Monday, October 30, 2006

On Rockefeller and BIG OIL

With new international climate change talks just around the proverbial bend, there is a real buzz today over the new British government-sponsored report which warns that failure to tackle global warming could lead to a global depression: http://cleanairsciencecorner.blogspot.com/2006/10/report-for-tony-blair-predicts-big.html

But something a little more in the person-bites-dog category also caught our attention:

Once upon a time, the name Rockefeller was synonymous with big oil. (As in John D. Rockefeller and the old Standard Oil Company, back in the robber-baron days. Remember them – when we thought oil companies were in cahoots with government to manipulate gas prices? Maybe I should clarify that was the first robber-baron era.)

But now a descendant of the original Rockefellers is firing a salvo at ExxonMobil, part of what used to be Standard Oil.

In a letter late last week, West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller (D) joined Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) in demanding that ExxonMobil stop underwriting groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute that raise doubts about global warming. Rockefeller and Snowe spelled out their objections in a letter to ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson.

“American companies have every right to engage in important public debates, but these discussions should neither serve as a license to obscure credible data and research nor impede domestic and international actions based on that data,” said Rockefeller. “Climate change is one of the most serious environmental and economic issues facing the United States and our partners in the international community. It is absolutely irresponsible for any entity to try to influence our government’s involvement in such an important debate in any way that is not scrupulously accurate and honest.”

“The institutions that ExxonMobil is supporting are producing very questionable data. The company’s support for a small, but influential, group of climate skeptics has damaged the United States’ reputation by making our government appear to ignore conclusive data on climate change and the disastrous effects climate change could have.”

Of course, a lot of these groups that get money from ExxonMobil also spend part of their time attacking Clean Air Watch. (See a couple of recent examples below.) If Rockefeller and Snowe succeed, does that mean we can spend a little less on body armor?

**

Some of the people who had arch things to say about Clean Air Watch just last week:

Joel Schwartz (American Enterprise Institute) http://commonsblog.org/archives/000725.php

Washington Times by Michael Fumento (Hudson Institute)
http://washingtontimes.com/commentary/20061024-090447-1294r.htm

Heartland Institute http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=19903

AEP, Hudson and Heartland all received ExxonMobil money in 2005:
http://www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/Files/Corporate/giving05_policy.pdf

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Commentry in the Washington Times: for clean air, against distortion

http://www.washingtontimes.com/commentary/20061028-085347-6711r.htm

The Washington Times
FORUM: Clean air
October 29, 2006

Author Michael Fumento in his Oct. 25 article in the Commentary pages, "Power mower power grab," took a 9-year-old quote of mine completely out of context to argue against the idea that new gasoline-powered lawn mowers should pollute less. Before we examine the facts about lawn mowers, let's rewind the clock just a bit and clear up that distorted quote.

In 1997, industry groups and industry-funded think tanks made some outrageous claims as they tried to sideline a plan by the Clinton administration to set tougher national health standards for smog and soot.

The National Association of Manufacturers, for example, asserted better standards would mean "forced carpooling" and that "the lifestyle of millions of Americans would be severely impeded." Associated Press noted that the industry-funded Citizens for a Sound Economy "began airing aggressive television and radio ads hammering home another lobbying theme: that new air standards would curtail the lifestyles of Americans with bans on outdoor barbecues, lawnmowers and fireworks, and set limits on the plowing of farm fields." [emphasis added]

At the time, I referred to these claims as "crazed propaganda," and I was right. Last time I looked, we were still barbequing, enjoying fireworks and mowing our lawns. And the air is gradually getting cleaner -- thanks to those 1997 standards, which provided the impetus for cleaner gasoline, diesel fuel, cars, SUVs, trucks and electric power plants.

But we still need to make improvements to guarantee we all can breathe clean air and enjoy better health. The Washington Council of Governments recently noted, for example, that from 2003 to 2006, the region has had 63 days in which the ground-level ozone, or smog, was high enough for Code Orange, Code Red or Code Purple warnings.

