Tuesday, December 23, 2008

News flash: federal appeals court backpedals on critical power plant standards

This could prove a holiday gift to breathers.

A federal appeals court is backpedaling on its earlier decision to vacate critical EPA rules designed to reduce power plant emissions – the so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule. (CAIR)

In a ruling this morning (see at http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/common/opinions/200812/05-1244-1155490.pdf ), the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has reversed its earlier decision that vacated CAIR.

The court said it was persuaded by EPA (and others, including environmental groups) that vacating the rule “would sacrifice clear benefits to public health and the environment while EPA fixes the rule.”

Instead, the court now has remanded the case back to EPA “without vacatur” so the agency “can remedy CAIR’s flaws.” CAIR will remain in effect until EPA issues new rules.

We urge the EPA to move swiftly to issue new rules that adequately protect public health.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

News notes: Some challenges ahead for the new Obama green team -- and some suggestions

A few quick notes before many of you break for the holidays. (Clean Air Watch will remain on duty throughout.) These involve some of the major challenges that will be faced by the new Obama energy and environment team.


Renewable ruckus: The U.S. EPA was supposed to issue final “renewable fuel standard” rules by tomorrow under the 2007 energy law.

But the agency’s proposal hasn’t even come out yet.

It remains under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?ruleID=293067 The BNA Daily Environment Report attributes the hangup to disputes about the impact of biofuels-related land use changes. Jonathan Lewis with the Clean Air Task Force can explain. jlewis@catf.us Also see http://www.catf.us/projects/climate/biofuels/20081031-Response_Letter_to_Johnson_re_RFS_ILUC.pdf

We hope EPA will do an honest assessment, and not cave in to political pressure from the corn crowd. (Some ethanol interests are also trying to bully EPA into pretending that higher levels of ethanol in gasoline than permitted today are “substantially similar” to today’s gas. BAD IDEA – unless you like more air pollution and damaged engines!)

**

State suggestions: State and local air pollution regulators have weighed in with climate and other clean-air recommendations to the Obama transition team. Among the key ideas: approve California’s request to enforce its motor vehicle standards, and support the right of states to continue providing leadership in the climate battle. They also urge EPA to use its existing authority to make progress.

We ought to be very thankful for the state efforts – they’ve been the bright lights during the environmental darkness of the past eight years.

**

Emeritus EPA exhortations: Some similar recommendations have come in from two former Republican heads of the EPA – Bill Ruckelshaus and Bill Reilly. They agree with the state agencies that the current Clean Air Act can be used to make progress. (Take that, Chamber of Commerce coxcombs!) These are all excellent ideas and may undercut what we anticipate will be some partisan Republican congressional opposition to Obama initiatives.

**

Coal clash: In Kentucky, the group Valley Watch has noted it will challenge a plan by Peabody Energy to build a new coal plant that is “carbon capture ready.” (See release at bottom of this note.) This is one to watch as the new administration touts the idea of “clean coal” (whatever that means at a given moment.)

**

Diesel dispute: Volvo has weighed in against the lobbying blitz by Navistar to delay upcoming diesel truck emission standards for nitrogen oxides. See at
http://www.volvo.com/trucks/na/en-us/news_and_events/news_releases/NewsItemPage.htm?ItemId=54972&sl=en-gb
Navistar went cheap on its choice of technology, and apparently can’t meet the new standards, though other diesel engine makers can – and will. We trust the Obama administration will reject Navistar’s noxious request.
**
Awful Astroturf: Finally, this doesn’t really involve the Obama transition, but we’d like to commend a note by our friends at DeSmogBlog about the “Astroturf” effort run by Jim Sims, one of our favorite adversaries here at Clean Air Watch. It makes for a fun read:
http://www.desmogblog.com/policy-communications-inc-astroturf-shell-game
**
Here is the Valley Watch release, noted above:

For Immediate Release 12/17/08 Contact: John Blair @ 812-464-5663

Valley Watch will challenge the latest proposal by Peabody Energy to build a synthetic gas plant in Muhlenberg County, KY. We will do that on both economic and environmental/health grounds.We are proud that we were able to win our previous fight with Peabody Energy over their proposed Thoroughbred Generating Station on the same site they have chosen to propose a syngas plant.We know that coal can never be made "clean" whether it is burned, gasified or turned into liquid fuels. There are enormous waste products created by each of those processes and "solving" an air pollution problem will create large scale solid waste and water pollution problems for people who live downstream, as Evansville and Henderson do.Further, for Peabody to claim that their new facility is "Carbon Capture Ready" is simply misleading since they claim they will only capture carbon when forced to do so by the federal government. This plant will emit millions of tons of CO2 that is "ready" to be captured. But Peabody expects the region to accept as a matter of faith a technology in its earliest stage of research as something here and now, while failing to even consider the enormous economic and environmental costs associated with that technology in the future. Also, it is almost a certainty they will resist any sort of carbon regulation, depending on their notable lobbying infrastructure to minimize their exposure to any carbon regulation, now or in the future.If their proposed plant were already in operation today, it would likely be shuttered due to the cost of natural gas, which is currently selling at a price about 65% of the most optimistic projections for just the production cost of the syngas they seek to produce. That is a serious obstacle to the deployment of this or other synfuel proposals.What investor is willing to take such a huge risk in a really tight financial market when the global demand for energy is sliding lower each day? Of course the answer to that is that Peabody expects that the federal government will ultimately pay for the capital costs of the plant they are unwilling to finance themselves.Further, the price of coal has skyrocketed over the last two years and unlike oil, has stayed high through at least the early stages of the global economic crisis. Coal, that was selling in the $25 to $30/ton range just a couple of years ago is now stabilized at $84/ton in the Illinois Basin where they wish to locate the new plant.Valley Watch will seek to coalesce with others who are concerned about the global climate crisis to form a coalition to fend off this proposal. It is our intention to doggedly monitor Peabody's filings with the Kentucky Division of air Quality as well as issues of solid waste, landfills and water pollution this plant will cause, if ever allowed to operate.Our efforts in similar matters in the past have paid large dividends for the health of people in Western Kentucky and Southwest Indiana. Just earlier this month we were happy to announce another victory when Indiana Gasification withdrew their petition for rate recovery from the docket of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for a plant in Rockport, IN. Nearly identical to Peabody's current proposal, that plant was stopped using conventional community organizing and making the investment community adequately aware of the risks and opposition which clearly increased financial risk an already risky venture.
Please fell free to contact me at any time over the next several years as this drama plays out.
Check out the Valley Watch website at: valleywatch.netJohn Blair
800 Adams AvenueEvansville, IN 47713
812-464-5663

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Energy Czar Carol Browner brings passion and brains to the job


An excellent piece about Obama "Energy Czar" Carol Browner from a Texas perspective by award-winning reporter Bill Dawson in the new Texas Climate News: http://www.texasclimatenews.org/TCNJournal/121408ThenewczarandTexas/tabid/469/Default.aspx

Saturday, December 06, 2008

What is "clean coal?"


An industry propagandist describes it as an "evolutionary term."


For more, see the excellent post at http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/12/5/0252/10575

Monday, December 01, 2008

Obama’s national security adviser: a bad guy on global warming?

As President-elect Obama fills out his national security team, we feel compelled to note that his choice as his national security adviser – retired Marine General Jim Jones – appears to have been a real bad guy on the topic of global warming.

And since global warming is a security threat, this selection raises a real eyebrow. Will Jones be predisposed to compromise the new administration’s environmental agenda, both at home and in the international arena? (One wag quipped to us that in this new role “maybe Jones will be put in a place where he will do less damage.”)

A little background:

Jones has headed up the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Institute for 21st Century Energy” http://www.energyxxi.org/pages/Leadership_and_Staff.aspx

This group assembled an energy plan that could be summed up in Rudy Giuliani’s colorful words: “Drill, baby, drill!”

Though it gives lip service to increased use of renewable energy, the plan also calls on the new President and Congress to “Immediately Expand Domestic Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Production…Commit to and Expand Nuclear Energy Use… Commit to the Use of Clean Coal… and Reduce Overly Burdensome Regulations and Opportunities for Frivolous Litigation.”

