Monthly Archives: December 2017

Presenting the Pruitt list

Special people, places, polluters, cronies, calendars, chemicals, quotes, numbers, and other mischief that was part of 2017’s assault on environmental safeguards. Or, Who is Arthur A. Elkins, Jr.?

  1. Six: Number of former EPA Administrators (Republicans and Democrats) who have publicly condemned Administrator Scott Pruitt’s efforts to hollow out the EPA.
  2. “Little Tidbits”: What Donald Trump promised would be left of the EPA when he’s done with it.  (He actually made this promise in 2016.)
  3. Arthur A. Elkins, Jr.: EPA’s Inspector General.  He’s reviewing Pruitt’s spending on charter planes and travel to Oklahoma, where Pruitt spent 43 of 92 days this spring.
  4. $40,000: Amount spent for Pruitt to travel to Morocco to promote natural gas exports.
  5. Calendar: What Scott Pruitt has filled up with meetings with polluter executives and lobbyists, who often get favorable decisions after seeing him.
  6. “It’s just a mystery as to how you can persuade him to not follow exactly what industry asks him to do.” An EPA employee describing Pruitt at meetings with industry.
  7. 31%: The amount that Scott Pruitt and Donald Trump are trying to cut from the EPA budget—the most of any agency in government.
  8. “Meat Ax”: What former EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus said that Scott Pruitt is swinging at public health and environmental protections.
  9. Superfund Cleanups: Pruitt seeks 30% cuts in EPA Superfund efforts while simultaneously promising to prioritize them.
  10. Indoor Radon Grant Program: Reduces radon in homes, schools and buildings.  Pruitt and Trump are seeking to eliminate it.
  11. EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice: Created to give everyone protections from environmental and health hazards.  Pruitt is seeking to eliminate it.
  12. More than 60: Percent of Americans who would like to see the EPA’s powers preserved or strengthened.
  13. Paranoia: What might cause an EPA Administrator to keep a secret calendar, spend taxpayer money to sweep his offices for surveillance bugs, require employees to have an escort on his floor and not bring cell phones or take notes in his office, and install a $25,000 soundproof communications booth when EPA has one already.
  14. Arthur A. Elkins, Jr.: EPA’s Inspector General.  He’s reviewing Pruitt’s decision to spend more than $25,000 on a soundproof communications booth.
  15. About one-third: Drop in number of EPA enforcement cases against suspected polluters under Pruitt.
  16. 39%: Reduction in civil penalties sought from polluters under Pruitt.
  17. Michael Dourson: Industry “toxicologist-for-hire” forced to withdraw his nomination to run EPA’s Chemical Safety office amid public pressure and bipartisan Congressional opposition.
  18. Albert “Kell” Kelly: Senior Advisor to Pruitt.  Banker and baseball pal of Pruitt with no environmental experience—but barred from the financial industry by the FDIC.
  19. William Wehrum: Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation.  Sued EPA to tear down clear air and climate protections at least 31 times in the last decade.
  20. Industry insiders who have spent decades fighting to block environmental safeguards and undermine scientific findings: See Leadership, EPA.
  21. EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors: Created to provide independent advice, it’s now being purged to make room for climate deniers and industry-backed figures.
  22. “The evidence is abundant of the dangerous political turn of an agency that is supposed to be guided by science.” Former EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman.
  23. Opposition Research: What Definers Public Affairs, a partisan firm hired by EPA to monitor media, conducted on EPA employees who might be “resistance” figures.
  24. Arthur A. Elkins, Jr.: EPA’s Inspector General.  He’s been asked to investigate the EPA’s no-bid hiring of Definers Public Affairs.
  25. Five: Number of major air safeguards being weakened or eliminated by the EPA: Clean Cars, Oil and gas methane pollution, Mercury and Air Toxics, Smog and Clean Power Plan.
  26. Climate Change: Global rise in temperatures, fueled by uptick in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, that is triggering more extreme climate events.
  27. “Climate Change”: Phrase being purged from EPA’s website.
  28. “Red-Blue Exercise”: Method Pruitt wants to use to attack well-established scientific consensus on climate change.
  29. Benzene: Dangerous carcinogen that leaked through Houston neighborhoods during Hurricane Harvey without EPA acknowledgement at the time or afterwards.
  30. Arthur A. Elkins, Jr.: EPA’s Inspector General.  He’s reviewing EPA’s performance during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
  31. EPA Office of Public Affairs: Taxpayer-funded unit responsible for forcing reporters to file Freedom of Information Act requests for routine information, accusing them of stealing work from other outlets, and attacking them personally after they reported on Hurricane Harvey environmental threats that the EPA hadn’t yet found.
  32. Tar Creek, Oklahoma: Site of a health disaster where Scott Pruitt, as state attorney general, refused to prosecute or even release the state auditor’s report.
  33. Arthur A. Elkins, Jr.: EPA’s Inspector General.  He’s reviewing Pruitt’s call for a mining group to lobby Trump on the Paris climate treaty, which could violate ethics rules.
  34. “EPA has all the signs of an agency captured by industry.”  Congressman Paul Tonko at Pruitt’s first oversight hearing (a full 293 days after Pruitt took office).
  35. Exodus: (1) Second Book of the Torah and the Bible. (2) Departure of more than 700 EPA employees since the 2016 election and the Pruitt assault on the EPA.
  36. Smog, coal ash, lead, mercury, benzene, and carbon: Dangerous pollutants coming your way as Pruitt rolls back key environmental safeguards.
  37. What we’ll all be at more risk for: Brain damage, leukemia, asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, bladder cancer and birth defects.
  38. Washington’s busiest person in 2018: Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., EPA’s Inspector General.

