Friday, December 23, 2005

A blog worth reading

I have recently come across another blog worth your consideration.

www.desmogblog.com

DeSmogBlog is the brainchild of James Hoggan, one of Canada’s leading corporate public relations consultants, who says he’s mad as hell at the hucksters who are attacking the global consensus on climate change.

"There have been lots of times in the past 20 years when talented PR people have shilled for shady clients, but no case has been more outrageous than the complex, expensive and frighteningly high-quality effort to confuse the public about climate change," Hoggan says. "I think it’s time somebody outed the PR industry. It’s time someone spelled out exactly what’s being done and by whom. This issue is much too important to leave to scoundrels."

http://www.desmogblog.com

Watch EPA try to b-s its way out of bad particle pollution decision

If you haven's seen it, you might be amused -- or saddened -- with how the EPA tried to b-s its way out of its bad particle pollution decision. This is the transcript of the EPA telephone press conference:

http://www.epa.gov/air/particlepollution/pdfs/transcript20051220.pdf

Especially note the first two questions:

Your first question comes from Traci Watson with USA Today.

Traci Watson: Hi. Thanks for taking my question. I’d like to find out how you justify setting standards that are higher than what your own Science Advisory Council recommended?

Stephen Johnson: Good. This is the Administrator. First of all, I looked at all the science with my staff. In fact, I’m told that I spent more time than any other administrator looking at the science on this issue of particulate matter. And I made my decision based upon the best available science.

Now as been pointed out by (Bill) Wehrum, we are taking comments on the divergent views. But I made my decision based upon the best available science.

(Eryn) Witcher: Thank you. Next question.

Operator: Your next question comes from Mike Janofsky with New York Times.

Mike Janofsky: Mr. Administrator, if you made your decision on the best available science, does that mean that the Advisory Committee and also your staff did not have the best available science to make their recommendations?

Stephen Johnson: There’s a lot of factors to consider as pointed out that we certainly appreciate and support the Clean Air Advisory Committee. But again, what I need to consider is, is there a clear basis for - or clear evidence provided for making a decision? And this choice requires judgment, judgment based upon an interpretation of the evidence. And certainly in my mind, an interpretation of the evidence that neither overstates nor understates the strength or the limitations of the evidence. So that’s what I base my decision on.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

EPA puts out industry-friendly proposal on particle pollution

The Bush administration today officially proposed an industry-friendly plan for deadly particle pollution in the air. The U.S. EPA proposed weaker national health standards than recommended by its own outside science advisors. This is the latest chapter in the continuing domination of Bush air pollution policy by the coal-burning electric power industry.

For some interesting background, note the USA Today piece and commentary on tompaine.com at:

http://cleanairarticles.blogspot.com/

Our official reaction is at

http://www.cleanairwatchpressroom.blogspot.com/

Friday, December 16, 2005

As EPA nears particle pollution decision, a new study on heart disease and particle pollution

The timing of the study noted below is rather remarkable. My apologies for a redundant note if you have already seen this study.

As I hope you know by now, the US EPA will make a formal proposal next week on national air quality standards for fine particle pollution. EPA’s own science advisors have called on the agency to make the current standards significantly tighter, based on more recent science which has shown that particle pollution is lethal – even at levels that are currently legal.

We are very concerned that EPA – under lobbying pressure from the electric power industry and other industry lobbies – will offer something less protective of public health than EPA’s own science advisors have recommended.

In particular, the science advisors have recommended that EPA set a more restrictive standard for annual levels of exposure to fine particle pollution. We understand EPA may be balking at this because of political pressure.

Coincidentally, the Journal of the American Medical Association will publish a new study next week which will show that long-term exposure to fine-particle pollution contributes to the hardening and clogging of the arteries.

This new study appears to corroborate our argument that the EPA should set a better standard to limit annual exposure to fine-particle pollution.

**

EMBARGOED For Release Until 4 p.m., Eastern Time, on Tuesday, December 20 Contact: Pam McDonnell Office of Communications & Public Affairs NYU School of Medicine 212-404-3555 Email: Pam.McDonnell@nyumc.org

Researchers Show How Air Pollution Can Cause Heart Disease Animal study reveals tiny particles in the air are even more damaging when coupled with a high-fat diet

New York, December 20, 2005—New York University School of Medicine researchers provide some of the most compelling evidence yet that long-term exposure to air pollution—even at levels within federal standards—causes heart disease. Previous studies have linked air pollution to cardiovascular disease but until now it was poorly understood how pollution damaged the body’s blood vessels.

In a well-designed mouse study, where animals breathed air as polluted as the air in New York City, the researchers pinpointed specific mechanisms and showed that air pollution can be particularly damaging when coupled with a high-fat diet, according to new research published in the December 21 issue of JAMA.

“We established a causal link between air pollution and atherosclerosis,” says Lung Chi Chen, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine at NYU School of Medicine and a lead author of the study. Atherosclerosis—the hardening, narrowing, and clogging of the arteries—is an important component of cardiovascular disease.

The study, done in collaboration with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and University of Michigan, looked at the effects of airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 microns, referred to as PM2.5, the size linked most strongly with cardiovascular disease. The emissions arise primarily from power plants and vehicle exhaust.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regulated PM2.5 since 1997, limiting each person’s average exposure per year to no more than 15 micrograms per cubic meter. These tiny particles of dust, soot, and smoke lead to an estimated 60,000 premature deaths every year in the United States.

Dr. Chen and his colleagues divided 28 mice, which were genetically prone to developing cardiovascular disease, into two groups eating either normal or high-fat diets. For the next six months, half of the mice in each feeding group breathed doses of either particle-free filtered air or concentrated air containing PM2.5 at levels that averaged out to 15.2 micrograms per cubic meter.

This amount is within the range of annual EPA limits and equivalent to air quality in urban areas such as New York City. The researchers then conducted an array of tests to measure whether the PM2.5 exposure had any impact on the mice’s cardiovascular health. Overall, mice who breathed polluted air fared worse than those inhaling filtered air.

But when coupled with a high-fat diet, the impact of PM2.5 exposure was even more dramatic. The results added up to a clear cause and effect relationship between PM2.5 exposure and atherosclerosis, according to the study. On the whole, mice breathing polluted air had far more plaque than those breathing filtered air. In cross sections taken from the largest artery in the body—the aorta—mice on normal diets and exposed to PM2.5 had arteries 19.2 percent filled with plaque, the fatty deposits that clog arteries.

The arteries of those breathing particle-free air were 13.2 percent obstructed. Among high-fat diet mice, those exposed to PM2.5 had arteries that were 41.5 percent obstructed by plaque, whereas the arteries of the pollution-free mice were 26.2 percent clogged. In both normal and high-fat diet mice, PM2.5 exposure increased cholesterol levels, which are thought to exacerbate plaque buildup.

Though findings for increased plaque among mice eating normal diets were not statistically significant, Dr. Chen believes that future research on larger numbers of animals will solidify the trend. “Even with the low-fat diet, there’s still something there. So that is something to think about,” he says. He suspects that PM2.5 exposure could also greatly affect even people who do not eat high-fat diets.

Mice exposed to PM2.5 also appeared prone to developing high blood pressure, another element of cardiovascular disease, because their arteries had become less elastic. To measure tension in the arteries, the researchers tested how the neurotransmitters serotonin and acetylcholine affected the aortic arches of PM2.5-exposed mice differently than those of controls.

The arteries taken from exposed mice were less elastic than the control group, constricting more in the presence of serotonin and relaxing less in response to acetylcholine. Once again, the mice fed high-fat diets suffered the most pronounced effects from breathing polluted air. Finally, the researchers also examined various measures of vascular inflammation, which is involved in atherosclerosis on a number of levels.

In the aortas of PM2.5–exposed mice, for example, they found increased levels of macrophages, immune cells that are an important ingredient in plaque deposits and also active participants in a biochemical pathway related to inflammation. The study revealed several signs that this pathway was more active, strengthening the connection between airborne particles and cardiovascular disease.

The authors of the new study are: Morton Lippmann, Lung Chi Chen, and Ximei Jin of the NYU School of Medicine’s Nelson Institute of Environmental Medicine, based in Tuxdeo, New York; Qinghua Sun, Alex Natanzon, Juan-Gilberto S. Aguinaldo, Zahi A. Fayad, Valentin Fuster, and Sayjay Rajagopalan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York; and Robert D. Brook and Damon Duquaine of University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The study was funded by the EPA and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Will EPA Set Weak Particle Pollution Standard?

By Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON, Dec 14 (Reuters) - The Bush administration must decide by next week whether to change standards limiting tiny particles emitted by power plants and cars, and environmental groups fear the rules won't go far enough to protect public health.

Under a legal settlement reached with environmental groups, the Environmental Protection Agency must reconsider existing standards by Tuesday, Dec. 20, to curb the amount of so-called fine particles.

The emissions are linked to premature deaths from heart and lung disease, chronic bronchitis and asthma.

The EPA could leave existing rules intact, or change the regulations which set daily and annual limits for the particles, which come from a range of sources such as power plants, road dust, burned-out brake shoes and wood smoke.

Environmental groups worry that the EPA will issue a rule that may appear tougher but will fail to require states to take new cleanup actions.

