The standards have gotten tougher. Compliance still lags.
The goal of the Clean Air Act is to achieve national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), with the primary requirement being protection of public health. As our understanding of the health effects of air pollution has improved, there has been a general trend toward tightening the standards. However, it’s very hard to keep track of …CONTINUE READING
No, it’s not Biden. Or EPA. The culprits are supply and demand.
From 1960 to 2005, coal use grew more or less steadily by 18 million tons per year. It then tread water for a few years and began a steep decline in 2008, going from half of U.S. electricity to about one-fifth today. What happened in the middle of the Bush Administration to halt growth? And …CONTINUE READING
A leading environmental lawyer gives his perspective.
Transportation is now the source of 28% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, more than the electric power sector. The transportation sector is also a substantial source of nitrogen oxides and particulates, both of which are dangerous to human health. The Biden Administration has taken important regulatory actions bearing on these problems, with others in the …CONTINUE READING
Over the past fifty years, EPA has overseen incredible reductions in auto pollution.
This is part of an occasional series of posts about the evolution of pollution standards. Today’s subject is pollution control for new vehicles, which have been known to cause smog since the 1960s. The history of these pollution standards is quite distinctive. At the high temperatures in internal combustion engines, some of the nitrogen in …CONTINUE READING
State and local regulators can and should work to reduce particulate matter, ozone, and NOx emissions even when national standards are met.
States and local air quality regulators have the legal authority to set particulate matter (PM), ozone, and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions standards and adopt regulations for these pollutants when they are already in attainment of the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the federal Clean Air …CONTINUE READING
These three power plants cause a big share of America’s mercury pollution.
In Ireland, poor people used to burn peat from fuel. Barely a step ahead of that, some American power plants burn semi-fossilized peat (lignite) to run their generators. It turns out that those power plants produce about a third of all the toxic mercury emissions of the entire industry. Even more remarkably, about half of …CONTINUE READING
Regulations have some sticking power, even when the White House changes hands.
The Trump Administration’s massive campaign against government regulation was horrifying at the time and depressing in retrospect. Many people have been left with doubts about whether it’s even worthwhile to bother with new regulations, given the risk of a switch in control of the White House. I don’t question Trump’s regulatory carnage. But Obama’s achievements …CONTINUE READING
Will the major questions doctrine block EPA’s proposed rules?
Biden v. Nebraska, the student loan case, provided a new opportunity for the Court to apply the major question doctrine. Does this decision increase the threat that EPA’s proposed new regulations will be struck down under this doctrine? A careful reading of the majority opinion is at least somewhat reassuring. The Court painted a picture …CONTINUE READING
The benefits of the energy transition transcend climate.
The main reason to control carbon is to protect the climate. But cleaning up the energy system has plenty of other benefits. Those benefits will flow to people in rural areas as well as urban ones, to national security and international development, and to nature itself. To begin with, there are the health benefits of …CONTINUE READING
Claims that the new rule violates the doctrine are groundless.
Ever since the Supreme Court decided West Virginia v. EPA, conservatives and industry interests have claimed that just about every new regulation violates the major question doctrine. When the Biden Administration ramped up fuel efficiency requirements through 2026, ideologues such as the Heartland Institute and states like Texas were quick to wheel out this attack. …CONTINUE READING