Climate 411

Mercury pollution from coal plants is still a danger to Americans. We need stronger standards to protect us.

Mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants is extremely dangerous — it causes brain damage in babies and is associated with heart disease and many other serious health issues.

Fortunately, mercury pollution has fallen significantly since EPA finalized the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in 2012. However, despite the success of the standards in reducing pollution as a significantly lower than projected cost, many power plants continue to emit mercury and other dangerous air pollutants in large quantities. That means stronger safeguards are needed to protect the health of Americans across the country.

The top 30 power plants for mercury pollution

Coal-fired power plants continue to be the largest source of mercury pollution in the United States, accounting for approximately 8,800 pounds of mercury emissions in 2017 alone. Mercury is emitted in the combustion process of coal and other fossil fuels. Coal has much higher mercury concentrations than other fossil fuels, which explains why coal-fired power plants often emit larger quantities of mercury pollution than do power plants that burn other fossil fuels.

Mercury pollution from coal plants is particularly severe in certain parts of the country. EDF just published the above map, based on estimates calculated using publicly available data from 2020. It shows the top 30 power plants emitting the highest amount of mercury pollution in the country.

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy / Comments are closed

Protective pollution safeguards can dramatically increase deployment of zero-emission freight trucks and buses

Photo: Scharfsinn86

A new study developed by Roush Industries for EDF shows rapidly declining costs for zero-emission freight trucks and buses, underscoring the feasibility of rapidly deploying these vehicles that will help us save money, have healthier air, and address the climate crisis.

The study, Medium- and Heavy-Duty Electrification Cost Evaluation, analyzes the cost of electrifying vehicles in several medium and heavy-duty market segments, including transit and school buses, shuttle and delivery vehicles, and garbage trucks – vehicles that typically operate in cities where average trip distances are short and the health and pollution effects of transportation pollution are of particular concern. It projects the upfront costs of buying an electric vehicle instead of a diesel vehicle, and the total cost of ownership for electric vehicles in model years 2027 to 2030.

The study finds that a rapid transition to electric freight trucks and buses makes economic sense when considering both the upfront purchase cost and the total cost of ownership.

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy / Comments are closed

The Clean Future Act: New Mexico’s biggest opportunity to lead on climate

New Mexico mountains

Photo credit: Pixabay

Last year, New Mexico was hit by three different billion-dollar weather disasters: a devastating wildfire season, severe summer storms that included destructive hail, and persistent drought throughout the year across the West. At one point in 2021, over half of the state was in “exceptional drought” (the most severe category of drought), which put immense pressure on farmers, ranchers and even towns to find ways to conserve water.

As these costly, climate change-fueled events become more severe and frequent, communities across the state are looking to the Roundhouse for strong leadership. That is why it was critical when Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced in October that she would push a bill this legislative session to ensure New Mexico does its part to reduce emissions.

This session, New Mexico state leaders can act on the Clean Future Act (House Bill 6), a bill that will reduce harmful climate pollution and build a cleaner, healthier economy for all New Mexicans. This bill puts statutory limits on pollution from all major sources of greenhouse gases across the state, requiring pollution reductions of 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, including a 90 percent reduction in direct emissions by that date.

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Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Read 3 Responses

Colorado legislators passed a law to cut pollution from industry, but regulators have yet to deliver

Cement plant west of Pueblo, CO.

Cement plant west of Pueblo, CO. Photo by Jeffrey Beall

As the 2022 legislative session in Colorado gets underway – with many climate and environmental issues on the agenda – it’s important to take stock of what legislators accomplished on this front last year. One key action we’ve been tracking closely and hope to see progress on this year: Curbing climate pollution from industry and manufacturing.

On top of Colorado’s existing obligation to cut emissions across the economy, established in the state’s Climate Action Plan in 2019 (HB 19-1261), the legislature passed an additional mandate last year directing the state’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt rules that ensure climate pollution from the industrial and manufacturing sector falls 20% below 2015 levels by 2030.

As we detail below, even with this further direction from legislators and some positive steps, progress on reducing emissions continues to be slow. In the fall, the Commission adopted a new rule that takes aim at climate pollution from four specific industrial facilities in Colorado. The new rule marked an important step forward as the first rule directly regulating climate pollution from one of the state’s major source categories, though together these facilities account for just 2% of the statewide emissions (see Figure 1 below).

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Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed

Why RGGI is a Good Deal for Virginians

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia

With unprecedented droughts, wildfires, floods and heat waves impacting communities nationwide, it’s clear that climate change is not a threat in some distant future – we’re dealing with its ramifications today. Virginians know this well, having experienced eight different billion-dollar disaster events (three tropical cyclones, four severe storms, and one winter storm) in 2021 alone. Consequently, it’s imperative that we act immediately to address the climate crisis. Virginia took a major step toward doing just that by linking to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2021 – a step Governor Youngkin has, alarmingly, indicated he wants to reverse.

Leaving RGGI risks derailing Virginia from continued progress to reduce climate pollution and will eliminate funds for existing programs that help protect Virginians from devastating floods and that save electric ratepayers money by lowering their energy usage.

RGGI is a proven program for combating climate pollution while investing in solutions that will make Virginia more resilient. Here are five reasons that make clear RGGI is a good deal for Virginia.

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Posted in Cities and states / Read 1 Response

Governor Murphy’s 2030 climate goal demands a new climate game plan for New Jersey

Last month, Governor Phil Murphy elevated New Jersey’s fight against the climate crisis this decade by signing Executive Order No. 274, which commits the state to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50% below 2006 levels by 2030. The Governor’s action is a critical step toward putting New Jersey on a path to do what is necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and it aligns the state’s goals with those of the Biden administration. It also arrives at a crucial time, after New Jersey communities were hit with destructive flooding and tornadoes from Hurricane Ida earlier this fall and have been forced to confront the reality of increasingly severe and frequent storms.

But Governor Murphy’s climate legacy will not be secured by this commitment. It will be determined by the action he takes to deliver on it. Now that the goal to halve emissions by 2030 across all sectors of the state’s economy has been established as the formal policy of the state of New Jersey, Murphy will need to develop a policy framework that secures emission reductions in line with the target.

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Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed