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