As we noted earlier http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/search?q=crybabies , the Chamber plan also includes such odious -- and old -- anti-environmental plans as gutting the Clean Air Act's new source review plan, repealing the big Supreme Court case on global warming and taking away the rights of California and other states to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The Chamber, of course, has been an adamant foe of all efforts to limit global warming pollution. It vehemently opposed the so-called Lieberman-Warner legislation. It has also been flooding the U.S. EPA with the equivalent of regulatory spam in an effort to block efforts to limit emissions through use of the Clean Air Act.

Global warming is, of course, a national security issue.

As a military advisory board for the CNA (Center for Naval Analysis) noted in an earlier report, “climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.”
http://securityandclimate.cna.org/report/National%20Security%20and%20the%20Threat%20of%20Climate%20Change.pdf

The military advisers called on the U.S. to commit to a stronger national and international role to "help stabilize climate change at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability.”

Will Jones embrace this advice? Or will he retain allegiance to the dark, anti-environmental agenda of the Chamber of Commerce. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Native American tribe to White House: don't relax clean-air requirements

A new objection has surfaced to the Bush administration’s midnight march of dirty-air deals.

In this case, a Native American tribe – the Forest County Potawatomi Community http://www.fcpotawatomi.com/index.php/Treaties/history-overview.html --
has gone to the White House in an effort to block an upcoming rule change that would permit more dirty air in national parks and wilderness areas.

The tribe notes that the rule could also mean more dirty air in tribal lands, which achieved special (Class 1) clean-air protections earlier this year.

It met with the White House Office of Management and Budget on Nov. 24. See record of the meeting, below.

OMB reports that, as of this morning, the rule is still under review.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2060/meetings/829.html

Meeting Record Regarding: NSR Increments
Date: 11/24/2008
-->
Name
Affiliation
Client (if applicable) -->
Marc Lampkin
Quinn Gillespie & Assocs.
Forest County Potawatomi
Janet McDonald
EPA

Jeff Crawford
Forest County Potawatomi

Art Harrington
Godfrey & Kahn
Forest County Potawatomi
Elizabeth Kopits
CEA

Kevin Neyland
OMB/OIRA

Heidi King
OMB/OIRA

Jim Laity
OMB/OIRA


[MATERIALS GIVEN OUT AT THE MEETING]:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2060/meetings/829-1.pdf

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2060/meetings/829-2.pdf

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Waxman victory: a breath of fresh air

As you may know by now, Rep. Henry Waxman of California officially was selected to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the new Congress, replacing Rep. John Dingell of Michigan. The vote by the House Democratic Caucus was 137-122 in favor of Waxman.

Waxman’s victory is a breath of fresh air – of clean air. It was a stunning defeat for the corporate lobbyists on K Street.

And it was nothing if not historic, bucking the traditional congressional seniority system.

It shows that a majority of the House Democrats are ready to work with the incoming Obama administration on effective global warming legislation.

We hope that those on the losing side of today’s vote will take a positive attitude moving forward. And that enlightened members of both parties will work together on global warming and other crucial environmental issues.

Smokey Joe Barton backs Dingell in clash with Waxman

With a showdown vote looming today on the clash between Congressmen Henry Waxman and John Dingell, one of Congress' most notorious polluter sympathizers has spoken.

Republican Congressman Joe Barton (once named "Smokey Joe" by the editorial pages of the Dallas Morning News for his loyalty to anything with a smokestack) says he favors Dingell.

From today's Dallas Morning News:

Mr. Barton, the top Republican on the energy committee, said both men are "very smart and very aggressive." But Mr. Barton said he favors Mr. Dingell.

"Dingell tends to be more bipartisan," Mr. Barton said. "I don't have
any reason to fault John Dingell in his chairmanship."

The whole story: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/DN-chairman_20bus.State.Edition1.3bdcf1c.html

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Waxman wins round one in battle with Dingell

This just in from our friends with E&E News:

HOUSE: First round of Energy and Commerce battle goes to Waxman
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) scored a slim opening round win today in his bid to take the gavel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).

Waxman captured a majority of support from the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, a group heavily tilted toward allies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The final tally was 25-22, according to Steering Committee co-Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) Dingell, the 27-term lawmaker from the auto manufacturing hub of Dearborn, Mich., collected the bulk of his votes from industrial state lawmakers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More on Waxman and Dingell, and reactions to Obama's climate remarks

Today’s USA Today piece on the Waxman-Dingell battle was quite good, if you haven’t seen it. http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-11-17-congress_N.htm

The first skirmish is tomorrow in the House Steering and Policy Committee, which will make a recommendation. The House Democratic Caucus will vote, probably Thursday morning, to decide the issue. We (thankfully!) have no inside scoop on this. But have a gut feel that Waxman will prevail. We do believe his approach is more closely aligned with the “change” agenda of President-Elect Obama.

Speaking of which: you’ve undoubtedly heard or seen Obama’s remarks to the big conference on climate change hosted by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. (The text of the Obama remarks are below.)

Obama’s comments are winning effusive praise from environmentalists and some business groups alike.

Schwarzenegger himself described Obama’s remarks as “fantastic.”

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Obama’s call for legislation to cap emissions, one of the first specific policy statements Mr. Obama has made since his election, was a particularly important signal that he will, as he promised during the campaign, make global warming a top priority. Added Larry Schweiger, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation: "With today's call for action on global warming, President-elect Obama has kicked the gears of change into motion.”

We do expect opposition from the usual crowd – the Chamber of Commerce, etc.

But we are encouraged that some companies are speaking up publicly. For example, the Michael Bradley, head of the Clean Energy Group of power companies, put out a statement this afternoon:

The Clean Energy Group’s Clean Air Policy Initiative welcomes President-elect Obama’s leadership on this important issue. As long time supporters of mandatory climate change legislation, we are encouraged by his clear commitment to implementing effective solutions to address global warming. We look forward to working with the new Administration and Congress to develop a national climate change program that also addresses our country’s energy security and sends the right market signals to direct capital investment to the lowest-cost solutions.

- Michael J. Bradley, Executive Director of the Clean Energy Group’s Clean Air Policy Initiative, on behalf of Avista, Calpine, Constellation Energy, Entergy, Exelon, Florida Power & Light, National Grid, PG&E Corporation, PSEG, and Seattle City Light


**
Obama Remarks as Delivered:

Let me begin by thanking the bipartisan group of U.S. governors who convened this meeting.

Few challenges facing America – and the world – are more urgent than combating climate change. The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Sea levels are rising. Coastlines are shrinking. We’ve seen record drought, spreading famine, and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season.

Climate change and our dependence on foreign oil, if left unaddressed, will continue to weaken our economy and threaten our national security.

I know many of you are working to confront this challenge. In particular, I want to commend Governor Sebelius, Governor Doyle, Governor Crist, Governor Blagojevich and your host, Governor Schwarzenegger –all of you have shown true leadership in the fight to combat global warming. And we’ve also seen a number of businesses doing their part by investing in clean energy technologies.

But too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office. My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.

That will start with a federal cap and trade system. We will establish strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80% by 2050.

Further, we will invest $15 billion each year to catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean energy future. We will invest in solar power, wind power, and next generation biofuels. We will tap nuclear power, while making sure it’s safe. And we will develop clean coal technologies.
This investment will not only help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, making the United States more secure. And it will not only help us bring about a clean energy future, saving our planet. It will also help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating five million new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.

But the truth is, the United States cannot meet this challenge alone. Solving this problem will require all of us working together. I understand that your meeting is being attended by government officials from over a dozen countries, including the UK, Canada and Mexico, Brazil and Chile, Poland and Australia, India and Indonesia. And I look forward to working with all nations to meet this challenge in the coming years.

Let me also say a special word to the delegates from around the world who will gather at Poland next month: your work is vital to the planet. While I won’t be President at the time of your meeting and while the United States has only one President at a time, I’ve asked Members of Congress who are attending the conference as observers to report back to me on what they learn there.

And once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations, and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.

Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious.

Stopping climate change won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. But I promise you this: When I am President, any governor who’s willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that’s willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that’s willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America. Thank you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Congress and Clean Air: the Battle between Waxman and Dingell

See the Gristmill blog at http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/11/10/72436/290

Please note, for the record, that I did not originate the phrase "Tailpipe Johnny," though I may have been the first to report it in a national magazine in 1982.

