Climate 411

Four Reasons Petitions for Supreme Court Review of Climate Pollution Standards for Power Plants Should Fail

This coming Monday, the Supreme Court will consider hundreds of petitions for review, which ask the Court to take up cases for full consideration during its new term. Among the petitions for review are four from coal companies and states asking the Court to review the D.C. Circuit decision overturning the Trump administration’s rule weakening regulations of carbon pollution from power plants. For multiple reasons the four petitions lack merit.

The Clean Power Plan, adopted in 2015, established the first-ever national limits on climate pollution from existing power plants. In 2019, the Trump administration adopted regulations to repeal the Clean Power Plan and replace it with the “ACE” rule – which did virtually nothing to limit pollution.

This January the D.C. Circuit struck down this attempt, issuing a narrow opinion that explained how ACE misinterpreted specific language in section 111 of the Clean Air Act.

In the months since the D.C. Circuit’s decision, neither the Clean Power Plan nor the Trump administration’s weak replacement rule has been in effect, meaning that no power plants or operators have experienced harm under either rule. Additionally, EPA has been working from a clean slate on new safeguards that will reflect current information about our rapidly changing power sector. Despite this, and the fact that no one is subject to any compliance obligations under the Clean Power Plan or ACE, coal companies and 21 states are asking the Supreme Court to reverse the D.C. Circuit opinion and issue a statutory interpretation that limits EPA’s ability under the Clean Air Act to protect the public from climate pollution.

Effectively, they are asking the Court for an “advisory” opinion — a free-floating legal opinion untethered to any current dispute but intended to constrain future behavior. EDF is part of a coalition of environmental organizations that – along with almost two dozen states and cities, power companies and business associations – opposes this challenge.

Rather than take up this case in order to consider legal theories in the abstract, the appropriate course would be for the Court to allow EPA to complete its new rulemaking, which will be subject to judicial review once finalized. At that time, reviewing courts will be able to assess EPA’s actual application of its Clean Air Act authority in the context of real compliance obligations and a factual record that reflects current realities.

Here are four key reasons that the petitioners’ pleas for Supreme Court review should fail:

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Energy, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Comments are closed

What the SEC can do to protect investors, companies, and people from another Texas power crisis

This post was co-authored by David G. Victor of the Brookings Institution and EDF’s Stephanie H. Jones and Michael Panfil. It is also posted here

 The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering making important changes in disclosure requirements to reflect the growing recognition that climate change poses significant risks to the U.S. financial system. This week, hundreds of investors, companies, and concerned Americans, including EDF, responded to the SEC’s request for public input on climate change disclosure.

The Brookings Institution’s recent analysis on the intersection of climate change and financial markets has shown that a significant blind spot for financial institutions is how the physical impacts of a warming world affects assets. But, outside of insurance, relatively little has been said about financial vulnerabilities stemming from extreme weather.

The massive storm that hit Texas in February — known as Winter Storm Uri — highlights the dangers of ignoring the physical risks of climate change. Frigid temperatures and ensuing blackouts led to the deaths of more than 150 people and caused billions of dollars in damages. The blackouts also disrupted dozens of public companies, hundreds of small businesses, and millions of lives, raising a slew of questions for public officials.

EDF and Brookings have now released a new report, What Investors and the SEC Can Learn from the Texas Power Crises, in which we focus on one of those questions: what did the financial markets know about the odds and impacts of a storm like this before it happened?  Our report looks at SEC regulatory disclosures made by publicly-traded electric utilities and suppliers in Texas, and offers a clear answer: not much. Read More »

Also posted in Cities and states, Economics, Energy, News, Policy / Comments are closed

It’s time to unite behind next-generation clean car standards

The broad coalition defending America’s clean car standards is gaining key allies as Americans unite to build a pollution-free transportation future.

Led by Ford, automakers representing nearly half of the U.S. market have committed to working with California and the incoming Biden-Harris administration to enact ambitious policies that will create high-quality domestic jobs, protect our health, and confront the climate crisis. This is a good start, but we need all automakers to ditch the Trump administration’s clean cars rollback and advocate for next-generation standards that will make new light duty vehicles 100% pollution-free by 2035.

America’s clean car standards are among our most effective policies for reducing pollution exposure, cutting climate emissions, and creating good jobs. By driving innovation and cutting fuel costs, the model year 2017-to-2025 Clean Car Standards were projected to add hundreds of thousands of jobs and save Americans tens of billions of dollars at the gas pump each year. But the Trump administration rolled back the national standards and undermined longstanding state authority to set more protective standards. The Trump administration’s rollback would cost jobs and have devastating public health and environmental impacts, including an additional 18,500 premature deaths, 250,000 asthma attacks, and 1.5 billion tons of climate pollution — as much as running 68 coal plants for five years — by mid-century.

This is not what Americans want. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that 71% of Americans support strengthening vehicle standards, not rolling them back.

EDF has joined a broad coalition of businesses, states, cities, experts, and environmental and public health groups in defending our clean car standards in court. We filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attack on state authority and a second suit challenging its rollback of the national standards. (You can find all the legal briefs in the clean cars cases on our website.)  Leading transportation companies such as Lyft, Tesla, and Rivian have formed a key part of our coalition. But some automakers, including Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, GM, and Nissan, entered the litigation on the Trump administration’s side.

