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. http://www.healthnewsdigest.com/news/Research_270/Even_Healthy_Lungs_Labor_at_Acceptable_Ozone_Levels.shtml

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: http://www.rtmagazine.com/reuters_article.asp?id=20090723clin003.html

This one, published in the July issue of Allergy http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/122204077/abstract , 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

AARP

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.


Sincerely,


David P. Sloane

Senior Vice President

Government Relations & Advocacy

AARP



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

TURN

Monday, July 13, 2009

Boxer faces challenge of a lifetime on climate change bill

Boxer faces challenge of a lifetime' on climate change bill
By ROB HOTAKAINEN
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: http://www.sacbee.com/838/story/2019614.html

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: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Testimony&Hearing_ID=3cbea978-802a-23ad-49c8-900366f93da1&Witness_ID=bf2b89cf-e8a2-4601-a781-ef4239581850

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.

JUDY PASTERNAK
TIMES STAFF WRITER

26 August 2001
Los Angeles Times
A-1

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

FOR THE RECORD

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."

Electricity

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."

Coal

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."

Conservation

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: Piper.Bonnie@epamail.epa.gov [mailto:Piper.Bonnie@epamail.epa.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2009 1:03 PM
Subject: EPA Office of Public Liaison Notice: EPA Proposes Stringent Standards forLarge Ships


CONTACT:
Cathy Milbourn (News Media Only)
milbourn.cathy@epa.gov
(202) 564-7849
(202) 564-4355

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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
globe.”

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:
http://www.epa.gov/otaq/oceanvessels.htm