The phrase properly should be credited to the late Republican Congressman Ed Madigan of Illinois. The context was Madigan's describing a meeting he had in 1981 with Dingell and then-Republican Congressman Jim Broyhill of North Carolina. Dingell and Broyhill had teamed up to promote legislation, in concert with the Reagan administration, to weaken the Clean Air Act. (This is referenced in the International Encyclopedia of Environmental Politics at http://books.google.com/books?id=hSE9jg_N4-IC&pg=PA91&lpg=PA91&dq=%22dingell-broyhill%22&source=web&ots=ZuzjKddt-L&sig=SGhOyOUXUn4C6YIqUoYN1D8QIeM&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result )

Madigan recalled that Broyhill and Dingell walked into the room for the meeting. "Here comes Smokestack Jim and Tailpipe Johnny," said Madigan, who later became Secretary of Agriculture under the first President Bush and died of lung cancer in 1994 at the age of 58.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Environmental leaders push back against biofuels bullies

For Immediate Release
October 31, 2008

Contact:
Nick Berning, Friends of the Earth, 202-222-0748
Jonathan Lewis, Clean Air Task Force, 617-894-3788
Don Carr, Environmental Working Group, 202-939-9141

Biofuel Industry Effort to Undermine Global Warming Standards Criticized

* *
Environmental groups send letter to EPA calling on it to reject industry’s request and uphold the law

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Environmental groups delivered a letter <http://www.foe.org/pdf/Response_to_Johnson_RFSILUC.pdf> to the Environmental Protection Agency today calling on it to meet its responsibility under the law and reject a biofuel industry attempt to weaken global warming standards for ethanol.

In the next few days, the EPA is expected to release calculations of greenhouse gas emissions caused by biofuel use. In an attempt to influence these calculations, the biofuel industry recently sent a letter <http://www.foe.org/pdf/Academ_Letter_to_Johnson.pdf> to the EPA asking it to break the law and ignore congressionally mandated guidelines for how such emissions should be calculated. According to the energy bill enacted last December, indirect emissions such as land use change must be included in estimates of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Research shows that emissions from land use changes such as deforestation can cause greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels to be twice those of gasoline.

"It's telling that the biofuel industry and its supporters have become so accustomed to government handouts that they took offense when Congress asked for proof that federally subsidized ethanol and biodiesel will reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Jonathan Lewis, an attorney for the Clean Air Task Force. "But research indicates that biofuel production contributes to global warming, and the United States can no longer support biofuels without regard to their environmental impact."

"The EPA must follow the law and account for all greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels," said Kate McMahon of Friends of the Earth.

"The industry’s attempt to pressure the EPA to disregard legally required standards is preposterous. Biofuels are making global warming worse. The EPA must take this into account."

"We are merely asking the EPA to accurately measure greenhouse gas emissions from every step in biofuel production. In times of tight budgets, taxpayers have the right to know if they are subsidizing fuel that makes the climate crisis worse. EPA should suspend the renewable fuels mandate unless it can clearly demonstrate that biofuels are effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Sandra Schubert, the director of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group.

The groups’ letter can be viewed here:
http://www.foe.org/pdf/Response_to_Johnson_RFSILUC.pdf

White House begins review of "dirty air in the parks" rule

Yes, friends, the race the on for the Bush administration to push out those 11th-hour, polluter-friendly rules.

And the latest to pop up is what the Bush EPA opaquely describes as the “increment modeling” rule. It is now under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. :http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?ruleID=287204 (We’ve been warning about this for the past month.)

As you may recall, this highly controversial rule would make it easier for electric power plants and other big smokestack sources of air pollution to site near national parks and wilderness areas. It would do this by changing the way companies estimate the impact of their pollution on the parks and wilderness areas – essentially to pretend there would be less damage than would really occur.

This is an extremely duplicitous rule change. (How many people know what “increment modeling” means?)

It really ought to be called the “dirty air in the parks” rule.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

While Bush administration stalls on mercury, states try novel cleanup approach

Northeastern states are pursuing a novel approach, attempting to use the Clean Water Act to demand reductions in airborne mercury emissions.

You have to stand up and applaud these folks.

But also marvel that the Bush administration has been so in the pocket of the coal-burning electric companies that it has come to this.

This ought to help build up some momentum for a good mercury control program by the next administration.


Press Release
Contact: Beth Card or Susy King, 978-323-7929, bcard@neiwpcc.org, sking@neiwpcc.org
For Immediate Release
October 28, 2008

Northeast States Petition U.S. EPA to Control Out-of-Region Mercury Emissions

Utilizing a never-before-used provision of the Clean Water Act, seven Northeast states have triggered a mandatory process for the U.S. EPA to control the atmospheric deposition of mercury that makes fish throughout the Northeast unsafe to eat. The states filed a petition with Administrator Johnson under the Clean Water Act’s Section 319(g), which requires U.S. EPA to craft agreements to resolve multi-state pollution issues. The seven states—Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—collaborated with the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) to prepare the petition. Section 319(g) of the law requires the U.S. EPA Administrator to respond to the petition by convening a management conference including all states that are significant sources of the mercury in Northeast waters. The purpose of the conference must be to develop an agreement among such states to reduce the level of pollution and improve the water quality of the New England states and New York State. This unprecedented multi-state action underscores the determination of the Northeast states to resolve the problem of contaminated fish and to address the main cause—mercury deposited in the Northeast from sources outside the region.

“With the filing of this petition, we are saying that the negative impact posed by atmospheric deposition of mercury from out-of-region sources cannot be allowed to continue unabated,” said Ronald Poltak, Executive Director of NEIWPCC. “As a region, we have chosen to address the problem with a comprehensive strategy that in part requires the federal government to play an active role in controlling mercury pollution and in the negotiation of an agreement that will allow the Northeast states to restore water quality and remove fish consumption advisories.”

In the Northeast, elevated levels of mercury in certain fish species have resulted in statewide fish consumption advisories covering more than 10,000 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, and over 46,000 river miles in the region. The persistent need for these advisories comes despite nearly a decade of work within the Northeast that substantially reduced regional mercury emissions and discharges. Multiple research studies have shown that the majority of mercury in the states’ waters now comes from out-of-region sources such as coal-fired power plants, whose mercury emissions drift to the region on air currents and then fall directly into waterways or get carried by runoff into them.

“Since 1998 the Northeast states have been working aggressively to control our sources of mercury to the environment. We have reduced deposition from our own sources by over 70 percent between 1998 and 2002,” said Andrew Fisk, director of the Bureau of Land and Water Quality for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “All Northeast states have emissions controls on our utilities that meet our plan’s requirements for out-of-region sources. If it can be done in our states, it can be done in other states. We are asking for a stringent federal program that would require just that.”

The filing of the petition today is not the first time that the seven states have collaborated in a major move to address mercury contamination. In June 2006, they were among the 16 states that sued the federal government over the legality of EPA’s Clean Air Mercury Rule, which would have limited mercury reductions to 70 percent and delayed those until 2018. And in October 2007, the Northeast states submitted to EPA the Northeast Regional Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which like the petition was developed in conjunction with NEIWPCC. The TMDL stipulates the precise amount by which mercury arriving in the region from out-of-region sources must be reduced if the fish are to be safe to eat. Late last year, EPA approved the TMDL and endorsed the needed reductions, and earlier this year the states prevailed in federal appeals court when EPA’s Clean Air Mercury Rule was declared invalid. The petition brings the effort to a new level by describing precisely where the mercury is coming from and the first steps for controlling it.

“We look forward to sitting down at the table with EPA to develop an agreement,” said Fisk. “The goals are clear, and the technology needed to meet them is available. Let’s get to work so that our fish are safe to eat.”

Information on mercury pollution and the Northeast states’ reduction initiatives, the Northeast Regional Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load report and the §319(g), petition are available online at www.neiwpcc.org/mercury.

The big polluter payoff, the return of Newt Gingrich, and more...

