States and Power Companies Lead the Way on the Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan is now officially in business, and protecting the health and safety of all Americans.

The Clean Power Plan establishes America’s first-ever nationwide limits on harmful carbon pollution from our nation’s largest source, power plants. It builds on years of stakeholder engagement and input, and adopts a flexible approach that empowers states to develop their own individually tailored compliance plans that reflect their own policy priorities.

States have tremendous flexibility to minimize costs and maximize the public health and economic benefits of state-based solutions to reduce harmful carbon pollution.

States in the Driver’s Seat

Not surprisingly, states from Michigan to Colorado have recognized the benefits of submitting state-forged compliance plans under this flexible framework.

Despite misguided political efforts to pressure them to “just say no,” state officials are constructively engaging and developing solutions — and in the process, demonstrating leadership and innovation.

In the months since the Clean Power Plan was released, state policymakers have made clear that they intend to lead. Let’s take a closer look:

The Republican Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, indicating Michigan would comply with the Clean Power Plan, said:

The best way to protect Michigan is to develop a state plan that reflects Michigan’s priorities of adaptability, affordability, reliability and protection of the environment. We need to seize the opportunity to make Michigan’s energy decisions in Lansing…

Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania said:

My administration is committed to making the Clean Power Plan work for Pennsylvania… Working with the legislature, industry leaders and citizens we will create a plan to ensure these new rules are applied fairly, allow for adjustments, and that they create economic opportunities for the commonwealth’s energy economy. Today’s plan sets ambitious but achievable goals for reducing carbon emissions statewide and addressing climate change in fair and smart ways that takes into account legitimate concerns of all parties.

Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado said:

We realize these are ambitious goals and may be challenging for Colorado, but we have risen to these challenges before by developing a mix of cost-effective strategies across the energy spectrum. We will continue our work with utilities and communities to meet these new federal requirements while preserving affordable energy rates. Clean air is important to all of Colorado and building on the work that’s already done, we will continue on the path of improving our local air quality.

Governor Jerry Brown of California said:

I welcome this bold and absolutely necessary carbon reduction plan. California is fully engaged in tackling climate change, and we look forward to working with other states and the White House as we implement these new mandates.

Power Companies Are Working With States to Craft Compliance Plans

Major power companies have also recognized the opportunities available with home-grown compliance plans that fully harvest state flexibility and the potential of a low-carbon economy. Xcel Energy, for example, just announced plans to cut carbon emissions across its Northern States Power system by 60 percent by 2030, at negligible cost to consumers.

Calpine stated:

The Clean Power Plan represents a commitment to continuing the transition from carbon intensive generation to efficient, low-carbon generation …This flexible, market-based solution will reward the companies that invest and have invested smartly in cleaner generation. We applaud the EPA for its efforts throughout this collaborative process and look forward to working with the agency, states and other stakeholders as the rule is ultimately implemented.

Xcel Energy stated:

We appreciate the EPA’s willingness to work with stakeholders in developing this groundbreaking and complex set of regulations. It will take time to thoroughly review and assess the full impact of the rules. While we expect the Clean Power Plan does not provide everything we hoped for in terms of fully recognizing the early actions of proactive states and utilities, Xcel Energy is ready to move ahead. We look forward to working with our states in the best interest of our customers, ensuring we continue to meet their expectations for clean, reliable and affordable power.

PSEG stated they support the Clean Power Plan:

We are pleased with the recognition that energy efficiency is an important tool to reducing greenhouse gases. We understand states may be incentivized to promote energy efficiency for low-income customers as an early tool to reduce greenhouse gases. We believe utilities can play a critical role in making sure that all energy users — especially low and moderate income customers who need it most — have access to energy efficiency.

NV Energy stated, upon release of the final Clean Power Plan:

We supported the rule as it was proposed in June 2014, including the building block and flexible compliance concepts. We do not anticipate a significant impact on our customer rates as we move towards reliable renewable generation methods and reducing our emissions.

