Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New report underscores need to crack down on power plant pollution

The report out today about power plant emissions (on NRDC’s website at http://www.nrdc.org/air/pollution/benchmarking/2008/benchmark2008.pdf ) demonstrates why the EPA needs to take decisive action to reduce power plant emissions that harm people’s health.

As the report notes

The electric industry in the U.S. is a major source of air pollution. • In 2008, power plants were responsible for 66 percent of SO2 emissions, 19 percent of NOx emissions, and 72 percent of mercury air emissions in the U.S.

We encourage the US EPA to move ahead to clean up power plant emissions. There is no bigger or more dangerous source of air pollution in this country.

We hope an EPA proposal to limit emissions that blow across state lines will be announced this week. But that will be only the first step in what needs to be done to protect our health from power plant pollution.

It’s little wonder that some of the dirtiest power companies would like to kneecap EPA.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A climate policy debate on Salon

It should come as no surprise that Clean Air Watch generally agrees with Dave Roberts in the debate below, though we do believe the so-called Cap-and-dividend approach (which would make polluters pay for the right to shoot their emissions into the sky and then return most of the resulting money to taxpayers)is the best to tackle this issue.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Smokey Joe Barton begs for forgiveness... and clings to job

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) will retain his top spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to GOP lawmakers.

Barton, who came under fire after apologizing to BP CEO Tony Hayward at a hearing last week for the way the government had treated the oil company, will stay on as ranking member of the committee, which oversees oil and gas regulation, among other areas.

Barton gave a "heartfelt apology" to members of the GOP conference on Wednesday morning, according to one of his toughest critics, Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.).

more at


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NRDC: Don't weaken Clean Air Act for a utility climate deal

Bravo to our friend Dave Hawkins of NRDC for his very clear comments, as published today in Politico, opposing any effort by the electric power industry to weaken the Clean Air Act as part of a possible utility climate deal.


…[NRDC’s Dave] Hawkins said he’s also prepared to fight any move by the utility industry to weaken the Clean Air Act as a trade off for its support on CO2 limits.

“We will oppose unequivocally and aggressively any attempt to weaken the current Clean Air Act,” Hawkins said. “The power sector has fought cleanup efforts under the Act for decades and the attack on pending rules for greenhouse gases and conventional pollutants is simply its latest gambit.”

Friday, June 18, 2010

BP apologist Joe Barton does it again! Apologizes for polluters, pressures EPA on new smog standard

Yes, friends, Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas has been a busy guy – apologizing to BP, and then apologizing for his apology after House Republican leaders threatened to oust him from his post as top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But Barton, once nicknamed “Smokey Joe” by the Dallas Morning News, also is apologizing for air polluters.

Indeed, Barton is trying to pressure the EPA to back away from setting tougher air pollution standards for smog.

Barton and his Texas Republican colleague Rep. Michael Burgess complained about the likely new smog standards in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

You may recall the brief history: in 2008, the Bush EPA ignored the unanimous recommendations of the agency’s science advisers and set smog standards that were too weak. The Obama EPA is reconsidering that decision, and has proposed tougher requirements in line with the recommendations of the scientists. A final decision is due by late August.

We are at the point when key decisions on this issue start to get made. And so Barton has weighed in on the side of big polluters.

Barton complains in the letter that the new standards “appear to be extraordinarily expensive and unworkable.” (As if we are not paying a heavy price right now because of the health damage caused by smog!)

Barton wants EPA to ignore the science. We hope EPA will stick to its guns, and set science-based standards that protect people’s health.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Health dangers associated with the BP disaster

See interesting post here:


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

American Lung Association pans Lugar climate bill

The Senate Must Reject Lugar Bill
Undermines Clean Air Act and Other Public Health Protections

Statement of Charles D. Connor,
President and Chief Executive Officer,
American Lung Association

Washington, DC. June 9, 2010—The American Lung Association urges the U.S. Senate to reject Senator Richard Lugar’s efforts to block the cleanup of old, dirty coal-fired power plants. We are outraged to see this attack on the Clean Air Act included in the Lugar draft energy and climate change bill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving ahead to curb the pollution that leads to deadly smog and soot that hangs over communities across the country and to dramatically cut mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxics that spew from these plants. Americans should not have to wait another day –let alone nearly another decade –for cleaning up lethal air pollution from coal-fired power plant. The Senate must not halt the installation of lifesaving modern pollution control equipment.

The electric utility industry has spent decades fighting the installation of modern pollution controls. Now, the industry is facing an EPA –with the strong backing of the American Lung Association -- that is following the clear Clean Air Act requirements to cleanup emissions from major sources like these power plants because of the enormous harm those emissions do to public health. Instead of investing in pollution control equipment and cleaner energy, power plants are deploying battalions of lobbyists to seek this special protection and unconscionable exemption from the law.

These big utility companies have used every dirty trick in the past 40 years to avoid having to clean up their plants, causing delay after delay. The Lugar bill waives air pollution cleanup requirements for the oldest and dirtiest power plants nearly another decade and perhaps indefinitely if needed to avoid “energy disruptions,” without any requirement to eliminate or mitigate health hazards. For good measure, the bill also waives compliance with clean water protections.

The American Lung Association strongly opposes this legislation and any other changes to the Clean Air Act that undermine the protection of public health. We urge the Senate to reject this bill and any other legislation that weakens health protection.

Coal-fired power plants create particle pollution and key components of ozone. Both pollutants kill. Pollution from these power plants has been estimated to cause nearly 24,000 early deaths each year through their toxic impact on the lungs and the body. Power plant pollution causes wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks; both send children to the emergency room and people with lung disease, heart disease and diabetes to the hospital. Particle pollution causes heart attacks and strokes and may lead to lung cancer. These are lethal substances, recognized as such by repeated scientific review.

