Saturday, December 23, 2006

Schwarzenegger goes green

Excellent front-page Washington Post story on California's governor.

The full story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/22/AR2006122201476.html

Here are some excerpts:

Schwarzenegger Remakes Himself as Environmentalist; Governor Challenges GOP on Global Warming

John Pomfret 23 December 2006
The Washington Post Page A1

Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the type of guy you would necessarily associate with tree hugging. When he bought a Hummer in the early 1990s, it kicked off a nationwide craze for the gas-guzzling behemoths. His lighter-fluid-dowsed action flicks and protein-packed chest bespoke more of American excess than environmentalism, more violence than vegan.

But as governor of California, Schwarzenegger has engaged in a savvy makeover, befitting a Hollywood star. He retooled one of his four Hummers to run on alternative fuels and is quickly fashioning himself into one of the most aggressively pro-environment governors in a state known for leading the nation on that issue.

This year he signed the nation's first environmental law of its kind, committing the state to lowering its greenhouse gas production to 1990 levels by 2020 and setting up an international program that provides manufacturers with incentives to lower carbon emissions, which is supposed to begin by 2012. He has vowed to fight any attempt to drill for oil off California's coast.

And now Schwarzenegger, a Republican, wants to use his star power to turn global warming into an issue in the 2008 presidential election. "There is a whole new movement because of the change of people sent to Washington," Schwarzenegger said in an interview this week, referring to the Democratic Party's impending takeover of Congress. "We want to put the spotlight on this issue in America. It has to become a debate in the presidential election. It has to become an issue."...

But no other issue divides the governor and the president as much as global warming.

Schwarzenegger's embrace of the issue is clearly a gambit on the part of a politician with big ambitions. Analysts say he could run for the Senate in 2010. He cannot run for president because he was not born in the United States.

Schwarzenegger made no bones about his exasperation with the Bush administration's refusal to allow California to become the first state in the nation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. A request in 2005 for that authority has received no response from the Environmental Protection Agency. The question of whether the EPA -- or other agencies -- should regulate greenhouse gases is being considered by the Supreme Court.

"We are going to find a way to do it, no matter what anyone says," Schwarzenegger said. ". . . We have to make moves that protect the health of the people. That's our number one priority.
"We don't want Washington to tell us when we are allowed to be healthy or when we should get cancer," he continued. "We don't want people to die because pollution causes certain illnesses and cancers and so on." ...

Environmental groups, rarely inclined to support a Republican, have grudgingly given Schwarzenegger decent marks. "Schwarzenegger has really taken the lead on greenhouse gases, more so than almost any American politician," said Frank O'Donnell, president of D.C.-based Clean Air Watch. "His state is the leading edge of many of our problems, but it's also the leading edge of many of their solutions."

In California, Schwarzenegger's pro-environmental position is part of a bipartisan tradition; even Ronald Reagan was known as pro-environment during his years in the statehouse. Since the 1960s, the state, bedeviled by the worst air quality in the United States, has led the nation in tackling pollutants. In 1961, it required the first automotive emissions control technology in the nation, and its regulations continue to be the toughest in the country.

California's standards have helped give birth in the United States to hybrid cars, efficient refrigerators and air conditioners, and the catalytic converter, which, because of California's leadership, will soon be installed on lawn mowers and other equipment using two-stroke engines.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Federal court strikes down Bush EPA smog rule; and shocking comments from an EPA science adviser

Today a federal appeals court struck down the Bush administration’s rules for making sure public health is protected from smog. The panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that some of EPA’s 2004 requirements were illegally weak. The ruling came in response to a suit filed by environmental groups, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and numerous state governments.

In its rule, EPA permitted many areas with smog problems to meet weaker cleanup requirements than other areas. In effect, the Bush administration was giving industry a break. It was an illogical way to deal with the problem of smog.

The court said this was also a legal no-no, and told the EPA to go back to the drawing board:

We therefore hold that the 2004 Rule violates the Act insofar as it subjects areas with eight-hour ozone in excess of 0.09 ppm to Subpart 1. We further hold that EPA’s interpretation of the Act in a manner to maximize its own discretion is unreasonable because the clear intent of Congress in enacting the 1990 Amendments was to the contrary.

At the same time, the court rejected other challenges to the rules brought by the state of Ohio and the oil industry.

**

Now for the comments by EPA science adviser Roger McClellan, long a chemical industry consultant. In an interview broadcast last night on CBS Evening News, McClellan contended that people who die early from breathing dirty air are not “real deaths.” (See transcript below.)

This is an utterly appalling comment. Is one death better than another?

It is little wonder that the Bush administration has McClellan on a “short list” to remain an EPA adviser. See page 14 at this link:

http://www.epa.gov/sab/panels/casac_nox_and_sox_primary_panel.htm

Perhaps McClellan is so far outside the scientific mainstream that he’s not an appropriate person to advise the federal government in these matters.

EVENING NEWS for December 21, 2006, CBS


KATIE COURIC: …Another serious health danger to Americans of every age is air pollution. Today, the Bush administration announced plans to seek tough new emission standards for diesel trains, but critics say the government is ignoring all the problems caused by soot that comes out of industrial smokestacks. They claim it kills thousands every year, and deadliest of all may be the pollution you can`t even see. Here`s Wyatt Andrews with part two of our series, "Foul Air."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WYATT ANDREWS, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: One day last July, this power plant smokestack rained black soot on the farms and homes of Shipping Port, Pennsylvania. The power company, First Energy, said it was a maintenance accident, and according to local residents, warned them not to eat anything dusted by the soot.

(on camera): Don`t eat the fruit off your own trees?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, don`t eat it.

ANDREWS (voice-over): The accident, which had the power company power washing a town, was an unusually severe and visible example of what Americans breathe in much smaller amounts every day, and not just from power plants. Trucks, cars, and even fires produce microscopic soot particles and chemicals that can damage your lungs.

JANICE NOLEN, AMERICAN LUNG ASSOCIATION: Particle pollution -- soot - - kills people.

ANDREWS: Janice Nolen is with the American Lung Association, one of many leading medical groups demanding that the Bush administration adopts stricter controls on microscopic soot. These groups cite overwhelming evidence linking microscopic particles to fatal diseases.
(on camera): Tens of thousands of people die every year?

NOLEN: Every year from soot-based heart attacks, cancer, strokes.

ANDREWS: Despite that evidence, when the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, had the chance to set a tough new annual emission standard for soot this year, the agency declined.
The EPA also declined our request to explain that decision on camera, but in a written statement said: "EPA`s air quality standards are the most health protective in U.S. history."

One scientist who agrees with the agency says none of the research cited by critics proves that tougher standards will save lives.

DR. ROGER MCCLELLAN, EPA SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD: They`re just stretching the scientific data, and I think that has been used excessively to try to scare the public into thinking these are real deaths.

ANDREWS: However, in a 20-2 vote last year, an independent committee of scientists advising the EPA said tighter annual control on microscopic soot would save lives. When EPA dismissed this, critics said the Bush administration was ignoring science to go easy on industry.

The power company in Shipping Port, meanwhile, is now telling residents it`s safe to eat vegetables if they`re washed. But remember, the black rain that fell that day was pollution you could see. On every other day, it`s what you can`t see that could kill you.

Wyatt Andrews, CBS News, Shipping Port, Pennsylvania.

New Mexico Navajo reservation is big battleground over proposed coal power plant

As you may know, there have been some real battlegrounds – particularly in Texas and the Midwest – over plans to build new coal-burning electric power plants. (Not only big sources of deadly “conventional” pollutants, but also of greenhouse gas emissions.)

One of the more emotional and visual dramas is playing out in northwestern New Mexico, where Navajo protesters are trying to block a $3 billion project planned by Houston-based Sithe Global Power and a Navajo power authority. (See Associated Press story, below.)

And I didn’t realize until today that my Bizarro world alter ego, Frank Maisano, is involved!

This is a classic clash. Its resolution may say a lot about our energy future.

