Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Senate committee endorses controversial EPA air nominee in party-line vote; the role of Britney Spears

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 10-8 on a straight party line vote today to send the William Wehrum nomination to the full senate.

A filibuster is likely on Wehrum, nominated to run EPA's air pollution division.

The key vote in favor of Wehrum was cast by Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI).

Chafee has been endorsed by environmentalist political action committee, and so environmentalists were disappointed by his vote.

Chafee used some Britney Spears logic to explain his vote, telling environmentalist lobbyists yesterday that "it's my prerogative."

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/britneyspears/myprerogative.html

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

New York Times editorial on Kit Bond and lawn mower battle

Bond called "troglodytic"

April 25, 2006

Greening the American Lawn

The sound of a green-grass Saturday across most of this country is the sound of the lawnmower. And like virtually everything in modern life that's even remotely enjoyable, tending the lawn has become a guilty pleasure. Conventional lawns are water-hungry. The environmental costs of keeping them looking immaculate — with fertilizers and pesticides — can be very high. And then there's the mower itself, a potent spewer of smog-forming compounds that is vastly more toxic than a new car.

Cleaning up the lawnmowers could be fairly simple. The big obstacle isn't technical. It's political. It would be easy enough to add a small catalytic converter no bigger than a golf ball to each new lawnmower. That would substantially reduce lawnmower emissions.

But any move to do so has been blocked by Senator Christopher Bond, whose home state, Missouri, happens to have two plants that manufacture Briggs & Stratton engines, which are widely used in lawnmowers.

California is set to enact new standards next year that would require substantially lower small-engine emissions. But no other state can follow suit. In 2003, Mr. Bond reached a deal with Senator Dianne Feinstein that allows California to enact its own clean air laws but blocks any other state from following its lead. That makes the deal fine for California but not for the rest of the country — or for the Clean Air Act, which it clearly violates.

Senator Bond and Briggs & Stratton are making an enormous mistake. Their resistance to California's new standards — and to the adoption of catalytic converters — makes them look troglodytic. What's worse is that they're missing an enormous opportunity. Americans do love their lawns.

But at the moment, we're trapped in something of a paradox: to keep the grass trimmed we depend on heavily polluting engines. The manufacturer that offers an environmentally sound mower will almost certainly find a nation of willing buyers.

Friday, April 21, 2006

SPECIAL REPORT: The Soot Struggle -- the Battle Lines Are Drawn

The Soot Struggle: the Battle Lines Are Drawn


On April 17, 2006, the U.S. EPA officially closed the public comment period on its proposal, announced right before Christmas, to make minor changes in national air quality standards for particle pollution, commonly known as soot. So far, the EPA has ignored its own science advisers, who have pointed out that modern science demands that EPA set tougher standards in order to protect people’s health.

Literally scores of thousands of comments have flooded into EPA – the vast majority of them urging the agency to set tougher standards than those proposed. (A final decision is due under a court order by September 27.) The government is posting those comments on http://www.regulations.gov/.

Clean Air Watch has spent many hours reviewing those comments and looking for patterns. And even though the government has still not officially posted all the comments, we have seen enough to provide a general frame of reference. See details below.

Medical groups like the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Cancer Society are united in urging the EPA to set much tougher standards.

Also seeking better standards are state and local clean-air regulators – including many from states with Republican governors such as Utah, Missouri, California and Maryland.

Needless to say, health and environmental organizations from around the nation are also urging the EPA to set better standards.

Aligned against these groups is a dirty-air axis of virtually every major industry group in the nation, including the coal, oil, chemical, steel, automobile, diesel and electric power industries, abetted by various front-group “think tanks” that they support financially. Farm and ranching groups round out the opposition.

Some interesting tidbits emerge from these comments. Consider, for example:

Ex-Cheney Aide Calls Home: Jim Sims is head of the Western Business Roundtable, an alliance of coal and other polluter groups in the West. http://www.westernroundtable.com/company/leadership.asp

Sims, noted for being the communications director for Vice President Dick Cheney’s secret Energy Policy Group http://www.westernroundtable.com/company/bio_jsims.asp
as well as for organizing the annual business festival of access buying (ABFAB) in the desert, blasted the idea of tougher particle soot rules. He made sure the first person he CC’d was his old boss – Dick Cheney.

Dirty Liberal Darling: Note the comments by the producers of ethanol – a fuel extolled by some liberal groups as the antidote to oil. It turns out that Big Corn – Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and other members of the Corn Refiners Association – is literally marching in lockstep with Big Oil against tougher standards. Smaller ethanol producers (for example, the National Association of Farmer Cooperatives) also oppose tougher soot standards. So does the National Corn Growers Association.

Did Gilbert & Sullivan Write This? Note the letter from Donald Schregardus, who became notorious as the pro-industry head of the Ohio EPA. In fact, Schregardus was so controversial that President Bush was forced to withdraw his nomination as the U.S. EPA’s top enforcement officer. As a consolation prize, the Bush administration made Schregardus Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (yes, it does seem like a plot borrowed from Gilbert & Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore”), and in that capacity, Schregardus warned that big particles could interfere with the military’s testing of weapons. No, as singer Anna Russell once put, it, we are not making this up.

Is it the chicken, or the egg – or the manure? No matter, because the United Egg Producers, Tyson’s chicken company and the Fertilizer Institute all oppose tougher EPA standards.

Below is an incomplete list of groups that seek tougher soot standards, and groups that oppose them:

Among those arguing for tougher standards

MEDICAL GROUPS

American Medical Association
American Association on Mental Retardation
American Cancer Society
American College of Nurse-Midwives
American Diabetes Association
American Heart Association
American Lung Association
American Nurses Association
American Public Health Association
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Center for Children's Health and the Environment,
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Children's Environmental Health Network
Easter Seals
Health Care Without Harm
Institute for Children's Environmental Health
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
National Research Center for Women & Families
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Science and Environmental Health Network
The Arc of the United States
The Learning Disabilities Association of America
Trust for America's Health

STATES AND STATE GROUPS

NESCAUM
(Representing Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey)

State and Territorial Program Administrators and
Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials

Alaska
Utah
Maryland
Pennsylvania
Iowa
Illinois
Arizona
Missouri
North Carolina
California
Colorado

South Coast Air Quality Management District
Dayton, Ohio, Regional Air Pollution Control Authority
Boulder County, Colorado
Mono County, California
Pinal County, Arizona
City of Phoenix


Department of the Navy


ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS

Clean Air Watch
Natural Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club
Environmental Defense

[Many others. The list is VERY long; please e-mail us if you want it]


Among those arguing against tougher standards


UMBRELLA DIRTY-AIR AXIS:

Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
American Chemistry Council
American Coke and Coal Chemicals
Institute
American Forest & Paper Association
American Iron and Steel Institute
API
Corn Refiners Association
Council of Industrial Boiler Owners
Edison Electric Institute
Engine Manufacturers Association
National Association of Manufacturers
National Cotton Council
National Mining Association
National Oilseed Processors Association
National Petrochemical & Refiners
Association
National Rural Electric Cooperative
Association
Portland Cement Association
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Utility Air Regulatory Group

ExxonMobil
American Road and Transportation Builders Association

FARM AND RANCH GROUPS

The Fertilizer Institute
United Egg Producers
Tyson Food (chickens)
National Association of Farmer Cooperatives
Agri Beef Co.
South Dakota Farm Bureau
Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation
North Dakota Stockman’s Association
Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Georgia Cotton Commission
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
Louisiana Cotton Producers Association
National Grain and Feed Association
Washington Farm Bureau
National Corn Growers Association
American Meat Institute

COAL COMPANIES

Peabody Energy
Arch Coal

ELECTRIC POWER COMPANIES (and allied public power groups)

American Public Power Association
American Electric Power
Southern Company
First Energy
TXU Power
Duke Energy
Dominion Power
Alleghany Energy
Dynegy
Progress Energy
AES New York
Allant Energy
Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation
Cleco Corporation
City of Lakeland
City of Tallahassee
Dairyland Power Cooperative
The Dayton Power & Light Company
Entergy Services, Inc.
Entergy Arkansas
Entergy Gulf States
Entergy Louisiana
Entergy Mississippi
Entergy New Orleans
Florida Municipal Power Agency
Florida Power & Light Company
Gainesvile Regional Utilties
Great River Energy
Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc.
JEA
KeySpan
Nevada Power Company
NRG Energy, Inc.
OGE
Orlando Utilties Commission
Pacific Gas & Electric Company
PPL
Reliant Energy, Inc.
Tampa Electric Company
Wisconsin Public Service Corporation
Xcel Energy Inc.

Western Business Roundtable

National Association of Home Builders

Corporate Front Groups

American Enterprise Institute
Annapolis Center
Mercatus Center

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

AMA Pans Bush Soot Plan

The American Medical Association has come out with what amounts to a repudiation of EPA’s proposal on particle soot. See critical conclusion sentence, below.

The AMA is recommending the same plan for fine particles as recommended by the American Lung Association, Clean Air Watch and other health and environmental groups that have panned the Bush administration proposal.

This is highly significant.

AMA did not take a position like this the last time EPA reviewed these standards in 1997.

AMA is generally considered pretty close to the Republican Party (lobbyists include Michael J. Bates, part of the policy advisory group for the Bush-Cheney 2000 election; Bill Timmons, Jr., formerly with the RNC and Senate Republican Election Committee; Bryce Harlow, who worked for the Reagan and Bush 1 administrations; and in-house lobbyist Richard Deem, who used to work for Republican Dick Schweiker). This letter may cause some ripples in Republican lobbying circles.

It also sharpens the question: will EPA listen to the industry spin doctors, or the real doctors?

In conclusion, the AMA supports more stringent standards for PM2.5 comprised of 12 μg/m3 for the average annual standard; 25 μg/m3 for the 24-hour standard; and use of the 99th percentile form for compliance determination

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial: Congress should reject "industry shill" Wehrum as EPA air head

Tue, Apr. 18, 2006


William Wehrum and the EPA Editorial More foe than friend of clean air

The nation's top clean air cop should be an enforcer, not an industry apologist. He should write tough rules, not craft loopholes to end-run one of the nation's most successful public-health protections.

The Senate should reject President Bush's nomination of former industry attorney William Wehrum to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's air programs. As chief counselor and interim assistant administrator since 2001, he's done enough damage already.

Wehrum has suppressed scientific analysis, diluted public-health standards, and reinterpreted law to favor industry. He still advocates for special interests, not the public interest.
Wehrum joined EPA as chief counsel to former assistant administrator Jeffrey Holmstead. Both men had worked for the law firm Latham & Watkins, whose clients include utilities the EPA regulates.

During Holmstead's term, verbatim language from Latham & Watkins memos favoring industry appeared in a proposed EPA rule. Firm attorneys also advised Wehrum and Holmstead on controversial changes in plywood and industrial boiler rules, which the EPA general counsel said violated the Clean Air Act. Lawsuits are pending.

In 2003, as chief architect of a mercury emissions rule, Wehrum canceled the usual scientific and economic analysis of competing ideas in favor of the administration's proposed legislation, spurring protests from EPA staff and Congress.

The General Accounting Office, the EPA Inspector General and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals all have rejected Wehrum's five-year campaign to rewrite "new source review" rules governing upgrades of old power plants. Last month, federal judges disparaged the Bush administration approach as making sense "only in a Humpty-Dumpty world."

Earlier this month, seven of 10 regional EPA offices angrily objected to Wehrum's plan to allow refineries, steel mills, chemical plants and smelters to emit more toxic pollutants such as arsenic and lead. They resented being cut out of a process that could prove "detrimental to the environment."

Wehrum's pattern of neglect disqualifies him for this office.

Wehrum told the Senate earlier this month that he bases his approach on trying to "accelerate the pace of environmental progress while maintaining our nation's economic competitiveness."
The way to do that is to enforce, not dismantle, the Clean Air Act.

The Bush administration continues to put environment at odds with economics, but its own Office of Management and Budget concluded in 2003 that the health and social benefits of tough regulations are worth the costs to industry and consumers. No return has been as great as the Clean Air Act - providing up to $119 billion in reduced emergency-room visits, hospitalizations, and lost workdays annually, compared to less than $9 billion spent on compliance.

A law that valuable needs a devoted champion at EPA, not an industry shill.

Monday, April 17, 2006

EPA: global warming emissions up again!

Despite an attempt to put a rosy spin on the subject, the Bush administration conceded today that global warming emissions went up again in the most recent assessment.

Note EPA in a press release: "Overall, greenhouse gas emissions during 2004 increased by 1.7 percent from the previous year. This increase, which occurred during a period of economic expansion, was due primarily to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions associated with fuel and electricity consumption. Fossil fuel combustion was the largest source of emissions, accounting for 80 percent of the total. "

The administration declared victory by announcing it had reduced the "intensity" of emissions.

Friday, April 14, 2006

News notes: a marathon surprise, thank you for emitting, and more...

A few things to keep an eye out for in the near future.

A marathon surprise? Next Monday isn’t just the Boston Marathon – it’s the milestone in a different sort of marathon. It’s the close of the public comment period on EPA’s controversial particle soot proposal. Yes, you can be sure that the “usual suspects” such as the American Lung Association, Clean Air Watch and other health and environmental groups will urge EPA to set better standards. But I am told surprise comments are coming as well. Let’s talk on Monday!

Clean air benefits: Speaking of fine particle soot, the White House Office of Management and Budget has just completed a draft report on the costs and benefits of federal regulations. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/reports/2006_draft_cost_benefit_report.pdf

It’s no surprise to us that clean air standards produce more recorded benefits than any other federal rules assessed. Notes OMB: “The majority of the large estimated benefits of EPA rules are attributable to the reduction in public exposure to a single air pollutant: fine particulate matter.”

Given these findings, it’s both ironic and duplicitous that the White House is fighting to prevent particle soot standards that would reflect the latest scientific research. If they did this honestly, new standards would produce even bigger monetary benefits in the form of fewer deaths and less disease.

Mowing maneuvers: The Associated Press reported this week that the Briggs & Stratton Corp. and their Washington spokesman, Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, will continue to fight efforts by the EPA to set new clean-air standards for lawn mowers and other dirty small engines. And now EPA has announced it will hold a public meeting May 5 in Ann Arbor, MI, to permit further scrutiny of an EPA study (demanded by Bond at Briggs & Stratton’s request) which concluded that putting small catalytic converters on lawn mowers would not pose a safety concern. Expect the B&S team and its front-group surrogates to book their flights today.

As AP noted, Briggs & Stratton is paying for its own study of this issue – one that is predestined to come to a different conclusion than EPA’s assessment. When you see “code orange” and “code red’ notices this summer, you can thank Kit Bond and his corporate sponsor for continuing to delay the cleanup.

Scientific charlatans: I was struck this week by a release which noted that a group called The Annapolis Center will give an award later this month to Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=63873 who wears one of the blackest anti-environmental hats in Congress. This “center” gave a similar award last year to another alleged environmental champion, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), so at least it is consistent in dishing out awards to the most vile elements in Congress. Maybe Kit Bond will win next year.

As you have probably guessed, this “center” is a corporate-backed front group that seeks to give what the spinmeisters call “third-party” cover to rotten political decisions. John Fialka of the Wall Street Journal did a wonderful expose on this group in 1997, noting that its money came from member companies of the National Association of Manufacturers who, at the time, were trying to use the center to block – what else? – better standards for fine particle soot.

Thank you for emitting: And finally (for now), E Magazine has a terrific interview with my sometime debate partner, Frank Maisano. Read this, and you realize that the movie, “Thank You for Smoking,” is really a documentary. http://www.emagazine.com/view/?3151

Thursday, April 13, 2006

EPA ordered to cough up secret mercury information

A federal judge today ordered the U.S. EPA to turn over information that the agency sought to hide about the potential impacts of cleaning up mercury pollution from coal-burning electric power plants.

The information has been sought by the attorney general of Massachusetts under the Freedom of Information Act. EPA has tried to keep the information a secret, citing an esoteric exemption under the information law.

Today the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts sided with the state and ordered EPA to cough up the material it has sought to keep under lock and key.

The material in question involves some computer simulations the EPA did to project the impact of tougher mercury requirements on the electric power industry.

The Bush administration has asserted that its industry-friendly 2005 emission-trading rule would be better for both the environment and industry than would tougher alternatives, including plans to require cleanup of mercury at every coal-burning plant. Industry spokesmen have made the reckless charge that such requirements would prompt more companies to shift from coal to natural gas.

Today’s decision does make you wonder just what EPA has been trying to hide.

This is the second controversial development this week involving EPA’s pitifully weak mercury requirements.

Earlier this week, the Financial Times quoted EPA Administrator Steve Johnson as blaming China for some of the mercury pollution problems in the U.S. (This guy said this while in China! – raising the hackles of Chinese officials. Today, Johnson claimed in Shanghai that “I was misquoted and taken out of context.”)

Frankly, Johnson should have been more concerned about the mercury pollution spewing out of U.S. smokestacks rather than those in China. Perhaps the suppressed information will shed more light on the matter.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

EPA and the polluting electric power companies: the Supreme Court can't tell them apart!


We’ve been saying for years that the Bush EPA has been working on behalf of the polluters. And now the Supreme Court apparently agrees.

See the amusing letter to the clerk of the Supreme Court from a lawyer who works for electric power companies with a long history of fighting against pollution controls (The Utility Air Regulatory Group).

She wants to correct a reference in the High Court’s docket, which listed her as representing EPA.

No wonder the court was confused – EPA and the polluter types really are pretty much the same since the Bush crowd came into office.

This is a case about whether the federal government should take action against greenhouse gas emissions.

Massachusetts and others lost this case in a lower court and are asking the Supremes to review it.

http://www.supremecourtus.gov/docket/05-1120.htm

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Briggs & Stratton, Kit Bond Rev Up for Another Attempt to Kill Pollution Controls for Small Engines

This is the latest chapter in a long-running saga:


Small engine industry still battling pollution controls

By SAM HANANEL Associated Press Writer 11 April 200611:12 pm GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Briggs & Stratton Corp. and its political benefactor -- Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo. -- still aren't ready to accept the government's findings about pollution controls on small engines.

An Environmental Protection Agency study last month found it's safe to place catalytic converters on lawn and garden equipment to reduce air pollution. That opened the door for California to implement state rules to regulate the highly polluting small engines, and for the EPA to write nationwide rules.

But despite objections from environmentalists and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the lawn mower engine maker with two plants in Missouri is joining other industry members to fund a new study that is likely to contradict the EPA report.

And they are taking their concerns to a different government agency -- the Consumer Product Safety Commission -- that may be more receptive to the industry. Bond, who supports the industry-backed study, chairs the Senate spending panel that funds the safety commission.

It's another chapter in the long-running dispute between the lawn equipment industry and the EPA over the small engines. Regulators want to issue nationwide rules this year to limit small engine pollution, and also grant California a waiver to put its own rules in effect. Some manufacturers complain the rules will increase the risk of fires and raise production costs by 30 percent.

Bond has long opposed the tougher standards and last year insisted the EPA study whether catalytic converters could create fire risks. Environmental groups accused Bond of delaying tactics to protect 3,000 Briggs & Stratton jobs in Missouri.

Last week, members of a nonprofit safety group called the International Consortium for Fire Safety, Health and the Environment met with CPSC officials to criticize the EPA report and outline a new study on the fire risks of catalytic converters.

"We expect this to be a full and complete study, which we did not think the EPA study was," said Patricia Hanz, a spokeswoman for Briggs & Stratton in Milwaukee. "We do think the study needs to be done by an independent third party that doesn't have a vested interest in the outcome, which EPA did."

Hanz said the new study will be funded in part by the education and research foundation of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, an industry trade association.

CPSC spokeswoman Julie Vallese said the commission has endorsed the EPA study but remains open to considering other evidence of safety hazards.

"If any information arises that the CPSC believes is good solid data that raises concerns, CPSC will work with EPA to correct any of the problems along the way," Vallese said.

Some in the environmental community say it's no coincidence that Bond controls the safety commission's purse strings as chairman of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

"He does control the budget for the CPSC and so is in a position to exert some pressure on them," said Frank O'Donnell, director of the environmental advocacy group Clean Air Watch.

"Breathers will continue to suffer the effects of smog if Sen. Bond tries to use this study to delay the much-needed cleanup of these dirty small engines."

Bond spokesman Rob Ostrander calls such speculation nonsense.

"The CPSC is staffed by honest professionals," Ostrander said. "What an insult for some in the environmental community to suggest they can be bought off."

"The EPA study, in coordination with the CPSC, was not a public process so there was no input or comment by members of the public or stakeholder groups," Ostrander said. "Why would anyone be against more information being available?"

California officials have grown frustrated with the delays.

"We don't believe this needs to be studied additionally," said Feinstein spokesman Howard Gantman.

"The EPA did a very exhaustive study and concluded that these catalytic converters can be safe, and we are hoping that the EPA moves expeditiously to allow California to move forward with its efforts to clean up the air," Gantman said.

The new study is expected to be complete later this year.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Probe called for EPA chief's fundraiser apperance; and what Tom DeLay did about global warming

The Denver Post reports today that "The top Democrat of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Thursday called for an investigation into whether the head of the Environmental Protection Agency violated federal law in connection with a Denver fundraiser." More at

http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_3682298

Also today: what did the Tony Rudy plea bargain tell us about Tom DeLay and global warming? See at http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/04/07/fingering_the_perps.php

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Some items on www.tompaine.com

As the situation grows more dire, who's to blame for congressional inaction on key global warming issues? at http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/04/06/global_warmers.php

and

If you were President Bush and wanted an industry-friendly air pollution czar at EPA, whom would you pick? How about a former polluter-industry lawyer who’s already had a hand in the worst Bush dirty-air atrocities? at http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/04/06/how_many_more_recess_appointments.php

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Nominee to head EPA's Clean Air office appears before Senate confirmation panel

Newscast: Nominee to head EPA's Clean Air office appears before Senate confirmation panel
Marketplace Morning Report

April 5, 2006

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS, anchor: The nominee to head the nation's top clean air regulator appears before a Senate confirmation panel today. A major dust-up is expected.

MARKETPLACE's Scott Tong explains why.

SCOTT TONG reporting: William Wehrum is acting director of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Air office. Two years ago, that office was drafting rules on mercury emissions for power plants. Industry lobbying firm Latham & Watkins submitted its own proposal. Wehrum used to work there.

Mr. FRANK O'DONNELL: Several paragraphs of the Latham & Watkins language appeared virtually verbatim in the EPA rule.

TONG: Frank O'Donnell is with Clean Air Watch.

Mr. O'DONNELL: So the company clearly had a direct pipeline to the rule writers.

TONG: Wehrum denied any involvement in the copying and pasting incident. But environmentalists also tie him to two other EPA actions: a draft plan to ease toxic emissions rules and an effort to exempt coal-fired plants from having to install clean air technology. Wehrum defenders say his office has limited diesel and sulphur pollution. In Washington, I'm Scott Tong for MARKETPLACE.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

White House environmental chief: I'm making this up as I go

AIR POLLUTION: Utility costs jump $30B to $40B without CAIR -- CEQ chief

Ben Geman, E&ENews PM senior reporter 4/4/06

Failure to implement the Bush administration's Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) could cost utilities $30 billion to $40 billion more to achieve emissions reductions required by the rule, the White House's top environmental official warned today.

Jim Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told an industry forum that the projected cost of $50 billion to implement the rule -- which is being challenged in court -- could swell if state-by-state approaches to curbing emissions are pursued instead.

"State-by-state warfare" on emissions could "turn this $50 billion cost back into ... an $80 billion cost, a $90 billion cost," Connaughton told the U.S. Energy Association's annual meeting in Washington. "We don't know how it would play out in the end."

CAIR creates a cap-and-trade system to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from coal-fired power plants in 28 Eastern states and the District of Columbia. U.S. EPA says the rule, when fully implemented, would curb SO2 emissions by more than 70 percent, and NOx emissions by more than 60 percent.

Connaughton cautioned after the speech that he was "speculating" about the increased costs to utilities without the rule and noted the acid rain trading program created under the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 reduced the cost of compliance to achieve reductions. "I am just speculating off that prior experience," he said. "Don't take that as a hard analysis."

Utilities' costs would be higher without the rule for several reasons, Connaughton said. State-by-state planning can throw off companies' capital investment cycles and increase the cost of capital, labor and materials, he said.

Monday, April 03, 2006

News notes: polluter consigliore confirmation and more

Consigliore confirmation? Confirmation hearings are scheduled Wednesday for EPA’s dirty-air mastermind, William Wehrum. The former Latham & Watkins lawyer/polluter advocate is scheduled to appear before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee following his nomination to become EPA’s assistant administrator for air pollution. Those of you who have followed this issue closely will recall that Wehrum was recruited by another Latham & Watkins alum, Jeffery Holmstead, to be his consigliore. (Holmstead distrusted EPA career employees who were interested in matters like environmental protection.) Together, Holmstead and Wehrum did wonderful things (for polluters) including writing the new source review loophole that was unanimously gunned down recently by a federal appeals court and giving coal-burning power companies a truly ludicrous break on mercury pollution. (See more on mercury, below.) Needless to say, the Bush administration and Committee Chair Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) view Wehrum as the perfect candidate to maintain the industry-friendly atmosphere.

Clear Skies redux?! Speaking of protecting industry, we have heard that the Bush administration plans as soon as today to make what appears to be yet another clumsy stab to promote its so-called Clear Skies legislation (!!!) and to dump on rival plans such as those that have been advocated by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Jim Jeffords (I-VT). You may recall that several months ago, the EPA released computer modeling results that made the rival legislation look a lot better than the administration plan. If you don’t like the results, re-crunch the numbers. And that’s what the administration seeks to do this week to try to make its approach seem more reasonable. But don’t worry: as much as big coal burners like American Electric Power and Cinergy want the Bush plan, it isn’t going anywhere.

Climate of confusion? With the Senate Energy Committee planning a lengthy hearing tomorrow on the possibility of new global warming legislation, it is interesting to note that conservative political columnists are revving up to defend the biggest polluters. Yesterday George Will inveighed against what he called a “misinformation campaign” by “crusading journalism” on global warming. And today, the old Prince of Darkness himself, Bob Novak, assailed what he termed the “one-sided political presentation” of this issue by “60 Minutes” that “ignored the real scientific debate.”

Someone’s ghost-writing this drivel for these guys. Frank M., do you want to confess?

Polluter propaganda: A related matter: In recent months, there’s been an astonishing amount of propaganda extolling the climate-control virtues of some of the nation’s biggest polluters, including AEP and Cinergy. (Keep in mind that AEP boss Michael Morris is one of the diehard opponents of mandatory CO2 limits.) Maybe it’s time to call the meeting to order. We hear that Ceres plans to issue a new report this week tracking the actual emissions of the nation’s biggest power companies. I would strongly urge you to look at the actual numbers when it comes to the global warming pollution emitted by the likes of these companies. And consider some comparisons – megawatts generated versus CO2 emissions. We’ll help with these if you need it.

Mercury mendacity: As noted above, EPA’s Wehrum was a primary architect of the administration’s pro-industry mercury policy. That policy was based on the premise that reducing mercury emissions from a specific smokestack wouldn’t make much of a difference in nearby mercury deposition. WRONG! In an excellent piece in today’s Boston Globe, Beth Daley notes that reduced emissions from incinerators in Massachusetts has – voila – led to local fish with less mercury.

“These results undermine the whole assumption of the federal mercury control program," said Paul Miller, deputy director of the Northeast States For Coordinated Air Use Management, a nonprofit association of state air quality agencies. ''It shows local controls have local impacts."