You can find even more in our “EPA’s Terrible 2017” wrap-up report.

Happy Holidays and a Safe and Healthy New Year from Your Friends at EDF!


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Public speaks out against Pruitt’s effort to reopen a loophole for super-polluting glider trucks

Public health experts, freight truck manufacturers and truck dealers sent a shared message to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt at a recent public hearing – don’t reopen a loophole for super-polluting glider trucks.

Glider trucks are new freight trucks that have used engines installed in them. Those older engines emit harmful soot and smog-causing pollutants at rates dramatically higher than trucks that comply with current emission standards.

Glider trucks, with their older engines, emit high levels of pollutants like cancer-causing diesel particulate, as well as oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter – which have been linked to severe human health impacts, including increased asthma attacks and exacerbation of heart disease.

Pruitt has proposed reopening a loophole in our national Clean Truck Standards that would allow glider trucks to pollute without restriction. This proposed rollback of common sense pollution limits is a slap in the face – not only to American families, who deserve clean air to breathe, but also to the heavy duty trucking industry, which has invested in cleaner technologies for years.

Freight truck leaders voice concerns about glider truck loophole

Volvo senior vice president Susan Alt testified at the public hearing that Pruitt’s proposal “makes a mockery” of their responsible investments in pollution control equipment and clean technologies.

Representatives from the American Trucking Associations, the Engine Manufacturers Association, and the Heavy Duty Fuel Efficiency Leadership Group echoed concerns that the proposed rollback would undermine their investment decisions for the past decade, upend the level playing field the industry needs for the well-being of their businesses, and jeopardize the regulatory certainty upon which they rely.

Freight truck dealers underscored that they hire and employ skilled technicians — in communities all across the country — to service and maintain modern, cleaner engines. Their businesses, and their employees, will be at risk if the loophole for glider trucks is reopened.

Pruitt issued his proposal based on flawed, incomplete information

EPA estimated in 2016 that glider truck emissions were as much as 40 times higher than modern engines.

The agency recently undertook more emission testing to refine its data. But Pruitt issued his proposal to repeal the glider provisions before EPA’s testing could be completed.

Instead, Pruitt’s proposal highlights poorly supported assertions from Tennessee Tech University, which conducted testing on glider trucks that found much lower emissions of oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter than EPA’s estimates.

Last week, EPA released its new, updated testing data, as well as a memo with further details about the Tennessee Tech findings that show flaws in the university’s analysis. This new information confirms the serious threat to human health posed by glider trucks.

EPA’s new test data suggests that the estimates it relied on before closing the glider truck in the first place may have been too conservative:

Under highway cruise conditions, [oxides of nitrogen] emissions from the glider vehicles were approximately 43 times as high, and [particulate matter] emissions were approximately 55 times as high as the conventionally manufactured tractors. (emphasis added)

EPA identified a number of deeply troubling flaws and biases in Tennessee Tech’s methodology, facilities, and equipment used to generate their data. Most notably, Tennessee Tech’s assertions that the tested glider trucks met EPA’s 2010 emission standard for particulate matter and performed equally as well as modern trucks were not based on any actual measurement of the pollutant – just visible inspection, a practice abandoned decades ago as wholly inadequate for measuring particulate matter from diesel engines.

Equally alarming, as the Washington Post has reported, the EPA memo acknowledges that Tennessee Tech has a financial relationship with a major glider manufacturer – Fitzgerald Glider Kits – that is pushing for EPA to roll back the pollution protections for its product. The testing facility used by Tennessee Tech is owned by Fitzgerald.

Pruitt puts clean air at risk

These documents reinforce what has been clear since Pruitt took office – the Administrator is ignoring his agency’s own science and expertise, and putting the health of American families at risk, with an onslaught of attacks against vital pollution protections – attacks that are endorsed by politically connected major polluters.

