The EPA Blog The EPA Blog Fri, 07 Aug 2015 20:56:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 This Week in EPA Science Fri, 07 Aug 2015 20:36:44 +0000 By Kacey Fitzpatrick Research Recap graphic identifier

Happy August! Need something to fill these long, lazy days of summer? Check out our Research Recap for the latest in EPA science!

It’s Clean Power Week!

This week, President Obama unveiled EPA’s Clean Power Plan—a historic step to cut the carbon pollution driving climate change. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy listed the six key things every American should know about the plan in this EPA Connect blog.

Walking On Water

Cities have been paving over streams since the 19th century—confining them in pipes and burying them beneath fields, buildings, and parking lots—but scientists are only now learning of potential harms to water quality. In a paper published in PLOS ONE, EPA researchers Jake Beaulieu and Heather Golden found that nitrates—nutrients that can become pollutants—travel on average 18 times further in buried urban streams than they do in open streams, before they are taken out of the water column.

Read the full story in the article from City Lab The Hidden Health Dangers of Buried Urban Rivers.

Photo of the Week

EPA researcher collecting fish samples

An EPA scientist collects a fish sample to be analyzed for mercury for the Everglades Ecosystem Assessment.

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!


About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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Renovate Right: Lead-Based Paint Is Still a Problem Fri, 07 Aug 2015 20:33:32 +0000 By Crystal McIntyre

“Is lead paint still around?” “I thought they got rid of all the lead.” I’ve heard these surprising responses more than once during my interactions with EPA’s regulated community through the years. Sadly, those misconceptions are very far from the truth.

More than 30 million homes in the U.S. still contain lead-based paint. They were built before 1978, when lead-based paint was banned for residential use. So it’s still a big problem and will continue to be until this paint is removed from every home, day care center, school, and any other structure where adults and children spend long periods of time.

This may seem like a nearly impossible task because lead paint removal requires much money and expertise. However, not all hope is lost. In addition to the many projects designed to remove lead paint from homes, with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, EPA has implemented regulations that require anyone getting paid to work on any privately-owned, pre-1978 properties must be properly trained and certified to do the work.

EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule became fully effective in April 2010. Over the past five years, it’s been a challenge to help the regulated community and some in the general public understand why this rule is so important. The RRP rule requires the use of lead-safe work practices, such as laying down plastic, posting warning signs, and cleaning properly after the demolition phase of the work is complete.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, I’ve seen many instances where the lead dust created from renovation work is spread across a room, floor, or an entire house. This could have been minimized or prevented by using the appropriate type of plastic and/or closing off the work area so the dust was contained.

Since the RRP rule was implemented in 2010, we’ve had a chance to see many companies and individuals renovating the interiors and exteriors of houses, schools, apartment buildings, and hotels, among other residential areas. Unfortunately, the work is almost always done incorrectly. Shown below are examples of what we’ve seen at many work sites, versus what we should be seeing.

Below are some photos taken at EPA lead inspections, showing how those sites can appear after lead-based paint is scraped or disturbed in some way and lead-safe work practices are not used.

2015-8-7 RRP1
When I look at these photos, I’m horrified to know that families with young children possibly lived there, and were not notified of the possible hazards nor kept out of the work area where workers likely tracked the lead-based paint dust and debris throughout the house and yard.

In order to raise the blood-lead level of a small child, it only takes the equivalent of a grain of sugar to enter their bloodstream. This can happen through inhalation – not just by ingestion, which is a common misconception. The paint chips and dust seen here are much larger than a sugar grain, so imagine the danger here.

As I mentioned, the proper use of appropriate work practices can minimize the exposure to lead-based paint. Below are more photos from EPA inspections, showing sites where attempts were made to safely conduct the work. The RRP rule requires renovators to take a course that walks them through the steps to contain a work area, post warning signs, and clean properly. You can see that the residents’ furniture was covered, HEPA vacuums were used for cleaning, and work areas were separated.

2015-8-7 RRP2
By following the RRP rule and using lead-safe work practices, we can help ensure that the health of our families is protected in the Heartland and across the nation. Please check out the links below to learn more.

