Thursday, March 29, 2007

EPA prepares to release terrible rule involving particle soot

The U.S. EPA is preparing as soon as this afternoon to release what we believe will be a terrible rule involving particle soot. (Or will they do the usual Friday bad-news dump?) The rule has been pending for quite some time and was officially okayed yesterday by the White House Office of Management and Budget. (See at http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoDetails?rrid=114278)

Technically, the rule involves the guidelines that states are expected to follow in order to meet the fine-particle soot standards that EPA (yes, the Clinton administration) set in 1997. More than 200 counties are in violation of those standards. About 88 million people are exposed to legally harmful levels of particle soot. Particle soot can cause death and disease. It has been linked to cancer, heart attacks and asthma attacks, among other health problems.

Prepare for EPA to do a lot of spin work when they announce this new rule.

In reality, this will be a dirty power industry protection plan. And it may also hamper state efforts to meet these critical public health standards.

We are informed that EPA will proceed with and expand on its plan, initially proposed in September 2005, to exempt electric power plants from a requirement to use “reasonably available” pollution controls if the plants are within the zone covered by EPA’s cap-and-trade so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule. In simple terms, this means that some power plants may comply simply by buying pollution “credits” – and not use any pollution controls whatsoever.

This is a flagrant gift to the electric power industry. It means some local communities could face continuing pollution problems longer than necessary. (It’s also not a great deal for consumers, since reducing electric power industry pollution is among the most cost-effective ways to deal with this problem.)

State and local air quality regulators protested this bad idea when EPA first floated it because it will make it more difficult for them to do their jobs.

There are other bad aspects to this rule from what we have been able to glean – including esoteric legalese that could impose an extra burden on state agencies to demonstrate the need to require pollution controls on other smokestack industries.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

EPA science advisers reiterate need for tougher smog standard

EPA's independent science advisers have sent EPA chief Steve Johnson a letter reiterating that "Ozone Panel members were unanimous in recommending that the level of the current primary ozone standard should be lowered from 0.08 on to no greater than 0.070 ppm."

This really tees up a classic clash: science versus politics, since industry groups are on record opposing changes to the current ozone standard.

http://www.epa.gov/sab/pdf/casac-07-002.pdf

The recommendations come on the heels of strong recommendations from the World Health Organization to strengthen air quality guidelines for ozone. The WHO report, issued in full on March 23, 2007, recommends an air quality guideline of .051 ppm ozone, 8-hour average, to protect against respiratory effects and premature deaths due to ozone.
http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E90038.pdf

White House begins review of "Thune" rule to relax air pollution standards for ethanol refineries

The White House Office of Management and Budget notes this final rule arrived for review on March 22.

This plan was instigated by the corn lobby and by Senator Thune, a former ethanol lobbyist. (Thune actually put out a press release bragging about this last March, when the plan was first proposed.)

This rule is nothing other than a dirty political fix. It will mean more pollution from ethanol refineries and more breathing problems for people who live near them.

EPA has conceded privately that the increased pollution will be “geographically more concentrated” than the increased pollution expected from adding ethanol to gasoline. (The final “renewable fuels standard” is also under review by OMB.)

Clean Air Watch and state and local air pollution directors are among those that have protested this move.


http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoViewRule?ruleID=270995

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Another March Miscreant: Western energy lobby goes after the polar bear!

I guess there is never a dull moment in the world of the energy lobbyist.

Now they are going after the polar bear! See e-mail, below, from the Western Business Roundtable, a dig and burn crowd based in Golden, Colorado. (Yes, yes, this is the very same group that holds the annual business festival of access buying and cooked up a virtual parody of itself called Americans for American Energy. Run by the guy who did pr for Dick Cheney’s energy task force. )

As you may recall, the Bush administration is considering listing the polar bear as an endangered species because global warming is melting the Arctic ice.
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/species/polarbear/index.html

Perhaps the most amusing part of the note below is the rabble-rousing allegation that preserving the polar bear could harm businesses in “ALL 50 STATES.” Last time we looked, there weren’t many polar bears in Florida, Texas and Arizona.

I guess they have to do something to keep those corporate dues coming in.

As Caligula once put it, "people are so despicable."

**

the latest from Jim Sims

From: Jim Sims [mailto:jsims@westernroundtable.net] Sent: Monday, March 26, 2007 2:41 PMSubject: New Business Threat: Proposed Polar Bear ESA Listing
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March 26, 2007
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A MAJOR NEW THREAT TO ALL BUSINESSES/ INDUSTRIES
Dear Colleague:
Environmental extremists and activist lawyers are pushing the federal government to add the Polar Bear to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list. Such a listing would have major negative implications for virtually every business and industry operation in the United States.
The ESA is a very powerful law and could subject virtually any human activity in ALL 50 STATES to review and regulation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) bureaucrats if the Polar Bear is listed as threatened or endangered. This will essentially declare "open season" for environmental lawyers to sue to block virtually any project that involves carbon dioxide emissions.
What are we doing to stop this?
1) Comments To USFWS
The Western Business Roundtable has filed comments with the USFWS strongly opposing this listing. You can see them here: http://www.westernroundtable.net/mail/util.cfm?mailaction=clickthru&gpiv=1999955530.31245.615&gen=1&mailing_linkid=9882
We also filed comments to the Secretary of the Interior regarding an Administrative Procedures Act petition by environmental activists to regulate the impact of global warming to species under the Endangered Species Act. You can see those comments here: http://www.westernroundtable.net/mail/util.cfm?mailaction=clickthru&gpiv=1999955530.31245.615&gen=1&mailing_linkid=9886, and the attachment also filed: http://www.westernroundtable.net/mail/util.cfm?mailaction=clickthru&gpiv=1999955530.31245.615&gen=1&mailing_linkid=9884
===> ACTION ITEM: File comments from your organization opposing this listing. The comment period ends on April 9.===> ACTION ITEM: Let Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne know of your opposition to the environmental activists' ADA petition.
2) Grassroots Campaign
The Roundtable is joining with our sister non-profit advocacy organizations, the Partnership for America and Americans for American Energy, to wage aggressive grassroots and grasstops campaigns to stop this listing petition.
Go here to take action now: http://www.westernroundtable.net/mail/util.cfm?mailaction=clickthru&gpiv=1999955530.31245.615&gen=1&mailing_linkid=9883
Go here to learn more about this issue: http://www.westernroundtable.net/mail/util.cfm?mailaction=clickthru&gpiv=1999955530.31245.615&gen=1&mailing_linkid=9885
3) Giving You Tools To Act On Your Own
We will soon send you additional talking points, backgrounders, information sharing tools and a powerful online "Grassroots Power System" website that you can use to help your members submit their own individual comments for the record opposing the polar bear listing. Stay tuned!
Jim SimsPresident & CEOWestern Business Roundtable350 Indiana Street, Suite 640Golden, CO 80401office: 303-216-9278direct: 303-577-4611fax: 303-496-0334http://www.westernroundtable.net/mail/util.cfm?mailaction=clickthru&gpiv=1999955530.31245.615&gen=1&mailing_linkid=9888http://www.westernroundtable.net/mail/util.cfm?mailaction=clickthru&gpiv=1999955530.31245.615&gen=1&mailing_linkid=9887
________________________________________The Roundtable is a non-profit, 501(c)(6) organization that unites a wide variety of business and industry leaders to work on a bipartisan basis for public policies that promote a common sense balance between economic growth and environmental conservation.

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. http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/conf/

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.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/23/AR2007032301460.html

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
Enclosure
cc: AdministratorDeputy Administrator

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bush EPA starts "buying out" pesky inspectors

Throughout the dark years of the Bush administration's management of the EPA, the agency's Office of Inspector General has been a beacon of light -- pointing out problems with various polluter-friendly Bush initiatives. (See, for example, reports at http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2006/20060515-2006-P-00025-glance.pdf
http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2005/20050203-2005-P-00003-Gcopy.pdf
http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2004/20040930-2004-P-00034.pdf )

So now the empire is striking back -- with proposals to cut the budget and offers of a "buyout" to hasten the departure of some of those pesky inspectors.

The situation came to light today in a letter to EPA from Rep. John Dingell and several other lawmakers.

"We are concerned that you are taking actions that could be highly detrimental," noted Dingell and the others.

The Bush administration obviously wants to get rid of as many of those pesky inspectors as possible.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

EPA tries to bury the news: chemical releases INCREASED in 2005

There were plenty of words in an afternoon EPA press release, but EPA tried to bury the news -- that toxic chemical releases actually increased in 2005 from 2004 levels. No wonder the Bush administration has tried to reduce public reporting of this information.

EPA notes in the fine print that the biggest increases came in metals mining and from the electric power industry. I’d say we are quite a ways from declaring success.