And just last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's independent science advisers unanimously concluded smog causes even bigger health problems at lower levels than we knew a decade ago. The 1997 standards need to be "substantially reduced to protect human health" from such problems as asthma attacks, "emergency room visits, hospital admissions and mortality," the scientists argued.

This is where lower-polluting lawn mowers could help. Earlier this year, the environmental secretaries of the District of Columbia and 19 states (including Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware) wrote to the U.S. EPA and urged the agency to set better clean-air standards for new lawn mowers and other small engines.

"This rulemaking has the potential to provide very significant reductions [in pollution] and would have major implications for our states and our respective [clean-air achievement] strategies," they noted. State authorities have estimated small engines can produce up to 10 percent of the smog-forming volatile organic compounds on a typical summer day. And, as cars and trucks get cleaner, lawn mowers become a bigger and bigger part of the problem.

California environmental officials have demonstrated cleaning up lawn mowers is a simple matter. The answer is a tiny catalytic converter, about the size of an egg, which can easily filter out a third or more of the pollutants without any noticeable impact on mower performance. A number of engine companies -- including Honda, Kohler, Kawasaki and Tecumseh -- have reported cleaner-burning lawn mowers will perform safely and effectively. The Consumer Product Safety Commission agrees.

California plans to have new statewide standards in place starting next year, assuming the U.S. gives it permission. As it has done successfully with lower-polluting cars and trucks, California could blaze the trail for better national small engine standards.

We at Clean Air Watch join our colleagues at the American Lung Association and other public health groups in urging the EPA to move expeditiously to approve California's request, and to set new national standards for lawn mowers and other small engines.

We'll all breathe easier if the EPA does this.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

As the revolving door turns: ex-Bush official joins law firm with big polluter clients



AIR POLLUTION: Former EPA official joins firm representing utilities, refiners
Darren Samuelsohn, Greenwire senior reporter

A law firm that represents some of the nation's largest electric utilities and petroleum refiners has hired the former head of U.S. EPA's air pollution division under President Bush.

Jeff Holmstead ran EPA's air office from 2001 until he left last summer for a year-long trip around the world with his family. He is joining Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani, to direct an "environmental strategies group" in Washington, the firm said...

Bracewell & Giuliani represents many of the country's biggest utilities, including TXU Corp., Southern Co. and Duke Energy Corp., as well as the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association and Valero Energy Corp. Wind turbine developer FPL Energy is also a client.

During his tenure at EPA, Holmstead was criticized by some in the environmental community as he advanced many of the Bush administration's most controversial environmental policies. He was a chief architect of the "Clear Skies" legislation for power plants that failed to make it out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He also played a key role on regulations to overhaul the New Source Review permitting program and to allow market-based trading of mercury emissions from electric utilities.

A federal appeals court earlier this year unanimously rejected one of the major NSR rules Holmstead worked on. Litigation challenging the mercury rules is not expected to be resolved until next year at the earliest.

Frank O'Donnell, head of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, called Holmstead's move to the law firm "a classic example of the revolving door syndrome."

But O'Donnell also conceded Holmstead gives the firm added punch. "He is a very smart guy," O'Donnell said. "The move does tend to solidify the perception that Bracewell Giuliani has become the most influential of private law firms when it comes to clean air policy."

Holmstead's resume includes a four-year stint in the White House general counsel's office as an environmental adviser to former President George H.W. Bush. Before joining EPA, Holmstead also worked at Latham & Watkins in Washington representing industry clients.
**
[from Dow Jones]

O'Donnell: "After working for years in the government to help industry, it's time for Holmstead to cash in."

Holmstead defended his government record. "When I was in the government, I always did what I thought was the right thing to do," he said, adding that "one of the appeals of Bracewell is a lot of their clients are companies that really are trying to do the right thing."

Bracewell Giuliani has hired a number of other top environmental policymakers from the Bush administration, including Ed Krenick, chief of the EPA's congressional affairs office, and Lisa Jaeger, who was the EPA's general counsel.

