climate

EPA’s Clean Power Plan Protects Low-Income and Minority Communities

When President Obama announced the final Clean Power Plan earlier this month, he predicted that some cynical critics would claim the plan harms minority and low-income communities. Then he chuckled and shook his head, because the truth is, failing to act on climate is what stands to hurt vulnerable Americans the most.

Just as the President predicted, in the weeks since the announcement, we’re seeing the usual cast of special interest critics roll out the usual tired, worn out, and frankly, false arguments. Put simply, the Clean Power Plan will not impact affordable, reliable power. It will protect vulnerable communities. And it will save consumers money.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina—a powerful reminder that low-income and minority communities are the most vulnerable to climate-related impacts like stronger storms, floods, fires, and droughts, and the least able to rebuild after a disaster. And the carbon pollution driving climate change comes packaged with other dangerous soot- and smog-forming pollutants that can lead to lung and heart disease. Low-income and minority Americans are more likely to live in the shadow of polluting industries like power plants, and more likely to be exposed to higher levels of pollution.

When we cut carbon pollution, we also reduce other dangerous pollutants and protect public health. Under the Clean Power Plan, in 2030 alone, the U.S. will avoid up to 90,000 asthma attacks in children and 300,000 missed days of school and work due to respiratory symptoms—saving families the costs of medical treatment and hospital visits.

Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., recently said “The poor and disenfranchised—too often those in communities of color—still disproportionately bear society’s harms through no fault of their own. That truth has compelled the fight for social justice across the spectrum: labor rights, women’s rights—and yes—environmental rights. Because no matter who we are or where we come from, we’re all entitled to the basic human rights of clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy land to call home. Make no mistake, the injustice of climate change and the pollution that fuels it are among this century’s most debilitating engines of inequality.”

Through its Clean Power Plan, EPA is striving to protect low-income and minority Americans. We received more than 4.3 million public comments on our draft rule, and hosted hundreds of meetings with stakeholders, including vulnerable communities. We heard loud and clear that we needed to make sure our rule didn’t disproportionately impact low-income Americans—and we worked with the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure that’s the case.

By 2030, the average family will save $85 a year on electricity, thanks to increased energy efficiency measures. In the interim, any small, short-term increase in electricity bills would be well within normal price fluctuations—roughly the cost of a gallon of milk per month. For each dollar spent on the Clean Power Plan, families will see 4 dollars in health benefits alone. And in all, we’ll see $45 billion a year in net benefits thanks to EPA’s plan.

Climate action is an incredible economic opportunity, and to make sure its benefits extend to every community, we’re creating a Clean Energy Incentive Program that will help states transition to clean energy faster. It’s a voluntary matching fund program states can use to encourage early investment in wind or solar power projects, as well as energy efficiency projects in low-income communities.

EPA is also requiring states to demonstrate how they are engaging with communities as they craft customized state plans to meet their carbon pollution reduction goals.

The real threat to affordable, reliable electricity is climate change. More extreme heat and cold cause utility bills to skyrocket, which hurts low-income families the most. And storms, floods, fires, and drought can knock out the power for days or weeks, threatening public health.  That’s why we need to act.

The cynics’ claims are nothing new. We heard the same tired arguments back in the 1990s, when some critics opposed EPA’s limits on acid rain-causing pollution from power plants. They warned electricity bills would go up, and the lights would go off. But they were wrong. Instead of the economic doomsday some predicted, we slashed acid rain by 60 percent—while prices stayed stable, and the lights stayed on. EPA has been limiting harmful pollution from power plants for 45 years, and we have a proven track record of keeping energy affordable and reliable.

We still have work to do to protect vulnerable communities from pollution, but EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a historic step in the right direction. In his announcement, President Obama spoke about our moral obligation to vulnerable communities, to our children, and to future generations to act on climate. The Clean Power Plan will help build a safer, brighter future for all Americans.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Pope Francis’ Call for Climate Action

Last month, Pope Francis released his second encyclical as pontiff, urging all people to protect our natural resources and to take action on climate change.  He makes clear our moral obligation to prevent climate impacts that threaten God’s creation, especially for those most vulnerable.

As public servants working in both domestic policy and diplomacy, we understand the urgent need for global action.  Climate impacts like extreme droughts, floods, fires, heat waves, and storms threaten people in every country—and those who have the least suffer the most.  No matter your beliefs or political views, we are all compelled to act on climate change to protect our health, our planet, and our fellow human beings.

