Monday, March 30, 2009

EPA proposes to clean up dirty ocean-going ships -- a reaction

The US EPA proposed today to protect air quality in port communities by cleaning up pollution from dirty diesel ocean liners.

Here is a reaction from my friends with the Clean Air Task Force, who have participated in international negotiations on this issue:


For release, 12:01 pm EDT Contact: David Marshall: 603-568-2968
March 30, 2009 dmarshall@catf.us


Clean Air Task Force Hails US EPA Proposal
To Clean Up Dirty Ocean-Going Ships


(Newark, NJ, March 30, 2009) -- The non-profit Clean Air Task Force hailed a proposal announced today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect the air in port cities and US coastal areas by requiring cleanup of dirty ocean-going ships.

The federal agency has proposed creating clean-air zones – known as “Emission Control Areas” – that would extend 200 miles from the coasts of the lower 48 states. Ocean-going ships travelling in these zones would have to meet strict clean-air requirements.

“The world's marine shipping fleet is a global environmental menace of the first order,” said David Marshall, of the non-profit Clean Air Task Force, an environmental organization that has participated in international deliberations to forge the ship pollution accord. (See more on that at http://www.catf.us/press_room/20081009-CATF_shipping_pr.pdf )

“This EPA initiative would make the air much cleaner in port cities and coastal areas– and prevent thousands of premature deaths a year,” Marshall added.

In today’s action, announced in Newark, NJ, the EPA is officially requesting that the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the international body that regulates ocean ship pollution, designate the 200-mile area off our coasts in which stringent international emission controls would apply to ocean-going ships. Diesel ships entering these zones would have to use cleaner, lower-sulfur fuel, and new ships would have to meet strict standards for smog-forming pollution.

The IMO is slated to consider this issue at its next meeting in London in July.

“The Clean Air Task Force, as part of the Friends of the Earth International delegation, will be there to urge quick approval of this vital US plan,” said Marshall.

The EPA has noted that the diesel engines on oceangoing vessels such as container ships, tankers, bulk carriers, and cruise ships are significant contributors to air pollution in many of our nation’s cities and ports. Their emissions are expected to increase even more in the future, as our trade with other countries increases, and ship emissions will represent a larger share of our national emission inventories.

A study commission by the Clean Air Task Force estimated that ship emissions cause approximately 60,000 premature deaths worldwide each year. http://www.catf.us/press_room/20071107-Shipping.pdf

More background on the US proposal is available in the accompanying fact sheet and at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/regs/nonroad/marine/ci/420f09001.htm.



###

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Clean Air Watch hears from a potentially fetid fellow... who calls himself a "patriot"

[A note to Clean Air Watch from paulpastor@windstream.net ] :



Frank,

I woke up this morning and read a story about a kid getting suspended from riding the bus for farting.

They also mentioned in the article that another child at a nearby school was arrested for farting in class.

An after viewing your web page and reading how deeply involved our judges and politicians are in making decisions for me and my family, I realized that the US is a socialist country and wants to tie than hands of capitalism and molest freedom until it bleeds for mercy. (sounds like what Karl Marx's intentions were)

I would suggest a few good books for you to read regarding the life of planets but I think your opinion is already cemented in unreality and wearing your wife's options.

Good luck and my friends will cast a few smelly farts for you.

A patriot.

Paul Pastor

Monday, March 23, 2009

EPA sends proposed global warming endangerment finding to the White House

AGENCY: EPA-AR

RIN: 2060-ZA14

TITLE: Proposal for Endangerment Finding for Greehouse Gases under the Clean Air Act
STAGE: Proposed Rule

ECONOMICALLY SIGNIFICANT: No
** RECEIVED DATE: 03/20/2009

LEGAL DEADLINE: None


Thanks to the ever-alert Matt Madia of OMB Watch, who spotted this.

This is historic news. It will set the stage for the first-ever national limits on global warming pollution. And it is likely to help light a fire under Congress to get moving.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quick hits: the politics of special interests remain allive and well in DC

A few quick hits:

Murky money: Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski hinted broadly yesterday that she’d probably oppose a move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to meld energy and climate change legislation into a single package for a vote on the Senate floor. The Alaska Republican spoke at a Platts Energy Forum, as reported by today’s BNA Daily Environment Report. It looks as if Murkowski hopes to slow the action down. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but Murkowski just received a tidy $4,500 campaign contribution from Duke Energy last month, according to Federal Election Commission records. (We’re tracking Duke’s campaign contributions, if you want more. Amazing how much money this company is giving to the leading opponents of congressional action on global warming!)

