Monday, October 04, 2010

Around the horn: climate double crossers, friends of coal waste, Smog Watch 2010 survey, and more...

“Clean Coal,” part one: As I am sure you know, one of the biggest raging regulatory battles of the past several years involves what to do about coal waste. (You may recall the Kingston catastrophe, which has been forgotten in some places because of more recent fossil fuel catastrophes.) You may also recall that the White House Office of Management and Budget – following a seemingly endless series of pitches by coal interests, see at -- squeezed the EPA to propose basically a do-nothing rule alongside the agency’s original plan of treating this stuff as hazardous waste.

The issue is out of the headlines, but the lobbying continues unabated. We have obtained a very interesting draft letter, reprinted below, signed by the coal-friendly governors of Arkansas and Alaska, who, coincidentally, happen to be the chair and vice chair of the National Governors Association Natural Resources Committee. These govs, who have circulated the letter to other committee members with an eye towards submitting this as the governors’ official position to EPA, declare that “coal combustion residuals” (a euphemism for “toxic sludge”) are very beneficial. Regulating it would cost jobs, make global warming worse (didn’t know they care about that issue!), blah-blah, blah. Well, read it for yourself below if you want.

This is another classic example of how special interests work behind the scenes to undermine federal health and safety protections. In this case, they are using governors as their tools.


“Clean Coal,” part two: A reader points out to us the latest double-talk from one of America’s great proponents of “clean coal: -- that would be Mike Morris, head of American Electric Power Company. It turns out that AEP has declared that EPA’s proposed deadlines for its proposed interstate “transport” rule are “unrealistic.”

The comments came only two days after Morris noted the Ohio-based company would probably comply with the proposal on time “without any hardware.” So we are supposed to believe the Morris opposes the deadlines because they would hurt his competitors? AEP stockholders, are you paying attention?


Double-dealers: Morris, of course, was a “player” in the failed Senate negotiations over climate. And, on that topic, the New Yorker magazine has published a fascinating article which seeks to explain why climate legislation died in the Senate. You can read the whole piece here Politico’s Morning Energy report has some good highlights today.

Much of the article reflects the perspective of some arrogant Capitol Hill staffers. (How arrogant, you ask? They somehow did not seem embarrassed to admit that they planned to double-cross Republican Senator Susan Collins once they had secured her vote for the so-called Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill.) The aides basically try to blame the White House for the debacle, singling out Chicago Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel and F-word spouting presidential adviser David Axelrod (who knew?) for particular scorn. Let’s see how long it takes for the arrogant aides to become lobbyists as the DC revolving door turns….

Smog Watch 2010: Our Clean Air Watch volunteers have continued their great work of assembling the only real-time national snapshot of smog in America. And here are the results this year, through October 1. We have discovered that a total of 40 states plus the District of Columbia have experienced unhealthful levels of ozone, or smog this year, compared to 37 states plus DC last year. (These totals understate the full extent of the smog problem, because we have only counted days with bad-air levels above 75 parts per billion, the standard set by the Bush EPA. That standard will in all probability be made tougher by the current EPA in the near future.) Altogether there were 3,912 times that official air pollution monitors recorded bad ozone levels, compared to 3,161 in 2009. The good news is that these are lower levels than seen in previous years, despite record smog-producing heat waves this summer. Make no mistake: we are making progress, but we need to do more to clean up the air. (Including a tougher crackdown on coal-burning emissions that blow across state lines – tougher than the version panned by Morris above.)



September xx, 2010

The Honorable Lisa P. Jackson


Environmental Protection Agency

Ariel Rios Building

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20460

RE: Hazardous Waste Management System; Identification and Listing of Special Wastes; Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals From Electric Utilities Docket, Attention Docket ID No., EPA-HQ-RCRA-2009-0640

Dear Administrator Jackson:

On behalf of the nation’s governors, we write regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) June 21, 2010 proposed rule to federally regulate coal combustion residuals (CCRs). Governors continue to believe that EPA was correct in its 2000 regulatory determination that concluded regulation of CCRs under Subtitle C was unwarranted. Governors urge EPA to adopt the Subtitle D option of the co-proposal as this approach is fully protective of human health and the environment, is not unduly harmful to our state’s economies, ensures continued beneficial use of the materials and respects the historic and appropriate state-federal relationship with respect to waste management.

Waste Management

Governors understand the need to ensure that CCRs are properly managed and are confident in the ability of their states to effectively regulate this waste. To begin, states have found that through their extensive experience testing CCRs for hazardous materials, rarely, if ever, do CCRs fail the standard EPA test by which materials are determined to be hazardous waste. Moreover, given that the 136 million tons of CCRs produced each year represents one of the largest waste streams in our country, a hazardous waste definition under Subtitle C would increase by 67 fold the amount of hazardous waste disposed of each year. This level of hazardous waste would rapidly consume existing Subtitle C disposal capacity necessitating the need for additional disposal sites. However, siting new Subtitle C facilities is an often drawn out and controversial process that states have not conducted for decades and can take years to complete.

State Programs

Since both Subtitle C and Subtitle D options presented in the proposed rule are almost identical with respect to their requirements for design and operating criteria of CCR disposal facilities, artificially classifying CCRs as hazardous will needlessly impair the ability of states to operate effective programs that utilize a broad range of management options for CCRs, draw away precious state resources from the management of truly hazardous materials, and will not produce a greater degree of environmental protection. EPA should recognize that states already have the tools at their disposal to effectively manage CCRs under Subtitle D. In fact, the vast majority of states in which CCRs are generated already require state permits for CCR disposal facilities and many states already voluntarily impose minimum performance standards consistent with Subtitle D requirements. Moreover, there is no reason for EPA to assume that with the establishment of federal minimum standards under Subtitle D, states will not work to conform their programs.

Furthermore, if EPA opts to designate CCRs as hazardous waste under Subtitle C, this shift would swamp state Subtitle C programs, which are already strapped for funds due to federal underfunding of these mandated programs. At a time when states are instituting dramatic budget cuts and furloughing and laying off staff, it would be imprudent to impose the most costly remedy proposed by EPA, Subtitle C, when the Subtitle D option achieves substantially similar results at far less cost.

Beneficial Reuse

Governors are concerned about the serious consequences subtitle C designation could have on the beneficial use of this waste. Over 45% of the 136 million tons of CCRs produced each year are recycled into products like shingles, concrete and wallboard. However, having a material used in these products designated as hazardous under RCRA would create a stigma with consumers. Further, ___ states ban the beneficial reuse of hazardous materials (will add number once updated data is available). Therefore, with the stigma and various state limitations, subjecting CCRs to a hazardous waste definition would expand the use of virgin materials; increase the amount of CCRs diverted to disposal; eliminate jobs in industries that beneficially reuse CCRs; increase energy prices; increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions by one ton for every ton of fly ash not recycled, and drive up the cost of vital state infrastructure projects through increases in the price of concrete.

In summary, governors urge EPA to adopt its Subtitle D proposal since it fully protects human health and the environment without the adverse consequences entailed in Subtitle C regulation on state resources, disposal capacity, jobs, beneficial use, and the ability of states to operate effective regulatory programs that are reflective of on-the-ground realities.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter. We look forward to working with you.


Governor Mike Beebe

Chair, Natural Resources Committee
Governor Sean Parnell

Vice Chair, Natural Resources Committee

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