Anyway, I offer this for what it is worth. I believe it is a story well worth monitoring. For more, also see
http://www.desert-rock-blog.com/


**
Protest continues, court grants access to proposed power plant site
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN Associated Press Writer 21 December 2006
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The dirt road winds through desert grasslands and over sandstone outcroppings before it ends -- sooner than expected -- at a camp built by Navajos who refer to themselves as the "resisters."
For more than a week, they have blocked the road to the site of a $3 billion coal-fired power plant planned by the Navajo Nation's Dine Power Authority and Houston-based Sithe Global Power.
They see the Desert Rock Energy Project as a threat to tribal resources, the environment and cultural landmarks that dot northwestern New Mexico.
"We're here to stay," Lucy Willie, vice president of the Dooda Desert Rock Committee, told supporters on an Internet blog site Wednesday.
But Sithe and DPA officials plan on staying, too.
They were granted a court order Wednesday that allows access to the site to continue survey work for an environmental impact statement. The study, along with an air permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is needed before construction can began.
Sithe and DPA had no choice but to seek the order, said spokesman Frank Maisano.
"We do this with some regret because it's important that people have their voice heard but it's also necessary and imperative that we continue to move the process forward," he said.
The public comment period for the EIS takes time. But more importantly, Maisano said, the Navajos will not see any economic benefits until the plant is built.
"It's not Sithe's building of the plant getting pushed back," he said. "What's getting pushed back is the building permit fees, the construction jobs, the royalties and water payments."
With the court order, Maisano said contractors planned to return to the site Thursday.
Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. traveled to the site this week to meet with the resisters. He told the group the plant is desperately needed. Many Navajos live without running water and electricity and jobs are scarce on the reservation.
Shirley believes Desert Rock can help by bringing hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues and royalty payments.
"My people are struggling," he said Tuesday. "... I will continue to work on this to try to help my people. I have a heart for my people."
But Shirley's words have not swayed the group.
The resisters continue to criticize Desert Rock on blog sites and with a video posted on YouTube.com. They describe the project as "an act of terrorism" and say the plant would only add to the emissions of two existing coal-fired plants in the region.
Sithe has assured Shirley and other Navajo leaders that Desert Rock will be one of the cleanest plant with its high-tech pollution control systems.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bush holiday gifts to polluters just keep on coming

It's been a dizzying array of gifts to industry from the Bush administration in the past two weeks -- new deals for cement plants, hopes for lead smelters, a big win for the oil industry, weaker chemical reporter requirements, and on and on.

And the gifts just keep on coming.

The latest is a new proposal that would permit weaker requirements for industries the spew out toxic air pollutants.

It's more than a little technical (for details, see the EPA proposal at
http://www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/t3/fr_notices/oiai_fin122006.pdf ).

Bottom line: it's yet another political gift to polluting industries.

EcoTalk explores "Santa" Cheney's gifts to polluter pals

The picture alone is worth checking this out: http://www.ecotalkblog.com/

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chamber of Commerce lives up to its reputation -- joins black-hat lawsuit against EPA's already weak particle soot standards

Last week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce held a press conference to claim that dirty air problems in the U.S. were caused by pollution from places as far-flung as Africa.

Now the other shoe has dropped. The Chamber – a consistent foe of clean air controls – has joined an industry lawsuit to try to invalidate the already-weak EPA standards for particle soot.

Other litigants include power companies, the steel industry, the paper industry, the cement industry, corn refiners [weren’t the corn people supposed to be good guys?], the National Association of Manufacturers and others polluter groups.

Health and environmental groups led by the American Lung Association have also gone to court seeking tighter standards, as have 13 states and the District of Columbia, led New York State Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Will Bush administration try to censor an international watchdog agency?

There have been plenty of stories about various efforts by the Bush administration to censor government scientists on environmental issues. (Indeed, don’t be surprised if health and environmental groups sue soon over the scientifically weak EPA standards for particle soot. These standards were politically manipulated. And now the Bush administration is seeking to muzzle EPA scientists.)

But would the Bush administration also try to censor an international watchdog agency?

We may find out as soon as next week, when the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), the international watchdog organization set up under NAFTA, meets to consider complaints filed by both U.S. and Canadian citizen groups concerned about mercury pollution from coal-burning electric power plants.

The groups, including Sierra Club of the U.S. and Canada, have asked the CEC to develop a “factual record” – that is, launch an in-depth investigation – of their claims that the U.S. government has failed to enforce provisions of the Clean Water Act designed to protect lakes, streams and rivers.

The U.S. government has bristled at these claims, but the Commission’s professional staff believes the issue is worth further investigation. (A summary of their report is below.)

Now the decision is up to the political leaders of the CEC – representatives of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. They are supposed to meet soon on this issue, perhaps as early as next week.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the U.S. reiterated its opposition – and sought to squelch further scrutiny by the international body. But will Mexico or Canada go along? (The investigation would be killed if either country joined the U.S. in a vote on this.)

A little other quick background: In the 12-year history of the CEC, the three NAFTA countries have never killed a citizen request like this. (Under the NAFTA agreement, citizens in each country are supposed to have the opportunity to petition for and receive factual information from the CEC Secretariat in a transparent and independent process regarding instances where legitimate questions are raised about a NAFTA country's failure to enforce its own environmental laws. The Commission has documented that these investigations have led to environmental improvements in both Canada and Mexico.)

Killing this investigation might set a serious precedent that could undermine other bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements the US has recently negotiated with Central and South American countries. These new treaties (e.g., CAFTA), include provisions requiring US citizens who are alleging a failure of the US to enforce its domestic environmental laws to petition the CEC, just as is currently done under NAFTA.

Such an action would be both ironic and hypocritical, since EPA chief Steve Johnson is in Beijing, issuing press releases about the administration’s desire for international cooperation.

Here is the summary of the recommendation by the CEC on this issue:

V. RECOMMENDATION
For the foregoing reasons, the Secretariat considers that the submission, in light of the United
States’ response, warrants the development of a factual record and hereby so informs the
Council. As discussed in detail above, a factual record is warranted to develop and present
information regarding Submitters’ assertions that EPA is failing to effectively enforce §§ 303
and 402 of the CWA in the ten highlighted states by issuing or renewing NPDES permits (or
allowing states to issue or renew such permits) that allow for point source discharges of
mercury that do not comply with, or that cause or contribute to non-attainment of, the water
quality criteria for mercury in the receiving waterbodies. The Secretariat also recommends
that a factual record be developed to examine EPA’s actions with respect to the development
of mercury TMDLs for mercury-impaired waterways in the ten states of concern, except
where pending litigation or consent decrees are addressing mercury TMDLs.
Developing a factual record on the foreoing issues will serve the goals of the NAAEC by,
inter alia, illuminating the efforts being undertaken to promote pollution prevention policies
and practices, fostering the protection and improvement of the environment for the well-being
of present and future generations, and enhancing compliance with environmental laws and
regulations.181 These objectives are particularly important in light of the serious harmful
effects of mercury on environmental and human health, particularly that of children and
pregnant women, which both the submission and the response acknowledge. Accordingly, in
accordance with Article 15(1), and for the reasons set forth in this document, the Secretariat
informs the Council of its determination that the purposes of the NAAEC would be well
served by developing a factual record regarding the submission.
Respectfully submitted on this 5th day of December 2005.
Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation
(original signed)
per: William V. Kennedy
Executive Director
181 See NAAEC Article 1.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Holiday gifts to polluters

Which polluters are getting gifts from the Bush administration this holiday season, even though they've been naughty?

See commentary at http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/12/14/holiday_gifts_for_polluters.php

Did political deal in Congress contribute to fatal Milwaukee explosion?

National rules don't require inspection of propane tanks, pipes

By CARRIE ANTLFINGER Associated Press Writer
14 December 2006

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Guidelines covering propane tanks and pipes nationwide do not require inspections or tests by any government agency once they're installed, no matter how old the systems might be.

And efforts to regulate propane on the federal level failed in the 1990s when Congress passed a law preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from requiring propane facilities to come up with risk management plans. The law was sponsored by an Oklahoma senator who received campaign donations from the propane industry.

A blast following a propane leak at a Milwaukee warehouse last week leveled the building, killed three people and injured dozens. Workers were testing a backup propane system that is more than 30 years old.

One Wisconsin lawmaker now says more regulation of propane systems is needed.

State Rep. Pedro Colon, a Democrat who represents the district where the explosion occurred, said he didn't know propane tanks and pipes were not inspected.

"That's amazing. That's amazing, especially because it's terribly flammable," Colon said.

"I guess we are going to have to go and create the rule, because if we didn't do it before the explosion, we should do it now," he said.

Without federal oversight, regulation is left to the states, which have adopted variations of guidelines set by the National Fire Protection Association. States also delegate responsibility in some cases to municipalities.

Ted Lemoff, a principle gases engineer at the association, said those rules cover installation of tanks and pipes but there is no requirement for governmental agencies to reinspect or retest those used for propane and other liquefied petroleum gases -- even if they date back to World War II. The tanks and pipes are built to last, he said.

Companies must maintain them, and workers who fill the tanks are required to check them, Lemoff said. Problems are usually detected when someone smells propane, checks the propane level or notices dead vegetation killed by leaking gas.

