreme weather such as severe flooding and superstorms cause loss of life and alter lives forever, and more frequent heatwaves threaten vulnerable populations like children and the elderly. It requires action. EPA has an obligation to act to protect public health and the environment by addressing climate pollution in order to reduce the tragic consequences of climate change, which are already unfolding.

The Legacy of Massachusetts v. EPA

Ten years on, Massachusetts v. EPA stands for EPA’s responsibility to address climate change based on law and science. Massachusetts also stands for the ability — and the imperative — to achieve victories for public health and the environment under adverse political conditions. With Administrator Pruitt at the helm of environmental policymaking in the U.S., we have no illusions about the challenges that lie ahead. But there will also be opportunities – opportunities to secure near-term reductions of dangerous pollution, and opportunities to lay the foundation for more progress in the years ahead, all anchored in law and science.

We can’t afford to let climate change accelerate unchecked for the next four years, and Massachusetts inspires us to keep working to protect all Americans from this clear and present danger.

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

These Facts Underscore Why the Clean Power Plan is the Right Path Forward for America

18 states, the District of Columbia, 60 municipalities and 11 utilities have filed in support of the Clean Power Plan

18 states, the District of Columbia, 60 municipalities and 11 utilities have filed in support of the Clean Power Plan

According to news reports, we may soon see an executive order designed to make the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revoke the Clean Power Plan, America’s first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

Revoking the Clean Power Plan would be monumentally bad public policy, placing our families and communities at greater risk from the dangers of climate change and threatening America's vibrant clean energy potential.

But to fully understand all the reasons revoking the Clean Power Plan is the wrong choice, it’s important to dig into the facts – which demonstrate that the Clean Power Plan is broadly supported, bolsters economic vitality, and fosters America's tremendous momentum in reducing carbon pollution from the power sector.

It’s especially important to dig into the facts now, because we can’t have confidence in what we’ll hear from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt whenever this announcement is made.

  • Yesterday, in an interview with CNBC, Pruitt denied that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming — contradicting NASA, VOAA, and well-settled science. Pruitt is known for mischaracterizing the science of climate change, doubling down in his written Senate testimony on some of the most widely debunked and discredited arguments put forward by climate skeptics.
  • Pruitt has also repeatedly mischaracterized EPA’s rock-solid legal authority to address climate pollution – even though it’s supported by three straight Supreme Court opinions affirming that duty.
  • Last week, it emerged that he misled the Senate during his confirmation process by falsely stating that he did not use his personal email account for official business.

Pruitt also has a long history of interwoven ties with big fossil fuel interests that stand to gain from undercutting common sense protections like the Clean Power Plan. He’s even been identified as leading an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” with them to oppose important safeguards.

So let's dig in to the real facts on the Clean Power Plan, and better understand what's at stake:

The Clean Power Plan Has Broad, Diverse Support Across the Country

The Clean Power Plan would reduce climate-destabilizing pollution from power plants – our nation’s largest source of this pollution – to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

It would save lives and protect public health as well, avoiding an estimated 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 childhood asthma attacks, and 300,000 missed school and work days each year by 2030.

Its approach reflects the power sector’s already ongoing, market-driven transition to low cost, low carbon electricity, and is firmly anchored in law.

So it’s not surprising that it enjoys widespread support. In court, the Clean Power Plan is supported by a broad and diverse coalition that includes eighteen states and sixty municipalities across the country; power companies that own and operate nearly ten percent of the nation’s generating capacity; leading businesses like Apple, Google, Mars, and IKEA; public health and environmental organizations; consumer and ratepayer advocates; faith organizations; and many others.

Since November 2016, nearly 900 businesses and major investors have called on the new Administration to continue policies that address climate pollution —underscoring that “failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk.” Signatories include DuPont, Gap Inc., General Mills, Hewlett Packard, Hilton, IKEA, Johnson & Johnson, The Kellogg Company, Levi Strauss & Co., L’Oreal USA, NIKE, Mars Incorporated, Pacific Gas and Electric, Schneider Electric, Sealed Air, Starbucks, Unilever, and many others. These signatories collectively earn almost $1.15 trillion in annual revenue, are headquartered across 44 states, and employ about 1.8 million people.

Large majorities of Americans, in red and blue states alike, support the Clean Power Plan and other actions to protect our families and communities from climate pollution. In a recent nationwide poll, 70 percent of Americans expressed support for the Clean Power Plan – including two-thirds of respondents in states that are challenging these vital protections.

Low-Carbon Energy Helps Fuel a Vibrant Economy

Reducing carbon pollution will create jobs and economic benefits across the country.

For everyday consumers, the Clean Power Plan incentivizes energy efficiency investments that save money. EPA estimates that by 2030, the average American family will save approximately $85 every year on their electric bill.

It also bolsters use of low-carbon power sources — which are already driving growth and vitality across the country. More than two million Americans now work in energy efficiency jobs, while solar and wind employ almost half a million people. Collectively, this represents more than twice the number of Americans employed through fossil fuel generation.

