Selected category: Setting the Facts Straight

Scott Pruitt, the public has spoken – and it wants health protections, not rollbacks

Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this year, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced an effort to seek public input on EPA safeguards that should be revoked or rolled back to “reduce regulatory burden.”

What was the overwhelming message he heard in response?

Let EPA do its job and protect Americans from dangerous pollution.

Numerous news articles have detailed the tens of thousands of responses EPA received from individual Americans decrying Pruitt’s biased, predetermined effort to gut important safeguards. These public comments are still being uploaded onto an official website — but already there are more than 183,000 of them, and the overwhelming majority are in favor of strong EPA safeguards.

As one comment reminded Pruitt:

Future generations are counting on us to leave an environment that supports good health, and a world worth living in. Don’t jeopardize the progress that has been made by rolling back regulations that are taking us in the right direction. Your job is to protect the environment for the benefit of all, not to squander progress for the financial gain of a few.

Another citizen noted during a listening session:

I actually enjoy breathing clean air and drinking clean water and would find it quite burdensome not to.

It’s well documented that EPA safeguards are an incredible American success story, saving countless lives and improving health across the country. We’ve made tremendous strides in improving air quality, reducing toxic lead and mercury pollution, addressing acid rain, and other remarkable achievements — all while the economy has grown and added jobs.

We still have more work to do though. According to the American Lung Association, more than 125 million Americans live in communities with unhealthy levels of air pollution.

Industry pushes for rollbacks

EPA senior officials are due to present a report to Pruitt today on their progress in identifying safeguards to repeal or roll back – not even two weeks after the rushed public comment period ended.

It’s hard to know if this report will be made public, but we are starting to get a glimpse of the input that Pruitt and his team are hearing from those who oppose vital safeguards.

For instance, the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) 25-page list of requests includes weakening protections against smog and undercutting common-sense standards to curb harmful methane and toxic air pollution from oil and gas production.

API’s list also complains that EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Panel is “biased” because “it can be difficult for industry representatives to be included on the committees.”

As we wrote about in an earlier post, these industry requests come on top of an earlier solicitation by the Trump Administration for industry proposals to roll back protections — one where trade associations brazenly asked for cuts to important health studies and safeguards.

Politicians target safeguards against mercury, smog, and other dangers

One remarkable letter to EPA came from eight state politicians. As has been well documented, while Scott Pruitt was Oklahoma’s Attorney General he spearheaded an intertwined alliance between state attorneys general and major fossil fuel industries — going so far as to submit industry requests to EPA on Oklahoma letterhead and later noting that’s “actually called representative government in my view of the world.”

In the new letter, Pruitt’s attorney general allies detail a list of twenty bedrock safeguards to weaken or eliminate. These include protections against mercury pollution, smog, soot, and many others.

These eight politicians even ask EPA to reject the agency’s science-based conclusion that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare — a conclusion based on an extensive, exhaustive record that was upheld by a federal court of appeals several years ago. Their letter makes no mention of the citizens who would be sickened and harmed by these roll backs.

The signatories are the attorneys general from Michigan, Oklahoma, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisiana, and South Carolina.

Scott Pruitt: don’t put Americans’ health at risk

With EPA’s help, we’ve made remarkable progress in cleaning up our air and water. The American public just delivered a clear and overwhelming message to Scott Pruitt – don’t risk that tremendous progress, or the health of our families, by rolling back EPA safeguards.

Administrator Pruitt should listen.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy, What Others are Saying| Leave a comment

10 Things You Should Know About the Clean Power Plan

Just hours after President Trump signed an executive order to weaken a wide range of America’s important climate and heath protections, the Administration filed a motion to delay the D.C Circuit court’s review of the Clean Power Plan case.

That’s only the first of what we expect will be many attacks on the Clean Power Plan – our only nationwide limit on climate pollution from power plants. However, the Clean Power Plan is popular with Americans across the country, and an extraordinarily broad and diverse group of leaders and experts from across America have announced their support for the Clean Power Plan since the executive order.

