Category Archives: Air Quality

Does Big Oil Really Care About Vulnerable Communities?

Source: flickr/Jason Holmberg, Richmond, CA

There they go again… with the same lament we always seem to hear from Big Oil lobbyists when it's time to protect public health:

Don't put environmental protections on fuels, because that "will hit low-income and middle-income families the hardest." In other words, if you make us clean up our act, then we'll be forced to raise gas prices, which hurts vulnerable people… You don't want to hurt them, do you?

Hmmm. Do oil companies really care about vulnerable populations like low income people and communities of color? Could it be that they are using these families as a smokescreen for killing environmental protections and protecting their profits? Let's look at the facts and see if we can cut through some of this smoke.

Oil companies are among the most profitable enterprises in the world — last year the "big five" made $93 billion in profits, or $177,000 per minute. Even in my home state of California, which is at the forefront of environmental protections, Chevron is still the largest company by revenue (take that Apple and Facebook!). Many polluters have been claiming for decades that clean air standards will "cause entire industries to collapse," but those dire predictions have never come true. The idea that we have to choose between environmental protection and economic growth has always been a false choice. Read More »

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Mapping the California Companies Fueling a Cleaner Future

green-roads-mapBy: Emily Reyna, Senior Manager, Partnerships and Alliances

Clean energy and clean tech sound exciting, but most people don’t see these businesses as a major part of our economy, especially when traditional fossil fuels rule at the pump.

But thanks to policies like California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and cap and trade, more and more businesses are giving us options when we need to get from point A to point B, and they form an increasingly important source of economic growth in the state. From cars running on used vegetable oil (biodiesel) to cars you can plug into your house, new and exciting innovations are fast coming to market.

The new interactive Green Roads Map that EDF created in partnership with CALSTART, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), and the Natural Resources Defense Council, shows that we have many emerging options for our cars and transportation fleets, and that clean transportation is a flourishing industry in California.

The Green Roads Map is more than just a collection of dots – the map presents an important picture of the investors, researchers, producers, and salespeople who are transforming our economy and transportation system today. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Climate, Electric Vehicles, General | Leave a comment

Wyoming’s Opportunity to Head off Pollution at the Pass

frackingwyo_92689731_rf_0Yesterday we explored how Wyoming regulators and Governor Mead are making progress on a set of potentially strong air pollution measures in Pinedale and across the Upper Green River Basin of Southwestern Wyoming.

But today a similar drilling boom is happening in Converse and Campbell counties in the northeast area of the state. Unfortunately, none of these strong, sensible new air pollution requirements apply in these areas.

The numbers are stark. A full 80 percent of the current drilling in Wyoming is occurring out in the part of the state with the least restrictive air quality controls. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is currently beginning a process to consider as many as 5,000 new oil and gas wells in Converse County alone, and equal or greater drilling activity is expected in neighboring Campbell County over the next decade.

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Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas, Wyoming | Leave a comment

A Wyoming Two Step for Better Air Regulations

By G. Thomas at en.wikipedia

Photo credit: G. Thomas at en.wikipedia

Wyoming is a national energy leader, producing more BTU’s from federal lands than every other state combined. It also has a long history of leading the nation on smart, sensible oil and gas air pollution regulations. The Cowboy State was among the first to require reduced emission completions (RECs or “green” completions) to control emissions from newly drilled oil and gas wells. It has also implemented some of the country’s best requirements to find and fix leaky oil and gas equipment.

The state now has an opportunity to continue this tradition by tightening controls on existing oil and gas pollution sources in the Upper Green River Basin. Draft rules recently released by the state show promise, and with key improvements–including expanded leak inspections and extending emission controls to compressor stations–these new requirements could again emphasize the state’s role as a national leader on oil and gas regulation. Read More »

Also posted in General, Natural Gas, Wyoming | 1 Response

Key Legislators Weigh the Economic Impact of Natural Gas

Courtesy RF, iStock 000014939237

Courtesy RF, iStock

This week, during a special hearing by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, legislators gathered a cross-section of industry, policy, and environmental leaders to testify about the economic impacts of increased natural gas development. I was one of the witnesses, on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, arguing that natural gas can only be a net winner for the economy if government acts fast to limit the impacts of new hydrocarbon development on air, water, and the global climate.

There is no question that unconventional gas development is lowering energy costs, creating new jobs, and supporting more domestic manufacturing. But it also poses real and substantial risks to public health and the environment – as well as a growing threat to the industry’s social license to operate. Continued expansion of U.S. gas development must be balanced with a strong commitment to protect against these impacts.

The congressional committee of both senators and representatives exhibited sharply differing perspectives on expanding natural gas regulation. The core question before all levels of government is whether the appropriate steps are being taken to implement and enforce the regulations necessary to minimize the risks. The answer: not yet.

