Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bush takes aim at California greenhouse gas rules

Federal government takes aim at California's greenhouse gas rules

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal officials said Wednesday that new national mileage standards would pre-empt state rules on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, a move that takes aim at California's first-in-the-nation limits on such pollution.

State air regulators voted unanimously in September 2004 to approve rules that would cut exhaust from California's cars and light trucks by 25 percent and from larger trucks and sport utility vehicles by 18 percent.

The Bush administration said Wednesday that such regulations were "expressly pre-empted" by the new federal standards.

State Attorney General Bill Lockyer vowed to defend the state rules, setting the stage for a legal battle over California's ambitious clean air plan.

He said the federal government's claim that its regulations trump the state law was "nothing more than another gift to the auto industry from the Bush administration."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration laid out its position during the introduction of new mileage regulations requiring modest improvements in fuel efficiency for vans, pickup trucks and SUVs.

Brian Turmail, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation, said the administration was adhering to legislation passed by Congress that "explicitly requires the federal fuel economy program to pre-empt all state regulations and laws relating to fuel economy."

Automakers have sued over the 2004 regulations approved by the California Air Resources Board, arguing that the rules went beyond the board's authority, could not be met with current technology, and unfairly targeted California, which produces less than 1 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.

The auto industry also argued that the new standards would increase vehicles costs for consumers.

Because California began setting vehicle emissions standards before the federal government, the state is allowed under the Clean Air Act of 1970 to set its own standards, which other states have the option of adopting.

California must apply for a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its rules to take effect. The state is still awaiting a decision from the agency on its 2004 emissions rules, which are slated to take effect in 2009.

Frank O'Donnell, president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch, said the language of Wednesday's announcement strongly suggested the U.S. EPA would not approve the state's request to set its own regulations.

"This looks to me like the Bush administration is indicating California's waiver request will be in for a very rough ride," he said.

California can sue if the request is denied.

Jerry Martin, a spokesman for the Air Resources Board, declined to comment on whether that might happen. But he did say the board wasn't surprised by the federal announcement.
"It's basically in line with the administration's policies on this issue," he said. "It's really the same thing that the automakers have been saying all along."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Controvery Continues Over EPA Chief's Partisan Political Activity

Today's Denver Post has a follow-up on the recent visit by EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to headline a fundraiser for a Republican congressional candidate in Denver. Representatives of coal, oil and gas industries paid to have some private time with the head of the agency that affects their businesses. The full article is at:

But in quoting "watchdog" groups, the story leaves out something important that the "watchdogs" apparently don't know -- that EPA knew in advance that the fundraiser was both controversial and tainted because the EPA head's title was used in the invitation. But Johnson went ahead and attended anyway.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The growing air pollution threat from wood burning

High fuel costs have been prompting tens of thousands of people in the Northeast to start burning wood in outdoor furnaces.

But this shift may be coming at a high cost – more air pollution.

I was stunned to read this morning that these furnaces are basically unregulated and emit very high levels of lethal fine-particle soot. A lot more collectively than I had realized.

The smoldering details are in a report just published by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) and available online at

The report notes that these smoky devices can essentially turn a neighborhood into the equivalent of a truck stop parking lot. (One of these furnaces pollutes as much on an hourly basis as four big diesel trucks – or 8,000 natural gas furnaces.)

Apparently sales are growing rapidly. The report estimates that nearly 68,000 of them were sold just last year, and that half a million of them could be operating nationwide by 2010.

It is a little alarming that this is happening at the same time that public health advocates are urging the federal government to set tougher national health standards for particle soot.

Because there are no federal standards for outdoor wood furnaces, the report recommends that states consider setting their own clean-air limits for these devices.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer issued a similar warning last fall regarding sales of outdoor wood furnaces in New York State:

ABC News: Was Confusion Over Global Warming a Con Job?

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2006 — American attitudes about global warming are shifting, according to a new poll by ABC News, Time magazine and Stanford University — but it has taken years for the public perception of the problem to catch up with the warnings.

That lack of concern may have been just what big oil wanted.

It's not as if the information hasn't been out there: A new ad by the Environmental Defense Fund warns time is running out to combat climate change, adding, "Our future is up to you."
But Virginia's top climatologist doesn't buy it.

"The American people have just been bludgeoned with climate disaster stories for God knows how long," said the climatologist, Pat Michaels, "and they're just, they've got disaster fatigue."
Michaels is one of a handful of skeptics still downplaying the danger. But they are a tiny minority.

The vast majority of scientists has determined global warming to be a real threat. So why has it taken so long to convince Americans?

Misinformation Campaign

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ross Gelbspan blames a 15-year misinformation campaign by the oil and coal industries.

"The point of this campaign was not necessarily to persuade the public that global warming isn't happening," Gelbspan said. "It was to persuade the public that there is this state of confusion."
A 1998 memo by the American Petroleum Institute said, "Victory will be achieved when … average citizens recognize uncertainties in climate science."

To redefine global warming as theory — not fact — the industry funded research by "friendly" scientists such as Michaels.

The industry's influence even extends into the White House — where up until a few months ago a former oil industry lobbyist, Phil Cooney, chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, was one of the president's top environmental advisers, editing scientific reports to make global warming seem less threatening.

"From now on, we don't have scientists write reports and just take them," said Rick Piltz of the group Climate Science Watch. "We pass them through a White House filter before they're ever published. I mean, that's scandalous."

A few oil companies, led by BP, have changed their tune and are now aggressively addressing the problem. But some continue to promote the idea there are "uncertainties in the science."

ABC News' Geoff Morrell reported this story for "World News Tonight."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

EPA Science Advisors to EPA: We Want You to Reconsider Weak Particle Soot Rule

EPA’s science advisors have officially asked EPA Administrator Steve Johnson to reconsider the agency’s proposed national air quality standards for particle soot.

