Climate 411

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Dirty Cars Action – By the Numbers

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt just announced an attack on our nation’s clean car standards – standards that are reducing dangerous pollution and saving Americans’ hard-earned money.

We’ve reviewed Pruitt’s action. Here’s a look – by the numbers:

  • Zero – Number of times Pruitt mentions the words “children,” “health,” “air pollution” or “climate”
  • Fourteen – Number of times Pruitt directly quotes the auto industry
  • One – Number of times Pruitt quotes anyone else
  • Sixty-Three – Number of times Pruitt cites the auto industry
  • Zero – Number of cited EPA analyses that support rollbacks
  • Two – Number of automakers – Ford and Honda – who have stated they do not need a rollback of EPA’s clean car standards
  • Fifteen – Number of states that warned the Trump Administration that any effort to weaken our nation’s clean car standards would be met by a “vigorous” court challenge
  • Three – Number of auto companies whose association is represented by Steven Hart, the lobbyist whose wife owns the condo that Pruitt rented for only $50-per-night
  • Two Billion –The tons of climate pollution reductions at risk under Pruitt’s attack
  • 17.5 percentGeneral Motor’s contribution to the potential excess pollution – the single largest volume of pollution associated with any single automaker
  • $460 Billion – The fuel savings for American families at risk under Pruitt’s attack
Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News / Comments are closed

Are there roadblocks ahead for America’s clean cars standards? Here are five things you need to know

Cars wait to be sold on a dealer's lot. Photo: Every Car Listed

(EDF Legal Fellow Erin Murphy co-authored this post)

America’s clean cars standards are one of our biggest climate success stories.

We’ve made major strides in reducing greenhouse gas pollution since protective standards were put in place in 2012 – spurring fuel efficiency gains at the same time.

New innovations have made additional progress even more clearly achievable – and have set the stage for a future free from tailpipe pollution.

Yet, when it comes to cars, the Trump administration is stuck in reverse.

President Trump is reportedly considering a dramatic rollback of our existing clean cars standards. Right now, an EPA action to set this reversal in motion is under White House review.

Ford broke ranks earlier this week, publicly disavowing a rollback of these climate pollution protections.

Yet it’s rumored that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will issue a decision as early as Friday that would set in motion a potentially dramatic weakening of these safeguards. It’s time for policy-makers and automakers like GM, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota to take a stand and reject these baseless attacks.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Climate progress in the balance

Tremendous climate progress is at stake.

EPA estimated that the clean cars program would reduce climate pollution by six billion tons over its lifetime and cut other dangerous air pollutants as well. That’s how much climate pollution America emits in a year, from all sources and all sectors.

The American Lung Association and twelve other public health organizations have all underscored the importance of maintaining protective clean cars standards.

The transportation sector has become America’s largest contributor of climate pollution. It is also a significant source of harmful soot and smog-causing pollution.

Now is the time to accelerate reductions from this sector, not stall out. Yet leaked details suggest the Trump administration is moving to significantly weaken upcoming standards for cars in model years 2022 to 2025 – eroding the benefits of the standards by almost 60 percent.

  1. Savings every time you fuel up

Clean cars standards are a win-win – in addition to reducing pollution, they save consumers money at the gas pump.

This program gradually reduces climate pollution rates from cars and trucks – driving five percent reductions each year through flexible fleet-wide standards and spurring comparable year-by-year improvements in fuel efficiency.

Drivers are already benefiting from our existing standards. For example, each Ford F-150 truck bought in 2015 uses about 180 fewer gallons of gas a year than prior models. That saves its owner eight trips to the gas station and up to $700 per year, depending on the price of fuel.

The standards will bring even greater savings in the future. Families that purchase a new car or truck in 2025 will save an estimated $1,650 over the lifetime of that vehicle, compared to a car just three years older.

Over the lifetime of the clean cars program, the savings to American families and businesses will add up to more than a trillion dollars.

The 86 percent of Americans who finance their car with a five-year loan are expected to immediately realize the cost savings from cleaner, more efficient vehicles. This is true even with lower gas prices.

  1. We have the know-how to exceed these standards

The improvements under the existing clean cars standards are technically feasible and affordable.