Here is the fine print, contained in the “Summary of Key Findings”

http://www.epa.gov/tri/tridata/tri05/pdfs/Key_Findings.pdf

How do the 2005 TRI data compare to the 2004 TRI data?
In this section, we present both net changes from 2004 to 2005, and underlying shifts in
management methods.
Overall, when compared to quantities reported for the previous year (2004), total disposal or other
releases of TRI chemicals showed an increase of 117 million pounds (3%).
• On-site disposal or other releases increased by 92
million pounds (2%).
► Surface impoundments other than RCRA Subtitle C
surface impoundments increased by 67 million
pounds (9%),
► Land disposal other than landfills (such as waste
piles, spills and leaks) increased by 54 million
pounds (10%),
► RCRA Subtitle C landfills increased by 3 million
pounds (2%),
► Surface water releases increased by 5 million
pounds (2%),
► Land treatment increased by 1 million pounds
(6%), and
► Class I underground injection wells increased by over 163,000 pounds (0.1%),
► However, air emissions decreased by 29 million pounds (2%)
► Class II-V underground injection wells decreased by 8 million pounds (27%), and
► RCRA Subtitle C surface impoundments decreased by 3 million pounds (43%).

What happens now that Gore has come and gone?

http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/03/22/gore_or_more_of_the_same.php

Gore Or More Of The Same?
Frank O'Donnell
March 22, 2007



If the script were written in Hollywood, Al Gore’s bravura performance and triumphant return to Washington would be followed, in quick order, by:

--Polluter lobbyists’ dropping efforts to block new global warming pollution limits,
--Congress’ coming to its senses and racing to pass effective new greenhouse gas controls and
--President Bush’s admitting the error of his ways and agreeing to sign a meaningful global warming bill.

(Alternate, Frank Capra-esque ending, perhaps titled "Mr. Gore Really Returns to Washington"—Gore would be elected president, and would sign the global warming law himself.)

Unfortunately, there are some other would-be script writers in the nation’s capital—and they are not going to win an Academy Award.

Beneath the surface of the polar bear pageantry, polluter lobbyists are busy throwing up obstructions at every turn, dispensing both propaganda and big checks. And President Bush has been as stubborn in opposition to global warming limits as he has on his Iraq policy and his defense of his political hatchet men.

Let’s look at the good news first. Thanks in part to the former vice president’s proselytizing, there is perceptible momentum for action. Just this week, Representative Henry Waxman, D-Calif., introduced visionary legislation that would call for an 80 percent reduction in U.S. global warming emissions by mid-century. Waxman initially enlisted an impressive 127 cosponsors (though only two of them Republicans) for his Safe Climate Act.

But to turn this vision into law, Waxman needs to secure quite a few more “yes” votes, and the polluters are working overtime to make sure they slow down the process.

Take the coal-mining lobby, for instance: The day before Gore’s appearance before Congress, it scheduled a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for Congressman Rick Boucher, D-Va., who happens to chair the House subcommittee in charge of global warming legislation.

Boucher is also a favorite of the nation’s biggest coal-burning power company, Ohio-based American Electric Power (its political action committee gave Boucher $10,000 in the last congressional cycle), which, coincidentally, testified to Boucher this week that it would oppose any legislation which doesn’t require action by China and India.

In a similar hearing last week before Boucher and auto industry champion John Dingell, D-Mich., major auto makers made it clear they would strenuously oppose any efforts to require big improvements in fuel economy. (The car companies are simultaneously suing in Vermont to overturn state standards—modeled on those adopted by California—that would set vehicle global warming standards.)

The car companies tried to throw the blame for global warming partly onto the oil companies. Not surprisingly, the oil companies are trying to blame someone else. This little Alphonse-and-Gaston routine recalls the old line by former Senator Russell Long: “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree.”

The political complexities have prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lower near-term expectations for comprehensive action on global warming in the House. A similar scene is playing out in the Senate, where Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., acknowledged to Roll Call this week that she has not yet been able to secure enough votes to report a strong global warming bill out of her Environment and Public Works Committee.

It’s unfair to blame Boxer. One problem there is that committee Republicans are—so far—a stone wall of opposition or silence. Even Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a committee moderate who previously co-sponsored progressive legislation, has gone south. Last week he issued a startling press release praising the Bush administration’s environmental record.