"My concern is that health science will be trumped by political science," said Frank O'Donnell at Clean Air Watch. "Setting a better 24-hour standard alone might look good on paper, but it would be meaningless in the real world."

The EPA declined to comment on details of the plan, which must be finalized by Sept. 27, 2006. It said in a statement that the regulation "will be grounded in the best available science" to protect public health.

Nearly 100 million people in the United States breathe unhealthy amounts of the particles, which are 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Some of the worst emissions occur in big cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Coal-burning electric utilities have lobbied against tougher regulations. Officials from the Edison Electric Institute -- the biggest U.S. utility lobbying group -- met with Bush administration officials on Dec. 1 to discuss the proposal, according to a public record of meeting participants.

A letter sent to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson from 100 health researchers urged the agency to strengthen both the annual and 24-hour standards significantly, and to establish a stringent new 24-hour standard for larger particulate matter.

An EPA advisory panel called for tougher daily and annual standards, and a recent agency study of nine cities indicated 4,700 premature deaths would occur annually even if cities meet current standards.

Monday, December 12, 2005

State agencies rally to defend right to protect citizens from dirty air

STATE AND TERRITORIAL AIR POLLUTION PROGRAM ADMINISTRATORS/
ASSOCIATION OF LOCAL AIR POLLUTION CONTROL OFFICIALS

NEWS ADVISORY

STATES, LOCALITIES RALLY TO DEFEND
RIGHT TO PROTECT CITIZENS FROM DIRTY AIR

It’s bringing cleaner air from coast to coast: A well-reasoned and time-honored legal
authority that permits states to improve on federal mobile source pollution standards in
order to protect their citizens from dirty air.

But now a smoky cloud looms on the horizon.

Special interests, including car companies and diesel engine makers, want to take away
the right of state and local governments to protect their citizens. And they have been
urging the National Research Council, which is preparing to issue a report on states’
rights, to recommend doing so.

We want to tell you our side of the story: Why it would be a terrible mistake to interfere
with the right of state and local governments.

Please join us for a December 13 teleconference briefing, as state authorities explain
today’s system, why it has worked so well, and the nature of the potential threat.

Who: State Officials from California, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts,
Oklahoma, Oregon, North Carolina and Washington

S. William Becker, Executive Director of STAPPA and ALAPCO

When: Tuesday December 13, 2005

12:30 p.m. EST/9:30 a.m. Pacific time

Friday, December 09, 2005

NASCAR Update

An excellent piece today in the Bremerton (WA) Sun about a new EPA study which warns about the potential health problems from NASCAR's continued use of leaded gasoline.

Despite issuing repeated warnings, EPA still is not monitoring to see how serious the problem is -- if serious at all.

The article is at http://www.kitsapsun.com/bsun/local/article/0,2403,BSUN_19088_4302173,00.html

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Power polluters mad at Bush cronies, and more...

December promises to be an unusually interesting month on the air pollution beat, even for those of us who are not in Montreal for the global warming talks. Heck, I bet there will even be some news!

So here’s a quick roundup of some highlights:

Vitriolic Voltage: For most of the past five years, the leadership of the Edison Electric Institute (the electric power industry lobby) has been in cahoots with the Bush administration when it comes to shaping a lenient federal policy towards coal-burning power plants. (The fact that EEI head Tom Kuhn was a college chum of President Bush and has been a big Bush political fund-raiser may have something to do with this.)

But now the sparks are flying at EEI hq. The power lobbyists are enraged because of an EPA analysis which showed that the modest global warming limits of legislation championed by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) could be met at minimal cost. (Needless to say, the same EPA analysis undercuts the embarrassing, do-nothing position the U.S. government is taking this week at the global warming talks in Montreal.) EEI is circulating a “critique” of the EPA analysis, including ham-fisted claims that EPA was “unrealistic” about cleanup costs.

But the power polluters are also challenging the very idea that cleaning up their witch’s brew of emissions would bring public health benefits, and they have turned this “critique” into a frontal assault on EPA’s ongoing review of public health standards for fine-particle pollution. (See more on this, below.) “EPA ignores the great uncertainty regarding which particles, if any, actually cause premature mortality,” charges EEI. “The relative exposure risk varies greatly among types of particles and implementation of the new standards without considering the actual health benefits of different sources and particles may yield no benefits…. It is unclear at this time whether there are any benefits for avoided premature mortality related to sulfate and nitrate particles…” If there is a problem, according to EEI, it’s because of “vehicular traffic.” (See more on that, below.)

Deadline Looming: As noted above, EPA is reviewing the existing public health standards for fine-particle pollution. The agency is under a court agreement to issue a proposal by December 20 on whether the current standards are adequate. EPA’s career scientists as well as the agency’s outside science advisors have all concluded – contrary to EEI’s assertions -- that the existing standards (set in 1997 but only now being put into place) do not protect people from such public health threats as dropping dead early. We are monitoring this issue VERY closely and will have more to say as we grow closer to the deadline.

Please be on the alert: this is probably the single biggest decision that the EPA will make regarding air pollution during the next few years. Now that EEI has shown its hand, the main question is this: will the EPA be influenced by political science instead of health science? Stay tuned.

Car curb? Another item to keep an eye out for is an upcoming National Academy of Sciences report on moving sources of pollution like cars and trucks. A quick history: polluters convinced one of their Senate darlings, Kit Bond (R-MO) to demand an academy study of the issue – and, specifically, to examine the existing practice of permitting California to set better-than-federal standards for most moving sources of pollution, and to permit other states to adopt the California standards. We don’t know what the academy will recommend, but we do know that the car companies and diesel engine makers have argued strenuously for limits on states’ rights. (Apparently they don’t agree with the power industry lobbyists that “vehicular traffic” poses an ongoing pollution problem!)

Toxic alarm: As many of you know, the Bush administration is trying to change the rules for the so-called Toxic Release Inventory. Under the Bush plan, polluters wouldn’t have to report their toxic emissions and other discharges as often. This has been one of the most effective environmental cleanup tools out there. A lot of “first responders” and others are understandably alarmed at this new attempt to cut a break for industry, which got little publicity when it first was rolled out. PIRG groups today are releasing localized reports on the implications, and our friends at National Environmental Trust are coordinating a media phone briefing starting today at 12:30 pm EST. Call Tony Iallonardo for information at 202-887-8855.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Who gets the official Clean Air Watch Bird for 2005?

A few thoughts for those of you still chained to the desk (and, if you are, I sincerely hope you can get free soon):

Refinery update: Only weeks ago, members of both the U.S. House and Senate were clamoring for new legislation to weaken environmental standards because oil companies allegedly could not increase their refinery capacity. (At the time, we pointed out that refineries could indeed expand if they want to, and that we should not have to make a choice between clean air and adequate gas supplies.)

Lo and behold: There is a fascinating piece in today’s Christian Science Monitor which notes that oil companies have indeed begun expanding refinery capacity in recent weeks – without any changes in clean air requirements http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/1123/p01s03-usec.html . Perhaps this will take the wind out of the sails of those ill-considered plans in Congress. (There is also a fascinating piece in today’s Washington Post on Senate attempts to protect oil company big-wigs, who obviously were in on the development Vice President Cheney’s drill-and-burn energy policy.)

EPA reconsiders interstate rules: The U.S. EPA says it will officially “reconsider” several aspects of its so-called “clean air interstate rule.” Usually, this does not reflect a true change of heart – merely a need to shore up a shaky legal foundation because of pending court challenges. One item involved: you may recall that EPA doctored its final rule to give more emission “credits” to coal-burning states – something that appears to have been a blatant political gift.

Attorneys general fight hot air: eight state attorneys general and the city of New York have written to the federal Department of Transportation, suggesting they may sue unless the agency relents on a plan that would only let the federal government regulate carbon dioxide exhaust. Please let me know if you want a copy.

And, finally, The Bird: we have been watching from a distance some disgraceful governmental activity in Kentucky and Ohio. The former recently scrapped its auto emission inspection program for the northern part of the state; the latter plans to eliminate such tests in the Cincinnati-Dayton area by the end of this year. (Their true motivations remain somewhat murky. I recall some years back that Maryland lawmakers delayed similar inspections in response to an outpouring of racist invective on local hate/talk radio: “I don’t want THEM PEOPLE getting into MY CAR to test it!” or so some talk-radio callers asserted.) Several things here are very clear: as the American Lung Association recently noted, this area still has a terrible smog problem. The Cincinnati metro area literally had 19 bad-air days this summer alone. And these moves to scrap auto inspections are blatantly illegal. (EPA rules specify that dirty-air states can’t just up and dump clean-up requirements.) Auto inspections aren’t perfect, but they do help limit pollution somewhat.

There are several major contenders for The Bird: Kentucky governor Ernie Fletcher, who made a ghoulish Halloween appearance – apparently playing himself -- at an emission inspection station to declare an end to the program and the elimination of local jobs; the U.S. EPA, particularly its Regional Administrator Thomas Skinner, who is failing to enforce the law. But we think The Bird should go to Ohio EPA Director Joe Koncelik, who has the audacity to scrap this cleanup program while simultaneously whining to Congress that his state can’t meet federal smog standards on time. For that, Joe Koncelik, you get The Bird.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Get ready, because December will be a big month for clean air.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

EPA to reconsider part of its interstate pollution rule

The US EPA quietly announced this afternoon that it would reconsider part of its interstate pollution cleanup rule -- the so-called "Clean Air Interstate" or "CAIR" rule.

