Clean Air Act

The bad grandfather: Lessons from the Clean Air Act

28
Oct
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The Clean Air Act (CAA) was signed into law in 1963 and has since been amended several times. This law requires that all new power plants use the best available technology to reduce pollutants that are a threat to human health. The power industry argued that there was no need to regulate old power plants, since they would be replaced over time with new plants that meet the CAA requirements. The fact that this didn’t happen is both a lesson for how we need to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in the future and an opportunity to quickly begin reducing our emissions in the present.

Soon after passage of the CAA, it was clear that these old plants weren’t going away. To the contrary: Old plants were being “upgraded”, without meeting the requirements of the CAA. That’s why New Source Review was added to the CAA in 1977. If an existing plant was modified such that there were significant increases in emission, then the plant would need to be brought up to the CAA standards and the best available technology for controlling emissions would need to be installed. Routine maintenance is allowed under new source review. During the Clinton administration, a battle royal was waged about the definition of “significant” and “routine”. For the most part power plants have only performed “routine maintenance” since 1977. Still, power from these old plants has increased by operating them more hours each year.

In the 1980s, acid rain was killing lakes and streams in the Northwest; Congress amended the CAA again in 1990 to address this problem. This time their approach included the old plants, forcing them to either clean up their emissions or buy permits. The number of permits would drop over time, driving their cost up until the demand dropped, which happens when a power plant installs sulfur dioxide (SO2) scrubbers or is shut down.

This is a market-based approach, sometimes called cap-and-trade, that the Republicans brought forward and has been very successful in reducing SO2 emissions at a much lower cost than was predicted (which is almost always the case for environmental and safety regulations). The pro-market folks are now deriding the same basic concept for carbon dioxide (CO2).

Andy Silber is a astrophysicist, engineer, project manager, husband, father, and energy activist living in Seattle. Visit Andy's blog on Sustainable West Seattle. The author's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the 1Sky campaign.
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Why voting matters for the climate movement

28
Oct
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Who owns our democracy: Big Business or We the People?

Corporations -- led by Big Oil and Dirty Coal -- are trying to buy this election in plain sight. Their front groups are on target to spend more than $300 million to buy the election -- and this is after big polluters have already spent a fortune lobbying Congress, mounting a PR offensive after the BP oil spill, and trying to kill California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) with Propositions 23 and 26.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, there's been an unprecedented amount of outside spending during the 2010 mid-term elections, with a far greater increase in funds from conservative-leaning outside groups. Right-wing groups have spent $169.2 million so far -- up from $19.6 million in the last midterm (increased by a factor of 8.5). Analysis from Center for American Progress notes that more than $68 million of outside political spending is coming from dirty energy industries like Big Oil and coal-heavy electric utilities.

It’s impossible to look past the corporate influence in this election cycle -- brought on by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling -- from big polluters and climate science deniers. It's glaring even at the state level: Out of eight Northeast states with contested governor's races, only Vermont has a race where both candidates affirm climate science. Anti-climate candidates in these key states could roll back the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or state renewable energy standards.

There’s no sugarcoating the chances for future comprehensive climate policy in the next two years. In fact, we anticipate an all-out attack on the EPA and the Clean Air Act by several House and Senate members.

But anger and despair can’t lead to inaction or apathy. Voting still matters for the climate movement. Why?

  • Recent polling consistently shows an 11-point spread against California Proposition 23. Getting the vote out in California is crucial to defeating both Prop 23 and Prop 26 at the polls and widening a margin that only a month ago favored Big Oil.
  • Climate champions like Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) are all committed to pushing for climate-related legislation next year. Waxman told Politico: "I think the issue is becoming more and more serious and people are realizing it, which I hope will increase the pressure on the Congress to take the actions we need to.”
  • Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room outlines 15 House races and six Senate races where climate heroes are running against climate deniers. These are races in which candidates need to hear that climate is still an issue.

More importantly, voting is a right that gives voice to your concern about climate change. People in the climate movement -- or anyone who believes in what we’re doing to avert a climate crisis and bring about an energy revolution -- can push back on Big Oil and Dirty Coal by exercising their right to vote. See you at the polls on Tuesday!

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Policy Update 10/6/2010 - EPA/DOT Propose Stronger Auto Efficiency Standards (VIDEO)

4
Oct
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Last week, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) announced their intent to set progressively stronger efficiency standards for new cars: 47-62 mpg by 2025. Congress wrapped up its pre-election business promptly to allow members to return home and campaign.

Congressional Timeline:

  • 11/2: Election Day
  • 11/15: Beginning of Senate Lame Duck session (tentative)

Obama Administration proposes another strong cars rule

In spring of 2009, President Obama worked with automakers to push for 35.5 mpg standards by 2016, and is now beginning a second rulemaking process that will set even stronger standards for new vehicles: 47-62 mpg by 2025, which represents a 3-6% annual improvement beyond the existing 2016 standards. This announcement represents a stage of administrative rulemaking called a "Notice of Intent" (NOI), essentially a draft rule made public to allow stakeholders to weigh in. The final rule will not be finalized until July of 2012.