The association is open to amending its guidelines, he said.

"Normally they don't go and look for what might go wrong, but they react to incidents that they become aware of," Lemoff said.

State and federal authorities are still investigating the blast at Milwaukee's Falk Corp. Jeffrey Remsik, a spokesman for the company's mechanical contractor, said his workers were observing the annual operational test when they smelled and saw liquid propane coming from underground.

Evan Zeppos, a Falk spokesman, said he didn't have the details on what is done during the annual test, but it was conducted to "ensure it is properly operating and in good condition."
Neither the state of Wisconsin or the city of Milwaukee requires regular tests or inspections of propane systems.

Lemoff, of the national fire association, said states and municipalities can add regulations to his group's guidelines when they establish their codes, but he knew of none that require inspections of propane pipes and tanks.

The city of Milwaukee used to inspect propane tanks -- but not pipes -- every three years, said Todd Weiler, spokesman for the city Department of Neighborhood Services. But that stopped in 1999 when a state administrative code was changed to exempt propane tanks from inspections, Weiler said.

State Department of Commerce spokesman Tony Hozeny was unable to find an explanation Wednesday night as to why Wisconsin changed its code.

The same year, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., won passage of legislation preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from requiring propane facilities to develop risk management plans. With 63 other flammable and 77 toxic materials, the EPA requires facilities to detail their chemicals on site, maintenance schedules, and safety and health procedures.

Inhofe said at the time that the legislation was needed to protect small propane dealers and small farmers from the cost of complying with a 1996 EPA rule that would have required risk management plans of facilities keeping 10,000 pounds or more of propane in a tank or set of interconnected tanks. The EPA engaged in "regulatory overreaching" by requiring propane facilities come up with plans, Inhofe said.

Federal Election Commission records show he received $3,398 in monetary and in-kind contributions from the National Propane Gas Association's political action committee during the 1999-2000 election cycle.

Robert Baylor, communications director of the National Propane Gas Association, said it fought the EPA, even filing a lawsuit, because its rules would have duplicated the National Fire Protection Association's guidelines. The NPGA claimed EPA oversight would have cost the industry $1 billion in paperwork and not improved safety.

"If you are going to spend a billion dollars to improve safety, spend it on something that is going to be meaningful," Baylor said.

But Jim Belke, a chemical engineer who worked on the EPA rules, said they included additional requirements, such as a worst-case scenario analysis, an accident history report and a risk management plan submitted to EPA.

Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental group, said the guidelines devised by the fire association aren't adequate. He also called Inhofe's law "foolhardy."

"The industry sued to be exempt from safety requirements, and then Senator Inhofe jumped in and gave them a special deal," he said. "And now you have a disaster as a possible consequence that ought to be investigated."

After being questioned by the Associated Press, Inhofe, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, issued a statement this week. He expressed sympathy for the Milwaukee blast victims.

O'Donnell "is apparently making wild accusations that a bill that I wrote, that passed the Senate and was signed into law by President Clinton back in 1999, is somehow responsible," he said. "This claim is simply untrue, despicable and trivializes the losses of those who suffered and died in the explosion."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Chamber of Commerce makes foreign countries scapegoat for our pollution problems

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is at it again. One of America's most persistent opponents of effective clean air controls, the business lobby has cooked up a new strategy: blame our pollution problems on emissions from other countries.

It's an obvious attempt to shift the blame about pollution caused by the chamber's members.

It's not the first time this stunt has been tried. Earlier this year, a Senate panel heard from a Georgia official who claimed that some of her state's pollution problems originated in Africa.

But Cox News Service investigated, and found no evidence to support her claim.
http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2006/07/example-of-dying-art-real-journalism.html

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

EPA oks California lawnmower standards; Kit Bond finally loses; what's next?

We’ve had enough bad news from EPA in recent days: EPA considers dropping lead standard; EPA downgrades role of scientists; EPA gives sweetheart deal to cement makers.

So it’s heartening to learn that something good does happen occasionally.

In this case, it’s EPA decision to approve California’s request to set better clean air standards for lawnmowers and other small engines.

Those of you who have followed this story will recall that it is the latest chapter in four-year saga pitting California’s desire for cleaner air against special interest polluter Briggs & Stratton and its Senate spear carrier, Kit Bond (R-MO).

These opponents of clean air finally backed down in the face of compelling evidence by California that the standards were needed and easily achievable. From what we’ve heard, it didn’t hurt that retailers such as WalMart expressed the desire to sell cleaner products.

This is a real victory for California breathers.

Now it’s time for EPA to follow through with its promise to set national standards that mirror the California standards. (Recall that Congress rolled over to Kit Bond’s play to take away the right of other states to adopt California’s standards.)

It’s time for EPA to follow up by approving California’s greenhouse gas emission standards for motor vehicles.

We’ve got one significant victory here for states’ rights. Now it’s time for another.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cement industry gets early Christmas present from EPA


The Bush administration has given the cement industry an early Christmas present. This is a dirty business, and it will stay dirty under these new EPA rules.

EPA has just announced new toxic pollution standards from cement plants. The agency actually approved this rule (under a court order) last Friday, but it took them this long to come up with some “spin” to try justifying another giveaway to industry.

Below is a link to information on the November 30, 2006 meeting that the cement industry had with the White House Office of Management and Budget to make a last-minute plea to avoid tough new requirements.

Industry won hands down.

Cement plants will not have to use wet scrubbers to limit toxic mercury emissions, even though some plants already use them. EPA also ducked setting standards for toxic hydrogen chloride emissions – another favor sought by the cement makers.

Here is the documentation of the White House OMB meeting, from the White House web site:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2060/meetings/570.html

NY Times editorial flays Bush EPA for latest air scandal

Muzzling Those Pesky Scientists

Published: December 11, 2006

The Environmental Protection Agency disclosed last week that it had revised — stood on their head is more like it — procedures it has used for 25 years to set standards for air pollutants like soot and lead. The administration said the change will streamline decision making. Perhaps it will. It will also have the further effect of decreasing the role of science in policy making while increasing the influence of the agency’s political appointees.

This is disheartening, but not surprising. Whether the issue is birth control or global warming or clean air, this administration has already acquired a special place in regulatory history for the audacity with which it has manipulated or muzzled science (and in some cases individual scientists) that might discomfit its industrial allies or interfere with its political agenda.

The E.P.A. is required every five years to review scientific research and set new exposure levels for six pollutants identified as hazardous to human health. Normally, recommendations are first solicited from two groups of scientists: professional staff members inside the agency and independent outside scientists. Those recommendations are then sent to the department’s senior officers — nearly all political appointees — who shape departmental policy and then send it to the White House and Office of Management and Budget for clearance.

Under the new process, initial reviews will be done by staff scientists and political appointees, who together will produce a synopsis of “policy-relevant” science — which sounds ominously like science tailored to predetermined policy outcomes. The independent scientists, meanwhile, will be frozen out until the very end, when they will be allowed to comment on proposals that will have already generated considerable momentum.

The betting among environmental groups is that these new procedures will lead to weaker air quality standards more in keeping with industry objectives — indeed, the American Petroleum Institute is already claiming credit for some of the changes. The new procedures will also help spare the agency the sort of public embarrassment it suffered in October, when its final standards for soot turned out to be far weaker than those recommended earlier (and virtually unanimously) by its staff scientists and the outside consultants.

Under the new process, when the E.P.A. considers how it will set air pollution standards, the only debate it will have is with itself.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Haymaker from Boxer

New Senate chair to probe EPA air policy


Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Senate's incoming environmental committee chairwoman on Friday criticized a new EPA policy that reduces the role of scientists in setting air pollution standards.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the policy politicizes decision-making and may run counter to the Clean Air Act. She said it will be the focus of her first oversight hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee when Democrats take control of Congress next month.

"EPA has taken a dangerous turn in this plan. Instead of basing health standards on the best science they will now inject politics into the entire process, basically from start to finish," Boxer told reporters.

An EPA official said the new process would streamline a cumbersome review process and adhere to the highest scientific standards.

"Under the old process EPA never met congressionally mandated deadlines for setting air quality standards, under the old process scientific and policy judgments were intermingled, under the old process the science was two-years-old by the time it got to the administrator," said Deputy EPA Administrator Marcus Peacock.

At issue are standards for the six most dangerous air pollutants: ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and lead. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review standards for those pollutants every five years.

Under the current process, career EPA staffers compile scientific information on the pollutants that is reviewed by an independent group of science advisers. The EPA staffers then finalize their review in a paper that includes options for changing the standards.

