Friday, December 11, 2009

On the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham "Compromise"

This outline of a “compromise” was completely predictable.

And it is tremendously disappointing.

Once you wade through the focus-group crafted boilerplate language, it reads like a coal protection manifesto. Citing Senator Byrd and Duke CEO Jim Rogers! As they say on the countdown to Monday Night Football, “Come On, Man!”

The attack on EPA’s current Clean Air Act authority could have been written by Sarah Palin.

Don’t we deserve something better?

Something better is now on the table -- a bipartisan initiative from Senators Maria Cantwell and Susan Collins. Their plan, which would require polluters to pay for the right to pollute, and then return most of the revenue to taxpayers, is both climate friendly and consumer friendly.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Controversial economist joins Obama team to review EPA clean air standards!

From the Washington Post

Controversial economist probing cost of proposed new air pollution rule

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 3, 2009

A controversial economist working at the Office of Management and Budget has raised questions about whether a new air pollution rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency would impose too high a cost on coal-fired power plants, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Randall Lutter, who served as the Food and Drug Administration's head of policy under George W. Bush and has battled environmentalists for years on issues such as climate change and smog, has been examining the economic impact of federal rules at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Documents in EPA's public docket show he is now probing whether a rule to cut sulfur dioxide emissions would cost coal-fired utilities too much. The rule -- which was proposed last month and would take effect in June under a court order -- would prohibit short-term spikes of sulfur dioxide, which has been linked to respiratory diseases and premature deaths.

While sulfur dioxide emissions are now measured in 24-hour and annual increments, the new rule would evaluate them every hour, prohibiting sulfur dioxide from exceeding a limit of 50 to 100 parts per billion in one hour.

In a Nov. 19 e-mail to EPA employee Charles Fulcher, Lutter questioned whether power plants, known as EGUs, or electric generation units, could reduce sulfur dioxide emissions without financial pain.

"Are these really instances of zero-cost emissions reductions, or are they instead instances of emissions reductions that should already be in the baseline?" Lutter wrote.

Lutter's role has alarmed environmentalists, who worry about his previous record on air pollution and global warming. In the 1990s, Lutter questioned the merits of imposing tougher smog standards, on the grounds that they could lead to more cases of skin cancer. He wrote an essay in a book called "Painting the White House Green" in which he called Carol Browner -- who now advises President Obama on climate change but pushed for the ozone standards as EPA administrator under President Clinton as "an overzealous grab for more administrative authority," adding EPA's action on them "set a low in the use of bad analysis to support bad environmental policy."

Lutter also wrote a paper backing Bush's decision to opt out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gases, writing, "By rejecting the doomed Kyoto treaty in the early days of his Administration, he is doing more to protect the climate than his critics realize. His European eco-critics should chill out."

Frank O'Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, said, "Putting Lutter at OMB on environmental issues is like getting Dr. Kevorkian to review health-care reforms."

Lutter did not return a call placed to his White House office. OMB spokesman Kenneth S. Baer said Lutter "is a career civil servant on temporarily detail from FDA" who joined the OIRA staff because "we're stretched."

"Dr. Lutter's personal, political and ideological views are irrelevant to his position as a detailee. He provides technical economic advice" Baer added. "He has no decision-making role or authority."

Friday, November 20, 2009

EPA to unveil great tool for tracking status of pollution from coal-fired power plants

The US EPA today is planning today to unveil a new interactive tool to help the public track the status of pollution from coal-fired power plants.

See at

This is going to be a great tool to track progress in cleaning up the air. And to check if some power plants are actually polluting more.

This is the kind of information that would otherwise be virtually impossible for the public to find out.

So let’s tip our hat to EPA.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

EPA proposes new sulfur dioxide air standards

The US EPA today proposed new standards to limit short-term public exposure to the dangerous pollutant sulfur dioxide. See at

The EPA standards could put more pressure on existing coal-fired power plants to clean up. The standards will underscore the urgency for the EPA to come up with an effective replacement for the Clean Air Interstate rule, which was set aside by the courts. (They would also provide a strong argument for the legislative effort by Senator Carper of Delaware to reduce power plant emissions.)

Coal-fired power plants produce the great bulk of sulfur dioxide, though emissions also come from smokestack industries and diesel engines. See at

(You may recall the controversy over the EPA effort to clean up big ships. Sulfur dioxide pollution was at issue. Some key Democrats in Congress recently meddled on behalf of special-interest polluters. Those meddlers look even more craven and off kilter in light of these new EPA standards.)

Sulfur dioxide is one of the six widespread air pollutants for which EPA sets health-based national air standards. Current EPA air quality standards for sulfur dioxide were set in 1971 and have not been updated to reflect new studies. The current standards limit only annual exposure and 24-hour exposure. See table at for the nitty gritty.

Recent studies show there is health damage caused by short-term exposure – the kind of exposure that can happen under the current standards. The biggest problem is breathing problems among people with asthma, especially kids. There have been studies showing increased hospitalization and emergency room visits.

So EPA is proposing a new standard that would limit one-hour exposure.

Clean Air Watch and the American Lung Association will be urging the agency to set a final standard at the low end of the range – a one-hour standard no higher than 50 parts per billion.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Newsweek: we're "honored" to take oil lobby money and give them a soapbox

A follow up on an earlier item. The blog known as the Talking Points Memo picked up our note about the climate change event co-hosted by the oil lobby and Newsweek. See below. Of particular interest was a response to inquiries by Newsweek, whose director of external relations said Newsweek was "honored" to participate in the event featuring one of its advertisers.

Block said that in addition to API, 20-30 of the magazine's other major advertisers have been given an opportunity to co-host panels, but most advertizers don't have a single issue focus that lends itself to an event in the way the oil lobby does.


From: Zack Roth []

thanks for tipping us on that...


Late Update: Mark Block, Newsweek's director of external relations, responds, telling TPMmuckraker that the events with API are on the record and designed to attract press coverage as news events that address timely issues.

Said Block:

Newsweek is honored to be at the center of a topical news discussion with a diverse, wide-ranging audience of both panelists and audience members within our required on the record format.

Block said that in addition to API, 20-30 of the magazine's other major advertisers have been given an opportunity to co-host panels, but most advertizers don't have a single issue focus that lends itself to an event in the way the oil lobby does.

Block added that Newsweek has hosted 5 such events with API, and said there are "very strict church and state policies that have to be followed." He said the magazine doesn't consult API on who else will be invited to serve on the panel, or on what questions will be asked. "In no way do they prompt the perspective [of the discussion] by saying, 'here's the thing that I want to be asked about,'" he said.

These policies have to exist, said Block, "otherwise it appears orchestrated. And it really is not."

Asked whether Newsweek planned to invite a representative from an environmental group to the upcoming event, to balance Gerard's appearance, Block said the magazine "would definitely consider that opportunity," if there were a high-profile environmentalist who might be appropriate. But he said that because members of Congress would likely also participate, time constraints might dictate against it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Newsweek partners with the oil lobby on climate? What the heck?

Some offices on Capitol Hill are abuzz this week about an invitation they received from Newsweek magazine to participate in an "Executive Forum" on "Climate and Energy Policy" that is being "co-hosted" with the American Petroleum Institute -- the oil industry lobby that is fighting an all-out war against climate change legislation on Capitol Hill. See invitation below.

One tactic in that war includes paying the Washington Post (whose parent company also owns Newsweek) to run full-page ads attacking the climate legislation. Note the full-page ad in today's Post from a front group called Energy Citizens, which -- in a remarkable coincidence -- has the same address as the American Petroleum Institute! (Energy Citizens does include API as one of its "participating organizations.")

The oil industry also is funding an effort to attack law makers such as South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham (who has called for climate change legislation). See about the front group called the American Energy Alliance at

The Newsweek invitation notes that its panel discussion will be moderated by its correspondent Howard Fineman, who is probably better known as a "pundit" on such shows as Hardball on MSNBC. The "special guest panelist" is Jack Gerard, API's president and CEO. Interestingly, Gerard is the ONLY named panelist so far.

At the very least, this panel makes Newsweek look mighty cozy with the oil lobby at a time when that lobby is trying to kill or weaken climate legislation.

Don't you miss the era when the job of reporters was merely to report the news?

Here is the Newsweek invitation:

----- Original Message -----
From: Jennifer Slattery
Sent: Mon Nov 02 18:36:27 2009
Subject: V.I.P. Invitation / Newsweek Executive Forum - Climate and Energy
Policy: Moving?

Dear _______,

The editors of Newsweek cordially invite you to attend Newsweek's Executive Forum entitled, Climate and Energy Policy: Moving? This Capitol Hill policy forum is scheduled on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 4:30 P.M. in the Mansfield Room (S-207) in the United States Capitol.
There will be an informal reception immediately following the discussion.