This is in response to petitions by various power companies and groups (See list below).

Among the items to be looked at: EPA's decision to steer extra "credits" to coal states.


Petitions for reconsideration were filed by:
1. State of North Carolina;
2. FPL Group;
3. Florida Association of Electric Utilities;
4. Entergy Corporation;
5. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection;
6. Integrated Waste Services Association;
7. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality;
8. Northern Indiana Public Service Corporation;
9. City of Amarillo, Texas, El Paso Electric Company, Occidental Permian Ltd, and Southwestern Public Service Company d/b/a/ Xcel Energy;
10. Connecticut Business and Industry Association; and
11. Minnesota Power, a division of ALLETE, Inc.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

EPA career scientists: people are dying at current smog levels

A science note: As you may know, the EPA is under a court agreement to decide if the current (1997) 8-hour ozone standard remains adequate to protect people’s health in light of newer scientific studies.

They’re a long way from making a decision; indeed, the court won’t require that decision until 2007.

Even so, EPA’s career scientists have begun distilling the massive volumes of science. They have just published the first draft “staff paper” which seeks to put the often-esoteric scientific studies into some coherent summary -- a 390-page summary! See at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/ozone/data/O3-SP-11-14-05a.pdf

Based on this assessment by EPA scientists, it looks as if a very good argument could be made that the current 8-hour ozone standard needs to be made tighter to protect people’s health.

There are some interesting tidbits in this summary by the EPA scientists:

The agency scientists conclude there is “strong evidence” between exposure to ozone and premature death. [p 6-8]. In fact, the report estimates the smog-related death tolls in a number of cities, using 2004 [as we noted in our recent smog survey, a year with generally low ozone due to cool weather and rain]. The cities include New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Sacramento. See charts beginning at page 5-41.

The scientists conclude there would still be some smog-related premature death, even if the current standards were met.

“These initial analyses suggest that meeting the current 8-hour O3 standard would likely
result in substantial reductions in exposures of concern and associated risks of serious health
effects above a level of 0.08 ppm O3. On the other hand, these analyses also suggest that there is risk of moderate or greater lung function decrements in children, hospital admissions, and
mortality from O3 resulting from exposures across the range of levels allowed by the current
standard.” [p. 6-14]


The EPA scientists also conclude that ozone seems to have a more harmful impact on those with asthma than previously believed [p. 6-6], that exposure to ozone drives up hospital admissions for people with respiratory problems [p. 6-7] and that it appears to increase school absenteeism.

The agency scientists said they hope to examine the “risks” to public health at potentially more restrictive standards:

“After consideration of the entire body of experimental and epidemiological evidence, the
results of exposure and risk assessments and the consideration of non-quantifiable effects, such
as the effects of repeated exposures and potentially greater effects on people with asthma, it is
staff’s view that it is appropriate to conduct additional exposure and risk assessments down to an alternative standard level as low as 0.06 ppm.” [p. 6-20]

Monday, November 14, 2005

The week ahead: states reject Bush mercury plan; 15th anniversary of Clean Air Act amendments

A few quick notes on the week ahead:

First, The New York Times reports this morning that state and local air pollution control officers have developed a better alternative to the Bush administration’s industry-friendly mercury pollution plan.

The idea behind the state/local plan would be to require quicker and deeper reductions in mercury than the Bush plan. The state strategy would not permit power companies to “trade” mercury with each other, as the Bush plan would do.

This is a real repudiation of the Bush administration’s do-little approach to mercury. Since this is a “model rule” – that is, a suggested alternative to state agencies, the battleground now will shift to the states, as authorities debate this plan versus the Bush plan. (Folks outside of DC should be mindful for that reason.) I think you will find that health and environmental groups will continue to argue for something tougher than this state/local plan.

Even so, this plan is a real step in the right direction. The Bush administration ought to feel humiliated. Its record on this issue has been so lackluster that states are moving ahead with a better strategy – as they are on other environmental issues including global warming and cleaner cars.

I am told the state plan will be unveiled officially at a luncheon briefing today, at 12:30 pm EST.

Hall of the States – Room 233
444 North Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC
Conference call line available: 1-800-376-6136; access code: 832177#

For more, call Bill Becker at (202) 624-7864

ALSO THIS WEEK: Tomorrow marks an anniversary: the 15th anniversary of the signing of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. That’s the last time that major changes were made to the 1970 law. Though the law is imperfect (it doesn’t deal, for example, with global warming pollution), it has brought real benefits to America: much cleaner cars and SUVs; cleaner gasoline; big reductions in industrial toxic pollutants [except for mercury from power plants, as noted above!]; large reductions in smog-and soot-forming emissions, and many other benefits.

As we noted last week in our 2005 smog survey [ http://www.cleanairwatchpressroom.blogspot.com/ ], pollution problems still persist in many parts of the nation. But we are making progress, and we need to stay the course. It is deplorable that the Bush administration has decided to slacken enforcement efforts against the electric power industry and has spent so much energy lobbying Congress to give other breaks to polluters. Our air would be cleaner today if the administration were enforcing the law effectively.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Oil Giants: "We Can Make the Clean Diesel Fuel:

An interesting item that didn’t get much attention when the five oil giants appeared this week before a Senate panel:

They all said they would have no trouble meeting EPA’s ultra-low-sulfur diesel requirements at their refineries next year. (See transcript, below.)

In response to questions by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the heads of ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and BP ALL said they would be able to meet the clean-fuel requirements. “We can meet it at the refinery,” noted ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Lee Raymond.

This is extremely positive news. Oil industry lobbies previously have raised continuing concerns about the standards, but these comments by the oil giants should put those concerns to bed for good.

The oil executives did note there are still some issues regarding the need to flush older, dirtier fuel from pipelines. But as you probably know, the U.S. EPA has issued a rule that would grant a brief delay in the distribution requirements in order to work those kinks out of the system. That should be enough to allay any lingering concerns.

We are now quite optimistic that the clean-diesel standards will move ahead, and dramatically cleaner trucks and buses will be on the roads within a little more than a year.

These clean-fuel requirements are crucial for reducing the health risk from diesel fumes. EPA has noted that its highway and offroad diesel requirements eventually will prevent about 20,000 premature deaths a year. Having cleaner fuel available will also enable us to tackle the problem of existing diesel engines.


SENATE ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE JOINT HEARING
NOVEMBER 9, 2005

[Senator Richard] BURR [R-NC]: …

Let me move, if I could, to several of you have mentioned that the new ultra-low sulfur diesel regulations that will take effect soon, which set new specifications for on-road highway diesel fuels that would allow new heavy duty trucks to reduce emissions by 90 percent, older trucks to run cleaner and light duty diesel vehicles such as SUVs to get significantly better fuel mileage and for a greater range of diesel retrofit technologies to be used, that this is problematic right now from a standpoint of the date certain that's set.

Can I have each one of you comment on whether you can meet that date certain?

BURR: Let's start with Mr. Hofmeister?

[John] HOFMEISTER [President, Shell Oil Company]: Technically, we can. I think our big concern is in the distribution of the fuel and the fact that as it moves through pipelines, it could pick up other sulfur molecules.

BURR: Mr. Pillari?

[Ross] PILLARI [President and CEO, BP America]: That's a real issue for us as well. We can make it, but moving it is still problematic.

[James] MULVA [Chairman and CEO, ConocoPhillips]: Same issue for us.

[David] O'REILLY[Chairman and CEO, Chevron]: Yes, we can meet it at the refinery.

[Lee] RAYMOND [Chairman and CEO, ExxonMobil]: Same comment, Senator. We can meet it at the refinery.

The National Petroleum Council made some comments on that in the last year with some suggestions to the EPA as to how that be managed.

BURR: Well, my hope is, and I would encourage all of you -- if we can solve the refinery issue, which you've said there's not an issue, hopefully collectively we can solve the distribution issue, which is moving it through a pipeline.

I think it's important that we remember that just like you have suppliers, there are manufacturers out there that have developed engines that are designed with the intent of running on low sulfur diesel. And anything that does not meet a time line that is in sync cheats one side or the other.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your indulgence. I yield back the balance.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Information about smog problems in 2005

Information about smog problems in 2005


STATES WITH SMOG PROBLEMS IN 2005

Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia
Wisconsin
West Virginia

**
SOME FACTOIDS:


Most smog problems (“exceedences” in the jargon of the government) at one monitor in 2005: 68 at a monitoring station in San Bernardino, CA.

Total number of days with smog problems somewhere: 159 days.

The earliest smog problem was March 20 at Harris County, Texas. The most recent problems were in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana on October 19.

The highest one-hour reading took place in San Bernardino.

Here are total recorded 8-hour ozone “exceedences” nationwide since 1997

Year Total ozone “exceedences”

1997 5,310
1998 8,545
1999 8,615
2000 4,639
2001 5,210
2002 9,085
2003 4,585
2004 1,934
2005* 3,423

*Unofficial

Official records from prior years available at http://www.epa.gov/air/data/geosel.html

Monday, November 07, 2005

NY TIMES: TIME TO MOVE NOW ON GLOBAL WARMING

New York Times Editorial
Climate Signals

Published: November 7, 2005

President Bush has long argued that a nationwide program of mandatory controls on carbon dioxide and other global warming gases would saddle the country with crippling electricity costs. He may be surprised to learn that his own Environmental Protection Agency no longer believes that to be the case.

