Climate 411

New study shows federal agencies must consider climate risk in environmental reviews under NEPA

(This post was co-authored by Romany Webb of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School and EDF’s Michael Panfil. It is also posted on the Sabin Center’s website.)

From pipelines destabilized by melting permafrost to powerline-sparked wildfires exacerbated by drought, the impacts of climate change are affecting infrastructure across the U.S. and heightening the risks posed to the environment and communities.

A new study, undertaken jointly by Environmental Defense Fund and Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, finds that federal agencies are not adequately considering climate change impacts in energy project reviews conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The finding stands at odds with NEPA’s requirement that federal agencies take a “hard look” at the environmental effects of proposed actions, including considering ways to mitigate adverse effects and alternative courses of action, before proceeding.

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Partners for Change / 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, Health, News / 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, Health, Jobs, News, Partners for Change, Science / Read 5 Responses

Pass major climate investments to keep our commitment to environmental justice

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Passing major climate investments are a long-overdue step to address environmental injustice throughout the United States. They will reduce the pollution that causes climate change and impacts public health, create high-quality jobs, and make long overdue investments in communities overburdened by pollution. The climate provisions passed in the House version of Build Back Better stand to be the most significant environmental justice investment ever passed by Congress.

More clean trucks and buses: Because of their proximity to trucking routes and ports, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to dangerous smog- and soot-forming pollutants – causing a slew of health problems, including heart and lung disease. Build Back Better invests billions to reduce this harmful pollution and support workforce development in the hardest hit areas.

Replace toxic lead pipes: More than nine million homes in 11,000 communities across the U.S. still get their water through a lead pipe, posing serious health risks. Investments from Build Back Better complement those from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by giving EPA the resources it needs to create jobs and prioritize lead pipe replacement to protect children in low-wealth families and communities of color. 

Jobs protecting Americans from climate change: The Civilian Climate Corps would train a new, diverse workforce of 300,000 dedicated to combating the climate crisis and create a pathway to good-paying jobs. This investment is especially important for young people, people of color, and those with a high school diploma or less, who face barriers to accessing high-quality jobs.

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Also posted in Climate Change Legislation, News / Read 1 Response

Power companies, businesses, and experts support EPA authority to address climate pollution at Supreme Court

More than a dozen amicus curiae – or “friend of the court” – briefs were filed in support of EPA in West Virginia et al. v. EPA, a Supreme Court legal challenge brought by coal companies and their allies in an effort to undermine EPA’s authority to safeguard human health and the environment from the climate pollution emitted by power plants.

Amicus briefs are common in Supreme Court cases and can provide the Justices with important information or arguments from entities that are not themselves party to the legal challenge. But the amici supporting EPA here are especially notable for their breadth and expertise. They represent a far-reaching set of interests and entities, including a large coalition of the nation’s power companies, former power company leaders, major American businesses and manufacturers, power sector experts, climate scientists, legal scholars, medical and public health experts, almost 200 members of Congress, and the Edison Electric Institute – which represents numerous companies that would themselves be regulated under any hypothetical EPA rule filed in support of EPA’s authority here.

Such a substantial showing of amici underscores the significance of maintaining EPA’s authority to regulate climate pollution and protect human health and the environment in the face of aggressive attacks from the coal petitioners and their allies.

Here’s more about the amicus briefs:

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

Why we need a global stocktake that works

UN climate agency’s upcoming review puts a spotlight on Paris Agreement implementation 

Day 1 plenary of COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. UNclimatechange via Flickr

This post was co-authored by Maggie Ferrato, Senior Analyst for Environmental Defense Fund

In the wake of the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, it’s clear that current climate targets are not enough to meet the Paris Agreement temperature goals, despite dozens of updated national climate plans and the plethora of announcements made on the sidelines of COP.

With COP26 now in the rearview, it is time to look ahead toward what needs to happen next for the world to get on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

The good news is that Paris Agreement was designed to ratchet up ambition over time. One of the elements written in the Paris Agreement, a process known as the global stocktake (GST), just kicked off. The two-year process risks becoming a bureaucratic check-the-box exercise that doesn’t produce any real benefit to the climate. However, if implemented properly, the stocktake offers an important opportunity to increase countries’ climate ambition enough to set the world on the right path to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

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Also posted in International, Paris Agreement, United Nations / Comments are closed