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.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Edison Electric Institute urges companies to lobby Congress in favor of dirty-air provision

[from an e-mail to DC power company lobbyists from the Edison Electric Institute]:

Subject: NSR Vote on Friday


We are expecting that energy bill II, H.R. 3893, "Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005," will be considered by the full House on Friday. During that consideration we expect that there will be an attempt to strike the NSR reform language in Section 106 either through a motion to recommit or a substitute amendment. We are in the process of encouraging House Members to support the NSR language and trying assist in conducting a whip count. Please contact House Members in support of the NSR language. Attached are a set of points for your use in that effort. Please contact me with any information on where individual Members are on the NSR language (especially Republicans from California and the NE, and coal state Democrats).

Thanks for your help.

Ed Yawn
508-5481

[here is the attachment referenced above]





Electric Utilities Support
Reform of New Source Review Program


The New Source Review (NSR) program under the Clean Air Act requires electric utilities to undergo pre-construction review for environmental controls when new generating facilities are built, or if existing power plants are modified by making “non-routine” physical or operational changes that result in a significant increase in emissions. In the late 1990s, after nearly 30 years of implementing the NSR program, EPA began reinterpreting the definition of a “modification” that triggers the program for existing power plants in a manner that discourages beneficial efficiency improvements and critical routine maintenance at these facilities.

Electric generating units are subject to harsh operating conditions, and constant repair and replacement of deteriorated or damaged equipment is essential to reliable operations. However, under EPA’s re-interpretation, activities intended to keep facilities operating reliably, safely and efficiently can trigger costly permitting requirements and capital expenditures, as well as inconsistent regulatory enforcement among the state agencies that implement this federal program.

Attempting to address these problems, in October 2003 EPA finalized the Equipment Replacement Provision rule defining what is “routine” in a common-sense manner that promotes greater certainty and flexibility to sources undertaking equipment replacement projects. However, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a petition for review of the rule, and with no decision expected until mid-2006 or later, implementation of the current NSR program remains an issue of great uncertainty. The House legislation would codify this rule and provide much needed certainty to allow efficiency improvements and routine maintenance at generating facilities to go forward.

THE ENVIRONMENT WOULD STILL BE PROTECTED UNDER THE HOUSE BILL:

The reforms in the House bill, H.R. 3893, would NOT change the applicability of NSR for new sources, nor for existing sources that increase their hourly rate of emissions.
Power plants will still be subject to nationwide caps on emissions and individual plants and individual operating units will not be allowed to exceed current state and local permit limits on emissions.

Emissions will be capped under existing laws and regulations. The Clean Air Interstate Rule, NOx SIP Call, New Source Performance Standards, Acid Rain Program, Regional Haze Rule, Clean Air Mercury Rule, Title V Operating Permit Program, and state and local programs all require the electric power sector to dramatically reduce emissions and be subject to the caps on emissions imposed by federal law. Failure to recognize these programs when discussing emission impacts of the NSR program is shortsighted, if not an outright distortion. For the nation as a whole, these other programs will lead to power plant sulfur dioxide emissions being capped at 3.5 million tons (compared to 1990 levels of 15.7 million tons), and emissions of nitrogen oxides will be capped at 2.2 million tons per year (compared to 6.7 million tons in 1990). These caps impose far greater controls and reductions than the outdated NSR program.

EFFICIENCY, RELIABILITY, SAFETY AND COST BENEFITS OF NSR REFORM:
Properly operated and maintained and more efficient generating units consume less fuel and produce fewer emissions per unit of electricity generated, due to less frequent upsets and malfunctions.

The reforms encourage efficiency improvement projects, which will reduce the need to site, permit, and operate more facilities.

The reforms limit complex, costly and time-consuming permit reviews for basic maintenance and installation of newer, more energy-efficient, reliable and safer technologies and equipment.
More efficient plants will yield reductions in emission rates and facilitate state goals to improve air quality, and free up state environmental agency inspectors and permit writers to handle significant existing permit backlogs.

Properly maintained generating units put less pressure on our strained transmission grid, as fewer unscheduled outages limit the need to increase flows of electricity across the network.
Industry can operate in a more efficient and cost-effective manner that is good for business and consumers. Delays in repairing or replacing worn equipment leads to more frequent and longer unscheduled outages, lower availability, and higher costs for consumers.