Sunday, April 29, 2007

Washington Post: DC area has skyrocketing global warming emissions

The top story in today's Washington Post ought to be thought provoking:


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/28/AR2007042801188.html?hpid=topnews

D.C. Area Sees Spike In Rate of Emissions

Carbon Dioxide Increases 13.4% In 4-Year Period

By David A. Fahrenthold

Washington Post Staff WriterSunday, April 29, 2007; Page A01

The Washington area is in the middle of a carbon dioxide binge, with emissions of this greenhouse gas from vehicles and electricity users having increased at more than twice the national rate between 2001 and 2005, according to a Washington Post estimate.
That estimate, which appears to be the first to track the region's emissions from those two key sources, found a 13.4 percent increase. Nationally, those emissions from grew by 5.6 percent in the same period.

The Post used traffic statistics and utility records to track the two major components of greenhouse gases; other sources, such as farms and airplanes, were not easily quantified.
Environmentalists say that these numbers illustrate an unwanted legacy of Washington's recent economic boom: Population grew, but emissions grew faster. As exurbs have crept out to farms and forests, the region has required more energy for home air conditioners and long-distance commutes….

Across the area, carbon dioxide emissions increased faster than the population, which grew about 5.5 percent from 2001 to 2005. Environmental groups said that this is an indication that the problem is not only growth but the way in which the region has grown.

"People have moved farther and farther out and drive more and more miles," said Frank O'Donnell, president of the District-based Clean Air Watch. "What it's telling you is, sprawl is causing a big increase in greenhouse gases

Thursday, April 26, 2007

States rally behind California's effort to enforce greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles

Even though the ink is barely dry on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest salvo at the US EPA, other states are rallying to California’s support.

As you know, yesterday Schwarzenegger sent EPA an official notice that California will sue if EPA continues to drag its feet on California’s LONG-standing request to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. (The car-industry-friendly Bush administration has been hoping since California filed its request – in December 2005 – that the issue would go away. But the recent Supreme Court decision on global warming really strengthened California’s hand.)

And now other states are stepping up. Since yesterday, EPA has already received letters supporting California from states including Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. These are five of the 11 other states that have adopted California’s standards. (Several other states are also moving to adopt them.) And I am willing to bet that more letters are on the way.

These states believe it’s time to stop talking about global warming and start doing something about it. (They need EPA’s approval of California’s request.)

This is a real sign that this issue involves much more than just California.

Will the EPA be willing to say no to all these states? Will the traditional White House loyalty to the car industry prevail? Stay tuned. An EPA hearing on California’s request is coming up in several weeks, and it should be very interesting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Update: EPA proposes new loophole for coal-burning power companies; Schwarzenegger intends to sue EPA over car CO2 inaction

A couple of quick updates, both spinning out of recent Supreme Court decisions:

As you may have seen from the seemingly innocuous “news brief” put out by the US EPA, the Bush administration has done it again – proposing to cut a new break for coal-burning power companies.

This is the key phrase from EPA’s fact sheet http://www.epa.gov/nsr/fs20070424.html :

In other words, under the new option, if a physical or operational change would not increase an EGU’s hourly emission, major NSR would not apply.

To put this in English, despite a unanimous Supreme Court ruling, the Bush administration is proposing a major loophole that would permit many coal-burning power plants to avoid new source review – and pollution controls.

It is appalling that the EPA still appears to be under the thumb of big coal-burning power companies that seek to avoid pollution controls. And equally appalling that this has been distributed as a “news brief,” as if it had little or no consequence.

This is an open invitation for a lawsuit if EPA makes this rule change final.

**

Arnold intends to sue: Word out today that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is sending EPA a letter noting California intends to sue EPA to force a decision on California’s greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. This is an attempt to hold EPA’s feet to the fire. And it’s about time.

As you may know, yesterday EPA Administrator Steve Johnson noted that he was opening a public comment period on California’s request (which needs EPA approval) to proceed with its greenhouse gas standards. But Johnson was very evasive when questioned about when he would make a decision on the matter.

