Climate 411

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.

Oct 22: More than one pathway: Congress can meet the moment on climate action

It’s been all over the news this week: a significant piece of the Democrats’ climate policy agenda has been dropped from the Build Back Better Act. The Clean Electricity Performance Program or CEPP was designed to incentivize utilities to increase the percentage of their electricity generation coming from clean sources through a carrot-and-stick approach: offering rewards for meeting annual growth targets and assessing penalties for failing to meet minimum targets. Now it’s on the cutting room floor. So what does it mean for meeting our climate targets? Can Congress still meet the moment for climate action?  Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Climate Change Legislation, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Policy / Leave a comment

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.

(See the full analysis here)

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

Beyond R&D: Climate innovation policy can help the U.S. meet the moment

Together with Third Way, EDF co-hosted a Climate Week 2021 event on how U.S. climate innovation policy can accelerate a cleaner, stronger and more equitable economy. Here are four big takeaways.

(Caption: Speakers included Mandela Barnes, Lieutenant Governor, Wisconsin; Chris Deschene, Board Member, National InterTribal Energy Council; Jason Walsh, Executive Director, BlueGreen Alliance; Jetta Wong, Senior Fellow, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and President, JLW Advising. The event was moderated by Natasha Vidangos, Senior Director, Climate Innovation and Technology at EDF, and Josh Freed, Senior Vice President, Climate and Energy Program at Third Way.)

Climate innovation is a powerful tool that can create high-quality jobs, improve the quality of life for all communities and catalyze the breakthroughs needed to reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050. To take advantage of the full opportunity, however, we need strong policies and approaches now that can deliver on all of these challenges, as a recent Climate Week event hosted by Environmental Defense Fund and Third Way made clear.

Innovation in climate technologies includes many stages of development, from research and development through to demonstration and deployment. The U.S. is poised to make major investments in this area to combat climate change: President Biden has pledged to deliver the largest-ever federal investment in clean energy innovation, and the infrastructure and reconciliation packages currently under negotiation in Congress contain large amounts of funding, including specific investments in demonstration and deployment of key technologies. But these investments can feel abstract. What would a strong push for climate innovation mean for U.S. workers and communities, and how can we design these policies to deliver the maximum benefits for all?

Here are four major takeaways from the event, which brought together perspectives from government, labor and advocacy.

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Also posted in Energy, Jobs / Comments are closed

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, Partners for Change, Policy / Comments are closed

Carbon removal tech could help us draw down historic pollution and go beyond net-zero. But it needs the right policy.

This blog was co-authored by Maureen Lackner, Manager for Economics & Policy at EDF.

This EDF working paper explores policy tools that federal policymakers could use to quickly and responsibly begin deployment of Direct Air Capture facilities, one of several possible carbon removal approaches that could help get the U.S. to net-negative emissions, alongside essential measures to slash pollution.

Carbon Engineering's direct air capture pilot plant.

Carbon Engineering’s direct air capture pilot plant. Photo Credit: Carbon Engineering

The latest report from the IPCC underlined what many already know: action is failing to keep pace with the accelerating climate crisis. A rapid, global transition to net-zero emissions is mission critical since every fraction of a degree in warming could worsen the climate damages we’re already experiencing.

Directly cutting U.S. emissions by moving toward clean energy sources will be the unquestionable priority this decade. But the report also makes clear that we need to scale up carbon dioxide removal (CDR) to reduce the likelihood of the most catastrophic impacts beyond 1.5C warming. The unforgiving math means we will need to harness scientifically-robust ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere through nature — such as managing healthy forests — and through emerging technologies.

One technology-based solution receiving considerable attention is Direct Air Capture with dedicated geologic storage (called DACCS), where carbon is pulled from the air and permanently and safely stored underground.

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Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Read 1 Response

With the Climate Crisis Act, California can lock in a safer pathway to net-zero emissions

The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes clear what Californians already know: the climate crisis is upon us. Impacts like ever-more-extreme wildfires, intensifying drought, and the growing threat of sea-level rise are accelerating, and the widespread damage are only going to intensify unless we take bold, swift action to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

In California, no person or region will be immune, and the harms from climate change are felt first and worst by communities that historically have borne a disproportionate burden of California’s pollution: communities of people with low wealth, people of color, indigenous people, and farmworkers, among others.

California urgently needs to get on track to meet the state’s 2030 goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below the 1990 level by 2030; it has the slate of policies needed to succeed but must maximize near-term climate ambition. At the same time, it is essential for California to have a long-term vision and ensure that policy decisions made with an eye toward 2030 are consistent with the need to achieve net-zero emissions as swiftly as possible, and no later than 2045.

That’s why it is crucial for California to adopt the new Climate Crisis Act (AB 1395), co-authored by Assembly Members Al Muratsuchi and Cristina Garcia, to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. This bill will cement California’s commitment to a safer pathway — a pathway that aligns with the science and achieves net-zero emissions — while also providing crucial guidelines that can maximize reductions, preserve environmental integrity and safeguard communities. Here’s why CA lawmakers should back this bill.

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