By Dave Cooke
So, they finally went and did it — the Trump administration just finalized a rule to undo requirements on manufacturers to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger cars and trucks. Even with the economy at the brink of a recession, they went forward with a policy they know is bad for consumers — their own analysis shows that American drivers are going to spend hundreds of dollars more in fuel as a result of this stupid policy — but they went ahead and did it anyway.
The Rule, by the Numbers<p>The administration recognizes this is a bad deal for the country — even their own cooked books couldn't make this look like a good idea:</p><ul><li>American drivers will burn an additional 2 billion barrels of oil, resulting in 900 million metric tons of additional global warming emissions;</li><li>Vehicle prices could be reduced by $1,000, but consumers would pay more than $1,400 more in fuel, a net loss and obviously a terrible deal;</li><li>Accounting for miles traveled, the rule results in more premature deaths from air pollution (up to 1600), than offset by the agencies' (optimistic) estimate of less than 800 avoided traffic fatalities;</li><li>The rule cuts automotive revenue by $50 billion dollars, resulting in job losses in the auto sector of 10,000-20,000 in 2030, a number which excludes the <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/don-anair/auto-standards-rollback-oil-companies-win-everyone-else-loses" target="_blank">even worse macroeconomic job losses</a> which would accrue;</li><li>The net benefits of the rule are actually negative, resulting in $10-20 billion in net monetized harm to the country, which is actually a worse outcome than most of alternatives the agency considered!</li></ul><p>And on top of all this, the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NSHTA) found time to incorporate special corporate giveaways to the fossil fuel industry, <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/don-anair/auto-standards-rollback-oil-companies-win-everyone-else-loses" target="_blank">the only industry slated to benefit from this rule</a> in the first place.</p>
The Final Rule Is Not Necessarily Better Than the Proposal<p>There will likely be a lot of reporting that says that this final rule is better for the environment than the proposal, but this is wrong. On paper, the Trump administration has replaced its proposal to halt required progress entirely after 2020 with a rule that requires 1.5 percent improvement per year, a rate which is of course <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-cooke/most-fuel-efficient-cars-a-win-for-consumers-pockets-the-economy-and-climate-but-whats-next" target="_blank">lower than the automakers have averaged now for more than a decade</a>. But paper targets don't matter — what matters is what happens in the real world. And all this rule is doing is maintaining the status quo.</p><p>While ostensibly increasing the requirements of the rule, the Trump administration has also increased flexibilities and credits granted to automakers compared to the proposal, credits which the industry requested and which we've shown <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-cooke/congress-is-pushing-back-on-the-trump-fuel-economy-rollback-why-arent-auto-companies" target="_blank">could be as bad as the rollback</a>. Incredibly, they've even granted credits that no automaker asked for, for natural gas vehicles that no one currently sells (of course, that was a handout to the oil industry, just like the rest of this rule). While they didn't grant all automaker requests, they did extend through 2026 the decision to ignore emissions from the electricity powering EVs and increased the number of technologies eligible for credits not captured by standards test procedures (so-called "off-cycle credits") while simultaneously reducing the public scrutiny on those emissions, even though recent data on some of these credits <a href="https://theicct.org/publications/US-2025-off-cycle" target="_blank">calls into question their value</a>.</p><p>Awarding automakers these flexibilities and loopholes makes the miniscule change in stringency completely toothless. Consumers will continue to be railroaded by this change in policy.</p>
The Economy Is in a Tenuous Position — This Rule Will Make It Worse<p>Right now, the economic outlook is uncertain — we are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/26/upshot/coronavirus-millions-unemployment-claims.html" target="_blank">shedding jobs by the millions</a>, and even after we come out of this pandemic, we will <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2020-03-17/coming-coronavirus-recession" target="_blank">likely be dealing with a recession</a>. The administration's policy just compounds that economic pain for consumers by ensuring they pay more at the pump. This is exactly the wrong policy at the worst time — what we need to be doing is helping consumers pay less in fuel so they can put those saving back to work in our local economies.</p><p>Consumers will pay thousands more for fuel as a result of this rule, which hurts the economy and <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/don-anair/auto-standards-rollback-oil-companies-win-everyone-else-loses" target="_blank">negatively impacts job growth</a>. The only people that benefit from the administration's finalized rule are the oil companies.</p>
The Safe Rule Is Unsafe<p>One of the biggest, dumbest points made in the original proposal was that this rule would save lives. But the administration admits now that such claims were total nonsense. Even by their own fuzzy math, the "tens of thousands of lives saved" from the proposal have been reduced to just a few hundred, and now that they've finally bothered to calculate the adverse health impacts, they've found that up to 1600 people would die prematurely thanks to the additional air pollution from this rule (a number that is <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/files/2019/05/FINALGHGREPORT.pdf" target="_blank">likely a significant underestimate</a>).</p><p>We are in the middle of a public health crisis that's devastating our economy, and the administration is finalizing a rule that will undermine both public health and the economy. If that isn't some of the most backwards nonsense ever, I don't know what is.</p>
Fighting It out in the Courts<p>As with <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/24/trump-has-lost-more-than-90-percent-of-deregulation-court-battles.html" target="_blank">so many of the administration's wrongheaded rollbacks</a>, this one will end up in the courts. There continue to be a mountain of errors in the policy and a number of corners cut to <a href="https://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/LookupWebProjectsCurrentBOARD/1FACEE5C03725F268525851F006319BB/$File/EPA-SAB-20-003+.pdf" target="_blank">avoid public scrutiny</a> and <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/02/an-inside-account-of-trumps-fuel-economy-debacle/606346/" target="_blank">sideline the administration's own experts</a>.</p><p>This policy is bad for consumers, bad for public health, and bad for the environment. And we will continue to fight it in the courts because this country deserves better.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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By Jeff Turrentine
To celebrate the 50th birthday of one of America's most important environmental laws, President Trump has decided to make a mockery out of it.