The panel discussion will be moderated Howard Fineman, Newsweek National-Affairs Columnist and Senior Washington Correspondent with special guest panelist Jack Gerard, President & Chief Executive Officer of American Petroleum Institute (API). Newsweek is also honored to have forum invitations currently pending confirmation with notable members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
These additional program announcements will be made in the coming days and you will be apprised of these updates.

Newsweek is pleased to be co-hosting this panel discussion with API. To R.S.V.P. please click the below link and register for the event.

Please don't hesitate to let us know if you need additional information or have further questions.

We look forward to hosting you on Tuesday, December 1 and value your continued interest in energy issues of importance.


Jennifer Slattery

Manager, Newsweek External Relations


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The biggest climate story of the day

In my opinion, is not the psycho-drama being played out in Senator Boxer’s committee, but the decision by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to buy the coal-hauling Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad.

This is a $34 billion dollar bet that coal will remain the centerpiece of American energy policy in the future. Buffett clearly believes that coal use will remain strong -- and possibly grow.

So he is putting his money on a vision of America with no effective climate policy at all – or at least one that doesn’t slow coal growth.

Berkshire also owns MidAmerican Energy Holdings, which has taken perhaps the most relentlessly reactionary position of any power company in the nation.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Shipscam: Murphy Oil admits it approached Rep. Obey.. will special-interest Dems sink Obama pollution plan?

A couple of items out this morning about the effort by some special interests to sink proposed EPA rules to clean up big dirty diesel ships. This backroom drama is playing out as key members of Congress prepare to go behind closed doors to work out details of the EPA’s upcoming budget.

BNA Daily Environment Report (excerpt below) reports that Murphy Oil Company, which has objected to an EPA plan to require cleaner diesel fuel (EPA seeks to prevent thousands of premature deaths a year!), has taken its case to one Rep. David Obey (D-WI), who just happens to chair the House Appropriations Committee.

Greenwire, as noted in the New York Times online below, reports that both Obey and James Oberstar (D-MN), chair of the House Transportation Committee, are backing an effort to block the EPA from moving forward with portions of its proposal. Since this is all being done in secret, we haven’t seen any specific language, though reports are that the Democratic plan could block or delay cleanup of ships in the Great Lakes. (We estimate that the EPA cleanup would prevent about 450 premature deaths a year in the Great Lakes area alone.)

(At the behest of the cruise ship lobby, Alaska pols --including both Republican Governor Sean Parnell and Democratic Senator Mark Begich -- are also pressing the EPA to exempt cruise ships serving Alaska.)

Obviously, we hope these members of Congress reconsider and not carry the special-interest bilge.

Can you imagine the screams if retired dancer Tom DeLay were still running things and tried to pull such a stunt?


BNA Daily Environment Report October 8, 2009

Advisory Committee Endorses Call for EPA
To Issue Rules for Ships Without Exemptions

The Clean Air Act Advisory Committee Oct. 7 endorsed a recommendation by one of its subcommittees for the Environmental Protection Agency to finalize emissions limits for oceangoing ships with no exemptions for the Great Lakes or any other areas of the country.

A resolution adopted by the full committee, which advises EPA on air quality, endorsed a call by its Mobile Sources Technical Review Subcommittee “that the U.S. EPA carry out its proposal to address the emissions from large marine vessels on a nationwide basis and decline requests for any geographic exemptions including, but not limited to, the Great Lakes.”..

EPA in July announced a proposal to limit emissions from oceangoing ships. The comment period closed Sept. 28. Several Great Lakes shipping interests requested in their comments that EPA exclude the Great Lakes from the emissions limits. The comments said the emissions limits would put them at a disadvantage with coastal shipping. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) asked for an exemption for Alaska.

Margo Oge, director of the EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said Oct. 6 her office wants to move forward with the emissions limits, saying that they would prevent as many as 33,000 premature deaths each year…

David Podratz, manager of the Murphy Oil Refinery in Superior, Wis., told BNA Oct. 7 that he had contacted the office of House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) to alert him to concerns about the effect of the proposal on Great Lakes shipping.

Podratz said he contacted Obey's office because the refinery is in Obey's congressional district. Podratz said he did not ask for an appropriations rider to exempt Great Lakes shipping.


October 8, 2009

Fight Brewing Over Possible Rider to Weaken Air Pollution Regs for Ships

Clean air advocates are girding for a battle over a possible amendment to the annual U.S. EPA spending bill that would weaken the agency's ability to regulate air pollution from oceangoing vessels.

Five advocacy groups yesterday urged the House and Senate overseers of the fiscal 2010 Interior-EPA appropriations bill to oppose any possible rider that would "weaken, delay or limit" EPA's ability to implement proposed engine and fuel standards for the largest ocean-bound ships.

It remains unclear what such an amendment would entail, but sources on and off Capitol Hill say that House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) are backing the language. Spokesmen for the congressmen were not immediately available for comment.

"We're shocked that a Democratic Congress would even consider attacking the Obama EPA on such a critical public health issue," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

At issue is EPA's proposed strategy to address emissions from oceangoing vessels. The plan would slash U.S. nitrogen oxide emissions by 1.2 million tons and particulate matter emissions by about 143,000 tons by 2030. EPA says the program would prevent between 13,000 and 33,000 premature deaths per year by 2030(E&ENews PM, July 1).

"The need for these rules is urgent," states the letter (pdf) from the American Lung Association, Clean Air Watch, the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. "Any delay will postpone the health benefits."

Yesterday, EPA's Clean Air Act Advisory Committee -- a stakeholder advisory group -- approved a resolution recommending that EPA carry out its proposal and "decline requests for any geographic exemptions including, but not limited to, the Great Lakes."

The spending bill has cleared both chambers, but changes are possible when House and Senate conferees meet to hash it out. It is unclear exactly when that conference will occur.

Shipping industry representatives have argued that the rules would be particularly harmful to ships that operate exclusively in the Great Lakes and U.S.-Canadian waterways, and urged EPA to craft separate rules for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. Several shipping groups urged EPA to extend the timeline so that shippers can conduct more thorough reviews, especially in light of the regulations' estimated price tag of more than $1 billion (E&ENews PM, Aug. 4).

The comment period on the draft rule ended Sept. 28.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Murkowski loses in Senate

Lisa Murkowski lost today in her bid to cripple EPA efforts on global warming. See excerpt below from Reuters.

Of course, you wouldn't have known it from the speech she gave on the Senate floor. (It was a consolation prize to let her sound off.) Murkowski sounded a bit like a punch-drunk fighter talking big after a bout he lost by a TKO.


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Republican senator's attempt to impose a one-year delay on possible Environmental Protection Agency rules controlling smokestack emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions sputtered in the U.S. Senate on Thursday.

Democratic and Republican leaders headed off a fight -- and a potentially close tally -- when they agreed to not allow a vote by the full Senate on Senator Lisa Murkowski's amendment to a bill funding the EPA in fiscal year 2010, which begins October 1.

But a spokesman for Murkowski said the senator would look for other upcoming bills to try her amendment.

Ethanol cripples Baltimore police department

Here is a great example of why the EPA should not be forced to permit higher concentrations of ethanol in gasoline.

As reported in the Baltimore Sun (below), an unusually high concentration of ethanol in the city’s gas supply helped cause the breakdown of nearly one-third of Baltimore city’s police cars.

What a pity HBO cancelled The Wire. Imagine the episode: drug dealers go on spree while cops fume. And start drinking the ethanol.

Seriously, this episode really ought to be a warning as the corn lobby presses its parochial agenda, whatever the cost to society.,0,1002895.story
Excess ethanol blamed in breakdown of police cars
Baltimore expects to be able to recover expenses
By Justin Fenton | The Baltimore Sun

September 23, 2009

City officials say an unusually high concentration of ethanol in the city's gasoline supply contributed to the breakdown of more than 70 police cars over the weekend, most of which had been repaired and returned to service Tuesday.

More than 200 police cars fueled up at a 24-hour, city-run gas pump by the Fallsway before cars started showing problems, and nearly one-third of the Police Department's patrol contingent was sidelined with engine trouble.

Police doubled up in cars before activating a reserve and shifting administrative vehicles into service.

Officials had expressed concern that the unleaded gasoline might have been mistakenly refilled with diesel, but results from a lab in Towson showed that ethanol was the apparent culprit.

Khalil Zaied, director of general services, said the city's supplier, IsoBunkers of Norfolk, Va., was conducting its own tests and that the city's legal team believes the city can recoup all expenses related to the incident.

Those expenses remained unclear Tuesday, but all of the repair work was done in-house, Zaied said.

"We had folks working literally 24 hours at all stations," Zaied said of the effort to get the police cruisers back on the streets. "They did a wonderful job."