In the course of a study comparing costs and benefits of various clean air bills rattling around Capitol Hill (including Mr. Bush's Clear Skies program), the E.P.A. found that under a measure sponsored by Senator Thomas Carper, a Delaware Democrat, the cost to electric utilities of controlling carbon dioxide would be only $1 per ton, imposing little burden on consumers and business.

To be sure, Mr. Carper's is the least aggressive and least expensive of the bills requiring mandatory controls. It applies only to power plants, which account for about one-third of carbon dioxide emissions, and would not regulate emissions from cars and others sources.

Still, that measly $1-per-ton figure should embarrass the Bush people who've been warning that controls will bring economic ruin (Clear Skies regulates other pollutants but not carbon dioxide), while providing encouragement to those in Congress who believe that action on warming is long overdue.

Not that there's any shortage of incentives. A recent series in The Times provided fresh evidence that there is already so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the Arctic, where the sea ice has been steadily disappearing, may have passed "the point of no return." But the series also said there's still time to avert catastrophic consequences, like the melting of the Greenland ice cap.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's staunch and patient friend, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, has once again - this time in The Observer - appealed to the president to join in a global effort to limit greenhouse gases. Without American participation, Mr. Blair suggests, there's little hope of securing the cooperation of the Chinese, who are building coal-fired power plants at a rapid clip and whose future emissions could overwhelm Western efforts to get a grip on the problem.

Add in the fact that 2005 is almost certain to be the hottest year on record (continuing a 25-year trend of rising global temperatures); add also what Mr. Blair calls "vicious climate disasters," including stronger hurricanes, and the stage would seem to be set for serious debate.
Last summer, the Senate approved a nonbinding resolution that put it on record for the first time as favoring a program of mandatory controls on global warming gases. New Mexico's Pete Domenici - a recent convert to the global warming cause and a Republican leader on energy issues - vowed to follow up by seeking consensus legislation.

Mr. Domenici should make this an early order of business in the new year, not least because he alone may have the credibility to shake Mr. Bush's indifference.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The return of refinery legislation?

Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) says he may try to pass new refinery legislation -- a counterpart the the controversial bill which recenly passed the House. For more, see story at http://cleanairarticles.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A debate on clean air with power industry lobbyist

Available online at http://www.eande.tv/main/

Here is a transcript:

Air Pollution: Clean Air Watch's O'Donnell and industry lobbyist Segal parse 'Clear Skies' debate


Darren Samuelsohn: Welcome to OnPoint. I'm Darren Samuelsohn. Joining us today in the E&ETV studios in Washington to talk about air quality issues is Frank O'Donnell, head of the Clean Air Watch, and Scott Segal, an industry attorney from Bracewell and Giuliani. Gentleman thanks so much for coming on the show again.

Scott Segal: Good to be here.

Frank O'Donnell: Thank you.

Darren Samuelsohn: It's been awhile since you were last on the show. Last time was in March and a lot's happened on the Clean Air Act front. Scott, give us your take. What's been the most important thing that the EPA has done on air quality issues since March?

Scott Segal: Well at long last the Environmental Protection Agency has finally clarified some of the really pressing issues about the definition of what constitutes an increase to trigger the New Source Review program. And they've done so in a proposed rule, that's actually quite exciting, that takes into account the actual realities of what's been going on in the appellate courts. And gives direction that will make for a clear New Source Review program, allow people to make maintenance projects that will go forward, allow people to increase the efficiency at their power plants and actually reduce emissions and increase workplace safety. All in all, it's been a wonderful development just a few weeks ago. We're very excited about it. They've also announced a change in priorities as far as their enforcement is concerned with putting more and greater priorities on getting the cap-and-trade programs up and running that will ensure 70 percent reduction in the emissions across the board. As opposed to the slower case by case analysis that one finds in the litigation heavy approaches. So these are two important developments.

Darren Samuelsohn: Frank, your take on what Scott said. And do you think that that's the most important thing that's happened?

Frank O'Donnell: Well, I would say it's the most important bad thing that's happened. Where essentially they've said we're not going to enforce the law. Now I think the courts may have something to say about whether they enforce the law or not. And I hope they do say that. Sometimes people bash the courts, but really we need some public protection attorneys out there to make the government straighten up when the government abuses the law, which they're doing in this case clearly. In terms of the most important thing they've done, probably is setting the so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule, which is a step in the right direction. It's not the be-all and end-all. We don't think it went far enough. In fact we know that they doctored the final rule to parcel out more credits to some of the coal burning states. So in effect that rule is a little fuzzy, but we do think it's a step in the right direction. And in fact they pretty much admitted, this past weekend in its analysis given to Congress, that that Clean Air Interstate Rule is as good as the legislative initiative they put forward. So essentially they've taken away the rational for amending the law.

Darren Samuelsohn: Let's look ahead six months. If I gave you guys crystal balls, where you think we go in terms of air pollution issue six months from now Scott?

Scott Segal: Well the administration has certainly given a jumpstart the initiative with respect to the Clear Skies policy. That's what Frank was just talking about. That is the legislative component or legislative counterpart to the Clean Air Interstate Rule and the Clean Air Mercury Rule. One of the sticking points for moving forward with Clear Skies has been whether or not there's insufficient data advanced to satisfy the tastes of certain senators from Delaware and elsewhere. It does now seem that they've gotten everything they could have possibly wanted and a toy pony as well. So there shouldn't be any more data driven reasons to not move forward on legislation. One thing Frank had said is why do the legislation if you've already done the rules? I think first there's a sense of permanency that comes with actually doing it in legislation. Second, Frank was quick to point out about those public interest lawyers who do tend to gum up rules, better if you get it ensconced in legislation. And third, to the extent that the Clean Air Interstate Rule makes sense for the eastern half of the United States, wouldn't it be a more robust trading program if it applied to the entire United States? But you can only do that in legislation.

Darren Samuelsohn: Frank, do you want to respond to that?

Frank O'Donnell: Sure, a couple of things. The analysis last week was really quite fascinating because in effect it was like exhuming a corpse to do a DNA test. And they did the DNA test and they said yup, the administration plan is still dead. It still smells bad. Let's put it back in the box. And that's what's happened. It is not going to be revived. It is not going to rise from the dead at this point. And in fact a couple of things came out of that that are quite fascinating politically. One, it verified what we have said all along. We've been saying for four years that even moderate implementation of the current law is as good as this legislative initiative from a clean air standpoint. Maybe not from a corporate polluter protection standpoint, but from a clean air standpoint it is as good. And in fact they doctored that analysis to not even factor in some of the rollbacks and things and tools in current law that they would be taking away by that legislative initiative. And so in fact they have literally verified that we've been right all along. That current law is better. Secondly, that analysis, politically, has put Senator Carper fully in the catbird seat. I mean he sat there and, I've heard from some insiders who are in the room, he looked at the analyses when one of the other senators from Ohio was going, well, this shows it's going to be better than current law. And he said well look George, there are two lines here and they're the same. One is this plan and one is current law. So how can you say its better? Now my plan, the line is better. What do you say to that?

And there was real silence at that point in the room from what I understand.

Scott Segal: Frank O'Donnell: Let me play the role of George Voinovich and compare the Clear Skies policy to quote unquote, full enforcement of existing law. First of all, at the risk of sounding like a broken down academic, we have to deconstruct that phrase, full enforcement of existing law. What that means is automatic capitulation to the position the government takes in case by case litigation all across the board. Right now that litigation proceeds at a snail's pace. And worse yet the government is losing that litigation. So the question of what constitutes full enforcement is very much in doubt. At this point the sure thing, the one in hand if you will, is to do the Clear Skies policy, which mandates a 70 percent reduction coast to coast and creates a robust trading regime. That's far better.

Darren Samuelsohn: I had a feeling you guys were going to have some opinions about these first two questions to start off. Scott, Clear Skies and CAIR though essentially do arguably the same things. And that's what the analysis showed. There wasn't much of a difference between Clear Skies and CAIR in terms of cost, in terms of benefits. So what need does Congress really have to try and enact a law that's not going to do much more than what's already on the books?

Scott Segal: Yeah, it's a good question. The problem is this, there will be litigation concerning the Clean Air Interstate Rule. There already is litigation that's coming from ...

Darren Samuelsohn: That's coming from Florida utilities and some Texas utilities.

Scott Segal: That's right. There's litigation on all sides. And people have joined in interventions. So it's going to be your typical administrative law throw down that we always have in a comprehensive rule. By contrast, and the best example here is the acid rain program, which was constructed not by regulation, but was constructed by legislation. To make truly the Clean Air Interstate Rule the inheritor of the experience for acid rain you have to do it through legislation. Two reasons, first, geographical. You want to get both sides of the continent, not just the East Coast of the United States or the eastern half of the United States. The second point is you want to create certainty both for the public interest community and for the regulating community. You get certainty through legislation. And oftentimes you just get another lawsuit through regulation.

Darren Samuelsohn: Frank I know you're chomping at the bit to get in on this.