You’ll likely be hearing a lot about this story in the near future. While you follow the news, here are 10 things you should know about the Clean Power Plan.

1. The Clean Power Plan is expected to save thousands of lives and protect the health of Americans across the country. According to EPA’s analysis, when fully implemented the Clean Power Plan will:

    • Prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths each year
    • Prevent up to 1,700 heart attacks each year
    • Prevent up to 90,000 asthma attacks each year
    • Prevent up to 300,000 missed work days and school days each year

2. The Clean Power Plan’s pollution reduction targets are eminently achievable.

Carbon pollution from the power sector has decreased by more than 20 percent since 2005, meaning that we’re already more than two-thirds of the way toward meeting the Clean Power Plan standards for 2030. In fact, most states that are litigating against the Clean Power Plan are on track to meet these pollution limits. The Clean Power Plan is essential to ensure that this momentum is sustained and that power sector investments in clean energy are deployed in a way that maximizes their pollution reduction benefits.

3. The Clean Power Plan can reduce electricity bills for families.

The Clean Power Plan gives states and power companies tremendous flexibility in deciding how to meet the pollution reduction targets – including through cost-effective energy efficiency measures that save families money. Independent analyses of the Clean Power Plan have found that average bills could decline by as much as 11 percent as a result of these measures. That’s why leading consumer and ratepayer advocates, including Consumers Union, support the Clean Power Plan.

4. Our vibrant clean energy sector employs millions of Americans and it is thriving.

According to a recent assessment by Advanced Energy Economy, the United States clean energy sector is now a rapidly-growing, $200 billion industry that employs 3.3 million Americans.

5. Clean energy is creating economic opportunities in communities across the nation.

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. AWEA also estimates that wind energy has created more than 25,000 manufacturing jobs in 43 states.

6. The Administration’s promises that revoking climate and clean air protections will bring back coal jobs are false, as the coal industry itself recognizes.

Independent analyses have found that employment in the coal industry has been falling steadily since 1975, due largely to changing methods of coal production and – in more recent years – by competition from inexpensive natural gas. These trends cannot be reversed by revoking the Clean Power Plan or other protections for clean air and clean water. Even coal company executives have acknowledged that the executive order can’t bring mining jobs back.

7. An extraordinarily broad and diverse coalition is supporting the Clean Power Plan in court.

This coalition includes, among others: 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.

8. Large majorities of Americans in red and blue states alike support reducing climate pollution from existing power plants.

According to a recent national poll, 69 percent of Americans support placing limits on climate pollution from existing power plants – including a majority of Americans in every Congressional district in the country.

9. The nation’s leading businesses support policies to reduce climate pollution.

Just this month, over 1,000 companies and investors called on the Trump Administration to continue low-carbon policies, noting that “failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk” and that “the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.”

10. The Clean Power Plan rests on a rock-solid legal foundation.

The Supreme Court has held on three separate occasions that Congress has vested EPA with the responsibility – and the tools – to reduce carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. Numerous legal experts –  including drafters of the Clean Air Act, former EPA Administrators who served under Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bush, and former state energy and environmental officials – have affirmed the strong legal basis for the Clean Power Plan 

Attacks on the Clean Power Plan and our other clean air protections present an unprecedented attack on our children’s health. It takes our nation backwards – to more pollution, more disease – even though Americans support forward progress towards clean air and clean energy.

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Economics, Policy| Comments are closed

How Do We Know That Humans Are Causing Climate Change? These Nine Lines of Evidence

While most Americans acknowledge that climate change is happening, some are still unsure about the causes.

They are often labeled “climate skeptics,” but that label can cause confusion or even anger.

Isn’t the nature of science to be skeptical? Isn’t it good to question everything?

Yes, but —

Here’s what is getting lost in the conversation:

Scientists have been asking these questions for nearly 200 years. The scientific community has been studying these questions for so long that collectively they have amassed an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to a clear conclusion.