Earlier this year in a series of meetings at the Vatican on the Encyclical with key Papal advisors, Cardinal Turkson laid out our moral obligation to act on climate change not only from the compelling scientific data, but also from his own firsthand experience in Ghana.  The meetings ended with a sense of urgency, but also with a feeling of opportunity and hope.

The prime minister of Tuvalu, an island nation in the Pacific, spoke at a conference at the Vatican last week and called the world’s attention to the real existential threat they face—that their country may be destroyed if rising seas and stronger storms from climate change continue.

For all these reasons, the U.S. government, through the EPA, is taking steps to make good on our moral obligation.  Later this summer, the agency will finalize a rule to curb the carbon pollution fueling climate change from our nation’s largest source – power plants.

Carbon pollution comes packaged with smog and soot that can cause health problems.  When we limit carbon pollution from power plants, Americans will avoid hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and thousands of heart attacks in 2030.

A recent EPA report found that if we take global action now, the United States alone can avoid up to 69,000 premature deaths by the year 2100 from poor air quality and extreme heat.  We will continue to partner with U.S. Catholic and other faith-based organizations, like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Climate Covenant, to get out the word about the importance of taking action to combat climate change.

President Obama and the EPA share the Pope’s concern for environmental justice—our climate crisis is a human crisis.  When we limit toxic pollution, we improve people’s health, spur innovation, and create jobs.  We owe it to vulnerable communities, to our children, and to future generations to make sure our planet remains a vibrant and beautiful home.
U.S. leadership is a crucial step, but climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution.

That’s why the United States has made joint international announcements—last year with China and more recently with Brazil—stating our commitment to strong action, including cutting carbon pollution faster than ever before, and slowing down deforestation.  Since three of the world’s largest economies have come together, we’re confident other nations will join our commitment—and the world will finally reach a worldwide climate agreement later this year in Paris.

Pope Francis is boldly building on the moral foundation laid down by Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, and is joined by a chorus of voices from faith leaders around the globe calling for climate action—not only because it protects our health, our economy, and our way of life—but because it’s the right thing to do.  We look forward to welcoming the Holy Father to the United States in September to continue to discuss these and other issues that affect us all.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Sharing Best Sustainability Practices with Communities

One of the most rewarding parts of my job here at EPA is the work we do with climate and energy program staff from communities and tribes across the country. These sustainability professionals are tireless organizers, skilled problem solvers, and endlessly enthusiastic about helping residents and businesses reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, improve air quality and public health, create jobs, and save money. Despite common challenges they face I am always impressed by how much local sustainability professionals are able to accomplish with so little. By taking action on climate in their own back yards, they are building stronger and healthier communities – and looking out for all of our futures.

Part of our job here is to help local government employees achieve success. Our Local Climate and Energy Program conducts continued outreach by hosting webcasts, sending out newsletters about resources and funding opportunities, and producing resources and tools of our own.
Our latest round of resources are written by communities, for communities. Each resource was driven by community needs, inspired by actual implementation experiences, and informed by staff who have developed successful climate and energy programs. They provide practical steps for communities to follow when building or growing a climate and energy program. These new resources are the result of strong relationships we have built with communities and tribes across the country who have invested in achieving climate and energy results in their own backyards.

Local Climate Action Framework

This online guide provides step-by-step guidance and resources for local governments to plan, implement, and evaluate climate, energy, and sustainability projects and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change impacts. It captures lessons learned and effective strategies used by local governments, breaks down program implementation into concrete steps, and curates resources to help local governments find the information they need. The framework was developed with extensive input from local government stakeholders, including our Climate Showcase Communities.

Effective Practices for Implementing Local Climate and Energy Programs Tip Sheets

This series of nineteen tip sheets was developed based on the experience and feedback of our Climate Showcase Communities. Each tip sheet focuses on a different aspect of program operation and highlights best practices and helpful resources discovered or used by these communities. Topics include marketing and communications (effective messaging, traditional media strategies, community-based social marketing, and testimonial videos) and working with specific types of stakeholders (institutional partners, contractors, experts, utilities, early adopters, volunteers).