Automakers and suppliers are developing and deploying innovative technologies faster than anticipated when the standards were finalized.

EPA, the Department of Transportation, and the California Air Resources Board conducted an exhaustive technical review of the auto industry’s ability to meet the 2022 to 2025 model year standards. They found extensive evidence that the automotive industry can meet those standards at lower costs than predicted when the standards were initially finalized in 2012.

Since the clean cars program began in 2012, there has been roughly a doubling in the number of SUVs that achieve 25 miles per gallon or more, the number of cars that achieve 30 miles per gallon or more, and the number of cars that achieve 40 miles per gallon or more.

Today there are already more than 100 car, SUV, and pickup models on the market that meet standards set for 2020 and beyond.

If any changes are made, the standards should be strengthened.

  1. Supporting American jobs and innovation now and into the future

Well-designed federal standards foster the deployment of fuel saving solutions.

We have seen this cycle play out over the past several years, as automakers have brought more efficient cars and trucks to market with record sales and strong profitability.

Today, the auto industry directly employs millions of Americans and employment at auto dealerships is at its highest level ever.

Automakers have recognized this strong financial performance in recent annual reports:

  •  “[Fiat Chrysler] posted another record performance in 2017, achieving ambitious financial targets … We have now reached or exceeded all key financial goals for the first four years of the current five-year plan.”  Fiat Chrysler 2017 Annual Report, Chairman’s Letter
  • “2016 was the best year in its history of more than 130 years.” Daimler 2016 Annual Report, Chairman’s Letter
  • “2016 was a very strong year for General Motors, one that included the launch of dozens of award-winning products around the world, record sales and earnings, substantial return of capital to shareholders and remarkable progress in our drive to define and lead the future of personal mobility. In North America, we achieved record earnings last year and exceeded our 10-percent-margin goal for the second consecutive year.” General Motors 2016 Annual Report, Chairman’s Letter

In a 2016 letter supporting EPA’s proposal to reaffirm the clean cars standards, the United Automobile Workers (UAW) noted:

  • “UAW members know firsthand that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas (GHG) standards have spurred investments in new products that employ tens of thousands of our members.”

Other countries – including China, the world’s largest new vehicle market — are pushing toward a zero-emissions future. U.S. automakers can’t afford to fall behind.

Protective clean car standards spur investment that will preserve and increase automakers’ global competitiveness.

  1. State leadership at risk

Over the last half century, state leadership has played a key role in spurring the development and deployment of clean car solutions like smog-fighting catalytic converters.

Administrator Pruitt recently made aggressive public statements smearing this success story and suggesting that the Trump administration’s coming attack may even seek to stifle these state-led programs.

Under long-standing provisions in the Clean Air Act, California is authorized to set its own vehicle pollution standards, and all other states have authority to adopt and enforce these standards. Today a third of U.S. new car sales are covered by the coalition of states that have committed to protective clean car standards.

In Ford’s public comments this week, the company recognized this history and committed to working together with California to build a path forward. Yet Administrator Pruitt’s irresponsible comments suggest he is reviewing an existing waiver that allows for implementation of this state success story — and may be considering revoking this waiver, even though such a step has never been taken and has no basis in law.

Pruitt’s comments show a clear disregard for his professed concern for states’ rights.

The takeaway? We need to move forward, not shift into reverse

Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that the Trump administration is set to roll back these protections — just as they’ve relentlessly attacked so many other common sense pollution standards.

EDF will defend the progress we’ve made cleaning up pollution from our cars, and we’ll push for even more progress. We hope all Americans will join us in defense of these crucial safeguards.

  • Policymakers at all levels need to stand against these rollbacks and advance clean cars through the myriad of avenues available to them.
  • Automakers need to make clear that they stand for common sense standards that spur continued progress on clean vehicles today and continued movement towards a future without tailpipe pollution.
  • Individual citizens need to push back against these reckless cuts.

The climate and health protections contained in the clean car standards are critical, well-founded, and eminently achievable. We will be fighting to keep them whole.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, News / Comments are closed

Still cheaper than coal – a report on the economics of solar power in Colorado

Workers install solar panels on a building in Superior, Colorado. Photo: SolarDave.com

(EDF’s Graham McCahan co-authored this post)

A newly-updated report is shedding light on what President Trump’s solar trade tariffs may mean for one state – and underscoring a tremendous opportunity to move forward toward clean energy, with all the benefits it can bring.