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The Trump administration will continue its assault on the environment when it unveils new regulations on Wednesday that will limit the types of projects that require environmental review and it will no longer require federal agencies to consider impacts on the climate crisis in new infrastructure projects, as Reuters reported.
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EPA Watchdog: White House Blocked Part of Truck Pollution Investigation, Caused Lack of Public Information
The Trump administration pushed through an exemption to clean air rules, effectively freeing heavy polluting, super-cargo trucks from following clean air rules. It rushed the rule without conducting a federally mandated study on how it would impact public health, especially children, said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General Charles J. Sheehan in a report released yesterday, as the AP reported.
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Tweeting that the U.S. has the cleanest air in the world does not make it so. Not only do we rank 10th, but a new study says that after steady improvement during the Obama-era, air pollution has gotten worse while Donald Trump has been president.
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By Gretchen Goldman
The Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel has released their consensus recommendations to the EPA administrator on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter. The group of 20 independent experts, that were disbanded by Administrator Wheeler last October and reconvened last week, hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, has now made clear that the current particulate pollution standards don't protect public health and welfare.
The Elephant in the CASAC Meeting<p>CASAC has already acknowledged that <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/gretchen-goldman/uncharted-territory-the-epas-science-advisors-just-called-out-administrator-wheeler" target="_blank">they don't have the expertise</a> to conduct the review but you know who does? The Independent Panel. The Panel has more than double the experts of CASAC, and importantly, it has multiple experts in each of the necessary scientific disciplines critical to ensure a comprehensive, robust review of the science supporting the standards.</p><p><span style="background-color: initial;">As a result, we should watch whether or not CASAC aligns with the panel in their recommendations on the standards. If CASAC </span>doesn't <span style="background-color: initial;">decide this week to make a similar recommendation as the Independent Panel, they'll have to explain why they disagreed with a larger, more experienced, and more diverse </span><a href="https://ucs-documents.s3.amazonaws.com/science-and-democracy/pm-panel-meeting-docs/2-ipmrp-biosketches.pdf" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">set of experts</a><span style="background-color: initial;"> on the topic. In any event, the administrator will have access to both CASAC and the </span><a href="https://ucs-documents.s3.amazonaws.com/science-and-democracy/IPMRP-FINAL-LETTER-ON-DRAFT-PA-191022.pdf" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">Independent Panel's recommendations</a><span style="background-color: initial;"> when he ultimately makes the decision of where to set particulate pollution standards. The panel's recommendations should hold the administrator's feet to the fire.</span></p>
The Fine Particulate Matter Standards Don’t Protect Public Health<p>The standards of greatest interest are the primary PM2.5 standards. These are the standards for particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers (fine particulate matter) that are designed to protect public health. The panel supported the preliminary conclusions of a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-09/documents/draft_policy_assessment_for_pm_naaqs_09-05-2019.pdf" target="_blank">Draft EPA Policy Assessment</a> that the current standards aren't requisite to protect public health.</p><p>The letter cited new and consistent epidemiological findings, supported by human and animal studies and other studies with natural experiments, as providing "clear and compelling scientific evidence" for tighter standards. Since the last particulate matter review, several new large-scale epidemiological studies provide powerful evidence that particulate matter is causing adverse health outcomes (such as early death, heart attacks, and respiratory stress) at locations and during time periods with concentrations at or below the level of the current standards.</p><p>They write, "New and compelling evidence that health effects are occurring in areas that already meet or are well below the current standards." Notably, this evidence cuts across different locations with different study populations, different study designs, and different statistical approaches.</p><p>Given the weight of the evidence from new studies across scientific disciplines and consistent with the decision-making process that EPA and its science advisers have used for many years, the panel recommends a particulate matter standard between 8 µg/m3 and 10 µg/m3 for the annual PM2.5 standard (compared to the current standard of 12 µg/m3) and between 25 µg/m3 and 30 µg/m3 for the 24-hour standard (compared to the current standard of 35 µg/m3) to protect public health. These ranges are tighter than those recommended in EPA's Draft Policy Assessment.</p>