Helpful EPA Links:

About the Author: Crystal McIntyre is an Environmental Protection Specialist who has worked for EPA for 17 years. She’s currently the Regional Lead Coordinator for the Lead-Based Paint Program. Crystal studied broadcast journalism at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.

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Explore and Appreciate Summer in the City! Fri, 07 Aug 2015 15:16:45 +0000 Continue enjoying your summer with these environmentally-friendly events. While it’s still hot enough to wear shorts and tank tops, indulge in these fresh and affordable outdoor activities. Whether you want to enjoy the waterfront, or discover new ways to help the city’s environment, make sure to use our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ #WTWEPA hashtag on twitter so we can share your adventures!

Friday – August 7, 2015

Elle | e-Waste Jewelry
BROOKLYN – The Gowanus eWaste Warehouse
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Elle | e-Waste JewelryElle | e-Waste Jewelry Elle | e-Waste Jewelry
On the evening of Friday August 7th, join an Open House party at the Gowanus eWaste Warehouse to celebrate Marcela Godoy’s jewelry line made entirely from electronic waste: Elle.eWaste. There is a great event lined up, including a runway show, warehouse tours, DJs, and more!

Waterfront Activities: Fishing
NEW YORK – East River Park Fire Boat House at Grand Street
5 – 7 p.m.

Join us this summer for the catch-and-release fishing clinics! Bait and tackle will be provided, (or bring your own), plus basic fishing instruction and other activities to explore the estuary. Kids under 15 must be accompanied by an adult.

Fantastic Friday: Make a Hummingbird Feeder
STATEN ISLAND – Greenbelt Nature Center
11 a.m. – noon
Fantastic Friday: Make a Hummingbird Feeder
Search for these colorful fast flyers, then make a hummingbird feeder to take home. Ages 7+.

Saturday – August 8, 2015

2015 Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
QUEENS – Flushing Meadows Corona Park
10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
2015 Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
This much anticipated multicultural event features two exciting days of dragon boat racing, wonderful performances, and an ethnic food court.

Summer Streets
MANHATTAN – Foley Square & Paine Park
7 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Summer Streets is an annual celebration of New York City’s streets, presented by the New York City Department of Transportation. On three consecutive Saturdays in August, nearly seven miles of NYC’s streets are opened for people to play, run, walk and bike. Summer Streets provides space for healthy recreation and encourages New Yorkers to use more sustainable forms of transportation.

NYC Parks Beach Volleyball Tournament 2015
BROOKLYN – Coney Island Beach & Boardwalk
8 a.m.
5 p.m.
NYC Parks Beach Volleyball Tournament 2015
Face off in NYC’s ultimate summer competition!  NYC Parks invites you to join a volleyball tournament on beautiful Coney Island Beach.

BROOKLYN – Brooklyn Bridge Park
10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Kayaking - BROOKLYN - Brooklyn Bridge Park
Paddle in the East River with the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse.

Children under 18 must have an adult guardian present. All levels are welcome and no experience is necessary. For more information, please visit Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy‘s website.

Sunday – August 9, 2015

Basic Canoeing
Manhattan – Lasker Pool & Rink (in Central Park)
noon – 3 p.m.

Few experiences compare with being on the open water in New York City. Basic canoe programs are great for all skill levels. Children aged 8 and older are welcome.

Canine Ice Cream
QUEENS – Rockaway Freeway Dog Park
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Canine Ice Cream
Enjoy music, games, dog-friendly ice cream treats, and more! Giveaway bag for the first 25 people.

GreenThumb Workshop: Feed the Soil, Not the Plants
STATEN ISLAND – Joe Hozlka Community Garden
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
GreenThumb Workshop: Feed the Soil, Not the Plants
Learn how to use compost to improve your plants’ soil. This workshop is given in partnership with NYC Compost Project.