The March 21 letter is below:

This is an unprecedented public rebuke to EPA. It underscores our concern that EPA’s proposal was affected by politics and economic considerations, when it should have been based on science.

Now the question: will EPA do the right thing, or will political pressure still rule?

Here is the letter:

March 21, 2006

Honorable Stephen L. Johnson Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20460
Subject: Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee Recommendations Concerning the Proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter

Dear Administrator Johnson:

EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), supplemented by subject-matter-expert panelists — collectively referred to as the CASAC Particulate Matter (PM) Review Panel (“PM Panel”) — held a public teleconference meeting on February 3, 2006 to consider whether to provide the Agency with additional advice and recommendations concerning EPA’s proposed revisions to the PM National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

The PM Panel agrees that this letter adequately represents their views. The chartered CASAC — whose seven members are also members of the PM Panel — fully endorses the PM Panel’s letter and hereby forwards it to you as the CASAC’s consensus letter on this subject. The current Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee roster is found in Appendix A of this letter, and the PM Panel roster is attached as Appendix B.

This meeting continued the PM Panel’s review and recommendations on the Agency’s revision to PM NAAQS. The most recent reports to you on this topic — i.e., the PM Panel’s final report from its peer-review of the 2nd draft PM Staff Paper (EPA-SAB-CASAC-05-007, dated June 6, 2005); and the CASAC’s final report (EPA-SAB-CASAC-05-012, dated September 15, 2005) concerning the PM Panel’s August 11, 2005 teleconference to review EPA Staff recommendations concerning a potential thoracic coarse PM standard in the final PM Staff Paper — are found at URLs: and, respectively.

The CASAC requests reconsideration of the proposed ruling for the level of the annual PM2.5 NAAQS so that the standard is set within the range previously recommended by the PM Panel, i.e., 13 to 14 μg/m3. The CASAC also recommends that the proposed 24-hour PM10-2.5
primary standard be accompanied by a national monitoring program for PM10-2.5 in both urban and rural areas to aid in informing future health and welfare effects studies on rural dusts. Moreover, the CASAC strongly recommends expansion of our knowledge of the toxicity of PM10-2.5 dusts rather than exempting specific industries (e.g., mining, agriculture). Finally, the CASAC requests that the sub-daily secondary standard to protect visibility, as recommended both in the PM Staff Paper and by the CASAC, be favorably reconsidered. The scientific rationale for the CASAC’s recommendations is given in the remainder of this letter.

1. Background
The CASAC, comprised of seven members appointed by the EPA Administrator, was established under section 109(d)(2) of the Clean Air Act (CAA or “Act”) (42 U.S.C. § 7409) as an independent scientific advisory committee, in part to provide advice, information and recommendations on the scientific and technical aspects of issues related to air quality criteria and NAAQS under sections 108 and 109 of the Act. The PM Panel is comprised of the seven members of the chartered (statutory) Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, supplemented by fifteen technical experts.

EPA announced its proposal to revise the NAAQS for particulate matter on December 20, 2005. This proposal was published in the Federal Register in a January 17, 2006 (71 FR 26202708) notice entitled, “National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter; Proposed Rule.” As announced in that notice, the Agency will accept comments on the proposed rule for PM NAAQS for 90 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

2. CASAC Recommendations Concerning the Agency’s Proposal to Revise the PM NAAQS
In August 2005, the CASAC, through its PM Panel, completed an extensive review of the PM air quality criteria document and the PM staff paper, making its recommendations to the Agency based on the current science. The CASAC acknowledged and was pleased that the EPA has chosen to accept its advice on some revisions of the PM NAAQS. However, the PM Panel noted that some of the scientific recommendations were not accepted. The CASAC recognizes that the EPA Administrator must include policy judgments as well as scientific information in making his decisions. That is one reason that the CASAC’s recommendations for levels of the NAAQS are given in ranges, rather than as a single level. The value that the Administrator chooses within that range is clearly a policy judgment. The CASAC and the PM Panel have held in-depth discussions and deliberations, as described in previous reports, on the scientific data underpinning the basis for the recommended ranges. To underscore its previous recommendation, the CASAC would like to reiterate and expand the scientific rationale behind its advice, to better inform the Administrator on the scientific basis of its recommendations.
Proposed 24-hour PM2.5 standard level: Generally, members of the PM Panel were pleased to see that the recommended revision of the 24-hour PM2.5 level of the standard was within the range of that recommended by most members of the PM Panel. The PM Panel recognizes that, as a policy judgment, the high end of the suggested range was chosen.

Proposed annual PM2.5 standard level: For this NAAQS level, the Agency has chosen to propose going outside the range of the CASAC-recommended levels and to retain the annual standard level at its current level of 15 μg/m3. Our report to you dated June 6, 2005 stated,
“There was a consensus among the [PM] Panel members in agreement with the EPA staff recommendations that focused on decreasing PM2.5 concentrations through lowering of the 24-hour PM standard, but the [PM] Panel did not endorse the option of keeping the annual standard at its present level. It was appreciated that some cities have relatively high annual PM concentrations, but without much variation in concentrations from day-to-day. Such cities would only rarely exceed a 24-hour PM2.5 standard, even if set at levels below the current standard. This observation indicates the desirability of lowering the level of the annual PM2.5 standard as well.

Of the options presented by EPA staff for lowering the level of the PM standard, based on the above considerations and the predicted reductions in health impacts derived from the risk analyses, most [PM] Panel members favored the option of setting a 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS at concentrations in the range of 35 to 30 μg/m3 with the 98th percentile form, in concert with an annual NAAQS in the range of 14 to 13 μg/m3.”