We’ve been reporting for the past month that the Bush administration is moving ahead with a big polluter payoff: final rules to gut the Clean Air Act’s new source review program that would enable coal-fired power plants to increase their emissions. http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2008/09/bush-readies-more-deregulatory.html

And finally the major media have caught up with us! (What – you didn’t believe us until several senators wrote a letter on this topic. O, ye of little faith…)

Anyway, this disgraceful plan is on the fast track, courtesy of the White House. You will recall the Bush administration used its Clean Air Interstate Rule as a figleaf to justify this major deregulatory step. (The theory was, yes, this could increase emissions at individual power plants, but that it wouldn’t matter if aggregate power plant emissions dropped over time. Well, that theory is now in the toilet. But the big payoff continues. After all, the clock is ticking towards the end of this deregulatory era…)

Kudos to the Washington Post for an excellent editorial on this topic today.

**

Other things looming:

With the economy floundering, elements of the ethanol lobby are trying a new scheme: the Omaha World-Herald reports that some ethanol companies have voted to hire former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former key Bush administration aide Karen Hughes to lobby to increase the amount of ethanol that goes into regular gasoline.
http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=1208&u_sid=10466878

Newt has always been the consummate phony on environmental issues. You may recall his efforts to roll back environmental protections back in the day when he had some power and wasn’t just an oversized talking head. So it wouldn’t be out of character for him to shill for ethanol if the money’s right… (By the way, there may be something of a rift within the ethanol world. Some of the more desperate companies are making this new pitch, while we hear that the Renewable Fuels Association may be inclined to follow the process in last year’s energy bill rather than try to circumvent the rules. We will keep following this. Note also that some of our friends met with the White House last week – a follow-up to an earlier meeting held with some ethanol promoters.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2000/meetings/809.html

**

OMB has also begun reviewing a proposed EPA rule to require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions: http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?ruleID=287253 No, the Bush administration didn’t suddenly go green. This was something required by earlier funding legislation.

**

Also on OMB’s plate, what could be a late gift to the oil industry. http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?ruleID=287234
EPA, following an environmentalist lawsuit, agreed to follow the law (!) and decide if tougher standards were required to prevent people from getting cancer from refinery fumes. The agency has proposed no additional controls under the theory that the cancer that’s out there is an “acceptable risk.” Oh?

**

One more thing – and maybe a positive. OMB has begun reviewing a final EPA rule aimed to keeping real-world emissions in check for big diesel trucks and off-road diesel engines.
http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?ruleID=287151 This is something similar to the dashboard warnings in cars that let us know if there’s a problem with the emission controls.

**

And a little sunshine. (Maybe.) Tomorrow in Florida, the state environmental regulation commission will take up the governor’s proposal to adopt California’s greenhouse gas motor vehicle standards. You can track the process at: http://www.floridadep.org/air/rules/ghg/california.htm.

**
Quote of the month: in Jack Torry’s excellent piece in Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch, from our friend Dan Weiss with the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Dan noted that although Obama and McCain both support reductions in global warming pollution, that Obama wants to reduce the emissions through an auction of carbon permits, while McCain supports giving the permits away for free.

Notes Dan:
"Basically giving away the allowances would be a global-warming pollution bailout for the companies that caused the problem.” Yes!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bush administration goes to bat for power polluters at Supreme Court


Trust the Bush administration's EPA to roll out bad news late on a Friday afternoon. They've done it again!


In this case, the Bush team is going to bat the Supreme Court for power polluters. The administration has asked the High Court to review a federal appeals court decision which struck down the administration's industry-friendly mercury standards for the electric power industry.


The appeals court was most acerbic, saying the the Bush rule had adopted “the logic of the Queen of Hearts, substituting E.P.A.’s desires for the plain text” of the law.




Cout watchers think there is little chance the Supreme Court will accept this case. It appears to be just a stall tactic by the Bush administration.

Did the White House step in and weaken the EPA lead standard on behalf of polluters?

An alert bit of spotting by Matt Madia of OMB Watch:
http://ombwatch.org/article/blogs/entry/5460/38

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New EPA lead standard: an improvement, but weaker than sought by agency's children's health advisory panel

The US EPA is tightening the national airquality standard for lead. But it is not tightening it as much asrecommended by the agency's children's health advisory panel. And the agency has ignored the advice of its science advisers, who had recommended the new standard be averaged over an hourly basis.

Also note the good move to require more monitors, thoughapparently state agencies could stop monitoring near industrial sites insome cases.Although this is a move in a more positive direction, many children will still face the risk of unnecessarily high levels of lead in their blood.

That is the judgment of EPA's children's health advisory panel. And children are the ones mainly at risk here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chamber of Commerce crybabies don't like criticism

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sure loves to dish it out.

Remember the silly commercial it did attacking the so-called Lieberman-Warner climate bill? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XevRKc82soI

But it turns out the Chamber can't take it when someone dares to criticize its positions.

In this case, the criticism came from our friends at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who found shortcomings in a Chamber of Commerce affiliate "blueprint" energy plan for the next President and Congress. http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/tspencer/us_chamber_green_energy_push_u.html

The Chamber is so thin-skinned that it replied with an ad-hominem slam against NRDC:
http://www.chamberpost.com/2008/10/one-message-pon.html

I particularly enjoyed this from the Chamber crybabies:
Maybe we should just turn off the lights and sit in the
dark...


The truth is, the NRDC folks were probably being too diplomatic, since the Chamber's house of horrors includes such odious -- and old -- anti-environmental plans as gutting the Clean Air Act's new source review plan (don't worry, boys, we hear the Bush team plans an 11th-hour push on that), repealing the big Supreme Court case on global warming (they tried that, but failed) and taking away the rights of California and other states to limit greenhouse gas emissions (another Bush policy we hope will be reversed by the next President).

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bulletin: international group oks new pollution standards for ocean-going ships


We have just received very positive news from London, where our friend, David Marshall of the Clean Air Task Force, has been participating in the International Maritime Organization meeting on ocean ship pollution. David reports that there has been an agreement on new standards. See his statement below.


PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE For further information please contact:-

David Marshall, Clean Air Task Force, dmarshall@catf.us; Tel: 603-428-8114.



Thousands of Lives to Be Saved Each Year under New Shipping Pollution Accord

Environmentalists Urge Further Curbs on
Global Warming and Smog Emissions


(London, October 09, 2008)—Tens of thousands of lives each year will be saved under new air pollution control rules for marine ships adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London today. But, according to environmentalists, more efforts need to be taken to curb smog and global warming emissions from ships.

“This is a great step forward for health and the environment” said David Marshall of the Clean Air Task Force (CATF), an environmental organization that participated in the IMO deliberations and commissioned a key study showing the health impacts of ships. “After a decade and a half of discussion and pressure from environmentalists around the world, the IMO has finally taken action to clean up shipping fuels. But more needs to be done to curb health- and climate-damaging emissions from ships.”

Marshall noted that the world’s oceangoing ships presently burn some of the world’s dirtiest fuel—more than 3,000 times dirtier than the fuel that is required to be burned in US and European diesel cars and trucks. These ships spew millions of tons of sulfur each year—almost 10% of the total sulphur oxides emissions, causing acid rain and forming deadly secondary fine particulates, a major threat to human health. Most of this pollution is emitted within 250 miles of shore and threatens the health of communities well inland.

A CATF-commissioned study by respected academic researchers, published in December 2007 in the American Chemical Society Journal Environmental Science & Technology and presented to the IMO by CATF and Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) estimates that ship emissions cause some 60,000 premature deaths throughout the world each year. A follow-up CATF-commissioned study also presented to the IMO showed that under a ‘no action’ scenario, shipping air pollution would be responsible for more than 80,000 premature deaths per year by 2012.

The decision follows a three-year debate .in which the US-based CATF and other environmental groups representing FOEI in the IMO process have been working to toughen the internationally binding standards for shipping emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and deadly fine particles..

In the US alone, ship emissions cause several thousand heart attacks and bronchitis cases, as well as many thousands of new cases of exacerbated asthma and other upper and lower respiratory problems, and more than one hundred thousand missed workdays. These impacts cost society hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Poorer communities located near ports around the world are disproportionately affected.

While applauding IMO’s actions on sulfur emissions, CATF expressed disappointment over IMO’s failure to agree on any real reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions from the existing global fleet of over 90,000 ships. Marine ships emit about 15% of the world’s nitrogen oxides – which cause acid deposition, deadly fine particles, and ozone smog. Coastal states will need to take action on their own to reduce this type of shipping pollution on a national and regional basis., Marshall said.