A similar situation is smoking and cancer. Nowadays, no one questions the link between smoking and cancer, because the science was settled in the 1960s after more than 50 years of research. The questions have been asked and answered with indisputable evidence.

We can think of the state of human activities and climate change as no different than smoking and cancer. In fact, we are statistically more confident that humans cause climate change than that smoking causes cancer.

Our confidence comes from the culmination of over a century of research by tens of thousands of scientists at hundreds of institutions in more than a hundred nations.

So what is the evidence?

The research falls into nine independently-studied but physically-related lines of evidence, that build to the overall clear conclusion that humans are the main cause of climate change:

  1. Simple chemistry that when we burn carbon-based materials, carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted (research beginning in 1900s)
  2. Basic accounting of what we burn, and therefore how much CO2 we emit (data collection beginning in 1970s)
  3. Measuring CO2 in the atmosphere and trapped in ice to find that it is indeed increasing and that the levels are higher than anything we've seen in hundreds of thousands of years  (measurements beginning in 1950s)
  4. Chemical analysis of the atmospheric CO2 that reveals the increase is coming from burning fossil fuels (research beginning in 1950s)
  5. Basic physics that shows us that CO2 absorbs heat (research beginning in 1820s)
  6. Monitoring climate conditions to find that recent warming of the Earth is correlated to and follows rising CO2 emissions (research beginning in 1930s)
  7. Ruling out natural factors that can influence climate like the Sun and ocean cycles (research beginning in 1830s)
  8. Employing computer models to run experiments of natural vs. human-influenced “simulated Earths” (research beginning in 1960s)
  9. Consensus among scientists that consider all previous lines of evidence and make their own conclusions (polling beginning in 1990s)

(You can also see these nine lines of evidence illustrated in the graphic below)

Skeptics sometimes point to the last two supporting lines of evidence as weaknesses. They’re not. But even if you choose to doubt them, it is really the first seven that, combined, point to human activities as the only explanation of rising global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, and the subsequent climate changes (such as ice melt and sea level rise) that have occurred due to this global warming.

The science is settled, and the sooner we accept this, the sooner we can work together towards addressing the problems caused by climate change – and towards a better future for us all.

 

(Click here for a pdf version of the graphic)

 

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Science| Read 39 Responses

Scott Pruitt Peddles Junk Science to Serve Trump’s Anti-Climate Agenda

This week has brought alarming indications that the Trump Administration is poised to roll back life-saving, common-sense climate protections with no plan for replacing them — and that the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejects basic facts about climate change and the clean air laws he is charged with carrying out.

These developments fundamentally threaten efforts to address climate change – the direst environmental challenge of our time.

News reports say that President Trump is on the verge of signing an executive order aimed at revoking the Clean Power Plan – the only national limits on climate-destabilizing carbon pollution from existing power plants, which are our nation’s largest source of these emissions.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt did an interview with CNBC in which he made the wildly inaccurate statement that there’s “tremendous disagreement” about the role climate pollution plays in climate change, and said that he does “not agree that [carbon dioxide] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

And in a second interview, on Fox Business, Pruitt questioned whether EPA has “the tools in the tool box to address [climate change],” and said “Congress has never spoken on this issue” — even though the Supreme Court has determined that the Clean Air Act, which was passed by Congress, does provide those “tools.”

Pruitt does not have a scientific background — just an extensive history of bringing highly politicized lawsuits against environmental protections, and of using his public office on behalf of the fossil fuel interests that have helped fund his political career.

His statements are not just false and misleading representations of climate science. They also call into question whether he can faithfully discharge his clear responsibility under our nation’s clean air laws to protect the public from climate pollution.

Pruitt Is Wrong on Climate Science

The U.S. government’s leading scientific agencies have conclusively determined that climate change is “due primarily to human activities” and is already manifesting itself in rising sea levels, heat waves, more intense storms, and other severe impacts felt by communities across the country.

