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Another Favorable Opinion from the Supreme Court

2014 June 23
Avi Garbow


June 23, 2014
4:08 pm EDT

Today’s Supreme Court decision is a resounding win for EPA. At issue was how certain Clean Air Act permitting programs apply to carbon pollution. Justice Scalia, writing for seven of the nine justices, largely upheld EPA’s approach to requiring that carbon pollution be addressed in permits for large emitters, such as power plants and refineries. As Justice Scalia reportedly noted from the bench, “EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case.”

EPA’s inaugural suite of carbon pollution rules have now been fully vetted in federal court, and have emerged victorious, and largely unscathed. In fact, the most significant pieces of the Agency’s approach were not even granted Supreme Court review, having been found sound and upheld by the D.C. Circuit. EPA’s scientific finding that carbon pollution endangers public health and welfare was upheld by the D.C. Circuit, and the Supreme Court denied cert on issues related to it. Similarly, the D.C. Circuit upheld EPA’s first set of rules limiting carbon pollution from cars and trucks (and simultaneously saving consumers money at the pump), and the Supreme Court denied cert on issues related to those rules.

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

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Seeing EPA funds helping the Mississippi River

2014 June 17
Nancy Stoner


June 17, 2014
10:44 am EDT

Last month, as part of the Hypoxia Task Force Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, I visited a farm in the Mississippi River Delta area, and more specifically in the Critical Groundwater Area of the Bayou Meto Watershed.  I am honored to co-chair the Hypoxia Task Force and meet with my fellow members throughout the Basin, and these personal visits with the people managing the land in the Basin are always a highlight.

Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner meets with farmers in Arkansas.

Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner meets with farmers in Arkansas.

We know that nonpoint source nutrient pollution from fertilizers in the Mississippi River Basin is the most significant threat to water quality in the region and to the Gulf of Mexico. The Arkansas Discovery Farms Program helps many stakeholders make informed decisions about the sustainable future of their farms.  I am delighted to note that the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission has provided EPA Nonpoint Source Program Section 319 funds to the Arkansas Discovery Farm Program – this is just one example of these funds supporting local watershed work across the country.  During my visit, Drs. Mike Daniels and Andrew Sharpley of the University of Arkansas described the Arkansas Discovery Farms Program and how they work with eight participating farms in Arkansas. read more…

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

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The Clean Power Plan – Following a Consistent Approach to Setting State Goals

2014 June 10
Janet McCabe


June 10, 2014
3:37 pm EDT

The Clean Power Plan – following a consistent approach to setting state goals
EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan is continuing to get plenty of attention and lots of good questions. That’s great because it means people are digging into the proposal to see how it works.  We have heard a number of questions about the proposed state goals – and rightly so.  The proposed state goals are fundamental to how the program will cut pollution, so it’s important that you understand how we developed them, why they are different from state to state, and how states can meet them.  So let me provide a little more information.

How did EPA calculate the state goals?
As I mentioned last week, the Clean Power Plan works by setting state goals that gradually reduce each state’s carbon intensity rate, or “pollution-to-power ratio.” To do that, the state goals are determined by using a formula that takes the amount of CO2 emitted and divides it by the megawatt-hours of electricity generated (lbs/MWh). This is what we call a rate-based approach. Many other Clean Air Act rules have used emissions rates in the past to reduce other pollutants from power plants and many other types of facilities.

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

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A Shared Commitment: Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security

2014 June 6
Mathy Stanislaus


June 6, 2014
9:54 am EDT

This is a joint blog from: Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Caitlin Durkovich, Assistant Secretary Office of Infrastructure Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and David Michaels, Assistant Secretary, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor.

On August 1, 2013, the President issued Executive Order (EO) 13650 – Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security – to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce the risks of hazardous chemicals to facility workers and operators, communities, and responders. Chemicals and the facilities that manufacture, store, distribute and use them are essential to our economy and livelihood, but the handling and storage of chemicals can present a risk that must be addressed. read more…

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

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At the Intersection of Human Health and Environmental Protection

2014 June 5
Jane Nishida


June 5, 2014
2:44 pm EDT

A community’s health, safety, and productiveness is dependent on the protection of its environment. This intersection, between environmental stewardship and community growth, is one of the most important aspects of the work we do every day at EPA. That’s why one of Administrator McCarthy’s key themes is making a visible difference in communities across the country. However, it’s not just cities and towns here in the U.S. that benefit from environmental protection. Worldwide, our homes are safer, our children are healthier, and our economies are stronger when we invest in environmental stewardship.