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Meaningful Implementation Requires Meaningful Involvement Thu, 06 Aug 2015 18:04:25 +0000 By Tom B.K. Goldtooth

About the Author:  Tom B. K. Goldtooth is the Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, formed in 1990 to address environmental and economic justice issues.  Mr. Goldtooth is Diné and Dakota, and, since the late 1980s, has been involved with environment related issues and programs, working within tribal governments to develop indigenous-based environmental protection infrastructures, and with indigenous peoples worldwide to address environmental concerns.


Aerial view

One year ago this month, EPA released its Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples . “All tribal and indigenous communities deserve environmental and public health protection,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told Indian Country Today. “Through this agreement, [EPA is] reinforcing [its] commitment to tribal communities, especially in addressing issues of Environmental Justice.”

In the years preceding EPA’s new tribal EJ policy, agency staff regularly engaged federally-recognized tribal governments, but weren’t engaging other indigenous peoples. There was no framework in place to facilitate building consensus between tribes, industry, and threatened indigenous communities and members.

The way in which EPA will now implement Executive Order 12898 with tribal officials and  indigenous peoples, is a significant step in the right direction. Specifically, the policy outlines the importance of “…early meaningful involvement opportunities for federally recognized tribes, indigenous peoples, and others living in Indian country, at all stages of Agency activity, including the development of public participation activities, the administrative review process, and any analysis conducted to evaluate environmental justice issues.”

Containing 17 principles, the policy is simple to understand and straightforward in outlining how EPA will engage and make decisions based on input from tribal governments, indigenous peoples, and others living in Indian country.

So, how will this new policy have a positive impact on the future of environmental justice for tribes and indigenous peoples?

Environmentally and culturally harmful practices of extractive industries (e.g. mining of uranium, coal and other natural resources) on tribal trust lands and traditional indigenous territories has and will continue to be a particular environmental justice concern. Therefore, EPA’s expansion of public involvement and working with “key points of contact in affected communities” is necessary.

Collaborative Problem-Solving Meeting with Tribal Government Officials, Indigenous Peoples, EPA and other stakeholders - Fort Berthold, North Dakota

Collaborative problem-solving meeting with Tribal government officials, Indigenous peoples, EPA, and other stakeholders at Fort Berthold, North Dakota.

Indigenous community members should take advantage of various forms of conflict resolution (including “tribal and indigenous peoples’ traditional consensus building and decision-making practices…”) to work with EPA to address threats to the environment and human health in Indian country and in other areas of interest to tribes and indigenous peoples.

EPA’s technical guidance and technical assistance for those with limited resources will help citizens build capacity to participate effectively in government outreach and public participation processes, and effect positive environmental justice outcomes. The more that tribal officials, grassroots organizations, indigenous community members, and others living in Indian country, engage with each other, the more likely equitable social, economic, cultural, and spiritual rights will be preserved for future generations.

This new policy was years in the making. In the process, EPA consulted with tribes and engaged in outreach to tribal members, indigenous individuals, and other organizations in an effort to develop a policy that could help improve the protection of the environment in Indian country for future generations.

Therefore, it is in the best interest of indigenous peoples and grassroots organizations, as well as tribal representatives, to work with EPA to implement the policy to help provide solutions to current environmental problems, protect our sacred sites, and avoid destruction of the natural systems that sustain all life on Mother Earth.

We must be sure to move forward with this policy in a way that:

  • Emphasizes effective implementation
  • Improves relationships between federally recognized tribes and government agencies and between other indigenous peoples and government agencies
  • Provides effective environmental and public health protection
  • Protects Indigenous lifeways and treaty rights

For those interested in engaging in a meaningful dialogue about the policy, EPA representatives and I will discuss Implementing EPA’s Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples, at the Tribal Lands and Environment Forum on August 19 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Farmers markets: shrinking food’s footprint Thu, 06 Aug 2015 11:20:22 +0000 Corn growing just steps from the National Mall.

Corn growing just steps from the National Mall.

by Jennie Saxe

On a sightseeing trip to Washington, DC, my family and I observed two unexpected sights, just steps from the National Mall: a busy farmers market in some valuable downtown parking spaces and huge stalks of corn growing in a small garden plot right next to the sidewalk. Farmers markets and urban gardens are a great way to feed your family healthy foods and protect natural resources at the same time. Reducing the number of steps between you and your food means that less water and energy are needed to get the food onto your dinner table.