The process announced Thursday would eliminate the staff paper, replacing it with a policy assessment reflecting the views of high-level political appointees. The independent advisers wouldn't get to comment on the policy assessment until it is published in the Federal Register.
Scientific views would be reflected in a separate document that wouldn't offer recommendations for changes to the standards.

The new process reflects suggestions from the American Petroleum Institute, an industry lobby, and has been angrily criticized by environmental groups. Some recommendations of the independent science advisers also are adopted.

The announcement of the new process followed a controversial decision this fall to set new safety standards for soot and dust that ignored some recommendations from science advisers.

On the Net:

EPA air division:
Clean Air Watch:
www.epa.gov/oar/oaqps/
www.cleanairwatch.org/

Update on dirty dealing at EPA: Boxer to throw a punch, and more...

We understand that Senator Barbara Boxer, the incoming chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is planning to explore the Bush administration’s dirty deal to interject more politics into the process of setting clean air standards.

We look forward to her scrutiny of this situation. Congressman Henry Waxman issued a critical statement on this yesterday afternoon, following the near-incoherent EPA presentation. (It is pretty tough to spin such a vile action.) We hope she will look into the role of Bush EPA political appointee Brian Mannix, husband of Susan Dudley, whose nomination as chief OMB regulatory czar is now in limbo.

This dirty deal was cooked up by the oil industry. It will politicize the process for setting clean air standards. It is meant to weaken the influence of EPA career experts and that of EPA’s independent scientists, and give industry (and its friends at OMB) more clout to block effective standards.

As the California Air Resources Board noted earlier, it could mean weaker public health standards in the future.

Be prepared for another Friday afternoon outrage from EPA: This one involves toxic pollution standards for mercury spewing from cement plants. It is possible to significantly reduce mercury by scrubbing it. If EPA doesn’t require this (and recall that the cement lobby was visiting with the White House on this just last week http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2060/meetings/570.html ), this will be another special interest deal by the Bush administration.

And one more in the pipeline: Note that the chemical industry went to the White House this week, apparently to plead for weak toxic pollution standards http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2060/meetings/575.html

Usually people from EPA are invited to such meetings, at least to listen to what the industry whiners are telling OMB. No one from EPA is recorded to have been present in this case – perhaps a sign that EPA has become such a creature of the White House that it is now viewed as irrelevant.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Details on EPA's industry-friendly changes to the process for setting clean air standards

Here is the link to the memo EPA put out today:
http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/memo_process_for_reviewing_naaqs.pdf

Key excerpts:


*Policy Assessment/Rulemaking : Following the ISA and the Risk/Exposure Assessment, the Agency will develop a policy assessment that reflects the Agency's
views, consistent with EPA's practice in other rulemakings . This document, in conjunction with the ISA and the Risk/Exposure Assessment, will replace the Staff
Paper. Moreover, the policy assessment should identify conceptual evidence- and risk-based approaches for reaching policy judgments, discuss what the science and
risk/exposure assessments say about the adequacy of the current standards, and present any preliminary risk/exposure information associated with alternative
standards . This policy assessment should also describe a range of options for standard setting, in terms of indicators, averaging times, form, and ranges of levels
for any alternative standards, along with a description of the alternative underlying interpretations of the scientific evidence and risk/exposure information that might
support such alternative standards and that could be considered by the Administrator in making NAAQS decisions. Such an assessment should help to "bridge the gap"
between the Agency's scientific assessment and the judgments required of the Administrator in determining whether it is appropriate to retain or revise the standards .
This policy assessment should be published in the Federal Register as an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), with supporting documents placed in the
rulemaking record as appropriate. The use of an ANPR will provide an opportunity for both CASAC and the public to evaluate the policy options under consideration
and offer detailed comments and recommendations to inform the development of a proposed rule. Issuance of a proposed and final rule will complete the rulemaking
process.

Quick translation of this gobbledygook: EPA is downgrading the role of its own career experts and making sure that political appointees are running the show from the beginning. EPA is discarding the important “staff paper” (which has been written by agency career staffers) and replacing it with the “policy assessment.” As Bush political appointee William Wehrum said during today’s teleconference, this policy assessment will “reflect management’s views.”

This move will also downgrade the status of EPA’s independent science advisers. Instead of having the unique role of critiquing the “staff paper,” as they have in the past, the scientists will be allowed to comment on the “policy assessment” on an equal footing with industry lobbies. It is little wonder that the oil industry pushed for exactly this sort of “reform” to the process.

The whole purpose of this exercise is to make sure that EPA’s career experts don’t embarrass the politically appointed head of EPA again, as they did in the case of the fine-particle soot standards.

Dudley Dumped!

Both Federal Times and BNA's Daily Environment Report are reporting that Susan Dudley's nomination as White House regulatory czarina is dead.

As we have been reporting for months, Dudley is a diehard opponent of effective federal health, environmental and safety standards.

Putting her in charge of all federal regulations would have been like making comedian Michael Richards the head of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

Here is the BNA story:

Dudley OMB Nomination Dies in Senate

The nomination of Susan E. Dudley to become regulatory chief at the Office of Management and Budget is effectively dead in the current Congress, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Dec. 6, citing a lack of support for Dudley in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. "It appears there is no Democratic support on the committee for Susan Dudley," Collins, the committee chairman, told BNA, adding, "If that's the case, it's pointless for the committee to hold a vote." Without a committee vote, the nomination will not go to the Senate floor and will expire when the 109th Congress adjourns, likely by Dec. 8. Collins declined to say whether Republicans on the committee also objected to the nomination, but it appeared that Dudley had failed to win the support of a committee majority since her appearance before the panel at her confirmation hearing in November (234 DEN A-9, 12/6/06

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rep. Waxman to EPA: lead proposal "dangerous"

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), one of Congress's biggest clean-air defenders, has jumped on the EPA for suggesting that it might eliminate national clean air standards for lead.

"I am urging you to renounce this dangerous proposal immediately," Waxman said in a letter today to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson.

EPA raised the prospect of killing the lead standard -- a move sought by the lead smelting lobby -- in a release and fact sheet yesterday. EPA also disclosed that it was changing the entire process for setting clean air standards -- something sought by the oil industry.

Waxman alluded to this in his letter: "I have heard serious concern from within the agency that under your leadership, EPA is considering taking additional deregulatory actions that may harm public health in the weeks ahead."

More on the EPA action on the Air America Radio/Ecotalk program at http://www.ecotalkblog.com/

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

EPA will use lead rule to break in new oil industry scheme for setting clean-air standards

Well, EPA made it official this afternoon. It is changing the process for how it sets national clean air standards.

We reported on this late yesterday amid a buzz in industry circles. (EPA is adopting a scheme sought by the oil industry to reduce the role of science -- and increase the role of political appointees -- in setting standards.)

EPA quietly made the revelation in a fact sheet put out this afternoon about the agency's ongoing review of national clean air standards for lead.
http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/pb/data/pb_sp_fs_120506.pdf

"The agency is now moving forward to implement a new, more efficient process" for conducting air-standard reviews, is how the agency pols are trying to spin this.

No wonder the industry guys are delighted!

This lead issue is another one worth watching because the lead smelting industry is trying to do away with the standard altogether.

EPA says it hasn't made up its mind about that idea yet. Any bets on what the industry-friendly agency pols are thinking now that they are wresting control away from the career scientists?

Monday, December 04, 2006

EPA about to take a dive for oil industry, downgrade science, politicize the process for setting of national clean air standards

We have learned that the U.S. EPA is about to announce a significant policy change regarding the way the agency sets national clean air standards.

The new approach will downgrade the role of EPA’s science advisers, who recently urged the agency to set tougher national clean air standards for soot and more recently for smog. Perhaps this is the ultimate Bush administration payback for the attempts by the science advisers to base clean air standards on science. (Which they are supposed to be).

EPA’s new approach will politicize the process for setting clean-air standards. It will boost the role of political appointees at the agency. (Yes, the same guys like Brian Mannix and Bill Werhum, who fought against significantly tougher clean-air standards for particle soot.)

This appears to be the first in a series of industry-friendly moves by the Bush EPA before the new Congress is installed.

The agency will adopt the strategy urged by the oil industry, which has sought for months to downgrade the influence of EPA’s science advisers as part of the industry strategy to prevent tougher clean-air requirements. Under this new approach, the science advisers will be permitted to comment on EPA “advanced notices” of proposed rules, just like anyone else. That’s a huge change from the status quo. Right now, the independent scientists have a far more active role as they interact frequently with EPA career scientists.