Local Climate and Energy Program Model Design Guide

This guide was developed for local climate and clean energy (i.e., energy efficiency, renewable energy, and combined heat and power) program implementers to help create or transition to program designs that are viable over the long term. The guide draws on the experience and examples of our Climate Showcase Communities as they developed innovative models for programs that could be financially viable over the long term and replicated in other communities.

Although climate change is a global issue, many critical actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to promote resilience can be initiated locally. Cities and towns across the U.S. are taking real action against climate change by talking to other communities and sharing practical step-by-step advice on planning and implementing local climate and energy programs,. I am thankful for the valuable input EPA received from local and tribal government stakeholders as we developed these resources and welcome feedback about the new materials.

About the author:

Andrea Denny is the Local Climate and Energy Program Lead in the State and Local Branch of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. The branch focuses on supporting state and local governments that are developing policies and programs to address climate change.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Storm Water Management Model Gets Climate Update

By Marguerite Huber

Image of a flooded local park

EPA researchers are helping address runoff problems.

EPA researchers are developing strategies and resources to help city planners, managers, and others address stormwater runoff problems, including those related to impervious surfaces and combined sewer overflows. One powerful tool available is the Stormwater Management Model, also known by its acronym, “SWMM.”

EPA’s Storm Water Management Model is a publically-available rainfall-runoff simulation model that provides a suite of information about urban water patterns. It is used for planning, analysis, and design related to stormwater runoff, combined sewers, sanitary sewers, and other drainage systems in urban areas, and is the basis for the National Stormwater Calculator.

SWMM has the ability to estimate the pollution loads associated with stormwater runoff. Various versions of the model have been in existence since 1971, and it has been used in thousands of hydrology and drainage system design projects around the world.

The tool is designed to be customizable, helping particular urban areas meet local watershed challenges. For example, municipalities and communities can use it to design and size drainage system components for flood control, to design control strategies for minimizing combined sewer overflows, and to control site runoff using low impact development practices.

The Storm Water Management Model Climate Adjustment Tool (SWMM-CAT) is a new addition to SWMM. It is a simple to use software utility that allows future climate change projections to be incorporated into SWMM.

Screen shot of EPA's SWMM-CAT tool showing a map with stormwater data

Storm Water Management Model

SWMM-CAT provides a set of location-specific adjustments that derived from global climate change models run as part of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 3 (CMIP3) archive. These are the same climate change simulations that helped inform the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in preparing its Fourth Assessment report.

Both SWMM and the Stormwater Calculator are a part of the President’s Climate Action Plan.

“Climate change threatens our health, our economy, and our environment,” said Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator. “As part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, this tool will help us better prepare for climate impacts by helping build safer, sustainable, and more resilient water infrastructure.”

The continued development of predictive modeling tools such as SWMM will provide urban planners and other stakeholders with the resources they need to incorporate both traditional stormwater and wastewater system technologies with the emerging, innovative techniques of green infrastructure. The collective impact will be more sustainable urban areas and healthier waterways across the nation.

SWMM-CAT can be downloaded here.

If you are interested in learning more about SWMM-CAT, join our webinar on 2/25/15 at 12:00 PM ET!

About the Author: Marguerite Huber is a Student Contractor with EPA’s Science Communications Team.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

How Does Your Home Compare to Your Neighbor’s?

Yardstick

By: Brian Ng

It’s springtime! Now that the dark, cold days of winter are gone, it’s time to do things to tidy up the outside of your home. After all, who wants to be the “messy” house in the neighborhood? Now is also the perfect time to tidy up your home’s energy efficiency, especially compared to your neighbors’ homes. After all, who wants to have the highest utility bill in the neighborhood? Plus, reducing our energy consumption at home helps fight climate change since using energy means having to produce energy, which typically involves the burning of fossil fuels that generate greenhouse gases and cause climate change.

But short of knocking on their door, how do you find out how your home’s energy use compares to your neighbor’s home? The ENERGY STAR program offers a free, online tool called the Home Energy Yardstick, available here. It allows you to compare your home’s energy use to similar homes across the country. By entering your home’s annual energy use, the number of occupants, conditioned square footage, and its ZIP code, the Yardstick computes a score between 0 and 10, indicating the relative energy consumption of your home compared to a nationally representative sample of single family homes.  On the Yardstick scale, 0 is the most energy-consuming household and 10 is the least energy-consuming household. An “average” home scores a 5 on the Yardstick. So the higher the Yardstick score, the better! You can even print a certificate and brag to your neighbors if your score warrants bragging rights.