The CASAC would like to reiterate and elaborate on the scientific basis for the PM Panel’s earlier recommendation, as follows:

First, the Agency’s risk assessment indicating reduced health risks at annual PM2.5 levels below the current standard was a key component in the PM Panel’s recommendation to lower the current annual level. While the risk assessment is subject to uncertainties, most of the PM Panel found EPA’s risk assessment to be of sufficient quality to inform its recommendations. The authors of the Agency’s risk assessment followed CASAC’s advice in conducting extensive sensitivity analyses and in revising the threshold assumptions as published in the final PM Staff Paper. The risk analyses indicated that the uncertainties would increase rapidly below an annual level of 13 μg/m3 — and that was the basis for the PM Panel’s recommendation of 13 μg/m3 as the lower bound for the annual PM2.5 standard level.

In our June 6, 2005 report, the PM Panel noted that “some cities have relatively high annual PM2.5 concentrations, but without much variation in concentrations from day-to-day.” Dependence on a lower daily PM2.5 concentration limit alone cannot be relied on to provide protection against the adverse effects of higher annual average concentrations The changes suggested in the 24-hour standard will have significant impact when done “in concert” with a change in the annual standard. The effect of changing the short-term (98th percentile) and long-term standard levels in concert can be seen in Figures 5-1 and 5-2 of the Agency’s staff paper. The cities of St. Louis and Detroit are examples of cities where the estimated reduction in PM2.5-related short-term and long-term mortality risk with a daily standard of 35 μg/m3 would be enhanced by a concerted reduction in the annual standard below the current level of 15 μg/m3.

While the risk analysis is the primary means of determining the effects on risk of changes in the 24-hour and annual PM2.5 standards in concert, there is evidence that effects of long-term PM2.5 concentrations occur at or below the current annual standard level of 15 μg/m3. Studies described in the PM Staff Paper indicate that short-term effects of PM2.5 persist in cities with annual PM2.5 concentrations below the current standard. In a Canadian study (Burnett et al., 2000; and Burnett and Goldberg, 2003), significant associations with total and cardiovascular mortality were present at a long-term mean PM2.5 concentration of 13.3 μg/m3. There were also positive findings in studies in Phoenix, AZ (Mar et al., 1999, 2003) and in Santa Clara County, CA (Lipsett et al., 1997) in which long-term mean concentrations of PM2.5 were approximately 13 μg/m3.

In summary, the epidemiologic evidence, supported by emerging mechanistic understanding, indicates adverse effects of PM2.5 at current annual average levels below 15 μg/m3. The PM Panel realized the uncertainties involved in setting an appropriate, health-protective level for the annual standard, but noted that the uncertainties would increase rapidly below the level of 13 μg/m3. That is the basis for the PM Panel recommendation of a level at 1314 μg/m3.

Therefore, the CASAC requests reconsideration of the proposed ruling for the level of the annual PM2.5 NAAQS so that the standard is set within the range previously recommended by the PM Panel, i.e., 13 to 14 μg/m3.

Proposed 24-hour PM10-2.5 Standards: The PM Panel was pleased to see that the indicator for coarse thoracic particles of concern to public health took into account some of the various approaches that the PM Panel identified for consideration. However, the PM Panel is concerned that some of the advice provided may have been misunderstood, as follows:
1 Monitoring: Our report of September 15, 2005 indicated that it was essential to monitor coarse thoracic particle concentrations in both rural and urban areas. As stated therein, “It is essential to have data collected on the wide range of both urban and rural areas in order to determine whether or not the proposed UPM10-2.5 standard should be modified at the time of future reviews.”
2 Source of toxic components in coarse thoracic particles: The preamble to the proposed rule on PM NAAQS cites “specific initial advice from CASAC (Henderson, 2005),” which was “most [PM] Panel members concurred that the current scarcity of information on the toxicity of rural dusts makes it necessary for the Agency to base its regulations on the known toxicity of urban-derived coarse particles.” However, that same report also underscored the associated “need for monitoring thoracic coarse particle levels [in rural areas] and for population-based health-effects studies in those rural areas where it is feasible to conduct such studies.” The CASAC neither foresaw nor endorsed a standard that specifically exempts all agricultural and mining sources, and offers no protection against episodes of urban-industrial PM10-2.5 in areas of populations less than 100,000.
3 Secondary PM10-2.5 Standards: As stated in the CASAC’s report of September 15, 2005, the CASAC recommends that a secondary PM10-2.5 standard be set at the same level as the primary PM10-2.5 standard to protect against the various irritant, soiling and nuisance welfare or environmental effects of coarse particles. Since these effects are not uniquely related to urban sources or receptors, the standard should not be limited to urban areas.

4 Accordingly, the CASAC recommends that the proposed 24-hour PM10-2.5 primary standard be accompanied by monitoring of particles in both urban and rural areas to aid in informing future health effects studies on rural dusts. Moreover, the CASAC strongly recommends expansion of our knowledge of the toxicity of rural dusts rather than exempting specific industries (e.g., mining, agriculture). Serious consideration should also be given to a secondary PM10-2.5 at a level similar to the proposed primary standard, but without the “urban” geographical constraint.

Proposed Secondary PM2.5 Standard to Protect Visibility: To protect visibility, the EPA staff paper, with concurrence of most CASAC members, recommended a sub-daily standard for PM2.5 with a level in the 20 to 30 μg/m3 range for a four- to eight-hour (4-8 hr) midday time period with a 92nd to 98th percentile form. The upper end of this range (25-30 μg/m3 and a 92% to 95% form) was considered to be “lenient” in terms of protecting visibility, permitting a relatively high number of days with relatively poor visual air quality. It was suggested as a starting point for a national secondary standard given the uncertainties in both the current science of what is adverse to the public and in the mechanics of setting and operating a new sub-daily standard to protect visibility.