Ethanol is mixed with gasoline at the pumps and is used to reduce carbon monoxide emissions, becoming more widespread in recent years as a replacement for methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, an additive that has led to concerns about groundwater contamination.

Most automobiles are not designed to handle blends with more than 10 percent ethanol, and higher levels of ethanol can cause engine damage.

Battle lines drawn on Murkowski: NAM says stop EPA!

It sounds as if a vote may be looming this morning, and the battle lines are clearly drawn.

The National Association of Manufacturers, which for many years has led reactionary efforts to block EPA from cleaning up the air, is urging members of the U.S. Senate to support the appropriations amendment by Senator Murkowski of Alaska.

NAM demonstrates exactly what’s wrong with this thinly veiled effort to stop the Obama Administration in its tracks: (It looks as if the real goal here for the Rs is to give Obama a bloody nose as he tries to persuade the international community to move ahead with climate initiatives.)

On the one hand, NAM argues the Murkowski amendment “puts policy where it belongs: Congress”

But at the same time, NAM is leading efforts to persuade Congress to oppose climate legislation!{8E440DDE-E6D4-4D74-B90F-6A678FE166CB}

This sort of vile hypocrisy is the intellectual underpinning of the Murkowski approach.

And, of course, if the industry lobby succeeds, it may be shooting itself in the foot. By handcuffing the EPA, Murkowski’s amendment could force industry to deal with a complicated patchwork of state regulations. Isn’t that exactly what the car companies complained about for all those years?

Friday, September 18, 2009

The latest outrage from Congress: Murkowski threatens to try blocking EPA ghg authority

As if we didn’t have enough special-interest meddling from the Senate already on EPA’s spending bill (Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson is carrying corn and wants to force EPA to permit more smog-forming ethanol in gasoline), now comes word that Senator Lisa Murkowski wants to take away EPA authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal-burning power plants, oil refineries and other smokestack industries.

As reported in this morning’s Environment and Energy Daily,

"Senator Murkowski is concerned about the economic consequences of EPA command-and-control regulation of emissions," said spokesman Robert Dillon. The senator plans to file the amendment, Dillon said, adding that he did not know whether a decision has been made to press for a vote.

“Command and control,” although I think initially a military term, is inflammatory language used by opponents of government action to deal with environmental problems.

We can’t wait to hear Murkowski’s argument should she proceed with this ill-considered idea.

Is she going to claim that this is something better handled by Congress? If so, why has she denounced the comprehensive climate legislation approved by the House?

The weird part here is that Murkowski herself has warned about the impact of global warming on Alaska (where, as Politico put it earlier this year, “the Alaskan tundra thaws and fishing villages disappear into the ocean.”)

Our guess is Murkowski is responding to the big campaign contributions she has received from the oil and electric power industries, both of which oppose EPA action.

It is a real shame that campaign cash once again appears to triumph over responsible policies. We hope Senator Murkowski’s colleagues will see her move for what it is – duplicitous special-interest pandering that should be rejected out of hand.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

EPA to scrap bad Bush smog standard

This is terrific news for clean air.

It means that the EPA will take a fresh look at the science of smog as well as the recommendations of EPA’s science advisers. They unanimously urged tougher standards than those issued by the Bush administration.

We commend the EPA’s decision here and urge the agency to follow the science and the law. That will inevitably mean tougher smog standards than those issued by the Bush administration.

From the Justice Department filing today with the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit:

EPA has determined that it will administratively reconsider this rule.

Specifically, EPA has concerns regarding whether the revisions to the primary and
secondary NAAQS adopted in the Ozone NAAQS Rule satisfy the requirements of
the Clean Air Act, and thus EPA will reconsider the Ozone NAAQS Rule through
notice and comment rulemaking. EPA's schedule for this rulemaking is to sign the
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by December 21, 2009, and to sign the Final
Action by August 31, 2010.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Smog Watch 2009: Some surprising news

Dirty-air days down, but widespread problems persist

The number of dirty-air days for smog has fallen almost by half in 2009. But it’s not all good news.

Here are some statistics of note:

Number of times the federal standard for ozone (75 parts per billion) has been breached in 2009, through August: 2,631.

Compared to the number during the same period of 2008: 5,022


States with smog problems in 2009: 37 plus DC

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island


Most polluted county: San Bernadino, CA=86 days. (78 at one monitoring station)


Here are a few likely factors in the change from 2008:
Much of the drop from 2008 appears to be due to cooler, wetter weather which has inhibited smog formation or washed it away.

Here is an example of the weather phenomenon as described last month by a meteorologist with a Washington, D.C, tv station:

Much of the summer thus far has been noted by slightly cooler than average temperatures coupled with an active weather pattern that has yielded nearly daily chances of showers and storms. Compared to 2008 when we transitioned into a more “typical” D.C. summer pattern nearly on cue. Last years “typical” pattern consisted of hot and humid strings of days with a much lower daily opportunity for cleansing rains.

At the same time, the federal Energy Information Administration reports that electricity sales (particularly from coal-burning electric power plants) are down.

And the Federal Reserve has noted that industrial production has generally been down though there was a slight uptick in July.

Although cars sales are down,the continuing turnover of the old fleet is leading to cleaner air because new cars meet tougher clean-air standards.

Some scientists are warning that global warming could make it more difficult to achieve clean-air standards in the future:

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

With Senate stalled, White House begins review of EPA proposed greenhouse gas smokestack rule

Yes, I do believe it is a coincidence of timing. But even so…

On the very day that Senator Barbara Boxer announced she was delaying introduction of her long-awaited climate bill, the White House began review of the first EPA proposed rules that would apply greenhouse gas requirements to big smokestack industries under the Clean Air Act.

We welcome this proposal and encourage the Obama administration to move ahead. We can’t just sit, wait and hope for Senate action some day. The climate clock is ticking.

This proposal is a part of EPA’s response to the big 2007 Supreme Court ruling on global warming. These requirements, like planned standards for motor vehicles, would not take effect before EPA issues a final “endangerment” finding. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that decision would be made within the next few months. EPA appears to be getting its ducks in a row.

See below from an executive branch website. It notes that the White House Office of Management and Budget yesterday began review of proposed EPA greenhouse gas requirements. (The ever-alert Matt Madia of OMB Watch was the first person I’m aware of to flag this item.) The item has a fairly obscure title:

“Prevention of Significant Deterioration/Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule.” And, no, we don’t think this involves inseams or sleeve lengths. “Tailoring,” in this context, probably refers to an attempt to limit the requirements to very large sources of greenhouse gas emissions such as coal-burning electric power plants. (Limiting the requirements to big pollution sources would counter the scaremongering charges by the US Chamber of Commerce, which has alleged that EPA would regulate mom-and-pop stores, donut shops, etc.)

As we understand it, this proposal would be an attempt to put requirements on facilities that emit 25,000 tons or more a year of carbon dioxide. It would require new and modified sources of pollution at that size or greater to use the best available control technology to limit greenhouse gases.

This plan would be an obvious reversal of the Bush administration’s hands-off policy. In December 2008, then-EPA chief Stephen Johnson issued a memo which declared that carbon dioxide was not a regulated pollutant and that EPA did not has authority to limit emissions or require the best possible technology through the “prevention of significant deterioration” requirements of the Clean Air Act. EPA is reconsidering that memo in response to a petition from our friends with Sierra Club.

Here is the link:;jsessionid=f6a16626eaf9fd09224addee6699f0a5468e8455cef2e53d290b56bead650da8.e38Nch4NbhuNa40Lc30Ta3iQaNeMe6fznA5Pp7ftolbGmkTy

TITLE: Prevention of Significant Deterioration/Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule

Thursday, August 27, 2009

GE brings good things to... GE!

An interesting story in the Washington Examiner on GE's lobbying efforts in DC:

Obama administration moving forward on climate

As the nation mourns the loss of Senator Kennedy and we await Senate action on climate (likely delayed by the healthcare issue), the wheels continue to turn within the Obama administration.

This week, the White House (at long last) began its review of upcoming greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles along with tougher fuel efficiency standards. A government web site notes the review by the Office of Management and Budget began on Tuesday Aug. 25.

You may recall the Obama administration announced its deal with the car industry and the state of California last May. It’s high time they put these new standards into place.

The review suggests that EPA is nearing a final “endangerment” finding that global warming emissions threaten health and the environment. That decision – the right response to the big Supreme Court decision on global warming -- may be interpreted by some as a polite reminder to the Senate that it cannot ignore the climate issue. The EPA finding could be the starting point for additional administrative action on climate if the Senate fizzles.