"They're like a sports team that's stocking up on expensive free agents," said O'Donnell.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

EPA science advisers: "no scientific justification" to keep current smog standard

Here is the letter by EPA's science advisers, telling the head of EPA that current smog standards must be made tougher to protect people's health: http://www.epa.gov/sab/pdf/casac-07-001.pdf

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Robert Bork to Supreme Court: don't listen to those states on global warming

It seems like only yesterday that Robert Bork was trying to get a seat on the Supreme Court.

Now, he’s telling the High Court that Massachusetts, New York, California and other states don’t have any right to bring a case about global warming.

In a brief (actually written by lobbyists for Southern Company, the big electric power company and global warming polluter), Bork argues that the states (plus New York City, Baltimore and environmental groups) don’t have standing to sue.

The plaintiffs brought the case after the Bush Administration reversed the Clinton Administration and declared that EPA doesn’t have authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate global warming gases.

Bork and several other academics argue that if the states won, that would “severely undermine the President’s ability to achieve U.S.
climate change policy goals at the international level.” (We thought the President’s goal was to protect Southern Company, General Motors and other big sources of emissions. Given the Southern Company tie, maybe that’s what Bork meant.)

Oral arguments in the case are slated for Nov. 29. A decision isn’t expected until next spring or summer.

Bork now works for the Hudson Institute, a “think tank, one of whose “fellows” (not Bork, a different one) recently attacked Clean Air Watch. At least we’re in good company.

Bush EPA -- amazingly -- boasts of success with children and soot

We get used to the steady stream of press releases coming out of the US EPA, but this one is worth some note. The EPA today actually put out a release (below) boasting of a “decline in children’s exposure to pollutants” – specifically fine particle soot.

This is breathtaking hypocrisy.

In the recent decision involving public health standards for fine particle soot, EPA ignored not only the American Academy of Pediatrics but the agency’s own Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, which had urged the agency to set tougher soot standards to protect children.
http://yosemite.epa.gov/ochp/ochpweb.nsf/content/30306.htm/$file/30306.pdf

EPA appears happy to put out a press release – as long as it doesn’t take real action to protect children.

When it had to make a choice, the administration was more interested in protecting polluters than children.

** News Brief If you need more information on this subject, call the listed Press Officer. For Release: (Washington, D.C. -- Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006) New Data Show Decline in Children's Exposure to Pollutants Contact: Enesta Jones, (202) 564-4355 / jones.enesta@epa.gov The percentage of children living in counties that do not meet the air quality standard for fine particulate matter declined from 24 percent to 16 percent from 1999 to 2004, according to new data released today by EPA. The data come from an update to America's Children and the Environment, EPA's compilation of information from federal databases that provide insights into children's environmental health. The data provides Americans with information about children's exposure to environmental pollutants, and it is an important instrument for the agency to gauge its progress in carrying out its mission. Other highlights indicate that children under six are less likely to be regularly exposed to secondhand smoke at home, decreasing from 27 percent of children in 1994 to 11 percent in 2003, and the concentration of lead in young children's blood has gone down by 89 percent over a period of 25 years. The data present measures of trends in environmental factors related to the health and well-being of children in the United States. The measures were previously published in a 2003 EPA report, and this update adds from 2-5 years of additional data for each of the measures. The data look at trends in environmental contaminant levels in air, water, food, and soil; concentrations of contaminants measured in the bodies of children and women; and childhood illnesses and health conditions such as asthma that may be influenced by exposure to environmental contaminants. Children may be more vulnerable to environmental exposures than adults because their bodily systems are still developing; they eat more, drink more, and breathe more in proportion to their body size; and their behavior can expose them more to chemicals and organisms. America's Children and the Environment: http://www.epa.gov/envirohealth/children/index.htm

Monday, October 23, 2006

AgriTalk radio on the problems with weakening clean-air standards for ethanol refineries

http://www.agritalk.com/aa_filelist.php

Listen to the October 23, 2006 edition, as Clean Air Watch explains problems associated with the US EPA plan to weaken clean-air requirements for ethanol refineries.

Supreme Court Countdown: the Polluter Propaganda War HEATS UP

Only a little more than a week until the Supreme Court hears one of its biggest environmental cases – an appeal by my friends at Environmental Defense of a lower court ruling that would legitimize more pollution from coal-burning electric power plants.

(ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. DUKE ENERGY CORPORATION, ET AL.)

With the Nov. 1 oral arguments right around the corner, the propaganda war is really heating up, with a Capitol Hill briefing tomorrow that, by all appearances, will be used as a platform for polluter propaganda.

It recalls the old Jerome Kern song, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” famously recorded by The Platters. See a little context for this briefing, below.


**

We are informed that tomorrow morning (October 24), there will be a briefing on a “new study” about the potential impacts on rural America should Environmental Defense win its case. The briefing will feature the study’s main author, one Bernard Weinstein, director of the University of North Texas Institute of Applied Economics

It should be no surprise if the study concludes that requiring more pollution cleanup will mean higher electricity prices and ensuing trouble in farm country. (I’ll leave it to Environmental Defense to elaborate on that fact that less pollution cleanup will mean more death and disease.)

A few factoids might be useful in putting this briefing into context:

Re-wind the tape! Weinstein released a similar (or perhaps identical?) “study” at a different Capitol Hill briefing in 2002 as an attempt to justify efforts by the Bush administration to weaken clean-air requirements:

http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cache:48VJGLBSTVgJ:www.scienceblog.com/community/older/archives/K/2/pub2648.html+%22bernard+weinstein%22+and+coal&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=2

That Weinstein study was then used by the National Center for Public Policy Research, a notorious reactionary and industry-funded pro-Bush “think tank,” to support weakening of clean-air controls. (The center converted it into what it called a “TEN SECOND RESPONSE: President Bush should use the findings from this study to put common sense rules in place to maintain clean air without raising electricity prices and putting people out of work.” http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR51502.html )

**

Who’s the client here? Weinstein is also director of an organization called the Center for Economic Development and Research, which essentially functions as a consulting firm with the veneer of a university label. http://www.unt.edu/cedr/aboutus.htm

The center and Weinstein have had many interesting clients over the years. For example, the University of North Texas actually boasts that in 1997, Weinstein was retained by a coalition of investor-owned utilities, including TXU and Reliant, to help make the case for electricity deregulation in Texas.

http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:wEg6qGBmmJoJ:www.unt.edu/resource/previousissues/20012002/economicindicators.htm+%22bernard+weinstein%22+and+coal&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=3

Texas authorities are now investigating the impacts of deregulation. Interestingly, just last week, Texas regulators identified TXU Wholesale as a company under investigation for possible Enron-style attempts to manipulate wholesale power markets.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/DN-txu_21bus.ART.State.Edition2.3ef8f5f.html

**

Coal or nuclear? Or does it depend on who’s paying? Weinstein apparently will defend coal burning in tomorrow’s briefing, but earlier this year, he had some pretty negative things to say about coal while circulating an op-ed commentary in support of nuclear power. See the Aug. 11, 2006 Denver Business Journal at http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cache:hUu5m2YU4mkJ:denver.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2006/08/14/editorial2.html+%22bernard+weinstein%22+and+coal&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=8

“While the nation's 600 coal-fired power plants produce 36 percent of all U.S. emissions and nearly 10 percent of global greenhouse gases, nuclear power generation is environmentally benign…

“Even the 1979 incident at Three Mile Island resulted in no injuries or deaths to plant workers or nearby residents. Can the U.S. coal industry say the same?”

It’s a well-crafted piece. You’d almost think it was written by the Nuclear Energy Institute (another of Weinstein’s listed clients http://www.unt.edu/cedr/blwbio.htm ) – or someone on NEI’s nickel.

Perhaps the Center for Economic Development and Research should rename itself: “Money Talks.”

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ecotalk investigates EPA soot scandal, and an election forecast

The invaluable Ecotalk radio program examines the latest on the EPA soot scandal along with new science about the health dangers of particle soot.

http://www.ecotalkblog.com/


October 18, 2006

Science Ignored Again About Deadly Air Pollution
Frank O'Donnell, President of Clear Air Watch explains how the Bush's EPA ignores the science about the soot particles. LISTEN (18 min)Read the blog for clean air

**

And www.tompaine.com examines the prospects for a more environmentally friendly Congress:
http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/10/19/how_green_is_your_vote.php

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Bronx cheer: diesel truck soot triggers asthma attacks; why it matters


The study noted below came out yesterday, but I haven’t seen it get much play – not as much as it should. It actually has significance beyond the South Bronx.