The proposed rule recommended relying on the proposed 24-hour primary standard of 35 μg/m3 as a surrogate for visibility protection, noting through analysis that a percentage of counties with monitors (and the corresponding percentages of populations) not likely to meet the sub-daily secondary standard with a lenient level and form is comparable to those not likely to meet a 24-hour primary standard set at the proposed 35 μg/m3level. EPA’s proposal to revise the NAAQS for PM also cited limitations in the science and in the available hourly air quality data required for a sub-daily standard.

CASAC members note three cautions to the Agency’s proposed visibility standard, which was outside the range recommended in the EPA staff paper and by most of the PM Panel:
1 As both the Staff Paper and the preamble to the proposed rule on PM NAAQS note, the PM2.5 mass measurement is a better indicator of visibility impairment during daylight hours when humidities are low. Moreover, the sub-daily standard more clearly matches the nature of visibility impairment, whose adverse effects are most evident during daylight hours. Using the 24-hour primary standard as a proxy introduces error and uncertainty in protecting visibility Sub-daily secondary standards are used elsewhere (e.g., a three-hour secondary standard for SO2 and an eight-hour secondary standard for ozone), and should be the focus for visibility.
2 CASAC and its monitoring subcommittees have repeatedly commended EPA’s initiatives promoting the introduction of continuous and near-continuous PM measurements in various aspects of its monitoring strategy (e.g., Hopke, March 1, 2002; Henderson, April 20, 2005). The PM Panel notes that expanded deployment of continuous PM2.5 monitors is consistent with setting a sub-daily standard to protect visibility, especially given that compliance time frames for secondary standards are less rigid than for primary standards.
3 The cited comparability between percentages of counties not likely to meet a lenient sub-daily secondary standard and the proposed 24-hour primary standard is a numerical coincidence, and is not indicative of any fundamental relationship between visibility and

However, peak short-term concentrations during daylight hours can be substantially
higher than 24-hour average values, and the Agency is specifically seeking comments on
whether the 24-hour primary standard should be set at an even higher level. It is not
reasonable to have the visibility standard tied to the health standard, which may change
in ways that make it even less appropriate for visibility concerns.

Thus, the CASAC requests that the sub-daily secondary standard to protect visibility, as recommended both in the PM Staff Paper and by most of the PM Panel, be favorably reconsidered.

Consideration of More Recent Scientific Information: The Agency has agreed to consider more recent publications if they are critical to the setting of new standards. Whether a new study is critical to the setting of new standards is difficult to determine. The CASAC is concerned that the newer literature suggested by either CASAC or by the general public will not have had a chance to undergo thorough EPA staff and CASAC review in a public setting. Such an approach would set a bad precedent for future reviews and weaken the role of the independent scientific review process. The PM Panel arrived at its recommendations based on the literature presented in the PM Air Quality Criteria Document and in the PM Staff Paper (publications through 2004). Scientific literature published since that time appears to support the findings of the PM Panel, but is not needed to support the original conclusions of the PM Panel. Individual members of the PM Panel, in response to the Administrator’s request, have suggested new articles to consider, which are listed in Appendix C. These articles have not been reviewed either by EPA staff or by the CASAC in a public setting.

Views of PM Panel Members Not in Agreement with Majority Opinion: Finally, it should be noted that two of the 22 members of the PM Panel do not agree with the majority opinion of the PM Panel. These two PM Panel members expressed the view that the PM Staff Paper provided an adequate scientific basis for the EPA Administrator to propose an annual PM2.5 standard from within the range of 12 to 15 μg/m3 and a 24 hour PM2.5 standard from within the range of 30 to 40 μg/m3. It was their opinion that the choice of specific numerical levels from within the ranges was a policy decision. They also expressed the view that the Administrator, as well as individual scientists, might have different preferences from among the various policy options. Thus, these two PM Panel members felt that the choices made by the Administrator in the Proposed PM Rule are scientifically acceptable. One of these two PM Panel members also felt that the Administrator’s decision to propose the use of the primary 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS as a secondary standard for visibility was an appropriate policy decision. He expressed the view that the science reviewed by and commented on by the PM Panel should inform the policy decision; however, the policy decision as to the level of visibility to accept is a responsibility of the Administrator outside the purview of the PM Panel.

Concluding Remarks: In conclusion, the members of the CASAC PM Review Panel have carefully reviewed this letter, and all seven members of the statutory CASAC and a substantial majority of PM Panel members are in agreement that this letter, with the exception of the preceding paragraph immediately above, represents their views as expressed during the PM Panel’s February 3, 2006 teleconference and subsequent e-mail correspondence to me.
The CASAC is pleased to provide scientific advice to the Administrator concerning the proposed new standards for airborne particulate matter. We recognize that the setting of a NAAQS goes beyond the scientific data base into the realm of pubic policy. However, the efforts of the Agency’s scientific staff as well as the CASAC in providing a sound scientific basis must, fundamentally, be the foundation of these standard-setting decisions. The members of the CASAC hope that we can continue to work with EPA both to provide the best scientific advice available and to aid the Agency in protecting the public health and the environment in an effective and efficient manner.
Dr. Rogene Henderson, Chair Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

EPA: Summer Smog Could Be a Killer

Summer-time smog could be a killer.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new compendium of scientific information on smog (technically ozone) that EPA quietly posted to the internet last evening. See volume I, pages E-17 and 18.

This is a very significant finding and suggests that the EPA should set a tougher national air pollution standard for smog in order to protect people’s health.

The compendium, known technically as a “Criteria Document,” also notes that smog sends children with asthma to hospital emergency rooms, restricts our ability to breathe and causes other bad health effects.

EPA is under a court order to decide by late 2007 whether to revise the current national standard, which was last revised in 1997.

We are concerned that big polluters – the oil, coal, electric power, automobile and chemical industries – will pressure the agency to make a decision based on economics and politics, rather than science.

As you know, the EPA is wrestling with a similar issue as it considers revisions to the national air quality standard for fine particle soot. In that case, the agency – we believe in response to political pressure – has proposed something weaker than recommended by EPA’s own science advisors.