California requested EPA’s approval in December 2005, but the Bush administration has been stalling. Johnson’s programmed behavior yesterday (he was obviously reading from a White House-prepared script) suggests further delay despite the clear need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and despite the recent Supreme Court ruling which essentially gave California a green light to proceed.

Eleven other states have adopted the California standards (Maryland just yesterday) and many of them are prepared to send in letters of support.

Monday, April 23, 2007

EPA chief heads for the hotseat..and why does trafficpollution harm women more than men?

Pity may be the correct emotion to feel for EPA chief Steve Johnson tomorrow. He’s going to have to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the subject of “The Implications of the Supreme Court’s Decision Regarding EPA’s Authorities with Respect to Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act.”

In other words, Johnson will have to defend the indefensible Bush administration policy on global warming. Make no mistake about it: Johnson does not have authority to act independently here. He must toe the White House line. And tomorrow he will recycle a lot of tired spin.

In his prepared remarks, Johnson asserts that even before the Supreme Court decision, “the Administration had been implementing aggressive steps to tackle climate change.” That’s why emissions keep increasing every year.

About EPA’s reaction to the Supreme Court decision, Johnson says “given the complexity of the decision and the very short time that has elapsed since the Court issued the opinion, at this early date it is impossible today to understand and explain fully how the decision may have any specific impact.” So it appears that the White House has ordered EPA to continue dragging its feet.

Expect the committee’s chair, Senator Barbara Boxer, to try boxing Johnson in – especially about when EPA will take action on California’s request to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. But don’t expect Johnson to give a satisfactory answer.

It could be pretty good theater, however.

Other witnesses include former EPA chief Carol Browner, who will argue that EPA should grant the California request, but also point out the need for “congressional leadership and immediate action.” Also testifying is former EPA chief Bill Reilly, now co-chair of the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy, though testifying on his own behalf. About the Supreme Court decision, Reilly notes, “the law has now been settled and EPA does have the authority [to regulate greenhouse gases]. I might add that if I were EPA Administrator, I would welcome that authority."

More reason for Steve Johnson to feel miserable.

**
New study finds women at extra risk: A new study in the medical journal Thorax found that women who live near busy roads suffered reduced lung function. The researchers, from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health, studied nearly 16,000 middle-aged men and women in Winston-Salem, NC, Jackson, MS, suburban Minneapolis, MN, and Hagerstown, MD. This is the largest published study of traffic exposure and pulmonary function in adults to date.

Friday, April 20, 2007

New poll:public concern grows over global warming

The Washington Post today published results of a new poll it conducted jointly with ABC News and Stanford. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/polls/postpoll_environment_042007.html

The poll found public concern about global warming has grown significantly in the past year.

Most people want to reduce greenhouse gases from power plants.

By an overwhelming margin, people trust Democrats in Congress to do a better job than President Bush in dealing with this issue.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

On ethanol... and the latest from Ecotalk

On ethanol:

http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/04/19/ethanol_hangovers.php

and from Ecotalk:

http://www.ecotalkblog.com/

Frank O'Donnell helps the EPA define "success"

Clean Air Watch President Frank O'Donnell stops by to parse the EPA Chief Steve Johnson's latest announcement on the Bush Administration's efforts to "reduce" greenhouse gas emissions: "The bottom line is the actual volume of emissions continues to grow. The climate and the planet doesn't care so much about intensity or rates of things, they care about actual volume of pollution that's effecting the climate." LISTEN (12 min)

Power Plays – political maneuvers on global warming as we count down to Earth Day

With Earth Day on the horizon, there are some interesting developments involving one of our biggest sources of pollution – the electric power industry.

**

Carper diem: For some weeks, we have been expecting Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) to reintroduce a stronger version of his multi-pollutant legislation aimed at reducing power plant emissions. And today’s the day. But little did we realize there would be at least one other bill – maybe two others -- apparently designed to share the headlines. Here’s what we know:

The Carper bill will be introduced with bipartisan support, with co-sponsors reportedly including Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Susan Collins (R-ME). It would require deeper cuts of utility sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides compared to current EPA requirements, and would require 90% cleanup of mercury at every power plant. The bill would also require reductions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide along the lines of that in legislation introduced earlier this year by Feinstein.