A related item under current OMB review: final EPA greenhouse gas reporting rules, explained here:

The FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on December 26, 2007, authorized funding for EPA to “develop and publish a draft rule not later than 9 months after the date of enactment of this Act, and a final rule not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act, to require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions above appropriate thresholds in all sectors of the economy of the United States.” The accompanying joint explanatory statement directed EPA to "use its existing authority under the Clean Air Act" to develop a mandatory greenhouse gas reporting rule. The joint explanatory statement went on to say that "The Agency is further directed to include in its rule reporting of emissions resulting from upstream production and downstream sources, to the extent that the Administrator deems it appropriate.” Accordingly this rulemaking would establish monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements on facilities that produce, import, or emit greenhouse gases above a specific threshold in order to provide comprehensive and accurate data to support a range of future climate policy options

As some of you may know, the oil industry met with the White House earlier this month to raise concerns about the rule:


Finally, something of a sleeper: a cautionary note from the EPA that pumping carbon dioxide underground could damage groundwater aquifers that supply drinking water. The basic concern, as an excellent story in today’s Energy Daily points out, is that “if carbon dioxide injected underground were to migrate to shallow aquifers, concentrations of arsenic and other heavy metals in the groundwater could increase and thus contaminate the water. “ Oh, that.

Capturing and pumping this stuff underground, of course, is, as Energy Daily notes, is “seen as crucial to the continued use of coal for electricity generation in a carbon-constrained regula­tory environment.”

Here is some relevant background, including EPA’s new “notice of data availability” and the interesting research by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory:

Friday, August 07, 2009

Coal lobby says a quarter of a trillion dollars in freebies is not enough

When it comes to chutzpah, you’ve got to hand it to the coal lobby.

Here it is, ready to walk away with literally hundreds of billions of dollars from the House-passed climate bill. It’s at the center of a lobbying scandal involving forged letters to members of Congress. And now it has the audacity to demand an even bigger payoff from taxpayers as the Senate scrutinizes climate legislation.

An excellent – and rather shocking – piece yesterday in Greenwire noted that

Coal's biggest lobbying group is launching a $1 million campaign to win support from Senate Democrats, an effort that employs the same public relations firm ensnared by a scandal over forged letters to Congress.

American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), an alliance of coal and utility companies, hired Alexandria, Va.-based Hawthorn Group for the new effort. Hawthorn worked for the coal group earlier this year, coordinating outreach on the House climate bill. During that project, Hawthorn subcontractor Bonner & Associates sent at least three members of Congress a total of 12 fraudulent letters purporting to be from groups opposed to the legislation…

Coal received many provisions it sought in the House bill but is pressing for more in the Senate.

Coal interests want a provision in climate legislation that would limit how much businesses must pay for carbon dioxide emissions under a cap-and-trade program. Coal also wants financial support for research into ways to capture carbon emissions and sequester them underground. And the industry wants to slow down the pace of the cap, which in the House bill tightens over time.

There is probably no need to re-hash the lobbying scandal. We hope that Rep. Ed Markey’s investigation will get to the bottom of it.

As we tried to remind people yesterday , the Hawthorn Group boasted earlier this year that it had manipulated both politicians and the media to believe there was public support for something it called “clean coal.” (Show us where it is.)

And since the coal lobby (which includes coal-burning power companies such as Duke Energy and American Electric Power Company and Southern Company ) is now demanding even more ransom from the Senate, it might be worth taking a moment to consider how much money it would make from the House legislation that it now considers inadequate.

Clean Air Watch estimates that the coal lobby would receive more than a quarter trillion dollars in economic value between 2012 and 2030 under the House legislation. Yes, that is not a misprint – the word is trillion. The total includes the value of carbon permits given for free to coal-burning electric companies, “bonus” allowances for carbon capture and sequestration, free permits given to “merchant” coal plants and other freebies.

But you don’t need to take our word for it. An independent body such as the Congressional Budget Office or the GAO should examine the issue. We hope someone in Congress will press for such an unbiased analysis.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Look out, "King Coal" -- EPA staff urges tough new standards for sulfur dioxide

Look out, “King Coal.” You may be winning hundreds of billions of climate bucks in Congress (money, by the way, that could and should go to residential consumers.)

But EPA;s career staffers are recommending that the agency set a tough new air quality standard to limit sulfur dioxide – one of the primary components of coal burning.

Please note the final EPA staff assessment of this issue, quietly published online this week:

I particularly want to commend your attention to pages 396-397, in which the EPA staffers argue that the scientific evidence “most strongly” supports a standard that would limit one-hour average concentrations to no more than 50-75 parts per billion. (This is within the range previously endorsed by EPA’s outside science advisers.) The EPA staff said higher levels could be justified if some of the scientific evidence is ignored. There is no one-hour standard today. See table regarding current annual and 24-hour standards .

If the EPA sets a standard at the lower end of the recommended range, it calculates that 54 counties (mainly in the Southeast and Midwest), home to 43.5 million people, would be out of compliance. See chart on page 388. These, of course, are areas where coal-burning power plants dominate.

The message here is clear: EPA standards could prompt the need to clean up many of the still-filthy coal-burning power plants.

These recommendations come as members of Congress appear to be falling all over each other to give hundreds of billions of dollars away to coal-related concerns and boast about their fealty to allegedly “clean coal,” while coal is at the center of a new lobbying scandal.

Sulfur dioxide, of course, is especially dangerous for children, senior citizens, and those with asthma and heart problems: ,

EPA is under a court agreement to propose new standards by Nov. 11 of this year and to set final standards by June 2, 2010.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Clean Air Watch testimony on EPA NO2 proposal

My name is Frank O’Donnell and I am president of Clean Air Watch, a non-profit, non-partisan clean air watchdog organization.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I will be very brief and I hope to the point.

I think you know Clean Air Watch has long praised the diligent efforts of EPA’s professional staff, even when staff appeared to be hamstrung by political appointees from the prior administration who all-too-frequently appeared to put politics ahead of science.

We are glad today to renew our praise for the career staff even as we welcome an administration that is willing to listen to science – and to EPA’s science advisers.

Let me put this issue into a little context:

The news has been dominated in recent weeks by health care reform. The need to protect more people. To reduce costs. To cut down on emergency room visits.

Dirty air is the forgotten topic when it comes to health care reform. It will cost a lot less to keep people out of the emergency rooms. And one way to do this is to reduce dangerous nitrogen dioxide pollution.

There’s also been prominent news about the flu and flu shots. Nitrogen dioxide can make you more susceptible to the flu. So one way to help with the flu issue is to reduce dangerous nitrogen dioxide pollution.

And most of us, of course, remain anxious about the economy. Cleaning up dirty air is good for the economy. And an obvious way to do this is to reduce dangerous nitrogen dioxide pollution.

This issue is a test for how the Obama administration’s EPA will deal with national clean air standards.

The Bush administration failed miserably. All too often it ignored the science – and the agency’s own science advisers.

By contrast, we think the new EPA is on track for a passing grade with its proposal for nitrogen dioxide. But it’s a long way from an A+ when it comes to protecting kids with asthma and other breathers. We think it’s probably more like a B or C right now, depending on the range you’ve put forward.

We’d like you to get that grade up. We think kids with asthma deserve no less than A+ public health protection.

Specifically, we agree with the position advanced by the American Lung Association. We believe that the EPA should:

• Set a one-hour standard of 50 ppb or below. We believe a short-term standard at that level would better protect children with asthma and keep them out of hospital emergency rooms.

• Strengthen the annual average standard to protect against harm from long-term exposure. We believe you adopt the California annual average air quality standard for NO2, which is 30 ppb, as compared to the current federal standard of 53 ppb.

• Set up the roadside monitoring network to detect the problem where it is likely most serious. We do urge you to keep that regardless of the level of the standard. The level of the standard must depend on what is necessary to protect human health, not on the existence of a monitoring network.

Thank you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Smog alert! New studies argue for tougher ozone standards, caution about corn ethanol

There are several new scientific studies that I want to make sure you don’t miss.

These studies bolster the case for tougher new national health standards for smog. And they should raise a real yellow flag about the political push to put more corn-based ethanol in gasoline.

The first study found that ozone exposure, even at levels deemed safe by current clean air standards, can have a significant and negative effect on lung function, according to researchers at the University of California Davis.

The researchers found a decrease in lung function among healthy, non-smoking people exposed to ozone at a level of 70 parts per billion. (One of the researchers dryly remarked that “these findings highlight the need to study susceptible individuals, such as asthmatics, at similar ozone concentrations and durations of exposure. These studies are needed to better understand the acute rise in hospitalizations that often occur in conjunction with high-ozone periods.” Ya think?)

The results were published in the August 1 issue of the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

A little context for why this is important: you may recall that the ever-consistent Steve Johnson, head of the US EPA in the last years of the Bush administration, ignored the agency’s science advisers and set an ozone standard of 75 parts per billion.

In March, the Obama EPA signaled that it would reconsider this move. (It asked a federal appeals court to stall proceedings over pollution limits for smog to give the EPA time to determine whether to revise the controversial Bush-era standards.)

