Friday, September 29, 2006

Washington Post "Update" on soot scandal

UPDATE

A Vote Lost in the Smog

Friday, September 29, 2006; Page A19

One person's consensus is another person's split vote, at least in Washington.

Last week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson set new rules for the amount of fine particulate matter, or soot, that Americans can breathe in any given day. (He cut the existing standard of 65 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 35.) But the administrator decided to maintain the standard for the amount of soot Americans breathe on average over the course of a year, at 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

EPA's Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, by a 20 to 2 vote, had urged the agency last year to reduce the annual soot standard to 13 or 14 micrograms per cubic meter. When reporters pointed this out in a telephone conference call on Thursday, he emphasized that the panel's recommendation was not unanimous.

"We didn't ignore any recommendations. In fact, the opposite's true," Johnson said. "There was not complete agreement on the standard. This is complex science, and reasonable people can disagree."

Those comments did not please the advisory panel's chair, Rogene Henderson. This week, Henderson -- a senior scientist emeritus at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute -- called Johnson's comments "a little disingenuous," since "20 members were in total agreement" on the issue.

Given that level of agreement, she added, Johnson should have heeded the committee's advice. "The public is not well served by circumventing the scientific advisory process," she said.
Nonetheless, EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said her boss stands by his comments. "As Administrator Johnson said last week, wherever the science gave us a clear picture, we took clear action," Wood said.

-- Juliet Eilperin

Thursday, September 28, 2006

George Orwell, call home: EPA to cut number of air pollution monitors

George Orwell remains alive and well at the Bush EPA.

Today the agency issued new rules which it said would "improve" air pollution monitoring.

Actually, in the fine print, the rules note that EPA would eliminate about 600 monitors under the theory that the air has gotten so clean that we don't need to measure it as much.

You've heard of "don't ask, don't tell." This would be "don't measure, don't find."

Industry is already praising the new rule, which would replace the discarded monitors with about 75 monitors designed to measure more than one pollutant.

State air pollution agencies are skeptical -- especially since the Bush administration has called for a 40 percent cut in spending on air pollution monitors.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Is YOUR state siding with the power industry in the upcoming big air pollution case before the Supreme Court?

Answer: the states that are siding with the electric power industry are: ALABAMA, ALASKA, COLORADO, INDIANA, KANSAS, NEBRASKA, SOUTH CAROLINA, SOUTH DAKOTA, VIRGINIA, WYOMING, and the STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION.

It’s a sad commentary when elected officials are siding with big polluters against the breathing public. And having taxpayers foot the legal bills.

Philadelphia Inquirer calls EPA's Steve Johnson "a rat," the ugly return of "Smokey Joe" Barton, and more..

YOU DOITY RAT! -- If you haven’t read it already, I heartily commend your attention to the wonderful, tell-it-like-it-is editorial in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/editorial/15616345.htm in which EPA head Steve Johnson is described as “a rat” for his odious behavior on the soot issue. Where is Hamlet when we really need him? (III,iv,23) Seriously, why are our other major papers snoozing on this issue?

RED-PEN RETURNING? Speaking of the EPA soot decision, the agency still has not released the official “regulatory impact analysis” for the soot rule. Does that mean the green eye-shade people at the White House Office of Management and Budget are still taking a red pen to the document, which should be completed today?

Let’s keep an eye out, by the way, for references to the new study, which found that the death toll from particle soot was higher than noted in EPA’s official propaganda. http://www.epa.gov/ttn/ecas/regdata/Uncertainty/pm_ee_report.pdf We are wondering why EPA has told people on Capitol Hill that this document is a “draft” – when it says “Final Report” on the cover?

SMOKEY JOE LIGHTS UP -- The various legal briefs are streaming in for the upcoming Supreme Court case on new source review, which will be argued in November. One of the more interesting “friend of the court” briefs has been filed by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (at least through the end of the year). Barton, christened “Smokey Joe” by the Dallas Morning News, took a predictable, pro-polluter position. What’s interesting is that his brief was written by some fellows with an outfit called “Frontiers of Freedom” – this would be a bogus think tank underwritten by ExxonMobil and other miscreants. At least Barton is consistent.

FINALLY SOME GOOD NEWS! – As you probably know, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to sign California’s global warming initiative into law today. This is truly a landmark development. State initiatives like this will be vital as long as DC remains in the clutches of those mentioned earlier in this note.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ecotalk/Air America Radio takes another look at EPA soot scandal

http://www.ecotalkblog.com/


September 25, 2006

Frank O'Donnell: EPA chooses politics over science

Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch returns to give us the inside scoop on how the EPA spun its industry-driven air quality standards.LISTEN (11 min)

Monday, September 25, 2006

EPA top science adviser calls EPA head "disingenuous," and more fallout from soot scandal

We are still tracking the fallout from last week’s decision by the EPA to ignore its own science advisers in setting weak new particle soot air standards.

