Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Power Poisons: How the Electric Power Industry Has Evaded Toxic Air Pollution Controls for Two Decades

As we anxiously watch the continuing catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, we did want to remind you there is another big toxic pollution problem that goes unresolved: the toxic emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from coal-burning electric power plants.

Within the next few weeks, the US EPA will roll out a proposed plan to crack down on smog and soot-forming power plant emissions. But this is only the first step in an effort to limit the massive health damage caused by coal power pollution. A new initiative to limit mercury and other toxic air pollutants is expected to follow next year.

But the power industry is already maneuvering to evade the cleanup – trying to use pending Senate climate legislation as an escape hatch.

With that in light, we thought it might be instructive to remind everyone that the electric power industry has already been evading toxic air pollution controls for two full decades.

The report is on our website, under Hot Off the Presses.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kerry Lieberman bill could roll back Clean Air Act

I would like to direct your attention to something that is causing real concern among environmental advocates who work on health-related clean air issues.

It’s the suggestion that public health safeguards should be weakened to aid in the “transition” to lower-carbon future energy sources.

This is pretty dense legalese, but check out the “Task Force” that would be created on page 182 of the draft.

The “Task Force” (which includes EPA, but also some historic enemies of clean-air controls) is told to explore “existing programs” and regulations for coal-fired power plants and the “effect” those programs could have on the transition to lower-carbon plants.

The “Task Force” is further directed to explore what the impact would be of permitting “exemptions” from major clean-air programs (such as controls for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants as well as standards designed to limit smog and soot-forming emissions) in order to maintain electric “reliability” during a transition period to theoretically cleaner energy. (This language appears to have come straight from the word processers of the dirty power companies that back this legislation.)

The “Task Force” is further directed to examine “Federal regulations currently under development for control of power plant air pollutants other than greenhouse gases.” That is code language for toxic mercury as well as upcoming standards to limit smog and soot-forming emissions. (As you may know, the White House is currently reviewing an EPA proposal for the latter.)

So what does this language -- obviously aided by ghost writers from the electric power industry -- mean?

It could trade more dangerous pollution today for the prospect of a shutdown later. It could block, delay or repeal vital health-related safeguards.

And (see page 186, item “e”) it literally demands that EPA “promulgate final regulations or guidance to implement the proposed changes described in subparagraph” about the mission of the “Task Force.”

As one of my friends put it, the attacks on the Clean Air Act’s smog, soot and toxics safeguards for power plants are officially underway.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Friday, May 07, 2010

Report: EPA significantly weakened coal ash plan after White House review

A most interesting story this afternoon about EPA’s proposal on coal ash. And now we know why the proposal was stalled at the White House for many months.

Greenwire (as reprinted here in the NY Times online )

reports this afternoon that EPA’s proposal was radically changed during its unprecedented review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

EPA backed away from its plan to propose strict regulation of coal ash as “hazardous” waste, and instead put that forward as one of two options – the other being a soft approach sought by industry.

Industry seems to have had its way at a White House that appears to have a hard time creating some distance between itself and the coal industry.

If this had happened during the Bush presidency, there would have been a huge outcry.

And this would have generated a lot of media attention.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Joe Lieberman and his "new friends" at BP

IT seems like only yesterday that Senator Joe Lieberman was praising his "new friends" from BP and several other oil companies. From Greenwire:

CLIMATE: Graham bids to ease tensions over competing Senate bills (03/25/2010)
Darren Samuelsohn, E&E senior reporter

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tried to defuse simmering tensions today over competing climate change bills that threaten to upend the global warming debate before it can even reach the floor….

Meeting with oil companies

Kerry, Graham and Lieberman are aiming to release their draft legislation next month after lawmakers return from their spring break, with a floor debate still the goal for May or June. The trio met this morning for more than an hour with representatives from ConocoPhillips, BP America and Shell Oil Co., the latest in a series of closed-door talks on key features of their proposal.

"Our new friends," Lieberman said during one of several short breaks the senators took as they went to the floor for a series of votes on the health care reconciliation bill.
Graham declined to go into detail on the structure of his bill's regulations for transportation emissions, except to acknowledge the oil companies are helping come up with a "linked fee" plan that keeps them separate from electric utilities and other industrial sectors.

"We want our oil and gas industries to flourish," Graham said. "We want to be able to price carbon in a way that moves us away from foreign oil and fossil fuels in general. But in the process create jobs, not destroys our refiners. Our goal is to do it in a business-friendly way from their sector, from their point of view. "

Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have two other key meetings with industry groups scheduled for today. One involves the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-led Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth (AEEG), which includes more than a dozen major trade associations, as well as a session with members of the Edison Electric Institute, the trade group for investor-owned electric utilities.

The senators also were meeting at press time with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a key player on cost containment and offshore drilling provisions.