Monthly Archives: September 2011

Let’s Clear the Air: EPA Pollution Standards Will Create New Jobs While Protecting Public Health

Opponents of the Clean Air Act have been yelling that this law’s life-saving health protections are “job killers.”

Just for a moment, let’s ignore the fact that these regulations improve public health and safety and save our lives. It is untrue that these regulations kill jobs.

In fact, just two small parts of the Clean Air Act — EPA’s Cross-state Air Pollution and Mercury and Air Toxics rules — would together create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years driven by new investments.

EPA’s new air pollution standards would limit sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and other unhealthy pollutants that are in the air we breathe. Meeting the new standards, and lowering our air pollution levels, will result in investments in new pollution control equipment and power plants. It will also result in jobs for skilled professionals to do the work of installing and operating that equipment. That means jobs for electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, boilermakers, millwrights, iron workers and engineers – among others.

Among the economic beneficiaries would be the American companies that make pollution control equipment like scrubbers, dry sorbent injectors, and selective catalytic reducers. Take a look at this map:

Pollution Abatement Materials Companies


Click to view full-size map

The map is  by no means comprehensive, but it shows some of the companies in the eastern half of the U.S. that are poised to benefit under EPA’s rules.

A Case Study in Job Creation from Installing Pollution Control Equipment

Alstom Power’s James Yann testified before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Clean Air and Jobs in March of this year.

He described some of the jobs created from just one example of a pollution control technology – a wet flue gas desulfurization “scrubber” that is commonly used to remove sulfur and other air pollutants.

Dependent on the number of scrubbers ultimately installed, Alstom estimates that these clean air regulations will create a total of more than 150,000 jobs over the next five to six years of compliance work. That’s just for direct jobs. In addition, tens of thousands of additional jobs would be created along the supply chain.

Here’s more details to show how it works: 

  • Scrubbers consist of a large number of components including pumps, electrical equipment and wiring, controls, and emission monitors (among many others). Almost all of this equipment can be procured from sources in the United States.
  • Erecting a typical scrubber requires more than 2,000 tons of fabricated steel delivered to the site. This steel represents more than 40,000 man-hours of production.
  • Assembly of the scrubber requires the most man power and a wide variety of trade crafts, typically lasting up to 30 months and employing an average of 700 craft people during that period.
  • In total, a typical wet flue gas desulfurization project will provide the equivalent of about 775 full time jobs over the life of the installation project, not including jobs provided for all the equipment suppliers and delivery services involved in delivering materials and equipment to the site.
  • Scrubber systems require ongoing supplies to operate including ammonia, lime, limestone and activated carbon. Companies making these supplies will need to create additional jobs to meet the increased demand as a result of EPA’s clean air rules.
Posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Energy, Jobs / Comments are closed

How Inhofe Turns Balloon Animals into ‘News’

The professional deniers are at it again. Every chance they get, the people who are paid to spread doubt and confusion about climate change take some minor report or news event, fill it with hot air and twist it up like a balloon animal, then try to persuade everyone that it is alive and kicking—that it “proves” that the planet isn’t warming or human activities aren’t the big reason why.

This time, the professional deniers are seizing on a report from the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general.

In reality, the IG’s report upholds EPA’s efforts to address climate change, affirming that the agency followed the law when it determined that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare.

But Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who says he thinks global warming is a hoax, and his team of professional deniers have been trying to pretend that their latest balloon animal is living, breathing proof that the EPA process was faulty and the underlying science flawed. And some news organizations fell for it — again.

To make his claim, Inhofe had to ignore the crystal-clear opening sentence of the IG’s report, which concludes that EPA “met statutory requirements for rulemaking” when it issued its endangerment finding, the scientific basis for action under the Clean Air Act. The IG’s report takes issue with some bureaucratic minutiae—EPA procedures that have nothing to do with the validity of the agency’s conclusions. These procedures were created by the federal Office of Management and Budget, and OMB agrees with the way EPA followed them, not with the IG’s minor criticisms.

It’s one agency squabbling with another over which boxes got checked.

Here’s how my colleague Steve Hamburg, chief scientist at Environmental Defense Fund, put it yesterday. “Let’s be clear on what this report does not do: it does not call into question any of the underlying science. And the report affirmed that EPA complied with the law when making the endangerment finding.”

EPA’s endangerment finding is based on assessments by the National Academy of Sciences, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program–assessments that considered tens of thousands of peer-reviewed articles and involved thousands of scientists.

Inhofe is peddling another balloon animal. No surprise there. But let’s pull back the curtain and see how a balloon animal gets treated like news.