We expect EPA will indeed review the scientifically deficient Bush standards. Even if they simply review the earlier science, an honest assessment would lead to tougher national standards than those put out by the Bush team. This new research absolutely confirms the need for tougher smog standards.


Now, about another smog study noted by Reuters Health:

This one, published in the July issue of Allergy , suggested that ozone appears to have an adverse effect on childhood asthma even in rural areas.

“The major finding was that, even in rural areas, ozone might have an adverse impact on the worsening of childhood asthma," one of the researchers told Reuters Health in an email.


Both studies should raise a real warning about the politically popular push to increase use of corn-based ethanol to boost the income of farmers and agri-giants such as Archer Daniels Midland.

I realize it is politically incorrect to challenge the notion that we should be extolling the virtues of corn as a fuel. (As part of the political price to pass the recent climate legislation, the House of Representatives went along with the farm lobby’s demand that we do phony math and pretend that corn-based ethanol is a good thing for global warming. And corn champions like Senator Tom Harkin are making similar demands in the Senate. As those of you following this issue well know, this sort of deal-making undercuts the goals of that legislation.)

But a couple of things are very clear: putting ethanol in gasoline (with the possible exception of E85) causes more smog. Even the Bush EPA admitted this!

And now the corn lobby and its champions on Capitol Hill and the various governors are making a big political push to force the EPA to permit even more ethanol in regular gasoline. That will lead to even more smog, and more health problems.

These new studies suggest that would be a tragic mistake. As the second study notes, smog isn’t a problem just for those of us living in urban areas.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Duke's Rogers: Senate should trash House climate deal, give more freebies to coal

Well, that rascal Jim Rogers is at it again.

The Duke CEO and chairman, who worked to construct the compromise climate deal approved by the House of Representatives, now wants to change the deal. Not surprisingly, Rogers wants more freebies for coal!

In an interview this week (see excerpt below) with SNL Energy, Rogers said the “transition” to a “low-carbon” economy “must be fair to the consumers in the 25 states that are dependent on coal.” He said the Senate should change the allocation formula to give more free credits to power companies that burn coal. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa has made similar comments in recent days, perhaps fueled by guys like Rogers, who I am told has been making the rounds in the Senate trying to sell his more coal-friendly strategy. (I assure you, Harkin is not hearing that sort of message from actual “consumers!” As you may know from the press call my friends had yesterday, public interest groups ranging from AARP to Public Citizen want more carbon permits to be auctioned – with the proceeds going directly to consumers – as well as better residential consumer protections.)

One would think the Rogers comments would be a real point of contention even within the electric power industry, since the House bill reflected a deal with the Edison Electric Institute. Now Rogers wants to change the deal to boost his own company’s profits.

As usual, Rogers tailors his message to his audience, as the politically correct folks might put it.

Duke CEO: Different CO2 allowance formula needed to pass Waxman-Markey in Senate

July 21, 2009 3:15 PM ET
By Kathleen Hart SNL Energy

With half of U.S. senators representing states that rely heavily on coal for their electricity, the Senate will have to strike a different deal on allocating emissions allowances than the House of Representatives struck in passing the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, Duke Energy Corp. Chairman, President and CEO James Rogers said July 20.

"I think the politics is fundamentally different in the Senate," Rogers told SNL Energy in an interview. He noted that 25% of the votes for the Waxman-Markey bill in the House of Representatives came from the representatives of just two states — California and New York — but those states only represent 4% of the Senate.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Rick Boucher, D-Va., "did an excellent job of coming up with something that would work in the House. Chairman Waxman and Speaker [Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.] did a good job of getting that out of the

House because they calibrated the allocations in a way to get the vote out," Rogers continued. But he emphasized that in anticipating Senate floor action on the bill, it is important not to underestimate the power of the 25 states where more than 50% of the electricity comes from coal.

"They did a terrific job getting it out of the House with the allocation formula there," Rogers said. "I think the calculus is fundamentally different in the Senate and the stats that I gave you, you'll find interesting and compelling. Four percent says they're going to have to cut a different deal to bring those other states along."...

While advocating the transition to a low-carbon economy in the United States, Rogers said the transition must be fair to the consumers in the 25 states that are dependent on coal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Public interest groups urge better consumer protections in climate bill


Consumer Federation of America

National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients

Public Citizen

Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Essential Consumer Protections:

Critical Improvements to the House Climate Change Bill

July 22, 2009

Dear Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:

We appreciate your leadership on protecting residential consumers in the drafting of climate change legislation. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an important challenge and an opportunity that will transform many aspects of everyday life for the average consumer.

President Obama proposed in February a climate plan that featured a 100% auction, thereby ensuring ample rebates to consumers and investments in clean energy technologies. But the American Clean Energy & Security Act that passed the House abandoned this equitable approach by giving 85% of the emission allowances away for free to utilities, oil refiners and manufacturers. These free allocations deny the government access to revenues to ensure that most consumers are held harmless, will result in windfall profits for many large polluters, and will delay our transition to cleaner energy technologies.

Our clear preference is to provide a greater percentage of allowances for auction with more of the revenues used for direct consumer relief. However, to the extent that the Committee builds on the House-passed bill, we ask you to establish a stronger system of consumer protection. Specifically:

(1) Ensure residential electric and natural gas consumers directly receive the benefit of the electric and natural gas local distribution company (LDC) allowances provided to mitigate consumer cost impacts in the following manner:

· The electric and natural gas local distribution companies (LDCs) must pass through the ratable share of the value of the emissions allowances to residential consumers to reduce the costs impacts on residential consumers. No more than 25% of the value of these allowances can be used for cost-effective, measurable and verifiable energy efficiency measures that include low-income ratepayers.

· Ratepayer benefits from the LDC emission allowances shall be distributed among ratepayer classes ratably based on revenues to each class.

(2) Ensure consumer representation in the implementation of the climate change bill in the following manner:

· Establish an Office of Consumer Advocate within the federal agencies tasked with implementing the long-term climate change policy.

· Facilitate consumer participation in federal and state utility commission proceedings through intervener fees funded through the emission allowances.

(3) Ensure that fixed-income, seniors and working families are not left behind by dedicating more than 15% of emission allowances to distribute to a greater number of households.

(4) Improve protections against windfall profits funded at the expense of consumers by reducing the amount and number of years over which allowances are given freely to corporations. Of particular concern are free allowances granted to merchant coal power plants charging market-based rates and generators with long-term power-supply contracts. Since these generators are not exposed to international competitiveness problems, it is unclear as to why they require free allowances. Clearly, the House bill fails to provide adequate protections for consumers against windfall profits by these generators.

We look forward to working with your offices to develop climate change legislation that provides meaningful mitigation of utility cost increases for all consumers, especially those on fixed-incomes, seniors and the working poor.


David P. Sloane

Senior Vice President

Government Relations & Advocacy


Dr. Mark Cooper

Consumer Federation of America

Olivia Wein

National Consumer Law Center

On behalf of its low-income clients

Tyson Slocum

Public Citizen

Frank O’Donnell

Clean Air Watch

National Community Action Foundation

Judy Dugan

Consumer Watchdog

John Atkeison

Alliance for Affordable Energy, Louisiana

Mike Tidwell

Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana

Jan Jarrett

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future

Ben Moore

Coastal Conservation League, South Carolina

Edgemont Neighborhood Coalition of Dayton

Jesse Glickstein

Faiths United for Sustainable Energy, Florida

Daniel Ziskin

Jews of the Earth, Colorado

Tom Kelly

KyotoUSA, California

Jim Jensen

Montana Environmental Information Center

John Fogarty, MD MPH

New Energy Economy, New Mexico

Lauren Schuster

NY Public Interest Research Group

Sandy Buchanan

Ohio Citizen Action

Joy Bergey

Pennsylvania Interfaith Climate Change Campaign

Al Weed

Public Policy Virginia, Inc.

Jere Locke,

Texas Climate Emergency Campaign

Mark Toney


Monday, July 13, 2009

Boxer faces challenge of a lifetime on climate change bill

Boxer faces challenge of a lifetime' on climate change bill
McClatchy Newspapers

Published: Sunday, Jul. 12, 2009

WASHINGTON -- If the Senate doesn't pass a bill to cut global warming, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer says, there will be dire results: droughts, floods, fires, loss of species, damage to agriculture, worsening air pollution and more.

She says there's a huge upside, however, if the Senate does act: millions of clean-energy jobs, reduced reliance on foreign oil and less pollution for the nation's children.

Boxer is engaged in her biggest sales job ever. The stakes couldn't be higher as she faces one of the toughest high-profile acts of her lengthy career: getting Congress to sign off on historic legislation to lower greenhouse-gas emissions.