NextEra stated, upon Governor Snyder’s announcement:

As the nation’s leading renewable energy developer, owner and operator, with a significant presence in Michigan, we take great pride in developing and operating projects that are environmentally responsible and economically viable. We applaud Governor Snyder’s efforts and are in complete support of Michigan submitting a state implementation plan as part of EPA’s Clean Power Plan. We look forward to working with the State of Michigan and doing what we can to help the state cost-effectively meet the goals set out in the Clean Power Plan.

There is also broad business and investor support for the Clean Power Plan, with 365 companies from 29 states signing letters in support of the Clean Power Plan in July, saying:

Our support is firmly grounded in economic reality. Clean energy solutions are cost effective and innovative ways to drive investment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increasingly, businesses rely on renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions to cut costs and improve corporation performance.

State officials, power companies, and businesses across the country recognize the importance of stepping up to the plate, thoughtfully shaping the path to reduce dangerous carbon pollution while charting their own clean energy future, and capitalizing on the substantial opportunity the Clean Power Plan presents.

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Partners for Change| Comments are closed

Polluters are Making the Same Old “Sky is Falling” Claims about the Clean Power Plan

The ink wasn’t even dry on the Clean Power Plan before some power companies filed lawsuits to challenge these historic public health protections.

One of their key complaints? How much the Clean Power Plan is allegedly going to cost.

In their court filing, these companies claimed that they’ll potentially need to spend “billions of dollars” to comply.

Click to expand infographic

This tactic is nothing new, and it’s something we often hear when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues a new regulation that will provide cleaner, healthier air for our communities and families.

But it’s almost always wrong.

In defiance of the “sky is falling” predictions, American industry innovates and figures out ways to comply with new, healthier standards at a fraction of the costs initially projected.

This is exactly what occurred with EPA’s life-saving Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which are providing crucial reductions of toxic air pollutants including mercury, hydrochloric acid and arsenic from our nation’s power plants.

After EPA proposed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in 2011, FirstEnergy told its investors that it expected to spend between $2 billion and $3 billion dollars to comply with the clean air standards.

A little later that same year, FirstEnergy cut its estimate roughly in half — to between $1.3 billion and $1.7 billion.

Fast forward to February 2015 (just two months before the initial deadline to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards), and FirstEnergy announced that it would spend $370 million on compliance.

In other words, its highest initial cost estimate was more than eight times higher than its actual costs.

Similarly, AEP’s highest initial cost estimate for compliance with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards was as much as two times higher than its later assessment of actual compliance costs.

These two companies are just a few of the power companies that have decreased their cost estimates for complying with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and other public health and environmental standards, in recent years.

The tens of billions of dollars in expected health benefits from the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards has not decreased, though.

It will save thousands of lives every year, prevent heart attacks and asthma attacks, and help protect the hundreds of thousands of babies born in America every year who are exposed to unsafe levels of mercury in the womb.

It’s important that we keep in mind these misguided “sky is falling” claims about environmental compliance costs as EPA carries out its responsibilities under the nation’s clean air laws to address climate pollution from power plants.

The time tested history of the Clean Air Act is quite the opposite of the “sky is falling” – the sky is clearing, and at far less than the costs predicted by industry.

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Comments are closed

A Look at the Strong Legal Foundation of the Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon publish the Clean Power Plan in the Federal Register. The Clean Power Plan is a suite of historic Clean Air Act standards that will establish the first nationwide limits on carbon pollution from America’s fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, accounting for almost 40 percent of the country’s carbon pollution. There is enormous potential for the power sector to reduce pollution by shifting to clean sources of energy – with immense benefits for the health of our families and communities, for creating jobs and strengthening the American economy, and for safeguarding our planet for our children. EPA projects that the Clean Power Plan will have total climate and public health benefits of up to $54 billion per year by 2030 – benefits that include saving up to 3,500 lives and avoiding 90,000 childhood asthma attacks each year.