Below are a few of the interesting developments. We will continue to monitor this.


“Disingenuous” decision maker: We shouldn’t be too surprised that EPA’s independent science advisers would bristle at the brush-off they got from EPA chief Steve Johnson. But those advisers are speaking out forcefully.

Advisory committee chair Rogene Henderson told BNA Daily Environment Report that her panel would send EPA an unprecedented new letter re-stating their objections to EPA’s non-scientific decision.

You may recall that “career scientist” Johnson asserted during his spin session that EPA’s science advisers were divided. Henderson charged that Johnson was being “disingenuous” since 20 of the 22 science advisers believed EPA should have set tougher standards. (The two dissidents have industry connections – in fact, one of them works for General Motors!)

Another adviser, Harvard Medical School professor frank Speizer, told NPR’s “Living on Earth” that Johnson’s decision will mean “that at least as many people who died in 9-11 will die each year from air pollution in this country. It probably means that the political influence they're listening to has more weight than the scientific influence.”

Burying the body count? A new EPA report shows that as many as 30,000 premature deaths could have been prevented every year had EPA set tougher standards. But EPA did not tell the public about this new report, and the agency claims it isn’t relevant to the issue! As he did in ignoring the science advisers, Mr. Career Scientist ignored this additional evidence that clashed with the Bush administration’s preferred policy outcome. This new study, reported on in Friday’s E&E PM report, was brought to light by my very alert friends with Environmental Defense, who noted that EPA, without telling anyone, posted the results of the study to the internet:
http://www.epa.gov/ttn/ecas/regdata/Uncertainty/pm_ee_report.pdf

ED says the report underscores that EPA’s action was "contrary to law, an abuse of discretion and arbitrary and capricious."

Rigging the next review? Those of you who have followed this issue closely will recall that the electric power industry has argued that its fine particle emissions are benign and should be treated differently than diesel and other traffic-related emissions. EPA appears to have gone out of its way in the preamble to its rule (pages 56-57) http://epa.gov/pm/pdfs/20060921_preamble.pdf to praise the Electric Power Research Institute, which originated this “benign particle” theory: “The Administrator recognizes the work of the Electric Power Research Institute and agrees that additional research is important to improve future understanding the role of specific fine particle components and/or sources of fine particles.”

The question here: will EPA rely primarily on the obviously biased electric power industry for the next review of these standards? Or will it – as it should – make sure that additional research on this topic is done by an unbiased research center such as the Health Effects Institute? (EPA also alluded to HEI.)

Friday, September 22, 2006

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services distributes report critical of Bush soot decision

Consider the irony. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has distributed the following critical summary of the bad Bush soot plan. This is from the HHS National Women's Health Information Center, which says it is "The Federal Government Source for Women Health Information."


http://www.4woman.org/news/english/535098.htm

Health Highlights: Sept. 22, 2006

…EPA Chief Rejected Key Soot Recommendation: Report

The Environmental Protection Agency's administrator has tightened by half the short-term daily standards regulating minute particles of soot in the nation's air, but rejected a broader annual standard recommended by his own staff and independent science advisors, the New York Times reported Thursday.
Last updated in 1997, the new standards increase short-term exposure rates of fine particles from 65 micrograms of particles per cubic meter to 35 micrograms of particles per cubic meter of air. Particle pollution exposure has been linked to health problems ranging from aggravated asthma to premature death in people with heart and lung disease. But the annual standard, which affects long-term chronic exposure, would remains at its original level of 15 micrograms per cubic meter, the Times reported.
E.P.A. chief Stephen L. Johnson, rejecting the staff recommendations, said that the annual standard would remain at its current level while research continued. No change was made now, he said, due to insufficient evidence linking health problems to long-term exposure. All but two of the 22 members on the agency's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Council had urged that the long-term standard be lowered to a range of 12 to 14 micrograms per cubic meter, the Times reported.
Reaction from medical and environmental groups was sharp, however. Frank ODonnell, head of Clean Air Watch, a Washington-D.C.-based environmental lobbying group, told the Times that particle soot kills more people than any other form of air pollution.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ecotalk/Air America Radio on EPA soot decision

Clean Air Watch joins Ecotalk on Air America Radio to discuss EPA's disappointing soot standard. The interview is available online at http://www.airamerica.com/ecotalk/node/219

Our official reaction can be found at http://cleanairwatchpressroom.blogspot.com/2006/09/clean-air-watch-assails-epa-soot.html