The close connection between energy production, water supply, and food production has been described as the “energy-water-food nexus.” In fact, over 94% of water withdrawals in the United States are to support these three sectors. The energy-water connection has been the subject of past Healthy Waters blogs.  And we’ve talked about the work that the agriculture community is doing to protect water quality, as well, since our farms are a vital part of our economy that rely on clean water supplies for their livelihoods and to feed the country.

Let’s follow the food to find out how energy, food, and water connections all come together, by focusing on one of a cook’s favorite ingredients: butter. When you think of all of the steps that are involved in producing a stick of butter – from irrigation for the crops that feed the cows, to the processing of the butter itself, and its transport to your supermarket – energy and water are intricately involved in every step along the way. Globally, the water footprint of butter is estimated to be 5,553 liters of water per kilogram of butter. That is equivalent to about 167 gallons per quarter-pound stick – enough water to fill about 4 standard-sized bathtubs!

What if there were fewer steps in the process? Imagine that the cows are grazed on grass pastureland, instead of on delivered feed and that the butter was made locally. Farmers markets bring fresh, local food right into the heart of communities, while minimizing the impact on our natural resources.

While doing some research on the miniature corn field and farmers market that I stumbled upon, I found out that this week, August 2-8, was proclaimed National Farmers Market Week by the US Department of Agriculture. This week, get out to meet the hard-working farmers that grow your food at a farmers market near you!

About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs. If your community is looking for assistance in developing a local food system, EPA’s Smart Growth program is accepting applications for Local Foods, Local Places technical support. Check out the announcement for details; applications must be received by September 15, 2015.

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What’s Next for the Clean Power Plan? Wed, 05 Aug 2015 18:42:52 +0000 On Monday, President Obama announced a huge step to fight climate change and protect our kids’ health: EPA’s Clean Power Plan. By 2030, the plan will drastically cut carbon pollution from power plants – our nation’s biggest driver of climate change – as well as the other harmful air pollutants that come along with it.

The release of the final Clean Power Plan is a historic step forward for our country, and with its launch, we begin a new chapter as we take action against climate change.

Among the many commenters, states provided critical feedback to help EPA build a final Clean Power Plan that works for everyone. And starting now, states are in the driver’s seat of putting the plan into action.

The Clean Power Plan sets uniform emissions rates for power plants across the country. They’re the same in every state for similar types of fossil fuel plants, ensuring fairness and consistency across the board. Using these rates, EPA’s plan then sets state-specific goals for cutting carbon pollution based on each state’s unique energy mix.

That’s where flexibility and a host of options come in. States can decide how best to achieve pollution reductions from power plants. The Clean Power Plan explains the state options, and EPA has also proposed a Federal Plan and Model Rule that states can adopt as a ready-made, cost-effective path forward. But states don’t have to use the EPA’s approach; they can pursue a range of other approaches. And compliance strategies are wide open, too. Utilities can improve plant efficiency, run cleaner plants more, shift toward cleaner fuels, use renewables, and take advantage of energy efficiency and interstate trading.

So, what’s next? Here are a few important milestones to look for.

2016: States have until September 6, 2016, to build and submit their customized plans for cutting       carbon pollution and meeting their goals. They’ll send those plans to EPA for review. If a year isn’t enough time, states can request an extension.

2022: This is the first year that states are required to start meeting interim goals for carbon pollution reduction. But investments and plans underway now can help states get closer to their goals even sooner, and to help them, we’ve created a Clean Energy Incentive Program to help states get a head start on reducing carbon emissions as soon as 2020.

2022 – 2029: Because we know pollution reductions won’t happen overnight, EPA is providing a path to help states make a smooth transition to clean energy future. State pollution reductions can be achieved gradually, over an interim step-down period between 2022 and 2029, before states are required to meet their final goals.