Frank O'Donnell: Yeah, and in fact I didn't mean to bash Senator Voinovich. I actually would like to praise him. I always like to throw a curveball to you all in these sessions. And he deserves a lot of praise for taking the initiative on the diesel issue, trying to promote federal funding for that. He's not alone. Senator Clinton is involved in it, Senator Carper also. But without somebody in the majority taking the lead it would go nowhere. So I think he deserves a lot of credit for that and I hope he keeps it up. But I think to go back to the issue with the committee, we really need to step back and address some of these things. Now the health and environmental community has been very consistent from the beginning on a couple of things. One, the Clean Air Act is a good law. Not perfect, not perfect by a long shot, but it's a good law. We shouldn't go changing it unless we change it for the better. Secondly, everybody has agreed, in the health and environmental world, that the best plan put forward so far is the tri-partisan plan that Senator Jeffords put forward, also on the other side by Congressmen Waxman and Boehlert, a bipartisan plan in the House. And it's got the most cosponsors of any plan. And the analysis last week showed why we're for that. One, it would make the biggest reductions in the dirtiest pollutants. And it would also do something about global warming pollution, which we're not seeing. Now the science, since we've last been here and since these bills have all been introduced, actually underscores the importance of addressing those issues. We all now know that fine particle pollution is more deadly than we thought before. Thousands of people literally are dropping dead at current standards. So we need to make that aggressively better, which Senator Jeffords' bill would do. And global warming pollution is worse than it was. We saw this big story in the New York Times last week which basically said you need water skis to go through the Artic.

Scott Segal: Well, what's interesting about Frank's discussion of the different alternatives, comparing the Jeffords' bill, the Carper bill and the Clear Skies initiative, is what we agree on, not what we disagree on. What we agree on is that there needs to be an aggressive program put in place with an objective of reducing your emissions. It needs to work as quickly as possible. The question is what is the best way to achieve the objectives we collectively agree on? And what I would suggest is that the Jeffords' legislation imposes some unacceptable costs that make it not the best approach to achieve our shared objective. For example, right now natural gas is selling at three times its historic average. And we're entering into a winter season where we're going to have problems not only with natural gas, but of course with dreaded home heating oil as well. And now is exactly the wrong time to put in place a plan, which by virtue of its speed and its ultimate numbers would drive massive fuel switching to natural gas. That's not in the best interest of those living on fixed incomes, the elderly, those living in structural property. I mean those are the unaddressed groups that, quite frankly and with all respect to Frank, the environmental community does not like to address. By contrast the power sector has to address those groups. They're our customers every bit as much as any other demographic group. So we have to address them. The environmentalists don't. And as a result a lot of people are left out in the cold if you take the policies that Frank and some of the folks on the Hill would ...

Frank O'Donnell: Now technically, I don't think that's accurate. I haven't read it in a while, but I do believe that the Jeffords' legislation, through its credit trading system, would use some of the monies paid by the power industry to help subsidize some of the people who are actually suffering and cold and so forth. So I do think there is actually an idea in mind to try to deal with that kind of thing.

Scott Segal: And the power industry certainty supports additional funding for [Low Income Heating Emergency Assistance Program] LIHEAP, for example, which is a program designed to support those living in poverty as well. But I'm not sure that's enough if we have fuel switching to natural gas.

Frank O'Donnell: And maybe the political center is somewhere between Senator Jeffords' bill and Senator Carper's bill.

Scott Segal: Or between you and me?

Darren Samuelsohn: Exactly, that's exactly same thing. Because that's where I've been trying to go with this interview for the last 10 minutes. Let me interject the Carper bill into this debate. Because here this bill is now only, I think it's like $30 billion more, help me out here with the costs. I don't think it's that much more. The Carper bill is what the EPA analysis showed, then the Clear Skies or CAIR. So the benefits are I believe higher and the costs are just a little bit higher for putting the Carper bill into place. And you get the CO2 reductions, you start the CO2 reductions.

Scott Segal: The problem is, with all of the EPA analysis, is that it makes certain static assumptions, but the world around us is not static. We've seen massive increases in energy prices both on the transportation sector and with respect to stationary sources using natural gas for example, in the last couple of months. So even what appeared to be small differences in costs based on static assumptions related to energy can actually be quite significant increases in costs. One other thing, the primary feature of the Carper bill, that Senator Carper likes to tout, is that it too includes a carbon provision. And while he says it's not a showstopper to exclude carbon perhaps maybe. Although he has from time to time switched his argument about what would be sufficient to satisfy him. But assuming for a moment there has to be some form of carbon in it, I think it is well worth remembering that there is no consensus yet on the appropriate way to control carbon through domestic policy. So as a result, if that becomes the marker by which we judge air pollution policy, it's like saying we don't want to pass air pollution policy. Which I understand maybe a good result for some, but I don't think it's a good result for the U.S.

Darren Samuelsohn: Frank, the Carper bill?

Frank O'Donnell: Sure, well I'm a little bit biased. I'm going to have to admit I've appeared with him publicly to bash the Bush administration. The picture is on our Clean Air Watch Web site. So I'm not going to deny that, but I think people in the environmental community think that he is well intentioned, is looking to go in the right direction. We have had some concerns with some elements of his bill, don't think it's perfect. But one thing I will say about him I think he is genuinely concerned about the global warming problem. He reads the papers like we all do. I mean now the evidence is coming up that, as I said before, global warming is even worse than we thought before. Last week we had a number of scientists at the American Meteorological Society, very credible climate scientists, saying you know, global warming, these big deadly hurricanes, looks like there is a link. And maybe not every weathercaster in the country is saying it yet, but I think they will be pretty soon now that the idea is out there scientifically, in a credible scientific way. And when he has appeared publicly he has said, really his big focus has been, look, global warming is a problem. I'm a little late to this issue maybe, but I genuinely believe we need to do something about it now. And I don't think there's going to be any legislation in that committee without addressing global warming. That's why I say he's in the catbird seat.

Darren Samuelsohn: Scott, I know you want to pounce on the hurricane issue, but we're almost out of time. Just really quick give me your assessment. Are we going to see a Clear Skies bill before President Bush leaves office? Are we going to see any sort of Clean Air Act amendments before President Bush leaves office? Yes or no?

Scott Segal: Yes, yes. I'm going to go out on a limb and say we're going to push hard for it. And the case has been made for it. And the case is getting better everyday.

Darren Samuelsohn: After midterm elections or before?

Scott Segal: Probably after, there's not much time.

Darren Samuelsohn: OK. Frank?

Frank O'Donnell: The corpse is not going to rise from the dead. It is absolutely not going to happen even though we've recently had Halloween. That vampire has had a stake through its heart. You may see something better, but it's going to have to be addressing carbon. Senator Voinovich is going to have to actually come Senator Carper's way to see any kind of action at all. And there's still that big mess on the other side called the House of Representatives and the guy that the Dallas Morning News calls Smokey Joe Barton. And the senators are very concerned about dealing with him. Last week they wouldn't even deal with the so-called Gas Price Act because they knew they might have to go into a conference. And you saw a situation where the Republican members of that panel, most of them, looked like they were afflicted by a different kind of gas problem. I don't think they're going to want to vote on something unless it actually is something that's popular.

Scott Segal: Darren, you know it must be near Halloween because Frank is once again, just trying to scare people. I mean this whole notion about hurricanes. I don't know how many more experts, how broad the consensus has to be. The National Hurricane Center, which is not a partisan organization, is the recognized expert on hurricanes, has said that the current hurricane cycle is part of a natural cycle. It has nothing to do with global climate change. But that said, the best way to protect the American people, the best way to increase the efficiency of energy and at the same time to make sure that emissions decline is to make sure that there is regulatory certainty. That means legislation that addresses the principles of the Clear Skies Initiative. It's the best approach on the environment.

Darren Samuelsohn: All right gentlemen. We're going to have to cut it off here. We'll see you for a fourth round in probably another six months or so.

Scott Segal: Great.

Frank O'Donnell: Great, thanks a lot.

Darren Samuelsohn: Until next time, this is Darren Samuelsohn for another edition of OnPoint. Thanks for watching

Friday, October 28, 2005

Air Pollution Increases Stroke Risk, and more...

In the news today:

Fine particle air pollution increases stroke risk,

Senator Tom Carper blasts Bush air pollution plan, and

Just Who is Joe Barton?

the pieces all can be found at http://cleanairarticles.blogspot.com/

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A followup on the selling of the Bush air pollution plan

Well, we have now seen at least summary materials from the EPA multi-pollutant analysis presented this morning to several senators. Below are a few additional thoughts.

The analysis certainly corroborates what we knew earlier – that the current Clean Air Act is as good or better than the Bush dirty power industry protection plan. To underscore a point I made in an earlier note, the only reason to support the Bush plan is to cut new breaks for big coal-burning power companies.

The analysis fails to include the impact of weakening changes to the law associated with the Bush plan. You may recall that last February, the impartial Congressional Research Service noted the administration bill would eliminate some electric utility controls. (An excerpt is below.) CRS also noted that the Bush plan would make it more difficult for states to protect their citizens from dirty air. If EPA had factored these weakening changes into the analysis, the President’s plan presumably would look even worse.