Xcel Energy filed its 30-day bid report update with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on March 1. The update follows Xcel’s filing at the end of last year, in response to an “all-source solicitation,” as part of its Electric Resource Plan and its proposed Colorado Energy Plan.

Xcel’s plan would shut down two units at the Comanche coal plant in Pueblo, Colorado, and replace the capacity with a mix of lower carbon resources. Earlier results were unprecedented, with more than 80 percent of the bids coming from renewable energy and storage at incredibly cheap prices.

Xcel then provided bidders an opportunity to refresh their bids following President Trump’s final decision in the Suniva/SolarWorld trade case in January, which imposed tariffs on imported solar equipment.

The refreshed bids in Xcel’s updated report show minimal change relative to last year’s results and confirm that new wind and solar power in Colorado continues to be cheaper than existing coal plants – despite the trade tariffs.

According to the report, Xcel “received bid affirmation and refresh responses from all but one of the 400 plus bids.”

Of these responses:

“58% of the bids affirmed no change in pricing, 16% increased pricing, and 26% decreased pricing.”

The solar photovoltaic (PV) median bid price increased by only $1.5 per megawatt hour, and the median bid for solar PV with battery storage increased by $2.3 per megawatt hour – still the cheapest solar plus storage bids in the U.S. to date.

Based on analysis by Carbon Tracker, this means that the median bid price for solar is lower than the operating cost of all existing coal units in Colorado, while the median solar plus storage bid is lower than roughly 70 percent of operating coal capacity.

Federal renewable energy tax credits are likely buffering some of the solar trade tariff effects. While recent analyses show significant cost declines for renewable energy, with wind and solar becoming increasingly competitive with conventional generation even on an unsubsidized basis, the renewable tax credits are still a significant factor contributing to favorable wind and solar economics in the short-term and in the face of the Trump solar tariffs. That said, it’s important to recognize that coal generation has enjoyed state and federal incentives for a century, and continues to do so.

The tax credits are being phased down in the next few years, with the production tax credit for wind phasing out in 2019 and the investment tax credit for solar in 2021. So it will be critical to act now to take advantage of those credits to deploy clean energy at lowest cost and secure the associated economic and public health benefits.

Colorado is an example of this tremendous opportunity to move forward now to lock in incredibly low-cost resources, with no fuel costs and therefore no medium- to long-term volatility or risk to consumers. The Xcel bids show that there is a lower-cost clean energy alternative to keeping the polluting Comanche units online in Pueblo, and it no longer makes sense to continue to operate and maintain these units at the expense of Colorado customers and Colorado air quality.

There is even the potential for low-cost utility-scale on-site solar to be used by Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel – a steel mill and the single largest manufacturer in Pueblo and largest producer of premium rail in North America – to help cut costs and keep manufacturing jobs in Pueblo.

Evraz is Xcel’s largest retail customer in Colorado, and the 175-200 megawatt Evraz solar project that the company is considering would provide a cost-effective option to meet Evraz’s growing needs, help guarantee Evraz low and stable electricity rates in the future, and therefore help keep Evraz in Colorado.

We are already witnessing some of the impacts of Trump’s solar tariffs on jobs in some areas of the U.S., and the potential for these tariffs to stall American competitiveness and innovation – for instance, American solar company SunPower recently announced that it will lay off hundreds of workers, largely from its research and development and marketing positions.

But the Xcel refresh bids in Colorado – a state blessed with high solar and wind potential – provides an important first look at what the solar tariffs mean for the competitiveness of clean energy in a state where clean energy conditions are favorable.

In Colorado, it is clear that the advantages of clean energy for consumers and the local economy remain compelling. Despite the tariffs – and in the presence of renewable tax credits, rapid technological advances, and plummeting costs of solar and storage technologies – solar still outcompetes fossil fuels. It also helps lower costs to consumers, and protects local manufacturing jobs.

The state should act now to lock in those benefits for the people of Colorado.

