Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mail Call: A Selection of Comments on Global Warming

We have received some rather colorful comments on global warming in response to the meeting between President Bush and novelist Michael Crichton. Here's a brief selection:

From Fred []:

Crichton is no dummy fool. He keeps himself well informed on all kinds of science. I would put his knowledge on the environment up against you and all those parasitic leftist fools you hang with. Surely your just looking for more grant money and donations to keep your phony scams going.

From Terrence Bergh []:

...we are entering the beginnings of a new ice age.

From Michael f. Vaughn []:

Mainly your only goal is a socialist utopian society with no privately owned vehicles or a growing American economy and the last thing you and your organization want is true freedom. You can attempt to debate but you cannot and will not change any minds of most of Americans and your tax-exempt status is just a game to gain access to lawmakers.

From John Wolford []:

Perhaps instead of flapping your loon like wings and squawking like some
bird brained psuedo-environmentalist who's real goal is political and
not even remotely environmental you would have endeavored to have
Russia, China and every other third world hell hole that has raped
their countries bare join in first and lead the way...

You are a waste of space on this planet because you will never cause any
worthwhile changes with your tactics.
Get off the public dole and quit sucking on the government teat.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

President Bush takes global warming advice from fiction writer

Bush's Chat With Novelist Alarms Environmentalists

Published: February 19, 2006
New York Times

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 — One of the perquisites of being president is the ability to have the author of a book you enjoyed pop into the White House for a chat.

Over the years, a number of writers have visited President Bush, including Natan Sharansky, Bernard Lewis and John Lewis Gaddis. And while the meetings are usually private, they rarely ruffle feathers.

Now, one has.

In his new book about Mr. Bush, "Rebel in Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush," Fred Barnes recalls a visit to the White House last year by Michael Crichton, whose 2004 best-selling novel, "State of Fear," suggests that global warming is an unproven theory and an overstated threat.

Mr. Barnes, who describes Mr. Bush as "a dissenter on the theory of global warming," writes that the president "avidly read" the novel and met the author after Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, arranged it. He says Mr. Bush and his guest "talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement."

"The visit was not made public for fear of outraging environmentalists all the more," he adds.
And so it has, fueling a common perception among environmental groups that Mr. Crichton's dismissal of global warming, coupled with his popularity as a novelist and screenwriter, has undermined efforts to pass legislation intended to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas that leading scientists say causes climate change.

Mr. Crichton, whose views in "State of Fear" helped him win the American Association of Petroleum Geologists' annual journalism award this month, has been a leading doubter of global warming and last September appeared before a Senate committee to argue that the supporting science was mixed, at best.

"This shows the president is more interested in science fiction than science," Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, said after learning of the White House meeting. Mr. O'Donnell's group monitors environmental policy.

"This administration has put no limit on global warming pollution and has consistently rebuffed any suggestion to do so," he said.

Not so, according to the White House, which said Mr. Barnes's book left a false impression of Mr. Bush's views on global warming.

Michele St. Martin, a spokeswoman for the Council on Environmental Quality, a White House advisory agency, pointed to several speeches in which Mr. Bush had acknowledged the impact of global warming and the need to confront it, even if he questioned the degree to which humans contribute to it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Blistering comments by Ontario, state attorneys general, on EPA giveaway

I am not sure why these things tend to happen on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, but…

In case you haven’t seen them, there are blistering comments today from the Province of Ontario and the 11 state attorneys general on the most recent effort by the Bush administration to gut the Clean Air Act’s new source review enforcement program.

You will note that Ontario charges that the proposed rule would allow power companies to polluter more and longer – and that it could increase pollution on both sides of the border. (In case you thought global warming was the only area where the US and Canada have followed separate paths.)

In their denunciation of this giveaway to the coal-burning power industry, the state attorneys general make reference to a memo by the director of EPA’s air enforcement division, who charges the rule change would “adversely affect” pending court cases and “is largely unenforceable as written.” (This memo was prophetic: as you may recall, at least one big violator – American Electric Power – has already tried to get the pollution case against it dismissed because of the proposed EPA rule change.)

As a graphic reminder of the real-world pollution problem: it doesn’t happen all that often in the winter, but there was a dirty-air inversion just yesterday in much of the Northeast. New York City, Bridgeport, CT, Boston, Springfield, Providence and Portland, ME, were among the areas with high levels of particle pollution, created mainly by coal burning and motor vehicles.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Senator Inhofe on global warming

A few comments today from Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) as his Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the EPA's budget request.

"I think it was wrong" said Inhofe, regarding the effort of former NASA spokesman, George Deutsch, to block reporter access to NASA scientist James Hansen, who has warned about the dangers of global warming. Perhaps a surprising comment from a senator who has called global warming a "hoax."

True to form, however, Inhofe quickly tried to change the subject by attacking for Clinton Administration for allegedly trying to politicize global warming.