As I feared, the analysis repeats the bogus argument that there isn’t enough labor to put scrubbers and NOx controls in place soon. By doctoring the analysis in this way, the EPA has artificially inflated the projected costs of the bills promoted by Senators Jeffords and Carper. In other words, this analysis has been doctored in at least two ways to make the President’s plan look better. And it still looks bad!

The legislation sponsored by Senator Jeffords would appear to blow away all alternatives in terms of public health protection. For example, the projected annual public health benefits in 2015 would be between $156 billion and $183 billion. Translation: fewer people would die early or get sick under the Jeffords plan than under alternative possibilities. The version supported earlier by Senator Carper would also be superior to the administration plan. The Jeffords bill would be the most expensive, presumably because it would be the most aggressive on global warming pollution. But the benefits would still far outpace the costs.

Total coal production would increase under all examined scenarios with the exception of Senator Jeffords’ plan. Why is it that these industry screaming mimis (and their senatorial spokespeople, including Senator Voinovich) are always crying wolf that cleaning up pollution would cause people to switch to natural gas? Raw demagoguery, perhaps. Interestingly enough, what EPA labels “interior” coal (which appears on one EPA map to include Illinois, Indiana and western Kentucky) would actually increase in the Jeffords bill. Senator Lugar, are you ready to see the light?

Because it would permit global warming pollution increases caused by more coal burning to be offset elsewhere, the Carper bill’s carbon costs are extremely modest.

One final sobering note: the problem of fine particle pollution is so widespread, that there will still be pollution problems under all scenarios in 2020. So we really need to be doing more, not less.

From the Congressional Research Service, Clear Skies and the Clean Air Act: What's the Difference? (February 25, 2005), page 18

In terms of utility controls designed to achieve the NAAQS, it must be stated that Clear Skies will not achieve either the 8-hour ozone NAAQS or the fine particulate NAAQS within the current CAA compliance deadlines, neither in terms of the reductions necessary to achieve those standards nor the timing of the reductions Clear Skies would achieve. EPA's analysis indicates that some nonattainment areas will need additional controls and time to reach attainment.(26) Clear Skies, as currently drafted, would effectively remove additional electric utility control from the suite of options available to states to achieve that additional level of control. In addition, the opt-in provision means that the reach of Clear Skies is unclear. In some areas, the removal of an industrial source from Part C or Part D could greatly reduce the options state and local authorities would have to achieve NAAQS attainment or to maintain PSD increments.

Bush revvs up lobbying blitz for air pollution plan

It’s not exactly an auspicious day for the White House to begin a new sales pitch to the Senate (on the day Harriet Miers was forced to withdraw), but even so, the Bush administration is revving up a new push to sell its air pollution plan to Congress. (This is the thing they call “clear skies,” but I wouldn’t accept their attempt to frame it. It could just as easily be called the “dirty power industry protection plan.”)

The biggest question out there is why are they doing this?

So try this on for size. There is a pretty solid rumor out there that this sales pitch is the product of a deal that the White House made early this year with some of the major power companies like Cinergy and AEP and big coal companies.

Here’s how the deal was explained to me: these companies would support the so-called EPA Clean Air Interstate Rule as long as 1) the final rule was doctored to allocate more emission credits to coal burning states – something the administration did; and 2) the White House pledged to keep fighting in Congress to eliminate other requirements for the coal and power companies – exactly what the dirty power industry protection plan would do. See below for more specifics if you have forgotten them.

Now that the interstate rule is in place, there’s really nothing to be gained by this attempt to re-write the law – except to cut new breaks for big coal-burning power companies. (Again, see more on that, below.) In fact, the proposed legislation might even permit more toxic mercury emissions than the EPA’s dreadful, industry-written rule that probably will be overturned in court.

Some additional questions

We haven’t yet seen their new analysis. But, for those unfortunate enough to delve into it, please permit me to raise a few additional questions worth asking as you evaluate it.

--Question: are the projected impacts of the interstate rule considered in the EPA analysis as part of the “baseline” for purposes of comparing the Bush legislation and alternatives? If not, then isn’t this analysis fundamentally flawed?

--Which plan has higher projected health benefits in 2015? (I’d be willing to bet it’s not the Bush plan.)

--Is the analysis rigged to repeat the earlier Bush claims that there isn’t a sufficient labor force to clean up power plants earlier than the Bush plan? (Please recall that the pollution control industry said labor was adequate to do the cleanup five years earlier. Note at http://www.icac.com/files/public/pr032904.pdf )

This is a critical question in evaluating cost projections for mercury. The bogus Bush assumption drives up the projected costs of other, more aggressive cleanup plans like that proposed by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) or Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT).

--What are the projected cost figures associated with taking some modest steps (as Carper would) to limit global warming pollution? I am willing to bet the answer is peanuts.

I don’t think this new lobbying blitz will change any votes in the Senate.

**

Some polluter breaks in the “dirty power industry protection plan” (S. 131):

It would postpone dates for meeting public health standards for smog and soot

It would block states from taking action to crack down on pollution from other states

It would permit power plants to “trade” toxic mercury “credits”

It would eliminate current protections for local communities

It would eliminate safeguards for national parks and wilderness areas

It would repeal the controversial new source review enforcement tool

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Inhofe aide crashes seminar on global warming and hurricanes

Interesting to read this morning that an aide to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) crashed a seminar yesterday on the link between global warming and hurricanes. The seminar was sponsored by that radical group -- the American Meteorological Society! -- and featured reputable scientists who concluded that global warming was indeed fueling hurricanes.

Inhofe committee aide John Shanahan (who in an earlier life worked for the coal-mining lobby) crashed the event. See account, below, from Pulitzer Prize winner Jeff Nesmith that appears today in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Inhofe's attempt to deny global warming appear to grow more desperate by the moment.

**

Lawmaker hurricane talks turn turbulent
By Jeff NesmithCox News Service
WASHINGTON - A congressional briefing on global warming and hurricanes by scientists from Georgia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology came to a stormy end Tuesday when a Senate staff member charged that their presentation was "one-sided."
"You people are espousing minority views that a vast majority of scientists dispute," John Shanahan, an aide to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., told scientists Judith Curry of Georgia Tech and Kerry Emanuel of MIT.
He then accused the American Meterological Society, which sponsored the briefing, of rigging it to exclude climate-change skeptics.
Emanuel and Curry recently published separate studies linking a one-degree increase in the overall temperature of the oceans to the increasing intensity of major hurricanes such as Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
The studies touched off a spirited debate among climatologists and some meteorologists.
Curry acknowledged during a questions period at the briefing that some meteorologists, who forecast and track individual hurricanes rather than study long-term climate trends, dispute the studies.
"I honestly can't understand why that community [of meteorologists] is resisting these findings so much," she said.
She said meteorologists are skillful at projecting the paths hurricanes will take but know less about conditions that cause them to become intense, noting that when Wilma was a tropical storm, the U.S. Weather Service had forecast it would be a Category 3 storm in a few days.
"The next morning it was the most powerful storm on record," she said.
At that point, Shanahan, a former National Mining Association official who is counsel to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said "outstanding" scientists who dispute prevailing views about global warming were excluded from the briefing.
A spokesman for the American Meteorological Society said the meeting was one of a series and some of the researchers Shanahan referred to had been invited to future sessions.
Curry and Georgia Tech climatologist Peter Webster published an article in the journal Science last month, showing that although the frequency of hurricanes has not increased with global warming, the frequency of big storms has.
They said the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes worldwide has averaged 18 per year since 1990.
In the 1970s, there were about 10 of the major storms annually, they said.
And Emanuel found the total destructiveness of hurricanes has grown with the 1 degree increase in ocean temperature, a characteristic he based on wind speed and storm duration. His report was published in the journal Nature in August.
However, some scientists have disputed the findings, saying the researchers used biased data and failed to account for differences in ocean temperature in different regions of the globe.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Bush Administration Covers Up Evidence in Pollution Review

The Bush Administration is now covering up evidence to try to prevent people from figuring out that politics is playing a big role in the agency's review of national health standards for fine particle pollution.

It appears as if the administration may be on course to put forward a plan that makes it seem as if they're cutting pollution -- while, in reality, they wouldn't be requiring polluters to clean up one extra ounce.

The issue does matter because fine particle pollution is killing untold thousands of people each year.

A good Greenwire piece on this at http://cleanairarticles.blogspot.com/

Monday, October 24, 2005

A sordid tale of oil and money?

Dear friends,

You might be asking yourselves just why a Senate committee is planning to move forward this Wednesday on what bill sponsors are calling the “Gas PRICE” act.

The name is a curiosity, since there’s no evidence it will lower gas prices. (Maybe that – plus that fact that it would create new loopholes in the Clean Air Act – is why some wags have re-named it the “GASP” (Gouge Americans Stuck at the Pump) Act.

It is aimed at helping oil companies, which are poised this week to announce almost-obscene profits. Perhaps this legislation is partly timed to deflect attention from those profit announcements?

Speaking of money, surely this action by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has nothing to do with campaign contributions!

Still, it is interesting to see how money oil money has flowed to bill (S. 1772) sponsors in the recent past. Bill sponsors have raked in an average of about $150,000 each from oil and gas companies. Note, below, that other money is also streaming in from interested parties.

