Monday, July 10, 2006

News notes: will EPA tighten particle soot standards? An all-star game eco-surprise, and more...

A few items of possible interest as southern Ohio faces a “code orange” forecast for fine-particle soot (http://airnow.gov/) while one of its political leaders seems intent on retarding progress towards truly healthful air quality. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Note this and other items below.


Soot summit: As you will recall, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson has taken a lot of grief for proposing new national air pollution standards for particle soot that were weaker than recommended by EPA’s own scientists and outside science advisers. Is that criticism finally taking a toll? Johnson has scheduled a meeting this Wednesday, July 12, with some key scientists who have urged to agency to take a tougher stance. Among those scheduled to meet with Johnson: George Thurston of New York University Medical Center and Dr. William Rom of the American Thoracic Society and co-author of a medical journal editorial which blasted Johnson’s “lax” proposal. Johnson is under a court order to come up with a final plan by September. Stay tuned.

Polluter pressure: A different sort of attempt to sway Johnson will play out the next day (Thursday, July 13) as Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), stout defender of Ohio’s power companies and other industries, holds a hearing on the subject before his Senate Subcommittee on air pollution. This hearing appears to be a not-very-subtle attempt to send a message to the White House: Voinovich doesn’t want EPA to set tougher air standards. As noted above, many of his constituents are breathing dirty air as he wades into battle on behalf of industry. And the oil and dirty electric power industry are already lobbying to change the Clean Air Act to limit EPA’s ability to toughen air standards in the future. This hearing also may be an attempt to lay the groundwork for that sort of pro-polluter position.

Smog study: EPA’s career staffers are also evaluating possible changes to national health standards for ozone, or smog. Some insight to their thinking may come as soon as this week as they release an assessment of the science. Watch this space: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/ozone/s_o3_cr_sp.html for updates.

Government gas: Speaking of the EPA, you may have seen the agency’s release Friday which extolled the potential virtues of advanced (IGCC) technology to convert coal to gas – a process that makes it easier to trap and confine greenhouse gases. Our friends at NRDC have a more technical description of this process at www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/solutions .

Do you wonder, as I do, why the government refuses to require this sort of technology at all new coal-burning power plants? Or at the very least set some limits that would actually help translate the potential of this technology into reality? Yes, it is more expensive than regular coal burning. But more regular coal burning also means more global warming pollution, despite all the b-s about “voluntary” efforts. The government itself projects carbon dioxide emissions will go up a lot, unless we actually do something to require limits.

Arctic Ecosystems: This week the American Meteorological Society continues a series of seminars on the impacts of global warming. This week it will examine the effects of climate change on Arctic ecosystems. Friday, July 14, 2006, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm. Location: Russell Senate Office Building, Room 428a, Washington, DC. For more information please contact: Anthony D. Socci, Ph.D. (202) 737-9006, ext. 412

Outside the Beltway: If you didn’t see it, Greenwire ran a fascinating piece last week on the effort by the Entergy Power Company to oppose the Bush administration’s asleep-at-the-switch position on global warming. Entergy is seeking to join a lawsuit by state attorneys general and environmental groups against the Bush administration.

All-star attitude: One of the most interesting things to watch is the continuing efforts by the government of Pennsylvania to show that environmental improvement can also improve the economy. In a state with a real reactionary history on the environment, it has been very progressive on everything from cleaner cars to mercury pollution control. And we hear another effort will be unveiled tomorrow at the baseball All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. Don’t forget to tune in.

1 comment:

henrykwool said...

This is ridiculous. The owners of the companies are also humans.Their rights also have to be protected.
It was the federal government that mandated the use of MTBE.MTBE use was legal.And when the government took this action back in 1990, they of course knew about the effects that MTBE could cause. Ok, You might argue that the government didn't know. Then how do you suppose the government can legalise a chemical in the market without appropriate testing done?
First itself, the government should not have mandated its use even when it knew about its effects. And now holding the oil industry liable for following a congressional mandate is not appropriate.
I saw this sentence in your article "But the EPA says that the additive was not specifically required and that refiners could have chosen to use ethanol or other oxygenates." .The oxygenates were MBTE and Ethanol.And, now, looking at the present scenario of the price rise, do you expect that any oil company would have prefered the use of ethanol over MTBE.After all business is done for profit.
The issue about MTBE and MTBE LITIGATION has to be better researched before making the oil companies liable for the clean -up.