The latest on EPA's tainted soot decision

Here is a commentary in tompaine.com on EPA's tainted soot decision:

http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/09/21/tainted_science.php

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Electric power industry lobbied White House on particle soot as recently as this week

See attached materials on the White House OMB web site. This is part of a continuing lobbying effort by the electric power industry to avoid any pollution cleanup beyond what is already in the works. [There is one typo: Jason Burnett is with EPA, not ERA.]


http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2060/meetings/530.html


Meeting Record Regarding: NAAQS for PM
Date: 9/18/2006
-->
Name
Affiliation
Client (if applicable) -->
Amy Flynn
OMB/OIRA

Margo Schwab
OMB/OIRA

Steve Aitken
OMB/OIRA

Art Fraas
OMB/OIRA

Steve Lomax
Edison Electric Institute

Rick Reiss
Exponent

Jos Hezir
EOP Group Inc.

Jason Burnett
ERA (via telephone)

Materials provided to OMB (401k). Entire package available within the OIRA Records Management office.

Greenwire: Bush officials confirm it's a bad soot decision

Today's Greenwire cites Bush administration officials as confirming that the final EPA decision on particle soot will not square with the recommendations of EPA's independent science advisers.

"Administration sources say the White House has decided no update is needed to the Clinton-era standard for fine particles when the pollution is measured on an annual basis," Greenwire reports.

Greenwire noted that last December, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson "proposed the same levels as the ones EPA is ready to finalize, the sources said. That proposal triggered an uproar from the agency's outside body of scientific advisers."

Unfortunately, this decision was based on political science, not real science.

It will mean thousands of Americans will die prematurely.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Congressional Budget Office: Bush global warming strategy won't cut it

The Congressional Budget Office has just completed a report which – reading between the lines – concludes that the Bush administration strategy on global warming won’t cut it.

The report was released just before three congressional committees hold hearings this week to examine aspects of the administration’s strategy.

The report concludes that technology research and assistance alone won’t bring about a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

It concludes that a limit or tax on greenhouse gas emissions would be needed for an effective response.

EPA decision on particle soot: it's coming down to the wire!

It's coming down to the wire!

I am talking about EPA’s decision on particle soot -- the most important EPA decision of the year. EPA is under a court order to decide by September 27, if not sooner.

What will determine the decision – science, or politics?

With that question in mind, here is a quick recap of the background.


--Frank O’Donnell
Clean Air Watch
http://www.cleanairwatch.org/


The background:

Particle soot (or fine particle matter, or pm 2.5 for real wonks) is the deadliest of widespread air pollutants. It has been linked to literally tens of thousands of premature deaths each year. Particle soot comes from coal burning, diesel engines and other smokestack industries.

EPA last revised the standards in 1997 amid furious opposition from big polluter groups and their patrons on Capitol Hill, including Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX). Indeed, industry groups filed lawsuits and delayed the standards for about five years.

But science has marched on. Since 1997, there have been more than 2,000 peer-reviewed studies. Collectively, the studies conclude that the existing standards are not adequate to protect people’s health.

Because of these studies, EPA’s career scientists urged that the existing standards be made tougher. So did EPA’s independent science advisers. So did a long list of medical and health groups. (See more on this, below.) Not to mention environmental groups and numerous state government agencies.

These standards are the heart and lungs of the Clean Air Act. They are designed not only to let the public know what level of pollution in the air is safe to breathe, they also are the basis of all specific pollution cleanup efforts.

Current standards:

Much as we hate a lot of numbers, here’s a quick review of the current standards.

The fine-particle standard has two components – one to limit daily exposure and one to limit annual exposure. The annual standard is 15 micrograms per cubic meter. The daily standard is 65 micrograms per cubic meter. Over time, it has been generally acknowledged that the daily standard is so weak that it has little, if any, impact on the need for areas to initiate pollution cleanup programs.

Also still on the books is a standard to limit exposure to bigger particles (sometimes called “coarse particles” or pm 10.) These standards were set in 1987 (yes, they are almost two decades old and terribly outdated). The annual standard is 50 micrograms per cubic meter; the daily standard is 150.

Who recommended what?

With regard to fine particle soot, EPA’s career scientists put forward two options – either lower the current annual standard to as low as 12. Or Lower the 24-hour standard to as low as 25.

EPA’s independent science advisers recommended the annual standard be lowered to 13 or 14, in conjunction with a daily standard of 30 to 35.

Medical groups, led by the American Medical Association, urged EPA to set the toughest standards under consideration – an annual standard of 12, and a daily standard of 25. (For more on those medical groups, see below.)