Surely, it’s mere coincidence that administration ally American Electric Power gave moderate Lamar’s re-election campaign $1,000 last month. (For the record, Max Baucus, D-Mont., a likely swing vote on the Boxer panel, got an equal amount last month from AEP. So did Dingell. Boucher raked in another $2,500.)

Meanwhile, true to form, the White House continues to undermine attempts at international cooperation on global warming. Last weekend, the U.S. stood alone in blocking a consensus among industrialized and other nations for an international carbon-trading market.

Perhaps more amazingly, the Bush administration has quietly stopped collecting comprehensive information on electric power plant operations—information that could prove critical in designing an effective global warming strategy.

So before we respond appropriately to Al Gore’s warnings, it may take another election to throw the proverbial bums out. But the list of bums is growing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Car companies try to kill global warming standards behind closed doors

An excellent editorial from The Sacramento Bee


Editorial: Detroit shuffle

Trials of warming lawsuits must be public

Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Turn on a television or flip through a magazine, and you are likely to see ads for Toyota, Ford and other automobile manufacturers extolling their commitment to a cleaner, greener planet.

In federal courtrooms, their actions tell a much different story. For the last three years, trade groups that represent major automobile manufacturers have been suing California and other states to prevent them from regulating automobile emissions that cause global warming.

If that weren't egregious enough, the automakers are now effectively attempting to pursue these lawsuits in closed courtrooms. Federal judges must not let that happen.

At stake is nothing less than vanguard efforts by California and other states to fight global warming. California passed a law last year to reduce its greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2020. The effectiveness of that mandate hinges on one passed in 2003 (known as the Pavley Law, after its sponsor, former Assemblywoman Fran Pavley), which targets emissions from cars and trucks. If the Pavley law were to be terminated, it would undermine California's overall effort, since 41 percent of the state's greenhouse gases come from motor vehicles.

The automakers want this law terminated. Here in California, they have sued to block the Pavley law regulations in U.S. District Court. In January, Judge Anthony Ishii postponed the trial, pending an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether carbon dioxide can be regulated as a pollutant.

The automakers have also sued Rhode Island and Vermont for passing similar laws, and in the Vermont case, a federal judge decided not to stay the proceedings. Ever since, the automakers have been pressing the court to hold much of the proceedings "in camera," or in closed chambers. The automakers claim it is impossible to achieve the emission reductions required by the Pavley-type laws, and to support this claim, they have filed tens of thousands of pages of documents that they say contain "highly confidential information."

While this trial might delve into some legitimate trade secrets, lawyers for Vermont and the Burlington Free Press say the automakers are exaggerating the extent of these secrets -- in all likelihood to avoid public scrutiny.

U.S. District Judge William Sessions III, who is overseeing the Vermont case, held a hearing yesterday on the automakers' request and says he will rule shortly. He should look skeptically on requests to close this trial, as should Judge Ishii if a similar motion is made in the California case.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Vermont paper fights car companies in big global warming case

While we in DC are preparing for the drama associated with former Vice President Al Gore’s appearance before Congress, there’s a different sort of battle over global warming taking place in Vermont. And this one has the interesting angle of pitting the Burlington Free Press against the major car companies. (See background stories, below.)

The car companies have gone to court to try to kill Vermont’s global warming standards for motor vehicles, which are patterned on California’s landmark standards. The trial is slated to begin later this week.

And, as part of the battle, the car companies have sought to close part of the proceedings because of alleged trade secrets and business practices. (You do have to wonder what the car companies are trying to hide. On the one hand, they advertise how innovative their cars are. On the other, they apparently are planning to argue in court that they can’t easily meet the Vermont standards.)

The Burlington Free Press is challenging the request for secrecy. There’s a hearing over this issue today.

There’s a little more background on the case here: http://www.calcleancars.org/legal/other_states.html

Thursday, March 15, 2007

EPA comes up with new pollution loophole: blame the wind!

The US EPA today announced final rules that would broaden a loophole to permit some industries to escape pollution cleanup.

Under this new rule, states could ignore monitored high-pollution days if the high levels can be ascribed to something allegedly “exceptional” – like a “high-wind event.”

This new loophole came about because Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) slipped this provision into a transportation bill two years ago.

It should be noted that in calculating compliance with clean-air standards, states are already permitted a certain number of mulligans. This new rule would permit more.

Some of these probably aren’t that controversial – for example, ignoring pollution caused by a terrorist attack. (It is unclear if Jack Bauer would receive a similar pass.)

