Monday, March 26, 2007

March miscreants: don't ask, don't tell (about power plants) and more

We are taking a break this morning from March Madness to look at a few March Miscreants.

Don’t ask, don’t tell: With all the talk about global warming, you’d think we’d want as much information possible about all the major sources of emissions. Well, guess again!

The Energy Information Administration has quietly stopped collecting comprehensive information about electric power industry operations. [Technically, this was called Form EIA-767.]

This seemingly senseless move is leaving air quality planners blind and in the lurch in their efforts to improve air quality and protect public health. State agencies have long depended on this information. So has the US EPA, as it designs cap-and-trade programs.

What are some consequences of this move? It will significantly hamper the ability of EPA and the states to design sound cap and trade programs – including one for global warming. I am advised it could also interfere with the design of energy efficiency programs, make it impossible to track the performance of power plants over time, and hamper enforcement efforts against illegal power plant pollution.

A possible story peg: EIA is holding its annual Energy Outlook, Energy and Data Conference this Wednesday March 28 in DC.

During this meeting, EIA will discuss its new “Electricity 2008” program – a euphemistic way of saying they will collect only a sliver of the information they used to.

Of course, the Bush administration is hostile to any effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions, so this new don’t-ask, don’t-tell approach may be a conscious strategy to undermine any new global warming limits. Please let me know if you want to follow up on this; I can guide you to some state experts who are steaming!


Sooty slash: Speaking of the Bush administration, it has told us many times that it has done a wonderful job developing strategies to limit pollution from diesel engines. And, in all fairness, there have been some key advances in this area. But we were stunned to learn that the Bush administration recently cut funding for money designed to clean up existing diesel engines. (The EPA did this in a new “operation plan” aimed at carrying out a budget continuing resolution passed by Congress. See at bottom of this message.)

This is a pretty shocking development, given the administration’s frequent bragging about its performance in this area. And note, by the way, that EPA is also cutting money for state and local clean air agencies and for its Office of Inspector General.

Don’t you wish sometimes you could get something more positive from government for your taxes?


Trucker tax tactics: On the topic of taxes and diesel emissions, we are informed that the American Trucking Associations is revving up a lobbying effort to have tax payers subsidize the cost of pollution controls that could be required to meet pollution standards required for big new trucks starting in 2010. Needless to say, this could prove controversial. We are also concerned it could be a ploy to delay those standards. (They are for smog-forming nitrogen oxides.) We’ll be monitoring this situation closely.


Car caper update: A brief update on the Vermont trial involving the effort by major car companies and some car dealers to kill Vermont’s greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles, which are modeled on the landmark California standards. You may recall that car companies tried to close large parts of the trial to public scrutiny on the grounds that various industry secrets could be disclosed. The Burlington Free Press opposed that effort. Last Friday, a Federal judge rejected the car company strategy. He said the car companies may be able to demonstrate that some information should be kept confidential, but said company lawyers must make a separate filing for each item they want to keep secret.

The trial is now due to begin April 9.


Environmental Protection Agency FY 2007 Operating PlanImplementing Appropriations Levels in Continuing Resolution

Dated March 15, 2007

The Honorable Dianne FeinsteinChairmanSubcommittee on Interior, Environment,and Related AgenciesCommittee on AppropriationsUnited States SenateWashington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Feinstein:

I am pleased to provide the Fiscal Year 2007 Operating Plan for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA has developed an Operating Plan for FY 2007 that represents our continuing commitment to protect human health and the environment. The Operating Plan is based on the Continuing Resolution passed by Congress in February that funds EPA for FY 2007. I know I speak for the Administrator when I thank you for your support of the Agency's programs and your help in providing this level of resources.
The Operating Plan's total funding is $7.725 billion. which includes an additional $18 million provided to the Agency for payroll from Section 111 of Title I in the Public Law 110-5, the Revised Continuing Resolution Appropriations, 2007.
EPA's FY 2006 funding level included $279 million dollars for earmarks. In FY 2007, Congress directed that $197 million of the funds earmarked in FY 2006 be added to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, leaving a remainder of $82 million. Per Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) guidance, earmarks are not allowed in EPA's budget for FY 2007, and no earmarks are funded in EPA's Operating Plan. The remaining $82 million was used to cover EPA's increased mandatory payroll and fixed costs needs, which were over $91 million above the FY 2006 Enacted level, and a number of Congressional and Administration commitments for FY 2007. Please note that although there were no earmarks specified, the Agency will continue to follow Congressional intent on fiscal management, such as re-programming requirements.
The Agency used the FY 2007 President's Budget as the basis to build the Operating Plan in all but the State and Tribal Assistance Grant (STAG) appropriation because this base reflects more recent policy choices. For example, the FY 2007 President's Budget incorporates resources for essential Energy Policy Act and Homeland Security efforts that were not addressed in our FY 2006 Enacted Budget. Highlights include:
Energy Policy Act commitments including a Renewable Fuels Rule, due to be issued in FY 2007, and a new requirement for the states for increased UST inspections.
Critical Homeland Security work for Water Security and Laboratory support.
There are certain areas where Congress increased EPA's base funding in FY 2006. OMB guidance mandated that all Agencies proceed with funding decisions based on merit and transparency. In accordance with these principles, EPA has provided funding for the following areas above our FY 2007 President's Budget level. The intent is to manage these as competitive grants to ensure transparency and fairness. These areas are:
Geographic programs, including
National Estuaries Program
Lake Champlain
Lake Pontchartrain
Long Island Sound
Puget Sound and
Competitive grant for rural water projects
Endocrine Research
Environmental Justice
Environmental Education
E-government activities, as described in the "Report to Congress on the Benefits of the President's E-government Activities," which for EPA include for example Electronic Official Personnel File (eOPF), geospatial, IT infrastructure Lines of Business, and FISMA requirements.
A technical adjustment to meet the new statutory requirement that at least 80% of LUST funds be dedicated to state cooperative agreements. Eighty percent, $57,628 of the total LUST appropriation of $72,035 was dedicated to Cooperative Agreements.
For STAG, we used the FY 2006 Enacted level as the base because almost all the program levels are set by the bill language and cannot be altered. For instance the new Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant did not exist in FY 2006 and this is not funded in our FY 2007 Operating Plan. We made a limited number of adjustments within categorical grants to accommodate priorities in our FY 2007 budget. Taking into consideration that one half of the year has passed, we sought to find middle ground with some limited changes from the FY 2006 Enacted Level to FY 2007 Operating Plan:
Non point source (Section 319): $204.3 million to $199.3 million
Wetlands Program Development: $15.8 million to $16.8 million
Pollution Control (Section 106): $216.2 million to $221.7 million
State and local air quality management: $220.3 million to $199.8 million and
UST: $11.8 million to $30.8 million.
EPA is committed to being a good steward of our environment and of our tax dollars. EPA's FY 2007 Operating Plan reflects important policy choices contained in the President's FY 2007 Budget request. It effectively enables us to carry out the mission set forth in our Strategic Plan of protecting human health and environment.
I hope that this plan meets with your approval. If you have any questions, please contact me on (202) 564-1151, or have your staff contact Ed Walsh at (202) 564-4594.
Best wishes,
/s/Lyons GrayChief Financial Officer
cc: AdministratorDeputy Administrator

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