Big polluters argued that EPA should not change the current standards. (For more on the polluters, see below.)

EPA’s proposal

Just before last Christmas, EPA proposed no change in the annual fine-particle standard. It did propose a modest lowering of the daily standard, to 35. (Because the existing standard is so lax, this change would have relatively little impact in the real world.)

EPA’s independent science advisers were stunned that the agency had ignored their advice to lower the critical annual standard.

The chair the science advisory panel, Dr. Rogene Henderson of the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (main # 505-348-9400), told NPR “he [EPA Administrator Steve Johnson] is saying that he as one person is more capable of making the correct decision than 20 highly qualified individuals working together who have heard the public.”

Johnson had no coherent answer when asked why he had ignored the agency’s science advisers. He generally has tried to change the subject.

**


AMONG THE MEDICAL GROUPS THAT HAVE URGED TOUGHER ANNUAL AND DAILY STANDARDS:

American Medical AssociationAmerican Association on Mental RetardationAmerican Cancer SocietyAmerican College of Nurse-MidwivesAmerican Diabetes AssociationAmerican Heart AssociationAmerican Lung AssociationAmerican Nurses AssociationAmerican Public Health Association
American Thoracic SocietyAsthma and Allergy Foundation of AmericaCenter for Children's Health and the Environment,Mount Sinai School of MedicineChildren's Environmental Health NetworkEaster SealsHealth Care Without HarmInstitute for Children's Environmental HealthNational Latina Institute for Reproductive HealthNational Research Center for Women & FamiliesPhysicians for Social ResponsibilityScience and Environmental Health NetworkThe Arc of the United StatesThe Learning Disabilities Association of AmericaTrust for America's Health

POLLUTER GROUPS AND FELLOW TRAVELERS OPPOSED TO TOUGHER STANDARDS

Alliance of Automobile ManufacturersAmerican Chemistry CouncilAmerican Coke and Coal ChemicalsInstituteAmerican Forest & Paper AssociationAmerican Iron and Steel InstituteAPICorn Refiners AssociationCouncil of Industrial Boiler OwnersEdison Electric InstituteEngine Manufacturers AssociationNational Association of ManufacturersNational Cotton CouncilNational Mining AssociationNational Oilseed Processors AssociationNational Petrochemical & RefinersAssociationNational Rural Electric CooperativeAssociationPortland Cement AssociationU.S. Chamber of CommerceUtility Air Regulatory GroupExxonMobilAmerican Road and Transportation Builders AssociationFARM AND RANCH GROUPSThe Fertilizer InstituteUnited Egg ProducersTyson Food (chickens)National Association of Farmer CooperativesAgri Beef Co.South Dakota Farm BureauWyoming Farm Bureau FederationNorth Dakota Stockman’s AssociationIndependent Cattlemen’s Association of TexasNational Cattlemen’s Beef AssociationGeorgia Cotton CommissionNational Council of Farmer CooperativesNational Rural Electric Cooperative AssociationLouisiana Cotton Producers AssociationNational Grain and Feed AssociationWashington Farm BureauNational Corn Growers AssociationAmerican Meat InstituteCOAL COMPANIESPeabody EnergyArch CoalELECTRIC POWER COMPANIES (and allied public power groups)American Public Power AssociationAmerican Electric PowerSouthern CompanyFirst EnergyTXU PowerDuke EnergyDominion PowerAlleghany EnergyDynegyProgress EnergyAES New YorkAllant EnergyArkansas Electric Cooperative CorporationCleco CorporationCity of LakelandCity of TallahasseeDairyland Power CooperativeThe Dayton Power & Light CompanyEntergy Services, Inc.Entergy ArkansasEntergy Gulf StatesEntergy LouisianaEntergy MississippiEntergy New OrleansFlorida Municipal Power AgencyFlorida Power & Light CompanyGainesvile Regional UtiltiesGreat River EnergyHawaiian Electric Company, Inc.JEAKeySpanNevada Power CompanyNRG Energy, Inc.OGEOrlando Utilties CommissionPacific Gas & Electric CompanyPPLReliant Energy, Inc.Tampa Electric CompanyWisconsin Public Service CorporationXcel Energy Inc.Western Business RoundtableNational Association of Home BuildersCorporate Front GroupsAmerican Enterprise InstituteAnnapolis CenterMercatus Center

Thursday, September 14, 2006

on EPA's new report about "eastern skies continue getting cleaner"

There’s both good news and bad news associated with the report that EPA released today, “Eastern Skies Continue Getting Cleaner.” (See below.)