Just in the last year, respected scientists have reported that the impact of human emissions on climate change is evident in February heat waves, devastating Louisiana storms, and flooded coastal communities.

Contrary to Pruitt’s statement that there’s “tremendous disagreement” about human impacts on climate, there is overwhelming scientific consensus that human emissions of carbon dioxide are destabilizing our climate. This consensus has been affirmed by many of our nation’s most respected scientists and scientific institutions, including:

NASA

Humans have increased atmospheric CO2 concentration by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution began. This is the most important long-lived ‘forcing’ of climate change. – NASA website

The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. – NASA press release

U.S. National Academy of Sciences

Direct measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere and in air trapped in ice show that atmospheric CO2 increased by about 40% from 1800 to 2012. Measurements of different forms of carbon … reveal that this increase is due to human activities. Other greenhouse gases (notably methane and nitrous oxide) are also increasing as a consequence of human activities. The observed global surface temperature rise since 1900 is consistent with detailed calculations of the impacts of the observed increase in atmospheric CO2 (and other human-induced changes) on Earth’s energy balance. – Climate Change: Evidence & Causes, page 5 (issued jointly with the Royal Society)

U.S. Global Change Research Program

Evidence from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans, collected by scientists and engineers from around the world, tells an unambiguous story: the planet is warming, and over the last half century, this warming has been driven primarily by human activity — predominantly the burning of fossil fuels. – U.S. Global Change Research Program website

More than 800 Earth Scientists (in a letter to then-President-Elect Donald Trump)

Publicly acknowledge that climate change is a real, human-caused, and urgent threat. If not, you will become the only government leader in the world to deny climate science. Your position will be at odds with virtually all climate scientists, most economists, military experts, fossil fuel companies and other business leaders, and the two-thirds of Americans worried about this issue. – scientists’ letter

Pruitt either refuses to accept this science, or is unaware of it – and either possibility presents a huge problem for the nation’s top environmental official.

Pruitt Has a Legal Obligation to Protect the Public from Climate Pollution

Pruitt’s assertions that “Congress has not spoken” on climate change and that EPA may lack the “tools” to address the issue show that he is just as wrong on the law as he is on climate science.

Our nation’s clean air laws require EPA to protect public health and well-being from all forms of dangerous pollution, and the Supreme Court has recognized on three separate occasions that this responsibility clearly applies to carbon dioxide and other climate-destabilizing pollutants. Contrary to Pruitt’s comments, the courts have consistently found that Congress has directly “spoken” to the issue of climate change by vesting EPA with broad responsibility and tools to address this and other emerging threats to human health and welfare.  And EPA has, in fact, put these tools into practice over the last few years by establishing common-sense protections that are reducing pollution, protecting public health, and strengthening our economy – including fuel efficiency and emission standards for cars and trucks, emission standards for power plants, and standards for oil and gas facilities.

In Massachusetts v. EPA, decided a decade ago, the Supreme Court found “without a doubt” that EPA is authorized to regulate carbon dioxide and other climate pollutants under the Clean Air Act:

Because greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act’s capacious definition of ‘air pollutant,’ we hold that EPA has the statutory authority to regulate the emission of such gases from new motor vehicles. — Massachusetts v. EPA, 2007

The Supreme Court then ordered EPA to make a science-based determination as to whether carbon dioxide and other climate pollutants endanger public health and welfare. In 2009 – after an exhaustive review of the scientific literature and over 380,000 public comments – EPA released its nearly 1,000-page finding that climate pollutants posed such a danger.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld this finding against a barrage of legal attacks by polluters and their allies (including a lawsuit by Scott Pruitt, who was then Attorney General of Oklahoma). The Supreme Court allowed that decision to stand without further review.