With the sulfur issue behind it, the IMO turned its focus to efforts to reduce the global warming impacts of shipping. Ships not only emit toxic air pollutants damaging to human health, but also emit about 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually, or almost 3% of global emissions. Ships also emit roughly one hundred thousand tons of black carbon soot each year. Soot is also a potent global warming agent since it traps heat; its effect is greater in the Arctic, where it also deposits on snow and ice, speeding up the melting process by creating dark surfaces. CATF participated in the IMO’s discussions this week, urging delegates to adopt a comprehensive approach to reducing the global warming impact from ships as soon as possible.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Lead lobby makes 11th-hour White House pitch to undermine new air standards

This issue has been a little under the radar, but you may recall the US EPA is under a court directive to decide by next week (Oct. 15) if the current (and grossly outdated) national air quality standards for lead should be revised. (The answer is “Yes.” Clean Air Watch testified on this at an EPA hearing in June.)

And, as so happens as an issue like this comes down to the wire, the special interests are heading to the White House!

Please note (details below) that the battery lobby went last week to the White House Office of Management and Budget to plead their case. (Thanks to the ever-alert Matt Madia of OMB Watch for spotting this.)

They did the usual spouting about “questionable benefits” of reducing emissions. (In the process, they apparently urged EPA to break the law. The agency, of course, is supposed to set standards at a level sufficient to protect people’s health – not to consider costs and benefits.)

According to the materials they presented, the battery lobby protested that tough standards would mean the shutdown of battery recycling operations and possibly the illegal export of old batteries. (The latter is quite an ingenious argument, don’t you think?)

They also appeared to attack EPA’s independent science advisers, who unanimously urged much tougher new standards.

So the corporate scientists know more than the independent scientists? We hope the EPA will surprise us and pay attention, for once, to the advice of the agency’s independent science advisers

We do know, of course, that exposure to lead reduces one’s IQ, suggesting that some of our most noteworthy political figures have been exposed to quite a bit of the stuff.

A final note: pity the sole EPA person at this meeting who was surrounded not only by corporate lobbyists and consultants, but also by hostile representatives of OMB, the Department of Energy, the Council of Economic Advisers, and the Council on Environmental Quality. Somehow the Cheney guy missed this meeting – I guess because he was recently nominated to a bigger job.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2060/meetings/792.html

Meeting Record Regarding: Lead NAAQS
Date: 10/ 2/2008
-->
Name
Affiliation
Client (if applicable) -->
Art Fraas
OMB/OIRA

Heidi King
OMB/OIRA

Joshua Goldman
CEA

Tom Grahame
US DOE

Mark Cummings
EXME

Theresa M. Cirone
RSR Corporation

Russell Kemp
Environ
Association of Battery Recyclers
Robert Steinwurtzel
Bingham McCutchen
Association of Battery Recyclers
Terri Bowers
Gradient Corp.
Association of Battery Recyclers
Charlotte Skidmore
CEQ

Charlotte Bertrand
EPA/OA/OPEI

Nancy Beck
OMB/OIRA

Mike Clark
OMB

Kevin Neyland
OMB/OIRA

Meeting material provided to OMB:Document 1 (2 pages, 51 kb)Document 2 (5 pages, 186 kb)Document 3 (15 pages, 574kb)

Dingell climate plan would punch California, other states


Here is a link to the new draft climate legislation released yesterday by Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and his colleague, Rep. Rick Boucher.


http://energycommerce.house.gov/Climate_Change/CLIM08_001_xml.pdf

Some quick thoughts:

We are encouraged that Reps. Dingell and Boucher have finally produced something concrete with good long-term goals. (Though the short-term goals are completely inadequate.)


However, we are extremely concerned about “options” that would repeal the Supreme Court decision on global warming as well as kill state authority to set greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. See section 816.

One option would subordinate EPA authority over greenhouse gases to the more industry-friendly Department of Transportation. (Dingell tried this gambit in last year’s energy bill. House Speaker Pelosi swatted him down.) Another would eliminate EPA authority altogether. A third would eliminate the right of California to set greenhouse gas vehicle standards as well as the right of other states to set California standards.

These options are straight from the playbook of the Big Three. They appear to have been drafted in the boardroom of General Motors.

By presenting them as “options,” Dingell appears to be trying to defer the big showdown over this crucial issue.

But Dingell is making it clear: when it comes to climate legislation, it’s his way or the highway. And if he persists, it may end up being a road to nowhere.

One another big issue, the draft contains "options" on how carbon permits should be issued. It is clear that Dingell and Boucher want to give many billions of dollars of permits away for free to the biggest polluters, such as Duke Energy.


Little wonder that Duke quickly announced support for the bill, which it presumably helped write: http://www.duke-energy.com/news/releases/2008100702.asp


Canadian oil sands development threatens Great Lakes region

You may recall that the recent “economic rescue” package included incentives for production of oil sands. Environmentalists have expressed real concern about this pork provision.

And today, there is news that the environmental problems could be much worse – and more widespread – than previously realized.

New research sponsored by the University of Toronto warns that oil sands development will create a “pollution delivery system” – one that runs right to the Great Lakes Basin. This is a real eyebrow raiser.

Note release and contact for more information, below:



For immediate release

News Release
University of Toronto
Munk Centre for International Studies Program On Water Issues

Canada’s Oil Sands: Pollution Delivery to the Great Lakes?

New report and expert panel call for tougher refinery rules, more focus on health, air and water
Quality

TORONTO, October 8, 2008 – New transcontinental pipelines from Alberta’s oil sands and massive refinery expansions in the U.S. Midwest are creating a “pollution delivery system” that threatens air and water quality and human health in the Great Lakes Basin, expert panelists at the University of Toronto said today.

Piecemeal, poorly regulated, haphazardly planned refinery expansion to bring “dirty” bitumen‐based oil to the Midwest and Eastern Canada is not the economic or energy panacea its proponents claim, said participants at the University’s Program On Water Issues at the Munk Centre for International Studies.

“Research Indicates that the issue of what the oil sands do to the environment in the Great Lakes Basin – and its people – needs more public attention, greater policy focus and more consistent regulatory oversight, in Canada, the United States and by state governments and the Ontario government as well,” said Adèle Hurley, Director of the Program on Water Issues. “Pipeline and refinery expansions are taking place with too little oversight and too little information. We need to know and understand – and measure – how much additional pollution this will bring to the Great Lakes Basin, what it means for water quality, climate change, and acid rain, and how it will affect human health.”

The day‐long discussion began with a presentation from environmental writer David Israelson, whose paper, How the Oil Sands got to the Great Lakes Basin: Pipelines, refineries and emissions to air and water, was released today by the Program On Water Issues. His paper examined proposed and current increases in refinery expansion at numerous sites in “PADD II” – the United States Petroleum Administration for Defense District that encompasses the U.S. Midwest. His research included estimates of additional emissions to the region’s airshed, water use, the effects on water quality and increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

One refinery alone, British Petroleum’s facility in Whiting, Indiana (near Chicago), is contemplating a more than 60 per cent increase in refining Canadian “heavy” crude oil, predominantly from the oil sands. The increase in carbon emissions from the Whiting refinery process alone (before any of the refined oil is used as gasoline or other products) is the equivalent of putting more than 300,000 cars on the road per year.

“We need to slow down this exploitation of the oil sands,” Israelson said. “A lot of respected experts –not only environmental activists – agree. We need to be more consistent in recording and reporting refinery emissions, and we need a better understanding of how expanding refineries could affect the receiving end, here in the Great Lakes region. This is not the time to launch a marketing campaign about the oil sands; it’s time to get better answers to key questions about sustainability.”

For further information
Program On Water Issues
ed.munk@utoronto.ca 416‐946‐8919
‐30‐

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bush readies more deregulatory pollution moves; EPA accused of Fascism!?

As we struggle to cope with the aftermath of the ugly vote on the economic rescue package (while others labor to differentiate Sarah Palin from Tina Fey), we note that matters involving air pollution generally remain well off the front page. However, there are still a few items worth keeping an eye on.