Murkowski is in big demand on the speaking tour these days; she’s also speaking this morning to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

**

“Cut a goddam deal:” The center’s head, our old friend, Jason Grumet, had a very colorful quote yesterday during a separate panel discussion by the center. As reported by E&E PM, he urged law makers to”cut a goddamn deal” on global warming. “The orthodoxy that we are bringing to this discussion is amazing to me."

**

Rebellion in the ranks? As the dealmakers chat, I want to make sure to note this very interesting commentary in The Huffington Post by our friend, John Passacantando: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-passacantando/joe-lieberman-to-turn-cli_b_175540.html

It’s a different take on the latest antics of Senator Joe Lieberman, who is acting these days more like a senator from Ohio than Connecticut. Lieberman, whose effort at global warming legislation last year became something of a fiasco, still seems to think it’s necessary to bribe coal-burning power companies such as Duke.

**

Farm-state follies: Finally, from yesterday’s E&E PM, pressure from farm-state senators on the EPA to break the law in an effort to raise corn prices. (No, that’s not exactly how they phrased it, but that’s the underlying dynamic. See the letter, below.) It is really discouraging that special-interest politics are at the root of such missives, which then are cloaked in misleading verbosity. If you want to explore further this issue of “indirect” emissions from land-clearing, check in with my friends from the Clean Air Task Force. www.catf.us


March 13, 2009
The Honorable Lisa P. Jackson
Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Jackson:

In a letter to Administrator Johnson in November several of us recommended that the
EPA not include calculations of indirect land use change (ILUC) effects as contributors
to life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for biofuels in the forthcoming Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) for implementation of the updated Renewable Fuels
Standard (RFS-2) enacted in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007
(P.L. 110-140). This letter repeats that recommendation and expands on its basis.

Under RFS-2, various biofuels must meet specified life-cycle GHG emission reduction
targets to qualify. The law specifies that life-cycle GHG emissions are to include “direct
emissions and significant indirect emissions such as significant emissions from land use
changes, as determined by the Administrator.” Thus, for example, if increased production
of a specific type of biofuel in the United States can be shown to cause a shift in land use,
the immediate and future greenhouse gas emissions resulting from that land use change
are to be included in the life-cycle GHG emissions for that biofuel when determining
whether it is eligible to be counted towards the RFS-2 mandate.

We understand that EPA has developed a methodology for calculating the indirect land
use change components of the life-cycle GHG emissions for various biofuels and intends
to include results of that methodology in its proposed rulemaking for the RFS-2. We also
understand that, according to EPA’s methodology, the ILUC components contribute
substantially to the life-cycle GHG emissions for several biofuels, including corn ethanol,
sugarcane-based ethanol, and soy-based biodiesel. Indeed, according to EPA’s current
ILUC calculations, existing soy-based biodiesel production may not count towards the
biodiesel mandate in RFS-2.

EPA acknowledges that quantification of the ILUC components of life-cycle GHG
emissions for biofuels is very difficult at this time. Many factors drive land use changes.

Quantifying land use changes resulting from biofuels production needs to take into
account these other factors, such as population growth, economic growth that drives
demand for land-based food, feed and fiber production, urbanization, extracting lumber
or mineral resources, and, of course, the very different and rapidly evolving land use
policies of the United States and other nations. Not only are the land use impacts of these
factors difficult to quantify; there is considerable uncertainty about predicting their future
magnitude and effects. There also is an unresolved debate about how present and future
GHG emissions should be compared, specifically whether a discount rate should be
applied to future GHG emissions, and if so, what might be an appropriate discount rate
for future GHG emissions.

An additional complication for the EPA methodology is that it cannot foresee or model
future land use restrictions that might result from future national or international
agreements or policies. Because land use changes such as deforestation can result in very
large GHG emissions, it is possible that future domestic and international climate change
policies will include major provisions restricting land use changes. Indeed, that may be
the most appropriate and effective way to reduce GHG emissions associated with land
use changes. At the same time, these land use restrictions in future international climate
change policies are a major factor whose effects cannot be quantified until they are
adopted. And yet, ignoring them introduces a major uncertainty into quantifying the
ILUC components of life-cycle GHG emission calculations for biofuels today.