We are told the biggest advocate for this change is Brian Mannix, the ex-Mercatus Center alum who, coincidentally, is married to Susan Dudley, the Bush administration’s nominee as White House regulatory czarina. (The oil industry is among the polluters that pours money into Mercatus.)

Background on the change in agency direction can be found at the bottom half of this page: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/ Last June, Clean Air Watch and the American Lung Association argued in a public meeting against the plan promoted by the oil industry.

The oil industry recommendation is contained on page 71-76 of this document:

http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/naaqs_process_report_march2006_attachments.pdf

EPA is also about to release a staff assessment regarding lead. The lead smelting industry is arguing in favor of eliminating the standard altogether.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ex-Bush air man, now with Giuliani law firm, claims credit for Bush global warming stance

A most interesting exchange on this week's "Living on Earth" program, in a piece that correspondent Jeff Young produced on the Supreme Court case on global warming

Young interviewed Jeffrey Holmstead, formerly head of EPA's air pollution program, who recently joined the BracewellGIULIANI law firm (yes -- the named partner is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is exploring a presidential bid) .

BracewellGIULIANI is one of the most active (and influential) law/lobbying firms opposing limits on global warming emissions. Its clients include the oil industry, Southern Company (a real power house in D.C. political circles) and TXU, which is trying to fast-track about a dozen new coal-burning power plants in Texas.

Young asked BracewellGIULIANI partner Holmstead about his expectations for the Supreme Court case. Here is a partial transcript:

But one former EPA official is confident the agency's decision not to act on greenhouse gases will stand. Until last year, Jeff Holmstead was EPA's chief of Air issues.

HOLMSTEAD: It was the decision that I recommended and I think it's the right decision and I think the Supreme Court will say that as well.

YOUNG: And what do you do now?

HOLMSTEAD: I just started work, I'm a partner with the firm Bracewell and Giuliani.

YOUNG: Yes, that's the same firm that represents power companies. But Holmstead says there's nothing wrong with his move from government regulator to representing the regulated.

HOLMSTEAD: I, I'm not sure why, uh, people have tried to make something of that. But people have to have jobs. And that's the way it works.

YOUNG: The court is expected to rule by the summer. For living on Earth, I'm Jeff Young, at the Supreme Court.

The entire transcript is at http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.htm?programID=06-P13-00048&segmentID=3

You have to note there is some real irony here: Giuliani's New York City is one of the key participants asking the Supreme Court to rule that EPA has authority to limit greenhouse gases.

Yet his law firm has recruited, in a classic case of the revolving door syndrome, the very guy who is claiming at least partial credit for the Bush position.

You do have to wonder if Giuliani will become squeamish about his firm's activities if his nascent presidential bid gains any traction.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Cement industry makes 11th-hour pitch to White House to avoid cleanup of toxic mercury

With an EPA decision looming, the cement industry has done what industries often do – go to the White House to plea for a break. In this case, the industry is lobbying the White House Office of Management and Budget against any possible EPA plan to clean up toxic mercury from cement plants.

Representatives of the Portland Cement Association and the Ash Grove Cement Company met yesterday to bring their concerns to the White House.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2060/meetings/570.html

I think it’s deplorable that the cement industry would spend its resources lobbying the White House rather than cleaning up the toxic mess it makes. The cement industry spews huge amounts of mercury into the air.

In its proposal last December, EPA had declared that mercury controls for cement plants were “not justified” and that cleanup technology was not available.

The industry-friendly proposal created a firestorm of protest from environmental groups like Earthjustice and Sierra Club as well as from state and local clean-air agencies and the trade association of the pollution control equipment industry (which noted that it was indeed technically possible to clean up mercury from cement plants).

EPA also proposed an exemption for emissions of toxic hydrogen chloride under the questionable legal theory that it posed little risk to public health. Health and environmental groups have charged that such an exemption is illegal.

In yesterday’s White House meeting, the cement industry reiterated its desire for an exemption.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Updates: The looming smog scandal, and a victory for the good guys

TomPaine.com has published a new commentary on the other climate disaster -- the state of the air we breathe.

http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/11/30/the_other_climate_disaster.php

But we do have a victory. Today's Washington Post reports that the EPA has backed away from plans to weaken corporate reporting requirements for toxic chemicals.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/29/AR2006112901306.html

Clean Air Watch was among those who had assailed the ill-conceived plan.

http://cleanairwatchpressroom.blogspot.com/2006/05/with-congress-set-to-vote-new.html

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia doesn't want to deal with global warming

During today's oral arguments on global warming, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was quizzing James Mikey, assistant attorney general for Massachusetts, which is the lead challenger against the Bush administration's declaration that it doesn't have authority to deal with global warming. We pick up the case in progress:

JUSTICE SCALIA: That isn't, that isn't -- your assertion is that after the pollutant leaves the air and goes up into the stratosphere it is contributing to global warming.

MR. MILKEY: Respectfully, Your Honor, it is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist.
(Laughter.)

JUSTICE SCALIA: That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth….

[The full transcript of the arguments can be found at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/05-1120.pdf

Inhofe's last hurrah: blame THE MEDIA for global warming

While many eyes are focused on this morning’s arguments about global warming at the Supreme Court, global warming’s biggest friend is already planning ahead.

Clean Air Watch has learned that Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the soon-to-be-deposed chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is planning one last hurrah, and it’s going to be a doozy:

Inhofe is planning a hearing next week (likely Wednesday, Dec. 6). The theme is “global warming and the media.” Yes, Inhofe is planning to blame the media for its role in informing the public about global warming.

Bashing the media is often the last resort of a floundering politician.

(Shades of Tricky Dick Nixon: who can forget his great line: “you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore?”)

And Inhofe seems to be on the verge of a plunge into historic obscurity. (California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently suggested Inhofe exhibited “stone age” thinking. Senator John Warner of Virginia is challenging Inhofe for the post of top Republican on the environment panel. (My money’s on Warner.) And at least one conservative think tank writer is already suggesting that Inhofe may retire in two years. http://thehill.com/thehill/export/TheHill/Comment/JohnFortier/112906.html)

Back to the media-bashing hearing. We understand that likely Inhofe witnesses could include:

David Deming – an adjunct scholar with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-wing “think tank” underwritten by ExxonMobil and other opponents of limits on global warming emissions.

Bob Carter – an Australian scientist and frequent contributor to Tech Central Station (yes, ExxonMobil puts money into it, too).

Dan Gainor – an analyst with the conservative Media Research Center’s “Business and Media Institute,” funded by right-wing foundations, who blasted the Fox News Channel last year for a documentary on global warming. http://www.businessandmedia.org/commentary/2005/com20051116.asp (Yes – he smacked around the reliably right-wing Fox for daring to deviate from its usual position as “the best network for coverage of the global warming debate.”)

We don’t know who the Democrats are thinking about calling as witnesses, but perhaps they should consider a couple of media-savvy people with common sense:

--Gov. Schwarzenegger, who ripped Inhofe last Sunday on Meet the Press: “There's always in history been people that are back with their thinking in the Stone Age. And I think that the key thing for us is, is to not pay any attention to those things, because as I said, the science is in, we know the facts, there's not any more debate as to global warming or not. We have global warming and the fact also is that we can do something about it. We can slow it down or we can stop it, but only if everyone is working together.”

--Sports Illustrated writer and NBC football analyst Peter King (work with me here, folks): http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/peter_king/11/26/hof.receivers/6.html

“I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:…

No global warming, huh? Why will we be able to go tanning outside today in New Jersey? And why, on the last day of the 11th month of the year, will it be 66 degrees outside?”

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bush team tries to put Humpty Dumpty together to help industry


You may recall the important decision last March by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The court struck down an effort by the Bush administration to carve out a huge new loophole for the coal-burning electric power industry.

In that unanimous decision, the court said that the Bush argument would make sense “only in a Humpty-Dumpty world.”

Well, the administration is trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. It is urging the Supreme Court to consider and overturn the case. The electric power industry has been agitating for this move for many weeks.

You’ve got to give the administration points for consistency. It also is arguing the industry position in the big separate case before the Supreme Court this week on global warming.