"For Barbara Boxer, it's both the opportunity and a challenge of a lifetime," said Frank O'Donnell, the president of Clean Air Watch.

more at:

Thursday, July 09, 2009

GAO: mercury from power plants can be controlled -- and very cheaply

In his oral testimony this morning to a Senate subcommittee, GAO’s John Stephenson reported that “at least 90% reduction” of mercury “appears achievable and affordable at most power plants.”

His formal testimony is here:

Stephenson noted that for the vast majority of power plants, the cleanup could be done at a cost as little as a dime a month extra on a consumer's electricity bill.

This GAO analysis is powerful evidence that the EPA should set tough requirements to limit mercury pollution from every power plant.

Meanwhile, give credit to state environmental agencies, which pushed ahead with mercury controls while the Bush administration was busy cutting deals with the coal-burning power industry.

Monday, July 06, 2009

It's Deja Vu all over again, as Haley Barbour testifies on global warming

It will be the start of a new legislative push tomorrow as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds its first big hearing on global warming following passage of the House bill last month.

There is an interesting wrinkle I do want to call to your attention.

One of the witnesses called by the Senate Republicans is Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. You may recall that as a lobbyist for Southern Company in 2001, he persuaded the Bush administration to renege on a campaign promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants. Talk about a guy with juice!

As former LA Times writer Judy Pasternak reported in 2001:

On March 1 [2001], Barbour sent a sternly worded memo on the subject to Cheney. "A moment of truth is arriving," the note began. Complying with carbon dioxide limits would be so expensive that Bush should reverse his position, Barbour argued.

"Clinton-Gore policies meant less energy and more expensive energy," he wrote. "Most Americans thought Bush-Cheney would mean more energy, and more affordable energy."

Within weeks, Cheney's task force had adopted the same reasoning on carbon dioxide. Bush cited the task force position when he announced in March that he had changed his mind.

Will Barbour simply put a new date on his old memo? Is he really the best witness that opponents of action can come up with?

The full story is below:

THE NATION SUNDAY REPORT Bush's Energy Plan Bares Industry Clout Cheney-led task force consulted extensively with corporate executives. Its findings boosted their interests. Environmental groups had little voice.


26 August 2001
Los Angeles Times

**** Start of Correction **** September 07, 2001 Home Edition Page A-2 Section: A2 Desk


Energy policy: In an Aug. 26 story about industry influence on the White House energy plan, the first reference to a March 1 meeting attended by Peabody Energy executives wrongly stated that Vice President Dick Cheney was present. The second reference to the meeting accurately identified administration representatives as Cheney's energy director, the secretary of Energy and the national economic advisor. In addition, the story erroneously reported that Peabody's chief executive officer made a personal contribution of $100,000 to the presidential inaugural committee. The $100,000 was a corporate donation from Peabody. The source of the money was incorrectly listed in contribution records. **** End of Correction ****

WASHINGTON -- Throughout February and March, executives representing electricity, coal, natural gas and nuclear interests paraded quietly in small groups to a building in the White House compound, where the new administration's energy policy was being written.

Some firms sent emissaries more than once. Enron Corp., which trades electricity and natural gas, once got three top officials into a private session with Vice President Dick Cheney, who headed the energy task force. Cheney did "a lot of listening," according to a company spokesman.

Many of the executives at the White House meetings were generous donors to the Republican Party, and some of their key lobbyists were freshly hired from the Bush presidential campaign. They found a receptive task force. Among its ranks were three former energy industry executives and consultants. The task force also included a Bush agency head who was involved in the sensitive discussions while his wife took in thousands of dollars in fees from three electricity producers.

The final report, issued May 16, boosted the nation's energy industries. It called for additional coal production, and five days later the world's largest coal company, Peabody Energy, issued a public stock offering, raising about $60 million more than expected. While Peabody was preparing to go public, its chief executive and vice president participated in a March 1 meeting with Cheney.

The report also touted new gas extraction technologies. An early draft noted controversy over a gas recovery technique offered by Halliburton Co., the firm Cheney ran from 1995 to 2000, before becoming vice president. The plan released to the public deleted the negative language.

Cheney continues to resist demands by Congress to disclose who met with administration officials during the 106 days earlier this year when the energy plan was fashioned. The private nature of the work fostered candid and creative discussions "from new and unused quarters," said Cheney Press Secretary Juleanna Glover Weiss.

But interviews and a review of task force documents show how the administration relied on familiar faces who stood to benefit from the process.

Just once, the task force departed from its pledge to keep secret the names of people invited to pitch their opinions face to face. After producers of power from the sun, wind and geothermal heat met with Cheney, officials led the group to the front of the White House and waiting reporters.

The date was May 15, just one day before the plan was sent to President Bush.

Others whose views might conflict with industry--the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Sierra Club, even federal agency staff--found themselves shut out or overruled.

In the sessions they held while they worked on the plan, Cheney and his staff generally heard a message reinforcing their own mind-set: Free markets, fewer pollution rules and expanded development of traditional fuels.

Using less energy and energy in different forms were notions mentioned but not emphasized. "What do you expect?" asked one energy industry insider whose colleagues met with Cheney. "These people make their living from coal and natural gas and nuclear power. Do you think they're going to push for solar and wind?"

The influences are evident in the final product.

The report focuses on easing regulation for oil and gas drilling, coal-fired generators, nuclear power plants and transmission of electricity, while providing energy assistance to poor households. Though the plan also backs alternative fuels and conservation, it gives the most support to increasing the supply of traditional sources of energy.

One passage adopts word for word a proposal on global warming from the U.S. Energy Assn.'s National Energy Strategy, which is dominated by trade groups. The section suggests encouraging other countries to build factories with clean technologies sold by U.S. companies.

Even basic assumptions in the report were tailored to industry's measure.

A briefing paper prepared for a March 19 task force meeting with Bush said that, "on the whole, U.S. energy markets are working well, allocating resources and preventing shortages." But two months later, the final task force report proclaimed that "America faces the most serious energy shortage since the oil embargoes of the 1970s."

The energy situation hadn't changed. One staffer recalls seeing a memo that discussed "utilizing" California's rolling blackouts and the past summer's high-priced gasoline to press for more drilling for gas and oil.

The task force began work in late January, nine days after Bush's inauguration.

By all accounts, the vice president dominated the meetings. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham; Bush's chief economic advisor, Lawrence B. Lindsey; and Environmental Protection Agency Chief Christie Whitman were the others with the most to say, one administration official said. But everyone jumped in on matters outside his or her own immediate jurisdiction.

There was no shortage of private energy experience. Besides Cheney's stint as Halliburton's chief executive, Commerce Secretary Don Evans ran an oil company and Lindsey served on an Enron advisory board.

The committee still gathers on occasion, most recently last month, to monitor progress of its recommendations. The House of Representatives passed an energy measure that reflects the plan. Once the Senate votes next month and the two houses of Congress sit down to negotiate a final bill, "we'll be bringing a lot of pressure to bear," Weiss said. "Our objective is to get that legislation as close to the policy as possible."

To Howard "Bud" Ris, who heads the Union of Concerned Scientists, the process represents an opportunity lost. He disagrees with the report's conclusions but says he would have felt better if task force members and staff had thoroughly explored all sides.

"They should have done a really rigorous review. They foreclosed all kinds of options."


If any group had the White House wired, it was the electricity industry.

The director of its major lobbying arm, the Edison Electric Institute, roomed at Yale University with George W. Bush. Electricity generators and marketers contributed $19.7 million to Republicans since 1998, roughly double what they gave Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And electricity companies negotiated contracts with administration friends, political operatives and, in one case, a family member.

Take Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. In the spring of 2000, the Bush campaign recruited him to help with strategy.

A year later, as a lobbyist for several electricity producers, he pushed Bush and Cheney to renege on a campaign promise to restrict power plant emissions of carbon dioxide. The gas has been linked to global warming.

On March 1, Barbour sent a sternly worded memo on the subject to Cheney. "A moment of truth is arriving," the note began. Complying with carbon dioxide limits would be so expensive that Bush should reverse his position, Barbour argued.

"Clinton-Gore policies meant less energy and more expensive energy," he wrote. "Most Americans thought Bush-Cheney would mean more energy, and more affordable energy."

Within weeks, Cheney's task force had adopted the same reasoning on carbon dioxide. Bush cited the task force position when he announced in March that he had changed his mind.

The National Electric Reliability Council, an industry trade group, hired former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot as a Washington representative. Racicot was a close Bush advisor during the tumultuous postelection days in Florida.

Racicot said he met with Cheney and his energy director, Andrew Lundquist, on the subject of the EPA's forcing old plants to update their clean air equipment.

The task force report suggested that the Justice Department consider dropping lawsuits it has already brought for alleged violations.

