Pages tagged "EPA"

EPA Announces Rules to Limit Carbon Pollution: RAN Responds

This morning, Gina McCarthy, head of the EPA, announced new carbon pollution standards for power plants, the centerpiece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

We welcome the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to limit carbon pollution from power plants.

Power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Setting the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution is an essential and long overdue step to address global warming.

Communities across the nation are already seeing and feeling the impacts of global warming, from increased health risks like asthma attacks and lung disease, to devastating extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy and wildfires across the American West. The science is clear: inaction will only increase these deadly and costly threats.

Coal FumesThis is exactly why communities from Chicago to North Carolina, from New England to New Mexico, are fighting to shut down the polluting power plants in their neighborhoods.

To be clear, the proposed carbon pollution standard is just one step. To keep our climate stable, we must rapidly shift our energy production away from the highest-polluting fossil fuels and accelerate our transition to truly clean, renewable energy generation.

The proposed rule is not yet enough to slow global warming and not yet enough to inspire the world to make the necessary deep cuts in climate pollution. That is why we will be working hard the next year to include much deeper cuts in the final rule.

We stand with the majority of Americans who want to see strong action from the government to address global warming and set limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

RAN fights climate change by taking fast, impactful action against dirty energy. Join us by becoming a Dirty Energy Rapid Responder!

The EPA Can, And Should, End the Construction of New Coal Plants

Coal FumesAre you as fed up as I am about the coal industry’s license to pollute? On January 9, coal cleaning chemicals leaked into West Virginia’s Elk River and poisoned the drinking water of 300,000 people. Since February 2, millions of gallons of toxic coal ash have leaked from a Duke Energy coal plant into North Carolina’s Dan River. On February 11, more than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry poured into West Virginia’s Kanawha River. What the coal industry gets away with is sickening—but now the EPA might enact regulations that could put an end to new coal plants. Contact the EPA right now to demand no more coal plants and a swift transition to clean energy. The coal industry continues to devastate the mountains and communities of Appalachia by blowing up mountains to mine thin seams of coal. Pollution from coal-burning power plants poisons the air and threatens the global climate. But now, time is running out for the coal industry. The EPA is working on new carbon pollution standards for coal-fired power plants. These new regulations could end the building of new coal plants and the burning of more coal. The EPA has put strong regulations on the table, and wants to enact them. But the coal industry is lobbying tirelessly to weaken them, hoping to continue burning coal and polluting communities with impunity. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy needs to know she has your support. Click here to tell the EPA to enact the strongest possible regulations for new coal plants.  People power has already stopped hundreds of new coal plants from being built. The new standards proposed by the EPA can secure those victories and accelerate our desperately-needed transition to clean energy. Let’s lock in those regulations by flooding the EPA with comments before the March 10 deadline. Send Gina McCarthy a message right now!

Investor Summit: Bank of America puts our Climate at Risk

RAN-Bank-of-America-re-nameThis post is by Yann Louvel, BankTrack Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator.

Earlier this month, Bank of America participated in the 2014 Investor Summit on Climate Risk as the “convening sponsor” of the event. While there was a lot of talk about the urgency of the problem of tackling climate change, there were a few things the bank didn’t talk about. For starters, their role in financing the coal industry.

The 2014 Investor Summit on Climate Risk took place at the United Nations in New York on January 14th. Among the speakers was Lisa Carnoy, Head of Global Capital Markets for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, whose bio tells us that she “leads 700 Capital Markets professionals across Equity Capital Markets, Debt Capital Markets, Leveraged Finance and Origination of Corporate Derivatives and FX across the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Emerging Markets.”

If the bank’s finance for fossil fuels wasn’t mentioned at all, what do you think Carnoy did talk about in her speech? You may be pleased to hear that she conveyed the great imperative felt by the banking sector on climate change. Bank of America’s approach to the issue would be “like a hockey team: we’re fierce, we’re fast, and we feel the urgency.” What’s more, the banking sector as a whole was coming together to “put aside its natural competitiveness,” because “this is incredibly important, the time is now, and we need to work together.”

Great! So how had this fierce, fast hockey team come together to tackle climate change? The one initiative Carnoy presented was the Green Bonds Principles, a set of voluntary guidelines for how banks can develop and issue bonds to support green industries, which she implored investors to get behind.