Also posted in Economics, Energy / Comments are closed

Key takeaways from the court decision blocking suspension of BLM’s Waste Prevention Rule

(EDF Legal Fellow Samantha Caravello co-authored this post)

A U.S. District Court judge has halted Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s latest effort to suspend the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Waste Prevention Rule.

The judge issued a preliminary injunction last night in response to legal challenges brought by the states of California and New Mexico, and by EDF and a coalition of conservation and tribal citizen groups.

The court decision ensures that the Waste Prevention Protections are in full force and effect, delivering important benefits to tribes, ranchers and families across the West. It also demonstrates that facts matter, and that public input matters — and, as the court recognized, Zinke ignored both when he suspended the Waste Prevention Rule.

Here are some key takeaways from the court’s decision.

Zinke’s suspension would have resulted in immediate and irreparable harms

The Waste Prevention Rule requires that oil and gas companies take common sense actions to prevent the waste of valuable natural gas on federal and tribal lands. These actions also reduce harmful air pollution including methane, and smog-forming and toxic pollutants.

Judge William Orrick, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, found that Zinke’s attempt to suspend the Waste Prevention Rule would have real, immediate, and irreversible effects on public health and the environment.

In reaching this conclusion, the judge highlighted the severe health threat that Zinke’s suspension would pose for people living near oil and gas operations.

He cited:

“[T]he waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts.” (Order, page 2)

The judge referred to declarations from EDF experts and members that documented these health and climate harms, including:

  • “Environmental Defense Fund member Francis Don Schreiber, for example, resides on a ranch in Governador, New Mexico, where there are 122 oil and gas wells either on or immediately adjacent to his land, all managed by BLM and subject to the Suspension Rule…. He notices an ‘extremely strong’ ‘near-constant smell from leaking wells,’ which ‘make[s] breathing uncomfortable’ and causes concern that he and his wife ‘are breathing harmful hydrocarbons…’ As Schreiber suffers from a heart condition and has already had open heart surgery, he is ‘at a higher risk from breathing ozone,’ and is ‘constantly concerned about the impact of the air quality on [his] heart condition.’” (Order, page 26)
  • “Dr. Ilissa B. Ocko, climate scientist, states that the 175,000 additional tons of methane that will result during the one-year suspension is ‘equivalent to the 20-year climate impact of over 3,000,000 passenger vehicles driving for one year or over 16 billion pounds of coal burned.’” (Order, page 25)
  • “Dr. Renee McVay, whose research focuses on atmospheric chemistry, estimates that approximately 6,182 wells subject to the Waste Prevention Rule are located in counties already suffering from unhealthy air with elevated ozone levels… The Suspension Rule will result in additional emissions of 2,089 tons of VOCs in these already at-risk communities, where many of the conservation and tribal group plaintiffs’ members reside, leading to and exacerbating impaired lung functioning, serious cardiovascular and pulmonary problems, and cancer and neurological damage.” (Order, page 25)

The court concluded:

“Plaintiffs list several environmental injuries with effects statewide, to the general public, and on the personal level, any of which might be sufficient to establish likely irreparable harm.” (Order, page 27)

Facts and analysis matter

In addition to these irreparable harms, the court found that EDF and our allies were likely to succeed on the merits:

“Plaintiffs have provided several reasons that the Suspension Rule is arbitrary and capricious, both for substantive reasons, as a result of the lack of a reasoned analysis, and procedural ones, due to the lack of meaningful notice and comment.” (Order, page 29)

Under the law, when a federal agency seeks to change a prior policy – as Zinke did when he sought to suspend the common sense requirements in the Waste Prevention Rule – that agency must provide “good reasons and detailed justification.” (Order, page 12)

The court found that Zinke fell short of these important requirements because he repeatedly “fail[ed] to point to any factual support underlying [his alleged] concern[s]” over the Waste Prevention Rule. (Order, page 14)

The court carefully evaluated each alleged justification for the suspension put forth by Zinke, and found them all lacking.

For example, the court noted that with respect to Zinke’s “concerns” regarding production wells:

“[C]ounsel for the government essentially conceded that it was in possession of no new facts or data underlying this ‘newfound’ concern.’” (Order, page 14)

Ultimately, the court found:

“[I]t appears that BLM is simply casually ignoring all of its previous findings and arbitrarily changing course.” (Order, page 17, internal quotation omitted)

The court’s careful analysis underscores that these facts matter, and that Zinke cannot ignore the substantial record evidence supporting the common sense standards in the Waste Prevention Rule.