But some of these “exceptional events” seem over the top. For example, permitting states to ignore pollution caused by a chemical spill. (If you’re the chemical company, causing a spill might just be the ticket to permitting you to avoid cleanup.) Permitting an exemption for “transported pollution” – EPA cites “data affected by emissions from mining and agricultural activities” – also seems pretty fishy.

Our favorite, however, is the exemption for “high-wind events” which EPA defines as “events that affect ambient particulate matter concentrations through the raising of dust or through the re-entrainment of material that has been deposited . In some locations, concentrations of coarse particles like PMlo are most likely affected by these
types of events, although PM2 .5 standards may be exceeded under such circumstances as well.”

Windy days happen pretty often, don’t they?

Beware the Ides of March: science vs. faith at the EPA?

You may have been as puzzled as we were at the cryptic note put out yesterday by the US EPA press shop regarding a teleconference this afternoon on “an introductory briefing on EPA's lab infrastructure review process.”

That is, until we read several news accounts this morning about a congressional hearing yesterday, in which EPA was castigated for budget cuts in its science and research programs. Subcommittee Chair Nick Lampson (D-TX) expressed concern that the reduction in research spending would undercut EPA’s mission of protecting health and the environment. http://science.house.gov/press/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=1723

To the point of today’s spin cycle, Lampson also noted several internal EPA memos which alluded to future cost savings from consolidating and possibly closing EPA laboratories – a “dreadful” process, said Lampson, perhaps akin to the controversial EPA decision to close several libraries.

(The memos, which suggested that quite a few EPA scientists could face a Caesarian fate in this bloodbath, were first released last fall by the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility: http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=747 )

At yesterday’s hearing, George Gray, a political toady who heads EPA’s research division, contended that EPA did not yet have a detailed plan to carry out these executions. This whole episode does appear to be further evidence that the Bush administration scorns science. But in favor of what? That brings us to the next item….

LET’S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE! And let’s get right to the point: we were pretty astonished to find out that Steve Johnson, the career scientist who heads the EPA, is prominently featured in a promotional video for an evangelical proselytizing organization known as Christian Embassy.

This video, made available online a few months back by our good friends at AlterNet (See http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/archive/?y=2006&m=12&d=12), caused a stir because it included Defense Department employees, in uniform.

You can still view the promotional video from the AlterNet site, but you have to watch the tape for several minutes to realize that it also prominently features Johnson, who is described only as “Honorable Steve Johnson, Presidential Appointee,” and is shown with President Bush and then at a desk with the American flag behind him.

“I can’t imagine doing this [job] without the Lord,” Johnson says. Of Christian Embassy, Johnson says, “it is not only reassuring and refreshing, but it’s essential.”

Johnson adds that “I don’t know of any other organization that would get up, come into my office at 6:15 in the morning to have a Bible study.”

It is interesting to hear the last line, by the way, knowing that some groups have had difficulty getting appointments with Johnson to discuss EPA policy and actions.

All this while Johnson presides over cuts in EPA’s research and science budget.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

MIT: we need to capture and store that carbon if we keep using coal

An important new report out today by MIT on the future of coal.

The researchers basically say it seems inevitable that we'll keep using coal in the future -- and that the U.S. government had better get on the stick to commercialize technologies to capture and store the carbon emissions.

http://web.mit.edu/coal/

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

At long last, EPA moves forward with standards for lawn mowers and other dirty small engines.

At long last, the U.S. EPA is finally moving forward with proposed new national air pollution standards for lawn mowers and other dirty small engines.

The White House Office of Management and Budget began reviewing the EPA proposal on March 9.

These engines contribute significantly to smog problems around the nation. Cleaning them up will bring cleaner air from coast to coast. It is high time that EPA moved forward to address this serious pollution problem.

You may recall that at the end of last year, EPA approved California’s request for tougher standards in California. These national standards will be similar to the California standards, only taking effect a few years later.

Here is more from a White House regulatory web site:
http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoViewRule?ruleID=270928

Monday, March 12, 2007

Rogues report: coal lobby ponies up for key House Democrat (and more)

Coal caper: With Congress at least seeming to get serious about global warming, the polluter money is starting to flow. A good example of this is the coal lobby, which has scheduled a March 20 fundraiser for a key House Democrat, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality. Boucher’s panel, which, in theory, will be the starting point for global warming legislation in the House, continues its review of the issue this Wednesday as major car companies come in to testify. The electric utility industry will have its day before Boucher on March 20 – the same day as the coal fundraiser. (The coal boys are serious: this is a thousand dollar a head affair. See the invitation, below.)