While we support any efforts to scale up finance for genuine alternatives to fossil fuels, Bank of America’s backing for green bonds is dwarfed by the activities that Carnoy did not talk about. These are the activities that we have been exploring in our most recent reports: its finance for the coal sector. Bank of America was ranked the number three “climate killer bank” worldwide in the BankTrack network’s 2011 Bankrolling Climate Change report, which covered investments in 70 of the largest coal companies between 2005 and 2011. And in BankTrack’s more recent Banking on Coal report, Bank of America again ranked world number three, this time in its finance for coal mining, based on an analysis of finance for 70 coal mining companies worldwide.

Among the deals Carnoy did not talk about are some (not remotely green) bonds issued by her Capital Markets team over the last two years, which helped to raise over $1 billion for Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal. These companies are pure-play US coal miners, and are being targeted by campaigners for their involvement in destructive mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. These bonds are toxic for our climate as well as for the investors who buy them, spreading climate risk through the financial markets in the form of potential future “stranded assets.”

While Bank of America is asking investors to back the Green Bonds Principles, it is investors who should be asking Bank of America to stop feeding them with these financially risky climate killer bonds. And now that Bank of America feels the “urgency” and “imperative” of tackling climate change, it would do well to stop financing climate change through issuing bonds for coal mining.

It is time for banks to come together, put aside their natural competitiveness, and agree to stop financing coal. Because this is incredibly important. The time is now.

Banking on Coal: New BankTrack Report Highlights Bank Complicity in Global Coal Mining Boom

banking on coal “Most innovative investment bank for climate change.” – Citigroup “Mak(ing) your life greener and help(ing) tackle climate change.” – Morgan Stanley “Financing a low carbon economy.” – Bank of America When banks tout slogans such as these, you might expect them to mean that they plan to phase out financing for coal, the single largest source of global climate emissions. Unfortunately, these and other banks are doing the opposite, as a new report from the BankTrack network and RAN found. Since 2005, the year the Kyoto Protocol came into force, bank financing for coal mining companies increased by 397 percent. This surge in bank financing for coal is not just hypocritical, it’s also insane: Leading scientific, policy, and civil society institutions around the world have concluded that burning more than 20% of existing global coal reserves would lock in catastrophic climate change. The BankTrack report, entitled "Banking on Coal," was released at the COP 19 climate conference in Warsaw, Poland and also found that global coal production has grown by 69 percent since 2000 and has now reached 7.9 billion tons annually. The future of coal was a front-and-center issue at COP 19 and at a simultaneous coal industry conference held in Warsaw this month. In a speech at the World Coal Conference, Christiana Figueres, the chair of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told attendees that any responsible future for the global coal industry must involve “leav(ing) most existing reserves in the ground.” The finance industry has played a key role in the recent global coal boom: In the past eight years, 89 commercial banks provided $158 billion in financing to the world’s largest and most destructive mining companies. Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America—the very same banks that mouth the sustainability slogans mentioned above—topped the list of coal-financing banks, providing $9.76 billion, $9.69 billion, and $8.79 billion, respectively. The report also highlights coal production “hot spots” on six continents where coal extraction has had especially devastating impacts on communities, ecosystems, or human health. Building on research from BankTrack member organizations around the globe, the report highlights the destructive impacts that coal mining is having on India’s last tiger forests, on Appalachian communities in the U.S., and on scarce water resources in South Africa. Banks are not alone in their climate hypocrisy. For example, the Government of Poland touted its commitment to powering the country with coal even as it played host to the COP 19 climate conference. But despite stiff competition from governments of Poland and other emissions-intensive countries, the degree to which major global banks are complicit in the worst coal mining projects around the world is staggering. Fortunately, bank hypocrisy on coal doesn’t work like it used to. Students certainly aren’t fooled, as campus groups across the U.S. have disrupted over 50 Bank of America and Citigroup recruitment sessions this fall over the leading role these banks play in financing the coal industry. Globally, the climate movement is becoming stronger by the day and has attracted growing support from within the financial industry, leaving the banks highlighted in the report increasingly isolated in their support for a coal-fired future.