During my time at EPA, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the impact of environmental protection in communities worldwide. When I traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I saw firsthand the environmental challenges that communities were facing in Africa and other parts of the world. read more…

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

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A very short fact check

2014 June 4
Tom Reynolds


June 4, 2014
6:27 pm EDT

Remember when we predicted that the special interests and their allies would waste no time launching false attacks on EPA’s common sense proposal to limit carbon pollution? It didn’t take long for them to prove us right.

As part of our commitment to ensure Americans are getting accurate information about our policies, we’ll continue to dig into the false claims and misleading “analyses.” And sometimes our opponents will make it easier than others. For example, in a “study” making the rounds today from the Heritage Foundation, the wheels fall off before the car is even out of the garage. Let me just quote them:

“While not directly modeling the EPA’s regulations…”

See what they did there? They just admitted that the whole analysis has nothing to do with what EPA actually proposed. Now that disclaimer doesn’t stop them from making all sorts of dire claims intended to sound like they’re about EPA’s proposal. But it’s a good warning about how little those claims have to do with reality.

To be a little more precise, the Heritage “study” is about the effects of fully phasing out coal from the American energy mix. By contrast, EPA’s plan projects coal to be more than 30% of our energy mix well into the future. In fact, the proposal leaves states with enormous flexibility to choose the fuel sources and methods that work best for them. In addition, when the effects of this plan are in place in 2030, average electricity bills will be 8 percent cheaper.

So next time you hear special interests or politicians citing a scary report from the Heritage Foundation, make sure and ask them about the fine print.

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

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Understanding State Goals under the Clean Power Plan

2014 June 4
Janet McCabe


June 4, 2014
2:54 pm EDT

The Clean Power Plan is about getting all the power we need, with less of what we don’t need: pollution.  Many people are now looking more closely at the plan and want to know a little more about how it all works, especially about what role their state will play in reducing carbon pollution.

Because the agency is looking for well-informed comments and input on the proposed plan, I wanted to explain a few key aspects of the proposal.  By answering a few questions such as – 1) what’s the baseline? 2) how is EPA using the Clean Air Act? 3) how can the power sector cut carbon pollution?  4) how did EPA set goals for each state? and 5) what flexibilities do states have? – I hope you’ll come away with a better understanding of the Clean Power Plan and how it will achieve significant air pollution reductions. As more questions come up, we’ll use this space and epa.gov/cleanpowerplan to answer them.  Now, on to the questions!

What baseline did EPA use to determine how much pollution must be reduced?

EPA did not set a baseline. Remember, the plan is about generating the power we need, but with less pollution.  So instead of setting a baseline, the Clean Power Plan works by setting state goals to reduce the “pollution-to-power ratio” of the covered fossil-fuel fired power plants in a given state.  EPA projects that by 2030, when states meet these goals, the U.S. power sector will emit 30 percent less carbon pollution than it did in 2005.  But 2005 – or any other year – is not used as a “baseline” year for a fixed percentage of reductions.  We are using that statistic only because people need to know how much pollution we’ll reduce by when and compared to what, so we’re just comparing where we will be in 2030 to where we were in 2005.

How does the Clean Air Act work to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants?

EPA is proposing carbon pollution guidelines using section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.  Basically, this part of the law requires EPA to identify the best and cheapest ways to reduce pollution from a given source – in this case, power plants that burn fossil fuels.   The key to reducing carbon pollution from the power sector is to generate and use power more efficiently.  Put another way, the goal is to reduce the carbon pollution emitted for each megawatt-hour of electricity generated. That provides power with less pollution. The amount of carbon pollution per megawatt-hour produced is called an emission rate.  It is the rate at which pollution is emitted per unit of power generated.  If a source emits a lot of carbon dioxide but produces relatively little energy, then its “carbon intensity” is considered high. Using section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, EPA is proposing that states develop plans to reduce the carbon intensity of the power sector.  The goal is not to limit the amount of power we produce.  It’s about reducing the overall amount of carbon pollution from power plants, while still producing the energy we  need.