2030: This is the year that states are required to meet their full carbon pollution reduction goals under the Clean Power Plan—and the year we’ll see its full benefits to our health and our pocketbooks. In 2030, when states meet their goals, carbon pollution from the power sector will be 32 percent below 2005 levels. That’s 870 million fewer tons of carbon pollution, with even less over time. And because of reductions to other harmful air pollutants that come packaged with carbon pollution, we’ll avoid thousands of premature deaths and have thousands fewer asthma cases and hospitalizations in 2030 alone. What’s more, 2030 is the year the nation will see up to $45 billion in net benefits from the clean power plan, and the average American family will see up to $85 a year in savings on their utility bills.

The good news is, we don’t have to wait until 2030 to start seeing the Clean Power Plan’s benefits. Communities will start seeing tangible health and cost benefits as states make progress toward cutting carbon pollution and increasing efficiency.

Starting now, state planning will begin in earnest. And we hope you will get engaged. The Clean Power Plan requires states to work with communities and stakeholders to make sure the plans they build reflect your needs. And EPA will be looking to see how states are taking stakeholder input into account.

We urge you to be part of the process, get informed, and get involved. EPA received more than 4.3 million public comments on its initial proposed Plan, and we listened to your concerns. The final Clean Power Plan is stronger, more flexible, and more achievable because of your feedback. Here are some upcoming ways to get involved:

August 20, 2015: Join us for a webinar designed to provide communities with an overview of what is in the Clean Power Plan and how to participate. More details available soon HERE.

Fall 2015: EPA will hold public hearings around the country for the proposed Federal Plan and Model Rules. More details will be posted on soon.

As Administrator McCarthy has said, “climate change is personal.” It affects you no matter who you are or where you come from. That’s why we need you to be involved and have your voice heard.

Learn more about how the Clean Power Plan affects your state HERE.

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Excavation Experts: Are Moles or Voles Ruining your Lawn? (Part 2) Wed, 05 Aug 2015 16:48:54 +0000 By Marcia Anderson

These paddle-like paws can do serious damage to your landscaping.  Kenneth Catania, Vanderbilt University

These paddle-like paws can do serious damage to your landscaping.
Kenneth Catania, Vanderbilt University

We hoped you learned about the differences between moles and voles in Part 1. Now that you know how to tell them apart, how do you discourage them from living in your yard and convince them to take up residence elsewhere?

To deter these landscape pests, be prepared to alter their environment. Preventing pest problems through foresight, is the #1 rule of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is beneficial to both your health and the environment. IPM is smart, sensible and sustainable – addressing the root causes of pest problems to provide a sustainable solution.

Mole Control

Regulating some of a mole’s food supply may help. Since moles are fond of beetle grubs in the lawn, you can begin by controlling the grubs. The three primary natural solutions are milky spore, beneficial nematodes and neem oil products. An annual lawn-grub treatment application of bacterial-based milky spore disease granules can definitely help, but it takes two-three years to become established in the soil and it doesn’t work in cold climates (colder than Zone 5).

Beneficial nematodes can be applied and will move through the soil to infect and kill the grubs. Neem has been used as an insecticide for centuries and acts as a repellent for grubs. However, as long as there are plenty of worms or ants in your lawn, you may still have a mole problem and may wish to resort to “Plan B.”

“Plan B” for moles utilizes their keen sense of smell that finds some plants offensive. You can use this knowledge as a natural way to control moles. Several bulb plants are known to repel moles such as daffodils, Siberian squill, and crown imperial, whose flowers give off a fox-like scent. Garlic, onions, leeks, chives, shallots and giant allium are living mole repellents as are the mole plant, or caper spurge and Mexican marigold.

Vole Controls

 Here are some helpful cultural controls you can use to prevent voles.

  • Do not apply mulch too close to trees and shrubs. It provides voles with an easily tunneled, insulated pathway under snow, ice and frozen ground in the winter.
  • Get rid of autumn leaves, twigs and debris that can make inviting pathways and remove ground cover that can hide voles. Bare soil makes them more vulnerable to predators.
  • Place wire cages around individual plants: While impractical on a large-scale it is very effective for your favorite plants.
  • Use ¼-inch hardware cloth or plastic cylinders to protect individual young trees and shrubs. Bury them slightly and extend at least two feet plus 18 inches above the snow depth to deter other gnawing pests
  • Keep your garden weeded and avoid planting dense ground covers.
  • Keep your lawn mowed short.