Diverse voices turned out in full force at the public hearing to rebuke the most recent example of this pattern of practice:

  • Terry Dotson of heavy-duty truck dealer Worldwide Equipment Inc. testified that his company could build glider kits, but chose not to because “we choose to do the right thing.”
  • Blanca Iris Verduzco, on behalf of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, spoke as a resident of South East Los Angeles, an industrialized community exposed to a lot of freight transportation pollution. She urged EPA to protect her community from health dangers, and not to roll back protections.
  • John Calvin Doub with TMI Truck and Equipment expressed concern for his three grandchildren, and talked about the breathing difficulties caused by air pollution. He cautioned EPA that until you have witnessed a child having an asthma attack, you don’t understand the full impacts of pollution from trucks.

EDF was represented at the hearing by Martha Roberts, Erin Murphy, Surbhi Sarang, and John Bullock. Their full testimonies are available here:

EPA is still accepting public comments on the proposed rollback of safeguards against glider truck pollution. You can send your comments through January 5th.

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The accelerating market for zero emission trucks

Tesla Semi prototype. Photo: Smnt, Creative Commons

The recent reveal of the Tesla semi-truck is  garnering  attention for the role zero emission vehicles can play in the future of trucking.

Much of the excitement around zero emission trucks stems from the fact that medium-and-heavy duty trucks – critical tools of our modern economy that operate daily in our neighborhoods and communities — have outsized environmental and health impacts.

Trucks today emit dangerous pollutants, including:

Zero emission vehicles are exciting because of their ability to drive progress on all of these pollutants simultaneously.

A clear indicator of the emergence of zero emission trucks is the plethora of recent product announcements from major manufacturers:

Multiple large manufacturers are investing in electric trucks because they recognize a robust, long-term market for these products. These investments reinforce each other by building resilient supply chains, industry knowledge, and production scale.

Most zero emission truck announcements have been for urban or regional vehicle platforms. Urban areas stand to benefit greatly from the significant reduction in local air pollution offered by zero emission trucks because cities’ density means that many people will get to breathe cleaner air. Buses and delivery vehicles typically have modest daily range demands and predicable charging patterns.

Drayage vehicles should be another high-priority for electrification. These trucks run cargo in and out of marine ports and railyards, frequently traversing dense urban neighborhoods. Often these vehicles are among the oldest and highest polluting trucks on the road. Replacing them with zero emission solutions provides critical local air quality benefits to overburdened communities while also driving meaningful greenhouse gas reductions. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that up to 1,200 pounds of nitrogen oxides  and more than 100 pounds  of particulate matter could be reduced annually by replacing an old diesel drayage truck with a zero emission vehicle. More than 12 tons of carbon dioxide would also be reduced each year.

Zero emission solutions are needed for freight operations too. A recent ICCT analysis found wide-scale adoption of electric tractor-trailers in Europe would reduce climate emissions by 115 million tons in 2050 beyond a scenario that relied solely on maximizing diesel truck efficiency. The analysis illustrates a crucial point – in order to get the largest clean air and climate benefits from freight trucks, we will need both zero emission trucks and significantly more fuel efficient diesel trucks. Each vehicle configuration has an important role to play.

The U.S. Clean Trucks program, extended and strengthened in 2016 by the Obama Administration, is a model that other countries can follow for driving efficiency improvements. It sets long-term, protective standards. The latest round of the standards will cut more than a billion tons of carbon emissions and save truck owners $170 billion dollars. The program enjoys broad support among manufacturers, fleets, shippers and clean air advocates.

The Trump Administration has taken aim at key Clean Truck program provisions that drive improvements in trailer design and close a loophole for super-polluting trucks. Defending the popular and effective program from these pernicious attacks must be an imperative for the freight industry. No company wants its freight hauled by a truck that spews 40 times more pollution or contributes to an additional 1,600 premature deaths annually. Electric semi-trucks will of course be pulling trailers. These trailers will need to be designed with fuel efficiency in mind if electric semi-trucks are to deliver on their full potential.

Zero emission freight trucks need to be operated in a manner that minimizes lifecycle emissions across the entire freight system. Thus, green freight best practices are relevant for zero emission vehicles too. These vehicles will need to complement use of freight rail, which emits more than 80 percent less carbon per ton mile than conventional trucks. They will need to be regularly run with full loads to minimize lifecycle emissions per ton mile. They should be charged primarily by renewable energy. All of these actions, made by fleets, will be influenced by the demands of cargo owners.

It is time for companies and communities to pay attention to these zero emission solutions. These trucks have a clear near-term role in urban delivery. Embracing low and zero emissions drayage solutions will provide immediate and significant human health benefits for communities near ports and railyards. In the years ahead, ZEVs will even have a role in longer-haul operations.

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