**

In recent days, there has been much made of the ugly repercussions caused by deregulation in the financial world. So you’d think perhaps the word deregulation might be considered a dirty word. Not, apparently, within the Bush EPA.

We have learned that the EPA is planning to move forward with several key plans to relax pollution controls. The idea is to make it easier for electric power plants to burn coal. The result would be more dirty air in and around national parks and more global warming pollution. We are told that these moves are being demanded by Bush political appointees in DC.

In one instance, the EPA would relax requirements for power plants and other industries that seek to local near national parks and wilderness areas. Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) Government Reform Committee has blasted the proposal because it could degrade air quality. http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=2094

Despite this criticism, we are informed that Bush politicos want the rule made final. We are told it will go to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review shortly.

In a related matter, Bush appointees also want to proceed with a rule that would permit more coal burning by weakening new source review requirements. This big deregulatory move has been thrown into some confusion by the federal appeals court decision which struck down the so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule. (Under the cockeyed Bush EPA theory, CAIR would have been close enough for government work, thus permitting the added pollution caused by the weakening of new source review.) Despite the court decision, we have been told that Bush political appointees would still like to proceed with the NSR change. Waxman’s panel found that this rule change would cause more greenhouse gas emissions. http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=2137

It would be a scandal if the Bush administration moves ahead with this plan, given we now know that greenhouse gases are building up in the atmosphere more quickly than predicted. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/25/AR2008092503989.html?hpid=moreheadlines

Of course, these aren’t the only pollution deregulatory moves waiting in the wings. Among other things, look also for additional changes to NSR aimed at helping the oil and other manufacturing industries, as well as a rule designed to promote more burning of hazardous waste. http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?ruleID=287108

**

In light of these pending deregulatory moves, it is nothing short of astonishing to see the EPA accused of “Fascism” for contemplating future actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions. See, for example, at http://www.capmag.com/author.asp?ID=425

These denunciations appear in an online publication known as Capital Magazine, which is published by something called “Bahamas 2000 Ltd.” The magazine looks for financial support by stating “if you enjoy what you read feel free to piss off a communist and send a donation to support this website.” http://www.capmag.com/company/index.asp

Well, there you have it.

One of the co-authors of these jeremiads is a visiting associate professor of political science at Duke University. http://www.classicalideals.com/

One wonders whether there is some connection to the double-talking corporate Duke, or to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has issued its own florid denunciations of the EPA.

**

Finally, if you have understandably been distracted, an update on the new John McCain ads attacking Joe Biden over the coal issue.

As you may know, last week Biden was seen on youtube saying "No coal plants here in America" and "We're not supporting clean coal." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ55UzAsp6M

If you look at the whole clip, you will see that Biden seemed pretty reasonable to be concerned about dirty coal plants being built in China. A fraction of that deadly pollution does end up in the U.S., affecting breathers here (as well as making it more difficult to limit worldwide carbon emissions.) Biden did not note that much of the Chinese-burned coal is actually shipped there by the U.S.-based Peabody Energy.

But the McCain campaign quickly jumped on those comments to produce radio spots in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia touting “clean coal” (Which, of course, is a term subject to varying interpretations.)

Here's the Colorado script: ANNCR: Clean Coal is important to America. And to
Colorado. For Coloradoans, coal means thousands of jobs. Economic growth. More
affordable electricity. For America, coal means energy independence. And clean
coal means cleaner air. But Obama-Biden and their liberal allies oppose clean
coal.
Listen to Joe Biden. JOE BIDEN: "No coal plants here in America".
"We're not supporting clean coal". ANNCR: No coal plants in America? No jobs in
Colorado? No energy independence for America?
It's no surprise. After all,
Obama-Biden and their liberal allies opposed off-shore drilling. Congressional
liberals blocked off-shore drilling putting special interests, before our
interests.
Obama-Biden and their liberal allies. Too risky for our jobs, our
economic future. Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National
Committee. JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approved this message.


The McCain Campaign also rushed to set up a group called the Coalition to Protect Coal Jobs http://2008central.net/2008/09/23/mccain-press-conference-call-to-announce-coalition-to-protect-coal-jobs/

The Obama campaign has noted that McCain (known as a nuclear advocate) himself previously made comments suggesting he, too, wouldn’t cry if coal went away.

For example, at a 2000 hearing, he responded to a Sierra Club witness that “I would not disagree with you that in a perfect world we would like to transition away from coal entirely. But there is certainly, at least from my understanding, there is a dramatic difference in the effects of the so-called dirty coal in a broad variety of ways as opposed to the cleaner coal.” [Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Hearing On Reductions in Greenhouse Gases, 9/21/2000]"

Clean Air Watch, of course, is not involved in electoral politics.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Top EPA official: can't recall anyone inside EPA who recommended that EPA reject Cal ghg waiver

Just in case you missed it, a fascinating exchange this morning at a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) cross-examined Robert Meyers, principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for air pollution at the US EPA, about EPA’s decision to reject California’s attempt to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles.

Under Whitehouse’s patient cross – one of the best I’ve seen in some time – Meyers conceded he didn’t know of a single person within EPA who had recommended that EPA Administrator Steve Johnson reject California’s request to enforce the standards.

As Whitehouse continued to press Meyers about how Johnson reversed course and rejected the waiver after a White House meeting, Meyers suddenly acquired amnesia (as well as a desperate need to confer with an agency lawyer, rather like a mob figure mulling whether to take the Fifth).

“I’m not sure I can remember” said Meyers, “with that much detail.”

Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) accurately noted that “you’ve shown that what Mister Johnson told us [at a previous hearing] was not the truth.” Indeed.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Smokey Joe Barton strikes again! Kills effort to reduce power plant pollution



It may seem like a sideshow to the congressional battle over drilling, but tens of thousands of people may see their lives cut short by air pollution – and they have Joe Barton to thank.

Yesterday Congressman Barton (given the moniker “Smokey Joe” by the Dallas Morning News for his efforts on behalf of polluters) blocked efforts in Congress to advance a compromise plan to reduce power plant emissions. The compromise, put together by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware and Congressmen John Dingell and Rick Boucher, was designed to codify the first phase of the Bush EPA interstate air pollution rule (the so-called “clean air interstate rule” or CAIR) struck down by a federal court.

The Carper-Dingell-Boucher plan also would have taken away the so-called “coal bonus” that the Bush administration inserted into the rule to reward coal-burning companies such as Southern Company. (Among other things, this would have had the effect of reducing costs to Texas electricity consumers compared to the original CAIR plan.) The plan was also designed to trigger more aggressive long-term pollution reductions than contained in the original Bush plan. (The Bush administration spent considerable energy in recent weeks trying to sidetrack this more aggressive long-term strategy.)

Southern Company had vigorously opposed the Carper-Dingell-Boucher initiative because the company got greedy. It did not want to lose that coal bonus. (Of course, the head of Southern Company is also chair of the influential power industry lobby, the Edison Electric Institute http://www.eei.org/newsroom/press_releases/080617.htm ).

And EEI is a major contributor to Barton, the Texas Republican who is the “ranking member” of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. So is the coal lobby, the National Mining Association: http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=2008&cid=N00005656

Because there are only a few working days left in Congress, Dingell and Boucher hoped to proceed under a streamlined process that required Barton’s cooperation.

But yesterday Barton said no deal. As reported in this morning, Environment and Energy Daily, Barton said he wanted to spend time in the next Congress “thoroughly reviewing not only the CAIR regulations, but the entire Clean Air Act.”

So there you have it. Barton, who in the past has introduced legislation to weaken the Clean Air Act, now is holding the CAIR fix hostage. He wants another crack at weakening the Clean Air Act.

The result, according to the EPA, will be thousands of premature deaths, as well as heart attacks, emergency room visits and lost work days. This, of course, will include significant public health damage in Barton’s own state – and will make it harder for Texas and other states to meet national clean air standards.

So don’t be fooled by Southern Company lobbyists. The villain in this saga is Joe Barton.

Monday, September 15, 2008

New EPA sulfur dioxide science assessment is bad news for coal and oil

US EPA scientists have quietly released a new scientific assessment of the dangers posed by sulfur dioxide (SO2) in the air:

http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=198843

It’s very clear from the scientific evidence that tougher pollution standards are needed to protect people with asthma, children, and senior citizens. In particular, the EPA assessment points to the need for a new short-term standard to limit sulfur dioxide emissions.