Given the complexity and uncertainty of this issue as well as what we believe are basic
analytical limitations, we urge EPA to refrain from including any calculations of the
ILUC components in determining life-cycle GHG emissions for biofuels at this time.

The premature publication and use of inaccurate or incomplete data could compromise
the ability to formulate a sound approach to implementing this life cycle GHG emissions
requirement in the future. And the resultant rulemaking confusion could seriously harm
our U.S. biofuels growth strategy by introducing uncertainty and discouraging future
investments. Instead, EPA should move forward in a manner that allows for public
review and refinement of the methodology that is ultimately used to calculate the
contributions to GHG emissions associated with ILUC.


Thank you in advance for your consideration of these recommendations.

Sincerely,

Senator Tom Harkin
Senator Charles Grassley
Senator Kit Bond
Senator Sam Brownback
Senator Bob Corker
Senator Kent Conrad
Senator Tim Johnson
Senator Claire McCaskill
Senator Ben Nelson
Senator Pat Roberts
Senator Jon Tester
Senator John Thune

Monday, March 09, 2009

Power lobby hires Democratic insider to work the climate debate

The Edison Electric Institute, the electric power industry lobby, has hired a Democratic party operative to be one of its operatives on the upcoming climate and other key energy battles.

EEI announced that it had hired Brian Wolff, a close confidant of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and recently executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to a new post as senior vice president, external affairs:

http://www.eei.org/newsroom/pressreleases/Releases/Pages/090309.aspx

It's not clear exactly what the new job will entail, but you can be sure that this is obviously part of the electric power industry strategy to build bridges to Democratic lawmakers in order to help shape climate and other key energy legislation.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Keeping track of Duke's Jim Rogers

For the latest, check out http://www.jimrogerswantsyourmoney.com/index.html

Ethanol update:corn crowd seeks EPA bailout -- while denouncing California


We’ve been warning in recent days that Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers is pressing for a government bailout in response to the global warming challenge – and we’ll have more to say on that soon…

But this morning there’s another industry seeking corporate welfare – the ethanol lobby.

Yes, times are tough in the world of corn. And so the corn crowd’s response is try to change the rules – to press the US EPA to permit higher concentrations of ethanol in regular gasoline, regardless of the consequences to the environment. (And, by the way, what a pity that Wesley Clark had to sully his reputation by signing up with this crowd. http://www.growthenergy.org/2009/about/index.asp )

This is a likely prescription for more pollution – and more engine damage.

You may recall we have been warning of this gambit for some time. Just a month ago, an extraordinary coalition (including the American Lung Association, the Clean Air Task Force, the oil industry, the car industry and many others) urged Congress to reject efforts by the ethanol lobby to seek this bailout in the stimulus bill. That congressional ethanol gambit failed, but now the cornsters are going directly to the EPA – seeking a waiver to permit more ethanol in gasoline.

We hope this decision is based on science rather than political pressure. Earlier studies have shown potential damage to catalytic converters with higher levels of ethanol. That means more dirty air.

Meanwhile, given that the corn crowd is always pledging its fealty to efforts to deal with global warming, we have to point out, with a chuckle, that the very same ethanol lobby is denouncing efforts by the state of California to adopt standards that would lower the average carbon content of fuel. (See excellent story in the LA Times at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-fi-fuel6-2009mar06,0,1654710.story ) Would you be surprised to note that corn-based ethanol actually has a higher carbon intensity because of land use changes? Our friends with the Clean Air Task Force have worked to point this out. http://www.catf.us/projects/climate/biofuels/

Monday, March 02, 2009

Too little, too late








Too
Little, Too Late





Why
the electric power lobby remains out of touch on global warming





Now
that President Obama has unveiled his budget – and tipped his
hand about the administration’s goals for passing climate
legislation, it might be time to take a closer look at one of the
strongest opponents: the electric power industry lobby as represented
by the Edison Electric Institute.