These standards not only have huge benefits, they are eminently achievable. On a national basis, the power sector has already reduced carbon pollution emissions by 15 percent since 2005, a faster rate of reduction than the Clean Power Plan requires. Many states around the country are well on their way towards meeting the emission limits set forth in the Clean Power Plan, in large part due to policies and investment decisions that are already helping drive lower emissions. A recent analysis by EDF, for example, found that the state of Texas will achieve 88 percent of its Clean Power Plan target based solely on “business as usual” trends in the Texas power sector.

Like many recent Clean Air Act standards, the Clean Power Plan is likely to face a number of legal challenges from polluters and their allies who oppose reasonable limits on carbon pollution. A handful of premature legal challenges were filed before EPA even signed the final version the rule – challenges that were rejected by a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. A separate challenge brought by the State of Oklahoma was dismissed by an Oklahoma federal district court judge, and a related motion by Oklahoma to block the Clean Power Plan was denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. And after EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan in August, several states and a major coal producer unsuccessfully sued to block the implementation of the rule.

Although more legal challenges will surely come upon the rule’s publication, the Clean Power Plan rests on a solid legal foundation and is wholly consistent with past Clean Air Act rules addressing the power sector – as many of the nation’s leading legal experts have noted since the Clean Power Plan was first proposed, including the author of section 111(d), numerous state Attorneys General, and the EPA General Counsel in the Bush administration.

EPA Has Clear Authority to Regulate Carbon Pollution from the Power Sector

EPA’s authority – and responsibility – to regulate carbon pollution from the power sector under the Clean Air Act is well-established. The Supreme Court has affirmed EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act three times since 2007. In American Electric Power v. Connecticut (2011), the Supreme Court specifically held that section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act – the provision that underlies the Clean Power Plan – “speaks directly” to the regulation of carbon pollution from existing power plants.

This conclusion was, in fact, stated before the Supreme Court by attorneys for some of the nation’s largest power companies – who declared unequivocally at oral argument that EPA has authority to regulate carbon pollution from the power sector under section 111(d):

“We believe that the EPA can consider, as it's undertaking to do, regulating existing nonmodified sources under section 111 of the Clean Air Act, and that's the process that's engaged in now… Obviously, at the close of that process there could be APA challenges on a variety of grounds, but we do believe that they have the authority to consider standards under section 111.” – (Counsel for petitioners in AEP v. Connecticut)

In the lawsuits that were recently rejected by the D.C. Circuit court, coal companies and some states alleged that EPA is prohibited from regulating carbon pollution from the power sector – on the grounds that EPA is regulating mercury and other toxic pollutants from the power sector under a different section of the Clean Air Act. This “pick your poison” theory of the Clean Air Act not only ignores the Supreme Court’s ruling in AEP v. Connecticut, it rests on a selective and distorted reading of the law that ignores the Clean Air Act’s text, structure, and history.

The Clean Power Plan Rests on a Solid Legal and Technical Foundation

The Clean Power Plan is fully consistent with the “cooperative federalism” approach that EPA has applied under section 111(d) for nearly forty years, under which EPA issues minimum environmental standards that reflect the “best system of emission reduction” for existing sources, while giving states the opportunity to decide how best to meet those requirements through state plans.

In the Clean Power Plan, EPA has issued nationwide standards for carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel power plants – standards that are firmly grounded in proven, cost-effective technologies that power companies and states have already been successfully using to reduce carbon pollution, such as improving the efficiency of existing power plants and shifting generation to low or zero-emitting facilities. At the same time, the Clean Power Plan provides the states with tremendous flexibility in deciding how to achieve these targets – including the ability to use streamlined, highly cost-effective regulatory approaches similar to those used by EPA and the states under other successful Clean Air Act programs.

Opponents of the Clean Power Plan have made a host of hyperbolic claims about this common-sense approach, arguing that it amounts to a federal “takeover” of state energy policy and that it departs from the intent of the Clean Air Act. These claims are false.

Under EPA’s flexible approach, states can achieve the carbon pollution targets through streamlined, cost-effective air pollution regulations, such as emissions trading programs, that apply only to fossil fuel-fired power plants and that are compatible with a range of state energy policies. Ten states are already using such approaches to limit carbon pollution from power plants, and more than two dozen states are using such approaches to address sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from existing power plants under EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule – which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2014 against vigorous legal challenges.