This is an argument for further cleanup of existing coal-fired power plants, as well as an argument against building new coal-fired plants.

Not surprisingly, the electric power and oil industries have already begun tossing up arguments against any effort by EPA to set tougher new standards. (Oil refining is another source of sulfur dioxide emissions, as are the paper and smelting industries, among others. For some comments, see at http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=EPA-HQ-OAR-2007-0352 )

**

The EPA’s “integrated science assessment” concludes that

Collectively, the human clinical, epidemiologic, and animal toxicological data
are sufficient to conclude that there is a causal relationship between
respiratory morbidity and short-term exposure to SO2. Observed associations
between SO2 exposure and an array of respiratory outcomes, including respiratory
symptoms, lung function, airway inflammation, AHR, and ED visits and
hospitalizations from the human clinical, animal toxicological, and
epidemiologic studies, in combination, provide clear and convincing evidence of
consistency, specificity, temporal and biologic gradients, biological
plausibility, and coherence.
Human clinical studies consistently demonstrate
respiratory morbidity among exercising asthmatics following peak exposures (5-10
min) to SO2 concentrations ≥ 0.4 ppm, with respiratory effects occurring at
concentrations as low as 0.2 ppm in some asthmatics. In the epidemiologic
studies, the SO2-related respiratory effects were consistently observed in areas
where the maximum ambient 24-h avg SO2 concentration was below the current 24-h avg NAAQS level of 0.14 ppm (see Tables 5-4 and 5-5). Potentially susceptible
and vulnerable subgroups include asthmatics, children, older adults, and
individuals who spend a lot of time outdoors at increased exertion levels.
In addition to respiratory morbidity related to short-term exposure to SO2,
studies of other health outcomes and exposure durations were also evaluated in
this ISA. The evidence is suggestive of a causal relationship between short-term
exposure to SO2 and mortality. The evidence linking short-term SO2 exposure and
cardiovascular effects, and morbidity and mortality with long-term exposures to
SO2 is inadequate to infer a causal relationship.


The American Lung Association has long argued that EPA should set a new short-term standard to protect those living near power plants and other sources of SO2 emissions. The EPA last reviewed the air standards for sulfur dioxide in 1996. The agency has announced a schedule under which it would propose a new standard (or, improbably, propose no change in current standards) by next July. http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/so2/data/so2_review_plan_final_10-09-07.pdf

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Updates: Chamber of Commerce launches new scare campaign, and more

What would a return to Congress be without a new scare campaign by the US Chamber of Commerce, whose board of directors includes such folks as Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers as well as officials from Southern Company, Consol Energy, PNM Resources, Peabody Energy, and Chrysler, among other rogues? http://www.uschamber.com/about/board/all.htm

And there they go again! (See below.)

This is a continuation of the chamber’s ugly scare tactics. This is aimed at scaring Congress into repealing EPA authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Executives from some of the companies noted above claim they care about global warming and want to do something about it. (You will recall, of course, that the chamber actively opposed efforts in Congress to limit greenhouse gas emissions.)

Well, what would DC be without hypocrisy?

**
Care to CAIR? Senators Tom Carper of Delaware and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee will host a roundtable this Thursday, Sept. 11 on strategies and options for Congress in dealing with multi-pollutant legislation. They also plan to discuss what action Congress should take in the near term to deal with the demise of the so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule. There are VERY few working days left in Congress. As you know, there are various competing plans, including one being shopped by the White House.

**

Scientific Scrutiny: EPA has appointed a new chair of its independent clean air science advisory committee – Dr. Jonathan Samet, currently with the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Samet is a very respected scientist. He replaces Rogene Henderson, chair of the scientific panel the past four years, who has been sharply critical of some decidedly un-scientific decisions by EPA Administrator Steve Johnson. Her term is expiring.



From: U.S. Chamber of Commerce [mailto:hill_letters@uschamber.com] Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2008 11:46 AMSubject: U.S. Chamber of Commerce - Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to regulate greenhouse gases under the existing Clean Air Act (CAA)


Chamber of Commerce OF THE United States of America

R. Bruce JostenExecutive Vice PresidentGovernment Affairs

1615 H Street, N.W.Washington, D.C. 20062-2000202/463-5310
September 9, 2008
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, strongly opposes the options set forth in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to regulate greenhouse gases under the existing Clean Air Act (CAA). Last month, the Chamber urged Congress to enact legislation preventing the trigger of CAA regulation, and Representative Blackburn recently introduced H.R. 6666 to accomplish this goal. Over the next month, the Chamber will educate members of Congress and the public about the different options EPA is weighing and the impact those options would have on businesses, should EPA continue down its path of regulation. Starting today, the Chamber will transmit daily summaries of the methods EPA believes it can use to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars, trucks, planes, trains, boats, office buildings, refineries, pipelines, boilers, landfills, manufacturing plants, tractors, lawnmowers, motorcycles, schools, hospitals, breweries, bakeries, farms, and countless other sources, as well as radical new standards for the design and operation of those sources. The first of these daily summaries is attached. The Chamber urges Congress to enact legislation prohibiting EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Sincerely, R. Bruce Josten

Thursday, September 04, 2008

At long last, EPA approves lawn mower/small engine standards

For those of you who have followed this long-running saga: the US EPA today has finally approved its long-delayed standards to clean up new lawn mowers and other small gasoline engines. An announcement should be imminent. (See below from EPA.)

As you may recall, these standards were cleared by the White House Office of Management and Budget on August 18, after more than two months of review. http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoReviewSearch;jsessionid=0a65171430d6f3bf770a27794c70987d83e9788e17f0.e38Nch4NbhuNa40Lah4PbxuPaN0Ne6fznA5Pp7ftolbGmkTy

With much of the East wheezing under Code Orange alerts, these standards couldn’t come too soon. http://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.fcsummary&sortby=todayfc&order=desc&stateid=0

These standards are a real rarity: something quite positive from the Bush administration on air pollution.

These engines may be small, but they are big polluters. This rule is an important step towards cleaner air in smoggy communities across the nation.

These standards will prevent premature deaths and sickness caused by air pollution.

What took them so long?
**

-----Original Message-----
From: Stout.Alan@epamail.epa.gov [mailto:Stout.Alan@epamail.epa.gov]
Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2008 12:22 PM
To: Stout.Alan@epamail.epa.gov
Subject: EPA Concludes Nonroad SI Final Rule

The EPA Administrator has signed the final rule to set new emission
standards for Small SI and Marine SI engines, equipment, and vessels.

The final rule also includes technical amendments for a wide range of
engines and vehicles covered by EPA standards.

The rulemaking documents have been posted on the EPA websites noted
below. You should note the following points of contact to follow up on
the various aspects of this rule:

Marine SI: Mike Samulski; 734-214-4532; samulski.michael@epa.gov
Handheld Small SI: Phil Carlson; 734-214-4270; carlson.philip@epa.gov
Nonhandheld Small SI: Alan Stout; 734-214-4805; stout.alan@epa.gov
Technical amendments: Alan Stout; 734-214-4805; stout.alan@epa.gov
We will be working with the Office of the Federal Register to publish
the final rule. The publication date will likely be around October 9.
Alan Stout
____________________
http://www.epa.gov/otaq/equip-ld.htm
http://www.epa.gov/otaq/marinesi.htm

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

EPA: DOT doesn't have a clue about gas prices

EPA: Transportation Dept off base on fuel estimate

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency says another arm of the Bush administration may be low-balling the economic benefits of increasing fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.

Echoing criticism previously voiced by Democrats and environmentalists, the EPA said in comments filed with the Transportation Department that the department would have been better off using higher estimates for future gasoline prices when it proposed increasing the average fuel economy of all vehicles to 31.6 miles per gallon by 2015.

The proposed fuel economy increase was based in part on estimates that gas would range from $2.04 a gallon to $3.37 a gallon, averaging $2.42 a gallon in 2016.

"EPA has several concerns with the methodology used to determine the relative benefits and costs of the alternatives analyzed," Susan Bromm, director of EPA's Office of Federal Activities, said in a letter last month to DOT....

