Tell EPA Not to Remove Pollution Controls from Oil & Gas Companies

Let’s start with the basics:

  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency currently has guidelines that allow states to control emissions from the oil and natural gas industry.
  • The oil and gas industry is the largest single industrial source of dangerous chemicals in smog and major contributors to emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • The deadly duo of Trump/Pruitt wants to get rid of those guidelines.
  • With five refinery communities in the Bay Area plus the traffic we all love so well, oil and gas industry emissions affect our health, and the health of those we love, every single day.
  • The public has until April 23, 2018 to comment on the proposed withdrawal of the guidelines. 

These guidelines gives states non-binding “control techniques guidelines” (CTG) with information on recommended techniques for emissions by the oil and gas sector, with leeway for states to choose other techniques if they prefer. However, if there are ozone smog problems, when EPA issues a CTG, under the Clean Air Act a state must revise its clean air plans to require “reasonably available control technology” for oil and gas industry equipment. The EPA estimates that the guideline has the potential for annual pollution reductions of over 64,000 tons of volatile organic compounds, which create smog; nearly 200,000 tons of the greenhouse gas methane; and 2,400 tons of other hazardous air pollutants that can cause serious health effects. Without the CTG, oil and gas company equipment could spew pollutants even where there are reasonably available ways to control the pollution.

In other words: get rid of the guidelines, unnecessarily increase air pollution and increase the harm to our health and the health of our environment.

Submit comments here by April 23, 2018, 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time (8:59 PM in California). More info, including talking points, here; more info, including a link to other people’s comments, here.

Want to do more environmental action?

It’s time for Scott Pruitt to go

By Christina Tarr

Let us name the reasons.

He is corrupt.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is almost literally in bed with the oil and gas folks. He has been paying a measly $50 a night for a two-bedroom Washington D.C. apartment, charged only for the nights he was actually present. How’s he getting such a great deal? Maybe because the apartment is owned by the wife of Pruitt’s lobbying buddy Steven Hart, who represents a stable of energy industry clients like Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., which paid Hart’s firm $400,000 in 2017. Since Hart’s clients may well be regulated by the EPA, Pruitt might just be inclined to return this little favor to his friend. Fun fact: below-market-rate accommodations can fall into the category of prohibited gifts under ethics rules for Executive Branch officials and experts stress that officials like Pruitt should decline even permissible gifts to maintain the appearance of propriety.

On the other hand, Pruitt doesn’t mind spending the taxpayers’ dime for first class flights (to avoid unpleasant interactions with the hoi polloi) and pricy trips around the world. One such trip to Morocco last December included discussions of potential sales of liquid natural gas to Morocco. Liquid natural gas is the product of Cheniere Industries, a client of … wait for it … Steven Hart. Cheniere claimed no knowledge of the trip and also claimed to have ended its relationship with Hart’s firm in December. We think that none of this passes the smell test.

And what exactly is Pruitt talking about to his buddies? Whatever it is, he’s ordered a soundproof security booth for his office that, when all’s said and done, is going to cost the taxpayers over $40,000.

He is destroying the EPA

In a recent report, Pruitt states:

We have been hard at work enacting President Donald Trump’s agenda during my first year as EPA Administrator. His courage and leadership have been key to our success. From his decision to exit the Paris Accord to his executive order empowering EPA to review and rescind the Clean Power Plan, the President is delivering on his promises and getting results for the American people.

The EPA’s job, lest we forget, is to protect human health and enforce environmental regulations; here, from Vox, is a list of some of Pruitt’s accomplishments at its helm:

  • The EPA announced it was seeking a two-year delay in implementing the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which defines the waterways that are regulated by the agency under the Clean Water Act.
  • In May 2017, the EPA dialed back tracking the health impacts of more than a dozen hazardous chemicals.
  • The agency has said nothing about counties that failed to meet new ozone standards by an October 2017 deadline and now face fines.
  • Environmental law enforcement has declined overall: by September 2017, the Trump administration launched 30 percent fewer cases and collected about 60 percent fewer fines than in the same period under President Obama.
  • The EPA punted on regulations on dangerous solvents like methylene chloride, a paint stripper, that were already on track to be banned, instead moving the process to “long-term action.”
  • The EPA asked for a six-year schedule to review 17-year-old regulations on lead paint.
  • The implementation date of new safety procedures at chemical plants to prevent explosions and spills was pushed back to 2019.
  • Pruitt issued a directive to end “Sue & Settle,” a legal strategy that fast-tracks settlements for litigation filed against the EPA to force the agency to do its job. The agency will now spend more time in courts fighting cases that it’s likely to lose.
  • The agency’s enforcement division now has to get approval from headquarters before investigating potential violations of environmental regulations, slowing down efforts to catch violators of laws like the Clean Water Act.

We don’t have time to wait.