Later, Lamar: In the last Congress, one of Carper’s co-sponsors and key collaborators was Lamar Alexander (R-TN). But Alexander has filed for the legislative version of divorce, and is planning to introduce his own bill later today. His staff says the emission targets will be similar to Carper’s (check carefully the carbon section), and it’s just a matter of how emission “credits” would be disbursed. Carper initially would distribute most credits to companies based on how much power they produce, then gradually transition to an auction system favored by environmentalists.

Alexander, who supported this concept last year, now favors giving the credits to companies based on past pollution – in effect giving a windfall to the biggest coal-burning companies. Why did Alexander change his approach? Someone obviously “got to him,” as they say, presumably a big coal-burning company like American Electric Power, which would stand to profit by his new approach.

Also said to be joining this power plant party is freshman Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is planning to introduce a new version of legislation previously supported by his predecessor, former Senator Jim Jeffords. This entry is a bit of a surprise, since insiders know it is basically a non-starter. Perhaps it is coming out of mothballs in an effort to position Carper in the pragmatic center.

Hat’s off, by the way, to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who vowed yesterday to push for a showdown vote on global warming on the Senate floor before the 2008 elections. "Let people stand up and vote no," Boxer said. "And if they vote no, then [voters can] boot them out."

Just like they did to Sanjaya.

**
Boucher voucher: On the other side of Capitol Hill, key House law maker Rick Boucher (D-VA) said yesterday that he would delay any climate change legislation until the fall. Boucher chairs the key House subcommittee that would deal with this issue. You may recall the flap a month or so ago when it was revealed that coal mining companies (no doubt hoping to slow down any global warming legislation) were hosting a fundraiser for Boucher.

So how’s Boucher doing financially? “The money kept rolling in,” as the song from Evita goes. In a first-quarter campaign report released this week (it’s on the federal election commission web site), Boucher’s re-election campaign discloses that it received almost $40,000 from coal mining and electric power companies during the first three months of the year, including from such notables as American Electric Power, Duke Energy, TXU, the National Mining Association, Foundation Coal and Headwaters (which is promoting that boondoggle coal-to-liquid plan).

**
Let the sun shine: It’s been a dark week in the Northeast because of that wretched nor’easter, but word of a sunnier development is trickling out of New Jersey – a new $100 million solar energy plan by Newark-based Public Service Electric and Gas. We await details, but this could be a real boost for renewable energy, and a positive step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New concerns raised about ethanol and pollution

A new study by Stanford University atmospheric scientist Mark Z. Jacobson warns that high blends of ethanol could cause more pollution and public health damage.

His findings are published in the April 18 online edition of the journal Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T).

More at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070418072616.htm

Public radio's "Marketplace" on EPA lawnmower proposal


A greener way to cut grass

Listen to this story

The EPA has proposed new rules designed to help reduce summertime smog. It says adding catalytic converters to small engines on boats and lawnmowers could bring levels down as much as 10%, but manufacturers say it could be dangerous.


TEXT OF STORYMARK AUSTIN THOMAS: The Environmental Protection Agency has come up with a greener way to cut your grass. Yesterday, the EPA proposed new rules designed to reduce pollution from small engines that are used on lawnmowers and boats. Nancy Marshall Genzer has more.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: There's a reason your lawnmower and boat engines are so stinky. They don't have catalytic converters. Yesterday, the EPA proposed rules that would change that, reducing pollution from small engine emissions by up to 70 percent. Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch says the new rules would improve summertime smog.

FRANK O'DONNELL: Small engines could actually amount to about 10 percent of smog-forming emissions in the summer months. But manufacturers say catalytic converters on lawnmowers will add heat to already hot engines, causing fires. James McNew is with the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.

JAMES McNEW: The equipment is designed to be used in areas where there is grass and debris that could easily combust. The EPA argues its research shows catalytic converters could actually cool engines down. In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

EPA proposing new standards for lawn mowers, other small engines

The US EPA is planning today – finally – to propose new national air pollution standards for lawn mowers and other small engines.