The coal lobby obviously hopes that Boucher will be like the 300 Spartans and jam up the pass – and any attempt by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others to enact effective global warming legislation.

(Boucher, of course, is no political virgin when it comes to campaign contributions. The mining industry gave him more than $48,000 during the last election cycle – more than any other House Democrat -- according to the Center for Responsive Politics.)

Boucher told the Washington Post that his goal is to craft a bill on global warming that could win the support of House Republicans and industries that produce the greenhouse gases causing the atmospheric change.

"Chairman [John] Dingell and I are determined to fashion legislation that addresses global warming and do it in a very constructive way -- and our committee has jurisdiction over this," Boucher said. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/09/AR2007030902158.html

Translation: if the coal boys cough up enough money, I will be sure to protect their interests.

**
Car caper: Speaking of rogues, the car companies are trying their own attempt to block global warming controls – specifically, the California motor vehicle standards for greenhouse gases. On March 22, an industry-initiated trial will begin in Vermont. No, that’s not a typo – the California vehicle standards will go on trial in Vermont, which is among the states that has adopted the California standards. (A California trial has been postponed until the Supreme Court rules on the big global warming case.) Stay tuned for more on the Vermont trial.

**

Spiting states? Later this week, the U.S. EPA is supposed to send its operating budget plan to Congress following the recent congressional adoption of a continuing budget resolution. This all sounds painfully dull, so let’s cut to the chase: Congress gave EPA some discretion about what to do with its budget, and word has leaked out that EPA plans to cut $18 million in grants to state and local air pollution control agencies. This is really a disgrace and appears to be retaliation against states that have pushed for better pollution controls in the face of intransigence by the Bush administration. Congress ought to intervene to straighten this mess out.
.
**
[Here is the coal industry invitation to the Boucher fundraiser:]


Arch Coal PAC
CONSOL Energy PAC
Foundation Coal PAC
National Mining Association PACs
Peabody Energy PAC

Cordially Invite You to a
Fundraising Breakfast
in honor of

Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA-9)
Energy & Commerce
Chairman, Subcommitee on Energy and Air Quality
Tuesday, March 20
8:30 a.m.

National Mining Association
101 Constitution Avenue, NW
Suite 500 East
Washington , DC

Suggested Contribution- $1,000
Please make checks payable to:
Boucher for Congress Committee
POBOX 2000Abingdon,VA24212




Please RSVP to:
Anne Foley at 202-463-2605
Or afoley06@gmail.com
Paid for and authorized by Boucher for Congress Committee
Contributions to Boucher for Congress Committee are not tax deductible for federal income tax purposes. Federal law requires us to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation, and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 in an election cycle. Contributions by corporations and foreign nationals are prohibited. Not printed at government expense.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

EPA science advisers: breathers need a tough smog standard

EPA's independent science advisers have once again issued a call for a tough smog standard.

The advisers met earlier this week to review recommendations by EPA career staffers. The advisers said breathers need tougher standards than those recommended by EPA's staff (which -- need we mention it? -- had the Bush politicos breathing down their necks).

Why should we care? Without tougher standards, hundreds of thousands of kids will have permanent lung damage.

Friday, March 02, 2007

EPA proposes cuts in diesel exhaust

From Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to reduce diesel exhaust from trains and ships, a move supported by some environmentalists.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on Friday issued proposed emission standards for diesel locomotive engines, tugs, barges, ferries and recreational marine engines. The toxic chemicals and soot in diesel exhaust contribute to smog and can cause cancer.

``By tackling the greatest remaining source of diesel emissions, we're keeping our nation's clean air progress moving full steam ahead,'' Johnson said in a statement.

The standards, when adopted and fully phased in, would reduce particulate pollution from these engines by 90 percent and smog-forming nitrogen oxides by 80 percent, the EPA said....

Health benefits are estimated at $12 billion by 2030, including 1,500 fewer premature deaths, 1,100 fewer hospitalizations and 170,000 more work days by people breathing easier...

``Cleaning these engines up will prevent death and disease,'' said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch advocacy group.

State and local air pollution officials also welcomed the announcement.

``Every major metropolitan area in the country will benefit from the huge emissions reductions expected from this long-awaited rule,'' said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

``We estimate the emissions benefits will be equivalent to taking three-quarters of a million diesel trucks off the road each year. EPA deserves a 'thumbs-up' for this proposal,'' he said.