Pruitt has announced terrifying plans to act in the very near future to restrict the EPA’s use of science in regulation, in the name of “science reform.” Most likely, the EPA will be required to rely only on scientific studies where the underlying data are made public, a plan Congressional Republicans have been pushing for decades. Many scientific studies, however, rely on data that can’t be made public for reasons like patient privacy concerns or industry confidentiality. Relying only on publicly available results will severely hamstring the EPA’s attempts to do its job – to protect human health and the environment.

Pruitt’s next plan is to roll back emissions regulations and fuel economy standards for automakers. This move, which undercuts one of President Obama’s signature moves to confront climate change, will be couched in terms of cutting bothersome regulations and providing affordable cars to Americans – and, according to Fortune magazine, is “a solution to a problem that doesn’t seem to exist.” According to the EPA, Obama’s rules would require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Fully implemented, the rules will cut oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels and reduce carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of all the cars affected by the regulations. If Pruitt weakens the regulations, not only will all that carbon reduction not happen in the U.S., but other countries may also weaken their standards as well. (Read this New Yorker article, which discusses the lab the EPA has to test auto emissions, allowing them to compute the cost of required changes down to the last screw.) And, the $100 the consumer saved by not being required to buy a car with a catalytic converter will be dwarfed by the thousands of dollars spent on illness caused by pollution and a changing climate.

Finally, Pruitt has instructed the EPA to discuss climate change in the language of the deniers. A recent memo to employees lists eight things they may say publicly about climate change, including acknowledging the impact of human activity but asserting that “[t]he ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue … clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it. … it is important for the Agency to strive for a better understanding of these gaps given their potential significant influence on our country’s domestic economic viability.” The vast weight of reputable scientific evidence, of course, says nothing of the kind; this is the language of the deniers, and those with financial interests in

The time to act is NOW

Congress has oversight over the EPA, and to quote Richard Painter, “It’s time for them to get off their butts and act.” There is precedent. During the Reagan years, the agency was run by Anne Gorsuch, a conservative state legislator from Colorado (and mother of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch). Gorsuch, like Pruitt, cut enforcement, accommodated polluters, and antagonized career staff. According to the New Yorker, “she resigned after being held in contempt of Congress, for refusing to comply with a corruption investigation targeting a Superfund administrator.”

What you can do:

  • Call your Members of Congress and tell them you want them to exercise their oversight responsibility and take action against Scott Pruitt who is decimating the EPA.
    • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
    • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
    • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
    • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
    • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065
  • Call the governor of California, and your state representatives, and tell them you want them to fight for California’s stricter emission control standards. Needing to maintain two standards may make auto manufacturers more open to manufacturing to California’s higher standards, which are followed by 12 other states, including New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Jerry Brown (916) 445-2841; find your state representative here
  • Call the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and tell them you are interested in innovation and want to buy a car that will meet Obama’s CAFE standard, and will not buy a car that does not. (202) 326-5500; (916) 447-7315
  • Sign the Boot Pruitt petition, sponsored by a coalition of progressive and environmental groups including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Green Latinos, Defend Our Future, Hip Hop Caucus, and others (more info here).

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Fight for the Clean Power Plan

By Christina Tarr

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) represents one of the strongest actions to combat global warming taken by the United States federal government. So likely you’re not surprised to hear that the Trump administration, playfellow of Big Oil, Gas, Coal, and Global Warming Deniers, wants to “suspend, revise or rescind” it. We have until January 16, 2018 to submit our comments and say “hell, no!”

What you need to know: The CPP works by reducing climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired electric power plants. CO2 is the most widespread of the greenhouse gases fueling climate change. Existing coal and gas-fired power plants together emit more CO2 than any other category of emissions sources in the U.S.—roughly one-third of America’s emissions—so reducing those emissions goes a long way to reducing our total CO2 output.  The CPP effectively reduces power plant CO2 emissions in 2030 by 32% from 2005 levels.

Under the CPP, the EPA assigned each state a goal to limit emissions from existing power plants, and gave the states broad latitude to meet those goals, such as switching from coal to natural gas or building new wind or solar farms—thus encouraging innovation.

Under the CPP, $20 billion in climate-related benefits alone would occur in 2030, as well as health benefits of $14 to $34 billion. The net benefits of the CPP, including the value of total health, environmental and other economic benefits, minus the cost to comply, were estimated to range from between $26 to $45 billion in 2030.

Trump’s EPA—headed by Scott Pruitt, who says “the war on coal is over”—is now reviewing the CPP with the intent to “suspend, revise or rescind.” The Trump administration challenges both the legal basis of the CPP and its economic analysis. (Of course, the administration is also full of people who deny climate change …)

What you need to do: Comment by January 16, 2018 to urge the EPA to keep the CPP. We need to move toward the future; instead of clinging to old, dirty technologies we need to move beyond them. The jobs are in clean power. We don’t want to cede the field on newer, cleaner power industries to other countries while we grow sicker and poorer. Please make your voice heard by submitting comments to EPA, and then by sending a copy of your comments to your Representative and Senators. 

Trump’s revised proposal is here.

Submit comments to the docket here by January 16, 2018

Read more about the CPP and Trump’s assault on it, and find talking points. Read our previous article.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.