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Also posted in Climate, Natural Gas, Washington, DC | 1 Response, comments now closed

EPA’s Authority to Limit Carbon Pollution from Power Plants Is Well Established and Widely Recognized

By: Megan CeronskyEDF attorney, and Peter Heisler, legal fellow 

Gavel_iStock000003633182Medium1The bedrock legal authority underlying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan is broadly recognized — by our nation’s highest court, states, power companies, academic experts, and the EPA General Counsel serving during the President George H.W. Bush administration.

Our recent Climate 411 post chronicles the Supreme Court’s decisions affirming EPA’s authority to address carbon pollution from power plants under section 111 of the Clean Air Act.

In Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), the Court held that carbon dioxide is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.  Then, in AEP v. Connecticut (2011), the Court explicitly recognized EPA’s authority to limit emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants pursuant to section 111, and acknowledged the agency’s ongoing efforts to do so. Read More »

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EPA Hands Over the Keys with Clean Power Plan, California Already on Cruise Control

epaEPA’s Clean Power Plan, proposed today, is a roadmap for cutting dangerous pollution from power plants, and as with any map, there are many roads to follow. For this journey, states are in the driver’s seat and can steer themselves in the direction most beneficial to their people and to the state’s economy, as long as they show EPA they are staying on the map and ultimately reaching the final destination.

As usual, California got off to a head start, explored the territory, blazed a lot of new trails, and left a number of clues on how states can transition to a lower carbon future, and California’s successes are one proven, potential model for other states to follow. The state’s legacy of clean energy and energy efficiency progress is a big reason the White House and EPA could roll out the most significant national climate change action in U.S. history. Read More »

Also posted in California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy | Comments closed

Clearing the Air: Environmental Groups Push for Clean Air Standards for Oil and Gas Industry

OilRefinery_36492520_Shutterstock.com_RFThis post was co-authored by Peter Zalzal, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow

 

On May 13, EDF—along with a coalition of 64 local, state, and national public interest groups—submitted a petition asking the Environmental Protection Agency to address toxic air pollution emitted from oil and natural gas operations in population centers around the country.

Earthjustice crafted the petition which focuses on a provision of the Clean Air Act. It authorizes EPA to establish standards for toxic pollution from oil and natural gas wells if those wells are in major metropolitan areas (areas with a population greater than 1 million), and if the agency finds the emissions “present more than a negligible risk of adverse effects to public health.”

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EDF Climate Corps Heads Overseas: Next Stop China

By: Liz Delaney, Senior Manager, EDF Climate Corps Operations

Reinhard Krause / Reuters

Reinhard Krause / Reuters

China is, in many ways, the epicenter of the world’s efforts to curb climate change. The rapidly growing nation’s need for energy is soaring – demand is expected to double by 2020 – and China has surpassed the United States to become the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

So it makes total sense for the Environmental Defense Fund to expand its unique fellowship program, Climate Corps, to China this summer to help leading global brands there find energy efficiency and sustainability solutions that help them thrive. EDF is partnering with Apple, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Cummins and Legrand in China, initially placing six graduate students to work with the companies. Read More »

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EDF Calls on BLM to Minimize Waste of Natural Gas on Federal Lands

This post was co-authored by Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow

NatlGasRigWetland_93178419_Photos-RF

Last Thursday, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hosted a public forum in Washington, D.C. on venting and flaring of natural gas from oil and gas operations occurring on federal lands. This was the third in a series in which BLM received public comments on various options aimed at addressing the extensive and unnecessary loss of gas from onshore federal oil and gas leases. EDF is encouraged to see BLM taking on this vital issue, and we delivered testimony urging BLM to take strong and timely action to uphold its responsibility to minimize waste of our nation’s natural resources and ensure oil and gas development minimizes impacts to our climate and public health.

Reducing waste of natural gas on federal lands is a core element of the President’s strategy to reduce methane emissions, and for good reason. BLM is tasked with managing 700 million acres of federal lands – making it the largest single land management agency in the federal government – and it has broad responsibilities for the significant oil and gas resources located on those lands. Almost 40 million acres of BLM lands have already been leased for oil and gas production, accounting for approximately 14 percent of all onshore natural gas production and 8.5 percent of all onshore oil production in the United States.

Despite the scale of oil and gas production on federal lands, BLM’s policies covering venting, flaring, and other losses of natural gas are over three decades old. These obsolete regulations allow producers to waste significant amounts of natural gas that could be cost-effectively captured using today’s technology. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in 2010 that between 4.2 and 5 percent of all natural gas produced onshore on federal lands was vented, flared, or lost in fugitive emissions — enough gas to heat about 1.7 million homes each year.  A more recent study by the Western Values Project found that vented and flared methane could cost taxpayers nearly $800 million in coming years.

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