Congress last year required the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — an agency within DOT — to set mileage standards at the "maximum feasible" level each year, reaching a minimum of 35 mpg by 2020, a 40 percent increase over current standards.

If the highway administration uses a higher estimate for gas prices in its analysis, it could make a more cost-effective case for raising the requirements beyond 31.6 mpg by 2015.

Gas price estimated by NHTSA "are more optimistic than I think any reasonable person would be in this era," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Duke Dirt Devil Dupes Dems

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers appeared last evening in a “Town Hall” at the Democratic convention. The link to the C-span clip is below.

He said he talked with Obama recently and that “we share similar aspirations for our country.” !!!!! Heaven help us if that's true.

He specifically talked about Duke’s concept of energy efficiency, which has been roundly denounced by environmental, consumer and other groups in North Carolina. (See more on that, below.)

Rogers also argued that we need a “balanced portfolio” to addressing energy and environmental goals!!! (That’s usually considered code language that means we need more coal and nuclear…)

He also said he was interested in …”helping people control their bills….” !!! Read the piece below and decide for yourself.

This link should take you to the Democratic “Town Hall”

http://www.c-spanarchives.org/library/index.php?main_page=product_video_info&products_id=280557-1&showVid=true&clipStart=12007.00&clipStop=12802.00


And here is the link to the energy efficiency issue, from the Raleigh News and Observer



http://www.newsobserver.com/business/story/1131291.html

Many oppose Duke Energy efficiency plan
The company's proposed Save-A-Watt program is criticized as exorbitant and ineffective

At a glance
WHAT IS SAVE-A-WATT? Duke's Energy's proposed efficiency program, which would include energy assessments, efficiency kits containing compact flouroscent light bulbs, subsidies for geothermal heat pumps and other energy-efficient equipment, and weatherstripping for low-income households. The utility is reimbursed from any lost revenue that results from lost sales.
WHAT CRITICS SAY: That the costs passed onto customers are too high and give them little incentive to adopt the measures.
WHAT DUKE SAYS: That it needs a financial incentive to push conservation.
WHAT'S NEXT: Duke will file a response to critics of the proposal with the utilities commission July 21. The N.C. Utilities Commission holds a hearing on the matter July 28.

By John Murawski, Staff Writer

Church groups, consumer advocates and environmentalists are lining up against Duke Energy's energy-efficiency program as the controversial proposal nears public hearings later his month.
The critics say Duke Energy's Save-a-Watt proposal would gouge the public, enrich shareholders and result in minimal energy efficiency. The Public Staff, the state's consumer advocacy agency, warns that if Save-a-Watt were approved, a customer would end up paying $18.23 for a compact fluorescent light bulb that's available at Wal-Mart for $1.65.

The costs to customers "are two to three times the costs of similar programs to ratepayers in other states," said Public Staff expert Richard Spellman in filed testimony. "As such, the SAW approach is a bad deal for Duke ratepayers."

Save-a-Watt has been touted by Duke chief executive James Rogers as a revolutionary concept that will create a powerful incentive to save energy. Traditional efficiency programs create little financial incentive for utilities to push conservation. But through Save-a-Watt, Duke would turn energy efficiency into a corporate profit center.

"Save-a-Watt is a radical departure from past programs, and may not be embraced by all parties," said Duke spokesman Andy Thompson. "Previous energy efficiency programs have not demonstrated that they can achieve the savings we need in the future."

The proposal is headed for a July 28 hearing before the N.C. Utilities Commission. The commission is expected to rule on Save-a-Watt this year.

Earlier this year, South Carolina regulators approved a version of Save-a-Watt.
But in this state, Save-a-Watt is opposed by a wide range of interests: five environmental organizations, industrial energy users, Wal-Mart, AARP, the city of Durham, the N.C. Council of Churches and the Public Staff, among others. The critics say Duke's proposal is not only exorbitant, but it won't result in significant energy savings.

"Duke is projecting that it will take the company 7 1/2 years, until December 2015, to save 1 percent of annual [electricity] sales, an amount that the top twenty electric utilities achieved in just one year," Spellman, president of GDS Associates, an engineering consulting firm, said in his submitted testimony.

Duke has proposed Save-a-Watt in response to a new state law that requires utilities to meet customer energy demand through renewable resources and efficiency programs. The costs of those programs will be paid by the utility's customers through monthly bills.

Conservation programs require administration, monitoring, new technologies and financial incentives to encourage customers to upgrade appliances and home design. And the utilities are reimbursed for lost sales.

Typically, utilities are allowed to make a modest profit on conservation programs. Duke's proposal would entitle the company to a margin of about 50 percent on top of the company's costs to run the program. That would represent a huge premium, about seven times what the company makes from operating its business, according to Public Staff calculations. The company's net return is only about 7.5 percent, and the Public Staff is recommending that Duke be allowed a margin of no more than 6.8 percent from Save-a-Watt.

Thompson said Duke would rebut the critics in a July 21 filing to the utilities commission.
"Under the model, we only get rewarded for achieving verifiable energy savings," he said. "This helps ensure that we will pursue innovative energy efficiency programs that will achieve significant savings that ... will help defer the need for additional power plants."

Duke is building a coal-burning power plant in the Blue Ridge foothills and proposing two new nuclear reactors.

Save-a-Watt programs include energy assessments, efficiency kits containing compact flouroscent light bulbs, subsidies for geothermal heat pumps and other energy-efficient equipment, and weatherstripping for low-income households. Duke will introduce other measures over time.

The Public Staff said some aspects of Save-a-Watt are repackaged versions of programs Duke has offered for years, and shouldn't be counted.

The Public Staff also contends that Save-a-Watt provides little customer incentive to adopt efficiency. The agency's calculations show that the rate increase required to finance Save-a-Watt would mean that that it would take five years of energy savings to pay for the cost of a compact flouroscent light bulb. Without Save-a-Watt, such a bulb pays for itself in about six months.

The nation's top energy-efficiency programs programs cut electricity use by about 1 percent a year, the Public Staff noted. That's far more than the 0.15 percent annual reduction Duke proposes from 2009 through 2012.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

EPA prepares to roll out lawnmower, small engine pollution standards; NYC diesel lawsuit raises eyebrows

While we are waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop on vice presidential picks (and, yes, we are interested in their environmental records), we do have some news to report: at very long last, the US EPA is about to unveil its long-awaited air pollution standards for new lawn mowers and other small gasoline engines.

Some of you will recall that we have tracked this issue for a number of years – ever since Senator Kit Bond of Missouri convinced his colleagues to make the terrible decision to take away the rights of states to adopt California standards for these engines.

After months of scrutiny, the White House Office of Management and Budget completed its review of these EPA final rules yesterday. That means the EPA should be officially announcing them within a matter of days http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoDetails?rrid=115891

And this really is a stop-the-presses event: the Bush administration actually does something positive to fight air pollution. (The EPA summarized the rule here: http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?ruleID=287159 ) Note EPA reports that:

We estimate that by 2030, the rule's emission reductions would annually prevent 450 PM-related premature deaths, approximately 500 hospitalizations, and 52,000 work days lost. The total estimated annual benefits of the rule in 2030 would be $3.4 billion. Estimated costs in 2030 would be many times less at $240 million.

These standards are way past overdue. The rule became something of an orphan at the agency, as it chased its tail on the greenhouse gas issue before the White House put down its heavy foot on that topic. We are not sure of all the reasons for the most recent delays, though the EPA docket does include an interesting e-mail exchange which suggests the boat-building lobby went crying to the Coast Guard about this. (It also would affect gasoline boat engines.)

Interestingly, the small-engine makers put out a press release on this issue a week ago – when OMB was still conducting its review. http://www.opei.org/newsroom/story_display.php?id=216

I am not sure how they became privy to some of the details, which certainly weren’t shared with us! So typical of this administration to work out the details with industry.

At any rate, keep your eye on this one.

**
Another very interesting development out of New York, where some retired transit workers have filed suit against makers of diesel engines and buses, claiming the diesel fumes led to cancer and other medical problems. http://www.sunherald.com/451/story/755294.html

It is the first such suit in the US to my recollection, so it could become extremely significant.