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 Cities and states, Clean Air Act, 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, Cities and states, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Comments are closed

OSHA takes important first steps to address growing risks of heat to workers

As climate change intensifies heat-related risks in the workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing regulations that would provide critical protections for workers from heat hazards in indoor and outdoor settings — a process that should incorporate consideration of climate impacts and the firsthand expertise of affected workers.

As an initial step in the rulemaking process, last fall, OSHA announced its intent to propose a rule and requested public comment on how to design a heat standard that will provide effective protection. Environmental Defense Fund and the Institute for Policy Integrity recently submitted joint comments supporting OSHA’s efforts to protect workers and urging that the agency design standards that account for the disproportionate impacts of extreme heat on marginalized communities and the increased heat risk that workers will face due to climate change.

Laboring under high heat can lead to heat exhaustion, stroke, kidney disease, and other maladies. Heat also makes workplace injuries more likely, with studies finding increased rates of accidents like ladder falls and even helicopter crashes. A day of over 100°F is associated with a 10-15% increase in traumatic workplace injuries, compared with a 60°F day. Climate change exacerbates these harms, driving up temperatures, humidity, and the frequency and severity of extreme heat events.

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Also posted in Economics, Extreme Weather, Jobs, News, Partners for Change, Policy, Science / Read 5 Responses

What We’re Watching in Reconciliation: Regular Updates from EDF

Photo Credit: John Williams

Through the process known as budget reconciliation, Congress is now crafting a bill that could include significant investments in climate action that will drive economic and job growth. There are going to be a lot of moving parts over the next few weeks, which is why EDF will be weighing in regularly in this space to help break down what’s happening, and why it matters.

Want a primer on the key issues EDF will be watching? Read all about them here.

Dec. 13: Build Back Better Act moves through the Senate; White House releases new Executive Order building on climate investments

The Build Back Better Act continued its march through the Senate last week, with several key sections of the legislation going through the process of being vetted for final passage. We’re hearing a final vote may be scheduled as soon as December 20. 

But even as we wait for the Build Back Better Act to move through the Senate, the White House is not hesitating to act on the climate crisis. Last Wednesday, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs through Federal Sustainability and released a Federal Sustainability Plan detailing the government’s plan to “walk the talk” on clean energy.  Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Climate Change Legislation, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Read 1 Response

New analysis: Americans across the country suffered from high ozone pollution levels of this summer

In addition to checking the temperature and the chance of rain before leaving home, many people have been forced to add a new indicator to their daily weather check – air quality.

Ground-level ozone pollution – more commonly known as smog – reached dangerous levels across the U.S. this summer. EDF’s new analysis found that almost every state experienced unhealthy levels of it, with millions of Americans exposed to dangerous air pollution.

The current national standard for ground-level ozone pollution is 70 parts per billion. As you can see from the maps above, 45 states had at least one day between March and August with levels that exceeded that limit.

However, there is a substantial and growing body of scientific evidence that shows serious health effects from ground-level ozone exposure at levels below the current standard. When the data is expanded to consider ground-level ozone levels greater than 60 parts per billion, which would be a health-based standard more consistent with the scientific evidence, the picture of summer ozone levels is even more concerning – all but one state (Hawaii) had at least one day with levels that exceeded that amount.

Our analysis also found:

  • The Western U.S. experienced the worst ozone levels in the country this summer. California, Arizona and Colorado experienced the most high-ozone days between March and August.
  • 343 counties recorded at least one high-ozone day. San Bernardino, California recorded the most exceedances – 112 high-ozone days between March and August, including almost every day in July and August.
  • More than 31 million people live in the 24 counties that had more than 20 high-ozone days between March and August, including Denver County in Colorado, Maricopa County in Arizona, and Los Angeles County in California.
  • If you use the more health-protective standard of 60 parts per billion, a majority of days between March and April had unhealthy ozone levels across the Western U.S.
  • In Arizona, under the 60 parts per billion standard, 89% of days between March and August had unhealthy ozone levels somewhere in the state.

There were many wildfires this summer and wildfire smoke is one of the sources that can contribute to elevated levels of ozone pollution. EPA establishes standards based on health science alone, and the agency has long had policies in place that allow states to account for truly exceptional events. Our analysis includes all recorded high ozone readings and does not exclude any high ozone days

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

What We’re Watching in Reconciliation

Photo Credit: Wally Gobetz

Through the process known as budget reconciliation, Congress is now considering significant investments in climate action that could supercharge economic and job growth. With so many moving pieces, it can be difficult to know what to watch for, which is why we’ve homed in on four key questions to ask as the process unfolds.

EDF staff will also be weighing in on key developments as they happen, and you can read those comments in a new, regularly updated blog post you can read here. Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Energy, Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs / Comments are closed