EPA’s approach comports with the language of section 111(d), reflects approaches that states and power companies are already using to reduce carbon pollution, and is wholly consistent with other Clean Air Act programs for the power sector.

As required by the Clean Air Act, EPA also exhaustively analyzed the Clean Power Plan to ensure that it is based on the best available technical information and will not compromise the affordable, reliable supply of electricity. EPA’s review of the millions of comments it received on every aspect of the proposed version of the Clean Power Plan has only strengthened the technical foundations of the final rule.

Legal Experts Confirm the Strong Legal Basis for the Clean Power Plan

Many of the nation’s leading law enforcement officials, former EPA officials, and prominent legal scholars have concluded that the Clean Power Plan is firmly within EPA’s long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act.

A few illustrative statements include:

  • “The Text, Structure, and History of the Clean Air Act Confirm EPA’s Authority to Regulate Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Power Plants Under Section 111(d).” — Attorneys General of the States of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, in brief filed in Murray Energy Corp. v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-1112 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 23, 2014)
  • “The new rules set reasonable limits on emissions of climate change pollution from new and existing power plants and are firmly grounded in law.” — George Jepsen, Attorney General of Connecticut, Gov. Malloy, Attorney General Jepsen, Commissioner Klee Statements on EPA Rule on Pollution from Power Plants
  • “The EPA has authority under the 1990 Clean Air Act, an authority affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, to set these public health protections against carbon pollution.” — Carol M. Browner, former EPA Administrator, and Alex Laskey, President & Founder, Opower, With New Power Plant Rules, Energy Efficiency Checks All the Boxes
  • “Limiting Greenhouse Gas emissions from existing power plants is the next logical step after the Supreme Court and other courts have upheld EPA’s authority and obligation to address this issue. A system-wide approach provides needed flexibility and reduces costs, as well as encouraging investment in lower-emitting generation. EPA has wisely left the states a lot of discretion rather than mandating specific measures as some had wanted.” — E. Donald Elliott, EPA General Counsel under President George H.W. Bush, Obama’s Section 111d Plan Has Support From George H.W. Bush’s EPA General Counsel, Utility Executives
  •  “There is just case law building on case law that says, [the Clean Power Plan] is perfectly constitutional.” — Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, Harvard Law's Lazarus and Freeman discuss federal court Power Plan hearing, Tribe arguments
  • “Clean Air Act regulations of existing power plants implemented by presidents of both parties over the past quarter of a century have achieved vitally important protections for public health and the environment through regulatory tools carefully designed to minimize costs. By following in the footsteps of earlier rules, the Clean Power Plan could be similarly transformative. The claim that it is unprecedented and unconstitutional is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law.” — Richard Revesz, Dean Emeritus and Lawrence King Professor of Law, NYU School of Law, Obama’s professor on Clean Power Plan – Wrong on the facts and law
  •  “[T]he EPA stands an excellent chance of prevailing in this epic showdown. And for the good of the planet and the welfare of future generations, one can only hope it will.” — Patrick Parenteau, Professor, Vermont Law School, The Clean Power Plan Will Survive: Part 2
  •  “[I]t is important to be clear here: the President is required to issue the rules, required by law and by the interpretation of the law by the highest Court in the land.” — Ann Carlson, Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law, UCLA School of Law, Obama Has to Issue Climate Change Rules — The Law Says So

Many experts have also concluded that requests for courts to block (or “stay”) the Clean Power Plan during the period of litigation are likely to fail:

  • “I think the deadlines [in the Clean Power Plan] are sufficiently far in the future that there's no need for a stay here, the court is certainly going to be able to decide this case before the deadlines.” — Robert Percival, Robert F. Stanton Professor of Law and Director, Environmental Law Program, University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law, EPA, Clean Power Plan Foes Gird For Court Fight
  • “[T]he EPA’s rule includes generous compliance deadlines . . . Challengers will be hard-pressed to persuade anyone they merit a stay.” Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and Richard Lazarus, Howard and Katherine Aibel Professor of Law, Harvard University, The Biggest Risk to Obama's Climate Plan May Be Politics, Not the Courts

EPA Has an Extensive Record of Success in Defending Clean Air Act Rules

Almost all of the major Clean Air Act rules that have so successfully protected human health and the environment in recent years have undergone intense legal challenges – and EPA has a great track record in defending these rules in the courts.

Consider these recent examples:

  • EPA v. EME Homer City Generation (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014) — In a major victory for EPA, the Supreme Court reversed a D.C. Circuit decision invalidating the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. In early 2015, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule took effect in states across the Eastern United States – protecting millions of Americans from power sector emissions that contribute to harmful particulate matter and smog pollution.
  • Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014) — The Supreme Court upheld EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act requiring that new and modified industrial facilities obtain permits limiting their emissions of greenhouse gases to reflect “best available control technology.” The Court did rule against EPA on the question of whether the “best available control technology” requirement applies to smaller facilities. However, EPA itself had concluded those requirements would pose serious practical problems and yield relatively small pollution control benefits.
  • Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA (D.C. Circuit, 2012) — The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld EPA’s science-based finding that climate pollution endangers public health and welfare, and EPA’s first generation of greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger vehicles. The Supreme Court declined to review either of these critical holdings, laying the groundwork for subsequent rules reducing greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles and medium and heavy duty trucks.
  • Delta Construction Co. v. EPA (D.C. Circuit, 2015) — The D.C. Circuit dismissed, on procedural grounds, multiple legal challenges to EPA’s first greenhouse gas standards for medium and heavy duty vehicles.
  • National Association of Manufacturers v. EPA (D.C. Circuit, 2014) — EPA fended off challenges to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter (better known as soot).

The health and environmental benefits of the Clean Power Plan will be invaluable. As EPA prepares for the inevitable legal attacks, it has a strong legal foundation and a track record of litigation success.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, Policy| Comments are closed

Driving Truck Efficiency with Smart Standards: Innovative Companies On How It Can Be Done

(This post originally appeared on EDF+Business)

The deadline to provide public comment on new greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for large highway trucks and buses—jointly proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)—is quickly approaching. Overall, the proposed new fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards have been heralded by shippers and others. And a majority of Americans — 71 percent — favor requiring truck manufacturers to increase the fuel efficiency of large trucks because it would reduce fuel costs, with much of the savings passed on to consumers.

DTNA Super Truck HighOne of the most interesting developments, however, has been how innovative companies are stepping forward to remind EPA and NHTSA that the technologies needed to meet the proposed standards are already available and the agencies should go further to drive the deployment of more advanced technologies.

What’s being said?

It’s critical to consider the perspective of the companies that are actively developing and deploying advanced transportation technologies – these are the companies that will help lead the way towards cleaner and more efficient transportation. These companies are calling on the agencies to finalize a stronger program that will advance innovative technologies and drive down costs.

  • Achates Power: “We support the EPA’s intent to establish standards based not only on currently available technologies, but also based on technologies now under development or not yet widely deployed. We view the proposed engine standard, however, as too modest – so modest that it may not achieve the agencies’ explicit objective of spurring advanced technology deployment.” “We propose an engine standard requiring a 15 percent decrease in fuel consumption and emissions. That goal is not only attainable with the technology we have already demonstrated but is, in fact, our plan.”
  • Orange EV: “We support the efforts by EPA and NHTSA to address greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency in this proposed rule, but encourage the agencies to adopt stronger standards and full implementation as soon as possible. Targeting incremental improvements by 2027 may be slower than achievable.” “Orange EV has been driving innovation and sustainability in the transportation industry, now filling customer orders and deploying zero-emission, battery powered trucks.”
  • Parker Hannifin Corporation: “It is important to note that the 40% reduction in fuel consumption and emissions in Class 6-8 vehicles proposed in the new rule is not something for the future. It is happening now. Parker has developed and is actively marketing a hydraulic hybrid medium- and heavy-duty vehicle transmission that is currently achieving and surpassing the 40% reduction in fuel consumption and emissions sought in the new rule.”
  • Prevok Solutions Company, the exclusive US sales and market development entity for Smith Electric Vehicles: “[Prevok] strongly supports the Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles as proposed by EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fact, we encourage the agencies to adopt stronger standards and full implementation by 2024.” “Rulemaking by EPA and NHTSA should serve to help the US thrive economically and sustainably, while advancing clean technologies and driving innovation.”
  • Transportation Power: “We are demonstrating today that zero-emissions transportation technology in the freight sector is viable, achievable, and even preferable for fleets to traditional technologies.” “The rule, as is, would lock the status quo for technology until 2030. Please consider strengthening the proposed standards and revising the timeline for full implementation to 2024.”
  • Momentum Wireless Power: “Strong fuel efficiency standards are good for American manufacturing because they stimulate innovation, making U.S. businesses more competitive globally. Through partnerships with the Department of Energy, major manufacturers have proven fuel economy ratings of over 12 mpg are achievable for combination tractors through advanced technologies.”