Castor oil is the most widely used mole and gopher repellent. Whether homemade treatment or a commercial product, it is made from ground-up corn cobs and castor oil. Other commercial vole repellents, are formulated with capsacian (the ingredient that makes peppers hot), repulsive smelling predator (coyote, fox or wolf) urine, or bitter testing chemicals. While these repellants are effective at keeping voles from eating live plants and bulbs, they need to be re-applied frequently because most dissipate with the rain. Voles may also become acclimated. Therefore, a varied approach works best with repellants. Fumigants, ultrasonic devices, and noise or vibration makers are not effective in repelling voles or moles.

Final Actions

Trapping moles or voles is an effective long-term control. Snap traps manufactured for mice are also effective at catching voles. Several EPA registered pesticides are also available for mole and vole control. Remember to read and follow the label directions on all pesticides carefully.

Visit the University of Nebraska website for more information on moles and voles. 

About the Author: About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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Clean Power Plan: Power Plant Compliance and State Goals Tue, 04 Aug 2015 20:31:52 +0000 EPA’s historic Clean Power Plan, is a first-of-its-kind step to cut the harmful carbon pollution fueling climate change from our nation’s power plants based on more than two years of extensive outreach, plus the 4.3 million public comments we received. Compared with last year’s proposal, our final plan cuts over 70 million more tons of carbon pollution, making it more ambitious, more achievable and more affordable, too.

There are two key reasons our final rule works: 1) it follows a more traditional Clean Air Act approach to reduce air pollution, and 2) it gives states and utilities even more options and more time to reach their pollution reduction goals than our proposal did.

Uniform Performance Rates

At the heart of our plan are its uniform emission rates – one for fossil steam units (coal, oil, and gas) and one for natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) units. The standards limit the amount of carbon pollution released for every power plant covered by the rule – and they are the same standards for every coal plant and for every NGCC plant in every state.

The rates are achievable because no power plant has to meet the rates on its own.  It can use the fact that it operates on an interconnected grid to access a range of low- or zero-emitting energy resources to come into compliance.

The important point to keep in mind is that power plants do not operate in isolation. Utilities have bought, sold and transmitted electricity across state lines for decades, and regional power grids are a major reason electricity is affordable and reliable. Pollution doesn’t stop at state lines either. With the Clean Power Plan, we’re cutting pollution in the same way we generate and distribute electricity—through an interconnected grid.

In fact, relying on the performance rates is one way that a state can put its power plants in a position to use emissions trading between and among power plants in different states to access those clean energy resources – and to integrate emissions reduction strategies with the way the grid moves electricity back and forth across broad multi-state regions.

State Goals

Each state’s goal represents a blend of the performance rate for coal and the performance rate for gas weighted by the number of coal and gas plants in the state. States can choose to comply simply by applying the performance rates to each unit operating within their respective borders, especially if they include emissions trading as a compliance option for their units. States can also comply with the law by using their overall emissions goals and adopting a portfolio of measures that result in emissions reductions.

While the utilities are responsible for reducing emissions, the state plans are the means of accounting for and ensuring that the reductions take place in line with the national standards and timing established by the Clean Power Plan. And the state rate- and mass-based goals are a way of giving states additional options and flexibility for implementing the two performance standards.

Emissions Trading
When we hold power plants of the same type to the same standards, it means that their reductions are interchangeable – creating a system that’s ready for trading. The built-in ability to trade emissions gives states even more flexibility in how they achieve their carbon pollution reduction goals.