The White House Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the proposal last week: http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoDetails?rrid=114237

These engines may be small in size, but they are big when it comes to pollution. Lawn mowers and other small engines are significant sources of pollution. As cars have become cleaner, small engines have become a bigger and bigger part of the pollution problem.

These standards are way overdue. They were held up literally for years because of political pressure from Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, who was doing the bidding of the Briggs & Stratton engine company. Bond and Briggs & Stratton finally got quiet last year.

We hope that EPA will issue these standards in final form later this year.

The EPA standards should dovetail with standards previously set by the state of California, though the national standards will take effect several years later. (EPA granted permission at the end of last year for California to move ahead with those standards there.)

These new standards will require new limits on “evaporative” emissions and will also likely lead to use of tiny catalytic converters.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Global warming emissions up again; Bush team celebrates!

It's a sad state of affairs when global warming emissions go up, yet the Bush administration tries to spin it as a victory.

That's exactly what's happened with the latest report on emission trends by the U.S. EPA. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html

The EPA found that U.S. greenhouse gases overall increased by about a percent in 2005 from the previous year, continuing a long-term trend of increasing emissions.

Even so, the EPA issued a self-congratulatory press release (below) noting the administration's "unparalleled financial, international and domestic commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry.

**
News for Release: Monday, April 16, 2007 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EPA Publishes National U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Contact: Roxanne Smith, (202) 564-4355 / smith.roxanne@epa.gov (Washington, D.C. - April 16, 2007)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the national greenhouse gas inventory, which finds that overall emissions during 2005 increased by less than one percent from the previous year.
The report, Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2005, was published after gathering comments from a broad range of stakeholders across the country.

"The Bush Administration's unparalleled financial, international and domestic commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is delivering real results," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.

"As America's economy continues to grow, our aggressive yet practical strategy is putting us on track to reach President Bush's goal to reduce our nation's greenhouse gas intensity 18 percent by 2012."
Total emissions of the six main greenhouse gases in 2005 were equivalent to 7,260 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. The report indicates that overall emissions have grown by 16 percent from 1990 to 2005, while the U.S. economy has grown by 55 percent over the same period.

EPA prepares the annual report in collaboration with experts from multiple federal agencies.

This report is the latest in an annual set of reports that the United States submits to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. The inventory tracks annual greenhouse gas emissions at the national level and presents historical emissions from 1990 to 2005. The inventory also calculates carbon dioxide emissions that are removed from the atmosphere by "sinks," e.g., through the uptake of carbon by forests, vegetation, and soils. Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2005 report: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A collaborative effort to deal with nitrogen pollution

Worried about nitrogen pollution harming water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay?

Here's a chance to explore possible solutions with experts and others concerned about the problem.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has begun an online collaboration to create strategies for reducing nitrogen pollution.

You can join the conversation at http://nitrogen.packard.org.

Friday, April 13, 2007

EPA caves in to farm lobby; relaxes air pollution standards for ethanol refineries

EPA moves to ease air pollution standards for ethanol plants

By Bill Lambrecht
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency took a major step to stimulate ethanol production by issuing a rule Thursday allowing ethanol plants to operate with fewer environmental rules and less air pollution equipment.

The agency rejected pleas by clean-air advocates and increased the amount of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants that will be allowed before an ethanol plant is considered a "major air emitter," a category that requires more stringent regulation.

The change will increase the threshold for installing the best air pollution control equipment from 100 tons of pollution annually to 250 tons. It will also allow ethanol plants to avoid counting emissions from vents and other minor plant sources when tabulating those thresholds.
The new rule would not apply in urban areas already dealing with air quality problems.

EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said the rule was designed to make sure that all forms of ethanol production and the distillation of alcohol for human consumption "are treated equally under the Clean Air Act."

Up to now, most ethanol plants have been treated like chemical manufacturers for purposes of air pollution regulation.

The ethanol industry and its backers in Congress pushed hard for the new rule and the White House, a staunch supporter of biofuels, helped make the case for the change.