It corroborates that diesel soot particles trigger asthma attacks.

As we know from all the recent publicity, new clean diesel fuel is coming onto the market and new diesel trucks and buses will be much cleaner starting in 2007.

BUT

This study is evidence that we need to take more aggressive steps to clean up existing diesel engines. Many of the existing dirty diesel engines will remain in service for the next quarter century. Both Congress and the White House have given lip service to cleaning up existing engines, but they haven’t done enough follow through.

In addition, this study is evidence that EPA should move aggressively to set new standards for diesel trains and big diesel boats. IF kids are having asthma attacks near truck routes, they are also suffering from diesel pollution near train lines and ports.

EPA has promised to do this, but the agency is dragging its feet.


**

http://www.med.nyu.edu/communications/news/pr_204.html

Monday, October 16, 2006

EPA fails logic test with new acid rain report

A short while ago, the EPA put out an interesting news release and report on the continued success of its acid rain program.

The agency also noted that the lower emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides will bring significant health benefits.

Unfortunately, the agency did not follow its own logic in the recent decision to set particle soot standards.

Had EPA set a tougher long-term soot standard, it likely would have prompted greater reductions in electric power plant emissions – and would have brought much greater health benefits.

Unfortunately, EPA set the soot standard to save the electric power industry money – at the expense of the breathing public.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

NY Times editorial hammers Bush EPA on crummy soot plan

Editorial
Science Ignored, Again


Published: October 14, 2006

The Bush administration loves to talk about the virtues of “sound science,” by which it usually means science that buttresses its own political agenda. But when some truly independent science comes along to threaten that agenda, the administration often ignores or minimizes it.

The latest example involves the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to reject the recommendations of experts inside and outside the government who had urged a significant tightening of federal standards regulating the amount of soot in the air.

At issue were so-called fine particles, tiny specks of soot that are less than one-thirtieth the diameter of a human hair. They penetrate deep into the lungs and circulatory system and have been implicated in tens of thousands of deaths annually from both respiratory and coronary disease. The E.P.A., obliged under the Clean Air Act to set new exposure levels every five years, tightened the daily standard. But it left unchanged the annual standard, which affects chronic exposure and which the medical community regards as more important.

In so doing, the agency rejected the recommendation of its own staff scientists and even that of its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Council, a 22-member group of outside experts that had recommended a significant tightening of the standards. Stephen Johnson, the agency administrator, claimed there was “insufficient evidence” linking health problems to long-term exposure. He added that “wherever the science gave us a clear picture, we took clear action,” noting also that “there was not complete agreement on the standard.”

One wonders how much evidence Mr. Johnson requires, and how “complete” an “agreement” must be before he takes action. A 20-2 vote in favor of stronger standards seems fairly convincing to us; likewise the unanimous plea for stronger standards from mainstream groups like the American Medical Association.

The environmental and medical communities suspect that the administration’s main motive was to save the power companies and other industrial sources of pollution about $1.9 billion in new investment that the more protective annual standard would have required. But here, too, the administration appears to have ignored expert advice. Last Friday, the agency released an economic analysis showing that in exchange for $1.9 billion in new costs, the stronger annual standards could save as many as 24,000 thousand lives and as much as $50 billion annually in health care and other costs to society. Studies like these always offer a range of possible outcomes, but even at the lower end — 2,200 lives and $4.3 billion in money saved — the cost-benefit ratios are very favorable.

In the next year or so, the administration must decide whether to tighten the standards for another pollutant, ground-level ozone, which causes smog and is also associated with respiratory diseases. The scientific advisory committee has tentatively recommended that the ozone standard be tightened, citing new evidence of smog’s adverse effects. This time Mr. Johnson should pay more attention to the scientists and less to the political strategists in the White House.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Duststorm! Cattlemen, mining lobby get White House to kill big-particle standard


When the US EPA came out with its industry-friendly particle soot standards last month, it was unclear why the agency had abruptly killed existing long-term standards for bigger particles.