Other leaders in sustainable transportation have emphasized that the standards should “further support zero emission technologies” (US Hybrid, Long Beach public testimony), and in fact, Transportation Power drove to one of the public hearings on the proposed standards in a zero emission Class 8 heavy-duty truck to showcase that solutions for vocational trucks are available today.

Why more robust truck efficiency standards are being heralded

The proposed new standards will build on the first-ever Phase 1 fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards finalized in 2011 for model year 2014-2018 heavy-duty trucks and buses. As proposed, the standards will provide significant benefits to consumers and businesses by reducing transportation costs and cutting harmful climate and air pollution.

However, the performance standards proposed do not reflect – and mobilize —  the full suite of cost-effective innovative technologies available to improve efficiency across the heavy-duty fleet. Instead, the standards will lock in today’s technologies until 2030 – meaning we’ll have to wait another 15 years before we can accelerate advanced technologies. And we know the difference fifteen years can make (in 2000, for example, trucks were 90+ percent dirtier than they are today, and barely half of the US population was online, compared to 84 percent today!).

Strong standards unleash potential of these and other companies to innovate and bring new solutions to market.  As these solutions scale, these companies will grow and create more, high-quality jobs. That’s why so many innovative companies are calling on the US government to seize this opportunity to finalize standards that drive American innovation and ingenuity.

EDF agrees with these innovators that more can be done, and we urge EPA and NHTSA to finalize robust standards that provide the economic, environmental and public health benefits needed to protect our communities and families.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Partners for Change, Policy| Read 1 Response

We Need the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in Place to Continue to Provide Their Life-Saving Protections

power-plant-815799_1280Last week, EDF went to court to help make sure that the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards can continue protecting American families and communities.

EDF joined a broad group of state and local governments, public health and medical associations including the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and environmental groups – who all jointly filed a motion asking the D.C. Circuit Court to leave the life-saving protections in place while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responds to a recent Supreme Court decision.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards set the first-ever national limits on hazardous air pollution from their largest source – fossil fuel-fired power plants. The protections cover pollutants including mercury, arsenic, chromium, and hydrochloric acid gas. These pollutants are dangerous to human health even in small doses — mercury causes brain damage in children, metal toxics like chromium and nickel cause cancer, and acid gases cause respiratory problems.

But in June, the Supreme Court held that EPA should have considered costs in its threshold assessment whether it is “necessary and appropriate” to move forward with the regulation of these toxics – EPA had considered costs in establishing the resulting emissions standards. The Supreme Court did not overturn the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, it provided for EPA to take corrective action.

Right now, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards — which would save an estimated 11,000 lives each year — remain in effect and continue to deliver clean air protections for our nation.

However, opponents of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are asking the D.C. Circuit Court to halt the implementation of these safeguards while EPA responds to the High Court’s decision. EDF and our allies will be fighting in court to prevent that from happening.

The current battle in the D.C. Circuit is critically important because halting the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards would result in the release of the most hazardous air pollutants from power plant smokestacks.

