On Monday, October 9, 2017, the EPA proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan. Once it is published in the Federal Register tomorrow there will be a 60 day public comment period. [Update: read Pruitt’s delusional press release here.] As we have before for the proposed and final rule, Gasp will be commenting. It is not only regrettable, but also disgraceful that we are commenting again, this time against repealing one of the most critical plans to address and combat climate change.
Clearly the motto of this new administration is to repeal, repeal, repeal with no thought of replacing. Where Scott Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times prior to being in charge of the EPA, I cannot say I’m shocked at this announcement. But this is conscience-shocking.
Where September of this year was the most active month on record for Atlantic hurricanes and the 10 hottest years recorded have all occurred since 1998, climate change isn’t a distant threat, it’s here. The time to act has long passed and we certainly do not have time to roll back existing regulations.
EPA estimates the Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks every year once it is fully implemented.
The message today? Meh, your health, your children’s health, they don’t matter. This administration would rather coyly and ignorantly pretend they’re unsure whether carbon is a pollutant. Such an absurd position is indefensible, especially when it’s well-known who has been buttering Scott Pruitt’s bread for a very long time.
This is a slap in the face to current and future generations. If you agree, please sign our petition for climate action!
It’s been a few weeks since I updated everyone on executive and legislative actions. Sadly, this is not because there has been nothing to update; so this will be a long one! However, one reason this update is delayed is because I attended an inspiring conference two weeks ago that replenished my “hope budget” and gave me new energy to tackle the many and ever-growing attacks on clean air. Since I blogged last month, several new developments have cropped up and we have new updates:
- March 6, 2017: White House Announces Plan to “Close Out” Energy Star program: A spending blueprint would slash Energy Star and related programs, leaving $5 million “for the closeout or transfer of all the climate protection voluntary partnership programs.” According to our friends at ACEEE, Energy Star spend about $50 million through EPA and $7 million through the Department of Energy. According to the Obama administration, the Energy Star program saved consumers $34 billion in electricity costs and prevented more than 300 million metric tons of GHGs in one year while improving ambient air quality.
- March 8: The HONEST Act (H.R. 1430): This proposed bill is sponsored by Lamar Smith, R-TX. The bill works “[t]o prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.” This bill is an attempt to revise the EPA’s scientific review process that guides their rulemaking. The bill was introduced on March 8, 2017 and passed by recorded vote in the House (228 – 194) on March 29, 2017.
- March 13: Executive Order on a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch: President Trump signed this Executive Order, where the stated purpose is “intended to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the executive branch by directing the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (Director) to propose a plan to reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies (as defined in section 551(1) of title 5, United States Code), components of agencies, and agency programs.”
- March 15: Republicans Joint Resolution on Climate Change: A group of 17 Republican members of Congress signed a resolution vowing to seek “economically viable” ways to combat global warming. It pledges to “study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates” and seek ways to “balance human activities” that contribute.
- March 17: Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016 (H.R. 4775). This proposed bill, sponsored by Pete Olson, R-TX, was reintroduced and aims to update to the national ozone standards, with various provisions that would change the way the Environmental Protection Agency reviews standards for particulate matter, lead and other air pollutants. The same bill failed last year and we blogged about its potential disastrous effects on air quality and public health.
- March 21: President Trump is Not Considering a Carbon Tax: despite a meeting between Republican elder statesmen and Trump Administration officials, President Trump announced he is not considering a carbon tax.
- March 28: Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth: President Trump signed this Executive Order. The goal is to halt the United States’ government’s attempts to curb carbon dioxide emissions with the goal of encouraging American business. We borrowed the words of our friends at NAACP on this day to express our extreme disappointment with this negligent and potentially disastrous change in course for addressing the impacts of climate change.
- April 5: Congressional hearing on the RECLAIM Act of 2017 (H.R. 1731): At the hearing, ranking member Alan Lowenthal, D-CA, stated “[t]he idea behind the RECLAIM Act is to take part of the large unexpended balance in the [AML Fund] and devote it to projects where cleaning up mines leads to economic and community benefits. This is, quite frankly, a win-win.” There was testimony from the bill’s lead sponsor, Hal Rogers, R-KY, and three witnesses. The hearing itself was a major milestone for the RECLAIM Act.
FOLLOW UP ON ACTIONS PREVIOUSLY COVERED
- Congressional Review Act put into play by U.S. Congress: The CRA allows senators and representatives who disapprove of a regulation to enter a resolution eliminating it. The resolutions require the signature of the president. So far this year, the following rules protecting the environment and human health have been targeted under the CRA:
- The Department of Interior’s Stream Protection Rule: Update: On February 16, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the repeal of the Stream Protection Rule.