The good news is that we are indeed seeing a reduction in smog-forming pollution from coal-fired power plants, and that is lowering smog in the East compared to what we would be breathing without these controls. (For those of you who haven’t been tracking these issues that long, these emission reductions have come about because of requirements set by President Clinton’s EPA. They were bitterly opposed by coal-fired electric power companies and some of the Midwestern states including Ohio and its neighbor, West Virginia.)

The bad news is that we still have a significant and widespread smog problem. And we will need to do more to make sure that people throughout the East can truly breathe easy.

Note that EPA cites alleged progress in 2005. But as Clean Air Watch has documented, smog problems actually got worse that year, in part because it didn’t rain as much as the previous year. (see http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2005/11/information-about-smog-problems-in.html )

Our Clean Air Watch Smog Survey for 2006 shows that the problems continue this year – underscoring the fact that we still need to do more.

EPA correctly notes that we ought to see some continued progress with its so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule. However, please keep in mind that Northeastern states have pointed out that these requirements will not be adequate to curb smog problems throughout the Northeast.

In addition, EPA’s science advisers recently concluded that smog causes health problems at lower levels of exposure than the current standards, and that EPA should set tougher health standards.
**
from EPA:


http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/68b5f2d54f3eefd28525701500517fbf/98e252e69a3b0972852571e9004c4cc3!OpenDocument

and

http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets/fednox/

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Boxer vows to fight EPA nominee for inspector general

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today said she would oppose the nominate of Alex Beehler to become inspector general of the EPA. (For a little background on Beehler, see at

http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2006/09/how-do-you-like-your-rocket-fuel.html )

"I don't see it [Beehler's anti-environmental background] meshing with this job," Boxer said at Beehler's confirmation hearing.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Biggest EPA decision of the year goes to the White House

The countdown has begun to “S-Day” – the day the US EPA officially decides what level of particle soot in the air is safe to breathe.

Under a court order, the EPA must decide this issue by September 27. And the EPA “package” (as the bureaucrats call it) has now gone to the White House. See at http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoViewRule?ruleID=265359 -- now under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

This is the most important air pollution decision the EPA will make this year. It will guide all particle soot cleanup requirements – for power plants, diesel trucks – and even cars – well into the future.

And EPA basically has a choice: science, or politics. Dozens of health and medical groups, including the American Medical Association, have called on EPA to make the existing standards much tougher, based on recent science which, simply put, shows that breathing particle soot can kill you or send you to the hospital – even at levels that are considered legal today. But industry groups, led by electric power companies, have lobbied strenuously against new standards that would require significant new reductions in both annual and daily exposure to particle soot.

Folks around the power industry lobby water coolers are said to be sporting mighty big grins. Perhaps because they have some inside word about the decision, or perhaps because they simply recall that in other instances – involving mercury, global warming and even the air pollution effects of 9-11 in Manhattan – this EPA has shorted good science in favor of political science.

To put this issue in some perspective, the American Lung Association is releasing a new report tomorrow. It will attempt to point out the human toll of particle soot at alternative pollution levels.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Inhofe retreats from plan to retaliate against California

Senate Inhofe of Oklahoma retreated today from his plan to retaliate against California's new global warming initiative.

Inhofe's "spinners" are claiming that he is backing down because others on his Senate panel requested a hearing on the plan.

The reality is that Inhofe didn't have the votes.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Breathers beware: EPA gives Friday gift to oil industry

Dear friends,

Many of us have become accustomed to the Bush Administration EPA’s tendency to slip out industry-friendly rules and proposals on a Friday, in an effort to minimize media attention to things that many of us would consider “bad” news. (If there were theme music to this sort of thing, it would be “you’re getting to be a habit with me,” from the Broadway musical 42nd Street.)

Well, brace yourself, because here we go again.

We understand the EPA is preparing today to roll out new industry-sought proposals aimed at helping the oil industry avoid pollution controls.

This is a topic so laden with jargon – it involves the terms “aggregation” and “debottlenecking” – that few sane people would be interested at first glance. (See a little on this, below.)

The underlying issue is very simple: this proposal would create new loopholes that would enable the oil industry to avoid installing modern pollution controls. And it is very telling that the agency would slip this thing out on a Friday to minimize media scrutiny. Breathers beware!

--Frank O’Donnell
Clean Air Watch
**

Technically, these would be proposed revisions to current “new source review” requirements which are designed to make sure that existing big sources of pollution install modern pollution controls when they make changes that could otherwise increase pollution. Those of you who have followed this know that the Bush EPA has already tried various changes to these requirements – all of them designed to cut breaks for industry and permit them to avoid pollution controls. There has been a lot of court action on these issues that we don’t need to get into here, but are happy to discuss

These new rules, which were approved last week by the White House Office of Management and Budget, entail making industry-friendly changes to so-called “debottlenecking” and “aggregation” provisions.