Some of the nation’s preeminent public health scientists are on our side in this battle. They also filed statements with the D.C. Circuit Court supporting the continued implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and highlighting what’s at stake for our communities and families including protecting infants from neurotoxic exposures to methylmercury:

Methylmercury can pass the placenta, and the developing brain is particularly vulnerable to such effects. If methylmercury toxicity occurs during fetal or early postnatal development, the damage is much more severe and more widespread than in adults, and the effects are likely to be permanent. . . . some portion of the increased mercury levels resulting from vacatur would persist in environmental reservoirs, available for uptake by fish and eventual consumption by people, for decades.”  (Philipe Grandjean, pages 6 and 14)

Vacating the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards would lead to more hazardous air pollution with serious public health consequences and is utterly unwarranted given the fact that EPA previously found that the public health benefits of the standards were valued at up to $90 billion annually and far exceeded the compliance costs.

Furthermore, due to technological improvements and other factors, power companies have been able to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards at less than one-quarter of the cost originally estimated by EPA. Indeed, a group of power companies submitted their own motion to keep the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in place. See the declaration of James E. Staudt on page 5.

In other words, once EPA goes back and considers costs as the Supreme Court directed (which it plans to do by April 2016), the record before the Agency will be manifest that the public health benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards exceed the costs by an even greater margin.

More briefs are expected to be filed with the D.C. Circuit over the next two months on whether to vacate the Air Toxics Rule or keep it in place. EDF and our allies will continue to urge the court to keep these life-saving protections, for the health and safety of all Americans.

Posted in News| Comments are closed

Saving Thousands of Lives, Preventing Millions of Asthma Attacks – And Rising Above the Hair Salon Rhetoric

Go Fly a Kite!

If you had the chance to save 7,900 lives every year and prevent 1.8 million annual asthma attacks in children, would you take it?

That is the very question before the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House now as we are nearing the final deadline for updated national health-based smog air quality standards.

Smog is a deadly pollutant that contributes to asthma attacks, early deaths, missed school days for kids and more harmful impacts to human health.

  1. Strong, health-based smog standards would save the lives of 7,900 Americans each year.
  2. Strong, health-based smog standards would prevent 1.8 million annual asthma attacks in children.
  3. Strong, health-based standards are essential to ensure that all Americans know whether the air in their neighborhoods and communities is safe to breathe – through the “truth in labeling” that links our nation’s air pollution monitoring system with air quality standards anchored in medical science.

It is well established that our nation’s health-based standards are the very bedrock of our nation’s clean air laws – saving lives and empowering communities with critical air quality information.

What is standing in the way of saving lives and ensuring healthier air for our families and children? A well-funded “sky is falling” campaign by polluters and other naysayers. These big emitters claim that our nation cannot afford protective smog standards. These opponents also attack the science that shows the need for a stronger smog standard, in direct opposition to the more than one thousand peer-reviewed studies that EPA considered while working on updating the health-based standard.

Unfortunately, these “sky is falling” claims are all too familiar. Claims questioning science and fear mongering over economic impacts have been made almost every time we talk about the need for stronger clean air protections – and they have never borne out. Clean air benefits outweigh costs of implementation by about 30 to one, according to a landmark study assessing the Clean Air Act.

It’s worth recalling the outlandish claims made by opponents of the 1997 smog standard. A key Senator from Michigan warned that health-protective smog standards would cause hair salons to go out of business. You’ve probably noticed that we still have a lot of hair salons in America. We also have a lot less smog – and that has saved a lot of lives.

But we could do much better. That’s why I hope that EPA and White House will take this opportunity to lead on clean air — and to ensure longer, healthier lives for millions of Americans in this generation and the next. Let’s save lives. Let’s protect our children and our communities. Let’s rise above the “sky is falling” rhetoric and work together to ensure the sky is clearing — putting medical science, healthy families and health communities first.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy| Comments are closed
  • About this blog

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

  • Get blog posts by email

    Subscribe via RSS

  • Categories

  • Meet The Bloggers