To use the Yardstick, you’ll need the last 12 months of utility bills for your home.  Typically you can find a 12-month usage summary on your most recent bill or through the utility’s web site.  It only takes about five minutes to enter the information and get a score.  Some utilities provide customers with the ability to download a “Green Button” file that provides detailed information about energy usage for their home.  If your utility participates in Green Button, you can simply upload your home’s utility data directly into the Yardstick. To find out if your utility offers Green Button, visit:  www.greenbuttondata.org. For those whose Yardstick score is less than brag-worthy, fret not. ENERGY STAR’s Home Energy Advisor provides recommendations for energy-saving improvements for typical homes in your area.

Although these tools provide good insight into your energy consumption and how to reduce it, they are not meant to replace a professional’s help. So if you need an expert opinion on how to improve the efficiency and comfort of your home, a good place to start is with a local Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR offers a whole-house approach to improving the efficiency and comfort of your home. A participating Home Performance contractor will evaluate your home using state-of-the-art equipment, recommend comprehensive improvements to yield the best results, and help you get the work done.

So while you’re doing your spring cleaning this year, take a moment and begin cleaning up your home’s energy use as well.

About the Author: Brian manages communications activities for the ENERGY STAR Residential Branch, which forms voluntary partnerships to promote greater energy efficiency in new and existing homes. He enjoys trying to improve the energy efficiency of his own home when he’s not busy keeping up with his two kids.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Earth Day and the President’s Climate Action Plan

The arrival of Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the work EPA does to protect the health of Americans and the environment. Early last summer, the President announced his Climate Action Plan calling on the federal government to work together with states, tribes, cities, industries, consumers and the international community to address one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Over the past year, one of our top priorities has been addressing our changing climate, so let me fill you in on our progress so far on the many important steps we are taking to cut harmful greenhouse gas pollution.

Power Plants – Last September, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for New Power Plants .  Based on current trends in the power sector and available pollution control technology, the proposal will protect public health and address climate change while ensuring reliable, affordable, and clean power for American businesses and families. It will also ensure that power companies investing in new fossil fuel-fired power plants – which often operate for more than 40 years – will use technologies that limit emissions of harmful carbon pollution. The agency is now taking public comment on the proposal until May 9. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

“How Does Stuff Get Recycled?  Join Reading Rainbow to Find Out”

By Jeffrey Levy

It’s important to reduce how much trash we create, and then reuse stuff as much as possible.  But some things you just can’t figure out how to reuse, so recycling is much better than throwing them away. Recycling conserves natural resources and saves energy, helping to protect our climate.

So when you see a bottle or can on the ground, or are finished with a piece of paper, recycle it!  Don’t toss it in the trash.

Now, have you ever wondered what happens after the recycling gets picked up? For Earth Day this year, Reading Rainbow created a great video that shows us the answer. Follow along as LeVar Burton explores how recycling turns old paper, glass and metal back into stuff we can use.  After you watch the video, learn more on our website about reducing, reusing, and recycling.  (Psst, kids! Try out these fun games and activities.)

About the author: Jeffrey Levy is EPA’s Director of Web Communications.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Earth Month Tip: Spread the word

Happy Earth Day!

One of the most powerful things you can do to act on climate is talk to your friends and neighbors about the challenge we face. This Earth Day, talk to five about climate action.

Why five? If five of your friends, for example, replaced five 60-watt light bulbs with 13-watt Energy Star bulbs, it would save over 50,000 pounds of carbon pollution over the life of the bulb. That’s equivalent to one of the following:

a)  the annual carbon pollution from 5 passenger vehicles
b) the carbon pollution associated with 2,780 gallons of gasoline
c)  3.4 homes’ electricity use for one year

Small changes make a big difference. Tell friends to visit epa.gov/earthday to learn more about reducing carbon pollution.

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA Unveils the Winner of the National Building Competition!

Battle of the Buildings2

By: Andrea Schnitzer

Have you ever seen the NBC show, The Biggest Loser? It brings together a group of motivated people, who all have one goal in common—a desire to get healthy and lose unneeded weight.  Today, EPA is announcing the winners of the fourth annual EPA ENERGY STAR National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings, a competition that is inspired by the hit NBC show. But instead of individuals working to lose excess weight, this year-long competition brings together commercial buildings from across the country to see who can reduce the most energy use. Today we are excited to announce this year’s winners and open registration for an exciting new competition year.