Step One. It all starts when Inhofe himself demands that the IG look into the endangerment finding. “This evaluation was initiated based on a request from Senator James M. Inhofe,” the IG report says—and to carry it out, “the estimated direct labor and travel costs for this report are $297,385.” So Inhofe, a putative champion of small government and enemy of bureaucratic waste, triggered almost $300,000 in unnecessary spending for the report. That’s an expensive balloon.

Step Two. Inhofe breaks the IG’s embargo by putting out an overheated press release claiming that the report “calls the scientific integrity of EPA’s decision-making process into question and undermines the credibility of the endangerment finding.” In fact, it does nothing of the kind.

Step Three. Inhofe’s former communications director, Marc Morano, who runs a climate denier web site, trumpets the false charges, conservative outlets pick up the drum beat, and mainstream news organizations like The Washington Post and Politico quote Inhofe’s specious charges. Headlines announce that EPA “cut corners” and “needed more data before ruling.” Other journalists begin weighing in on the “wide-reaching political implications.”

Now, an IG report is news, no doubt about that. But reporters should know better than to believe that Inhofe’s balloon animal is real. Anyone who looks at it can tell it’s just a balloon. Can’t they?

This was originally posted on Eric Pooley’s blog The Climate War.

Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed

House Votes for TRAIN Act – and Against Cleaner, Healthier Air

Today was an exceptionally bad day in the history of environmental legislation.

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed the TRAIN Act (H.R. 2401) by a vote of 249 to 169.

The TRAIN Act is a sweeping anti-clean air bill that blocks many critical public health safeguards. Among its worst offenses is that it indefinitely delays two important and long-awaited air pollution standards – the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

The TRAIN Act would delay those two standards until 2018 at the earliest, and cost about 125,000 American lives.

And as I mentioned earlier, the delay could be indefinite.

This was no less than a fight about the integrity of the Clean Air Act, and clean air lost.

The air pollution standards in question would reduce the amount of smog, soot, mercury and acid gases that are in the air we all breathe.

Opponents of these common-sense rules make the patently false argument that we can’t have both clean air and a strong economy. Actually, analysis has shown that the economic benefits of enforcing the Clean Air Act outweigh the costs 30 to 1. The same protections that the TRAIN Act strips have been widely supported by responsible corporations. Companies across the country are eagerly waiting to supply the equipment to achieve these new clean air goals – and create jobs in the process — while utilities are sitting on billions in cash that could be put to work

But today, the House showed that it has bought the false argument that we need to choose between protecting lives and creating jobs. House members made a stark choice, and put pollution over children’s health.

Some of the House members voting against healthy air today may really believe the misleading notion that public health protections kill jobs. But many are old enough to know better – because they voted in favor of these same common-sense environmental rules two decades ago. And they saw that smart regulations cut pollution ahead of schedule and at a fraction of the estimated cost – and create jobs in the process. Yet these same members are now voting against the successful regulations they championed in 1990.

Now it is up to the Senate to stop this destructive bill. Hopefully, our Senators will understand that clean air saves American lives.

But just in case, you should call your Senators and remind them how much clean air means to you.

Posted in Clean Air Act, News, Policy / Read 2 Responses

An update on the greenhouse gas litigation…

The urgency of climate mitigation, the Supreme Court’s mandate, and the legal attacks:

According to the insurance company Munich Re, there have been 98 natural disasters in the United States the first six months of 2011 – approximately double the average of the 1990s.  Ten of those disasters have been catastrophes causing more than a billion dollars of damage, including two major river floods in the Upper Midwest and the Mississippi River, drought and wildfires in the Southwest, a blizzard that paralyzed the Midwest and Northeast, and Hurricane Irene which threatened the coastal cities of the East Coast and led to the devastating flooding in the Northeast.  More intense storms – including hurricanes – and more frequent and severe floods and droughts, are precisely the kind of impacts expected to threaten American communities as atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations rise.  Although we cannot connect any individual hurricane or wildfire to climate change, we can look around and see what the future holds if we do not act to curb climate-destabilizing emissions.

In 2007, the Supreme Court held in Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases are “air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act and that EPA had a legal duty to decide whether greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health or welfare.  The Supreme Court also held that under the Clean Air Act, the endangerment inquiry must be based solely on science, and not on policy considerations irrelevant to this “scientific judgment.”