Now, the reason may be a little clearer.

A White House web site discloses that just before the standards were announced, the White House met privately with lobbyists from the cattlemen, other farms groups, the mining industry, and other hired guns.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2060/meetings/532.html

Here are the meeting participants:

Amy Flynn
OMB/OIRA

Jason Burnett
EPA/OAR

Art Fraas
OMB/OIRA

Deb Atwood
Crowell & Moring

Paul Schlegel
American Farm Bureau

Danielle Quist
American Farm Bureau

Hal Quinn
National Mining Association

Todd Johnston
National Mining Association

Bob Connery
Holland & Hart

Tamara Thies
National Cattlemen's Beef Association

Jay H. Truitt
National Cattlemen's Beef Association

Michael Formica
National Pork Producers Council

Steve Aitken
OMB/OIRA

Elizabeth Stolpe
Council on Environmental Quality

Hunter Moorehead
National Economic Council

Jonathan Borak
Yale University (via Telephone)
National Mining Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association
Gale Hoffnagle
TRC Environmental Group (via Telephone)
National Mining Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association

Monday, October 09, 2006

Has EPA official become a modern-day Pinocchio?




Has EPA's William Wehrum become a modern-day Pinocchio? On October 7, the Los Angeles Times published a report on EPA's economic analysis of it soot rule and a better alternative.

The story included the results of an assessment by an expert panel, which found that EPA could have prevented as many as 24,000 premature deaths a year by setting a better standard.

Wehrum, the former Latham & Watkins lawyer who is EPA's acting chief for air pollution (the Senate won't confirm him) contended that his boss, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson, didn't know about this assessment when he set the standards. (See link to LA Times story and relevant excerpt, below.)

Whoa there, Bill, is your nose growing? EPA put this study on the internet and in its official docket the same day it announced the decision (which has been panned by EPA's own science advisers).

Or are you suggesting that this new evidence should prompt EPA to reconsider its bad decision?

**
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-soot7oct07,1,1862553.story

...Acting assistant EPA administrator William Wehrum, who worked with Johnson on the new rules, said Friday that the new analysis was not ready when Johnson made his decision, so it was not included as part of that process. But it would be helpful in future regulations, he said, adding that Johnson and agency staff "absolutely considered impacts to human health."

Friday, October 06, 2006

EPA to celebrate diesel standard -- in Indiana!


The EPA is planning a big celebration October 10th in Columbus, Indiana, to herald the arrival of clean diesel fuel at the pump.

The diesel fuel is a big deal -- these fuel standards (first set by President Clinton's EPA) will enable advanced pollution controls on new trucks and buses.

The event comes as the head of EPA remains under fire for setting weak particle soot standards -- a decision that has been panned by EPA's own science advisers.

And there is a bit of irony here. in this event. The celebration features the heads of the Cummins engine business and the American Petroleum Institute. Both sued to block the diesel cleanup, but lost in court. If you can't beat them, join them.

EPA analysis confirms: agency's particle soot standard more deadly than better alternatives

EPA’s new regulatory impact analysis for its particle soot standard confirms that the agency’s chosen standard will mean a higher death toll than better alternatives.

http://www.epa.gov/ttn/ecas/ria.html

It’s easy to do the math. Compare table 5-16 (analyzing what EPA actually did) to table 5-18 (analyzing a somewhat better alternative – an annual standard of 14 coupled with a daily standard of 35).

By EPA’s calculation, its standard (15/35) would mean at least an additional 1,900 premature deaths a year compared to a standard of 14/35. (The weakest possible alternative endorsed by EPA’s science advisers.)

That’s based on the so-called American Cancer Society study, which EPA has traditionally used to project such benefits. Other methods of evaluation show the same trend, but an even bigger death toll – and a bigger difference between what EPA did and the better standard. For example, EPA’s “expert elicitation” panel predicted much greater benefits from a 14/35 standard. (EPA ignored that panel, as it did its official science advisers.)

EPA, of course, did not even try to estimate the results of the better standards (12/25) endorsed by the American Medical Association and other groups.