As for predictions by Hansen that global warming could lead to planetary danger, Inhofe snorted:

"I think a lot of people really enjoy disaster."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Voinovich clean-air hearing backfires

You might call it a witch hunt in search of a non-existent witch.

It was billed as a hearing to examine the impact that clean-air regulations have on painfully high natural gas prices.

And Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), who called and chaired today’s hearing, made it clear he had made up his mind before witnesses had even begun to speak: “Clean air regulations have increased demand for natural gas,” charged Voinovich, adding that the demand has led to “the highest natural gas prices in the world.”

The problem for Voinovich is that two Bush administration witnesses basically pulled the rug out from under his sweeping assertions.

Even power company lobbyists in the Senate hearing room were snickering that Voinovich couldn’t find a witness to support his premise.

Bill Wehrum, the acting assistant administrator for air pollution control at EPA, “said acid rain, smog and New Source Review maintenance rules put into practice since passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments are not major factors affecting the cost of clean-burning fuel,” Greenwire noted today. Wehrum added that future cleanup requirements would also have minimal impact.

Also shooting down Voinovich’s premise was Howard Gruenspecht, deputy administrator of the Energy Information Administration, who noted to Voinovich’s Senate Clean Air Subcommitee most power companies had met clean-air obligations by using pollution controls at coal-burning plants, or switching to low-sulfur coal. He added that coal-burning had actually increased more than natural gas use at power plants since 1990.

Undeterred by the facts, Voinovich bade his federal witnesses farewell by proclaiming “My theory is that the clean-air regulations exacerbated the demand for natural gas.”

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

manufacturers rally opposition to tougher air standards

Only days after EPA’s science advisors reiterated their stance that EPA had ignored science (and the science advisors) in proposing unsuitably weak new standards for particle pollution, another shoe has dropped.

And it’s a big foot.

The National Association of Manufacturers is rallying corporate opposition to any change in the current standards. The powerful manufacturing lobby is urging member companies to contact EPA and argue that new standards “will impose significant burdens on my company.”

NAM also urges that companies make a truly bizarre argument – that tougher new standards could “undermine” existing requirements, including those involving diesel engines and electric power plants. (Actually, tougher standards would underscore that additional cleanup needs to be done to protect people’s health.)

The NAM attack appears to have been cobbled together rather hastily. You’ll note the NAM web site and the suggested letter both misspell the word “regulations.”

NAM Prosperity Project

Submit Comments to the EPA on Revised Fine Particulate Matter Regulations
On January 17, 2006, the EPA opened a 120 day comment period on a proposed revision to the agency’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5). Among the regulatory proposals include scenarios whereby the current standard would become more stringent, thereby increasing environmental compliance costs and adding to a climate of business uncertainty. Ironically, the EPA has not yet completely implemented the current standard for PM 2.5 and therefore has an incomplete picture of air quality and public health goals that it would like to achieve by issuing a new standard altogether. The NAM is opposed to the EPA’s proposals that would lead to a stricter PM 2.5 standard and advocates keeping the current standard in place. Final comments are due April 17, 2006.

We have included draft comments for your use. Please add your own comments to the following letter to help better explain how the added cost of more stringent regualtions will affect your business and employees. To submit comments to the Environmental Protection Agency, simply fill out the information below and click "Continue." Draft comments will appear that you may edit and then send to the EPA.


I am writing today to urge the Environmental Protection Agency not to impose a stringent, new National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5). This will impose significant burdens on my company, along with other U.S. manufacturers that are facing fierce international competition. These new regualtions being proposed do not make any significant contribution to the environment and public health.

The EPA should adopt the regulatory option of keeping the existing standard, which has not yet been fully implemented. The EPA's proposal is bad policy because it is not grounded in sound science, and changing the standard now would create investment and business uncertainty.

The Bush Administration has already issued a number of rules that will make significant strides toward reducing emissions of PM including the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) to reduce emissions from power plants in the eastern United States, and the Clean Diesel Program to reduce emissions from highway, non-road and stationary diesel engines. We believe that an untimely revision of the PM 2.5 standard could undermine these already existing rules.

Although the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to periodically review air quality standards to ensure they provide adequate health and environmental protection, it does not mandate that such a review result in revision of an existing standard.

If you have any questions regarding these comments, you may contact me at the address below.


EPA blows deadline on study of small engines

Missed emissions deadline causes concern - 6th February 2006

Concerns have been raised over the future of regulations for high polluting engines following a missed deadline by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA failed to meet a deadline for a small-engines emissions report, indicating that standards for larger engines could be delayed, reports the Associated Press.

"It is very disturbing that the EPA is late with this report because small engines are a very significant source of smog in the summer," explained Frank O'Donnell, director of the environmental advocacy group Clean Air Watch.

The study into regulating air pollution from items such as lawnmowers will now be finished next month, explained EPA spokesperson John Millett.Mr Millett defended the missed deadline and said that new standards would be in place by the end of 2006, aiming to reduce the amount of smog-forming emissions contributed by small-engines.The study is expected to confirm the safety of catalytic converters, which are to be added to power tools to make them cleaner.

Pressure on the EPA has increased following predictions that without the new regulations, emissions from these engines would increase by 70 tonnes per day.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Clean Air Watch joins call for EPA to clean up diesel train, boat emissions

Coalition urges EPA action on ship, train diesel emissions
Alex Kaplun, Greenwire reporter

A coalition of environmental groups urged U.S. EPA yesterday to quickly adopt regulations to reduce air emissions from ships and trains -- diesel engine types that have not been subject to new rules in recent years.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the groups asked EPA to fulfill its commitment to moving quickly on new regulations. Agency officials previously said that they would propose the new rules by the middle of 2005 and put in place the final regulations sometime this year. But the agency has yet to release a proposal.

"Marine diesel vessels and locomotives are crucial components of the national transit system and are especially important for freight transport," the letter says. "But they are also a significant -- and growing -- source of air pollution."

The letter was signed by more than 50 environmental groups, including Clean Air Watch, Environmental Defense and Natural Resource Defense Council.

A study released by the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators says diesel emissions from ships and trains are responsible for about 4,400 premature deaths each and that new regulations would result in "health-related benefits" totaling $27 billion per year. The group used the EPA's own system of analysis for diesel emissions to reach those conclusions.

EPA regulations for ships and trains will likely mirror those that agency has released in the last few years for on-road and off-road diesel engines. Those rules have been praised by many groups as perhaps the biggest environmental accomplishment of the Bush administration. Those regulations will cut emissions from diesel engines in most cases by more than 90 percent, significantly reducing the levels nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter.

But EPA says it has not yet proposed the new regulations because it must still work through some technical problems that are unique to these trains and ships. An EPA spokesman said in a statement yesterday that delay is due to the agency trying to ensure that its regulation can be quickly implemented once it becomes policy.

"EPA agrees with STAPPA about the urgency of addressing PM from locomotives and marine diesels. That's why the agency will propose regulations this year on those sources," the statement says. "The work now under way will result in faster development and implementation of a successful regulation that will save more lives."

White House tampered with EPA particle pollution plan

EPA’s science advisors will meet this afternoon in North Carolina to discuss the EPA’s recent proposed particle pollution standard – a proposal that has drawn tons of criticism because it was weaker than the science advisors had recommended.

There may be some interesting fireworks. Both the California EPA and the American Lung Association plan to note that the White House Office of Management and Budget tampered with the preamble of EPA’s proposal to cast doubt on the scientific need for tougher standards. See excerpts below.

These observations underscore the concerns we have noted that real science has been contaminated by political science.

In other testimony, Northeastern states will point out that better standards, supported by science, would protect more people from particle pollution.

Here are a few quick excerpts of prepared testimony:

California EPA: Notes that the White House Office of Management and Budget made last-minute insertions to the proposal to cast doubt on the science. “After years of vetting the science by CASAC in an open forum, the last minute addition of edits and opinions by OMB and others circumvents the entire peer review process,” notes Bart Ostro, Chief of California EPA’s Air Pollution Epidemiology Unit. “Many of the statements [inserted by the White House] overstate uncertainty and misrepresent the scientific consensus.”

American Lung Association: “Suddenly, in the preamble, we are seeing language inserted by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that distorts the staff scientists’ and this committee’s interpretations of key scientific studies. This language is inconsistent with the conclusions of the Criteria Document and Staff Paper which have been thoroughly vetted by this Committee… Please stick to your guns. Lowering the annual fine particle standard as recommended by this Committee is vitally important. Any flipflopping will impair the credibility of this Committee in this and future reviews.”

Northeastern States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM): “EPA has the option to more than double the number of people in the U.S. protected by PM2.5 standards if it chooses to follow CASAC’s recommendations for an annual standard of either 13 or 14 μg/m3. This number could be considerably larger were the Administrator to propose even more stringent 24-hr and annual standards recommended by EPA staff.” [As you may know, Northeastern states have urged EPA to set a much tougher standard of 12 annual/30 daily. For more, contact NESCAUM’s Paul Miller at 617 259-2075.]

Environmental Defense: Notes recent science underscores the need for a tougher annual particle standard, and also rebukes EPA for exempting “rural” areas from bigger-particle standards – in fact, proposing not even to measure such pollution there: “EPA’s monitoring rule thus severely impairs the objective of increasing understanding of the level, size distribution and composition of coarse PM in rural areas and small to mid-size communities… we are deeply concerned that EPA’s proposal offers a blanket exemption to the agriculture and mining industries”

The California, NESCAUM and Environmental Defense presentations are at