A Glide Path

Further ensuring that the standards are achievable is that the final rule does not require any power plant to meet the standards – or whatever equivalent measure the state imposes – all at once. Instead, states can determine their own emissions reduction trajectories over the period between 2022 and 2029, provided that overall they meet their interim targets “on average” over that period. The final rule ensured this important flexibility by initiating the mandatory compliance period in 2022, rather than 2020 as at proposal, and phasing in the two performance standards and the accompanying state goals. This phase-in is reflected in the performance rates and in the state goals that correspond to those rates, again calculated as a weighted blend

Final Goals in 2030
Ultimately, by 2030, power plants across the country must meet the performance standards using the tools and methods available and within the context of the interconnected grid. Because some states’ power plant fleet includes more coal plants, some states 2030 goals appear more stringent than others. Some states have adopted policies or seen changes in their energy markets that have already put them on a path to lower emissions in 2030.  These states’ reduction requirements are relatively smaller. Either way, every state will be achieving emissions reductions along the timeline between 2012 and 2030. States that have already seen their emissions decline thanks to either policy choices or market shifts will have to take action to make sure that those trends continue.

These two tables tell the Clean Power Plan’s story on a state by state basis, and they provide a good sense of what states and the power system will accomplish by 2030 under the program.

With our final rule, we are setting smart, uniform targets for power plants across the country, but that’s nothing new. It’s a proven approach that EPA has used to reduce air pollution under the Clean Air Act for decades. We’re following long-standing legal precedent to create smart, achievable standards and facilitate trading among plants so the cheapest reductions come first.

More information about how and why goals changed is available at

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Why We Must Act: For our Families’ Health and our Kids’ Future Tue, 04 Aug 2015 14:45:57 +0000 Sanaa Brown is ten years old. Like many other girls her age, she loves playing outside. Soccer, dance, gymnastics, tennis, swimming—as her mom likes to say, there’s isn’t a sport Sanaa doesn’t like.

But these days, she finds herself stuck inside more and more often. Sanaa has asthma and environmental allergies—conditions that are only getting worse, thanks to climate change.  Increasingly extreme summer heat [and humidity] near her family’s home in North Carolina mean Sanaa has more and more trouble breathing. After less than an hour outside, she often breaks out in painful hives.

Despite all this, Sanaa refuses to give up. She’s still running all around her house, still giving it her all on the soccer field. Yet, the difficulty breathing, the painful hives—they’re not going anywhere. As her mom admits, pursuing her passion means that Sanaa now has to “deal with the consequences.”

She shouldn’t have to.

I got into public service more than three decades ago as a local public health official in Canton, Massachusetts, because I wanted to make life a little easier for kids like Sanaa. I wanted to make sure they could play outside whenever they wanted to, without having to worry about being able to breathe.

Thirty-five years later, kids like Sanaa are still the reason I come to work every day—because I know that unless we continue the fight to protect our environment, what’s happened to them could just as easily happen to my family or yours. Nothing drives home this threat more sharply than the challenge of climate change.

Climate change, driven by carbon pollution from fossil fuels, leads to more extreme weather—more extreme heat, cold, drought, storms, fires, and floods. Climate change is a global challenge, but it’s also personal. No matter who you are, where you live, or what you care about, climate change is affecting you and your family today.

Our moral responsibility to act is crystal clear—because our families are bearing the brunt of these effects.

Carbon pollution comes packaged with smog and soot that can lead to lung and heart disease. Over the last three decades, the number of Americans living with asthma has doubled. Warmer temperatures from climate change exacerbate air pollution, putting those patients at greater risk of landing in the hospital.

The facts of climate change aren’t up for debate. Scientists are as sure that humans are causing climate change as they are that cigarettes cause lung cancer. We have a responsibility to act because we have a responsibility to our kids, our grandkids, to Sanaa Brown, and to young people across the country and around the world.

As a mom, I feel the weight of this responsibility every time I look at my three children. At EPA, I feel it every time I walk the halls and remember our mission: to protect public health and the environment. That’s why we’re not shying away from this challenge. We’re not waiting. We’re taking action now.

The transition to a clean energy future is happening even faster than we expected—and that’s a good thing. It means carbon and air pollution are already decreasing, improving public health each and every year. The Clean Power Plan accelerates this momentum. It will slash carbon pollution from the power sector by nearly a third compared to where we were a decade ago. And when we cut carbon pollution, we also cut the smog and soot that come with it. That’s going to make a real difference in the lives of kids and families everywhere.