The new EPA findings were bolstered by a recent study, published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences,

which also linked low levels of smog exposure to increased death rates.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Clean Air Victory -- and a defeat for Dick Cheney

Clean Air Victory
Frank O'Donnell
March 21, 2006

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

Last Friday a three-judge federal appeals court panel—including one of the most controversial of the Bush judicial appointees—unanimously gunned down an attempt by Cheney to blow holes through a federal pollution law and reward prominent corporate political supporters.

Most of the subsequent news coverage has focused less on the forest than on the trees. It was noted only that environmentalists were cheering because the court invalidated a jargon-laden Environmental Protection Agency rule that would have permitted coal-burning electric plants to evade requirements that they clean up pollution.

Politically attuned audiences might find it a little more interesting to step back and look at the forest—in this case, the defeat for Cheney—and the victory for good government and the rule of law.

The substantive issue here involves an enforcement provision of the Clean Air Act that was little used until the late 1990s. It was then that New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the Clinton EPA started suing big-polluting electric power companies that had upgraded old facilities without installing modern pollution controls as they should have.

The electric-industry power brokers almost immediately began plotting how they could use a future Bush administration to stop the cleanup push. Indeed, some industry executives met secretly at a Detroit hotel in April 2000 to polish their pitch to what they hoped would be a more favorable Bush regime.

The secret Cheney energy task force, announced only days into the new administration, provided the perfect conduit. And the political wiring couldn’t have been better for the dirty-air crowd.

Among those who met in secret with Cheney, his top aide, or then-Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham or his deputy: Tom Kuhn, head of the Edison Electric Institute, former Bush college roommate and “pioneer” fundraiser, and Haley Barbour, then a lobbyist Southern Company, one of the most prominent companies sued by the Clinton EPA.

Barbour went on to become a founder of a power industry group, the National Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, whose specific purpose was to kill the cleanup rules. Other prominent founders of that group included former Bush 1 Counsel C. Boyden Gray, and Mark Racicot, former Montana governor and chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Sure enough, Cheney was soon personally saying it was time to “reform” or eliminate the rules that had prompted the Clinton lawsuits.

Former EPA Administrator Christie Whitman gave a hint of some of the political dynamics in her book, It’s My Party, Too.

She reported that Cheney himself was "particularly eager" to tackle the pollution issue. “He called me on several occasions, even tracking me down when I was on vacation in Colorado, to press his view,” she noted.

Whitman responded by sending Cheney a confidential memo warning that “we will pay a terrible political price if we undercut or walk away from the [Clinton/Spitzer] enforcement cases.”

The Cheney task force ended up directing EPA to examine program “reform.” To accommodate Whitman’s concern for appearances, the Bush administration tried to pretend it would still enforce the law as interpreted by Clinton while the “reform” went on. In fact, enforcement ground to a halt.

After holding her nose and officially proposing the enforcement-killing rules that Cheney had demanded, Whitman later resigned to “spend more time with my family” before it was time to make the Cheney-sought rule changes final.

"I must say I'm glad that they weren't able to finish the work until after I was home in New Jersey,” Whitman wrote in her book. After Whitman left, EPA did roll over and make the Cheney-sought “reform” official. That would take the EPA boot off the Republican campaign contributors’ neck—or so Cheney thought.

The wheels of justice turn slowly, however, delays benefiting polluters with every leisurely turn. In this case, nearly three years of non-enforcement went by until the panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled March 17 that the Cheney-sought plan was flatly illegal.

"Only in a Humpty-Dumpty world," said the court, could the law be read as the Bush administration wanted. It added that the Bush administration couldn’t simply ignore a law it didn’t like.

Interestingly, one of the judges who signed the unanimous opinion was Janice Rogers Brown, a Bush appointee whose confirmation to the appeals court initially had been delayed by Senate Democrats because they believed she was an extreme anti-environmental zealot.

Unlike the vice president, Brown thinks the law should be obeyed. Count Brown and her colleagues’ respect for the law as a public-interest victory to be savored.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Court rejects Bush power plant loophole

Court rejects power plant pollution rule

Friday, March 17, 2006 2:18 p.m. ET

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a big win for environmentalists, a federal appeals court on Friday struck down a Bush administration rule that would have made it easier for coal-burning power plants to make equipment changes without installing controls to fight the pollution that would result.

The court shot down an Environmental Protection Agency rule that said power plant owners would only have to install modern pollution fighting controls if equipment changes cost more than 20 percent of the replacement cost of the plant.

Environmental groups and several states sued, arguing the rule would gut the new source review enforcement provisions of the Clean Air Act and allow the oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants to expand output without cutting polluting emissions.

The court agreed, saying the agency rule was "contrary to the plain language" of the Clean Air Act that says the new source review provisions would kick in if a power plant is modified to cause "any physical change" that increases the amount of air pollutants.

The court said the EPA's rule that has the 20 percent replacement cost trigger would require that Congress's definition of modification in the Clean Air Act include a phrase such as "regardless of size, cost, frequency, effect" or other distinguishing characteristic.

"Only in a Humpty Dumpy world would Congress be required to use superfluous words while an agency could ignore an expansive word that Congress did use. We decline to adopt such a world-view," the court said in its ruling.

Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council that is made up of power-generating companies, said he was disappointed by the court's ruling and that it will create a roadblock for companies to install pollution control equipment.

"To place the decision in context, we believe it is a step backwards for the protection of air quality in the United States. It may be St. Patrick's day, but this decision is far from good luck for the environment or consumers," he said.

However, environmentalists welcomed the decision against the EPA rule that they said had been pushed by Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force to help the energy industry.

The court's decision closed "a loophole big enough to drive a coal-hauling truck through," said Frank O'Donnell, executive director of Clean Air Watch. "The court ruled that the Bush administration can't just ignore a law it dislikes."

