Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The new presidential energy plan

At the risk of stating the obvious, the new presidential energy plan seems mainly to be a public relations stunt aimed at trying to reverse some of the latest polls, which show growing public discontent with high gas prices – and the President. (Somehow I doubt he earned any points by hobnobbing with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.)

The refinery/military base notion seems to be in the pr category. As you probably know, the House-passed energy bill includes a provision that would permit the Department of Energy to override EPA or state objections to re-starting closed refineries in high-unemployment areas. This idea has raised major concerns with low-income constituencies and those interested in environmental justice: The Department of Energy is not qualified to pass judgment on issues involving health or the environment, and poorer people are likely to suffer if corners are cut.

When congressional leaders met last week with the President, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) described this refinery provision to the President. Barton later reported that the President expressed interest in expanding the concept to closed military bases.

But who the heck would pay to build refineries there? The cost of building a refinery is huge: A private outfit is moving to build a new refinery in Arizona [see at http://www.arizonacleanfuels.com/ ] at a cost of $2.5 billion! (By the way, they are receiving needed environmental permits.)

There’s been a lot of misleading propaganda on this question about the lack of new refineries. Oil companies generally haven’t built them because: 1) they’re expensive; and 2) they’ve historically made pretty small margins on refining operations; and 3) it’s generally been better for them to manage output to prevent refined products from significantly outpacing demand. (Notice they are making huge profits right now.)

The real pity is that the President has adamantly opposed the one initiative that could really make a difference to reduce our dependence on foreign oil – setting significantly better fuel economy standards. But, of course, the oil and car companies wouldn’t stand for that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Pentagon renews bid for clean-air exemptions

The Pentagon is renewing its bid for exemptions from clean air and toxic waste disposal requirements. The Bush administration recently sent proposed legislation to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

I am informed that the committee plans to mark up the bill in the second week of May with the goal of moving the bill through the Senate by the end of May.

The air pollution provisions could bust the air pollution budgets of state agencies as they try to develop cleanup plans.

State governments and others will vigorously oppose this latest attempt by the Pentagon to win exemptions from environmental requirements.

Monday, April 25, 2005

How diesel engine companies celebrated Earth Day

By going to court to try to block California state diesel emission rules! (See below.)

There is a broader story here: the apparent failure of a 1998 federal (and California) agreement with the diesel engine companies -- an agreement aimed at ending a decade of cheating by the companies. The result is that diesel trucks on the road today are polluting more than they were supposed to.

Diesel engine companies challenge emission rules on Earth Day

DON THOMPSONAssociated Press

SACRAMENTO - Diesel engine manufacturers went to court Friday seeking to block stricter pollution standards set to take effect in one week, arguing that state regulators reneged on a $1 billion 1998 legal settlement.

The California Air Resources Board says the pollution standards it adopted in December are needed because a voluntary program promoted by manufacturers wasn't working.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster, in a tentative ruling before he heard arguments, denied manufacturers' request that the initial April 30 compliance deadline be delayed while their lawsuit proceeds. He did not immediately issue a final order after Friday's hearing.

The outcome has national implications because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency struggles with the same enforcement problem.

The ARB's regulations require owners of trucks with diesel engines to remove so-called "smog defeat" timing devices that allow the engines to meet pollution requirements when trucks are inspected but exceed the limits when trucks travel at highway speeds.

The regulations apply to an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 vehicles licensed in other states that drive through California, as well as 58,000 California-licensed trucks.

The air board says removing the devices from California-registered trucks alone would trim air pollution the same amount as removing 1 million cars from California highways. Clean air advocates hope the regulations, if they stand, will spread nationwide.

The debate sharpened beyond the courtroom as air board Executive Officer Catherine Witherspoon accused manufacturers of endangering lives and costing California millions of dollars by not quickly replacing the devices on nearly a million trucks, buses and recreational vehicles built between 1993 and 1998. She criticized the manufacturers for insisting their customers, the diesel trucks' owners, pay for removing the devices.

But Caterpillar Inc., Cummins Inc., Mack Trucks Inc. and Volvo Powertrain Corp. said they've already paid the state $37 million in civil penalties and other costs. Recalling the trucks simply to replace the devices would cost truck owners millions of dollars in downtime costs for the replacement and new inspections if they comply, and $300-$800 in penalties for each truck if they don't, the companies said.

The ARB regulations require that the devices be removed starting April 30 on a phased-in schedule based on model years. An estimated 35,000 to 45,000 heavy-duty trucks are required to replace the devices by year's end, while medium-duty trucks must be retrofitted by the end of next year.

