Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Republicans in Congress press attack on toxic cement standards.. while a key cement company sues critics!

We were dismayed, though not shocked, to read this morning in Politico Pro (sorry, you do need a subscription) that the toxic cement lobby is pressing ahead with its efforts in Congress to block much-needed EPA standards to limit mercury and other toxic emissions from cement plants.

You may recall that in April, the head of a major cement company, Titan Cement, came before Congress to urge Congress to provide fuel to this effort to block the EPA standards:

There are several interesting wrinkles. Titan America is actually a branch of company based in Greece, whose economy, as we all know, in the toilet. The stock market went up today amid hopes that Greece would not default on its debts. The Titan CEO did not play up the Greek angle when he urged Congress to squash the EPA. Nor did the company's Republican congressional patrons.

Of greater interest perhaps are the bullying tactics that Titan is using to try silencing critics of a planned new facility in North Carolina.

Only a few weeks before its congressional appearance, Titan actually sued sued two North Carolina residents – one is a local pediatrician and the other is a mother -- for bringing their concerns about this plant to our local commissioners.
There's an interesting piece about this on Youtube which I don't believe is part of the congressional hearing record, though perhaps it should be:

Lung Assn. smog ad aims to reach the President's head -- and his heart

Some of you have probably seen this ad in today’s Washington Post or Los Angeles Times. I understand it also ran in Daily Variety and will run in DC in The Hill and Politico later this week.


IT’s a follow-up to a letter that health groups sent the President a few weeks ago http://www.lungusa.org/get-involved/advocate/advocacy-documents/health-groups-ozone.pdf

The timing, of course, coincides with an ugly Code Orange throughout the DC area today: http://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_city&cityid=268

The ad is a reminder – not only to the President but also to EPA and potential meddlers among the White House staff – that it’s time for EPA to get off the dime and set tougher new national smog standards. With its imagery of children, the ad appears to be aimed not only at the President’s head, but his heart.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Canada caught lying to UN about oil sands emissions; worse than car pollution!

Oilsands emissions data left out of UN report

Federal government admits deliberately leaving numbers out that indicate pollution from oilsands production outstrips auto emissions

By Mike De Souza, Postmedia News May 30, 2011 1:15

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Oilsands+emissions+data+left+report/4861017/story.html#ixzz1Nq4J7auq

The federal government has acknowledged that it deliberately excluded data indicating a 20 per cent increase in pollution from Canada's oilsands industry in 2009 from a recent 567-page report on climate change that it was required to submit to the United Nations.

The numbers, uncovered by Postmedia News, were left out of the report, a national inventory on Canada's greenhouse gas pollution. Overall, the report revealed a six per cent drop in annual emissions for the entire economy from 2008 to 2009, but does not directly show the extent of pollution from the oilsands production, which is now greater than the greenhouse gas emissions of all the cars driven on Canadian roads.
The data also indicated that emissions per barrel of oil produced by the sector is increasing, despite claims made by the industry in an advertising campaign.

"The oilsands remain Canada's fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas pollution, and they're the subject of a huge amount of attention and scrutiny in Canada and internationally," said Clare Demerse, director of climate change at the Pembina Institute, an Albertabased environmental research group. "So it's very disappointing to see Environment Canada publish a 500-page report that leaves out these critical numbers -especially when last year's edition included them."

Overall, Environment Canada said that the oilsands industry was responsible for about 6.5 per cent of Canada's annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2009, up from five per cent in 2008. This also indicates a growth in emissions that is close to about 300 per cent since 1990, which cancel out many reductions in pollution from other economic sectors.

The report attributes the six per cent decrease in Canada's overall emissions to the economic slowdown, but it also credits efforts by the Ontario government to reduce production of coal-fired electricity as a significant factor.

Environment Canada provided the oilsands numbers in response to questions from Postmedia News about why it had omitted the information from its report after publishing more detailed data in previous years. A department spokesman explained that "some" of the information was still available in the latest report, which still meets Canada's reporting obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"The information is presented in this way to be consistent with UNFCCC reporting requirements, which are divided into broad, international sectors," wrote Mark Johnson in an email.

He was not immediately able to answer questions about who made the decision in government to exclude the numbers from the oilsands or provide a detailed explanation about changes in emissions.

An industry spokesman said it favoured more transparency from the government, suggesting that some of the figures may be misleading because of changes in methods used to identify and calculate emissions.

"It's just too bad you weren't able to get a hold of (Environment Canada) on this one, because here I am telling you my understanding of what's going on, but really it's best to hear directly from them," said Greg Stringham, vice-president of oilsands and markets at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. "We report the information to them, and they choose to pass it on -they must pass it on the UN. But then they choose how to disclose it and put it out there."

Environment Canada's report recognizes that climate change is occurring, mainly due to an increase in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. The objective of the UNFCCC is to stabilize these emissions in order to prevent dangerous changes to the climate.
Critics have suggested the Harper government is deliberately trying to delay international action to fight climate change.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bad smog forecast for DC tomorrow: EPA, please take note!

The US EPA predicts bad levels of smog in the Washington, D.C. area tomorrow.

According to the agency, the "air quality index" for ozone in DC is predicted to be 93 -- a level that officially is recorded as "code yellow" or "moderate." On the surface, it sounds somewhat benign.

The only ones who really need to worry -- or so EPA says -- are "unusually sensitive individuals" defined as "Children and people with asthma."

According to the EPA, "Unusually sensitive individuals may experience respiratory symptoms. Unusually sensitive people should consider limiting prolonged outdoor exertion."