"This is a victory for public health," said Howard Fox, an attorney at Earthjustice. "It makes no sense to allow huge multi-multimillion dollar projects that drastically increase air pollution without installing up-to-date pollution controls or even notifying nearby residents."

Former EPA Administrator Christie Whitman was against the final rule to relax the new source review provisions. "I must say that I'm glad they weren't able to finish the work until after I was home in New Jersey," she wrote in her book, "It's My Party, Too," after she left the Bush administration.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The ides of March and mercury pollution

The ides of March. Not the best day for Julius Caesar.

But also something of a minor – and miserable – landmark for the environment. It was a year ago today that the US EPA rolled out its industry-friendly plan for mercury pollution from coal-burning electric power plants. You may recall that it would not require any mercury-specific pollution controls until at least 2018. EPA’s own assessments showed that because the agency would let power companies buy and sell the right to spew out mercury, high levels of mercury pollution would continue for at least two more decades.

EPA said it cut so much slack for industry because there was no “commercially available” mercury cleanup system available. But many states have pushed ahead on their own to try to deal with this poison. And it now turns out that state-driven, mercury pollution control contracts are being signed right and left. (See the most recent one, below, announced earlier this week.)

How much longer, do you think, the federal government will pretend it’s impossible to deal with this issue?



Littleton, CO – March 13, 2006 - ADA-ES, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADES) today announced that it has been awarded a new contract to supply commercial mercury control systems for two existing, 350 Gross MW rated, coal-fired power plants in the Eastern U.S. The total value of contracts for the activated carbon injection equipment is in excess of $1.7 million. It is expected that the equipment will be designed, fabricated, and delivered during late summer of 2006. Plans call for the first unit to be in operation by early fall 2006 and the second unit in early 2007. The mercury control systems will be installed on existing electrostatic precipitators for the control of mercury emissions.

ADA-ES has demonstrated activated carbon-based mercury control technology at over 20 power plants across the country and this technology has become the leading option for control of mercury emissions.

Mike Durham, President of ADA-ES, stated, “These contracts reinforce the important role that carbon injection technology is playing in the control of mercury from coal-fired power plants. Combined with the six contracts we announced in the past six months, we now have contracts for eight commercial mercury control systems. We continue to provide quotes to a number of power plants and expect more contracts to be awarded for this key technology this year. These contracts also show that state regulations and consent decrees are significant drivers for the mercury control business; future drivers include additional state and pending federal mercury control laws.”

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Why is AAA fighting against clean air?

Please note the interesting animation on this from our friends at the Clean Air Council in Philadelphia:

The week ahead: STATES UNDER SIEGE, mercury scandal, and more

Dear friends,

Next week will include some very interesting developments, especially for those who follow the critical activities of state and local clean air officials.

I hope you find this update useful.

States Under Siege, Part One: State and local air pollution officials play a vital role in the battle against pollution. These folks are on the front line in trying to protect people’s health. And as those of you outside DC know, they often face heavy pressure from well-connected local industries, paid-off governors and assorted other local political yahoos. And now they face a new threat – this time from the federal government.

As you may know, these agencies receive some of their money from the federal government (the reason being they are, in theory, partners with the federal government and tasked with carrying out many federal directives).

But in his recent budget request to Congress, President Bush proposed slashing their funding by $35 million – a whopping 16 percent. If Congress went along with this penny-wise, pound-foolish idea, it would have damaging real-world impacts: people fired, companies not inspected, air pollution monitors – and maybe even entire agencies -- shut down.

You don’t have to be cynical to believe that a lot of polluters are quietly cheering on the sidelines.

Next week, state and local clean air officers in Washington plan to release a report documenting the specific impacts of these proposed budget cuts. As I understand it, this will be a very detailed report and will permit the opportunity to localize this story in every state. I believe the report will be released officially on Tuesday, March 14. You could check with Bill Becker (202-624-7864 ) for details on the report’s release.


States Under Siege, Part Two: Also next week, a curtain will be lifted. And we’ll find out if automobile and diesel engine companies have been successful in one aspect of their lobbying campaign to further restrict the rights of states to protect people from dirty air. This involves a National Research Council report due to be released the morning of March 16.

Here’s the quick background: several years ago, Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) was persuaded by a special- interest polluter (the lawnmower company Briggs & Stratton) to demand in a spending bill that the Council conduct a study of state practices in regulating moving sources of pollution (ie, cars, trucks, etc.) Right now, the law says California can adopt standards for most moving sources that are better than the applicable federal standards. And states are free to adopt most California standards. This system has brought great clean-air progress and has benefited breathers from coast to coast.

Car companies and diesel engine companies have used this study as an opportunity to try to clip the wings of states. They have testified at NRC hearings against the current system. The stakes in this battle have risen in recent months as a number of states have adopted controversial California standards for global warming emissions from motor vehicles.

So next week is judgment day. Will the NRC recommend that Congress take away the rights of states? Will Kit Bond pull out his special-interest pen once again?

Stay tuned. I am sure that state agencies and some of their Representatives such as Bill Becker and the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) will want to comment on the NRC recommendations.


Mercury Madness: Next week (March 15) marks the one-year anniversary of EPA’s industry-friendly decision to permit coal-burning electric power companies to continue emitting high levels of toxic mercury well into the future.

In adopting the industry plan, EPA Administrator “Slippery” Steve Johnson argued that most of the mercury polluting our lakes and streams was coming from oversees, and that there was no “commercially available” technology available to deal with this poison. EPA also argued that it was harder to clean up low-sulfur western coal than eastern coal.

Well, let’s fast forward a bit. In the past year, we have seen numerous announcements of sales of commercially available mercury cleanup products. (See sample at bottom of this message.). To keep up our state theme, please note that these contracts have come about because of state activities.

It turns out that it may actually be easier to purge the mercury from low-sulfur coal.

