Climate 411

The case against the Trump administration’s rollback of the Clean Power Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency will file a legal brief today defending its decision to dismantle the Clean Power Plan and replace it with the harmful and cynically misnamed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule.

But nothing EPA says can alter the fact that ACE is destructive, costly, and unlawful. EPA projects that ACE will reduce power sector emissions by a mere 0.7 percent by 2030, and will increase pollution at nearly one in five of the nation’s coal plants, two-thirds of which are located in minority and low-income communities.

In the face of a growing and ever-perilous climate crisis calling for meaningful action, we expect EPA will claim the Clean Air Act does not permit the agency to do more to reduce emissions from the nation’s largest industrial source of carbon pollution. This claim severely distorts the statutory requirements.

EDF filed suit last summer as part of a broad coalition of states, cities, other health and environmental advocates, power companies, and clean energy trade associations. In April, the coalition filed legal briefs showing that EPA has ample authority — and a clear obligation — under the Clean Air Act to require meaningful reduction of carbon pollution from power plants. These briefs collectively demonstrate that EPA’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan is based on a gross misreading of the Clean Air Act, and the agency’s replacement rule, premised on the same misreading, fails to live up to the statutory command that power plants use the “best system of emission reduction” to limit their carbon pollution.

Here are the key arguments we’ve made against the Clean Power Plan rollback and ACE.

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Comments are closed

The pollution-enabling impacts of the Clean Power Plan “replacement”

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has suggested that ACE – the Trump administration’s harmful and deeply flawed replacement for the Clean Power Plan – is just as effective in protecting climate and public health as its predecessor.

Wheeler is wrong.

ACE will achieve virtually no reductions in carbon pollution from power plants and will increase health-harming pollution in many communities across the country. This harmful rule represents a huge step backwards at a time when communities across the nation are increasingly suffering devastating impacts from climate change – such as wildfires, extreme weather, coastal flooding, and intense heat waves – that underscore the need for rapid reductions in carbon pollution.

Following the finalization of the ACE rule in June, Wheeler said that when the rule is fully implemented, “we expect to see U.S. power sector CO2 emissions fall by as much as 35 percent below 2005 levels.”

What that claim fails to acknowledge is – that based on EPA’s own analysis – these reductions are projected to occur whether or not there is a federal policy in place. In other words, the ACE rule will accomplish no significant carbon pollution reductions beyond business-as-usual. By claiming credit for reductions that would happen anyway, Wheeler is simply masking the inefficacy of the rule.

The Clean Power Plan was the first-ever policy to set national limits on harmful carbon pollution from existing power plants. The ACE rule, in contrast, contains no binding limits on carbon pollution. Instead, the rule merely provides a list of “heat rate improvement measures” that would incrementally improve the operating efficiency of coal plants, leaving it up to the states to decide which – if any – of those measures to apply.

When the Clean Power Plan was finalized in 2015, EPA projected that power sector carbon pollution would be 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2030 under business-as-usual with no federal policy. Due to the plummeting costs of clean energy technologies and the ongoing market shift towards cleaner electricity sources, EPA now projects that power sector carbon pollution under business-as-usual with no federal policy will be much lower, at 35 percent below 2005 levels in 2030. According to EPA, the ACE rule is projected to achieve a trivial 0.7 percent reduction in carbon pollution compared to business-as-usual in 2030.

Worse still, EPA’s own numbers show that the rule would have the perverse impact of incentivizing some coal-fired power plants to operate and pollute more – leading to more carbon pollution in many states compared to no policy at all.

Experts have warned that under the ACE rule, many parts of the country would also see increases in the health-harming pollution that leads to soot and smog. While the Trump administration has tried to downplay the public health consequences of the rule, EPA’s projections show that vulnerable communities around the nation will likely suffer the most from these dangerous pollution increases.

In addition to disregarding the health and well-being of Americans, the years-long effort by the Trump administration to dismantle the Clean Power Plan represents a squandered opportunity to cost-effectively achieve urgently needed reductions in pollution. EDF filed comments on the proposed rule that demonstrate that fact. Our updated analysis using the same power sector model that EPA relies upon shows that carbon pollution reductions of more than 50 percent below 2005 levels in 2030 are possible at similar costs to what the original Clean Power Plan envisioned. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has also found that even greater reductions of 68 percent below 2005 levels can be achieved by 2030 – along with steep reductions in dangerous soot and smog-forming pollution – at modest cost.