Three electricity companies employ Diane Allbaugh as a lobbyist. She is married to Joe Allbaugh, the only member of Bush's so-called iron triangle of trusted Texas cohorts to serve on the energy task force. During meetings of the panel, Joe Allbaugh always took a chair at one end of the table, with Abraham to his right and Whitman to his left. He serves by virtue of his position as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In her most recent disclosure reports in January, Diane Allbaugh said that the three firms--Reliant Energy, Entergy and TXU, paid her $20,000 apiece in the previous three months. She wrote that she did no lobbying on their behalf. The companies say she performed other consulting duties.

Reliant spokesman Richard Wheatley said the company is "actively supporting" the energy plan, but Diane Allbaugh's "minimal assignments have not involved the task force, specifically to avoid any specter or allegation that there is a conflict of interest." She is a consultant on "Texas-related" issues, he said.

Spokeswomen for TXU and Entergy said Diane Allbaugh's work for them is likewise restricted to their Texas operations.

Meanwhile, her husband, Joe Allbaugh, has participated in task force talks with a direct bearing on the energy companies' interests generally, such as environmental rules for power plants and electricity deregulation--a specialty of his wife's.

At least twice he was privy to updates from economic advisor Lindsey on California's malfunctioning market, where Reliant stands accused by the state of overcharging. The company denies any wrongdoing.

Joe Allbaugh's spokeswoman, Christi Harlan, said that nothing "about the situation would suggest that the director would need to seek ethics guidance" and added that his wife's lobbying reports "are going to have to speak for themselves."

Diane Allbaugh declined comment. Visited at the townhouse that the Allbaughs bought in March from the Cheneys, she said: "I appreciate the effort you've gone to, but I don't think we're going to talk."

In 1996, the Dallas Morning News reported that she represented clients with interests in pending Texas state deregulation of telecommunications and utilities markets, while her husband served as then-Gov. Bush's chief of staff. At the time, Bush said he was troubled "if it creates a public perception that something unfair is taking place."

At the time, she wrote the governor's counsel that she was withdrawing from her contracts. And Bush instituted a policy that division heads and senior aides could not be married to registered lobbyists, according to Texas newspapers.

As president, Bush has no special guidelines beyond those of the Office of Government Ethics, said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan. These regulations appear less stringent, prohibiting participation only if a particular matter applying to a specific company is addressed.

TXU Chief Executive Erle Nye--a client then and now--said Diane Allbaugh has been a consultant on deregulation issues. She registered as a lobbyist, he said, just in case she happened to talk about a pertinent issue to a politician. "To my knowledge, we would not have let her lobby," he explained, "because she is the wife of Joe."

Natural Gas

Natural gas was connected in high places too.

When the Energy Department drafted a chapter for the report about how to increase domestic energy production, the text mentioned the importance of hydraulic fracturing, a method of accelerating production of natural gas wells. It so happens that Halliburton is a major provider of the service.

Chemicals and sand are injected under high pressure into gas-bearing geological formations, causing underground cracks. The gas rises into the cracks and moves closer to the well, making recovery easier.

The process has its foes. Neighbors of natural gas wells in Alabama complained of oily goop and sulfur smells streaming out of faucets just after a company conducted fracturing. An Alabama federal appeals court ordered the state to regulate the process--and EPA to step in if needed. Natural gas drillers, and hydraulic fracturing purveyors, expect similar lawsuits to be filed in the Rocky Mountain states, according to material submitted to the task force by the Domestic Petroleum Council.

The EPA is studying whether hydraulic fracturing is linked to water well contamination but doesn't expect to finish its preliminary inquiry until at least February. The agency will decide then if further research is warranted, officials said.

Halliburton complained in federal court, during Cheney's last year at the company, that new federal restrictions on the process would "have a significant adverse effect" on its business.

The Energy Department chapter mentioned the environmental controversy as well as the potential of hydraulic fracturing. With the Energy Department chapter in hand, a Cheney assistant informed an EPA official in late March that hydraulic fracturing would go on the April 3 agenda for the Cabinet-level gathering. The agency was advised to prepare a recommendation.

EPA officials balked at suggesting any actions for the task force before the study was completed. The subject disappeared from the agenda by the day of the meeting.

But it didn't disappear from the final report. The document emphasized the technique's importance as "one of the fastest-growing sources of gas production" and noted that "each year nearly 25,000 oil and gas wells are hydraulically fractured." The information about potential water well contamination, the appeals court decision and the possibility of EPA controls had all been dropped.

A few paragraphs after the hydraulic fracturing discussion comes the task force recommendation that the nation "promote enhanced oil and gas recovery from existing wells through new technology."

Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said company executives did not discuss the energy report with Cheney. "Of course, we talk to him; you don't work with someone for that long and then not talk to him. But not about the plan, and not about hydraulic fracturing."


Perhaps the biggest winner in the task force report was coal.

Though coal produces more than half of the country's electricity, natural gas dominates the next generation of power plants. The reason: clean air rules. Burning coal produces a significant amount of carbon dioxide, which has been linked to global warming, and other elements tied to acid rain and smog.

Under President Clinton, " 'coal' was a dirty word," said John Feddock, an industry analyst based in Bluefield, Va.

Not so under Bush, whose U-turn on carbon dioxide was the coal industry's biggest victory in Washington in years.

"If rising electricity demand is to be met, then coal must play a significant part," the task force report stated. The plan recommended spending $2 billion in federal money for research into making coal-fired electricity cleaner. And the task force recommended directing federal agencies "to provide greater regulatory certainty relating to coal electricity generation."

"The president is friendly to energy, and so is the vice president, and thank God," said Fred Palmer, a vice president at Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal producer. "Our society needs energy."

Peabody, an affiliate called Black Beauty Coal and their employees have directed $900,000 to Republican coffers over the last two years. Peabody Chief Executive Irl F. Engelhardt personally gave $100,000 to Bush's inaugural committee.

Two Peabody executives and one from Black Beauty were named to Bush's energy advisory team after his election victory.

Two weeks after the task force was formed, Peabody announced plans to make a public stock offering. Several weeks later, on March 1, Palmer and Engelhardt attended a coal-interests meeting with task force members Abraham and Lindsey and Cheney's energy director.

On May 21, five days after the task force report touted coal, Peabody's stock went on sale. The company received $420 million, about $60 million more than analysts expected.

Could Peabody have gone public if Al Gore had beaten George W. Bush?

"That's an interesting question," Palmer said. "We'd been working on [the stock offering] for a long time. But it picked up steam this year, no question. I am sure it affected the valuation of the stock."


Environmental leaders say they never got a real chance to influence the report in favor of greater conservation efforts and renewable power.

Just after the election and again in January, when the task force was announced, several groups requested meetings with Bush, Cheney or both.

Months passed without a reply.

Dan Becker, legislative director at the Sierra Club, heard suddenly from an Energy Department staffer in late March: Please give us your thoughts on the plan. We need them within 24 hours. Then, he says, the caller mentioned that Abraham was traveling and wouldn't be reading the response.

On April 3, the Energy Department submitted a briefing paper on nuclear power to the vice president's office, recommending the U.S. use more of it. Under "pros," the paper noted that this policy would be "a bold step" and added that it would underscore "the responsible approach of the administration towards carbon emissions"--the global warming issue.

But under "cons," the paper noted: "Environmental groups will sharply criticize any proposed expansion" because of waste disposal issues and the history of accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Environmentalists will "use the proposal to fund-raise and organize to defeat the administration's policy, and use the proposal to suggest our national energy policy is out of the mainstream." Nuclear power would go on to win a place in the report as "a major component of our national energy policy."

By this time, the task force was well aware that environmentalists would be unhappy about many aspects of the report.

The panel had already abandoned its original plan for a release date of April 6. It was too close to Earth Day, a staffer with knowledge of the discussion said, and it would offer much too tempting a target.

In this wary atmosphere, Lundquist met April 4 with 15 emissaries from environmental groups.

The assembled activists barely had time to introduce themselves in the allotted 50 minutes. "To characterize it as meaningful consultation is quite a stretch," said Elizabeth Thompson, who attended for Environmental Defense.

Ris, from the Concerned Scientists, asked twice to meet directly with Cheney "to no avail," according to a memo written afterward by one of the participants.

Environmental leaders finally sat down with Cheney on June 5, weeks after the report was released.

The environmentalists' clear anti-Bush sentiments during the election campaign sealed their fate, said William K. Reilly, who headed the EPA when Bush's father was president.

"They have roles to play," he said. "But they're not going to be insider roles."


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

EPA moves to clean up ocean-going ships

This is excellent news and a critical part of the EPA's strategy to reduce pollution from ocean-going ships.

These ships are like giant smokestacks on the sea. They cause pollution and public health problems not only for coastal communities but for millions who live inland.

EPA should be commended for proposing to clean these ships up.