In response to the Supreme Court’s mandate, and based on the massive edifice of research showing the role of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in causing global temperatures to rise and related climate impacts to occur, EPA took action under the Clean Air Act.  In 2009 EPA made the science-based finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare – the “Endangerment Finding.”  Once EPA has made an endangerment finding for an air pollutant emitted by motor vehicles, the Clean Air Act obligates EPA to establish vehicle emission standards.  On April 1, 2010, EPA finalized standards for MY 2012-2016 light-duty vehicles.  The standards are projected to avoid 962 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent, cut gasoline consumption by 77 billion gallons, and save vehicle owners a net average of $3,000 over the life of the vehicle due to enhanced fuel economy.

The Endangerment Finding is under legal attack from some of the largest polluters in America.  The legal challenges to the Endangerment Finding, vehicle standards, and the other actions EPA has taken to control greenhouse gas emissions are currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.


The basis for the GHG Endangerment Finding:

EPA’s Endangerment Finding is based on a rigorous review of climate change research – including assessments of climate research prepared by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Global Change Research Program, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  The creation of these “assessment reports” involved thousands of scientists, reviewing thousands of articles from peer-reviewed research journals.  Based on this massive body of research, EPA determined the following:

  • Human activities – fossil fuels burning and land use change – have changed the chemistry of the atmosphere, adding tremendous quantities of heat-trapping gases.  The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 38% since the Industrial Revolution; concentrations of methane have risen 149%.

This chart shows CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere over the last 800,000 years, based upon analyzing air bubbles trapped in an Antarctic ice core. (U.S. Global Change Research Program, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States at 13 (2009))

  • Temperature records show that average global temperatures are rising – and scientists have concluded that the warming of the past 40 years has been driven by the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, “trapping” more and more radiation from the sun in Earth’s atmosphere.

This figure shows that climate models using only natural forces cannot replicate observed warming – in fact, they would predict cooling. Only models including anthropogenic greenhouse gases can duplicate the observed warming trend. (U.S. Global Change Research Program, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States at 20 (2009).)

  • The effects of this warming are already being observed, and are expected to intensify in the future as the climate continues to warm.  The U.S. Global Change Research Program describes the following climate change impacts as “likely,” having at least a two-thirds chance of afflicting Americans:  stronger hurricanes and storm surges; more intense rainfall events; declines in precipitation and runoff in the West; increased frequency and severity of both floods and droughts; increased risk of illness and death due to extreme heat and heat waves; increased air pollution in cities that causes respiratory distress; and increases in the prevalence of diseases transmitted by food, water, and insects.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the severity of these impacts. Reducing emissions will also lower the risk of pushing the dynamic climate system past a “threshold” that would lead to dramatic, abrupt climate changes with potentially catastrophic impacts for human societies and natural systems.

Based on this body of research, EPA determined that greenhouse gas emissions endanger the public health and welfare.


The legal attacks and the Supreme Court’s directive:

In attacking the Endangerment Finding, the legal challenges make a wide variety of claims – including arguing that the areas of uncertainty in climate science should prevent EPA from finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health or welfare, that EPA was wrong to rely on the scientific assessments, and that EPA needed to consider various policy considerations before making the Endangerment Finding.

A little bit of history those attacking the Endangerment Finding seem to have forgotten:  As noted above, in 2007 the Supreme Court held that EPA had a duty to make a “scientific judgment,” and that “considerations that have nothing to do with whether greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change” have no place in an endangerment analysis.  The Court further held that EPA could only decline to make a scientific judgment if the uncertainty “is so profound that it precludes EPA from making a reasoned judgment as to whether greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.”


States and environmental groups supporting EPA:

Last Friday, September 16th, sixteen States and a coalition of environmental groups – including EDF – filed a brief supporting EPA’s Endangerment Finding.  The States supporting EPA’s science-based Endangerment Finding are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.  The brief and more information about the litigation are available here.

Oral argument for the Endangerment Finding challenge and the related cases will likely be scheduled early in 2012.  We will let you know of any developments as they occur.


Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News / Comments are closed

EDF’s Ads Highlight AEP’s Bad Example

While other utilities are investing in technology and jobs, cleaning up toxic air pollution and meeting federal health standards, American Electric Power (AEP) engineered a bill to fight these goals. Their bill is designed gut new federal clean air standards based on a law that has protected American lives for 40 years and helped drive one of the few sectors of our economy to grow during the recession — the clean technology industry.

We want to discourage other utilities from following AEP’s their bad example. We created a series of ads highlighting AEP’s choice of quick profits over its consumers’ health and lives.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as many as 17,000 lives will be lost without these new rules. AEP apparently thinks it’s the cost of doing business.

Join us in asking how many lives will be lost before the risk becomes unacceptable. Ask AEP “what’s your number” at

Posted in Clean Air Act / Comments are closed