News notes: a Supreme Court showdown, and much more

A few items worth keeping in mind as we all recover from the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Supreme Showdown: The Supreme Court hears a landmark case this Wednesday on global warming. At issue: does the U.S. EPA have legal authority to regulate global warming pollution. This case could prove crucial in determining how and when greenhouse gas emissions are controlled. This case should also be of particular interest for California and the 10 other states that have adopted California’s global warming emission standards for motor vehicles. For more, see http://www.cleancarscampaign.org/web-content/legal/supremeCourt.html

Global Gasbagger: You may recall last summer that AP science correspondent Seth Borenstein wrote a fascinating piece about electric power industry attempts to raise money for Patrick Michaels, the Cato Institute senior fellow who is one of the “professional doubters” on global warming. Well, Michaels is back in action this week, given the proverbial soapbox by – who else? – the big polluters who make up the Western Business Roundtable and host an annual business festival of access buying. http://www.westernroundtable.com/2007_Summit/default.asp

Duke Dupers? The spin meisters at Duke Energy have been working overtime in recent weeks to green up the corporate image. (The company always says it favors doing something on global warming – until a specific bill comes up for a vote!) In case you missed it, over the recent holiday weekend, AP correspondent Pete Yost filed a most interesting story noting concerns that Duke’s lawyer tried to deceive the Supreme Court in its recent case on new source review. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/nation/20061124-0028-scotus-powercompanies.html

Wood Worries: The New Haven Register has an interesting piece out today http://www.nhregister.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=17515591&BRD=1281&PAG=461&dept_id=31007&rfi=6 on the potential pollution dangers of outdoor wood boilers. (We have a copy of the report cited here if you’d like it.) Wood boilers pose an emerging pollution problem in states where they have begun to proliferate. You may recall we flagged this issue earlier after reports by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2006/03/growing-air-pollution-threat-from-wood.html

This is potentially a good science piece that would be relevant in many states, especially in the Northeast, upper Midwest and parts of the West

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Annual Business Festival of Access Buying heads for the hills (Oops -- they forgot the Democrats)


You may recall that in years past, the Western Business Roundtable, run by former Dick Cheney aide Jim Sims, has organized an annual winter meeting in Arizona to encourage business leaders to booze it up and golf with prominent politicos.

(Who can ever forget the wonderful “Mulligans and Margaritas” political fundraiser? http://www.uschamber.com/EVENTS/VIEWEVENT.ASP?EVENTID=214 )

And now, yes, it’s time once again for The Annual Business Festival of Access Buying (ABFAB!), an opportunity for big polluters to buy access to policy makers in the privacy of a fancy resort. The fun starts November 27.

http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2005/01/polluters-buy-access-to-policy-makers.html

The sponsors of these political orgies have taken some heat for these adventures in bad taste, and so this year, they are heading for the hills – to be precise, the “Business-Government Summit of the Year” will take place amid “unrivaled luxury” at the Ritz Carlton ski resort in Beaver Creek, Colorado. http://www.regonline.com/Checkin.asp?EventId=108293

Yes, the meeting will still feature “many opportunities for public-private sector ideas exchange.” http://www.westernroundtable.com/2007_Summit/default.asp

Among the other “summit” features:

--“The Great Climate Change Debate” featuring Cato Institute fellow Patrick Michaels, on whose behalf industry has passed the hat to make sure he can continue to confuse the climate science debate with industry-friendly nonsense;

--an address by James Connaughton, the chief apologist of the Bush environmental policy;

--a review of the 2006 elections by meeting co-sponsor BIPAC, the political action committee that seeks to elect pro-business candidates to Congress. (BIPAC got thumped in the elections, by the way: its favorites got blown away in six out of seven Senate races.
http://www.bipac.org/candidates/current.asp )

-- a "Sneak Peak At The 2007 Congressional Agenda showing what we can expect in 2007 from Congressional leaders."

STOP THE PRESSES!

What “Congressional leaders?” In case the event sponsors weren’t looking, the Democrats captured Congress.


**

The meeting will also feature the “public launch” of a new effort to promote more coal mining and coal burning in the West.

This looks to be an anti-environmental initiative hiding behind green rhetoric. It is going to be looking for federal funding to underwrite dubious ventures such as coal-to-liquid production.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Power plant toxins linked to death of Texans



Texas Governor Rick Perry really loves a smokestack (see above), but a new study concludes that pollution from the 19 new coal-fired power plants proposed around the state will lead to the premature deaths of roughly 240 Texans a year.

The analysis, released by Public Citizen's Texas office and the Austin-based SEED Coalition, is the latest volley in the battle over the future of Texas' energy.

As noted in today's San Antonio Express:


On the one side are power companies who want to build a new fleet of coal plants, and Gov. Rick Perry, who has ordered state agencies to fast-track the permits of such plants.


On the other side is a growing list of critics worried about the health effects of new plants and the global warming gasses they will spew. These critics, in addition to many environmental and community groups, include the mayors of some large Texas cities including Dallas and Houston.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The upcoming Supreme Court case on global warming

On Nov. 29, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a major case involving global warming.

Below is some background information provided by the Clean Cars Campaign (http://www.cleancarscampaign.org/ ) of which Clean Air Watch is proud to be a member:


The Supreme Court Global Warming Case
Massachusetts v. EPA

On June 26, 2006, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Clean Air Act authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the greenhouse gases (“GHGs”) that cause global warming. Challenging EPA’s position that it has no such authority is a coalition of nearly 30 states, cities, and environmental organizations. (A complete list of these Petitioners, and all other documents referred to herein, can be found at
http://www.sierraclub.org/environmentallaw/lawsuits/viewCase.asp?id=316.)

While the case directly concerns EPA’s authority over motor vehicle GHG emissions, it has strong implications for California (which has set its own GHG limits for motor vehicles) and the 10 other states that have adopted California’s standards. The outcome also will likely determine whether EPA can regulate GHG emissions from power plants and other industries.

The history of this case goes back to 1998 when, in response to a request from former Congressman Tom DeLay, EPA’s General Counsel formally opined that the Clean Air Act gives EPA authority to regulate the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. EPA’s opinion was based on the fact that the Act authorizes EPA to regulate emissions of “any air pollutant” that “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” EPA concluded that GHGs are “air pollutants” (defined in the Clean Air Act as “any physical [or] chemical … substance or matter emitted into … the ambient air”), and Congress further defined “welfare” to include “effects on weather and climate.”

In 1999, the Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) led a coalition of environmental groups in petitioning EPA to set emission standards for CO2 and other vehicle GHG emissions. (Vehicle emissions are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., comprising almost 24% of U.S. GHG emissions.) After more than three years without a response, in 2002 CTA and Sierra Club sued EPA to for unreasonably delaying action on the petition. This resulted in EPA’s decision denying the petition, where EPA first reversed its prior position and now asserted that Congress did not intend to give it authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate anything related to global warming, and then said that even if it had such authority, it would not regulate GHGs because it would be bad public policy to do so.

Petitioners challenged this decision, and in July 2005 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit voted 2-1 to let EPA’s decision stand. The panel splintered three ways, producing no majority opinion; Judge Sentelle found that because climate change affects everybody, no one has the “particularized injury” required to establish standing. Judge Randolph assumed the existence of EPA’s authority, but ruled for EPA on its “policy” grounds. Judge Tatel wrote that the Clean Air Act does authorize EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, and that EPA’s “policy reasons” for refusing to do so were not valid under the Clean Air Act.

Given the inconclusive nature of these opinions, the Supreme Court’s decision to take the case was somewhat surprising; the Court usually would have waited for one or more of the other climate change cases percolating through the courts (see below). It appears that the Court recognized the enormous public policy implications of this case, and chose to resolve these issues at the first possible opportunity.

On the question of EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, we have a powerful “plain text” argument that the Clean Air Act explicitly authorizes EPA to protect against adverse effects on “weather or climate.” This statutory question is actually no harder than other recent environmental cases that resulted in favorable -- and unanimous -- decisions. See Whitman v. American Trucking Assns, 531 U.S. 457 (2001) (Scalia, J., upholding national ambient air quality standards); S.D. Warren Co. v. Maine Bd. of Environmental Protection, 126 S.Ct. 1843 (2006) (Souter, J., construing the plain meaning of “discharge” under Clean Water Act).

As to whether EPA may decline to act based on “policy considerations” that are not found anywhere in the statute, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rebuffed agencies that base regulatory decisions on criteria that Congress has not put into the relevant law. Here, Congress said that EPA’s only role is to decide whether the climate change caused by these emissions is “reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” Anxious to avoid that issue, EPA instead relied on factors such as its preference for voluntary action.

If we are successful on both issues, the Supreme Court would send the matter back to EPA with instructions for it to then make the required determination whether greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting climate change is “reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”

The case will be argued on November 29, 2006 and will be decided before June of 2007. This decision will have significant impacts for the other pending global warming cases. First, the auto industry has sued California, arguing that the state’s GHG vehicle standards are illegal. (They have also filed two parallel cases against Vermont and Rhode Island, two of the states that have adopted California’s standards.) If the Court rules favorably on Clean Air Act authority, the states will likely prevail.