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2009 1:03 PM
Subject: EPA Office of Public Liaison Notice: EPA Proposes Stringent Standards forLarge Ships

Cathy Milbourn (News Media Only)
(202) 564-7849
(202) 564-4355

July 1, 2009

EPA Proposes Stringent Standards for Large Ships

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency today announced the
next steps in a coordinated strategy to slash harmful emissions from
ocean-going vessels. EPA is proposing a rule under the Clean Air Act
that sets tough engine and fuel standards for U.S. flagged ships that
would harmonize with international standards and lead to significant air
quality improvements throughout the country.

“These emissions are contributing to health, environmental and economic
challenges for port communities and others that are miles inland.
Building on our work to form an international agreement earlier this
year, we’re taking the next steps to reduce significant amounts of
harmful pollution from getting into the air we breathe,” said EPA
Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Lowering emissions from American ships
will help safeguard our port communities, and demonstrate American
leadership in protecting our health and the environment around the

The rule comes on the heels of a key part of EPA’s strategy, a proposal
last March by the United States and Canada to designate thousands of
miles of the two countries’ coasts as an Emission Control Area (ECA).
The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency,
begins consideration of the ECA plan this month, which would result in
stringent standards for large ships operating within 200 nautical miles
of the coasts of Canada and the United States.

Air pollution from large ships, such as oil tankers and cargo ships, is
expected to grow rapidly in line with port traffic increases. By 2030,
the domestic and international strategy is expected to reduce annual
emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from large marine diesel engines by
about 1.2 million tons and particulate matter (PM) emissions by about
143,000 tons. When fully implemented, the coordinated effort would
reduce NOx emissions by 80 percent and PM emissions by 85 percent
compared to current emissions.

The emission reductions from the proposed strategy would yield
significant health and welfare benefits that would span beyond U.S.
ports and coastlines, reaching inland areas.  EPA estimates that in
2030, this effort would prevent between 13,000 and 33,000 premature
deaths, 1.5 million work days lost, and 10 million minor
restricted-activity days. The estimated annual health benefits in 2030
as a result of reduced air pollution are valued between $110 and $280
billion at an annual projected cost of approximately $3.1 billion - as
high as a 90-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio.

The proposed rulemaking is designed to reflect the IMO’s stringent ECA
standards and broader worldwide program. The rule adds two new tiers of
NOX standards and strengthens EPA’s existing diesel fuel program for
these ships. It represents another milestone in EPA’s decade-long effort
to reduce pollution from both new and existing diesel engines under the
National Clean Diesel Campaign.

Information on the components of the coordinated strategy, including the
proposed Clean Air Act standards and the ECA designation:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

While deals get cut in DC, a landmark greenhouse gas development in California

It is painful to learn of the latest negotiations over the climate legislation. The farm lobby appears to have won some of its key objectives. These changes will not help the cause of making real reductions in greenhouse gases. And even some strong supporters of the Waxman-Markey legislation are now holding their noses, as if on the perimeter of a hog farm.

Outside the Beltway, there is better news. The item below just crossed the Business Wire.

The local air pollution agency in the San Francisco bay area has proposed an air pollution permit for a new gas-fired electric power plant, planned by Calpine and General Electric.

It would be the first power plant in the nation with a federally enforceable limit on greenhouse gas emissions. This really is a landmark development. It could set the bar for future power projects. It makes the blather about so-called “clean coal” seem more than ever like political pork.

Details are here:

Here is the press release:

June 24, 2009 08:18 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Calpine’s Russell City Energy Center to be Nation’s First
Power Plant With Federal Greenhouse Gas Emissions Limit
Calpine to build 600-MW power plant,
create economic stimulus for San Francisco Bay Area

Calpine Corporation
Media Relations:
National, Industry Media
Norma Dunn, 713-830-8883
Bay Area Media
Jason Barnett, 415-227-9700
Investor Relations:
Andre Walker, 713-830-8775

HAYWARD, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) notified interested stakeholders that it is seeking public input on a draft permit to construct what will be the nation’s first power plant with a federal limit on emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.

Calpine Corporation (NYSE: CPN) has been working in cooperation with the BAAQMD to respond to comments submitted by a number of environmental and local public interest groups, including the Sierra Club and EarthJustice, regarding the company’s proposed 600-megawatt Russell City Energy Center to be built in Hayward, Calif. As a result, Calpine has agreed to changes in the project’s permit conditions, including reductions in a number of emission limits, which will make it one of the cleanest natural gas-fired power plants in the nation.

“By taking this historic and early action to limit greenhouse gas emissions, Calpine demonstrates that our long-term commitment to environmental stewardship is fundamental to our corporate philosophy,” said Jack A. Fusco, president and chief executive officer of Calpine. “The combined-cycle technology allows us to commit to lower emissions while increasing efficiency – meaning we use less natural gas and emit fewer greenhouse gases while delivering more power to our customers and ultimately the American consumer.”

Powered by cleaner burning natural gas, Russell City Energy Center will use advanced combined-cycle technology, which captures and uses the exhaust from gas turbines to generate additional energy in a steam turbine, resulting in an approximate 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency.

“As a physicist with NASA and the Lawrence Livermore Lab, I studied climate change starting in the 1970s. I support the project because it will preserve Hayward’s air quality, while replacing power generated from plants that produce nearly twice the greenhouse gases and more than twice the amount of other pollutants,” said Councilman Bill Quirk of the Hayward City Council. “Equally as important, the project also is an economic stimulus for Hayward, spurring economic growth, creating jobs for local residents and generating millions of dollars in new revenue, a real benefit in these tough times,” he added.

Russell City Energy Center will produce significant economic benefits for the City of Hayward and the Bay Area, creating 650 union construction jobs, injecting millions into the local economy and generating approximately $30 million in one-time tax revenue and $4 million annually in property tax revenue to help fund local government services. Construction is expected to begin in 2010 and be completed in 2012.

The facility will use 100 percent reclaimed water from the City of Hayward’s Water Pollution Control Facility for cooling and will convert it into steam for electricity production. This environmentally responsible process conserves water and prevents four million gallons of wastewater per day from being discharged into San Francisco Bay.

Russell City Energy Center also will donate $10 million to help build a new library for Hayward and is working with stakeholders to make improvements and support programs that enhance the enjoyment of the San Francisco Bay shoreline.

“This project responds to the national call for new clean energy sources that will move our nation toward green energy and protects the electrical grid in the Bay Area,” said Barry Luboviski, secretary-treasurer, Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County, AFL-CIO. “We are looking forward to getting the project underway and putting people back to work.”

The California Energy Commission granted a license for the plant in September 2007 and the California Public Utilities Commission approved a 10-year power purchase agreement in April 2009 under which PG&E will purchase the electricity generated by the plant.

“This is an important project for the City of Hayward. We are proud to support a project that is not only environmentally responsible but also makes a significant investment in Hayward,” said Jim Wieder, President & CEO of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce.

The new permit conditions for the facility are set forth in a draft additional Statement of Basis made available today by the BAAQMD at In this document, the BAAQMD finds that by assuring the plant uses the most energy-efficient technology to generate power from fossil fuels, the proposed plant will limit its emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. BAAQMD is soliciting input from interested stakeholders at this time and intends to issue an official notice of the proposed permit decision, upon scheduling a formal public comment period and hearing.

Russell City Energy Center has agreed to a limit on the plant’s overall efficiency or “heat rate,” which is the amount of fuel it takes to generate a kilowatt-hour of electricity. At baseload conditions, the plant is designed to operate at an efficiency rate that results in approximately 800 lbs of CO2 per megawatt-hour of power delivered to the grid. This is less than half the 1,700 lbs of CO2 per megawatt-hour emitted by even the most advanced coal-fired generating technologies. It also is substantially lower than the California Public Utilities Commission’s 1,100 lbs/megawatt-hour standard, which applies to investor-owned utilities entering into new long-term power purchase contracts.

Compliance with this limit will be demonstrated by conducting an annual performance test, using the industry-standard method developed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for measuring overall plant efficiency. This annual test is intended to ensure that the plant continues to be operated and maintained to achieve expected efficiency levels over time.

The Russell City Energy Center project is jointly owned by Calpine Corporation, which holds a 65 percent stake and serves as managing partner, and an affiliate of GE Energy Financial Services, which holds a 35 percent non-managing member interest.

For more information about Russell City Energy Center visit

About Calpine

Calpine Corporation is helping meet the needs of an economy that demands more and cleaner sources of electricity. Founded in 1984, Calpine is a major U.S. power company, currently capable of delivering over 24,000 megawatts of clean, cost-effective, reliable and fuel-efficient electricity to customers and communities in 16 states in the United States and Canada. Calpine owns, leases, and operates low-carbon, natural gas-fired, and renewable geothermal power plants. Using advanced technologies, Calpine generates electricity in a reliable and environmentally responsible manner for the customers and communities it serves. Please visit for more information.