But it’s pretty darned obvious that better standards would mean fewer premature deaths.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Commentaries on EPA's particle soot scandal, and the stench from Texas

First, the commentary syndicated by Scripps News at http://www.scrippsnews.com/node/14229

EPA stumbles again on cleaning up the air

Commentary
Editorial

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls its new standards on soot "the most health-protective national air standards in our nation's history." Clean Air Watch calls them "the single worst action the Bush administration has taken on air pollution." Who's right?

The EPA has two ways of regulating "fine particulates" _ the bits of airborne ash, 30 times slimmer than a human hair, that burrow deep into our lungs and kill us, by the tens of thousands each year, with respiratory and circulatory disease. There is a 24-hour exposure maximum and also an annual limit. Both are important, obviously.

Neither has been changed since 1997, although federal law requires the EPA to adjust them every five years. Indeed, it took a lawsuit over EPA inaction to prompt the new rules.
Make that "rule." The EPA decided to lower the daily limit but left the annual standard alone, against the nearly unanimous recommendation of its scientific advisory panel. EPA chief Stephen Johnson, a career scientist who should know better, said there was "insufficient evidence" of health benefits from reducing long-term exposure.

In this view, he was supported by two of the panel's 24 experts, as well as by the Edison Electric Institute, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association and other champions of the soot-producing electric power, trucking and manufacturing sectors.

Joining the panel majority on the other side were an array of environmental and public health groups, as well as the American Medical Association and experts from the Harvard School of Public Health. One Harvard epidemiologist calculated that leaving the annual standard unchanged would result in an additional 3,000 premature deaths per year _ more than the 2,500 deaths the EPA says its tighter daily limit will prevent.

So, whom to believe? An easy call, except for that "single worst action" appraisal. From the outset, the Bush administration has compiled an almost uninterrupted record of dawdling, rollback and industry-friendly rewrites on air-pollution controls. The EPA's split decision on particulates certainly continues that tradition _ but whether it deserves to lead the list, history will have to judge.

***
As for the situation in Texas, see http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/10/05/the_stench_from_texas.php

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

EPA science advisers rip head of EPA on bad soot decision; imply he broke the law

EPA’s science advisers have lit into the EPA over the bad soot decision.

The Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC) has written an unprecedented letter pointing out that alleged “scientist” and EPA chief Steve Johnson ignored their advice to lower the current annual soot standard (15 – see below), noting there is “clear and convincing scientific evidence that significant adverse human health effects occur” at “and below” the current standard.

The advisers also basically charged that Johnson didn’t do his job properly and implied that he violated the Clean Air Act, which demands that EPA set national health standards at a level needed to protect public health “with an adequate margin of safety.”

There is little doubt that this letter will bolster lawsuits against EPA for its industry-friendly and politically driven decision.

Here is a link to the letter, with some key excerpts below:

http://www.epa.gov/sab/pdf/casac-ltr-06-003.pdf

Here are some excerpts (the italics are in the original):

there is clear and convincing scientific evidence that significant adverse human-health effects occur in response to short-term and chronic particulate matter exposures at and below 15 μg/m3, the level of the current annual PM2.5 standard.


It is the CASAC’s consensus scientific opinion that the decision to retain without change the annual PM2.5 standard does not provide an “adequate margin of safety … requisite to protect the public health” (as required by the Clean Air Act), leaving parts of the population of this country at significant risk of adverse health effects from exposure to fine PM.

Significantly, we wish to point out that the CASAC’s recommendations were consistent with the mainstream scientific advice that EPA received from virtually every major medical association and public health organization that provided their input to the Agency, including the American Medical Association, the American Thoracic Society, the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Public Health Association, and the National Association of Local Boards of Health. Indeed, to our knowledge there is no science, medical or public health group that disagrees with this very important aspect of the CASAC’s recommendations. EPA’s recent “expert elicitation” study (Expanded Expert Judgment Assessment of the Concentration-Response Relationship Between PM2.5 Exposure and Mortality, September 21, 2006) only lends additional support to our conclusions concerning the adverse human health effects of PM2.5.