On top of that, despite Slippery Steve’s apparent efforts to suppress this information (see excellent March 3 piece in Greenwire), EPA has now found out that 70% of the mercury in scenic Steubenville, Ohio, comes from local coal burning. Noted Greenwire: “The 70 percent deposition level runs counter to one of the administration's widely trumpeted modeling results showing that only 8 percent of the wet mercury deposition nationwide comes from U.S. power plants. EPA has cited the 8 percent figure as one reason it could issue a market-based, cap-and-trade program to facilitate domestic mercury reductions.”

So the past year has demonstrated that all off EPA’s stated reasons for caving into industry are bogus.

Interestingly enough, EPA agreed officially to reconsider its bad decision in response to a petition. But will the agency actually change its decision despite the overwhelming evidence that 1) coal burning power plants poison local lakes and streams; and 2) there are now commercially available mercury cleanup devices; and 3) the only common-sense approach is to require that all coal-burning power plants reduce their mercury emissions, rather than letting many buy or sell the right to continue pumping out this poison?

Someone could do a dynamite job with this story.



Littleton, CO – March 1, 2006 - ADA-ES, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADES) today announced that it has been awarded new contracts to supply commercial mercury control systems for two existing coal-fired power plants and one new power plant in the Western U.S. The total value of contracts for the activated carbon injection equipment is in excess of $2 million. The equipment will be designed, fabricated, and delivered in several phases during 2006 and 2007.

ADA-ES has demonstrated activated carbon-based mercury control technology at over 20 power plants across the country and this technology has become the leading option for control of mercury emissions.

Mike Durham, President of ADA-ES, stated, “These contracts reinforce the important role that carbon injection technology is playing in the control of mercury from coal-fired power plants. Combined with the three contracts we announced in 2005, we now have contracts that will result in six commercial mercury control systems. We continue to provide quotes to a number of power plants and expect more contracts to be awarded for this key technology this year. These contracts also show that state consent decrees will be a significant driver for the mercury control business in addition to new state and pending federal mercury control laws.”

About ADA-ES
Headquartered in Littleton, Colorado, ADA-ES, Inc. develops and implements proprietary environmental technology and specialty chemicals that mitigate the environmental impact from electric power and industrial companies while reducing operating costs.

This press release contains forward-looking information within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides a "safe harbor" for such forward-looking statements in this document that are based on information the Company believes reasonable, but such projections and statements involve significant uncertainties. Actual events or results – including award of additional commercial contracts – could differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements as a result of various factors including but not limited to changing market demand for ADA-ES chemicals and systems and changes in technology, federal funding, laws or regulations, availability of skilled personnel, and other factors discussed in the company's filings with the U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission.
ADA-ES, Inc. -or- Investor Relations Counsel
Michael D. Durham, Ph.D., MBA, President The Equity Group Inc.
Mark H. McKinnies, Senior VP & CFO
(303) 734-1727 Lauren Till, (212) 836-9610

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Clean Air Watch testimony on EPA particle soot plan

Testimony of Frank O’Donnell,
President, Clean Air Watch
March 8, 2006
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Public Hearings Regarding the Proposed Revisions to the PM Ambient Air Quality Standards
Holiday Inn Historic District
400 Arch St.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I am Frank O’Donnell, President of Clean Air Watch, a national non-profit organization which seeks to promote clean air chiefly through public education.

Please let me start by thanking the agency’s career staff. We appreciate your dedication and public service. And we know that without your efforts, we would have made little or no progress in recent years against air pollution.

I want to make it clear that these remarks are not meant as criticism of career staff.

But I do ask you to convey this message to your political bosses.

With your permission, I would like to associate Clean Air Watch’s testimony with that of the American Lung Association regarding specific numerical recommendations.

I would like to use our few minutes to discuss some basic themes.

A large part of our mission at Clean Air Watch is to let the public know the truth about air pollution and how our government deals with the problem.

The sad truth here is that the Bush administration is misleading the public about the dangers of particle soot.

But there is still time for EPA to do the right thing.

This is probably the most important decision EPA will make this year.

Particle soot is the most lethal form of air pollution. EPA’s own staff studies have shown that literally thousands of Americans are dying prematurely from breathing these tiny particles, even at levels of pollution that are considered legal today.

That’s why EPA’s outside science advisors urged the agency to set tougher new standards to govern both annual and daily exposure to this deadly pollutant.

But for the first time in history, EPA disregarded its own science advisors on a national air quality standard, and proposed something weaker.

When confronted with this fact, and asked why he had ignored his own experts, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson had no coherent explanation. In fact, he sounded like a naughty child who was caught fibbing about something.

It’s as plain as day that this proposal – which was supposed to be based on science -- was contaminated by politics and White House interference.

These standards are supposed to represent the federal government’s assessment – based on the best available science – of what level of pollution is safe to breathe – with an adequate margin of safety to account for uncertainties and for groups like those in low-income communities who may be especially harmed by breathing dirty air.

By that measure, EPA’s proposal flunks the truth in advertising test.

The public should have the right to know if the air they are breathing can harm them.

It is time for EPA to come clean. And tell the public the truth.

And if the EPA Administrator is unwilling, or unable for political reasons, to do his job properly, perhaps he should consider taking the honorable path of stepping down, as at least one other EPA leader -- former New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman -- did when anticipating political pressure to do the wrong thing.

We know this is not the only recent instance in which the Bush administration contaminated science with politics, or tried to mislead the public about an environmental hazard.

We have all read the story NASA’s most prominent global warming expert, who was muzzled by a Bush administration censor. And we later learned that the red-pen guy was so far from being a scientific expert that had to lie about graduating from college!

In this case of deadly particle soot, there were other administration censors. We don’t even know who some of these people are.

But do know some of the things they did – for example, someone in the White House edited out a paragraph from EPA’s preamble which warned that people living in poorer communities face an extra risk from dirty air.