By 2030, we’ll see major reductions of pollutants that can create dangerous soot and smog, translating to significant health benefits for the American people. We’ll avoid up to 90,000 asthma attacks that would have ruined a child’s day. Americans will spend up to 300,000 more days in the office or the classroom, instead of sick at home. And up to 3,600 families will be spared the grief of losing a loved one too soon.

We’re acting now because lives are at stake.

Two years ago, President Obama told the students of Georgetown University that he “refuse[d] to condemn their generation… to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”

Two months ago, Pope Francis reminded us that “young people demand change,” and called upon “every person living on this planet” to take a stand for our children, and theirs to come.

A child born today will turn fifteen in the year 2030 – the year when the full benefits of the Clean Power Plan will be realized. The actions we take now will clear the way for that child – and kids everywhere – to learn, play, and grow up in a world that’s not only clean and safe, but full of opportunity.


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The Final Clean Power Plan: More Ambitious, More Achievable for States Mon, 03 Aug 2015 19:30:34 +0000 Today, President Obama announced EPA’s historic Clean Power Plan, a first-of-its-kind step to cut the harmful carbon pollution fueling climate change from our nation’s power plants. Climate change threatens our health, our economy, and our way of life with impacts like more intense heat, cold, droughts, floods, fires, and storms. And power plants are our nation’s largest driver of climate change, making up a third of our carbon pollution emissions.

Compared with last year’s proposal, the final Clean Power Plan cuts over 70 million more tons of carbon pollution, making it more ambitious. And based on more than two years of extensive outreach, plus the 4.3 million public comments we received, we made changes to improve the proposal, so that the final Clean Power Plan is more achievable and more affordable, too.

There are two key reasons our final rule works: 1) it follows a more traditional Clean Air Act approach to reduce air pollution, and 2) it gives states and utilities even more options and more time to reach their pollution reduction goals.

At the heart of the final Clean Power Plan are its uniform emission rates for fossil fuel power plants. These standards limit the average amount of carbon pollution released for every unit of energy generated – and the standards are now the same in every state for similar types of fossil fuel plants. Based on those standards, EPA’s plan sets state-specific carbon pollution reduction goals that reflect each state’s unique energy mix.

Carbon reductions can begin now, and each state needs to hit its interim target by 2022 and its final target by 2030—but no individual plant has to meet the standard alone or all at once. Instead, power plants can work within the electricity grid to meet the standards over time. That means, even though the standards are fair and consistent, they’re not cookie-cutter. States are in the driver’s seat to design approaches that work for them, and the final plan gives utilities more options to reach the interim and final goals.

When we hold power plants of the same type to the same standards, we also make sure their reductions are interchangeable – creating a system that’s ready for trading. The built-in ability to trade emissions gives states even more flexibility in how they achieve their carbon pollution reduction goals.

States don’t exist in isolation, and neither do power plants. Utilities have bought, sold and transmitted electricity across state lines for decades, and regional power grids are a major reason electricity is affordable and reliable. Pollution doesn’t stop at state lines either. With the Clean Power Plan, we’re cutting pollution in the same way we generate and distribute electricity—through an interconnected grid.

Because states requested it, we’re also proposing a model rule they can adopt right away: one that’s cost-effective and guarantees they meet EPA’s requirements, and will let their power plants use interstate trading. But they don’t have to use our plan; they can cut carbon pollution in whatever way makes the most sense for them.
Our final rule sets smart, uniform targets for power plants across the country, but that’s nothing new. It’s a proven approach that EPA has used to reduce air pollution under the Clean Air Act for decades. We’re following long-standing legal precedent to create smart, achievable standards and facilitate trading among plants so the cheapest reductions come first.

Cutting carbon pollution from power plants is about tackling the challenge of climate change. This is an opportunity to protect public health, cut pollution from our energy system, and energize our clean economy. Now is the time to build a future that we’ll be proud to leave behind for our children and future generations.


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