Apr 16, 2018

EPA inches forward on rewrite of climate rule

The EPA logo on the door of its headquarters. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency has committed to rewriting a regulation banning certain uses of heat-trapping chemicals, a low-profile but nonetheless significant climate policy issued by then-President Barack Obama.

Driving the news: In a document signed late Friday by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency laid out compliance guidelines for affected industries, chiefly heating and cooling companies, in the wake of a court ruling last year rejecting the Obama-era rule. EPA also committed to rewriting the rule, the first official comment from the agency on the issue, according to experts following the issue.

The back story: This Obama-era rule was meant to be the regulatory foundation for how the last administration would implement a new amendment to the Montreal Protocol, a global environmental treaty originally agreed to more than 30 years ago to protect the Earth’s ozone layer.

The amendment, approved by all world leaders in October 2016, phases down refrigerants used in air conditioners that contain powerful greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.

What’s next: For the Montreal Protocol amendment to legally take effect, the Senate must vote and approve it. The State Department has official jurisdiction over that, and a request for comment wasn’t immediately returned, though a career official expressed support for it late last year.

A senior EPA official said the agency is supporting the process, but if Congress doesn’t approve it, EPA views the amendment “as a backdoor attempt to turn the Montreal Protocol into a climate treaty.”

Bottom line: Trump is more likely to keep this policy more than any others issued by Obama, largely because the industries affected support the policy. The heating and cooling industry backs it because they've invested millions in new refrigerants to replace the existing ones.

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The growing coronavirus recession threat

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In just a matter of weeks, top economists and investment bank analysts have gone from expecting the coronavirus outbreak to have minimal impact on the U.S. economy to warning that an outright recession may be on the horizon.

What's happening: The spread of confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S., and the speed at which they are being discovered has set the table for the outbreak to have a larger and much costlier impact.

Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Company in Milwaukee on Wednesday, including the gunman, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at a Wednesday evening press conference with local police.

Details: All of the victims worked at the brewery complex, as did the shooter who died of "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound," police confirmed in a statement late Wednesday.

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Coronavirus updates: South Korea case count tops 2,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

33 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus, and health officials are monitoring 8,400 people who have recently returned from "points of concern," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,850 people and infected over 83,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

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