GM and Nissan have recently withdrawn their support of the administration’s attack on state authority, and GM has expressed its support for President-elect Biden’s vision of a zero emission transportation future. This is a welcome development, but it’s just a start. We need the entire industry to embrace ambitious policies, such as next-generation clean car standards that will create a million jobs and equitably transition the U.S. to 100% pollution-free new cars by 2035. These policies must prioritize eliminating pollution in environmental justice communities, and ensure that pollution-free vehicles and charging infrastructure are available to people of all colors and income levels.

And the automakers who are still backing Trump’s attack on state authority — looking at you, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler — need to follow their peers’ lead, for the sake of the climate, their customers, their employees, and their bottom line. Customer opinions of Toyota have dropped sharply in response to its stance on the clean car standards. This could have a big impact on sales if the company doesn’t shift out of reverse soon. Over 200 state and local officials from 26 states, and over 285,000 petitioners, have called on Toyota and Fiat Chrysler to do just that by investing in clean transport innovation, not litigation trying to prop up the Trump administration’s rollback.

If automakers need an example to follow, they should look no further than Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, and Volvo, who have been out in front supporting strong clean car standards and states’ authority to adopt them. In August, these five manufacturers entered bilateral agreements with California that recognize the state’s clean car authority and will prevent hundreds of millions of tons of climate pollution. The agreements earned the highest possible rating in EDF’s new Climate Authenticity Meter. One company that has taken its commitment a step further is Ford, which recently supported California’s bold commitment to make all new cars sold in the state zero-emitting by 2035.

As the growing support for transformative clean car standards shows, we face an incredible opportunity. Together, we can put a million Americans to work building the pollution-free cars that will make our air safer to breathe and steer us away from the climate cliff. We hope that all automakers will join us in pursuit of these shared goals.

Also posted in California, Cars and Pollution, Cities and states, Economics, EPA litgation, Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Jobs, Policy / Read 1 Response

Why Electric Utilities Must Engage in Climate Resilience Planning

(This post was co-authored by EDF’s Sarah Ladin and Romany Webb of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School)

As the owners and operators of immense infrastructure, electric utilities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Many electric utilities are already struggling to respond to higher temperatures, changing rain patterns, more intense storms, and other climate impacts. Those impacts impair the operation of electric generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure. The situation will only worsen in coming decades, which makes it imperative that electric utilities act now to identify future climate impacts and develop tools and processes to manage them.

This type of planning is not just good practice, however. In our new report, Climate Risk in the Electricity Sector: Legal Obligations to Advance Climate Resilience Planning by Electric Utilities, we show that it is also legally required under state public utility law and tort law.

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Also posted in Energy, News / Comments are closed

The broad coalition defending America’s state and national clean car standards in court

(Correction: This blog previously referred to a Blue Green Alliance estimate that the Clean Cars rollback would cost 200,000 jobs. That estimate was for the proposed rollback. We have now included the Trump administration’s own analysis of the final rollback, which found it would cost as many as 140,000 job-years.)

The legal battle over America’s Clean Car Standards is now in full swing.

EDF and a broad coalition that includes 23 states from all regions of the country recently filed court documents defending both state and national clean car standards against attacks from the Trump administration.

23 states from across the country have joined the coalition defending our nation’s Clean Car Standards.

The Trump administration recently finalized a rule that would roll back our national Clean Car Standards. This rollback would cause more than 18,000 premature deaths, cost Americans $244 billion at the gas pump, and produce as much climate pollution as running 68 coal plants for five years. The administration has also launched an unprecedented attack on states’ long-standing authority to protect people from vehicle pollution.

EDF and a group of public health and environmental groups, state and local governments, and businesses from across the economy have filed petitions challenging the rollback in court. And we recently filed a brief in a separate lawsuit arguing against the administration’s attack on state authority to limit vehicle emissions.

The broad coalition litigating to defend clean car standards includes:

  • 23 States and several cities that comprise a majority of America’s population and represent every region, from Michigan to North Carolina, Colorado, and California (seen in the map above)
  • Three Air Quality Management Districts responsible for maintaining safe, healthy air in their regions
  • 12 Public Health, Consumer, and Environmental Organizations including EDF, Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Communities for a Better Environment, Conservation Law Foundation, Consumer Federation of America, Environment America, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Dozens of Major Businesses from across the economy, including Advanced Energy Economy (whose more than 70 members include Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Lyft, Cummins, Bloomberg Energy, Comcast, Trane, and Apex Clean Energy), National Coalition for Advanced Transportation (whose 17 participating members include Tesla, Rivian, Chargepoint, and Plug In America), and 20 major power companies

In litigation over the attack on state clean car standards, our coalition has been joined by a dozen amici curiae, who have filed briefs as “friends of the court” in support of state authority. These amici include:

  • 147 Members of Congress from 32 states and the District of Columbia
  • Five Former Department of Transportation Secretaries and Four Former EPA Administrators from both Democratic and Republican administrations, as well as former EPA officials Michael Walsh and Margo Oge and Clean Air Act architect Thomas Jorling
  • Leading Researchers and Professors including University of Michigan law professor Leah Litman, New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity, and seven climate science professors at California universities
  • Five Major Medical and Public Health Organizations including the American Thoracic Society, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, and California Medical Association
  • Four State and Local Government Organizations including the National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and International Municipal Lawyers’ Association, as well as the National Association of Clean Air Agencies
  • Two National Parks Organizations including the National Parks Conservation Association and Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
  • Edison Electric Institute, the trade association representing all U.S. investor-owned power companies
  • Lyft, which has recently committed to providing 100% of its rides using electric vehicles by 2030

Additionally, six major automakers – Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, Rolls Royce, and Volvo – have independently entered into voluntary frameworks with California for continued nationwide pollution reductions from their vehicles, in recognition of California’s authority under the Clean Air Act and the continuing need for state leadership.

Protecting well-established state authority

Last September, the Trump administration purported to withdraw California’s authority to set vehicle pollution standards at a more protective level than the federal government, as well as other states’ authority to adopt these California standards. The Clean Air Act has always recognized California’s authority, which is based on the state’s historic leadership in setting vehicle standards and the need to address its serious pollution problems.

California has used this authority to set pathbreaking standards like its Zero Emission Vehicle standards, which 11 other states have adopted. Most recently, Nevada has joined New Mexico and Minnesota in announcing its plans to adopt these standards. This is just one recent example of states and businesses leading the way to lower transportation emissions. Others include California’s ongoing work to develop Advanced Clean Car 2.0 standards, its recently-finalized Advanced Clean Trucks standards (which will lead to electrification of all new medium- and heavy-duty trucks in the state by 2045), a clean trucks agreement by 15 states representing 35% of the national truck fleet (which aims to electrify 30% of new trucks in these states by 2030 and all of the states’ new trucks by 2050), and Lyft’s announcement that, in partnership with EDF, it will reach 100% electric vehicles by 2030. Defending California’s authority will be key in maintaining this momentum.

EDF and our allies have brought a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s attack on state authority. We recently filed briefs arguing that the administration’s reckless departure from longstanding precedent is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to applicable law. The dozen amicus briefs added further breadth and depth to our coalition’s legal support for state authority.

Defending the Clean Car Standards from a rollback that harms public health, the economy, and the environment

On April 30, the Trump administration finalized a rollback that would eviscerate the national Clean Car Standards, cutting the required annual reduction in fleetwide climate pollution from about 5% to just 1.5%. Analysis by EDF shows that the rollback will result in an additional 1.5 billion tons of climate pollution, cause more than 18,000 premature deaths, and cost Americans $244 billion at the gas pump. The Trump administration’s own analysis shows that the rollback will cut as many as 140,000 job-years from the automotive sector (see page 24,988 of the Final Rule). That’s the amount of work that would employ 140,000 people full-time for one year.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told the New York Times that the rollback will be especially harmful to auto industry jobs in her state, so it’s no surprise that many automakers disagree with the administration’s approach. Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, and Rolls Royce have declined to defend the rollback in court and reaffirmed their voluntary frameworks with California. And electric vehicle manufacturers Tesla and Rivian are among the businesses challenging the rollback.

The rollback is based on massive technical and economic errors and fails to meet core statutory requirements to reduce pollution and maximize fuel economy. In fact, by the Trump administration’s own analysis, the rollback will result in net harm to Americans.

Protective clean car standards deliver critical climate, health, and consumer benefits, and EDF – along with our many partners and allies – will continue working to defend them.

You can find all the legal briefs in the cases on our website.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Cities and states, Clean Air Act, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Jobs, News, Policy / Comments are closed

The case against the Trump administration’s rollback of the Clean Power Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency will file a legal brief today defending its decision to dismantle the Clean Power Plan and replace it with the harmful and cynically misnamed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule.

But nothing EPA says can alter the fact that ACE is destructive, costly, and unlawful. EPA projects that ACE will reduce power sector emissions by a mere 0.7 percent by 2030, and will increase pollution at nearly one in five of the nation’s coal plants, two-thirds of which are located in minority and low-income communities.

In the face of a growing and ever-perilous climate crisis calling for meaningful action, we expect EPA will claim the Clean Air Act does not permit the agency to do more to reduce emissions from the nation’s largest industrial source of carbon pollution. This claim severely distorts the statutory requirements.

EDF filed suit last summer as part of a broad coalition of states, cities, other health and environmental advocates, power companies, and clean energy trade associations. In April, the coalition filed legal briefs showing that EPA has ample authority — and a clear obligation — under the Clean Air Act to require meaningful reduction of carbon pollution from power plants. These briefs collectively demonstrate that EPA’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan is based on a gross misreading of the Clean Air Act, and the agency’s replacement rule, premised on the same misreading, fails to live up to the statutory command that power plants use the “best system of emission reduction” to limit their carbon pollution.

Here are the key arguments we’ve made against the Clean Power Plan rollback and ACE.

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Comments are closed