The figures below are from the Center for Responsive Politics, based on filings with the Federal Election Commission.



“GASP” Sponsor Oil & Gas Campaign Contributions*

James Inhofe (R-OK) $261,008
Kit Bond (R-MO) $125,650
George Voinovich (R-OH) $116,000
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) $204,163
John Thune (R-SD) $263,916
Jim DeMint (R-SC) $91,700
Johnny Isakson (R-GA) $71,224

[all of the above are members of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee]

Non-committee members who are co-sponsoring S. 1772:

Wayne Allard (R-CO) $174,100
Larry Craig (R-ID) $95,950
Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) $163,679
Rick Santorum (R-PA) $79,150


Oil & Gas industry contributions to bill sponsors: $1,646,540


Because it is so hard to track the flow of money in DC, these figures undoubtedly understate the total money inflow from interested parties to bill sponsors.

For example, the gas-station lobby (The Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America or SIGMA) gave $5,000 earlier this year to Senator Inhofe. But Inhofe also received a separate contribution from SIGMA’s lobbying firm – Collier Shannon Scott. The latter is not included among the total listed above. The gas-station lobby is promoting the legislation as a way to reduce the number of cleaner fuels.

It’s perhaps also interesting to note that several senators – notably Voinovich and Bond – went out of their way to praise the National Mining Association and a portion of the bill that would promote conversion of coal into liquid fuel. (The mining industry had its own press release out on this: http://www.nma.org/newsroom/latest_pop/releases05/101805_testimony.html )

No doubt it’s a sheer coincidence that Voinovich and Bond are both regular recipients of cash from the mining association’s political action committee.


Other Republican members of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Three Republican members of the panel, David Vitter (R-LA), John Warner (R-VA) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) have not co-sponsored the legislation. (Nor has any committee Democrat or Independent James Jeffords.)

David Vitter (R-LA) $264,246
John Warner (R-VA) $57,523
Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) ? (a negligible amount, if any)


Even though Warner seemed cranky at last week’s hearing, you might want to bet that he and Vitter will vote for the measure this week. Maybe even bet $371, 769 – their combined take from oil and gas companies.



* The figures are based on the current (2001-2006) Senate fund-raising cycle. The total for Dole reflects her last campaign (through 2002).

Friday, October 21, 2005

Hurricanes and global warming

With Hurricane Wilma slamming into Mexican resorts and menacing the Florida coast, here’s an upcoming seminar that could not be better timed.


American Meteorological Society’s Environmental Science Seminar Series

Hurricanes: Are They Changing and Are We Adequately Prepared for the Future?Are hurricanes, or certain categories of hurricanes, changing? Are these changes more likely tied to a globally-averaged climate warming or are they more likely to be manifestations of natural climate variability? Can large storms be unaffected by a globally-averaged climate warming that has resulted, in part, in an altered hydrologic cycle (i.e., more water vapor in the atmosphere)? Is it reasonable to presume that natural cycles and oscillations can go unaffected by a globally-averaged climate warming? Are there limits on a hurricane’s intensity and, if so, what are they? Is there any scientific basis for concern over the plausibility of hurricanes in excess of a category 5 hurricane in the foreseeable future, in a climatically-altered world?Public Invited Tuesday, October 25, 2005, 12:00 - 2:00 p.m.Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room G-50Washington, DC

Reception Following
Moderator: Dr. Anthony Socci, Senior Fellow, American Meteorological Society SpeakersDr. Kevin Trenberth, Head of the Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, CO Dr. Judith Curry, Professor and Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA Dr. Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MAIs There Evidence That a Global Warming is Altering Hurricanes? – Setting the Context:


This seminar is open to the public and does not require a reservation.Please feel free to forward this notice.
For more information please contact:Anthony D. Socci, Ph.D. Tel. (202) 737-9006, ext. 412 E-mail: socci@ametsoc.org OrGina M. Eosco(202) 737-9006, ext. 440eosco@ametsoc.org

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Will EPA Rely on Political Science for Fine Particle Pollution Decision?

Perhaps it depends on what the definition of “science” is: As you may recall, the countdown has begun for perhaps the single most important decision to be made by EPA Administrator Steve Johnson – the updating of the national air quality standards for fine particle pollution, standards last updated in 1997. These standards – which are supposed to be based strictly on health science – will shape the course of specific pollution cleanup programs for the next 10-15 years or more. (Tougher new standards could lead to tougher controls on coal-fired power plants, diesel engines, etc.)

Johnson is under a court order to propose a decision by December 20. And the science is overwhelming that EPA should make the standards tougher to better protect people’s health.

But hints are starting to trickle out that the decision could be based on political science rather than actual science. (I know this comes as shocking news to those of you who recall that last week, Johnson basically said EPA would stop enforcing the Clean Air Act against coal-fired power plants – an action the EPA described as “clearer and simpler.” For the polluters, you bet!)

A case in point: sources tell us that an EPA advisory committee meeting this week in San Diego http://www.epa.gov/air/caaac/aqm-10-18-05.html , an EPA staffer noted that the agency could issue what, on paper, would be a tougher standard, but one that might not require any additional cleanup anywhere in America. (For those of you more detail-oriented, please see below*).

We hope Johnson will think twice before coming forward with such an ill-advised approach. It would create the appearance that he’s more concerned with political science than real science.

Global warming pollution car standards could save people money! A most interesting analysis out this week by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management on the topic of global warming pollution standards for motor vehicles – the source of about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the Northeast. The analysis demonstrates that substantial reductions in greenhouse gas pollution from motor vehicles will be achieved in the Northeast by adoption of the California motor vehicle greenhouse gas standards. In addition, a cost benefit analysis shows that these reductions can be achieved at a cost savings to consumers of approximately $155 a year for near term technology vehicles and $176 for mid term technology vehicles with gasoline at an average cost of $2.20 per gallon. Sustained higher gasoline prices will provide an even greater savings to consumers. Please let me know if you want the full analysis.

And speaking of gas prices… Many people watching yesterday’s hearing on refineries by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee probably laughed at the repeated attempts by Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and George Voinovich (R-OH) to distance themselves from the controversial House-passed energy bill. That bill was championed by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) with a helpful series of armtwists by indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX).

Even so, Inhofe & Co. are apparently forging ahead with plans next week to mark up legislation that would help the oil industry. Talk about bad timing! Oil companies will be starting to roll out third-quarter (including post-Katrina) profit figures next week. Oil analysts are already predicting a huge jump in profits. As analyst Fadel Gheit told Associated Press, “They are just printing money right now. They are making so many trips to the bank because they can’t take all the money there at one time.” We will be watching this closely.



*A little more detail on the fine particle pollution: the 1997 standards have two main components – an annual average standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter, and a 24-hour average standard of 65. The 24-hour standard is generally acknowledged to be so weak as to be meaningless.

After an exhaustive review of the science, EPA’s career scientists recommended that the agency either set both tougher annual and 24-hour standards, or, if just changing the 24-hour standard, lower it to the “middle to lower” end of a range between 25 and 35. To me, middle to lower would mean 25 or perhaps as high as 30. http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/pm/data/pmstaffpaper_20050630.pdf


EPA has begun to examine what changing the standards might mean in the real world. As noted above, an agency staffer reported this week that the 24-hour standard could be lowered down to 35 without requiring any additional pollution reductions. (EPA projects that its “clean air interstate rule” would yield the same number of nonattainment areas whether the 24-hour standard is 65 or 35.) A standard of 30 or less would mean additional steps to reduce pollution.

Health and environmental groups, including Clean Air Watch, want the EPA to protect people’s health fully, and set the 24-hour standard at 25, with the annual standard lowered to 12. Anything higher will mean additional deaths from pollution, according to EPA’s own calculations.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Democrats Defend California's Environmental Protections Against Federal Preemption

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
October 17, 2005 Karen Lightfoot (Waxman): (202) 225-5051
John Drake (Costa): (202) 225-3341
Lauren Shapiro (Eshoo): (202) 225-8104

WASHINGTON, DC — Twenty eight members of the California Democratic delegation, led by Reps. Henry A. Waxman, Jim Costa, and Anna G. Eshoo, today wrote to Transportation Secretary Mineta challenging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s attempt to preempt California’s landmark law to reduce global warming. In text accompanying a proposed rule issued in August, the Administration asserted that states could not take action to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from motor vehicles even when the federal government has failed to address the very serious problem of global warming. The California Democrats’ letter strongly objects to the Administration’s claim and explains that it is legally and factually incorrect.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

USA TODAY on Katrina used as excuse to attack environmental standards

http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20051013/a_waivers13.art.htm

Page 4A

Some federal rules waived after Katrina

President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have used emergency powers to waive some federal regulations and have proposed other changes in what they say is an effort to cut red tape and speed relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Democrats and watchdog groups complain that some waivers are attempts to roll back federal protections and advance the Republican political agenda. A look at some of the actions:

•Affirmative action. The Labor Department waived for three months rules requiring some companies to file hiring plans for minorities, women and disabled workers. The waiver, which can be extended, applies to first-time federal contractors hired on reconstruction projects. Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean is among those who have attacked the move at a time when the storm bared deep racial and economic disparities.

•College grants. President Bush signed a law Sept. 21 waiving requirements for college students to pay back their federal Pell Grants if they have withdrawn from school because of major disasters. It covers as many as 100,000 college students displaced by Katrina as well as those affected by Hurricane Rita. The law removes financial penalties for late payments.