Right
before the new President took office, EEI released a set climate
change policy recommendations.
http://www.eei.org/newsroom/pressreleases/Releases/Pages/090114.aspx





The
institute billed its plan as a “significant breakthrough,”
though in reality it’s just a re-packaging of the same old
head-in-the-sand strategy that the coal-dominated power industry has
followed in the past.





Perhaps
it’s no wonder. EEI’s investor-owned power company
members include


some
of the largest greenhouse gas polluters, like AEP, Duke, and Southern
Company. EEI’s “Climate Change Framework” might
have seemed progressive a decade ago (when some of its members were
challenging the existence of global warming), but at this point this
“framework” seems like the skeleton of a structure in the
Twilight Zone.





The
political debate has shifted – and a lot farther and faster
than the power lobby seems to realize. When compared to the concepts
promoted by President Obama and key members of Congress, EEI’s
recommendations smack of the same protectionist policies and delay
tactics that have characterized the association’s past lobbying
efforts.





Let’s
examine just a couple of points in this polluter lobby plan. For
starters, EEI doesn’t have a meaningful near- or even
medium-term target for limiting carbon pollution. In fact, the first
reduction target that EEI is willing to commit to is more than 40
years from now -- in 2050. Rather than committing to specific
interim reduction goals (such as the President’s recently
announced target of 14% below 2005 levels by 2020
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/fy2010_new_era/Jumpstarting_The_Economy.pdf
at page 21
) ,
EEI simply advises that interim targets “should be aligned with
technology availability.” In other words, while the global pot
is coming to a boil, EEI recommends a wait and see approach.





Unfortunately,
we cannot afford to sit, wait, and hope for a technology fix. Energy
efficiency and a shift to renewable and cleaner forms of energy are
available now. And as experience with acid rain, ozone, and
automobile emissions has proven, regulation will drive technological
innovation and investment. If EEI wants to show a real commitment to
addressing the threat of global warming, it must agree to aggressive,
real near- and medium-term reduction targets.




Another
lowlight of EEI’s proposal is a self-serving recommendation to
gift the electric power sector billions of dollars by giving away a
whopping 40 percent of the carbon permits, or allowances, under a CO2
cap-and-trade program – and with very little attention to how
the value of those permits would be used.





EEI
also proposes apportioning a substantial share of the permits based
on historic emission levels – thereby rewarding some of the
worst offending polluters, companies that have done little to improve
their environmental performance. And to add insult to injury, EEI
also recommends a special allowance subsidy for “merchant”
coal power plants that will cover 50 percent of their emissions for
free.





This
scheme gets the incentives exactly wrong. The whole point of a
cap-and-trade program is to put a price on carbon and let the market
work. The policy fails if the market is distorted at the outset with
special protections for the dirtiest sources. Even some conservative
members of Congress, like Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, have
pointed out the fallacy of giving away these permits for free.
Auctioning 100 percent of the allowances, on the other hand, will
send the right financial signals and force dirty sources of pollution
to pay their fair share.





Even
when EEI adopts what on the surface seems like a possible near-term
compromise notion, such as the distribution of permits to local
distribution companies (LDCs), a closer inspection reveals serious
problems. As our prior reports have explained
http://www.cleanairwatch.org/Documents%20&%20Reports/should_big_polluters_own_the_sky_final.pdf
,





giving
permits to the distribution companies could be a short-term
transition to a 100 percent auction if these companies are
required to return the proceeds to benefit low-and middle-income
consumers. EEI’s plan, fails to include the transparent
accounting and enforcement mechanisms necessary to ensure that
consumers will in fact benefit.





Though
cranked out in 2009, EEI’s “framework” seems like
very old news when compared to creative ideas such as “cap and
dividend,” which are becoming more popular by the day. The
creative ideas have two things in common: we must start reducing
emissions right away, and the carbon permits must be auctioned, not
given away to the biggest polluters or campaign contributors. (We
examined that issue last year in a report, “Hot Checks”
http://www.cleanairwatch.org/Documents%20&%20Reports/Hot%20Checks%20report%20pdf.pdf
)





So
EEI’s plan is dead on arrival. Will the power lobby adapt to
the new reality, or dig in and try to torpedo effective legislation?
Stay tuned.



Sunday, March 01, 2009

News notes: coal, cars and diesel fumes in the week ahead

D.C. is facing a rare March snowstorm. (You may recall that in “Camelot,” King Arthur notes that winter “exits March the second on the dot.”)