Not only are significant reductions in carbon pollution from the power sector possible, they are also long overdue. We are already facing serious consequences from carbon pollution. The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change make it frighteningly clear that the country and the world are facing unprecedented threats from climate change – and that rapid reductions in climate-destabilizing pollution are needed by 2030 in order to avoid the worst impacts. The devastation from climate change-fueled disasters across the U.S. and the millions of Americans suffering from the health impacts of air pollution underscore the pressing need for reductions in pollution from the power sector, one of the nation’s leading contributors to carbon pollution.

We need real protections against the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens both our environment and our health – not spin from Administrator Wheeler that hides the real impacts of his pollution-enabling rule behind misleading statistics.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed

Trump’s ACE Rule May Especially Harm Vulnerable Communities

(This post was co-authored by EDF intern Laura Supple)

The Trump administration’s latest attack on clean air protections may cause the greatest harm to the most vulnerable communities – according to EPA’s own projections.

In June, the Trump administration repealed the Clean Power Plan – America’s first and only nationwide limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants – and replaced it with a pollution-enabling rule that, by EPA’s own numbers, would increase climate pollution in many states compared to no policy at all.

Experts have warned that under the Trump replacement, called the ACE rule, many parts of the country would also see increases in health-harming sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides pollution that lead to soot and smog. While the Administration has tried to downplay the public health consequences of the new rule, EPA’s projections show that vulnerable communities around the nation will likely suffer the most from these dangerous pollution increases.

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Also posted in Cities and states, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy / Comments are closed

Four reasons why Wheeler’s Clean Power Plan “replacement” will lead to more pollution

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has sent a draft rule that would roll back the Clean Power Plan to the White House for review – a step that suggests the rule is close to being finalized and released.

If this final rule looks anything like the hopelessly flawed and inadequate proposal that was released last August, it will scrap the Clean Power Plan – our nation’s only national limit on carbon pollution from the power sector – in favor of a “do-nothing” program that could actually increase pollution from inefficient, highly-polluting coal-fired power plants.

Even as the nation reels from wildfires, flooding, and hurricanes exacerbated by climate change, Wheeler’s proposal would place no meaningful limits on one of our nation’s largest contributors to climate-destabilizing pollution.

If our experience with the proposal is any guide, we can also expect the release of the final rule to be accompanied by a bevy of misleading assertions that Wheeler’s “replacement” for the Clean Power Plan is just as effective in protecting climate and public health.

Wheeler has already been making such claims. For instance, in testimony before the House of Representatives last month, Wheeler said that EPA’s proposed replacement for the Clean Power Plan would reduce carbon pollution from the power sector by 34 percent once fully implemented, and would go a long way towards meeting our carbon reduction goals for the country. These comments build on Wheeler’s claims during his Senate confirmation process that equated his replacement to the Clean Power Plan.

Here are four reasons why his claims are false: Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy / Comments are closed

Andrew Wheeler takes the helm at EPA. What’s next for crucial safeguards?

Just last week, the Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler as EPA administrator. His installation signals a broader pivot point in defending EPA safeguards.

Over the last two years, the Trump administration’s efforts to categorically suspend crucial safeguards without public notice or comment failed across the board.

Looking ahead, Wheeler has almost two years to build on his troubling record by finalizing numerous deeply harmful major rollbacks. These rollbacks, if successful, risk thousands of premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks, and billions of tons of additional climate-destabilizing pollution.

We need to be making more, faster progress towards a clean energy and transportation future – not tearing down the safeguards we have in place.

Here’s a look at where we stand on three major issues — the opportunities we could seize, as well as the challenges ahead.  Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Cities and states, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Jobs, News, Policy / Read 2 Responses

Trump administration ends talks with California, presses ahead with Clean Car Standards rollback

EDF attorney Erin Murphy co-authored this post 

The Trump administration announced today that it will end negotiations with California and press ahead with its attempts to roll back America’s successful Clean Car Standards.

Rolling back the Clean Car Standards would increase pollution and raise costs for American families. The administration’s justification for weakening these safeguards is based on a deeply flawed and biased analysis that contradicts the technical progress the auto industry is making to reduce pollution. An earlier expose highlighted the roll of the oil industry in pushing and benefiting from the administration’s rollback.

State leadership under attack

The administration says it is pressing ahead with its attacks on long-standing state authority to enforce tougher standards than those implemented at the federal level.  Read More »

Also posted in California, Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Jobs, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Read 1 Response