Dump Now, Pay Later: Coal Risk Update on Coal Ash

LBR photo three, from air, Oct 23 2011 Each year, the U.S. coal-fired power plant fleet produces over 130 million tons of coal ash. And while this ash frequently contains arsenic, lead, mercury, and other toxic chemicals that threaten human health, it is less regulated than your household trash. For decades, power plants have disposed of coal ash in over 2,000 landfills and holding ponds around the country. These ponds and landfills can leach contaminants into groundwater and have even ruptured without warning, causing catastrophic ash spills. Today, RAN published a new Coal Risk Update which looks at the growing legal, regulatory, and financial risks facing electric power producers from the disposal of coal ash in landfills and holding ponds. Although coal ash is not currently regulated on the federal level, people living near coal ash ponds and landfills have filed several lawsuits that have forced power plant operators to clean up groundwater contamination from coal ash. This January, a major plaintiff litigation firm filed several lawsuits against the Southern Company, alleging that it engaged in racketeering, battery, fraud, and negligence by failing to put a lining on its 750-acre coal ash pond. For U.S. electric power producers, coal ash ponds and landfills are likely to cause environmental compliance and legal headaches for decades to come. While coal ash is not currently regulated on the federal level, forthcoming EPA regulations are likely to force power plants to close coal ash ponds that lack a bottom lining and invest in costly ash handling upgrades at power plants. Using EPA disclosures and data obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice through a Freedom of Information Act request, we were able to rank U.S. electric power producers by their exposure to coal ash pond failure risk and groundwater contamination risk: top 5 grid To date, the investor-owned electric power producers that rank highly on these lists have disclosed very little information about how they are managing coal ash-related risks. At companies that lack plans for closing or remediating ash ponds and landfills, impacted communities will bear the costs of ongoing contamination and the risks of catastrophic pond failures. This lack of transparency also leaves investors in these companies—who are ultimately on the hook for legal battles and coal ash cleanup projects—in the dark about coal ash-related risks.   (Image of the Little Blue Run coal ash pond courtesy Robert Donnan/Environmental Integrity Project)

Is Dr. Oz Shilling for the Malaysian Palm Oil Mafia?

[caption id="attachment_20805" align="alignleft" width="300"]'Health Expert' Bryce Wylde Introducing Dr. Oz to Miracles of Palm Oil 'Health Expert' Bryce Wylde Introducing Dr. Oz to Miracles of Palm Oil[/caption] The public controversy around “America’s Doctor” is heating up. You may have noticed, for instance, the feature article in the most recent issue of New Yorker magazine titled “The Operator: is the most trusted doctor in America doing more harm than good?” As we recently reported, Dr. Oz, a TV personality who advocates healthy living on his top-rated, Oprah-hyped TV show "The Dr. Oz Show," kicked off 2013 by encouraging his millions of viewers to give palm oil a try for its “incomparable” nutritional virtues. Problem is, he failed to mention that palm oil is a leading cause of rainforest destruction and orangutan extinction. This is unfortunate, as his ill-informed recommendation has inspired a palm oil buying frenzy. What could have compelled Dr. Oz to blindly pronounce palm oil America’s miracle vegetable oil of 2013 without telling his viewers the whole story or offering any real science to back up his claims? Consider this: The multi-billion dollar palm oil industry—best known for its role in rainforest destruction, species extinction and human rights abuses—has mounted an increasingly aggressive PR offensive to clean up its image, pesky facts be damned. [caption id="attachment_20839" align="alignleft" width="225"]The cover story in the current issue of The New Yorker asks if Dr. Oz is The cover story in the current issue of The New Yorker asks if Dr. Oz is "doing more harm than good."[/caption] Over the past couple years the well-heeled palm oil industry has deployed it’s mafia-esque coterie of promoters, led by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) and corporate-profits-at-all-costs cheer-leader-in-chief Alan Oxley to wage a sophisticated lobbying campaign aimed at altering the negative perceptions of palm oil by re-branding the controversial commodity as sustainable, healthy, even dubbing it “nature’s gift to mankind.” Sounding familiar? While we can’t say that Dr. Oz did what he did because he’s taking money directly from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, here are a few puzzle pieces that paint a troubling picture:
  1. Bryce Wylde, the “health expert” who brought palm oil to the attention of Dr. Oz, posted a case for palm oil on his own Facebook wall—just before Dr. Oz pushed it to his audience—which was literally copied and pasted from MPOC's PR campaign language.
  2. In May 2012 MPOC hired lobbying giant Holland & Knight to challenge the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’S) science-based findings that palm-based biofuels don’t meet federal greenhouse gas standards under the renewable fuels mandate.
  3. In 2011 MPOC created a TV advertisement that shamelessly promoted false statements about the virtues of palm oil to such a degree that the British Advertising Standards Authority banned it throughout the entire country.
  4. Prior to MPOC’s 2011 UK ad embarrassment, in 2009, a separate magazine ad, also produced by MPOC and entitled "Palm Oil: The Green Answer," was banned by the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for making “allegations—hidden under a thin veneer of environmental concern—based neither on scientific evidence, nor, for that matter, on fact.”
  5. Finally, consider this—Alan Oxley, MPOC’s biggest advocate, was accused by world-renowned scientists of propagating “significant distortions, misrepresentations, or misinterpretations of fact… designed to defend the credibility of corporations… directly or indirectly supporting them financially."
Is it purely coincidence that Dr. Oz and his wingman Bryce Wylde are promoting palm oil to the American public just as MPOC’s aggressive PR campaign and financially backed lobby muscle try to influence the American public and EPA’s big decision on palm oil? Or could it be that another embarrassing media censure is on the way like when a UK TV company was forced to suspend its relationship with the Malaysian government after broadcasting false information to millions of people around the world through programs made by a company that had received millions of pounds in payments from the government of Malaysia? Time will tell. Meanwhile, if you haven’t done so yet, please send Dr. Oz a letter now and ask him to correct his irresponsible statements on air.

