Wednesday, September 15, 2010

While corporate opponents of clean air are on the march, EPA science advisers endorse tougher national particle soot standards

Some of the big business lobbies are planning today to assail EPA’s proposed toxic pollution standards for industrial boilers. We’ll eagerly await the details, but, with your permission, I would recall several things:

For 40 years we have heard predictions of doom and gloom from business groups every time EPA proposes tougher clean air controls. These predictions are invariably exaggerated. As we heard quite eloquently at yesterday’s 40th anniversary celebration of the Clean Air Act, we have seen steady progress towards cleaner air even as the economy grows. And we also were reminded that clean-air controls have been good for the economy by creating jobs. I also believe EPA has quite a good track record of responding to legitimate criticism, and I have no doubt the agency will make a careful evaluation of these new claims regarding the boiler rule.

Second, EPA has noted that its boiler proposal would have the side benefit of reducing dangerous particle pollution, an action that would translate into less death and disease.

We were reminded of just how important this issue is by a attached letter, just released by EPA’s independent science advisers. As you will recall, the EPA is reviewing the national clean air standards for particle pollution (from coal-burning, diesel engines, industrial boilers, etc.) with a proposal slated for early next year. EPA’s own scientists have concluded that the current standards fail to protect the breathing public.

And now EPA’s science advisers are on record with a strong recommendation on the need for tougher national clean air standards for particles – both the so-called “fine” particles as well as larger “coarse” particles. (Some of you are aware that the farm lobby is already mounting a campaign against the latter, while the former will almost certainly face opposition from the coal-burning electric power industry.) In fact, the science advisers are urging an even tougher “coarse” particle standard than recommended by EPA’s staff.

Here is a link to the letter:$File/EPA-CASAC-10-015-unsigned.pdf

I will excerpt a few parts of the science adviser letter below.

EPA’s independent science advisers have sent a strong and unequivocal signal that current particle soot standards need to be made much tougher. We hope this will give EPA the scientific backbone to do the right thing.

Excerpts from the letter by EPA’s science advisers:

Primary Standards for Fine Particles

"CASAC supports the EPA staff’s conclusion in the Second Draft Policy Assessment that “currently available information clearly calls into question the adequacy of the current standards”. For PM2.5, the current 24-hour primary standard is 35 mg/m3 and the annual standard is 15 mg/m3. EPA staff also conclude that consideration should be given to alternative annual PM2.5 standard levels in the range of 13 – 11 ug/m3, in conjunction with retaining the current 24-hour PM2.5 standard level of 35 mg/m3, and that consideration could also be given to an alternative 24-hour PM2.5 standard level of 30 ug/m3 in conjunction with an annual standard level of 11mg/m3. CASAC concludes that the levels under consideration are supported by the epidemiological and toxicological evidence, as well as by the risk and air quality information compiled in the Integrated Science Assessment (December 2009), Quantitative Health Risk Assessment for Particular Matter (June

2010) and summarized in the Second Draft Policy Assessment. Although there is increasing uncertainty at lower levels, there is no evidence of a threshold (i.e., a level below which there is no risk for adverse health effects). In addition, these combinations of annual/daily levels may not be adequately inclusive. It was not clear why, for example, a daily standard of 30 ug/m3 should only be considered in combination with an annual level of 11 ug/m3. The rationale for the 24-hour/annual combinations proposed for the Administrator’s consideration (and the exclusion of other combinations within the ranges contemplated) should be more clearly explained."

_Primary Standard for Thoracic Coarse Particles

"CASAC recommends that the primary standard for PM10 should be revised downwards. While current evidence is limited, it is sufficient to call into question the level of protection afforded by the current standard (a 24-hour standard of 150 mg/m3)."

"CASAC supports the EPA staff conclusion that it is appropriate to change the PM10 standard to a 98th percentile form because of its higher rate of identifying areas in nonattainment while reducing the rate of misclassification. We do not agree that the available scientific evidence strongly supports the proposed upper bound standard level of 85 ?g/m3. The Second Draft Policy Assessment demonstrates that a 98th percentile level of 85 ?g/m3 would be less stringent as compared to the current standard, protecting a smaller fraction of the population. In fact, on a population basis, results in the Second Draft Policy Assessment demonstrate that a 98th percentile level between 75 and 80

?g/m3 is comparable in the degree of protection afforded to the current PM10 standard. The change in form will lead to changes in levels of stringency across the country, a topic needing further exploration.

While recognizing scientific uncertainties, CASAC supports a lower level to provide enhanced protection, somewhere in the range of 75 – 65 ?g/m3.

We recognize that the Administrator will need to apply the Clean Air Act’s requirement for a “margin of safety” in a context of uncertainty with respect to the health effects of thoracic coarse particles."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Coming tomorrow: Clean Air Act 40th anniversary celebration

Congress returns to D.C. this week amid the usual hail of partisan bullets. It is perhaps useful to have the occasional reminder that progress can be made (or, at least, has been made in the past) on a bipartisan basis.