Still, it will be potentially quite a newsy week. The list below is not meant to be comprehensive, though we hope it casts a needed light on several key issues involving coal, cars and diesel fumes.

**

Power polluters: Now that President Obama has unveiled his budget plan – and given us a strong indication of where he wants to go on the global warming issue – we thought it appropriate to examine the views of his most likely opponents: the electric power lobby. The Edison Electric Institute trotted out what it termed a “significant breakthrough” on global warming.

But our analysis includes it is just a repackaging of the same old coal-dominated power industry strategy of delay and obfuscation. See http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2009/03/too-little-too-late.html

**

DC demo: Our old friend and neighbor, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is on the list of speakers at an event planned Monday afternoon in D.C. to promote an auction approach for global warming rather than the (EEI preferred) method of giving carbon credits away for free to big polluters. The event, organized by our friend Steve Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, will note hundreds of economists who support an auction approach.

For more on the event, contact: SACE’s Christina Honkonen at 865-228-1567

Van Hollen rocked the climate debate last week by noting he plans to introduce legislation that would use the so-called “cap and dividend” strategy. (If you haven’t seen his “dear colleague” letter, please let us know. More on the general concept at http://www.capanddividend.org/ )

In a related development, as you may know, thousands of demonstrators have converged on the nation’s capital to press for new climate legislation (as well as an end to coal burning at the infamous Capitol Power Plant.) More at
http://powershift09.org/ and http://powershift09.org/conference

**

Filthy formal: D.C. isn’t the only place where coal is under attack. Another anti-coal demo is planned this week -- this one in New York City, where the New York Coal Trade Association is planning its annual black-tie banquet on March 5. Demonstrators led by NYPIRG and Sierra Club are expected to lampoon this polluter party. For more, contact Lauren Schuster, NYPIRG (212) 349-6460

**

George Won’t: Some of you may recall we took issue with a recent erroneous column on global warming by George Will. http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2009/02/science-update-whos-giving-george-will.html

Today’s Washington Post includes a column by Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander that is critical not only of Will but of how the Post’s editors handled the original column. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/02/27/ST2009022702494.html

Under sharp criticism, Will had snarled out a follow-up column last Friday, in which he not only defended his original erroneous piece of work, but unfairly attached New York Times’ ever-accurate Andy Revkin. (For some of the reactions to this, see http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/ and http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/ )

One thing Will did do in his follow-up was answer the question we raised in the first place: where the heck is he getting this bogus stuff?

It turns out that it’s from a right-wing ranter named Asher, who (as the Climate Progress blog has exposed) gets stuff from Senator Inhofe’s less-than-objective propagandists http://climateprogress.org/2009/02/22/james-inhofe-marc-morano-global-warming-denier/ .

This appears to be the same Asher who has identified himself as a Republican hit man on the “Town Hall” web site run by the right-wing Salem Communications
http://asher.blogtownhall.com/default.aspx . Will, of course, is a Town Hall regular also.

**

Car clash: As you probably know, EPA plans a hearing March 5 on California’s request to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for cars http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR/2009/February/Day-12/a2913.htm

Several advocates plan a preview media event the prior day. Please let us know if you want more.

There is, of course, an expectation that the Obama EPA will grant California’s request. The broader question is whether the administration will move forward with national standards – and cut some kind of deal with the car industry in the process. Be careful, my friends, what you wish for. We are monitoring closely.


**

Alaska alarm: As we have pointed out, one way to make quick gains on the global warming front is to reduce the heat-trapping black carbon emissions produced by diesel engines. Black carbon is of particular importance in Alaska.

And so on Monday, the Alaska Wilderness League is bringing Inuit and other native leaders from Alaska to DC to beg for help in cleaning up dirty diesel generators that are used around the clock in these villages for power. (Our friends from the Clean Air Task Force note that flaring from oil and gas facilities is also a significant contributor to black carbon.) Cleaning up these pollution sources would benefit native health (asthma is rampant and nearby oil rigs are part of the problem) AND lower black carbon from sources which are right next to the most vulnerable sites on the planet.

The Alaska leaders are meeting both with the EPA and with Nancy Sutley, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. For more, contact Emilie Surrusco at 202-544-5205.