Public input matters

The court also found that Zinke attempted to ignore key input from the public on the suspension of the Waste Prevention Rule by deeming comments on the importance and effectiveness of the Waste Prevention Rule “outside of the scope” of his action. (Order, page 23)

The court found Zinke’s “refus[al] to consider” this important input on “integral” issues was inconsistent with bedrock requirements of administrative law.

The fight to protect these safeguards is not over

The court has now determined that EDF and our allies are “likely to succeed on [our] claim that BLM failed to consider the scope of commentary that it should have in promulgating the Suspension Rule and relied on opinions untethered to evidence.” (Order, page 24)

Next, the case will proceed to the merits stage, in which the court will issue a final decision on the legality of Zinke’s suspension of the Waste Prevention Rule. A schedule has not yet been set for this next phase of the litigation.

However, just as the court was blocking his suspension, Zinke was separately trying to rescind nearly all of the key provisions of the Waste Prevention Rule that he was also trying to suspend.

Zinke acknowledges that this rescission will cost taxpayers millions in lost royalties, and will result in additional emissions of climate-warming methane as well as smog-forming volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants – but he nonetheless is proposing to eliminate the protections in the Waste Prevention Rule.

BLM is accepting public comment on the rescission proposal until April 23. It is important that Zinke continue to hear from the public about the harmful impacts that will result from his actions to remove these common sense protection. Comments on the proposal can be filed here.

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

Mayors across the country announce their opposition to repealing the Clean Power Plan

(EDF’s John Bullock co-authored this post)

236 U.S. Mayors just added their voices to the growing chorus that opposes rolling back the Clean Power Plan.

The mayors represent more than 51 million Americans from 46 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

They just sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt saying:

“[W]e strongly oppose the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would put our citizens at risk and undermine our efforts to prepare for and protect against the worst impacts of climate change.”

The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from power plants. It is the most significant measure to address climate change that our country has taken so far.

Pruitt is now trying to roll back the Clean Power Plan, which would be a huge retreat from EPA’s duty to protect Americans from the increasingly urgent threat of climate change.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan would rob the public of its enormous public health benefits. The Clean Power Plan would prevent 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 childhood asthma attacks, and 300,000 missed school and workdays every year once fully implemented.

The mayors’ letter is just the latest example of the Clean Power Plan’s broad popularity.

In a recent poll, almost 70 percent of Americans — including a majority in every Congressional district — supported setting strict limits on carbon dioxide produced by coal-fired power plants.

And, since Pruitt first proposed repealing the Clean Power Plan, other Americans – state leaders, public health groups, faith leaders, consumer representatives, and concerned citizens – have spoken out.

We’ve kept a list of quotes opposing the Clean Power Plan rollback, affirming a commitment to combating climate change, and supporting strong action to invest in clean energy solutions. You can read the full – and lengthy – list here.

Here are just a few of the comments from America’s elected leaders:

  • “We already get nearly a third of L.A.’s energy from renewable sources, and we're pushing hard to get that number to 100 percent. The Clean Power Plan makes that kind of progress possible everywhere in America, and the President should leave it in place today so that we can build on that momentum tomorrow.” – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, chair of Climate Mayors – the group that organized the letter to EPA.
  • “We have dramatically cleaner air and we are saving money. My question to the EPA would be, ‘Which part of that don’t you like?’” – Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
  • “The Trump Administration’s constant assault on our environment will not diminish Minnesotans’ resolve to build a vibrant clean energy economy.” – Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton
  • “The Trump Administration's move to dismantle the Clean Power Plan is a reckless decision that gives power plant operators free reign to do what they will without any concern for our climate … Climate change is a profound threat to our planet, and it cannot be wished away by denial. There is no denial here in New York.” – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
  • "I am deeply disappointed in the repeal of the Clean Power Plan rule. Oregon will not turn its back on the environment or the thousands of jobs that have been created through the clean energy industry … [W]e’re stepping up, as the federal government steps down from its leadership role in tackling climate change." – Oregon Governor Kate Brown
  • “President Trump has failed his climate IQ test with the repeal of the Clean Power Plan. He is giving up on the economic opportunity that would be unleashed by deploying clean energy technologies in every state of the union.” – Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts
  • “Protecting our environment is critical to our people, businesses & way of life in NH. Scrapping the Clean Power Plan is completely backward.” – Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire
  • “We should meet the challenge of taking on climate change with a state-federal partnership to cut carbon pollution, not walk away from it.” – Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin
  • “At the heart of today’s Clean Power Plan decision is one of the cruelest deceptions perpetrated in politics today: telling the American people that clean air protections are responsible for reduced demand for coal and that getting rid of those protections will create tens of thousands of coal jobs. Both are false.” — Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky
  • “By repealing the #CleanPowerPlan, the Trump administration jeopardizes our health & safety, economic competitiveness, & global leadership.” – Representative Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania
  • “Rescinding the Clean Power Plan will hurt our environment and isolate us on the international stage. The actions today by [Scott Pruitt] do not move us in the right direction toward protecting the planet for our grandchildren.” – Representative Gene Green of Texas

It’s not just elected officials. Here are some notable comments from other experts:

  • “The Trump administration has mangled the costs and benefits of one of the most significant climate regulations of the Obama years in an effort to justify its repeal … these methodological contortions are meant to obscure a very basic truth: that any ‘savings’ achieved by rescinding the Clean Power Plan will come at an incredibly high cost to public health and welfare. If the Trump administration is willing to make that trade, it should at least have the courage to admit it.” – Richard Revesz, Dean Emeritus of New York University Law School, and Jack Lienke, regulatory policy director at the Institute for Policy Integrity
  • “If Trump and Pruitt do succeed in dismantling the Clean Power Plan, people will die. Thousands and thousands of Americans will suffer adverse health effects. And the costs will far outweigh the benefits. Don’t take my word for it, though. Take Scott Pruitt’s. Remarkably, Pruitt’s proposed rollback actually concedes that the health-related costs of abandoning the Clean Power Plan are likely to be staggering.” – Eli Savit, Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School
  • “The energy future is renewables. That is why I led the American Sustainable Business Council effort to file an amicus brief on behalf of that organization and 23 other business organizations in support of the Clean Power Plan.” – Frank Knapp, South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce
  • “The United States has been a leader in environmental policies that move our country and the rest of the world forward. The repeal of the Clean Power Plan represents a major step backwards – one that is deeply harmful to creation and disproportionately unjust to vulnerable groups … [W]e have a mandate from our Creator to steward the earth well and care for creation. We are also called to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. Allowing carbon emissions that have been proven harmful to pollute the atmosphere without limit is morally wrong and rationally illogical.” – Reginald Smith, Christian Reformed Church
  • “Faithfulness to these commands in a warming world requires that we care for God's good world and that we show compassion to those whose very lives are threatened by a changing climate. If our political leaders, many of whom confess our faith, will not take the action necessary to respond to these commands, then the rest of us will." – Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action
  • “The decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan is a direct attack on our health. In the face of this atrocity, our most vulnerable communities will suffer increased adverse health effects from power plant pollution.” – Adrienne Hollis, WE ACT for Environmental Justice
  • “The League is appalled at this irresponsible decision that will have a long-term devastating impact on our planet and health of the American people.” – Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters
  • “Repealing the rule … is a historic step backward. But it’s just the latest move from an administration singularly hostile to environmental and climate protections. Like the decision to leave the Paris Agreement, the White House’s action signals to the world that the United States is unwilling to take the responsibility that comes with being one of the planet’s largest carbon emitters. Nor does it seem like the White House is willing to acknowledge the economic opportunities that come with climate action.” – Brian Sewell, Appalachian Voices
  • “The rollback of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) represents one of the biggest policy errors of this still-young administration — which is saying a lot, considering the record. The action holds out the false promise that the government can save a dying industry by defying common-sense rules to curb harmful emissions from coal-fired plants. That’s like trying to stop the sun from shining or the tide from rolling in.” – Miami Herald Editorial Board

(This post was updated on 3/21/18)

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Partners for Change / Read 2 Responses

Emails indicate Scott Pruitt directed removal of climate info from EPA website

At EDF, we recently gained access to some newly-released emails that provide a troubling glimpse of the efforts to remove information about climate change from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website.

