Monday, July 09, 2007

Ahead this week: a Bingaman surprise? The White House red pen at work on smog...and more

With Congress returning from its patriotic break, there is a very busy week ahead. We won’t try to catalog everything, but do want to point out a few highlights.

Bingaman’s Bash: There is word that Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) may unveil revised global warming legislation as soon as this Wednesday, and – brace yourself – that it may be praised by some of the big coal-burning electric power companies. Bingaman and those who’ve worked with him (Senator Arlen Specter, R-PA) may co-sponsor) deserve credit for continuing to try to move the issue forward – and trying to move the middle-ground position towards something more progressive.

But be on the alert if any coal burners offer praise. This is complicated stuff, but here are some things to look for:

--Will the plan grandfather dirty old power plants – and offer free credits to power companies based on past emissions? (See our report on this issue at and hang onto your wallet.)

--Will it contain a “safety valve” that permits emissions above a designated emissions cap? (Environmentalists have been very critical of this feature in an earlier Bingaman bill.)

--Are future targets contingent on actions by other countries? (In other words, a potentially big loophole.)

--And are there provisions that would permit future conventional coal-burning power plants to receive emission credits? (Some of you may recall the big issue involving TXU over this.) Stay tuned.

Dingellmentia? On the other side of Capitol Hill, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) sounded off yesterday on the topic of global warming. In an interview with C-Span, Dingell said he plans to propose major taxes on gasoline and industrial carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to show Americans would reject paying high costs to limit greenhouse gas emissions. "I sincerely doubt that the American people are willing to pay what this is really going to cost them," he said. There’s leadership for you.

Eco-Hypocrite: One company that has touted itself as a leader on global warming – General Electric – is continuing its lobbying campaign against proposed US EPA standards to reduce deadly diesel train fumes.

In comments filed with last week with EPA, GE (having the audacity to put a picture of a green-tinted train on the cover!) charged that pollution-reducing catalysts will poop out and thus not enable companies like GE to meet pollution standards not slated to take effect for a decade. (The catalyst makers – the Manufacturers of Emissions Control Technology, heartily dispute this.)

GE really ought to be ashamed of itself – and its arrogant hypocrisy. Please let us know if you want a copy of the GE comments.

Smog Censors: One reason we care so much about the train standards noted above is that the train fumes are deadly. This week, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson is slated to appear before a Senate subcommittee to discuss the status of EPA’s proposed new standards for ozone, or smog.

One of the key things to remember – and we hope this Senate panel is taking note – is that ozone kills. (See at ).
Indeed, there is pretty good evidence that EPA’s proposed standards would prevent at least 4,000 premature deaths a year – and that better standards would prevent even more deaths.

But the Red-Pen crowd at the White House Office of Management and Budget may be up to mischief. Earlier, EPA promised that by last week it would release its so-called regulatory impact analysis of the smog rule – which should spell out the benefits of reducing smog. But where is it?

We fear that OMB’s regulatory office – headed by “Smoggy” Susan Dudley – is fooling with this document in an effort to confuse Congress – and the public. OMB pulled similar censor-stunts on earlier EPA proposals on trains and on small engines. Let’s hope someone asks about this.

Toxic Transgressors: If you missed it, yesterday’s Washington Post contained a fascinating story by one of our favorite writers – Shankar Vedantam – on the possible link between exposure to toxic lead and criminal behavior.

The theory is that the neurotoxin lead causes impulsivity and aggression. Fortunately, we have eliminated most uses of lead (even NASCAR has stopped using it in gasoline following a campaign by Clean Air Watch, as the Orlando Sentinel reminded readers the other day.,0,7735634.story. So be prepared for more sedate NASCAR fans in the future…

1 comment:

Lucy N. said...

That Shankar is a great writer!