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
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:
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

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.”

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.