Category Archives: Air Quality

U.N. Climate Summit Attendees Should Look to its Hosting City as a Model for Success

nyc clean heat

Next week, climate delegates from around the world will flood into the city for the United Nations Climate Summit, where they will negotiate the finer details of international policies to address climate change. But climate action need not always unfold on global stages. Cities, too, can be prime drivers in improving our environment, and the U.N. Climate Summit’s host, New York City, is a great example.

New York City’s Clean Heat program reached its goal of reducing soot pollution by half in just two years. NYC Clean Heat is a program to replace dirty heating oil in the city’s most polluting commercial and residential buildings.

Successful environmental campaigns require broad support and NYC Clean Heat is no different. EDF helped convene the diverse coalition of city officials, non-profits, and private sector banks to launch a $100 million financing program to help building owners transition from dirty heating oils to cleaner fuels such as natural gas or biodiesel.

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Lasers, Circuit Boards, and a $30 Gizmo: Innovative Solutions to the Methane Problem

Source: MIssy Schmidt/Flickr

Source: MIssy Schmidt/Flickr

The technologies we see today didn’t all start out in the forms we’re used to. The phones we carry in our pockets used to weigh pounds, not ounces. Engineers developed hundreds of designs for wind turbines before landing on the three-blade design commonly seen in the field.

Fast forward and now we're looking at a drunk-driver-and-alcohol sensor that was converted into a methane leak detector. And a sensor purchased off the web for less than $30 that was transformed into a monitor that fights off greenhouse gases.

I was excited to see the diversity of technologies such as these moving forward in the Methane Detectors Challenge. Read More »

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Clean Air Opportunity Knocks, But Will Wyoming Answer?

frackingwyo_92689731_rf_0One of the most difficult and urgent challenges facing Western leaders today is how best to regulate the oil and gas development that is quickly spreading to new areas and encroaching on towns and homes.

Last weekend, The Casper Star-Tribune covered this very topic as oil and gas drilling, once mostly confined to less populated parts of the state, begins to expand into areas near Cheyenne and close by northeastern towns like Douglas that have not experienced this new neighbor before.

This same friction is fueling a rancorous political debate in Colorado, pitting industry against citizens who want their local governments to have more control over oil and gas development.  But as the Star-Tribune’s Ben Storrow points out in his column, this isn't the Wyoming way. Read More »

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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 »

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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| Comments closed

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, comments now closed

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