Our allies at Environment America, Sierra Club, and other groups are advocating for a 60 mpg standard. According to the EPA, a 62 mpg standard is doable if much of the new fleet is made up of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

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1Sky speaks out against gutting the Clean Air Act

14
Sep
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You probably read in Jason's post earlier today that the Senate Appropriations Committee might vote this week on an amendment to gut the Clean Air Act's ability to crack down on big climate polluters like oil refineries and coal power plants. Our new Campaign Director Liz Butler issued this press statement a few minutes ago speaking out strongly against this vote:

As the EPA celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act this week, it is absurd that oil and coal companies and their allies in Congress want us to take a giant step backwards by gutting this landmark environmental law. The Senate must hold fossil fuel interests accountable by protecting the Clean Air Act as a critical tool to reduce global warming pollution and jumpstart investment in a clean energy economy.

Read the rest of Liz's statement in our Press Room. If you have a senator in this committee, please call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and tell your senator to oppose this crazy amendment. This is no way to celebrate the Clean Air Act's 40th birthday!

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Policy update 9/14/10: Congress resumes

14
Sep
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Both chambers of Congress will resumed after a five-week recess. With Labor Day behind them, and football season underway, both parties are in election mode, and no major legislation is expected to be considered. Addressing the expired Bush tax cuts will take up most of the air time, but there's a chance we could see movement on some smaller energy packages, namely Home Star.

Congressional Timeline:

  • 9/13: Congress returns from recess
  • 10/8: Target adjournment for the House and Senate
  • 11/2: Election Day
  • 11/15: Beginning of Senate lame duck session (tentative)

Congressional Priorities

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) suggested that a narrow energy bill could be considered in the next few weeks, including Home Star and a package of incentives for natural gas trucks. Senator Reid does not plan on bringing up a broader energy bill before the elections, but has been saying that both a "spill bill" and a federal RES are still in play. Reid has also been more and more blunt in saying that a cap on carbon will not be considered this year. The big agenda item for both houses of Congress will be to address the Bush tax cuts, set to expire at the end of the year.

Retiring Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) has agreed to provide the 60th vote needed to push through a package of small-business incentives, including a $30 billion loan fund to improve access to credit. The bill would then bounce to the House, where it is expected to pass quickly. House Democratic leaders also plan to advance their "Make it in America" slate of smaller incentives aimed at reviving the U.S. manufacturing sector.

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Policy update 8/9/2010: Senate goes on recess, punts on spill bill

10
Aug
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This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) canceled a vote on the oil spill response package, punting consideration until after the August recess. Without bipartisan support, the bill did not have the votes necessary for passage. BP's "static kill" finally plugged the deepwater well that has been spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for over 3 months. Both houses of Congress are out on recess until September 13th. 1Sky’s board reflects on the state of affairs regarding climate action. During the recess, 1Sky will be "shadowing" members of Congress wearing giant "oily hands" to represent the dirty money from oil and coal companies that is holding our energy policy hostage in Congress.

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Delivering "oily hands" to polluter-funded senators

9
Aug
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Last week, the Senate adjourned for the August congressional recess without taking up narrow legislation to address the Gulf oil disaster – let alone a more comprehensive climate and energy bill to address the root problem of our fossil fuel dependence. To decry this unacceptable state of affairs, a climate coalition led by 1Sky took to Capitol Hill last Thursday to call out the Senate for failing to act.

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Weekly Round-Up 8/6/10: Enviros finger-pointing and the state of the climate (VIDEO)

6
Aug
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This week started with ire over the Senate's delay in bringing a climate bill to vote before the Senate recess. And the week ends with... ire over the Senate delaying in bringing a BP accountability and efficiency bill to the floor! The Senate can't even get 60 votes to pass a small, "no-carbon capping" bill with number of non-controversial measures that easily passed bi-partisan Senate subcommittees, like Home Star?

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Cry for an oil spill

2
Aug
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You wonder when we as a country will ever learn.”

That's a quote from blogger John Atchison in his Helium piece on the latest oil spill disaster in our country.

Last week, a million gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River in southwest Michigan. My wife grew up on that river. She recalls a childhood watching the ducks, egrets, and fish that populated the river just out her back door. We were married right along the river on a warm day in July fourteen years ago. For us, it was a symbol of the flow and continuity of life. My wife sobbed as we watched the news reports about the spill, knowing it may or may not converge into Lake Michigan and that the clean up is expected to take months.

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Weekly Policy Update 7/12/10 - Senators Return to DC

12
Jul
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Senators return from the Independence Day recess today with a packed schedule awaiting them. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will be working with committee chairs this week to chart a path forward on clean energy legislation in hopes of attracting 60 votes.

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