Friday, September 28, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Some thoughts on today's US EPA announcement about smog trends

A couple of quick thoughts below on today’s announcement by the US EPA on smog trends in the eastern half of the nation.

As we understand it, the EPA will report that because of the so-called NOx SIP call (the summertime pollution controls for electric power plants in the Eastern U.S. adopted by the Clinton Administration), ozone or smog in the East has dropped since 2004. This is an annual report. EPA came up with similar findings last year – see at

There are a couple of things to put this into context:

We have definitely seen improvements in air quality in the Eastern U.S. because of this Clinton administration initiative, which – by the way – was vehemently opposed by the Edison Electric Institute and many of the big power companies like American Electric Power, as well as by some states including West Virginia and Michigan. (Isn’t it interesting to note how these companies now like to brag about how much they’ve cleaned up under a program they fought against?)

This shows quite dramatically that if we clean up pollution at the source, breathers will reap the benefits of cleaner air.

However, we have not solved the smog problem – not by a long shot. Our unofficial statistics for this year show that no fewer than 39 states plus the District of Columbia have still experienced pollution levels above the current national smog standard, set in 1997. See list below.

In other words, we need to do more even to meet the current standards. The Bush administration’s so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule is a step towards progress, but its targets and deadlines will still leave millions of breathers stuck with dirty air for far too long.

The power plant legislation introduced by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) would promote cleaner air by calling for tougher controls. We expect to see this legislation thrown into the mix as the Senate wrestles with the global warming issue.

The other thing to keep top of mind is that modern science shows the current smog standards are too weak to protect people’s health. That’s the unanimous conclusion of EPA’s independent science advisers and virtually every credible scientist who knows anything about these matters.

So let’s not pop open too many champagne bottles. But also consider the lesson of this report is that if we push the big polluters to clean up, we’ll have cleaner air.


Here is the list of states with smog problems in 2007 through September 26:

District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island
South Carolina
West Virginia

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How would big coal-burning companies fare under draft Lieberman-Warner climate plan?

As things really start to heat up on the climate debate, the upcoming bill by Senators Lieberman and Warner is likely to be a real focal point.

We have done a brief analysis (a follow-up to our earlier report, Should Big Polluters Own the Sky?) of their draft plan and have come up with some provocative findings.

We think the senators deserve real credit for taking the initiative in the face of dogged opposition by the Bush Administration to any limits on CO2 emissions.

But we found that their draft plan would produce windfall profits for the biggest polluters. That's because they would give away more free "allocations" to the big coal burning companies than needed.

Environmentalists are hoping this legislation can be improved as the debate moves forward.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cummins: we won't need pollution control technology to meet 2010 NOx standard

Cummins will be able to do this because it has “banked” emission credits earned by meeting NOx standards early with its big pickup trucks.

On the one hand, Cummins deserves credit for meeting the standards early, but we hope this won’t prompt other diesel engine companies to begin lobbying for a break on the 2010 standards.

More from Cummins at:

Rep. Waxman calls on White House to repudiate ugly lobbying blitz against California greenhosue gas standards

A lively day on the climate front, with President Bush skipping all but the dinner of today’s UN meeting. (Food-centric, perhaps?)

But there is another interesting and important development:

You may recall the mini-scandal of a few months ago, in which the US Department of Transportation was caught lobbying members of Congress to oppose California’s attempt to secure US Environmental Protection Agency approval of its landmark greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. (Those standards, of course, are a crucial component in the fight against global warming because they have been adopted by so many other states.)

You may also recall DOT’s efforts to stonewall a congressional investigation

Now Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has released results of his panel’s investigation of this ugly scandal.

IT turns out that Transportation Secretary Mary Peters personally directed this lobbying blitz – apparently with the White House’s blessing!

In a letter today to CEQ head James Connaughton,

Waxman calls on the White House to repudiate this effort. (“not an appropriate use of taxpayers’ dollars…”)

Thank goodness someone is playing the watchdog role over this ugly business. Fancy toasts at some dinner can’t obfuscate the truth -- that the Bush administration has been trying to protect the auto industry.

The White House ought to stop playing politics – and permit California and the other states to move ahead with these critical greenhouse gas standards.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Car companies lose in bid to kill greenhouse gas vehicle standards

Big news this afternoon from Vermont, where the major car companies have lost their bid to derail Vermont’s greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles, modeled on California’s ground-breaking standards.

This is a landmark victory in the battle against global warming. See the decision at

You will recall that the car companies sued the state of Vermont in a bid to kill the global warming standards there. (A similar car company attack in California is still pending. The judge there delayed the case because of the whole Supreme Court battle over global warming. You will recall the Supreme Court declared that the US EPA did have authority under the Clean Air Act to limit greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. That authority logically extends to California and to states that seek to adopt California’s standards.)

The car companies threw everything but the kitchen sink at Vermont in an effort to kill the standards. (The case was tried in US District Court for the District of Vermont. Environmental groups and the State of New York intervened on Vermont’s behalf.) But the kitchen sink wasn’t enough to overcome the logic and legality of Vermont’s standards.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Battle in Atlanta over EPA smog proposal

Clean Air Watch was in Atlanta yesterday as the US EPA held its final hearing on its proposed smog standards. An excellent summary below from the publication Creative Loafing:

One of the more provocative side issues: support for the do-nothing industry position from the National Conference of Black Mayors. Greenwire today notes that other speakers castigated the group for taking such a surprising position.

But why did it, especially given the impact of pollution on minority communities?

One clue may lie with the group's Corporate Advisory Council, which enables private companies, for a fee, to have close dealings with the group: "It provides access to the chief elected officials of hundreds of local governments, including scores of large American cities. It also provides a platform through which business interests can communicate their perspectives on issues and opportunities."

Another possible clue: ExxonMobil was a primary sponsor for some of the festivities at the group's recent annual meeting:

Monday, September 03, 2007

CRS: Cal has "strong case" to receive greenhouse gas vehicle waiver

The non-partisan Congressional Research Service has concluded that California “appears to have a strong case” in its quest to obtain federal approval of its greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles.

The CRS report notes that "The stakes involved - both the environmental consequences and the potential impact on the auto industry - go well beyond California," since 14 other states have adopted or announced they plan to adopt the California standards.

As you will recall, the US EPA has been dragging its feet on California’s request, first made in December 2005. The EPA has said it will make a decision by the end of this year. Because of the auto industry’s opposition, the Bush administration is expected to give California a thumbs down, perhaps using upcoming national standards as a pretext.

This new report will make it tougher for the EPA to say no. It will make it look quite blatantly political if EPA rejects the California request.

The report was first noted in the San Jose Mercury News.