Clean Air Act Digest, 7.26.13
Senator Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Portman (R-OH) have put forward a bipartisan, consensus-based energy efficiency bill that will save consumers money and cut pollution. Yet some in the Senate are poised to hijack this common sense legislation to push anti-science, anti-health poison pill amendments aimed at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to cut dangerous carbon pollution. But denying the science won’t change the facts. Carbon pollution and climate change are imposing real costs on our economy, and that hurts American families and communities. Last year’s extreme weather–droughts, fires, storms, flooding–cost our country $140 billion. And the federal government picked up the lion’s share of the tab, to the tune of about $1,100 per taxpayer. The community sent a letter to the Senate earlier this week, urging support for a clean bill. See below for an action alert.
H.R. 1582 should be called the Blocking Public Health Protections Act as it eliminates federal responsibility to protect the public’s health and safety. This bill would simply do away with many environmental, health and safety considerations. It would repeal EPA’s authority to finalize public health standards for clean air and clean water, transferring necessary authority to the Department of Energy–a different agency with a different mission. H.R. 1582 would allow vital health and environmental safeguards to be nullified, all while upending the missions of two major federal agencies. See the community opposition letter here.
On Tuesday, July 24, a House appropriations subcommittee approved a drastic cut in funding for EPA, the Department of Interior, and related agencies for the coming fiscal year (FY14). The bill cuts $4 billion from these environment-related agencies compared to current (post-sequestration) funding levels, for a total funding level of $24.3 billion. EPA’s budget would be slashed by a third. The bill also contains an eye-popping total of 31 anti-environmental policy “riders,” including a provision to block EPA from moving ahead with carbon pollution standards for power plants. The top Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), walked out of the subcommittee markup in protest. The full Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the bill next week. (Greenwire, July 23–subscription required)
Also on July 24, the House Judiciary Committee met to mark up several regulatory bills. The committee voted in favor of two anti-regulatory bills, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act (H.R. 1493) and the Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R. 2122). The committee is also expected to pass the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (H.R. 2542) and the Responsibility and Professionally Invigorating Development Act (H.R. 2614) next week. According to the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, all of these bills would prevent federal agencies from implementing safe drinking water and clean air standards that protect the public.
Federal Court Follows Science in Striking Down EPA’s Biomass Emissions Loophole
On July 12, the DC Circuit Court confirmed that Clean Air Act limits on carbon dioxide pollution apply to industrial facilities that burn biomass, including tree-burning power plants. The court vacated an exemption the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had carved out for “biogenic carbon dioxide.” Emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities that burn biomass can accelerate global warming and contribute to a host of respiratory and cardiac problems. Biomass-fueled power plants emit significantly more CO2 per kilowatt produced than power plants that burn fossil fuels—even coal—and it can take decades before that excess CO2 is “re-sequestered” by subsequent plant growth. Under the Clean Air Act, facilities that are required to control their CO2 emissions must also control any “significant” emissions of other regulated pollutants, so the court’s decision also means that communities near these plants will benefit from reductions in pollution that causes asthma and other health problems.
Federal Court Issues Mixed Decision on Ozone Standards
On July 23, the federal appeals court found that Bush era ozone standards failed to meet legal requirements to protect forests and vegetation, while simultaneously upholding a health standard that fails to protect public health. The focus of the court case, ozone—sometimes called smog—is a gas that has been found to cause major health problems (including worsening asthma and other lung diseases) in people and damage to trees and vegetation. In 2008, Earthjustice, on behalf of the American Lung Association and several other groups, challenged ozone standards set by the Bush Administration. The Bush Administration set the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) at 75 parts per billion (ppb), ignoring the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) which recommended that the EPA set a standard for ozone between 60 to 70 ppb. The court case was put on a temporary hold until the Obama administration decided in 2011 to disregard the scientific research and maintain the Bush standards. It is expected that the EPA standards will be strengthened, but there is concern among environmental and health groups that the schedule to update the standards could slip into 2015. Click here to read the press release by the American Lung Association.
Urge your US Senators: Keep Energy Efficiency Bill Clean
A good bipartisan bill (S. 761) that would increase energy efficiency is making its way through the Senate. Unfortunately, it has become a target for harmful amendments that would undermine clean energy and the President’s recently announced Climate Action Plan.
Ask your senators to oppose amendments that would weaken the integrity of the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill!
Urge your Senator: Protect the President’s Climate Plan, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Action Alert
A Closer Look at the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill, World Resources Institute (WRI) Blog, 7.25.13
Community Support Letter: Keep Shaheen-Portman Clean, Joint Sign-on Letter, 7.24.13
Bipartisan Poll on Youth Voters and Climate Change, League of Conservation Voters Poll Summary, 7.24.13
Powering Up America: A Quiet Revolution in Energy Reform Takes Hold Across the Nation, PR Newswire Article, 7.24.13
H.R. 1582 Blocks Public Health Protections Community Support Letter, Joint Sign-on Letter, 7.23.13
VIDEO: Turn Heat into Power with Industrial Efficiency, Pew Trusts Video, 7.23.13
Federal Court Follows Science in Striking Down EPA’s Biomass Emissions Loophole, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Press Release, 7.12.13
Above is a sampling of the most recent resources related to upholding the Clean Air Act. Don’t forget USCAN has a series of pages that compile items like these and much more:
Clean Air Act Digest is a publication put together by US Climate Action Network and Natural Resources Defense Council. Please contact Lara Levison at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. Click here for past issues.