Clean energy investments frequently create jobs in low-income and rural communities that stand to benefit most. The American Wind Energy Association estimates that 70 percent of wind farms are located in low-income counties, and that wind developers currently pay $222 million a year in lease payments to U.S. farmers, ranchers and other rural landowners. The bi-partisan Governors’ Wind and Solar Coalition, led by Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, recently sent a remarkable letter to President Trump highlighting the impressive contributions of wind and solar to the American economy —particularly to low-income rural communities.

The Clean Power Plan Builds on — and Secures the Promise of — America’s Transition to Low-Carbon Energy

The Clean Power Plan’s targets are eminently achievable thanks to the powerful expansion of low-cost clean energy, which is increasingly out-competing other sources of electricity in the market. Rolling back the Clean Power Plan puts at risk America’s tremendous momentum and progress in reducing carbon pollution from the power sector.

Carbon pollution from the power sector has decreased by more than 20 percent since 2005, meaning that we’re already about two-thirds of the way toward meeting the Clean Power Plan requirements for 2030. In fact, most states that are litigating against the Clean Power Plan are on track to meet its requirements. Having the Clean Power Plan in place provides a policy framework and establishes an important, stable signal for investors—one that’s essential to make sure we build on the progress so far, and make strategic, sensible decisions for the long-term.

Clean energy is increasingly out-competing other sources of electricity — in particular, the market is seeing a surge in renewable energy development. One report estimated that 85 gigawatts of new wind and solar generation capacity will be added to the grid between 2016 and 2021. Thanks to dramatically declining costs, a recent extension of federal tax credits, and sustained technological advances, low carbon electricity is the increasingly preferred energy source. For example, from 2007 through 2015 alone, the price of solar photovoltaic modules fell by more than 80 percent. Meanwhile, coal-powered electricity is increasingly uneconomic compared to other forms of electricity, even without considering its substantial carbon pollution burden.

Consider these statements from power sector officials affirming their commitment to greater reliance on low-carbon power sources – made after the Nov. 2016 election:

  • “It can't just be, ‘We're going to get rid of these regulations, and you guys can party until the next administration comes,’” Cloud Peak Energy Vice President Richard Reavey said. “There are serious global concerns about climate emissions. We have to recognize that's a political reality and work within that framework.”
  • “We've always had a point of view at Southern that there's a reasonable trajectory in which to move the portfolio of the United States to a lower carbon future,” said Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning. “There's a way to transition the fleet now.” In a later interview, Fanning added: “It's clear that the courts have given the EPA the right to deal with carbon in a certain way.”
  • “Regardless of the outcome of the election,” said Frank Prager, Xcel Energy’s Vice President of Policy and Federal Affairs, “Xcel Energy will continue pursuing energy and environmental strategies that appeal to policymakers across the political spectrum because we are focused on renewable and other infrastructure projects that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions without increasing prices or sacrificing reliability.”

And consider these actions by power companies to expand their renewable investments while phasing out high-carbon generation, putting them in a solid position to comply with robust carbon pollution regulations:

  • Florida Power & Light (FPL) just announced it will install eight new solar power plants this year, building on its existing plants to expand reliance on low-carbon power sources. At the end of December 2016,  FPL announced plans to shut down the recently-acquired 250-megawatt Cedar Bay coal plant at the end of the year. “I'm very proud of our employees for proposing this innovative approach that's environmentally beneficial and saves customers millions of dollars,” said CEO Eric Silagy. FPL plans to replace the retired power with natural gas and solar — the company added 224 megawatts of solar capacity in 2016.
  • On December 30, 2016, Southern Company announced an agreement with Renewable Energy Systems America to develop 3,000 megawatts of renewable energy scheduled to come online between 2018 and 2020. The agreement comes as Southern Company continued to boost its renewable portfolio with the acquisition of 300 megawatts of wind power in late December, bringing its total to more than 4,000 megawatts of renewable generation added or announced since 2012.
  • PNM Resources spokesman Pahl Shipley said the company has no change in plans for replacing generation from retiring two units at a New Mexico plant, totaling 837 megawatts of capacity, with solar and nuclear power.

These developments make clear that continued progress towards a low-carbon future is within reach. The Clean Power Plan provides a sensible framework to help ensure we protect our communities and achieve the tremendous potential of America’s low-cost, low-carbon electricity resources.

The Clean Power Plan Provides a Path Forward that Will Protect and Strengthen American Communities

Let’s hope Scott Pruitt listens to the facts – and turns away from wrong-headed plans to stymie common sense climate protection. Moving forward on the Clean Power Plan will ensure the continuation of tremendous momentum towards a low-carbon future, save lives and improve public health, and help protect American families and communities from the worst ravages of climate change.

The Clean Power Plan is the right path forward for a stronger and safer America.

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Comments are closed
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