Keeping the Current Fine Particulate Matter Standards Ignores the Science<p>The Independent Panel rejected a potential argument for maintaining the current primary PM2.5 standards. The Draft Policy Assessment offered up an alternative rationale that might be used if the agency were to reject the draft assessment's recommendation to strengthen the standards and maintain the current standards. This alternative rationale explains that such a move would require the administrator to be arbitrarily selective in choosing which new studies to accept and which to toss and to disregard new epidemiologic evidence showing effects at lower levels.</p><p>The panel roundly rejected this justification, noting that, "Arguments offered in the draft Policy Assessment for retaining the current standards are not scientifically justified and are specious." This is important because if the administrator fails to strengthen the standards, he'll have to explain (both in court and in the court of public opinion) why he feels such a decision is science-based, as required under the Clean Air Act. And one proposed argument he could use has just been debunked by this expert Panel.</p>
Otherwise, the EPA’s Draft Policy Assessment Is Scientifically Sound<p>While the Independent Panel critiqued some details of the EPA's Draft Policy Assessment, the panel agreed that the draft science and policy assessments were cohesive and robust and the panel commended the "good faith effort" involved in the policy assessment. Specifically, the panel affirmed the use of EPA's causality framework used in the Integrated Science Assessment they reviewed last year and the Policy Assessment's new use of a hybrid modeling technique that allows for better assessment of risk from particulate matter exposure across the country especially in rural areas.</p><p>This diverges from what the seven-member CASAC has said and done around the EPA's assessment of the science and policy. In December, they concluded that the agency's draft science assessment was not a scientific document (it is) and CASAC Chair Dr. Tony Cox has been critical of the agency's causality framework that has been developed with dozens of experts over more than a decade. This view is <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6434/1398" target="_blank">not shared by the scientific community</a>, and now, not shared by the Independent Panel either.</p>
Other Particulate Pollution Standards Also May Need Revamping<p>The Independent Panel decided other particulate standards were also inadequate. On PM10, particulate matter less than 10 micrometers, the panel recommended revising this standard downward given that the PM2.5 component would also be tightened and noted several research and monitoring areas that need further work. On the secondary standards, i.e. the standards designed to protect welfare effects, such as visibility, the panel concluded that the standards should be tightened in order to be more protective.</p>
The Panel Condemns the EPA’s Broken Process<p>The Independent Panel's deliberations, demands for further research, and unanswered questions highlight how <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/gretchen-goldman/wheeler-worsens-particulate-pollution-review-process" target="_blank">broken the EPA process is</a>. In a normal review cycle, the panel would have had the opportunity to talk with agency scientists directly. The EPA staff would then have considered their comments and revised the Integrated Science Assessment in response to the committee and panel's suggestions. But because the administrator disbanded the panel and abbreviated the process, there was no opportunity for such dialogue and refinement of the agency's science assessment before <a href="https://twitter.com/GretchenTG/status/1184207743261036551" target="_blank">policy decisions were discussed</a>. But alas, the panel had to make do with what was available to them and CASAC does too.</p><p>Fortunately for CASAC, an Independent Panel has already done their job, and they are free (and encouraged) to run with it, especially given <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/gretchen-goldman/a-timeline-of-recent-attacks-on-the-epas-science-based-ambient-air-pollution-standards" target="_blank">the long list</a> of ways that EPA Administrator Wheeler has damaged the ambient air pollution review process.</p><p><a href="https://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/MeetingCalCASAC/A2DF51609E3DFC9C85258473006CF120?OpenDocument" target="_blank">Listen</a> and <a href="https://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/MeetingCalCASAC/49FAF8892AD2D38285258473006D1F4A?OpenDocument" target="_blank">watch</a> this week as CASAC discusses the same questions that the Independent Panel did last week. If CASAC comes to different conclusions than the larger, more experienced, and more diverse Independent Panel, we should ask why.</p><p>You can raise these questions yourself and demand that the administrator follow the panel's recommendations, by providing written or oral public comments at a <a href="https://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/MeetingCalCASAC/A0D0F9D4C6BC36D88525848C00467771?OpenDocument" target="_blank">future CASAC meeting</a> and commenting on the docket for the <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/09/11/2019-19627/release-of-a-draft-document-related-to-the-review-of-the-national-ambient-air-quality-standards-for" target="_blank">particulate matter rule-making</a>. I'll be providing public comments this afternoon urging CASAC to follow the advice of the Independent Panel and commenting on the <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/gretchen-goldman/a-timeline-of-recent-attacks-on-the-epas-science-based-ambient-air-pollution-standards" target="_blank">EPA's problematic process</a> and drawing attention to that elephant in the room.</p>
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By Don Anair
The Trump administration has been on a collision course with California, and it appears that collision is imminent. An administrative action to undermine the authority granted to the state by the Clean Air Act to protect its citizens from vehicle pollution appears to be imminent. This illegal attack is not just harmful for the nation's most populous state—it is an attack on the 13 states and the District of Columbia that follow California's lead and, ultimately, the entire country. The American auto industry and the American public will be worse off as a result.