Particle pollution and ozone aren’t the only pollutants targeted under the bill as proposed—just the most widespread. The draft bill blocks safeguards applying to mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxics known under the Clean Air Act as hazardous air pollutants.

We urge and demand that the Senate reject this legislation that weakens the Clean Air Act.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Smog Watch 2010: dirty air found in at least 38 states through May

At least 38 states have experienced unhealthful levels of smog (technically ozone) already this year through May, according to the Clean Air Watch Smog Watch Survey.

That’s a significant increase from this time last year, when only 24 states had experienced smog problems. Please note the list of states below.

This widespread pollution problem calls into question the wisdom of legislation, expected to be introduced tomorrow by Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) to suspend new pollution controls for coal-fired electric power plants, one of the biggest sources of smog.

The Lugar plan, as outlined on his website http://lugar.senate.gov/energy/legislation/pdf/PracticalEnergyPlan.pdf, could bring grave consequences: not only continuing smog, but also sulfur dioxide, deadly fine-particle soot and toxic mercury and other dangerous pollutants. We have not seen the actual language of the Lugar legislation, but the summary suggests amnesty for the biggest polluters – and giving them the right to continue fouling the air for another decade – in return for a “voluntary” pledge.

Breathers in Indiana are among those who have suffered from dirty air this year, as have people in states immediately downwind of Indiana, including Ohio and Kentucky.

The survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers is the first comprehensive snapshot of smog in the United States in 2010. Volunteers have compiled the information from a variety of sources including state-run websites.

It found that the national health standard for smog, technically ozone, was breached almost 600 times through May at monitors from California to Maine.

Clean Air Watch noted that smog problems are continuing in June, with bad air warnings out today in such places at Atlanta, Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. See EPA’s website at http://airnow.gov/

The Smog Watch Survey underestimates the full extent of the smog problem. The standard used as a measurement – 75 parts per billion of ozone, set by the U.S. EPA in 2008 – is weaker than a proposed new standard under consideration by EPA.

Clean Air Watch continues to encourage the Obama administration to set a tougher national health standard, no higher than 60 parts per billion, in accord with the latest health research.

We also encourage the EPA to move ahead with a new strategy to reduce smog-forming emissions that cross state lines. Our survey shows that an effective interstate pollution rule is crucial to meet public health needs.

It underscores that breathers will suffer terrible consequences if Congress suspends clean air requirements as part of an alleged strategy to deal with climate. Compromising public health should not be an option.




2010 (38)

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
South Carolina
Rhode Island
West Virginia

2009 (24)

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island

Monday, June 07, 2010

Dirty dealings on Capitol Hill: Senator Lugar floats amnesty for polluters plan

No sooner had the US EPA set new national health standards for sulfur dioxide – standards that would prevent asthma attacks, emergency room visits and premature deaths – than those protections seem to be coming under attack on Capitol Hill.


The electric power industry was quick to point out that the new EPA standards would “certainly have an impact on electric utilities in terms of the need for us to continue to install new pollution-control devices on our power plants." http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/06/03/95301/epa-sets-first-new-limit-on-sulfur.html

But now comes word that a Republican Senator with some very dirty corporate constituents is riding to industry’s rescue.

Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana is reported ready to introduce climate legislation that seeks to promote an “alternative” to the much-maligned cap-and-trade approach.

Part of Lugar’s plan, according to a draft on his website, would be to exempt power companies from Clean Air Act requirements to use pollution controls in return for a “voluntary” retirement program. See below from his web site.

This is a dirty scam and deserves to be exposed as such. It was obviously cooked up by some of the big power companies – both coal-heavy Duke and American Electric Power operate in Indiana. These companies have been evading pollution cleanup for many years. This seems to be their latest gambit.

Lugar in effect is offering an amnesty for polluters plan. This would be a gift to some of the biggest corporate polluters in America.

Remember, this isn’t just about sulfur dioxide. This could also block EPA efforts to reduce deadly fine-particle soot and smog-forming nitrogen oxides, as well as upcoming plans to sharply reduce toxic mercury and other pollutants. We recently detailed how the coal power industry’s has delayed toxic cleanup for two full decades! http://www.cleanairwatch.org/Documents%20&%20Reports/PowerPoisons_05242010.pdf

We expect to hear more about this soon from the public health community, led by the American Lung Association, which has openly criticized sections of the Kerry Lieberman climate legislation that could open the door to similar delays and exemptions. http://www.lungusa.org/press-room/press-releases/statement-of-charles-d.html


From Senator Lugar’s web site:


Retirement of most costly polluting coal plants

1. Establishes a voluntary retirement program for the nation’s most-polluting coal plants, comprising

approximately 16% (49GW) of coal generation capacity. In return for relief from regulations that

would require them to make costly investments in scrubbers over the next few years, participating

plants would be able to continue operation until 2020. Sec 302.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

EPA sets tougher new clean air standard for sulfur dioxide

Clean Air Watch commends EPA for moving aggressively to protect public health from the damages caused by sulfur dioxide air pollution.

Although the final standard is a bit less strict than we and the American Lung Association had urged, it is well within the range recommended by EPA’s independent science advisers. We would certainly give it a high passing grade—a B plus or A minus.

This action will mean fewer kids and adults will have asthma attacks. Fewer people will go to the hospital. And fewer people will die prematurely from air pollution.

It is little wonder that the oil and electric power industries opposed tougher new standards.

Amid all the recent grim news about the environment, this decision is a breath of fresh air.

Information on the EPA standard is here. http://epa.gov/air/sulfurdioxide/pdfs/20100602fs.pdf