Two years after EPA made its determination, the Supreme Court unanimously decided in American Electric Power v. Connecticut that section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act – the provision that EPA relied upon in issuing the Clean Power Plan – clearly authorizes EPA to regulate emissions from existing power plants:

[Massachusetts v. EPA] 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 [Clean Air] Act ‘speaks directly’ to emissions of carbon dioxide from the defendants’ plants. – American Electric Power v. Connecticut (2011)

And in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA in 2014 the Supreme Court once again affirmed EPA’s responsibility to address climate pollution by finding that the Clean Air Act requires new and modified industrial facilities to adopt limits on climate pollution. Notably, at the oral arguments in both American Electric Power v. Connecticut and Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, attorneys for some of the same coal-based power companies that now oppose the Clean Power Plan recognized EPA’s authority to regulate climate pollution from power plants.

As George W. Bush’s former EPA Administrator, Christine Todd Whitman, said in a recent interview:

I think, as a matter of law, that carbon is a pollutant has been settled. – (Climatewire, The Clean Power Plan is gone — and there's no 'replace' – March 9, 2017)

Notably, Scott Pruitt told the Senate under oath that he would abide by this framework. He specifically said that Massachusetts v. EPA and the Endangerment Finding are the “law of the land” and that “the endangerment finding is there and needs to be enforced and respected.” Pruitt ought to keep that testimony in mind should he try to attack the bedrock legal principles requiring EPA to protect the public from harmful climate pollution.

The Facts Are Clear

There is scientific consensus that human emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate pollutants are driving dangerous climate change. And under our nation’s clean air laws, EPA is required to protect Americans from this pollution – a responsibility that Pruitt’s predecessors have carried out by taking common-sense, cost-effective steps to reduce pollution from power plants, cars and trucks, oil and gas facilities, and other sources.

It’s outrageous and unacceptable that the principal federal official charged with carrying out this solemn responsibility is relying on “alternative facts” peddled by climate deniers to shirk his responsibility under the law.

 

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Energy, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, Science| Read 3 Responses

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, EPA litgation, News, Policy| Comments are closed

Misguided Regulatory Accountability Act Will Increase Red Tape, Obstruct Vital Safeguards for Millions of Americans

New legislative proposals on the Hill put long-standing public health, safety and environmental protections at risk.

These so-called “regulatory reform” efforts sound innocuous, but they would dramatically increase red tape and industry lobbyist influence – eviscerating bedrock statutory protections for American communities.

Take just one example – the Senate version of the Regulatory Accountability Act from 2015, which is widely seen as a potential foundation for legislation in this new Congress.

With this legislation, the development of any new protections – new clean air protections, new food safety requirements, new care standards for veterans, new child safety regulations – would be subject to a range of needless additional hurdles. And if the protections couldn’t get through the hurdles in time, then the whole process would have to start again, from scratch. Important safeguards would face time-consuming, costly new burdens – burdens that would fall on the public, on businesses, and anyone trying to participate in the decision-making process.

These additional, costly hurdles will give powerful interests that can afford expensive lawyers a leg up in the rulemaking process – allowing them to delay and obstruct protections they don’t like, as well as boosting their chances of fighting in court – while tilting the playing field against everyone else.

Here’s a head-spinning diagram showing what the process for drafting a new safeguard would look like if this proposed legislation became law:

Here are just some of the burdensome new requirements included in the 2015 version of this legislation:

Paralysis by Analysis to Derail Vital Safeguards

The Regulatory Accountability Act would impose needless analytic requirements on proposed new protections that would add a heavy burden without any benefit. Agencies already exhaustively assess the costs and benefits of new protections, but this legislation would require agencies to analyze and compare a potentially limitless number of proposed alternatives to the plan they think is best, using a variety of new, additional analyses.

A new crib safety regulation, for example, put forth in response to evidence of a real threat to babies, might have to wait years while an agency completed a host of vague, undefined analyses for each alternative proposed by industry — as detailed in the diagram above. A court would then have broad authority to scrutinize the analyses’ adequacy, giving industry attorneys another chance to challenge and block important safeguards.