Someone in the White House also crossed out a sentence asserting that the air quality rules "may have a substantial impact on the life expectancy of the U.S. population."

At another point, the White House even told you what alternative standards you could take public comment on!

The White House is literally playing politics with people’s lives.

I will leave it up to some of my colleagues to go into more detail on some of the other glaring deficiencies of this proposal, including:

· the ludicrous plan to exempt mining and farming;

· the unprecedented decision to discriminate against and withhold key public health protections from people living in rural areas and smaller cities. (We think people in Manhattan, Kansas, deserve the same protections as people in Manhattan, New York.); and

· the truly stunning proposal not even to monitor for pollution in less-populated areas.

Let me conclude by noting that some business groups are gearing up – hiring professional “spin doctors” -- to argue against better particle pollution standards.

Contrast that with real medical doctors who want you to set standards that would truly protect people’s health.

I implore you: Listen to the real doctors, not the spin doctors.

Thank you for your time.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

EPA cracks down on toxic pollution from oil refineries, but wants to permit more toxic pollution from ethanol refineries

No one in the media seems to have put this together yet, but yesterday the US EPA simultaneously proposed to crack down on emissions of toxic pollutants in gasoline, while simultaneously proposing to permit more toxic pollution from ethanol refineries. See stories below from AP.

This may be an indicator of the political pecking order. Ethanol has become a political sacred cow -- even when it could mean more pollution.

EPA plans cuts in benzene, other air toxics for cars, fuel, containers

Thursday, 02 March 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government wants better built fuel cans, cleaner-starting engines in cold temperatures and a nearly 40 percent cut in benzene in gasoline to cut air toxics associated with gasoline.

The new requirements would go into effect between 2009 and 2011 under a proposal Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency, making federal standards similar to California's evaporative emission standards for light-duty vehicles.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said that within the next two dozen years, air toxics such as benzene and other hydrocarbons would fall to 80 percent below 1999 emissions. That would be a direct result of the new proposal and the fuel and vehicle standards already in place.

``By cleaning up our fuels and vehicle exhaust, EPA is paving the road toward a cleaner environment and healthier drivers,'' he said.

The EPA plan would set new evaporative standards for fuel containers, beginning in 2009. It would require, starting in 2010, that passenger vehicles started up at cold temperatures emit fewer pollutants.

And, by 2011, the agency would require that all gasoline, which is now allowed to contain little more than 1 percent benzene, have only 0.62 percent or less benzene.

Traditional critics of Bush administration environmental policies were quick to praise the plan.

Frank O'Donnell, president of the Clean Air Watch advocacy group, called it ``a positive step toward reducing the cancer risk that Americans face from breathing chemicals in the air produced by cars, SUVs and pickup trucks.''

``It is not, however, a substitute for other needed pollution control measures, including steps _ and federal money _ to clean up existing diesel engines,'' he added.

Bill Becker, the executive director for the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials, said the plan was long overdue. EPA issued it to meet court-ordered deadlines in a lawsuit brought by two environmental groups, the Sierra Club and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, in 2004.

``The proposal is a good first step in regulating benzene, a known carcinogen, and other important hazardous pollutants that are emitted from vehicles and fuels,'' he said. ``These pollutants show up in almost every major metropolitan area in the country in quantities that exceed safe levels.''

Congress required EPA in the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act to issue mobile source air toxic regulations by 1995. The two environmental groups, represented by environmental law firm Earthjustice, won a court order in November 2005 forcing EPA to issue its proposal by the end of February and a final rule by 2007.

Requiring cleaner-burning gas and cars and tighter fuel containers will cost consumers an estimated $205 million at dealers' lots and other stores, though cost per vehicle is thought to be just $1 more and per gas can less than $2, EPA said.

But the agency estimates the annual health benefits from cutting fine particle pollution that causes respiratory and other illnesses will be $6 billion a year starting in 2030.

Existing fuel and vehicle standards that also are contributing to fewer emissions of benzene and other toxic air pollutants are EPA's latest tailpipe standards and cuts in emissions from diesel-burning cars, heavy trucks and off-road equipment.

Thursday, March 2, 2006
Story last updated at 12:30 AM on Mar. 2, 2006
EPA Proposes Allowing Ethanol Plants To Emit More PollutionBy: By MARY CLARE JALONICKAssociated Press Writer

WASHINGTON -- In an attempt to increase domestic production of alternative fuel sources, the Bush administration has proposed allowing ethanol plants to send more hazardous air pollutants into the air.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it has proposed a rule that would raise the emissions threshold for corn milling plants that produce ethanol fuel, allowing those plants to emit up to 250 tons per year of air pollutants before triggering tougher restrictions on production.

Currently, corn milling plants can emit 100 tons of pollutants per year.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., has been pushing the agency to make the change since last fall, noting that corn milling plants that produce ethanol products for human consumption had a higher emissions threshold than those that produce ethanol fuel.

The change, he says, will help the country navigate gasoline price spikes by producing more renewable energy.

The plants "are poised to produce ethanol at higher capacities, and farmers are prepared to grow and sell more corn," Thune said.

President Bush pushed increased production of renewable fuels in his State of the Union speech this year, urging Congress to spend federal dollars on ethanol research in order to free the country of its "addiction" to foreign oil.

Though environmentalists have generally supported increased use of ethanol and other renewable fuels, some point out that the EPA has settled several noncompliance cases with companies producing ethanol fuel. In several of the cases, the agency noted that the plants "burn off gases which emit volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide into the air."

Frank O'Donnell, director of the environmental advocacy group Clean Air Watch, said the rule could "create a new problem by trying to solve an old problem."

"This appears to be an attempt to cut a break for some ethanol producers," he said. "My concern is that this could lead to more pollution in communities near the refineries."

The EPA will gather comments on the proposed rule for 60 days.