Climate 411

How Trump’s EPA is leaving Houston and all of America at risk one year after Hurricane Harvey

This weekend marks one year since Hurricane Harvey made landfall and wreaked a huge amount of havoc in Texas and other Gulf Coast states. While there are many lessons we can learn from the storm, and much finger pointing that can be done, one fact is clear: Trump’s EPA failed to properly protect children and families in Houston from chemical leaks triggered by the storm.

We now know that Houston’s vast petrochemical industry released at least 8.3 million pounds of air pollution in the wake of the storm, and that many of the area’s toxic Superfund sites were improperly secured and subsequently flooded.

But perhaps worse than these impacts is the fact that one year later, the more than 134 million Americans who live near chemical plants and storage facilities, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color and lower-income, are still at great risk.

Map of US Chemical Manufacturing facilities. Source: EPA

The Trump EPA’s dangerous failures

During and after Hurricane Harvey, as well as Hurricanes Irma and Maria that followed, EPA failed to take important steps to protect families and neighborhoods from health threats:

  • Arkema chemical plant explosion: Neither EPA nor the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) moved fast enough to monitor air quality issues at the Arkema plant when chemical drums caught fire and lids exploded. But a lack of data didn’t stop them from reassuring residents about local air quality. To date, neither TCEQ nor EPA has taken any enforcement action against Arkema, despite the violations (although the company and its CEO and plant manager have been indicted for reckless emissions of dangerous pollutants).
  • Valero refinery leak: Hundreds of families in Houston’s Manchester neighborhood may have breathed in concentrations of benzene that could have damaged their health. But neither EPA nor TCEQ tested the air there until news outlets had published independent air quality monitoring results showing high benzene readings that EDF and Air Alliance Houston paid to do (as did the city of Houston).

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, Health, Pruitt / Comments are closed

A chorus of opposition to Wheeler’s sham Clean Power Plan replacement

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler just released his proposal to severely weaken America’s only nation-wide carbon pollution protections for existing power plants – to a chorus of opposition from the American public, state and local officials, faith organizations, health and environmental organizations, and leaders across the political spectrum.

Wheeler’s proposal would scrap the landmark Clean Power Plan –increasing harmful air pollution and exacerbating climate change. According to EPA’s own numbers, Wheeler’s proposal could lead to more than one thousand extra deaths and tens of thousands of additional asthma attacks each year. It forfeits the lifesaving benefits the Clean Power Plan would provide for the health and well-being of all Americans.

More than 70 percent of Americans – including a majority in every Congressional district in the country – support putting strict limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, according to a recent poll analysis. A broad and diverse group of them spoke out in opposition to the sham Clean Power Plan replacement proposal.

Here are some notable quotes (and you can see a more complete list here).

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

The Trump-Wheeler Polluting Power Plan: Five Key Takeaways

(Ben Levitan and Rama Zakaria co-authored this post)

The Trump Administration just released another proposal with a title that would floor George Orwell himself.

Less than a month after releasing the Safer and More Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles Rule to make our cars less safe and less fuel efficient, Trump and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler unveiled the Affordable Clean Energy proposal – a plan that is neither clean nor affordable.

This new Trump-Wheeler proposal, ostensibly a replacement for the Clean Power Plan, is actually a major retreat from securing clean and affordable energy for Americans. It would subject our nation to more soot and smog and would vastly increase climate pollution – harming our health in the near term and exacerbating climate damage for generations to come.

Here are five things you should know:

1. The Trump-Wheeler plan would increase pollution and cost American lives.

EPA’s own numbers show the Trump-Wheeler proposal could lead to more than 1,000 annual premature deaths in 2030, compared to leaving the Clean Power Plan in place.

EPA map showing concentrations of additional premature deaths from soot and smog, compared to America under the Clean Power Plan. The areas in red will suffer most. See the Regulatory Impact Analysis, page 4-39.

It could also cause tens of thousands of childhood asthma attacks and more than 100,000 missed school and work days annually.

In 2030, the annual increase in health-harming pollution from the Trump-Wheeler proposal (compared to the Clean Power Plan) would be:

  • Up to 72,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, which contributes to dangerous soot pollution
  • Up to 53,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, which play a major role in smog formation

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News / Read 1 Response

Wheeler expected to weaken the Clean Power Plan even as pollution reduction costs are dropping

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler is reportedly taking steps to nix the Clean Power Plan– America’s only national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants – in favor of a weak substitute that does almost nothing to protect us from climate change and would increase harmful pollution that contributes to soot and smog.

There are many reasons why rolling back these life-saving protections makes no sense, but chief among them is that the opportunities to reduce carbon pollution are even greater – and cheaper – now than when the Clean Power Plan was finalized in 2015.

EPA is required to determine the “best system of emission reduction” when regulating pollution under the Clean Air Act, and select an approach that reflects the maximum feasible level of control. A look at the evidence overwhelmingly shows that a legitimate Clean Power Plan replacement would adopt emission reduction targets more ambitious than those in the Clean Power Plan, not less.

Here’s why:

1. Power sector trends have made the Clean Power Plan even more achievable and cost-effective than originally estimated

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics / Comments are closed

EPA Administrator Wheeler prepares to gut Clean Power Plan, increasing pollution and harming health

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is reportedly planning to all but abolish one of America’s most important climate protections: the Clean Power Plan, our only nation-wide limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Though Wheeler might claim that he is offering a Clean Power Plan “replacement,” his reported plan would forfeit the tremendous benefits of the Clean Power Plan—and instead provide little to no reduction in climate pollution.

Even as impacts of climate change are ravaging our nation and world, the reported proposal would exacerbate the harms our families are facing—harms like severe heat waves, deadly wildfires, coastal flooding, and violent storms.

Astoundingly, Wheeler might issue this new proposal just weeks after his proposal to roll back America’s Clean Car Standards—a disastrous action that would increase climate pollution by over two billion tons through 2040, and cause owners of cars and trucks to pay as much as $8,000 more for gas over the lifetime of their vehicles.

If Wheeler finalizes these proposals, he would leave our families and communities more vulnerable than ever to the harmful impacts of climate change. And he would flout EPA’s clear legal obligation—upheld three times by the Supreme Court—to protect Americans from dangerous climate pollution.  Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Read 1 Response

Trump breaks his “jobs” promise in proposal to gut Clean Car Standards

U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum

In March 2017, President Trump held a high-profile event in Ypsilanti, Michigan to announce that his administration was re-opening the mid-term evaluation of America’s Clean Car Standards. He was joined at the event by the CEO’s of General Motors, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford among others.

His action that day kicked-off a process that culminated in today’s release of a proposal that would eviscerate those successful standards.

The Trump administration’s attack on the Clean Car Standards threatens our health and environment, will raise costs on American families, is at odds with the technical progress the industry is making to reduce vehicle pollution, contains attacks on state-authority that are flatly illegal, undermines our safety, and is based on a deeply flawed and biased analysis.

The attack also goes against the purported rationale the President gave in March 2017.

President Trump wanted us to believe that this action was all about jobs. He mentioned “jobs” 14 times in his speech, noting:

“If the standards threatened auto jobs, then commonsense changes could have and should have been made.”

He also said:

“We are going to ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs.”

The odd thing is that the Trump administration’s own analysis finds that its proposal is a job loser.

That’s right: the administration’s own assessment found that its proposal would cost at least 60,000 jobs (Table VII-5; page 784 and 785).

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Jobs, News / Read 1 Response