How can the power sector reduce carbon emissions?

EPA found that there are a wide variety of commercially available, technically feasible, and cost-effective ways that states, cities and businesses across the country are already using to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector.  EPA identified four measures–that are the commonly used, technically sound,  affordable, and that result in significant reductions in carbon intensity.  They are – 1) improving efficiency at existing coal-fired power plants, 2)increasing utilization of existing natural gas fired power plants, 3) expanding the use of wind, solar, or other low- or zero-emitting alternatives, and 4) increasing energy efficiency in homes and businesses. By applying some or all of these measures a state can reduce the carbon intensity of its power system.  These aren’t the only approaches that states can use, but EPA determined that—taken together—they are the best system of emission reduction, as that term is defined in the Clean Air Act.

How did EPA set goals for each state?

By looking at the mix of power sources and the ability of each state to take advantage of any of the four carbon pollution reduction measures, the EPA calculated goals for each state. The proposed state goals are based on a consistent national formula and calculated using specific information about the state or its region’s individual power profile.  The result of the equation is the state goal.  Each state goal is a rate – a pollution-to-power ratio – for the future carbon intensity of covered existing fossil-fuel-fired power plants in a given state.  States can meet their goal using any measures that make sense to them—they do not have to use all the measures EPA identified, and they can use other approaches that will work to bring down that carbon intensity rate.  I hope this explanation makes clear that EPA is not setting goals based on percentage reductions against a baseline year. But when states meet their goals in 2030, EPA projects that the increased efficiency and reduced carbon intensity will result in a 30 percent less carbon pollution when compared with 2005 levels.

How do the state goals give states flexibility?

EPA has set a goal for each state based on an analysis of the best system of reductions, based on estimates of the potential in each state for efficiency improvements and increased utilization of cleaner generation.  Once the state has a goal, however, it is free to meet that goal in the way that works best for that state.  It can rely more or less heavily on specific measures such as efficiency or renewable energy, or even pursue others such as increases in transmission efficiency or new gas generation.  The state can also choose the policy or portfolio of policies that works best to achieve the goal.

Learn more about the Clean Power Plan

The Clean Air Act and the state planning process offer enough time and flexibility for every state to cut wasted energy, improve efficiency, and reduce pollution – while still having all the reliable and affordable power we need to grow our economy and maintain our competitive edge. In the coming months, we’ll be seeking comments and feedback on the proposed Clean Power Plan, and I encourage you to learn more and join the discussion: http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards

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

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Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

2014 June 4
Gina McCarthy


June 4, 2014
1:21 pm EDT

Cross-posted from the White House Blog

Gina McCarthy, Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, took to Reddit yesterday to answer questions about the EPA’s proposed rules to cut carbon pollution in our power plants.

During the “Ask Me Anything,” Administrator McCarthy answered questions on a range of topics — including President Obama’s plan to fight climate change, what people can do in their own communities, and her thoughts on Marvin Gaye.

You can see all of the responses on Reddit, or check out the questions and responses below.

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

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Our Clean Power Plan Will Spur Innovation and Strengthen the Economy

2014 June 2
Gina McCarthy


June 2, 2014
1:15 pm EDT

It’s an important day.  Today, at the direction of President Obama and after an unprecedented outreach effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is releasing the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Today’s proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.

By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. And we don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs. read more…

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

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Students Lead the Way on Climate Change

2014 May 30
Gina McCarthy and Deborah Wasylik


May 30, 2014
3:00 pm EDT

In recognition of Asthma Awareness month, we recently had the pleasure of visiting Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando where we were greeted by a group of incredibly knowledgeable and passionate students enthusiastic about environmental issues. Our discussion ranged from upcoming legislation and the role of EPA in improving air and water quality to pollution and how we can live healthier, cleaner lives, especially with growing threats from climate change.

The juniors and seniors at Dr. Phillips high school explained to us how they were learning to reduce pollution and environmental health concerns such as asthma.  These kids are doing great work, but Orlando, is not the only place where these students can be found. College Board Statistics showed that at least 118,000 students were enrolled in AP Environmental Science (APES) classes across the country in 2013, which is 10,000 more students than the year before. Interest in the environment is growing among this demographic at an amazing rate. read 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.