Trump legal strategy = throwing spaghetti at a wall<p><br>Successfully attacking California's long held legal authority will be no easy task. The Trump administration has struggled to find a compelling argument for why California, and other states that follow it, cannot protect their citizens from vehicle pollution. They've come up with every excuse in the book and then some to claim California can't do what it has done for decades.</p><p>They have claimed that California does not have an immediate and pressing need to reduce global warming emissions, when <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/global-warming-impacts/killer-heat-in-united-states" target="_blank">extreme heat</a>, wildfires, drought, and <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/tag/sea-level-rise" target="_self">sea level rise</a> prove that California is at the front lines and needs action now.</p><p>They have claimed that eliminating tailpipe pollution via electrification, a critical step in the state's fight against poor air quality, is somehow equivalent to setting fuel economy standards (it's not).</p><p>They have claimed, incomprehensibly, that it is not possible to meet the zero-emission vehicle requirements of the state's standards when manufacturers are both <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/what-will-it-take-for-automakers-to-meet-californias-ev-requirements-not-as-much-as-you-might-think" target="_blank">ahead of schedule</a> and promising even more options.</p>
The states will be fighting this in court … and so will we.<p>State leadership has been critical to protecting the environment, driving innovation in the auto industry, and bringing new clean car technologies to world from catalytic converters to <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/tag/electric-vehicles" target="_self">electric vehicles</a>. California's laboratory for clean air technology and policy innovations has not only led to cleaner air across the U.S. but across the globe. American automakers and technology companies have benefited from this leadership by being at the forefront of global automotive trends.</p><p>Fortunately, the Clean Air Act is crystal clear about the unique authority granted to California to be a leader. Unfortunately, this action by the administration will guarantee years of lawsuits and create enormous uncertainty for the industry at a time when the industry is navigating unprecedented technology disruption – from electric drivetrains to self-driving technology.</p><p>The states will be fighting this injustice in court, and we will be joining them in that fight—the stakes are too high to let this administration, not just ignore its responsibilities to protect this country, but to run roughshod over the longstanding environmental laws that are meant to protect us from such reckless behavior.</p><p><em><a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/author/don-anair" target="_blank">Don Anair</a>, research and deputy director of the UCS Clean Vehicles Program, is a vehicle engineer and an expert on diesel pollution, advanced vehicle technologies, and alternative fuels.</em></p><p><em>This story was reposted with permission from our media associate </em><u><em><a href="https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/09/06/trump-administration-goes-after-states-protecting-environment" target="_blank">Common Dreams</a>.</em></u><span></span></p>
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This Sunday marks the first anniversary of the Women's March that happened on the day after Donald Trump's inauguration—the largest protest march in our nation's history. The Sierra Club was there that day, and we'll be there this year, too—at a significant moment for women's rights and justice.
An estimated 6 percent of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. and the United Kingdom—11,000 deaths per year—may be due to diesel exhaust, according to a new study.
While emission standards for diesel engines have become more stringent in recent years, their exhaust still plays a significant role in lung cancer deaths among truckers, miners and railroad workers, the study says. In addition, diesel exhaust still poses a major cancer threat for people who live in dense cities or near highways, the study says.
