Climate 411

New research series: Ensuring fairness for workers and communities in the transition to a clean economy

EDF and Resources for the Future (RFF) partner on a new research series to inform policymaking on fairness for fossil fuel workers and communities in transition.

Coal burning plant in Conesville, Ohio.

Coal burning plant in Conesville, Ohio.

The shockwaves from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to reverberate across the United States, with tens of millions unemployed and workers in every sector in need of support. The energy sector is reeling from the impact — especially the many workers and communities living in coal-dominated regions already grappling with job loss.

In Northeast Wyoming, the Powder River Basin region experienced the largest round of coal mine layoffs in years. In West Virginia, Longview Power — cited as the most efficient coal-fired power plant in the country — filed for bankruptcy. And in Somerset County, Pennsylvania a local coal mine went “indefinitely idle” and laid off 100 workers. These are just a few examples from this spring that reveal how the steep drop in energy demand, largely a result of shutdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19, exacerbated loss in the coal industry. But they don’t capture the whole story.

The loss of these coal jobs will cause a ripple effect beyond the workers: these families will see a drop in income, making it harder to make ends meet, and may also lose health care and other critical benefits. Surrounding businesses — from restaurants to gas stations — will see a drop in customers and the communities and towns dependent on taxes from the coal industry for building roads and schools face an uncertain future too.

But well before the coronavirus outbreak, coal-dependent regions were already facing chronic job loss, public health crises, and other hardships. The rise of cheaper energy alternatives, including the dramatically improving costs of wind and solar power, has been steadily moving the needle toward a low-carbon economy in the US.

For years, many coal communities anticipated the gradual decline in jobs and revenue; few were prepared for the free fall from coronavirus.

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Also posted in Energy, Green Jobs, Jobs / Comments are closed

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

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 and others shows that the rollback will result in an additional 1.5 billion tons of climate pollution, cause more than 18,000 premature deaths, cost Americans $244 billion at the gas pump, and lose as many as 200,000 jobs.

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 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, Partners for Change, Policy / Comments are closed

Congress set to vote on major job-creating, national infrastructure bill

Three months into the COVID-19 crisis, it’s clear that the American economy and the nation’s workforce needs more help. Millions are still out of work and experts have declared a recession. To address this need, next week the House of Representatives will take up a recovery bill that seeks to not only restore America’s crumbling infrastructure, but to create millions of jobs while building the healthier, safer and cleaner future we need.

The Moving Forward Act presents a transformative and actionable plan that can spur job growth almost overnight, and change the trajectory of our energy economy for decades to come–while addressing head-on the related environmental health impacts that disproportionately impact local communities.

This bill adds to mounting pressure for the U.S. Senate to help American families in a way that builds stronger, healthier communities for the long-term.

Here’s how the Moving Forward Act paves the way for prosperous communities and a safer climate:

Makes significant investments to clean up our nation’s transportation system:

  • $1.7 billion for transit agencies to purchase zero-emission buses
  • $500 million per year for zero emission ports, which will reduce air pollution and help mitigate the health disparities that exist in America’s port communities
  • $200 million to expand the use of sustainable aviation fuels that will reduce aircraft greenhouse gas emissions
  • Requires the U.S. Postal Service fleet, including medium and heavy duty trucks, to move to zero-emission vehicles

Invests in clean energy to make sure this sector, the fastest  growing energy sector in the U.S., thrives and grows to meet tomorrow’s energy needs:

  • Extends and expands tax incentives for renewable energy, energy storage, electric vehicles, energy efficiency and other clean energy technologies.
  • $700 million per year to modernize our electric grid and make sure it can support the expansion of clean energy generation and use throughout the country, as well as withstand increasingly extreme weather

Protects communities from climate-fueled extreme weather events that we are facing today:

  • $6.25 billion for pre-disaster mitigation to build resilience through natural infrastructure protections such as marshes that have been stripped under the pressures of sea level rise, erosion, and development.
  • $3 billion for a coastal resilience fund to shore up coastlines and habitat restoration, steering funding toward under-resourced communities.
  • Sets up a revolving loan fund authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide low-interest loans to states and tribal governments for projects that reduce disaster risk. Eligible projects would help mitigate risk from disasters such as drought and prolonged heat, severe storms, wildfires, earthquakes, flooding and chemical spills.

Puts workers in our nation’s oil and gas fields back on the job cutting pollution:

  • $2 billion to states to hire experts in the field to properly close and remediate orphaned  oil and gas wells. These wells, which may number over 500,000 around the country, leak toxic air and water pollution, as well as emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Cleans up leaking natural gas pipelines, while protecting low-income consumers

  • $1.25 billion for utility companies to offset the cost of replacing a portion of the nation’s 2.5 million miles of natural gas distribution lines in low-income communities.

Protects communities from exposure to lead in drinking water:

  • An amendment to the bill that’s been filed will by provide $22.5 billion over 5 years for full lead service line replacement–prioritizing low-income and environmental justice communities. Across the country, over 11,000 communities still have these lead pipes.

Voters across parties strongly support these investments to rebuild our nation’s economy. Now is the time to expand clean energy and protect the health and safety of American families by passing the Moving Forward Act.

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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, Partners for Change, Policy / Comments are closed

CORSIA: 5 reasons why the ICAO Council shouldn’t move now to rewrite the rules of its aviation climate program

Airplane, jumbojet on runway preparing for takeoff at sunset at the airport. iStock

The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Council is meeting through June 26, and Council members have been asked to make a decision at this session that could undermine the agency’s flagship climate program.

ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) requires airlines to offset emissions above a baseline set at the average of 2019-2020 emissions. However, the International Air Transport Association has asked the ICAO Council to change the baseline to reflect only 2019 emissions, citing the unexpectedly low aviation emissions in 2020 due to COVID-19 and concomitant potentially greater offset requirements for the industry.

Airlines have taken a massive hit due to the pandemic. They argue that they need to escape CORSIA requirements to save money. But hastily rewriting the fundamental structure of the industry’s market-based program to address airline carbon emissions would be penny-wise and future-foolish. Even as airlines are publicly touting their commitment to “sustainability measures like carbon offsetting,” the rule rewrite they are seeking behind the closed doors of the Council would give them a free pass to pollute with no offsetting requirements for three to five years or more, according to analyses by Environmental Defense Fund and other experts.

EDF is calling on the ICAO Council not to move now to change the rules of CORSIA. Deciding, at this Council session, to change the baseline year for CORSIA to 2019-only:

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Also posted in Aviation, Carbon Markets, United Nations / Comments are closed

Hurricanes are getting stronger, more dangerous and forming earlier. Here’s how we can prepare.

(This post originally appeared on EDF’s Growing Returns. It was written by

Last week, Tropical Storm Arthur skirted North Carolina’s coast before veering into the Atlantic. While damage was minimal, this marked the sixth straight year that a named storm developed in the Atlantic before the official start of hurricane season on June 1.

Experts are predicting this year to be a very active hurricane season, and even more concerning, researchers from NOAA and the University of Wisconsin at Madison just released a study that found climate change is causing more intense and dangerous hurricanes. Their research indicates that the likelihood of a tropical cyclone becoming a Category 3 or stronger storm has increased 8% per decade as a result of climate change.

This news comes on the heels of several record-breaking hurricane seasons. It is a reminder of the urgent need to curb emissions to limit the worst impacts of climate change, while also working to build resilience to the changes we know are coming.

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