The other major climate change case is a challenge by States and environmental groups to EPA’s refusal to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants on the grounds that it lacked Clean Air Act authority to do so. This case will be deferred pending the decision in Massachusetts, which should resolve the issues in this case as well.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Republican smackdown! Warner to challenge Inhofe for top Republican spot on Senate global warming panel

Senator John Warner (R-VA) dropped a bombshell this afternoon, announcing he would try to bump Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) from his perch as the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The panel's new chair, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), has promised hearings on global warming starting in January. Inhofe is infamous for declaring global warming a hoax. Warner has seemed open to some sort of plan to limit global warming pollutants, though he has not backed a specific legislative plan.

Inhofe has vowed to fight to retain his post. Here are their respective statements:

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

For Immediate Release Contact: John Ullyot
November 17, 2006 202-224-6290

SENATOR WARNER TO SEEK ELECTION
AS SENATE EPW COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER

Today, Senator John W. Warner, R-Va., announced that he will seek election as Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) in the next Congress, which begins in January.

Senator Warner is the senior Republican on the Committee, having served on the panel since January 1987.

Senator Warner said, “Many in the media have inquired of my intentions for committee positions in the upcoming Congress, now that I have concluded my Chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in keeping with the six-year term limit established by Republican Conference rules. I intend to remain on the Armed Services Committee as the second-ranking Republican on that panel.

“As the senior Republican on the Senate EPW Committee, I intend to submit my name for election as the Ranking Minority member of that panel. I will do so in recognition of established Senate Republican Conference rules and precedents.

“Under these protocols, Republican Committee members first elect their chairman or ranking member, and their choice is then ratified or rejected by the full Republican Conference. These rules and precedents recognize the seniority of membership on the Committee as the principal factor in making such decisions.

“In the coming weeks, I look forward to working with the new membership of the EPW Committee as it makes this decision for submission to the Republican Conference.”

-- 30 --

CONTACTS: MARC MORANO (202) 224-5762 marc_morano@epw.senate.gov, MATT DEMPSEY (202) 224-9797 matthew_dempsey@epw.senate.gov
SENATOR INHOFE RESPONDS TO SENATOR WARNER’S ANNOUNCEMENT


WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, today stated the following regarding Senator John Warner’s announcement that he will seek election as Ranking Member of the EPW Committee in the next Congress.
“I have long been a friend of John Warner; however, I think he has misunderstood the rules. I intend to retain my leadership position in the 110th Congress, returning as the Ranking Member of the EPW Committee,” Senator Inhofe said.

# # #

In big rebuke to Bush, more than 20 states adopt tougher mercury standards

It's nothing less than a stunning rebuke to President Bush and his politically-managed Environmental Protection Agency.

No fewer than 22 states -- red and blue alike -- are moving forward with tougher controls on mercury from coal-burning electric power plants than sought by the Bush administration.

(States were under a deadline to submit their plan to EPA today.) This development comes the same week as a resolution by the American Medical Association that gave a decisive thumbs-down to the industry-friendly Bush approach.

The tougher state rules are based in large part on a model prepared by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. The association's release is below.

**

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Bill Becker
November 17, 2006 (202) 624-7864 (office)
(301) 806-6111 (cell)

Many State Programs More Stringent than Federal Mercury Rule

Dissatisfied with the federal Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR), adopted by EPA on March 15, 2005, over 20 states have adopted or are pursuing their own plans to address mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. These state plans are calling for such provisions as stronger emission limits, shorter deadlines and limitations on trading, all of which address deficiencies that states have identified in the federal rule.

States are required to submit their mercury plans today – November 17, 2006. They can base their plans on EPA’s model rule (contained in CAMR) or develop their own, more stringent, programs. “State and local clean air agencies are deeply concerned about the serious public health and environmental dangers posed by power plant mercury emissions, and are determined to put in place programs that will provide an adequate measure of protection to the citizens they serve,” said Bill Becker, Executive Director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA). “Many have concluded that the federal mercury rule is simply not up to the task of tackling this tremendous problem. Therefore, nearly half the states in the nation have moved to adopt programs that will yield greater mercury reductions on a faster schedule.” In considering strengthening alternatives to CAMR, many states have relied upon a model rule that NACAA developed in November 2005 to guide them.

While not all state rules have been completed, it is clear that states have adopted or are pursuing a variety of measures to include in their plans, many of them far more stringent than EPA’s program. Based on the latest information, state plans are divided as follows: 22 states have adopted or are pursuing programs significantly more stringent than the federal rule, 24 state programs are largely consistent with the federal model, and the remainder are uncertain or are not required to participate. Among the more stringent state programs, strengthening measures include the following: 15 states call for greater reductions (most in the 80-90-percent range, as compared to 70 percent under CAMR); 18 will require the reductions to be obtained years sooner than under CAMR; and 17 will prohibit or restrict trading of emissions, which is allowed by the federal rule. The following states have adopted or are pursuing more stringent programs:

Arizona
California
Connecticut
Delaware
Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Maine

Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Montana
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York

North Carolina
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Virginia
Washington
Wisconsin

NACAA is the national association of air pollution control agencies in 54 states and territories and over 165 metropolitan areas across the country. The association, until recently, was known as the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators (STAPPA) and the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials (ALAPCO).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A green guide to the new Congress

For a green guide to the new Congress -- and a challenge to Democrats before the current Congress expires -- see

http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/11/16/the_new_congress_a_green_guide.php

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

DaimlerChrysler lobbyist named chief of staff for key House committee

Rep. John Dingell, incoming chairman of the key House Energy and Commerce Committee, today announced that a DaimlerChrysler lobbyist would become the committee's chief of staff in the new Congress.

Dennis Fitzgibbons has been the company's director of public policy since 2000.

Previously he worked for Dingell and the committee. During the 1990s he was known as a behind-the-scenes opponent of tougher clean-air standards (for example, when the Clinton administration set tougher standards for smog and soot).

Dingell has made it clear that he remains concerned about the financial health of the car companies.

AMA gives thumbs down to bad Bush mercury plan; Northeastern states eye tougher controls

The American Medical Association has officially given a thumbs-down to the industry-friendly Bush administration plan, which would permit power companies to trade emissions of toxic mercury. The decision came at the AMA’s semi-annual policy meeting. http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=76316

(You may recall the Bush administration recently rejected the AMA’s recommendation that the EPA set tougher standards for soot particles in the air. The Bush administration did this to protect the coal-burning electric power industry and other sources of soot. It did not provide a coherent explanation of why it rejected the AMA’s advice as well as that of the agency’s own science advisers – an obvious sign that the decision was tainted by politics. In that regard, it was identical to EPA’s bad mercury decision.)

State pollution control plans in response to the EPA mercury rule – which is being challenged in court – are due this Friday. Many states have already declared they want tougher controls on mercury emissions.

The Bush administration faces the seeds of another possible state rebellion today as northeastern states meet in Richmond to discuss tougher pollution controls on power plants and other sources of smog and soot: http://www.otcair.org/whats_new_details.asp?PID=59 Projections done by the Northeastern states confirm that the Bush administration’s cleanup strategies will not be adequate to meet public health standards.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Environmental stalwarts join key Senate panel

Democratic Senate committee assignments were announced today, and some real "freshmen" environmental stalwarts were named to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

New senators-elect joining the panel include Ben Cardin of Maryland, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Cardin, Sanders and Klobuchar were all endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters in the recent election. Environmentalists are also expected to embrace Whitehouse, who ousted environmentalist-backed Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bush nominee as White House regulatory czarina: "I actually am proud of" controversial writings

Susan Dudley, nominated by President Bush to head the OMB regulatory review office, underwent a fairly gentle grilling today by a U.S. Senate committee.

Dudley, whose controversial anti-regulatory writings on behalf of a polluter-funded think tank have sparked controversy, was asked by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) if she had made any mistakes.

"I actually am proud of the things that I have written," said Dudley, who couldn't think of a thing to retract. (Later, while Carper was temporarily out of the room, Dudley conceded she had been wrong in being critical of EPA attempts to reduce interstate air pollution.)

Carper noted later that "in politics, our friends come and go. Our enemies accumulate."

Aside from committee Chairman Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the only Republican senator present was John Warner of Virginia, who briefly introduced Dudley and concluded "I wish you luck, and you are on your own." Collins said she likely will vote for Dudley, though said committee action would be deferred until December.

Public interest groups square off against corporate lobbyists on OMB nomination

NOMINATIONS: Time running out on OMB pick Dudley

Lauren Morello, E&E Daily reporter – Nov. 13, 2006

The Bush administration's controversial pick for the top regulatory post at the Office of Management and Budget testifies today before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The panel will hear from Susan Dudley, the White House nominee to head OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which reviews regulations developed by a wide range of federal agencies.