The 1998 settlement required manufacturers to replace the defeat devices only when the heavy-duty engines needed major overhauls, which happens far less frequently than regulators had expected.

A year ago, the ARB agreed to a voluntary plan for the industry to reach 35 percent compliance by last November and 100 percent compliance by 2008. But the board said only about 18 percent of the California-licensed vehicles had the upgrades by November, so it adopted the mandatory regulations.

McMaster tentatively ruled he has no authority to override a legitimate government regulation, no matter if it violates a settlement.

Caterpillar attorney Gilbert Keteltas, arguing for all the manufacturers, said the air board gave up its regulatory right under the settlement.

Deputy Attorney General William Brieger, arguing for the air board, said the agreement was with manufacturers, while the regulations are on diesel truck owners.

Friday, April 22, 2005

President Bush cancels visit to park with dirty air; promotes plan for continued dirty air

President Bush canceled a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park today because of bad weather. He was scheduled to visit it as part of an Earth Day photo event.

The park has had unhealthful levels of smog several days this week, according to the U.S. EPA.

At the same time, the Bush administration is backing a dirty-air provision of the energy bill, which the House of Representatives passed yesterday. (See below.)

That bad-air provision could mean delays in meeting clean-air standards for smog in states from Georgia to the East Coast.

This provision was backed by coal burning power companies and other big polluters. It was a pet project of the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who wants to delay cleanup requirements in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. This provision, which would weaken the Clean Air Act, doesn't even belong in the energy bill; it has nothing to do with energy independence and would not reduce foreign oil imports.

A bi-partisan group of lawmakers had drafted an amendment to remove the bad-air provision from the bill (see below), but the House Rules Committee -- in an amazing decision -- would not even permit a vote on the measure.

****
The Smog Extension Must Go
Dear Colleague,
The attached article from Saturday's New York Times describes a dramatic change to the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments buried in the Energy Policy Act. Section 1443 would enable industrial polluters to postpone smog cleanup in - for starters - Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston-Galveston, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, and the entire area stretching from Washington, DC to Southern Connecticut. The delay would leave the millions of Americans living in those areas, as well as many millions more living downwind, breathing unsafe amounts of smog for as much as a decade beyond the cleanup deadlines in the current Clean Air Act.
We hope you will support the Johnson-Allen-Shays amendment to strike this smog extension provision from the Energy Bill. Smog - technically called ground-level ozone -triggers asthma attacks in children, sends the elderly to emergency rooms, and forces outdoor workers off the job. Using Environmental Protection Agency numbers, a modeling expert commissioned by Clear the Air projected that the dirty air extension provision in the Energy Bill would, between 2005 and 2016, allow big polluters to cause well over one million more asthma attacks, and well over one-and-a-half million more missed school days, than the existing Clean Air Act would allow.
EPA recently issued the Clean Air Interstate Rule to address smog in the eastern United States. Extending deadlines will undermine the local efforts upon which the Clean Air Interstate Rule depends. Please join us in supporting healthy air, a strong Clean Air Act, and fewer cases of asthma.
Sincerely,

S/ S/ S/
Tom Allen Eddie Bernice Johnson Chris Shays
Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress
April 16, 2005
Change to the Clean Air Act Is Built Into New Energy Bill
By MICHAEL JANOFSKY

ASHINGTON, April 15 - Deep in the energy bill that was approved by a House committee this week, under a section titled "Miscellaneous," is a brief provision that could have major consequences for communities struggling to clean up their dirty air.
If it becomes law, it would make one of the most significant changes to the Clean Air Act in 15 years, allowing communities whose air pollution comes from hundreds of miles away to delay meeting national air quality standards until their offending neighbors clean up their own air.
The provision could especially affect states like New York, which has some of the nation's dirtiest air, and other Northeastern states that have always had difficulty meeting federal standards for ozone, a leading cause of smog, because much of any state's pollution originates in states to the south and west.
Under the new provision, the "downwind" states would not be required to meet clean air standards until the "upwind" states that were contributing to the problem had done so. Currently, states can get more time but only if they agree to added cleanup measures.
Proponents of the measure in Congress, as well as a spectrum of industry groups, say that the change would give state and local governments the flexibility and discretion they urgently need to deal with air pollution from distant sources. Otherwise, they would have to impose much stricter limits on pollution from local sources, including power plants, factories and automobiles.
But House members who fought against the measure, and other opponents, say flexibility and discretion are just other words for delay, saving money for industry and posing risks for millions of people living where the air does not meet health-based standards.
Opponents also say that the new provision would undermine a muscular rule announced last month by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which sets new power-plant emissions for three major pollutants for the eastern half of the United States. One of those pollutants, nitrogen oxide, is cooked by sunlight into ozone, or smog.
Representative Joe L. Barton, Republican of Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and author of the provision, added the same provision to the House energy bill in 2003 when House and Senate leaders began negotiations on a final bill. The effort failed over other issues, and it remains unclear whether the provision would remain in a final bill this time.
Mr. Barton said in an interview it was not his intent to weaken the Clean Air Act, which sets national pollution standards, nor to undermine the interstate rule, which addresses windblown issues by requiring states to meet the same emission standards for power plants as an aid to reducing overall emissions.
Rather, he said, he wanted to restore the E.P.A.'s ability to grant extensions to areas that could demonstrate that they could not control their own pollution - a right the agency assumed it had, and acted on, during the Clinton administration until three federal courts ruled that such discretion violated the Clean Air Act.
"I'm trying to make the law more implementable, more common sense," said Mr. Barton, who represents a district south of Dallas. "I live in the real world, where it's a lot tougher to meet arbitrary standards in an area that's growing and where more people are driving cars and trucks."
"Even my adversaries would admit that I'm not trying to abolish standards or gut the Clean Air Act," he added. "I'm just trying to find a more realistic solution to a real-world situation."
It is a solution that has been warmly embraced by the National Association of Manufacturers, the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council and other trade groups. "We're clearly in support of any kind of flexibility," said Bryan Brendle, an official with the manufacturers organization.
But Mr. Barton's adversaries argue that his approach poses unintended consequences, including an invitation for local communities that have not met air quality standards to use the extra time to put off reducing emissions from sources inside their own borders. They say Mr. Barton's provision could delay improvements by 10 years as one area waits for another, which waits for another - a prospect that Mr. Barton disputed.
"Bottom line, no longer will there be any incentive for states or municipalities to clean up more air pollution, and the E.P.A. has no ability to force them to do it," said Representative Tom Allen, a Maine Democrat whose motion to kill the Barton provision failed by a 29-to-19 committee vote, largely along party lines.
Mr. Allen said that tougher air quality standards announced by the environmental agency since the failure of the 2003 energy bill and the new interstate rule made Mr. Barton's provision unnecessary and "would lead to a lot more asthma than is needed."
John Millett, an E.P.A. spokesman, said the agency had taken no position on Mr. Barton's provision, but a high-ranking agency official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the agency, said "a real debate" was under way among agency officials about its potential effectiveness and its effect on the Clean Air Act.
Mr. Millett said: "Some people think it's a good idea. Most don't."

****
EPA endorses Barton's ozone deadline provision
Darren Samuelsohn, E&E Daily senior reporter
The U.S. EPA supports a provision tucked into the House energy bill that would give large metropolitan areas the ability to achieve federal air quality standards for ozone pollution on an extended time frame without facing a slate of existing requirements, the agency's top air pollution chief said yesterday.
In an interview for E&ETV's OnPoint, EPA air chief Jeff Holmstead said the agency backs the Clean Air Act language in Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton's (R-Texas) energy bill because it would codify an interpretation of the law the Clinton administration started pursuing in 1994.
Under the Barton energy bill, areas that do not meet EPA's current 8-hour ozone standard, as well as its old 1-hour requirement, would receive an extension of their compliance deadlines if they can show their primary emission problems come from an upwind industrial source. Exempted areas under this "bump up" provision could also avoid stringent New Source Review permitting requirements, use of reformulated gasoline and having federal transportation projects tied to a state's ability to successfully cut air pollution.
The language is so controversial that Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) would consider filibustering the entire energy bill if the provision makes it all the way to a House-Senate energy conference, his office said yesterday. Critics of the Barton language, including Jeffords, say it would be one of the most dramatic changes to the Clean Air Act in 15 years, causing a domino effect that could cause 10-year delays in emission cleanups across the country.
But Holmstead rejected those claims, arguing that he does not envision every nonattainment area across the country to seek such an extension.
"It really is designed to reflect the fact that we need to strike the right balance between upwind controls and local controls of air pollution," Holmstead said. "I think some people have mischaracterized it as a 10-year delay. That's really not what it is. The idea is these areas would still be required to come into attainment as expeditiously as practicable. Those are the words of the statute."
Unconvinced by this position, Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Tom Allen (D-Maine) and Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) tried last night to gain House floor time for an amendment that would strip the language from the energy bill. But the House Rules Committee ruled against the amendment, effectively ending the debate for the House bill.
Last week, Allen tried to remove the Barton provision during an Energy and Commerce Committee markup on the energy bill. His amendment was defeated, 19-29.
Debate over the "bump up" issue is far from new. EPA in 1994, and then again in 1998, established the extension policy for several areas trying to comply with what was then the agency's 1-hour standard for ground-level ozone pollution. The cities of Beaumont, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Springfield, Mass.; Atlanta; and St. Louis were all allotted additional time under the policy.
But environmentalists viewed the Clinton plan as a delaying tactic and sued the individual decisions in various federal court circuits. They won three of the cases, setting enough precedent that EPA backed off its policy elsewhere. The courts essentially ruled that EPA did not have sufficient statutory authority under the Clean Air Act to give the extensions.
Reacting to the court rulings, Barton included the provision in the 2003 version of the energy bill. During that debate, Barton argued that a flexible implementation plan would ensure no undue burdens on local businesses. He also said the areas were unable to meet the EPA's 1-hour ozone standard because of upwind emission sources that counteract any locally driven pollution-reduction gains. Barton specifically pointed to pollution blown north from Houston as reason for Dallas' problems reaching compliance with the 1979-era pollution requirements (E&E Daily, Oct. 17, 2003).
House Democrats tried in 2003 to remove the Barton provision, but their only avenue ended up being a floor debate on a nonbinding motion to instruct House and Senate energy bill conferees. That vote was denied, 182-232. A House Democratic aide tracking the current debate said yesterday that had another vote been taken this week, proponents of the amendment would have mustered a similar number of supporters.
This time around, critics have added several additional arguments to their arsenal, including the fact that the language would also apply to some 470 counties that EPA last summer ruled were not in compliance with its new and more stringent 8-hour ozone requirements.
In an effort to bolster their case, Johnson and her allies yesterday circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter arguing that the Barton provision would give additional time for cleanup to a number of large metro areas. Among the cities mentioned as possible candidates for an extension from the 8-hour ozone requirements were Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston-Galveston, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, and the entire area stretching from Washington, D.C., to southern Connecticut.
"The delay would leave the millions of Americans living in those areas, as well as many millions more living downwind, breathing unsafe amounts of smog, for as much as a decade beyond the cleanup deadlines in the current Clean Air Act," the lawmakers said.
Opponents of the Barton language also argue that the provision would undermine a new EPA regulation to control power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in the East, also known as the Clean Air Interstate Rule. While CAIR will force electric utilities to control emissions that cross state borders, local communities still need reductions from their nearby industries to ensure meeting their federal deadlines.
Holmstead rejected the argument that CAIR would be undermined by the Barton language. CAIR is a final rule, he explained, with modeling that shows dramatic difference in lowering the number of ozone nonattainment areas to less than a dozen Northeastern locales where vehicle traffic and other emission sources continue to cause problems. "In no way can it undo that," he said. "The answer to that is just clearly no."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

tom paine.com on energy bill

Polluter-Friendly Energy
Frank O'Donnell
April 20, 2005

Frank O'Donnell is president of Clean Air Watch, a 501 (c) 3 non-partisan, non-profit organization aimed at educating the public about clean air and the need for an effective Clean Air Act

It seems fitting that an organization called The Annapolis Center—identified by The Wall Street Journal as a polluter front group—will give an award next week to Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Barton appears to be working diligently to earn their accolades as he tries to shepherd energy legislation through the House of Representatives this week.

No matter how Barton and his colleagues try to "spin" the product of their committee deliberations, the House energy legislation fails one of the key "objectives" set forth by President Bush in his April 16 radio address: "The energy bill must encourage more production at home in environmentally sensitive ways ." [emphasis added]

Indeed, if the legislation became law in its current form, it would prolong smog problems in much of the nation, shift the burden of cleaning up poisoned water supplies from oil companies to cash-strapped public agencies, and even threaten environmental damage from some forms of renewable energy. These are on top of the well-publicized provisions that would permit big oil companies to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for a few months worth of oil that wouldn't reach consumers for a decade.

Itemizing the anti-environmental provisions of the House energy bill is a mind-numbing exercise: new loopholes that could reduce gas mileage requirements; weaker protections for coastal communities; tax breaks to promote more coal burning. And that's just the beginning. But here are several glaring examples that illustrate the potential for environmental harm.

Dirty Water

The energy bill would shield major oil companies from federal and state product liability lawsuits for the widespread contamination of the nation's drinking water supplies with the gasoline additive MTBE. This chemical leaks out of underground gasoline storage tanks and from gasoline spills, dissolves and spreads readily in groundwater, does not degrade easily and is difficult and expensive to remove.

At least 29 states have reported MTBE contamination, according to Environmental Working Group. The American Water Works Association, representing 4,700 U.S. water systems, estimates nationwide MTBE cleanup and water replacement costs at $29 billion. Under the House energy bill, the public would be stuck with the cost.

As has been widely noted, the biggest defenders of MTBE—and the proposed legal shield—are Barton and Rep. Tom DeLay, both recipients of MTBE cash.

The bill also would give MTBE makers (small companies like ExxonMobil) $1.75 billion for transition costs. It would also allow the White House to overturn a suggested ban on the chemical's use. No wonder Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., called the MTBE provisions "a direct assault on the nation's safe drinking water supply."

If that's not enough potential damage to the water, the bill also would exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act a process called hydraulic fracturing, in which chemicals are pumped into coal beds in order to coax out methane gas. Many fear this process could harm groundwater. One prominent company that uses hydraulic fracturing: Halliburton, Vice President Cheney's old firm.

Dirty-Air Dominoes

An industry-backed provision drafted by Barton would weaken the Clean Air Act and threaten to prolong smog problems in much of the nation. Under current law, states must devise air quality improvement plans which demonstrate they will meet smog standards by a set deadline (in most big-population areas, the deadline is 2010 under the 8-hour smog standard which went into effect last year).

The dirty-air provision would say that if an area is affected by pollution coming from somewhere—and virtually every state in the eastern half of the country falls in this category—it doesn't have to meet the deadlines or adopt stricter local pollution controls until the "upwind" area does. This creates the potential for a dirty-air domino effect, as each state blames another for its pollution problem.

For example, Ohio claims it can't meet the standards due to pollution from Indiana. The dirty-air amendment would absolve Ohio from having to make further cleanup—thus passing on the dirty-air problem to states downwind, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Washington, D.C.

Barton, by the way, has not even bothered to explain why this bad-air plan is in the energy bill (since it doesn't appear to involve energy production). The answer is simple: The committee chairman gets what he wants—in this case, a delay for his Dallas-Fort Worth district.

Damming Harm

Even when promoting renewable energy—and the bill does little enough of this, by the way, as most of the $8 billion in tax subsidies would go for oil, gas and coal production—the House energy bill threatens environmental harm.

That's because the bill includes a provision that would give new advantages to power companies that own dams. It would give the companies a procedural edge when seeking licenses for hydropower—and would undermine the ability of natural resource agencies to protect fish and wildlife.

A separate section of the bill would put unprecedented new limits on the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal review of the environmental aspects of major energy projects. Under the bill, federal agencies would not be required to identify or analyze the environmental effects of alternative locations or actions to proposed renewable energy projects.
The Natural Resources Defense Council notes this could create a bad precedent that could be used later to promote even more environmentally destructive projects. Developers could use this precedent to lobby in the future, for example, for similar exemptions for gas, oil, coal or nuclear energy projects.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., points out that even alternative energy projects could have negative effects and would benefit from a review of alternatives—for example, the number and type of wind turbines (since some wind projects have become virtual meat grinders for birds and bats).
"This is a major, major change in NEPA," said Inslee. "I don't think it is wise."
As in the other energy controversies, he's in the minority—so far.

The "fix is in" on energy bill

As they would say in the old movies, “It looks like the fix is in!”

As amazing as this may seem, the House Rules Committee – the official gatekeepers of activities on the floor of the House of Representatives – is refusing to permit a vote on the dirty-air plan devised by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and inserted into the energy legislation that will be debated on the floor of the House this week.

You will recall that the Barton bad-air plan would encourage potentially long delays in meeting national smog standards by saying a state would not have to meet the standards until states upwind of it do. The Barton bad-air plan – sought by the National Association of Manufacturers and other polluter lobbies -- could mean more than a million extra asthma attacks and other health damage caused by smog. It is a glaring example of the special-interest provisions in the energy bill that will mean more environmental harm without reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

As we reported yesterday, a bipartisan coalition led by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Tom Allen (D-ME) and Chris Shays (R-CT) drafted an amendment they planned to offer on the House floor – to strike the bad-air provision from the energy bill.

But late last night, the House Rules Committee declared it would deny them the opportunity for a vote. There was no explanation for the decision. (The Rules Committee operates a little like the Vatican Conclave, though these days it spews out little but black smoke.)

The committee is chaired by Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) and is generally viewed as under the close control of the House Republican leadership. The appearance here is that the House Republican leadership is closing ranks to support the Barton bad-air plan sought by big corporate polluters.

Why are House Republican leaders so afraid to even permit a vote on the dirty-air plan? (They are apparently going to argue an amendment on this topic is “not in order.” If so, why is this bad-air plan in the energy bill to start with?)

The Rules Committee is permitting votes on a number of issues, ranging from tax subsidies to make ethanol from Hawaiian sugar cane, to a study about using mustard seed as a feedstock for biodiesel. (No kidding. The entire list of “approved” amendments is at http://www.house.gov/rules/109rulehr6.htm)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Bi-partisan challenge to energy bill's dirty-air plan

Get ready for a bruising battle on the House floor as the energy bill comes up later this week.

Joe Barton’s dirty-air amendment will face a bipartisan challenge. See the “dear colleague” letter, below, circulated today by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Tom Allen (D-ME) and Chris Shays (R-CT).

The Barton plan could create a dirty-air domino effect. It would prolong smog problems in much of the country. And that would mean more asthma attacks for children, and other smog-related miseries.

****

April 19, 2005
The Smog Extension Must Go

Dear Colleague,

The attached article from Saturday's New York Times describes a dramatic change to the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments buried in the Energy Policy Act. Section 1443 would enable industrial polluters to postpone smog cleanup in - for starters - Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston-Galveston, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, and the entire area stretching from Washington, DC to Southern Connecticut. The delay would leave the millions of Americans living in those areas, as well as many millions more living downwind, breathing unsafe amounts of smog for as much as a decade beyond the cleanup deadlines in the current Clean Air Act.

We hope you will support the Johnson-Allen-Shays amendment to strike this smog extension provision from the Energy Bill. Smog - technically called ground-level ozone -triggers asthma attacks in children, sends the elderly to emergency rooms, and forces outdoor workers off the job. Using Environmental Protection Agency numbers, a modeling expert commissioned by Clear the Air projected that the dirty air extension provision in the Energy Bill would, between 2005 and 2016, allow big polluters to cause well over one million more asthma attacks, and well over one-and-a-half million more missed school days, than the existing Clean Air Act would allow.

EPA recently issued the Clean Air Interstate Rule to address smog in the eastern United States. Extending deadlines will undermine the local efforts upon which the Clean Air Interstate Rule depends. Please join us in supporting healthy air, a strong Clean Air Act, and fewer cases of asthma.

Sincerely,

S/ S/ S/
Tom Allen, Member of Congress
Eddie Bernice Johnson, Member of Congress
Chris Shays, Member of Congress

Monday, April 18, 2005

Polluter front group to honor Joe Barton

Note: Some years ago, the Wall Street Journal "outted" The Annapolis Center as a front group for polluting industries. The group is presenting an award next week to Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee:


http://www.annapoliscenter.org/skins/default/display.aspx?CategoryID=dbbe9df0-8d97-48ec-8180-9c643ff274b4&ObjectID=b1726dad-014a-43e6-802a-c13b2e7e884a&Action=display_user_object&Mode=user&ModuleID=7c9ceb83-996f-4fef-a25b-2d7e26de59dd


Congressman Joe L. Barton to be Honored by The Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy

The Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy is proud to announce that the Honorable Joe Barton, U.S. House of Representatives, will be honored at The Center’s 2005 Annual Dinner, to be held on Tuesday, April 26, at the Willard Inter-Continental Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, April 12, 2005 - The Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy is proud to announce that the Honorable Joe Barton, U.S. House of Representatives, will be honored at The Center’s 2005 Annual Dinner, to be held on Tuesday, April 26, at the Willard Inter-Continental Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

This year, as in years past, The Annapolis Center will be recognizing an individual or individuals for work in their field supporting rational, science-based thinking and policy-making. For 2005, The Center is pleased to honor Congressman Barton, one of the most influential voices in Congress, and pay tribute to his work in promoting science-based public policy.

Congressman Joe Barton has served the constituents of the Sixth Congressional District of Texas since 1984. He currently Chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and serves on the House Republican Steering Committee, which coordinates strategic planning for House Republicans. As the Chairman of Energy & Commerce, his committee has jurisdiction over a large percentage of our national economic policies.

He continues to work closely with President Bush and his Administration to formulate national policy that is consumer-, industry- and environmentally-friendly. This Congress, the Committee has tackled such issues as prescription drug benefits for Medicare patients, taking obscenity off TV, consumer privacy and comprehensive energy policy.

In addition to his work on the Energy and Commerce committee, Chairman Barton works consistently to promote lower taxes, more financial freedom and greater personal freedoms. As Co-Chairman of the House Privacy Caucus (CPC), he is a congressional leader on protecting our rights to medical, financial and Internet privacy; and as a senior Member of the House has worked tirelessly to eradicate the marriage and death taxes, cut capital gains taxes and drastically reform the current tax code.

The evening’s keynote address will feature Fred Barnes, Executive Editor and one of the founders of The Weekly Standard. Barnes serves as host, along with Mort Kondracke, of the “Beltway Boys” on the Fox News Channel. He also appears as a regular on Fox’s “Special Report” with Brit Hume.

The schedule for the evening includes a reception at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Seats can be reserved by contacting The Annapolis Center at 410-268-3302. About The Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public PolicyThe Annapolis Center is a national, non-profit educational organization that supports and promotes responsible energy, environmental, health and safety policy-making through the use of sound science.

Founded by scientists, former policy-makers, and economists, The Center is committed to ensuring that public policy decisions are based on scientific facts and reasoning.Tom Roskellyhttp://www.annapoliscenter.orgEmail: Troskelly@annctr.orgPhone: 410-268-3302, ext. 104

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Joe Barton: not "trying to gut the Clean Air Act"

Here's the quote of the day from Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee: "I'm not trying to abolish standards or gut the Clean Air Act." (from a piece in today's New York Times)

Barton's committee last week approved energy legislation, including a provision that would allow states to delay local pollution cleanup by claiming it faces pollution blowing in from other areas.

The usual dirty-air gang -- power companies, manufacturers, etc. -- are behind this bad idea.

Friday, April 08, 2005

What's good for General Motors?

from TomPaine.com

General Motors is on the ropes, a victim of the kind of arrogance common to many corporate giants. Frank O'Donnell looks at how GM preferred to lobby Washington rather than compete, deliver healthy products or protect the environment. Now, decades of market manipulation have made the auto giant weak and vulnerable to innovative competitors like Toyota, who have embraced environmental responsibility.

Frank O'Donnell is president of Clean Air Watch, a 501 (c) 3 non-partisan, non-profit organization aimed at educating the public about clean air and the need for an effective Clean Air Act.
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More than half a century ago, then-General Motors President Charles Wilson was misquoted as having said, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” That quote came to epitomize the auto giant’s arrogance.

Now, the giant automaker is seemingly spinning out of control. On Monday, GM’s management team was shuffled, presumably in response to the threat from Standard & Poor's to downgrade its debt to “junk bond” status. On Tuesday, Moody's downgraded GM's bonds to one step above junk. With a powerful blue chip company on the ropes, it might be worth a moment to see what their corporate culture of arrogance has wrought.

By the time Wilson made his infamous declaration, the company was a dominant political force. It had already led a successful effort to destroy the streetcar system in America’s cities in order to force people to buy cars, rather than take public transportation. GM later spent decades battling efforts to reduce tailpipe pollution emissions that caused public health problems throughout the nation.

Little has changed. GM today remains the industry leader in opposing government efforts to limit heat-trapping gases wafting from its tailpipes. The company has succeeded not only in sabotaging congressional efforts to significantly improve fuel economy, but it has also led an industry suit to block California from trying to reduce motor vehicle greenhouse gases.
GM has taken that position in order to keep promoting its gas-hogging SUVs. But GM could become victim of its own success: In an era of rising gasoline prices, this short-term corporate thinking has left the company with a potential flat tire in the global marketplace.

GM remains the world’s largest auto maker, but perhaps not for long. Yesterday, a greenhouse gas reduction plan was announced by the government of Canada and Canadian auto makers—a move that a Massachusetts state lawmaker predicts could prompt some U.S. residents to buy lower-emission cars in Canada. More importantly, some analysts predict that Toyota—which has gained market share by introducing innovative, lower-polluting cars such as the Prius hybrid—could take the number-one spot within the next few years.

The company faces a particular challenge in China, amid a prediction that most U.S.-made cars and gas-guzzling SUVs would flunk new fuel economy standards there—set to be phased in starting later this year. "Eighty percent of U.S.-made cars would not fulfill these [requirements],” said Timo Makela, director of sustainable development and integration at the European Commission, according to Greenwire.

GM faces big problems in the United States as well. In Charles Wilson’s era, the company controlled more than half the U.S. car market. Now, GM may finish the year with less than 25 percent of the market, as higher oil prices are prompting consumers to abandon gas-guzzling SUVs in favor of cleaner, more advanced vehicles. The company has already warned that it may suffer a significant loss in North America this year.

Just last Friday, GM announced weak U.S. vehicle sales in March, losing further market share to Toyota and Nissan because high gasoline prices hurt sales of gas-guzzling SUVs. The two biggest Japanese auto makers recorded double-digit sales gains and their best month ever. Asian brands amounted to more than 36 percent of all March car and truck sales in the United States, compared to only 27 percent for GM (down from 34 percent just a decade ago).

Internally, the company faces a separate problem in managing the ballooning health care costs of employees, retirees and dependents—a problem euphemistically described as “legacy costs” that prompted the reports that Standard & Poor’s might reduce GM’s bond rating to junk status.

But critics are noting that if GM had spent half as much over the years lobbying for better health care as it has to protect rock-bottom standards for fuel efficiency, it might have avoided this problem.

Can GM get back on the right road? There is plenty of reason for doubt. The Wall Street Journal notes that GM Chairman and CEO Rich Waggoner has “put a big bet on the resilience of the large-SUV market”—unlike competitors like Ford, which is scaling back production capacity for the big vehicles.

A smarter strategy might involve recalling Charles Wilson’s original declaration, which read, “What is good for America is good for General Motors, and vice versa.” That means taking steps to align the company’s interest with the national interest. Today, that means increasing vehicle efficiency, reducing carbon and toxic emissions and advocating a sustainable national health care system.

The result would be enormous. America would begin to recover from 50 years of unsustainable industrial policy. The transition to clean and efficient transportation would be launched, reducing our contribution to global warming and Middle East instability. Not to mention that GM would get a shot at the fastest-growing market—and a second chance right here at home.

EPA science advisers support tougher air standards for fine particles

This is an item with potentially significant long-term implications. In a little-noticed move, the US EPA’s official science advisers yesterday supported a call by EPA staff scientists who believe the current national air quality standards for fine-particle soot should be made significantly tighter to protect people’s health. The science advisers agreed that the allowable daily amount of fine-particle pollution in the air should be cut by about half. (For those of you interested in numbers, see below.)

If EPA moves forward with the recommendation, that would reduce the death toll caused by fine particle pollution. (EPA has done some preliminary analysis of this issue. Agency scientists have noted that tightening the standard would reduce fine-particle-related deaths in such cities as Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.)

Yesterday’s action was only one step in a longer process, but it is an important one: It signifies a growing scientific consensus that the current air quality standards for fine particle soot do not adequately protect public health. (You will recall the current standards were set in 1997, but were delayed for years because of industry lawsuits. They have only recently gone into effect. Meanwhile, scientific evidence has grown regarding the link between fine particles and health damage, particularly to the heart.)

EPA’s in-house scientists earlier recommended that the current standards be made tougher. That call was endorsed last week by 100 prominent air pollution researchers. And now EPA’s official advisers – the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) -- has joined the call. This is all the more remarkable because of the industry connections of some of the CASAC panel’s members. (One of them, for example, works for General Motors Corporation. Another works for the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology.)

Tougher air quality standards eventually would mean more actions would have to be taken to reduce emissions from the sources of fine particles, including diesel engines and coal-burning electric power plants.

So get ready for a bruising lobbying blitz by industry. They fought like heck the last time EPA updated the standards in 1997, and I bet they’ll do it again. Get ready for a lot of visits and calls to the White House by coal, electric power, trucking, diesel engine and auto industries.

Also note this will become a real test for EPA Administrator-designate Steve Johnson: Will he be permitted to make a judgment based on science? Or will political pressure trump sound science? But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. Here’s a timetable for the rest of the process:

--the CASAC panel will formally summarize its recommendations to EPA in writing in several weeks. (Put your money that the lobbyists will try to water down the recommendations.)
--EPA will issue a final “staff paper” summary of the issue by June 30.
--EPA is under a consent decree to propose new standards by December 20, and to issue final standards by Sept. 27, 2006.


Here is a crib sheet with some numbers. There are two standards currently. One measures permissible levels of fine particle pollution in a community averaged over 24 hours. A second standard is an allowable annual average.

The current (1997) standards are: 24-hour average: 65 micrograms per cubic meter; annual average: 15 micrograms per cubic meter.

--EPA’s staff scientists made a preliminary recommendation that the standards should be tightened, and offered two options: set an annual standard in the range of 12-14, while lowering the permissible daily level to 35-40, or to make a more severe reduction in the 24-hour standard – to a level of 25-35. [Parenthetical note: reducing the permissible daily level by this much would also reduce permissible annual levels.]

--The 100 air quality scientists last week urged an annual standard in the range of 12-14 and a daily standard of 25-35.

--Yesterday’s the CASAC panel supported an annual standard lowered to 14 coupled with a daily standard in the range of 30-35 [roughly half of the current standard].