- Department of the Interior Methane Flaring Rule: The House voted on February 3, 2017 with no action so far from the Senate as of the date of this post. Update: on March 21, 2017, some Republican lawmakers came out against using the CRA to repeal this rule. Specifically, Sen. Lindsey Graham said he believed the rule could be subject to improvement, not just cancellation. “I think we can replace it with a better reg, rather than a CRA.”
- Drilling and Mining on Public Lands: On January 31, 2017, the House introduced a joint resolution that would repeal the rules that allow the National Park Service to manage private drilling and mining in 40 parks across the country.
Status of Bills in U.S. Congress covered in previous posts:
||Jason Smith, R-MO
||Establishes a commission to identify obsolete and unnecessarily burdensome regulations to be repealed. It also sets goals for the commission to reduce costs by 15 percent and to prioritize major rules that are more than 15 years old and rules that can be eliminated without diminishing effectiveness.
||No action since the bill passed the House on 3/1/2017.
||Paul Mitchell, R-MI
||Requires independent agencies to submit rules to the Office of Management and Budget before they are published—essentially giving the president tight control of the rule-making process
||No action since the bill passed the House on 3/1/2017.
||Tim Walberg, R-MI
||Would require agencies to publish more detail of forthcoming rules and regulations
||No action since the bill passed the House on 3/2/2017.
||Gary Palmer, R-AL
||Blocks the EPA’s ability to address climate change
||No actions taken since the bill was introduced. You can read our analysis of the bill here.
||Matt Gaetz, R-FL
||Would abolish the EPA effective December 31, 2018
||No actions taken since the bill was introduced.
||Sam Johnson, R-TX
||Would leave EPA with a budget of less than $1 billion. This bill would eliminate EPA climate change programs and would also close all of the EPA’s regional offices, halt new regulations on ground-level ozone pollution and require the agency to lease unused property
||No actions taken since the bill was introduced.
- February 21, 2017: Letter sent from automobile manufacturers to Scott Pruitt asking him to relax emissions requirements: The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers sent a letter to Scott Pruitt (EPA Administrator) asking him to withdraw the Final Determination on Appropriateness of the Model Year 2022-2025 Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards under the Midterm Evaluation. Update: on March 15, 2017, President Trump announced plans to re-examine the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, taking a step back from Obama-era environmental regulations.
- OMB Proposed Budget Cuts to EPA and NOAA: The proposed budget cuts would reduce EPA’s staff by one fifth in the first year and eliminate dozens of programs. Specifically, EPA’s staff would be slashed from 15,000 to 12,000. The proposed budget would also cut EPA’s grants to states, including air and water programs, by 30 percent and eliminate 38 separate programs in their entirety. Media outlets also discovered a four page budget memo that would slash NOAA’s budget by 17 percent, delivering steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs. Any such cuts would have to be codified through the congressional appropriations process. Update: U.S. Congress is currently in recess for the Easter holiday but are expected to consider OMB’s budget proposal upon their return.
Make sure you’re signed up to receive our e-newsletters. We send updates and action alerts about issues that could threaten air quality, public health, and the environment. We will also always provide ways for you to act on any development, whether it’s positive or negative.
Here we go again. Alabama has been named one of the most energy-expensive states according to WalletHub, a website that provides consumers with free financial information and analysis.
We fared better overall in this year’s report than we did in 2014. Alabama now ranks 13th most expensive, compared to sixth two years ago. While that is an improvement, electricity bills continue to be the main driver.
Related: Read our statement on Climate Change & Energy Policy
Alabama ranked 3rd most expensive for monthly electricity bills behind Hawaii and South Carolina Alabama and just ahead of Mississippi. The state ranks 14th for motor-fuel costs; 39th for home heating-oil costs; and 40th for natural gas costs. Below are some tips, which I’ve semi-plagiarized from my last post on this topic, on how to reduce electricity consumption.
An easy way to reduce the amount of energy you’re using and lower your electricity bill is to unplug appliances and other electronics that aren’t being used. If you have a spare refrigerator in the garage that you never utilize, pull the plug! That TV in the spare bedroom? Disconnect that bad boy. For appliances that you use on an irregular basis, such as a home theatre system, use a power strip and flip the switch when you want to use it.
Turn Down the Thermostat.
It’s summertime in Alabama. I get it. But one of the easiest ways to reduce your electricity bill a little bit is to set your thermostat a couple degrees higher. Increasing the temperature from 72 degrees to 76 degrees can save a couple bucks each billing cycle — and that adds up! The inverse goes for winter months (e.g., set the thermostat to 67 degrees or so). If you’re going to be out of town for a few days, you can be even more extreme. Adjusting your thermostat with the seasons also critically reduces the amount of electricity you’re using. Less power means less pollution.
Turn Out the Lights.
This is one of the oldest energy saving tips in the book, but it’s always worth the reminder. When you’re not home or if you leave a room, just flip that switch to “off.” It only takes a second, but it’s one of the most common wastes of energy that we’re all guilty of from time to time.
