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.