Rick Tolman, chief executive officer of the St. Louis-based National Corn Growers Association, said the rule is beneficial to his members and a reflection of a trend toward larger plants.
"Even with the change, ethanol is significantly net positive for emissions and greenhouse gases," he said.

Many local and state air-pollution officials opposed the change. They said the new rule will make their tasks more difficult in controlling pollution both from new ethanol plants and current plants that will be able to expand without installing pollution-control equipment.

"It was a double whammy. They have inappropriately increased the major source threshold and made that change worse by ignoring plant emissions that are still a problem for public health," said William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, representing more than 200 air pollution control agencies in states and localities.

Frank O'Donnell, executive director of the nonprofit Clean Air Watch, said: "It's going to mean more dirty air and more disease."

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt was one of two governors who formally endorsed the rule change in a letter to the EPA. The second was South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dirty laundry in the Bush fuel spin cycle (hint: it's all about coal, cars and corn)...and a surprising lobbyist against global warming limits

We are bracing ourselves for some vigorous spinning in this afternoon’s press conference by EPA Administrator Steve Johnson, Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, and NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason to tout “the use of alternative fuels and modernizing CAFÉ standards for cars.”

It will be curious to see if they, as President Bush did last week, will try to argue that this is a Bush administration response to global warming and last week’s Supreme Court decision.

Calling this plan an effective response to global warming is about as appropriate as naming Don Imus the Dean of Women at Rutgers.

(Please don’t try to tell us you are doing a great job on global warming if you leave out the biggest source of emissions – coal burning at power companies.)

But there’s more… the administration appears to have at least a partial ally now in former House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt. Read on, and, as always, please let us know if we can help.

Hazy horizon: Part of today’s announcement includes the rollout of the final “renewable fuel standards” called for in the 2005 energy policy act. Those of you who have followed this know it’s a very mixed bag. As the US EPA has reported, the standards will yield a marginal reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, while increasing smog-forming emissions in many states.

And, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch astutely reported over the weekend http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/nation/story/2034137C9EC71841862572B6001B8236?OpenDocument , the administration is simultaneously working up a plan that would permit more pollution to spew from ethanol refineries. This plan was spurred by former ethanol industry lobbyist and current South Dakota Senator John Thune.

This plan will mean more dirty air and more health problems near ethanol refineries. We are waiting to see how long it will take for one of the local communities to suggest it be renamed “Little Port Arthur.” http://www.refineryreform.org/community_portarthur.asp

Thune, by the way, has a new pet project—to increase the amount of ethanol in regular gasoline. (Environmentalists would rather see ethanol used in high concentrations – so called E85) in cars designed for their use. Thune is pushing an idea known as E20 – a 20% blend of ethanol in gasoline. And now the car companies are starting to get anxious. General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz commented on this idea last week, saying he had asked GM’s engineers about the possible impacts.

"To put E20 in the fleet that's out there is going to corrode every non-ethanol fueling system," Lutz said. "We absolutely guarantee the destruction of the engine and the fuel injection system if we go the E20 route. It will not work."
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/DN-autoethanol_09bus.State.Edition1.3ba680.html

**

Off-pitch pitch: part of this afternoon’s administration pitch is for its proposed plan to increase use of “alternative” fuels. But there are a couple of things that need to be noted: This plan includes no target whatsoever regarding reduction of greenhouse gases. And it would actually promote the concept of producing liquid fuel from coal – something that would probably not only be a boondoggle that will cost taxpayers, but could actually increase greenhouse gas emissions.

If the EPA really wants to do something about global warming, one positive idea would be to grant California’s long-pending request to put its motor vehicle greenhouse gas standards into effect. Maybe it’s time for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to pay a personal visit to EPA chief Steve Johnson and lay down the law!

