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.