The Clean Water Act Turns 40 This Week

Cuyahoga river fire Happy Birthday to the Clean Water Act! Forty years ago this week a ground-breaking environmental protection was passed into federal law, enshrining a human right to clean water. Many of our allies have marked the occasion by celebrating some of the major improvements that this legislation has meant for waterways across the U.S., for example Ohio's Cuyahoga River, which (in)famously caught fire several times in the 1950s and 1960s. And while the Environmental Protection Agency has been celebrating too—check out their birthday website—Administrator Lisa Jackson also acknowledges that there is still much to be done. And we agree. In recent years the Clean Water Act has been gutted by corporate-funded legislators. As long as Appalachian streams continue to be buried by mountaintop removal removal coal mining waste, and as long as community water supplies continue to be poisoned, we cannot consider the Clean Water Act to be doing it's job. So here's a birthday wish: may the Clean Water Act be upheld, enforced and updated to ensure that all Americans can enjoy clean water.

Appalachian Stream

A Legal Setback for Clean Air and a New Chance to Fight Soot Pollution

Bad news for American hearts and lungs: Last week, a federal circuit court struck down a proposed EPA clean air standard that would have reduced dangerous emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources. In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled that the EPA’s proposed Cross State Air Pollution Rule, or “Transport Rule” (PDF), exceeded the agency’s authority under the federal Clean Air Act. If enacted, the rule would have required states to reduce power plant emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides, which contribute to ozone and soot (a.k.a. particulate) pollution. These pollutants pose serious risks to heart and lung health, particularly for seniors, children, and individuals with asthma or heart conditions. According to the EPA’s estimates, the Transport Rule would have eliminated emissions responsible for 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, and 400,000 asthma attacks each year. Power plant upgrades and other compliance expenses associated with the rule would have cost $1.6 billion annually. In contrast, the rule would have resulted in annual health benefits of between $120 and $280 billion. As the Natural Resources Defense Council noted, if the circuit court’s decision holds up on appeal, it will result in years of delay for critical air quality standards. What You Can Do: Tell the EPA to Tighten Soot Standards While the court ruling on the Transport Rule was a setback for clean air, the EPA is considering another important rule change for airborne pollutants. The proposed change would tighten clean air standards for soot pollution. If adopted, the new standards would prevent 4,650-8,100 premature deaths annually and yield $2.3 billion to $5.9 billion in health benefits (with annual compliance costs of only $69 million). The EPA’s comment period for the rule ends this Friday, August 31st. Like the Transport Rule, this proposed change would protect the air, save lives, and avoid billions of dollars in health care costs. The coal industry and other heavy emitters have demonstrated that they will fight hard against air quality regulations, but a clear demonstration of public support for the change will put pressure on the EPA to set tough new standards to protect our health and the environment. Please take a few seconds to submit a comment to the EPA in support of stronger soot standards.

Scientists or Lobbyists: Who do You Trust to Act in the Best Interests of our World’s Rainforests?