The emails were released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and center on EPA’s website purge of April 2017. They indicate that Administrator Scott Pruitt personally directed efforts to prevent the public from accessing many climate-related EPA web pages.

Along with webpages about climate change and climate science, the purge removed the webpage about the Clean Power Plan — the most significant action that the U.S. has ever taken to address climate change. Gone was information about the Clean Power Plan’s benefits – the lives it would save, the childhood asthma attacks it would prevent, and the way it would bolster America’s overall strategy for combating climate change. Also gone were supporting materials, including EPA’s legal memorandum accompanying the Clean Power Plan and an array of documents presenting the rule’s technical underpinnings.

Instead, the URL for the Clean Power Plan redirected visitors to a page featuring President Trump’s “Energy Independence” executive order.

Emails refer to Pruitt’s personal involvement

In early April 2017, Lincoln Ferguson, a senior adviser to Pruitt, indicated that Pruitt directly ordered the website change.

Ferguson asked in an email:

“How close are we to launching this on the website? The Administrator would like it to go up ASAP. He also has several other changes that need to take place.” (File 2, p. 23)

J.P. Freire, then serving as Pruitt’s Associate Administrator for Public Affairs, responded:

“You can tell him we . . . are just finishing up.” (File 2, p. 23)

Ferguson wrote back:

“Can it happen today?” (File 2, p. 26)

Ferguson quickly followed up to emphasize Pruitt’s personal interest:

“Just asking because he is asking…” (File 2, p. 23)

Scrubbing all traces of the Clean Power Plan

J.P. Freire was emphatic that all Clean Power Plan references should link to the new page about Trump’s executive order.

In a discussion about the new page, he wrote:

“This looks great, and should be on the page for the Clean Power Plan. Any reference to the Clean Power Plan, any link to it, should redirect here.” (File 2, p. 23)

The emails also suggest EPA staff were directed to manipulate search results. Website visitors searching for information about the Clean Power Plan would be diverted to the page promoting Trump’s executive order — instead of what they were actually looking for.

In one conversation, an EPA staff member stated:

“I’ve been asked about search results for the term ‘Clean Power Plan.’”

A colleague responded:

“We can make the Energy Independence homepage a ‘Best Bet’ and thus the first result for Clean Power Plan for our EPA Search engine if you request it.” (File 1, p. 84)

A separate conversation among EPA staff demonstrated just how determined J.P. Freire was to undermine access to the Clean Power Plan page. In that discussion, an EPA staff member recounted a discussion with a colleague about Clean Power Plan search results:

“[S]he said JP wanted to know if ALL of those pages could be redirected.” (File 1, p. 298)

Keeping Americans in the dark, thwarting democratic processes

The website purge at EPA made it harder for the public to access vital information about climate change and public health. It also stymied the public’s ability to engage in democratic processes.

We are currently in the midst of the public comment period on Pruitt’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, but the website purge has obscured access to information about the rule’s purpose and its tremendous benefits for public health and climate security – possibly impeding commenters.

The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which tracks changes to federal websites, has written:

“Anyone valuing the idea of democratic policymaking should demand that public Web resources relevant for regulations should remain readily accessible to the public.”

The website purge reinforces serious concerns that Pruitt has predetermined that he will repeal the Clean Power Plan, and the current rulemaking process is a sham. Instead of listening to the public with an open mind, these emails suggest that Pruitt is personally and directly thwarting meaningful public participation.

The removed webpages are still accessible through various EPA archives, but the archives are a poor substitute. They don’t show up in a search of the EPA website. They’re harder to find with certain search engines, including Google. And they are no longer being updated, which is especially problematic for cutting-edge pages like EPA’s overview of climate science.

The website purge fits Pruitt’s troubling pattern of ruling EPA under a cloak of secrecy. That’s no way to run an agency entrusted with protecting the public health and environment. As part of EDF’s commitment to shining a light on EPA actions, we’ve made these records publicly available in their entirety. We encourage you to contact us if you would like to share observations about the records.

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, News / Comments are closed