Thumb on the Scale Against Protecting Americans from Serious Harm

Not surprisingly, within the very long list of additional requirements in the Regulatory Accountability Act, there’s barely a hint of considering any of the benefits of health and safety protections – healthier and safer lives, stronger communities, new jobs in clean energy and health and safety fields, among many others.

Least Common Denominator

Under the Regulatory Accountability Act, at the initiation of rulemaking an agency would have to solicit alternatives for accomplishing the objectives of the agency “with the lowest cost.” For many rules, the agency would generally be required to adopt the least-costly option considered – regardless of the benefits of the different options.

Under this reasoning, a drinking water protection that imposes no costs would beat out one that imposes $1 in costs, even if the latter yielded substantially better protection and major health benefits.

While the Regulatory Accountability Act would permit an agency to adopt a rule that is “more costly than the least costly alternative,” it would only be authorized where the agency has completed additional burdensome analysis and explanation that would be subject to challenge in court – creating obvious pressure to default to the least protective approach.

More generally, this rigid requirement would override existing laws and leave safeguards more vulnerable to challenge in court from those opposed to protection.

Science on Trial

The Regulatory Accountability Act would allow anyone to request a formal hearing on the record with cross-examination of the parties over disputed facts. This addition would amount to a trial-like procedure at the proposal stage, and could be invoked in a wide range of circumstances. Echoing a theme of this legislation, the burden of proof would be against protection. There’s no clarity about what counts as a disputed fact – meaning that this burdensome, needless exercise could be invoked to rehash long-settled issues about health and environmental risks.

Consider a new air pollution protection – EPA might now be subject to an entire hearing procedure to re-prove that smog causes asthma attacks and other lung diseases. This requirement would add major delays and costs to implementation of any protection, and would put industry and other moneyed interests at a considerable advantage over organizations and individuals who are less able to retain expensive lawyers and expert witnesses.

Less Science, More Cost

The Regulatory Accountability Act includes new requirements for the publication of any and all data that an agency requests, receives, or relies on during a rulemaking process. Transparency is important – and it is a foundation of current rulemaking processes. But these requirements have significant similarities with the misguided Secret Science bill that has been considered in past Congressional terms in that it is incompatible both with ethical and legal requirements to keep personal health records confidential and is designed to obstruct consideration of major rigorous peer reviewed studies that properly rely on but do not disclose private individual health data.

Safeguard Guillotine

Under the proposed legislation, if an agency cannot meet newly imposed deadlines for finalizing a rule, it gets one extension. If the agency misses the second deadline, the proposal is null and void, and the agency must start over from scratch. No exceptions — not for veterans, not for airplane safety, not for children’s health, not for common sense, none. The agency must re-propose and start over from square one.

These arbitrary deadlines would be challenging to meet even under current procedures. With all the requirements imposed by this bill, anyone opposed to a new safeguard would have innumerable opportunities to drag out the process and force an agency to miss this arbitrary deadline – derailing vital safeguards and sending expert agencies back to the drawing board.

The Result: More Red Tape, Less Protection for Our Communities and Families

Why are supporters of this legislation arguing for more red tape?

The Regulatory Accountability Act is not designed to streamline and improve the regulatory process. It’s designed to bog down development of any new safeguard — any new protection. This bill offers countless new hurdles that can block new safeguards, or create new grounds for litigation and lawsuits. For big polluters, that would be great news.

For everyone else, this legislation would mean more delay, more burden, and more uncertainty in establishing basic protections. Many of these requirements substantially increase barriers for ordinary citizens and small businesses to participate and inform the decision-making process. The result, in practice, would be that big-money interests would have a big edge in influencing final decisions, at the expense of small businesses and everyday citizens.

 

Also posted in Clean Air Act, News, Policy| Comments are closed
  • About this blog

    Expert to expert commentary on the science, law and economics of climate change and clean air.

  • Get blog posts by email

    Subscribe via RSS

  • Categories

  • Meet The Bloggers