Truckers and miners exposed during their careers to diesel exhaust face a risk of deadly lung cancer that is almost 70 times higher than the risk considered acceptable under U.S. occupational standards. The scientists calculated the lifetime risk for these workers at up to 689 extra lung cancer deaths per 10,000 workers exposed. In comparison, one cancer death per 1,000 workers is used to set federal workplace standards.
In addition, people in urban areas face a lifetime risk of lung cancer that is 10 times higher than the acceptable risk used in U.S. health standards, according to the study. An estimated 21 per 10,000 people exposed to the amount of diesel exhaust commonly found near U.S. highways would be at risk of dying of lung cancer over their lifetime. That compares to the risk of one death per 100,000 people that is used to set air-quality standards.
The researchers, from Emory University and several other U.S. and European institutions, used data from three previous studies of workers—two of truckers and one of non-metal miners—as well as national death statistics for the U.S. and United Kingdom.
They estimated 4.8 percent of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. and 1.3 percent in the United Kingdom were due to environmental and occupational exposure to diesel exhaust.
“With millions of workers currently exposed to such levels, and likely higher levels in the past, the impact on the current and future lung cancer burden could be substantial,” the authors wrote.
The researchers said their estimates “are far from precise and depend on broad assumptions.” But they said their findings are “generally consistent” with past findings. Other factors, such as smoking, were not taken into account. They used the assumption that smoking does not modify effects of diesel exhaust.
Diesel emissions have declined substantially over the past few years in the U.S. and Europe since new engine standards were initiated. More than 50,000 high-polluting diesel engines were cleaned up or removed from U.S. roads between 2008 and 2010, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report. About 230,000 tons of soot and smog-causing pollutants were eliminated, the report said.
While buses and trucks have largely adopted cleaner technology, it’s taken longer for off-road engines, such as farm and construction vehicles.
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.
Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford announced a campaign on Feb. 14 to make Duke Energy the clean energy company that North Carolina and the U.S. deserve. The announcement follows a protest and demonstration Feb. 13 in which 16 Greenpeace activists were arrested at a Progress Energy coal plant in Asheville, N.C. after unfurling a huge banner atop a smoke stack that read "Duke Energy: the climate needs real Progress." Duke Energy and Progress Energy are seeking a merger which would create the largest utility company in the U.S.
From Phil Radford's announcement: (For the full announcement, click here.)
"Today, I'm officially announcing our campaign to make Duke Energy the clean energy company that North Carolina and the United States deserve.
"We must shine a light on Duke's activities in 2012 because this is a make or break year for the climate, and Duke is at the center of it. The merger alone is enough to warrant an extra level of scrutiny—and has in fact been delayed this far by FERC (The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) because of concerns about the company holding an energy monopoly in North Carolina. North Carolina ratepayers don't have a choice about where they get their energy. Despite a committed local movement opposing the most recent rate hike, they're seeing a 7.2 percent increase on their electricity bills in March, not to pay for an investment in renewable energy, but to invest more in new coal projects like the Cliffside plant. Enough is enough—Duke ratepayers have said loudly and clearly that they don't want to pay for more investments in dirty energy.
"And Duke Energy also holds a unique position in energy politics right now. It is currently the third largest emitter of CO2 in the U.S.—and that's before it takes on Progress Energy's dirty fleet. CEO Jim Rogers has spoken openly about the threat of climate change and pollution controls for coal plants, and yet Duke holds a membership in the industry group ERCC (Electric Reliability Coordinating Council), a group that was aggressively lobbying against the recently passed Mercury Rule. It's no secret that Duke's money and influence—$6.5 million in lobbying dollars in 2010—could have a significant impact in U.S. energy policy. To top it all off, this year, Rogers has been the lead fundraiser for the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Charlotte where Duke Energy is based, lending the Democrats $10 million dollars to pay for the convention.
"On 60 Minutes in 2009, Jim Rogers said, "I remember the first time I took a helicopter to look down at a power plant like this, I was 41 years old, and I said, 'Oh my goodness, I'm responsible for that?'" He is. As long as Rogers guides the decisions of Duke Energy, he's responsible for dozens of polluting plants around the country that compromise our children's health and the health of our climate, and the mountains that are blown up to mine the coal he burns in these plants. He's responsible for the 15,714 asthma attacks, 1,447 heart attack, and 951 premature deaths Duke's coal plants cause every year. And Duke is soon to be responsible for Progress's fleet and the pollution that comes with it.
"We're asking Duke Energy to:
- Not renew a single new contract for mountaintop removal coal
- Deliver at least a third of Duke's energy from renewable sources by 2020.
- Quit coal altogether by 2030.
"Our communities and our climate can't wait any longer for real action on the climate."
For more information, click here.