Invest in Home Improvement.
No, we’re not talking about the popular 90s sitcom. Investing in upgrades in your home is the best long-term solution to reducing your energy output. Home improvement encompasses a broad array of upgrades: better insulation, energy efficient appliances, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, new windows. Look for the Energy Star® label when you’re ready to make an investment. The label is on everything from microwave, washers, dryers, dishwashers, and even windows.
When you think of Google, you probably think of searching the internet for those random questions that pop into your head throughout the day. Or maybe email, chat, mapping directions, document collaboration or one of a dozen other ubiquitous products the company is known for.
But Google is also an advocate for clean, renewable energy and just so happens to be the world’s largest corporate purchaser of clean energy. The company launched Project Sunroof last August in three metro areas — San Francisco, Fresno and Boston — calling it “a kind of treasure map of solar energy.”
In January, Project Sunroof expanded to 20 additional metros in California, Massachusetts, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Connecticut, Colorado and North Carolina. Now the tool is available in 42 states. (Sorry, Texas, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Idaho, South Dakota, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alaska and the District of Columbia!)
Project Sunroof is a tool that allows users to enter their address to get an estimate of how much they could save by installing solar power on their home. Users can toggle through average monthly utility bill amounts and different financing options to come up with what works best for their home.
To determine costs and potential savings, Google calculates the cost to lease, finance (loan), or buy solar panels based on current solar industry pricing data. Then it makes a recommendations for what’s best. Google compiles info on federal and state tax credits, utility rebates, renewable energy credits and net metering to come up with the savings estimates.
The tool tabulates your solar potential by estimating how much sunroof your rooftop receives each year thanks to Google’s extensive mapping technology and data resources. It uses:
- Google’s database of aerial imagery and maps
- 3D modeling of your roof
- Shadows cast by nearby structures and trees
- All possible sun positions over the course of a year
- Historical cloud and temperature patterns that might affect solar energy production
Alabama is behind the times when it comes to offering incentives to residential power customers to switch to clean energy like solar. Even though we rank in the top 20 for potential solar capacity we lag behind on solar installations and even further behind when it comes to solar jobs. (Last year we ranked a dismal 49th.)
The good news is we have tools and information available to you for free on our SolarWorks website. Get educated and to become an engaged advocate for clean energy here in Alabama! And if you want to go a step further, join Gasp as a member today!
On February 8, 2016, in a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court granted an administrative stay that halted the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan would have denied the stay.
On January 21, 2016 the D.C. Circuit Court denied a stay on the Clean Power Plan. From there, twenty-nine states, including Alabama, and numerous industry groups filed 5 separate stay applications with the U.S. Supreme Court. It is unusual for the U.S. Supreme Court to block federal regulations, especially where the D.C. Circuit court denied a similar request less than a month earlier. The justices did not explain their decision, but the order indicates that they believe the Clean Power Plan threatens imminent and irreparable harm.
The “harm” here would be the harms cited by the stay applicants when recalling the procedural history of Michigan v. EPA. In Michigan v. EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the EPA back to the D.C. Circuit Court to consider costs, and the D.C. Circuit did not invalidate the rule. The mercury and air toxics standards at issue in Michigan v. EPA were not stayed during the years of litigation, and EPA often cited as a reason to not invalidate the rule that “the majority of power plants [were] already in compliance or well on their way to compliance.”
The stay applicants argued that the harm that could be suffered absent a stay of the Clean Power Plan would be the same as the harm they suffered because the MATS rule wasn’t stayed: EPA effectively achieved compliance from power plants before the U.S. Supreme Court could even review the rule, and then the D.C. Circuit chose to not invalidate the rule based off power plants complying with the rule because it was never stayed.
At issue in the complaints against the EPA is whether the EPA has the authority at all to implement the Clean Power Plan. Because of the stay, the EPA may not continue to take any actions to implement or enforce the Clean Power Plan. The D.C. Circuit Court will hear oral arguments on June 2, 2016, which means a final decision is not likely until early Fall, at the earliest.
“We’re disappointed the rule has been stayed, but you can’t stay climate change and you can’t stay climate action,” EPA Spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said. If the EPA wins the case once it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, this stay may only delay implementation of the Clean Power Plan by two or three years.
Despite this legal setback, the public policy, public health and environmental interests of many Americans for the creation of the Clean Power Plan have not changed. In fact, it has been argued that the closure of some 200 coal-fired power plants was not only the result of the impending Clean Power Plan, but also because renewable energy is getting cheaper and cheaper, rate payers would not accept being ripped off, and communities would no longer tolerate dangerous pollutants being dumped on them.
Because Gasp maintains that clean air and healthy communities are what every Alabamian deserves, we look forward to the EPA prevailing at the D.C. Circuit Court and U.S. Supreme Court and Americans being able to realize all of the benefits that the Clean Power Plan has to offer.