Some of the car companies, of course, are fighting vigorously against that idea, with a trial beginning today in Vermont on its version of the California standards. Among other points, the industry makes the bizarre claim that more fuel efficient cars could be dangerous, because they will be cheaper to drive and lead people to drive more and potentially have more accidents. As astute Sierra Club lawyer David Bookbinder noted in a briefing yesterday (and reported in today’s New York Times), “Detroit is saying it’s a bad idea for everybody to drive more.” Yes, this is a pretty laughable argument.
**
Coal and corn – bipartisan style: As noted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and some other outlets, former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt has now registered as a lobbyist for Peabody Energy.

Gephardt was pretty upfront in his registration form, noting that his objectives were “avoidance of carbon caps” and “funding for production of clean coal technologies.” In other words, he’s promoting much of the same agenda as the Bush administration. Yes, friends, sadly, this is how Washington really works.

But wait – there’s more. Gephardt has also filed to lobby for E3 Biofuels LLC, a Kansas-based ethanol company. The issues here: “ethanol production and distribution, government industrial revenue bonds, tax credits for ethanol production.”

At least E3 says it hopes to avoid using coal in the process:
http://www.e3biofuels.com/about/index.php?PHPSESSID=56a60ad9d568cd70e755338b9c0f8edd

Thursday, April 05, 2007

100+ air researchers, docs to EPA: the scientific need for much tougher smog standards is overwhelming

More than 100 distinguished air pollution researchers and physicians are recommending that the U.S. EPA set much tougher new health standards for ground-level ozone, or smog.

These experts are echoing the call of EPA’s independent science advisers, who recently urged the agency to drop the current standard (85 parts per billion) down to between 60 and 70.

“The National Ambient Air Quality Standards must accurately reflect the state of the science and fulfill the Clean Air Act's mandate of protecting the public health, including those most vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, with an adequate margin of safety,” the experts note.

Referring to the recent call by EPA’s advisers, these experts added that “Such strongly worded consensus statements are unusual for this panel of scientists, which is deliberately selected to represent a variety of viewpoints. These unambiguous, unanimous recommendations to your office reflect the strong body of scientific literature indicating significant harm to adults and children from exposures to ozone at and below the current standard.”

EPA’s Johnson is under a court order to propose a standard by June. He is expected to come under strong political pressure against a major change in the standard because of the strong opposition by coal, oil, auto, electric power and other industries.

The full letter is at http://cleanairsciencecorner.blogspot.com/2007/04/medical-experts-urge-tougher-smog.html

Is President Bush smarter than a fifth grader?

Some reflections at http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/04/05/more_pollution_does_not_equal_less.php

GE responds to critics of its dirty-train lobbying blitz... by making more tv commercials!

General Electric isn’t taking criticism of its dirty-train lobbying lightly. It is responding – by making and airing even more tv commercials!

As you will recall, GE has tried to delay and weaken proposed EPA standards to limit smog-forming nitrogen oxides emissions from new train engines. This activity has drawn sharp criticism from Clean Air Watch and, later, from NRDC.
http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2007/02/hypocritical-ge-lobbies-against.html

Now GE is striking back, in a way that only a multi-national company with deep pockets can.

Last night’s NBC show “Friday Night Lights” (on GE-owned NBC) featured a GE spot in which workers (or actors?) at the company’s Erie, PA, factory start singing “take my breath away” in praise of GE’s allegedly clean train.

In another spot on the company’s web site, actor Kevin Kline praises the company’s allegedly green “evolution” train.

Wouldn’t you like to have a percentage of what the ad company is making?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bush stiffs Congress; puts anti-regulatory zealot in charge of federal regulations

As we have long feared and predicted, the White House has stiffed Congress and named anti-regulatory zealot Susan Dudley to become head of the White House Office of Management and Budget's regulatory office. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/pubpress/2007/040407_dudley.pdf

Dudley was given what is called a recess appointment. That basically means the President in effect dissed Congress, which had refused to confirm Dudley because of her radical anti-environmental approaches. This way, Dudley can take office without being confirmed.

Here's more from our friends at OMB Watch: http://www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/3799/1/192?TopicID=5

EPA to Defy Supreme Court Ruling

From the Bureau of National Affairs Daily Environment Report
April 3, 2007


EPA to Proceed With Emissions Test RuleIn Face of New Source Review Decision

The Environmental Protection Agency said it is moving forward with a proposed rulemaking to narrow the definition of the emissions increases that trigger new source review emissions control requirements, despite an April 2 Supreme Court decision endorsing the agency's current broad interpretation (Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy Corp., U.S., No. 05-848, 4/2/07).