As Greenwire explains it so clearly, "debottlenecking" occurs when a plant manager tries to increase production by replacing broken or outdated equipment.

“Aggregation" is when industrial facilities have multiple projects in a large area. Under the EPA plan, industries may be able to keep their projects separate to avoid being forced to install emission controls.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Inhofe seeks to punish California for global warming initiative

California, as you know, is moving ahead with a landmark global warming plan.

But now the empire is striking back!

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is moving forward with draconian new clean air legislation that would punish California businesses. The Senator says he is doing this because of his interest in clean air.

After years of scorning the Clean Air Act and trying to weaken it, we’re now supposed to believe Senator Inhofe is suddenly interested in clean air? I don’t buy it.

This is a political stunt by the Senate’s biggest champion of big polluters.

This appears to be a ham-handed attempt to retaliate against California’s recent global warming initiative, which Senator Inhofe inaccurately branded a “job killer.”

It also seems to be an ugly pre-election attempt to embarrass Senator Boxer, who is in line to become the Chair or ranking member of the committee, depending on the outcome of the November elections.

The existing Clean Air Act, when properly enforced, provides an appropriate balance between clean air and economic growth. It has led to continuing progress towards better air and permitted economic expansion. Senator Inhofe appears to be interested in harming the economy of one state – California.

And he is being duplicitous in the process, because he tries through legal mumbo jumbo – using the term “covered areas” -- to hide the fact that California is his target.

EPA concedes more ethanol means more smog emissions

Today the U.S. EPA proposed new rules designed to carry out a directive in last year's Energy Bill which called for more use of "renewable fuel" -- mainly ethanol.

In an incredible bit of hypocrisy, Congress has refused to appropriate enough money for EPA to evaluate the impact of this change. Yesterday a top EPA official conceded this has forced the agency to juggle its books -- and in the process has delayed much-needed new pollution standards for diesel trains and boats.

And today, in the fine print, the EPA conceded that more ethanol use would actually INCREASE emissions that cause smog:

http://www.epa.gov/otaq/renewablefuels/420f06060.htm#impact

…At the same time, other vehicle emissions may increase as a result of greater renewable fuel use. Nationwide, EPA estimates between a 28,000 and 97,000 ton increase in volatile organic compounds plus nitrogen oxides (VOC + NOx) emissions. However, the effects will vary significantly by region. EPA estimates that areas such as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles will experience no increase, while other areas may see an increase VOC emissions from 3 to 5 percent and an increase in NOx emissions from 4 to 6 percent from gasoline powered vehicles and equipment.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How do you like your rocket fuel? Straight, or on the rocks? (A hearing on controversial nominee to become EPA Inspector General)

There’s potential for some fireworks next Wednesday (September 13), when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Alex Beehler to become the new Inspector General of the EPA. (See notice below.)

As the old cliché goes, this would be putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

Here’s why I say this:

As you may note from his official biography http://www.defenselink.mil/bios/beehler_bio.html , Beehler comes from the Pentagon, where he has been lobbying for environmental exemptions for military activities and fighting with the EPA over such things as how much rocket fuel can one safely drink! (Note USA Today clip at bottom of this message.)

Before that, Beehler was director of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs for Koch Industries, one of America’s most vile companies.

You may recall that Koch paid a $35 million fine a few years back after literally hundreds of oil spills from its pipelines.

Koch was also indicted and charged with concealing illegal releases of benzene, a known carcinogen, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. After the 2000 election, the Justice Dept. abruptly dropped most of the charges and cut a sweetheart deal with the company. Koch, of course, had given a lot of money to the incoming President’s campaign, so it looked like a classic quid pro quo.

When he was at Koch, Beehler simultaneously was in charge of doling out “environmental” grants for the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. http://www.cgkfoundation.org/

That means he was steering money to groups including the Mercatus Center. That helped underwrite efforts by Susan Dudley (recently nominated as OMB’s new regulatory czarina) to promote the Koch-Mercatus anti-regulatory agenda, including things that might cost Koch money, including tougher air quality standards for smog and low-sulfur gasoline requirements.

Other Koch moneys went in 2003 (when Beehler was still there) to other anti-regulatory groups including the Federalist Society, Pacific Research Institute, and the Political Economy Research Foundation, now known as the Property and Environment Research Center in Montana.