And so, tomorrow the U.S. EPA celebrates the 40th anniversary of the landmark 1970 Clean Air Act, probably the nation’s most successful environmental law. And it is fitting that the celebration – expected to feature not only EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, but former Republican heads of the agency and former Senator Howard Baker – will be co-hosted by our friends at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Amid the swirling confetti, I hope everyone does realize the Clean Air Act has been a stunning success story: a government program that really works. It has brought cleaner air, longer lives, better health, technological innovation and jobs. You would never have seen a catalytic converter or a scrubber without this landmark law.

And though there have been compromises from its outset (law makers back in 1970 didn’t foresee that coal-burning electric power plants built in the 1950s would still be smoking away in the 21st century), there is no doubt that America is better off for having the law.

As you know, the EPA is under attack from some in Congress who want to block it not only from setting tougher new science-based national standards for smog, but who want to interfere with agency efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

History shows these law makers should stand down, because the Clean Air Act has a proven track record of being implemented in a common-sense, cost-effective way.

EPA has performed a series of reports to Congress documenting how the benefits have far outpaced the costs:

And although many millions still live in areas with unhealthful air – evidence that the job isn’t done -- EPA’s most recent “trends” report documents the continuing progress in recent years:

Since 1990, nationwide air quality has improved significantly for the six common air pollutants.

These six pollutants are ground-level ozone, particle pollution (PM2.5 and PM10), lead, nitrogen dioxide

(NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Nationally, air pollution was lower in 2008

than in 1990 for:

– 8-hour ozone, by 14 percent

– annual PM2.5 (since 2000), by 19 percent

– PM10 , by 31 percent

– Lead, by 78 percent

– NO2 , by 35 percent

– 8-hour CO, by 68 percent

– annual SO2 , by 59 percent

EPA expects air quality to continue to improve as recent regulations are fully implemented and states work to meet current and recently revised national air quality standards. Key regulations include the Locomotive Engines and Marine Compression-Ignition Engines Rule, the Tier II Vehicle and Gasoline Sulfur Rule, the Heavy-Duty Highway Diesel Rule, the Clean Air Non-Road Diesel Rule,and the Mobile Source Air Toxics Rule.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The billionaire boy's club assails cap & trade

Please note information below on the “mass demonstration” this morning against the Northeastern climate program known as RGGI.

As you probably know, Americans for Prosperity is an Astroturf front group at least partly funded by the Koch family. (Which is also helping fund an effort to block California’s climate law.)

A little background here:

and in The New Yorker:

So it’s really a grassroots group brought to you by oil billionaires.

This demonstration is another example of how the climate issue has been swept up in the reactionary rip current.

RGGI, of course, was started by a Republican Governor (George Pataki of New York) and, as one of my reporter friends noted, proceeds from its auctions are being used to reduce the state deficits in New York and New Jersey.


***ACTIVIST ALERT -- AFP "Cap & Trade" Protest - Wednesday, September 8 in NYC!!!***
Monday, August 30th 2010

AFP will be holding a mass demonstration and protest in New York City, September 8 at 11am.

This event will take place right at the RGGI offices on Wall St. (90 Church St.) at the exact same time when the next secretive "Cap & Trade" auction is taking place.

This is our chance to blow the lid off of this "Cap & Trade" scheme that is already taxing businesses and consumers in our state.

You and I need to stop this scam now before it spreads to other states and permanently wrecks our nation's economy.

Read more:

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Oil industry launches all-out assault on tougher smog standard

Well, the timing seems a trifle off, given quite a few states are facing “Code Red” or “Code Orange” smog alerts today.

But we do have to report that the oil industry (and its obvious front group called America’s Energy Forum) is taking a break from agitating for resumed oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and humping dirty Canadian oil sands in order to agitate against the U.S. EPA’s plans to update national clean air standards for ozone, or smog.

In fact, if you look at the astro-turf America’s Energy Forum, you get the impression that the industry has launched an all-out assault against the EPA – and in favor of dirty air.

This industry-generated propaganda is based on distortion and flat-out lies. Consider this:

OILY FICTION: “this action lacks scientific justification and there is absolutely no basis for EPA to propose changing the ozone standards promulgated by the EPA Administrator just two years ago.”

THE TRUTH: EPA has proposed exactly what its independent science advisers have recommended. The “standards promulgated by the EPA Administrator just two years ago” (that would be in the oil-friendly Bush era) were based on politics, not science. The Bush administration ignored the science and the advice of the science advisers.

The science advisers made this recommendation because of clear and compelling evidence that smog can make you sick and even kill you.

But now this astro-turf-generated fiction is starting to pop up outside DC. Consider this commentary in Nevada, which not only inveighs against better clean air standards but denounces those “regulators.”

Nevada, of course, is where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is locked in a close race with Tea Party/Republican candidate Sharron Angle, who argues on her web site in favor of more on- and offshore oil drilling.

EPA recently postponed a final decision on the smog standard until approximately late October.

You may want to keep an eye out for similar oily “commentaries” as we get closer to a decision.