[caption id="attachment_19155" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Who Will the EPA Trust: Scientists or Industry Lobbyists?"]Who Will the EPA Trust: Scientists or Industry Lobbyists?[/caption] In what has been called the biggest climate decision of the year for the Obama Administration, the Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil industries are flexing their lobbying muscle to overturn a crucial, science-based decision by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In January of this year, the EPA issued an initial finding that biofuels made from palm oil do not qualify for subsidies under the agency’s 2007 renewable fuels mandate. While it was found to have lower life-cycle emissions than conventional gasoline and diesel, palm oil came up short of the 20 percent reduction in total emissions required for inclusion in the new biofuel blends. While the public comment period regarding its decision is now officially closed, the EPA remains under serious and mounting pressure to reverse its findings from high-powered lobbying groups hired by the Indonesian, Malaysian, and Chinese palm oil industries. These shadowy foreign interests are joined by the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other right-wing organizations fundamentally opposed to the Renewable Fuels Standard. Among the most disturbing developments in this lobby assault is the fact that these high-paid industry lobbyists are leveraging their political influence to place their clients’ profit-driven agenda over the conclusions of science. For example, many of the comments submitted to the EPA came from the palm oil industry itself — including palm oil giants Cargill and Wilmar, which claim that the EPA’s estimates of palm oil-related emissions are seriously exaggerated. Scientists, however, assert that even the EPA’s proposed findings are overly conservative and that palm oil fuels are likely no better for the climate than conventional fuels at all. The New York Times Green Blog reported on a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that used socioeconomic surveys, high-resolution satellite imagery and carbon mapping to plot past and future patterns of land conversion for a representative region in Indonesia. The study found that half of all palm oil in the study area is being grown on extremely carbon-rich peatlands, a number that sharply contrasts with the EPA’s estimate of only 13 percent for all of Indonesia. As the NYT blog states: “Indonesia ranks right behind the United States and China in the lineup of the world’s top 10 greenhouse gas emitters. It’s not because of smokestacks or freeways, but massive deforestation starting in the 1990s — driven in large part by the expansion of plantations for palm oil, an edible vegetable oil used in cookies, crackers, soap and European diesel fuel.” The EPA’s decision is incredibly important because it will influence how governments around the world think about palm oil, particularly in Europe. As Ezra Klein explains in the Washington Post, the biggest market for palm oil-based fuels is still the European Union, which has a law requiring 10 percent of all transportation fuel to come from renewable sources by 2020. The problem with this rule is that the European Union never considered the indirect deforestation effects from biofuels. The science on this only really emerged in 2008 or so, after the E.U. law was crafted. As for the US, the EPA’s decision could also determine the extent to which the United States becomes a major palm oil buyer. According to trade data, consumption of palm oil in the United States is growing at a much faster rate than anywhere else in the world, so it makes sense that industry reps from Indonesia and Malaysia are concerned about protecting palm oil’s reputation here. So concerned, in fact, that the Malaysian Prime Minister’s wife met with the Girl Scouts CEO last week. But what isn’t so clear in my mind is how an industry that is accused of gross environmental and social abuses can justify hiring the most expensive lobby group to paint palm oil green without looking desperate. As my colleague Laurel Sutherlin said in a press conference: “It is a disturbing development to see a politically motivated group like ALEC join forces with the shadowy palm oil lobby from Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as with huge agribusiness companies Cargill and Wilmar, to pressure the EPA to overturn what is supposed to be a science-based decision made in the best interests of the American people. The question the EPA is tasked with answering is whether biofuels made with palm oil meet our nation’s greenhouse gas requirements as a renewable fuel. The stark reality of the impacts of palm oil plantation expansion in Southeast Asia, where nearly 90% of the world’s palm oil comes from, makes it clear that it does not.” Stay tuned to find out how RAN is actively working to influence the EPA to uphold the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of the climate.

DC Judge Restricts The EPA’s Ability To Protect Our Water and Ecosystems

[caption id="attachment_18493" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Photo by Vivian Stockman, flyover courtesy of South Wings"]Spruce Mine[/caption]I'm outraged by today's news from DC. Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson has ruled that the EPA exceeded its authority in revoking permits for what could now become West Virginia's largest mountaintop removal (MTR) mine. Back in January 2011, the EPA vetoed Arch Coal's permit to mine at the Spruce site,  as it would cause irreparable damage to the environment, including the destruction of 2,278 acres of temperate rainforest and the burying of 7.5 miles of streams in the Spruce Fork sub-watershed. RAN's own 2010 report details how, in a region already devastated by surface mining, this MTR mine would severely worsen existing problems of water quality and wildlife and forest loss. The Environmental Protection Agency exists to do exactly that: protect our environment. The agency's decision on the Spruce permit was not taken lightly, and involved a thorough stakeholder consultation. This ruling is a tragic example of how powerful corporations can use money and influence to bypass protections that are 'inconvenient' to their profit-making, regardless of the consequences on our ecosystems and public health.

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