This guy is to be the new EPA inspector general? As Ricky Ricardo once put it, Beehler’s got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

**

Here’s the official committee notice:


-----Original Message-----From: Ryder, Nancy-Kate (EPW) Sent: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 5:13 PM
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
FULL COMMITTEE HEARING
Wednesday, September 13th at 9:30 AM
SD 406 (Hearing Room)

On Wednesday, September 13th at 9:30 am the Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing to consider the following pending nominations:

Roger Romulus Martella, Jr. to be Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Alex A. Beehler to be Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
William H. Graves to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority

By Order of the Chairman
James M. Inhofe

**
USA TODAY 10/13/2004


Page 9A
Both sides armed with science and studies in conflict over health risks
Disputes move into laboratory
By Peter EislerUSA TODAY
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Each day, a bit more perchlorate from beneath this vast Army installation leaches into the well fields that give the city of Aberdeen its drinking water.
Perchlorate is a pollutant from munitions used for decades at the 75,000-acre weapons-testing facility. In the past two years, the chemical has shown up in all 11 of Aberdeen's city wells.
Only by blending water from the most contaminated wells with flows from those with just trace levels has the city kept perchlorate concentrations in “finished” drinking water below 1 part per billion (ppb). That's the point at which the state warns of health risks.
The city of 13,500 people also buys 500,000 gallons of clean water a day from the county.
Now city officials say they need to spend $250,000 to install filter systems on the most tainted wells.
But the Pentagon refuses to clean up perchlorate at Aberdeen and dozens of other sites nationwide. It's part of a battle with the EPA over how much of the chemical can safely be left in soil and water.
The dispute highlights a Defense Department push to take regulatory fights into the laboratory. State and federal environmental agencies are using new scientific studies to make a case for tighter limits on military pollutants, which would add billions to Pentagon cleanup costs. At the same time, the armed services are enlisting their own scientists and funding research to challenge those studies.
The big battles involve perchlorate and trichloroethylene, or TCE, a solvent used in military vehicle maintenance. The EPA's latest studies say health risks from exposure to both chemicals are higher than previously believed. After the Pentagon complained to the White House about the studies, the EPA decided that its research, already checked by independent panels, should go to the National Academy of Sciences for more study.
Alex Beehler, assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense for environment, says the military wants to be “a responsible player” in regulatory debates. Diving into the science, he says, “is one small but appropriate way we can do so.”
Environmental groups disagree.
The Pentagon “is using the White House to come from the top,” says Lenny Siegel of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight in California. “Rather than having the same standing as states, communities, industry groups or anyone else, they're above everybody.”
The EPA has not complied with Freedom of Information Act requests filed by USA TODAY seeking copies of its communications with the White House and Pentagon.
EPA research chief Paul Gilman says the agency was not forced to go to the National Academy of Sciences. “In both instances,” he says, “it was our idea.”
No one owns more properties contaminated with perchlorate and TCE than the Pentagon, federal records show. And the military is leading the charge against efforts to clamp down on the pollutants:
•Perchlorate. The EPA's disputed risk study finds that small doses raise risks of thyroid problems and related ills in fetuses and infants. The study suggests that 1 ppb of perchlorate in drinking water — the equivalent of a half-teaspoon in an Olympic-size swimming pool — is a safe limit for pregnant women and children.
The armed services have argued that levels up to 200 ppb are safe.
Col. Daniel Rogers, an Air Force environmental lawyer, told the National Academy last year that the EPA's study is “biased … and scientifically imbalanced” because it ignores other research that has found no proof of ill effects among people exposed to perchlorate.
The academy review means the EPA probably won't set pollution limits on perchlorate before late 2006, officials say. Meanwhile, some states are considering their own limits of under 10 ppb in drinking water.
•TCE. The EPA's new risk study suggests a need for tighter limits on contamination. It concludes that TCE vapors from contaminated soil and groundwater can seep into buildings and boost cancer risks.
The EPA's independent Science Advisory Board checked the study and “was largely supportive of the approach and conclusions,” says review leader Henry Anderson, chief medical officer for Wisconsin's Division of Public Health.
But the Pentagon says the study is “based on the ardor and hypotheses of the EPA authors, rather than sound scientific evidence.”
Some states already are tightening their TCE regulations, but the EPA is waiting to adjust federal rules until the academy finishes its review — in 2007.
The groundwater feeding Aberdeen's well fields has perchlorate levels up to 24 ppb, but officials at the proving ground are bound by the Pentagon's freeze on cleanups.
“Generally, we'd be doing something to address it at this point, with it showing up in the wells,” says Ken Stachiw, the base's environmental restoration chief.
The EPA could order a cleanup if the perchlorate posed a “substantial hazard” to drinking water. But the agency has resisted staff suggestions to do so because perchlorate levels in Aberdeen's “finished” water haven't exceeded 1 ppb.
“Nobody is standing up for the community,” says Glenda Bowling, a local activist.
“We could wake up one day and it could be 20 parts per billion in that water, and we wouldn't be able to drink it.”