Whether the full Senate will have time to consider Dudley's nomination during the lame duck is unclear. The Homeland Security Committee is not expected to vote on Dudley before the end of this week, when lawmakers will adjourn for the Thanksgiving holiday, sources on and off the Hill said.

Homeland Security Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and other lawmakers on the panel have been tight-lipped on their opinion of Dudley. Only ranking member Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) has publicly commented on Dudley, stating in a September letter that Dudley "is known for questioning the economic justification for certain environmental, safety, and health protections, including ones that have proven important to safeguarding the well-being of many Americans."

The tight timing of the lame duck, combined with the strong opposition Dudley has drawn from environmental and public interest groups, could lead President Bush to give Dudley a recess appointment, many of those tracking the nomination said.

"I would say the chance of getting her through [a Democratic-controlled] Senate next year are slim to none," said Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch, which opposes Dudley's nomination.
While many tracking Dudley's nomination, on both sides of the debate, have seen a recess appointment as a possibility, "logically it seems more likely now than ever," O'Donnell added...

Public Citizen is one of more than 100 environmental and public interest groups that issued a letter to senators last week calling Dudley "the least appropriate nominee ever submitted since OIRA was created." Such opposition has slowly built since the White House announced Dudley's nomination during the August congressional recess.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and Dudley's colleagues at George Mason University's Mercatus Center are among those who have come out in support of her nomination.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Big polluters also took a "thumping" on Election Day; what would Borat say?

President Bush wasn’t the only one who took a “thumping” on Election Day.

Some of the biggest spending big polluters also took a drubbing. In many cases, their political action committees backed candidates who were tossed out. In fact, many of them backed the same losing candidates.

Take a few examples. (All this information comes from Federal Election Commission records tabulated by the Center for Responsive Politics.)

Consider, for example, ExxonMobil, http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgot.asp?strID=C00121368&Cycle=2006 , which by mid-October had reported spending $562,000 on federal candidates (92% of it to Republicans).

Among the losing Senate candidates it supported: George Allen, Conrad Burns, Lincoln Chafee, Mike DeWine, Thomas Kean, Jr., Mark Kennedy, Michael McGavick, John Raese, Rick Santorum, Michael Steele and Jim Talent. Among the losing House recipients of $10,000 from ExxonMobil: Richard Pombo, Rick O’Donnell, and Michael Sodrel.

Take another example, Duke Energy, which recently was before the Supreme Court in a big air pollution case. Duke’s PAC http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.asp?strID=C00083535 spent $283,000 (79% to Republicans). Bad bets included George Allen, Conrad Burns, Lincoln Chafee, Mike DeWine, Thomas Kean, Jr., Mark Kennedy, Rick Santorum, Michael Steele and Jim Talent. Like ExxonMobil, Duke also poured big money into Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), whose race is still too close to call.

Or consider the Southern Company, considered by many as the most politically wired power company in America. Southern’s PAC http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.asp?strID=C00144774&cycle=2006 spent $162,000 (77 percent to Republicans). Its slate of losers also included Allen, Burns, DeWine, Kean, Kennedy, McGavick, Santorum, Steele, and Talent as well as Harold Ford. Maybe its worst bet was its early contribution to Tom DeLay.

Now if these companies were Borat (the fictitious journalist from Kazakhstan, now of movie fame), they would probably turn to the Democrats next and say “I like-a you. You like-a my check?”

And then they would have the ceremonial running of the elephant.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

For those expecting dramatic changes from the new Democratic House on global warming, listen up:

Note the comments by the new chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as reported by Reuters:

WASHINGTON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - The Michigan Democrat who will head the House Energy and Commerce Committee next year previewed on Wednesday his energy priorities: cleaner cars powered by diesel and electricity, storing waste from U.S. nuclear reactors and probing offshore federal lease deals.

Rep. John Dingell, who has been a U.S. lawmaker since 1955, also gave a strong indication of what he did not plan to do: raise fuel-efficiency standards for U.S. automobiles...

Dingell, whose home district includes Detroit's big three automakers -- Ford Motor Co. , General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group - downplayed the need for boosting U.S. fuel economy rules.

"I'm not sure that there's any urgent needs for us to address those questions," Dingell told CNBC in an interview.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

As we wait for the polls to close, new evidence that pollution cleanup means jobs

As we wait for the polls to close today, there is fresh evidence that pollution cleanup means more jobs. A pollution control industry trade association has reported that more than 1,600 new jobs have already been created by EPA’s truck cleanup and motor vehicle standards:

http://www.meca.org/galleries/default-file/MECA%20PR%20-%20EPA%20clean%20diesel%20programs%20job%20creation%20110606.pdf

The organization reported the number of jobs will grow in the future as industry meets new requirements for smog-forming nitrogen oxides control for trucks and buses and new standards for off-road engines. We should note the number would grow even more if EPA makes good on its promise to clean up big diesel train and boat engines.

This is a good reminder that cleaning up pollution can also be good for the economy. Earlier studies have shown that more aggressive cleanup plans translate into more jobs. http://www.icac.com/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3286#010903pr

The U.S. Department of Commerce used to provide big-picture statistics on pollution control and jobs, but it seems to have discontinued this under the Bush administration. I wonder why.

More jobs would also be created, of course, by a new plan to clean up existing truck engines at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. (See excellent story on this in today’s Los Angeles Times:
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-ports7nov07,1,4506307.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california

The port commissions are scheduled to vote on adoption of this plan on Nov. 20.


**

Other diesel news – EPA concedes one diesel cleanup effort has been a bust. According to BNA’s Daily Environment Report, the EPA has conceded that a mere 9 percent of existing diesel truck engines have installed upgraded software to reduce their nitrogen oxides emissions. Under a celebrated 1998 consent decree, EPA expected that all the engines covered by the decree – more than a million altogether – would have cleaned up within a few years. BNA noted that The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management has reported that more widespread use of the software would significantly reduce smog-forming pollution in the Northeast. Unfortunately, truckers have managed to game the system.

**

Diesel engine makers fight better smog standards: BNA also noted that diesel engine makers are fighting any effort by EPA to set better public health standards for smog. EPA’s independent science advisers have unanimously called on EPA to set tougher standards.

Tougher standards, of course, would mean even more jobs in the future.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Polluters versus scientists: the battle lines are drawn on EPA smog standard review

The battle lines are drawn: it's big polluters versus independent scientists as the U.S. EPA decides whether to update current national health standards for smog. Here's more from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

http://www.ajc.com/business/content/business/stories/2006/11/04/1105ozone.html

Stricter ozone levels pushed Autos, power plants among the targets
By JEFF NESMITH
The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 11/05/06

Washington — Environmental organizations, health advocates and the Environmental Protection Agency's own scientists are urging the EPA to tighten federal limits on ozone, or "smog," in America's air.

The agency's scientific advisers on air quality issues last month urged EPA Administrator Steve Johnson to reduce ozone limits by at least 12 percent, and said even that level would endanger the health of persons with asthma, especially children.

"It is the unanimous opinion of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee that the current primary ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard is not adequate to protect human health," the committee's chairwoman, Rogene Henderson, said in a letter to Johnson.

She noted that EPA's scientific staff had concluded that there was no "scientific justification for retaining the current" standard, which was set in 1997.

The committee cited recent experiments purporting to show that when healthy adults breathe air containing the currently legal levels of ozone, their lung functions were impaired...

[on the other side is ] Joe Stanko, a lawyer for a group of electric utilities, including Atlanta-based Southern Co.

"Many state and local officials feel it would be unfair for EPA to move the goal posts before they have finished designing programs," said Stanko, who represents the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council.

Other electric utility organizations, the oil giant ExxonMobil, diesel manufacturers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers also have contacted the agency, questioning the scientific validity of studies indicating the current limits do not adequately protect human health.

EPA agreed to review the ozone limits in May 2007, and finalize the new standard in February 2008, in order to settle a lawsuit brought by the American Lung Association.

The agreement does not commit the agency to tighten the limits, and Johnson could decide the new standard will be the same as the old standard.

Under similar circumstances, EPA earlier this year angered environmentalists and health groups with a decision to leave annual limits for fine-particle soot in the air unchanged.

The American Lung Association, Clean Air Watch and other organizations have begun campaigns to pressure EPA to tighten the ozone limit.

"This is clear and compelling evidence that today's smog standards need to be updated," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. "Smog harms breathers, and the existing standards just don't cut it when it comes to protecting public health."