Environmental protections. The Environmental Protection Agency extended a waiver until Oct. 25 allowing the use of polluting, higher-sulfur fuel to alleviate gas shortages nationwide. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and others have proposed legislation that would lift limits on the amount of air and water pollution emitted by refineries, motor vehicles and other sources. “The hurricane is being used as a pretext to attack health and environmental standards,” says Frank O'Donnell, president of the watchdog group Clean Air Watch.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bush Administration uses new source review to call for ExxonMobil cleanup

A week ago, the Bush administration was urging Congress to cripple the Clean Air Act’s new source review program. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) noted this was the “primary” request the administration made as part of the energy bill that cleared the House last week.

Ultimately, Barton shelved the plan to kill new source review when he figured out he probably would lose the vote.

Today, the administration used new source review to bring about a cleanup at 7 ExxonMobil refineries. Under the deal, the giant oil company will reduce emissions while expanding refining capacity.

Today’s settlement is graphic evidence that we don’t need to weaken our health and environmental protections in order for refineries to expand.

And it appears as if the Bush administration delayed the settlement until the House of Representatives finished action on the new energy bill.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Energy bill drama in House of Reps

In case you have not been following the extraordinary drama that played out this afternoon in the House of Representatives as it voted on the energy bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX.):

Amid suggestions (by Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman) that the House leadership had turned Congress into a “banana republic,” the leadership held the vote open on final passage of the Barton energy bill just long enough to twist some arms and win by a razor’s edge. Of course they probably doomed the bill to ultimate oblivion because the process appeared so tainted.

Two Republican members – I am told they were Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania and Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland but this should be verified – switched their votes under pressure from the Republican leadership, and ultimately backed this awful legislation. It finally prevailed on a 212-210 vote after they crumbled. They didn’t exactly show profiles in courage.

As I am sure you know, Barton re-wrote the legislation late last night to take out the new source review provisions. Obviously he calculated that the whole bill would go down the proverbial drain if he had kept them in.

As a result, Hurricane Barton has gone from a Category 5 to a Category 3. But it is still a disaster.

You may not have to agree with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (who asked “Is this not part of the culture of corruption of the Republican party?”) to realize that this legislation could face the waste can in the Senate following its circus-like handling in the House. (The vote ended with a chorus of united Democrats loudly chanting “SHAME, SHAME!” )

Facing defeat, Barton hoists white flag on new source review

Facing a rebellion by moderate Republicans and the prospect of a humiliating defeat, Rep. Joe Barton apparently has dropped his bid to kill the Clean Air Act’s new source review rules.

So it looks as if the coal-burning electric power industry may have lost part of its bid to cash in on Katrina.

But the overall legislation remains highly controversial. IT would still delay clean-air standards, threaten to undermine the government’s diesel pollution clean-up strategy, and give the industry-sympathetic Energy Department authority to trample on state and local authorities.

More developments as they happen today, as the legislation is debated in the House of Representatives.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

An update on "Smokey Joe" Barton's dirty-air legislation

I guess there’s a reason the Dallas Morning News nicknamed him “Smokey Joe” Barton. There sure as heck is a lot of smoke wafting from Barton’s office these days. He is planning a press conference this afternoon – I assume to continue some of his hazy assertions about how he really only cares about the “people who work for a living.” See at http://energycommerce.house.gov/ It might be worth contrasting that rhetoric with the fact that DC’s biggest fat-cat polluter lobbyists are roaming the halls of Congress trying to drum up votes for Barton. (Please let us know if you haven’t seen the lobbying materials distributed by the Edison Electric Institute aimed at helping Barton.)

On the substance, one more time here for the record: Barton’s “GAS” act (now scheduled to come up on the House floor at 9 am tomorrow) includes provisions that would allow big smokestack polluters to increase their real-world emissions. I won’t go into technicalities here, but his bill – at the specific request of the White House – includes a double-barreled assault on the Clean Air Act’s new source review provisions by creating two new gigantic loopholes long sought by big polluters, including some of the nation’s dirtiest electric power companies. These include weakening changes that have been blocked by the courts. Barton has asserted that the maximum “rate” of pollution won’t increase under his plan. This is a smokescreen argument aimed at confusing people.

His changes would permit big polluters – and not just refineries – to increase their real-world emissions. What he’s doing would be like raising the speed limit, and then arguing people won’t drive faster. And on top of that letting speeders avoid tickets at the new limit by saying they were only making “routine” trips.

Today’s Washington Post story (which includes an oil industry spokesman saying they wouldn’t necessarily increase refinery production if the bill passed) helps point this gambit out for what it really is – an effort to exploit the hurricane tragedy to jam through some special-interest breaks that could never pass otherwise.

A couple other items of note: 9 state attorneys general [New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and Wisconsin] have a letter out calling on Congress to kill the Barton bill. Please let me know if you want a copy.

And one quick final (for now) political observation: the key players in tomorrow’s vote may be Republican moderates, who have been shackled for years by the intimidating and now-indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX).

Tomorrow’s vote will be a real test for new House Republican Leader Roy Blunt (R-MO). His mission is to beat the Republican moderates into keeping party solidarity behind Barton and President Bush. Will Republican moderates march robotically with Blunt into a smoky future – or will they show some long-absent independence? One interesting clue: Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) sent a "dear colleague" letter today, urging his colleagues to reject the Barton bill.

We will all stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Barton legislation could harm plan to clean up diesel

Energy bill may cause problems for ultra-low sulfur diesel
Alex Kaplun, E&E Daily reporter

A provision in the House energy bill that would significantly decrease the number of fuel blends nationwide could hamper the implementation of ultra-low sulfur diesel standards next year, according to industry officials and environmentalists.

The bill, which hits the House floor later this week, includes a provision that would limit the number of diesel fuel blends to one federal diesel fuel and one "alternative" diesel fuel. But such a change would contradict the existing U.S. EPA program for the phase-in of ultra-low sulfur diesel, which calls for the use of at least three different types of diesel fuels over the next five years.

Industry sources and environmentalists say it is unclear at this point exactly what the language would mean for the program, but some said that if the bill becomes law, it could force EPA, refineries and diesel engine manufacturers to significantly alter implementation plans.

"We don't really know what that [language] would mean, but we do know there is a conflict between this bill and what the program is today," said Frank O'Donnell, head of Clean Air Watch. "They might have to go back to the drawing board."

Starting in Oct. 15, 2006, the majority of diesel producers will be required to provide a fuel for onroad engines that meets the 15 parts per million (ppm) sulfur standard. But about 20 percent of refineries will be allowed to produce diesel fuel that stays at the current standard of 500 ppm until May 2010. On top of those two types of diesel fuel, the current nonroad diesel fuels have a sulfur content of up to 3,400 ppm, though lower levels are slated to be phased in over the next five years.

But officials say that under the House bill, such a structure would appear unworkable because the legislation would seemingly allow for only one type of low-sulfur fuel.

"The reality is that under current EPA regulations, we are going to have three or four diesel blends that are in the market for the diesel community," said a former senior EPA official from the Clinton administration. "This legislation seems to call for one fuel used everywhere, and that's just not the situation that exists."

The program for both onroad and nonroad diesel fuels was put in place after years of negotiations between the federal government and the various diesel industry stakeholders. While refiners have feared the new rules could cause supply disruptions, engine manufacturers and some automakers have pushed for the implementation of the 15 ppm standard so their products can meet federal air quality requirements.

Engine Manufacturers Association spokesman Joe Suchecki said it is unclear to the group what the House bill will mean for the ultra-low diesel program, especially since there is no specific date for when the government would limit the number of acceptable fuels. The bill gives the Energy Department 12 months after implementation of the bill to provide a list of a half dozen acceptable fuels, including the two diesels, but does not set a date for when producers must drop down to that level.

"It's really unclear from this bill when this would be implemented," said Suchecki, adding that implementation after 2011 "could cause some difficulty."

Suchecki said the group's members, which includes most major engine producers, are planning this week to discuss whether the language would cause a problem.

An official with the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association said while the group generally supports the House energy bill, it has not fully figured out what the language would mean or if it would lead to supply problems.

Waiver authority most likely would not cause delay, industry says

There has also been some concern among engine manufacturers and environmentalists that language in the bill expanding the administration's power to grant fuel waivers in the event of a fuel shortage could be used to further delay the ultra-low sulfur program.

Diesel fuels producers have warned that the new standard may lead to supply disruptions when it is implemented next year. Already this year, EPA granted producers an additional 45 days to comply with the requirement, saying the extension will help refining terminals and retail outlets make a smoother transition to the cleaner-burning fuel.

"If they delay even the start-up for an extended period of time, that could have major consequences," O'Donnell said. "That could throw into chaos all the plans that have been made."

But industry officials say that -- at least as far as the House bill is concerned -- there are enough safeguards to prevent a major delay. Specifically, industry officials convinced lawmakers to include language that a fuel waiver cannot be issued if it "prevents the normal functioning of the vehicle" -- a provision that would apply to diesel engines built to handle the ultra-low sulfur fuel.
"It's not as open or as unbounded a waiver as before, so I think we're happy with that language," Suchecki said.