The Results are in!

Claiborne Elementary School

Claiborne Elementary School

This year, Claiborne Elementary School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, won the competition by cutting its energy use nearly in half!  But this impressive accomplishment only tells part of the story about the more than 3,000 competitors who threw their hats in the ring this year. The top 15 finishers reduced their energy waste by more than 29 percent, and nearly 50 buildings in the competition achieved at least a 20 percent reduction in energy use. In the end, the competitors saved a combined total of more than 130,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and $20 million on utility bills. To see a list of the competitors and their energy savings, go to www.energystar.gov/battleofthebuildings.

Many were winners. Only one was the biggest loser.

Claiborne Elementary School emerged victorious by cutting its energy use by a whopping 46.9 percent in one year. And they did this largely through low and no-cost efforts, like educating students and teachers about the actions they can take every day to save energy. This included adjusting thermostats, keeping doors and windows closed when the heat or air conditioning is on, turning off lights, and making sure electronic devices are turned off at the end of each day.  The school also fine-tuned automated controls of the HVAC and lighting systems, making sure that lights were turned off in unoccupied areas and that the heating and cooling systems were optimized to run only when necessary.

Small changes make a big difference.  

The results aren’t all that different than what we often see on NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Buildings across the nation compete to work off their energy waste with help from ENERGY STAR. At the end, the building that cuts its energy use the most is declared the winner.

And just like on the TV show, there are ups and downs for every building. Sometimes, drastic measures are needed, but often it just takes small changes every day that add up to big savings. Just like it’s not always necessary to take extreme measures to lose weight, buildings don’t always need to implement expensive technology upgrades to start cutting energy use. Likewise, adopting small lifestyle changes like eating healthier and exercising can make all the difference. Changing behaviors, whether it’s by turning off lights that aren’t being used, not heating or cooling empty spaces, and unplugging energy-wasting equipment, can make a huge impact when it’s done regularly and becomes a lifestyle.

Step on the scale. Repeat.

Of course, one of the most important steps in an energy waste-loss program is stepping on the scale. For buildings, that means entering monthly energy data in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, EPA’s energy and water measurement and tracking tool. By continuing to monitor and track the ups and downs of energy and water use, building owners and managers can find out where they stand…and where they need to go.

Join us for the 2014 competition. Register by May 16!

So who really won this year? The short answer: we all did. When buildings use less energy, the plants that power them emit fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, resulting in a cleaner, healthier environment for all of us.

Want to be a part of the solution? Ask your management to enter your building in the 2014 competition. This year, compete to win EPA recognition for energy and water savings, or join as part of a team competing against other groups to become the next biggest energy or water saver.

Learn more and register at www.energystar.gov/battleofthebuildings

About the Author: Andrea Schnitzer is a National Program Manager with the ENERGY STAR program for Commercial Buildings and Industrial Plants.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

We Need Your Help to Protect the Planet

By Jessica Orquina

Will you lend your voice to protecting the climate for Earth Day? I’d bet that since you read our blog, you already know many ways to cut your greenhouse gas emissions. But here’s another big thing you can do: share with your friends what they can do.  To help you do that, we’re using a new tool called Thunderclap, which is like a virtual flash mob. Here’s how it works: you agree to let Thunderclap send a specific, one-time message on your behalf to your social networks on April 22nd, Earth Day, at 12:00 pm EDT.  If 500 or more people agree, the message will go out on everyone’s walls and feeds at the same time (worldwide – hi, international readers!). But if fewer than 500 agree, nothing happens.

Here’s the message:

“For Earth Day, I commit to protect the climate. Take small actions that add up! http://epa.gov/climatechange/wycd #ActOnClimate” Note that bit about 500 people: we need your help to hit our target. To sum up, you can #ActOnClimate as simply as 1-2-3:

  1. Sign up below to join our Thunderclap.
  2. Share the link to the Thunderclap with your friends, so we get at least 500 people sharing the message: a. Facebook b. Twitter c. Google + d. Tumblr
  3. Learn more about what you can do to #ActOnClimate.

 

About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.