"The decision does not affect EPA's plan to proceed with the emissions test rule," EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood told BNA April 2.

The Supreme Court unanimously upheld EPA's current definition of the emissions increases that trigger new source review requirements for power plants and other major sources to install modern pollution controls when they make plant modifications that increase emissions.
Since 1980, EPA regulations have defined emissions increases as an increase in a plant's actual emissions measured on an annual basis.

The Supreme Court's ruling April 2 overturned a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which had held that emissions increases must be defined narrowly as an increase in a plant's hourly emissions rate (United States v. Duke Energy Corp., 4th Cir., No. 04-1763, 6/15/05).

Under the Fourth Circuit ruling, new source review would have applied only when a modification increased a plant's production capacity. Overhauls that extended a plant's useful life would not have been subject to new source review.

The Fourth Circuit decision stopped an EPA enforcement action against Duke Energy Corp., alleging new source review violations at its power plants. A Supreme Court ruling in favor of Duke Energy would have shut down several other new source review cases filed by the federal government against power companies in 1999 and 2000.

Discretion Left to Agency

Kevin Gaynor, an attorney with Vinson & Elkins, told BNA that the Fourth Circuit decision was a "de facto invalidation of EPA regulations" that the court had no right to address. "That's why there were nine votes on the Supreme Court," he said. However, Gaynor said, the Supreme Court decision "left open agency's right to change the regulation."

Even though it was fighting the hourly emissions test in court, EPA proposed a rule in 2005 that would apply the hourly rate emissions increase test to new modifications at power plants. In addition, EPA already is applying the test in deciding whether to pursue additional new source review cases against power companies (60 DEN A-1, 3/29/07 ).

EPA said it was proposing the change in part because of the Fourth Circuit's Duke Energy decision.

Scott Segal, director of a utility group called the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, told BNA that the Supreme Court ruling puts the emissions test proposal on firmer ground.

"Justice Souter is very clear; the Fourth Circuit erred when it asserted that the statute placed limits on the EPA's discretion in interpreting the appropriate basis for measuring emissions rate," Segal said. "This same discretion should actually place prospective interpretative rulemaking on firmer ground."

'Strong Message' to EPA

John Walke, director of clean air programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told BNA that while "I don't read the opinion to be dispositive in either way, I think it should send a very strong message to EPA that the [new source review] program should regulate air pollution based annual emissions and not hourly emissions."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Supreme Court rebukes Bush, industry in key environmental cases

Two stunning environmental victories today at the U.S. Supreme Court: http://www.scotusblog.com/movabletype/

We will, of course, defer to our friends who were involved in litigating the cases, but a couple of quick thoughts:

In one historic case (Massachusetts v EPA) the High Court rebuked the Bush administration and ruled that the federal government does indeed have authority to regulate greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

This is a big victory for planet earth. And it’s a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration.

The Supreme Court has confirmed that carbon dioxide can be controlled under the Clean Air Act.

That means California and other states have the clear right to limit greenhouse gas emissions if the Bush administration won’t.

The U.S. EPA should move immediately to grant California’s request to put its vehicle standards for global warming pollution into effect.

If the Bush administration fails to do so, it will be obvious that the motivation is purely political.

And because the Bush administration has been so consistently recalcitrant, Congress should act promptly to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the other case (Environmental Defense Fund v Duke Energy), the High Court overturned a federal appeals court decision which could have crippled a key federal enforcement program against pollution from electric power plants.

This is a victory for good government, and a big defeat for the electric power industry.

The Bush administration has been trying to play this issue both ways – arguing to the High Court against Duke Energy’s position, while simultaneously preparing a rule change that would essentially side with Duke. (See at
http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoViewRule?ruleID=270963)

The Bush administration ought to throw this industry-friendly rulemaking into the trash can and go back to enforcing the law.