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Updates on smog, soot, global warming, and a whole lot more

With Labor Day already a distant memory, it is time for working stiffs like us at Clean Air Watch to put the noses back to the old grindstone.

And so here are a few items to monitor in the coming weeks. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it does include possible stories worth keeping in mind.


Frank O’Donnell
Clean Air Watch

Revolutionary reductions: By now, you may have had a chance to review the truly revolutionary move by the state of California to reduce global warming pollution. The next step is the official signature of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the new California law, but do not be surprised if some other states start talking about emulating the Golden State. California’s landmark action has huge implications for the future – and it may even eventually move the bar in a post-election D.C.

Coming up later this year, of course, is the Supreme Court case on global warming. The various “friend of the court” filings are in, and there are a few interesting developments. Among those siding with environmental and state groups are at least two big power companies – Entergy and Calpine. Entergy noted that the case made for “strange bedfellows.” (Other members of the coalition include former EPA administrators, church groups and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.)

Soot saga: In just three weeks, the U.S. EPA will make it official – its final national health standards for particle soot. We are regrettably betting that the agency will pay more attention to political science than real science when it makes its announcement September 27. (See our forecast at http://www.tompaine.com/print/dont_bet_your_lungs_on_this.php )

To give you a sense of the grotesque public health implications of a pro-polluter decision, our friends at the American Lung Association plan to release a report next week. This report should provide the grist for some local stories on this issue. Please check in with me early next week.

Smog stunner: You will recall that EPA’s particle soot proposal was sharply criticized by EPA’s outside science advisers. Well, get ready for what Yogi Berra once called “Déjà vu all over again.”

In this case, the science advisers are about to send EPA a letter noting that recent science unequivocally requires EPA to set tougher national health standards for ozone, or smog. This is a tougher line than the draft strategy set forth by EPA’s own staff scientists who, anticipating political pressure from on high, hedged their bets on this issue. The science advisers reached this conclusion late last month in a little-noticed meeting in North Carolina.

As with the global warming item above, this recommendation carries enormous implications. Please contact us if you want to delve into this more deeply. I promise you it will not be the last you hear about this.

Smog survey: Our Clean Air Watch volunteers continue their impressive efforts to keep tabs on air pollution monitors around the nation. They have found that smog problems were generally less severe in August than a year ago. Current (now known to be inadequate) public health standards were breached about 550 times in August compared to about 750 times a year ago. Please let us know if you want details for your state or community.

Diesel D-Day: A truly landmark development will take place next month. Barring some unforeseen glitch, on Oct. 15, ultra-clean diesel fuel will be available at retail pumps around the nation. This will be one of the great, great clean-air success stories—right up there with the removal of lead from gasoline.

You may recall that in the year 2000, President Clinton’s EPA called on oil companies to make and sell this cleaner fuel so that new diesel trucks and buses could use modern pollution controls that wouldn’t work with dirtier fuel. Almost six years later, the fuel will finally be on the market – and this will revolutionize the diesel engine as we know it. That black puff of smoke will be history.

As usual, California was ahead of the curve: it required that the cleaner fuel be available starting last week.

Ethanol emissions? Speaking of California, the state learned last month (in a little-noticed report) that reformulated gasoline with ethanol appears to be leaking out higher-than-expected smog-forming emissions. (The study is at http://www.crcao.com/default.htm )

This isn’t the final word on the subject, to be sure. But it does raise an issue and does call into question the short-sighted decision by congressional appropriators to cut the budget for the US EPA to study the environmental effects of ethanol in gasoline. Perhaps they are worried about what EPA might find.

Koch connection: One final note (for now) on the interesting connection between the Bush administration’s environmental policies and Koch Industries, which underwrites various right-wing causes including the notoriously anti-environmental Mercatus Center. You will recall that the President has nominated Mercatus hatchet Susan Dudley to become the White House Regulatory Czarina (where she’ll have the best seat in the house to kill any plan by EPA to make current smog standards tougher; see item above).

In another little-noticed move, the President has tapped Koch Charitable Foundation alumnus Alex Beehler to become EPA’s new Inspector General. You will recall the former IG, Nikki Tinsley, was a real whistle-blower and a thorn in the side of the Bush crowd.

Not so with Beehler, who has worked behind the scenes in recent years to seek Pentagon exemptions from the nation’s environmental laws. Beehler’s nomination is a radical departure from the traditional role of the EPA Inspector General, which has long been a voice of independence and candor on behalf of EPA’s mission.