By the way, in case you've ever wondered how the AQI translates into actual pollution levels, EPA has an online calculator:

An AQI of 93 translates into an 8-hour ozone concentration of 73 -- something legally permissable under the weak and polluter-friendly ozone standards set by the Bush administration. EPA's science advisers have repeatedly argued for a tougher standard between 60 and 70.

Needless to say, big polluters are resisting, and the Obama administration -- after initially proposing to follow the sound advice of the scientists -- has repeatedly gotten cold feet.

EPA has promised to set a revised standard by late July. Meanwhile those "unusually sensistive individuals" -- and all the rest of us! -- are waiting and hoping the agency follows the science and sets a standard that will permit us to go outside in the summer.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Is smog the Achilles heel of the Marcellus Shale?

from Greenwire/New York Times online:

Since returning to private life, John Hanger, the former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, has kept busy trying to douse fears that his state's natural gas boom is contaminating drinking water.

Hanger's two-year tenure saw the Marcellus Shale, an underground rock formation that runs beneath much of the Northeast, change from a geological oddity into the center of a American drilling renaissance. Under his watch, Pennsylvania scrambled to respond to claims that water supplies are being tainted by the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which a blend of water, sand and chemicals is injected underground to break the shale and release the gas inside.

Hanger, a Democrat who previously led the Pennsylvania-based environmental group PennFuture, left office convinced that the high-profile fracas over fracking is misguided.

Air pollution is more of an Achilles' heel for drilling in the Northeast, he said last week, pointing to spikes in emissions that have followed natural gas development in other parts of the country.

Thousands of natural gas wells are expected to be drilled in Pennsylvania over the next few years, requiring a fleet of construction equipment, diesel engines and compressor stations. Together, they could be a large new source of smog-forming emissions along the Northeast corridor, much of which still struggles with old air quality standards at a time when U.S. EPA is preparing to make the rules stricter.

"If the industry ubiquitously uses the dirtiest choices, it won't fit into the Northeast," Hanger said. "It won't happen. There will be suits from New York, New Jersey, everywhere. From environmental groups. Maybe even from Pennsylvania state officials, trying to stop that.

"That's a real issue," he added. "The chemicals coming back up from fracking is not."

more at http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/05/27/27greenwire-could-smog-shroud-the-marcellus-shales-natural-3397.html?pagewanted=print

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lung Assn to Congress: TRAIN Act could delay life-saving pollution cleanup

Part of the congressional attack on health and environmental protections involves the so-called TRAIN Act, which seeks to handcuff agencies such as EPA. Our friends at the American Lung Association have sounded the alarm about what such legislation could mean for clean-air protections:


May 24, 2011

The Honorable Ed Whitfield
Subcommittee on Energy and Power
Committee on Energy and Commerce
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Bobby Rush
Ranking Member,
Subcommittee on Energy and Power
Committee on Energy and Commerce
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Whitfield and Ranking Member Rush:

The American Lung Association strongly opposes H.R. 1705 the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts of the Nation Act of 2011. This legislation would create additional bureaucracy and review that could delay lifesaving pollution cleanup required by the Clean Air Act. We urge the Subcommittee to reject this legislation.

The Clean Air Act prevents tens of thousands of adverse health effects caused by air pollution, including asthma attacks, heart attacks and even premature deaths each year. EPA's recent report The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020 found that cutting pollution through the Clean Air Act will save $2 trillion by 2020 and prevent at least 230,000 deaths annually. The implementation of the Clean Air Act provides ample opportunity for all interested parties to provide meaningful and substantial comments. Further, the Office of Management and Budget reviews all significant rulemakings and manages the interagency review process.

H.R. 1705's redundant review of Clean Air Act protections could serve to delay safeguards that are long overdue including the rules to reduce toxic air pollution, curb interstate air pollution and set air quality health standards based the best science. These rules are estimated to prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks each year. We strongly urge the Subcommittee to reject H.R. 1705 and instead work to support the continued implementation of this vital law.

Charles D. Connor
President & CEO
cc. The Honorable Fred Upton, Chairman, Committee on Energy and Commerce
The Honorable Henry Waxman, Ranking Member, Committee on Energy and Commerce Members,
Subcommittee on Energy and Power

Industry gets clobbered at EPA hearing on mercury/toxic rule for power plants


Unusual allies speak out at EPA hearing on proposed mercury-limit rule
By Sandy Bauers

Inquirer Staff Writer

First, Rabbi Daniel Swartz leaned toward the microphone at Tuesday's hearing on proposed federal rules to limit mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

By allowing emissions to continue, "we have, in effect, subsidized the poisoning of fetuses and children," the Scranton rabbi said.

Later came the Rev. Mitchell Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, a national ministry. "We are hindering children from an abundant life . . . because we failed to clean up this terrible poison," he said.

By the time Joy Bergey of Chestnut Hill United Methodist Church spoke, the EPA's hearing officer, Rob Brenner, was curious.

Of all the rules he has worked on, he said, the religious and social-justice communities have shown the most interest in the mercury rule. Why?

"Because of the fact that it's such clear science," Bergey said. "This hurts babies. This hurts children. It is so clearly a question of moral responsibility."

Tuesday's hearing in Philadelphia was one of three nationwide this week. Participants spoke in five-minute segments, beginning at 9 a.m., with the hearing expected to last until 8 p.m. or later.

At least eight speakers represented religious groups. The environmental and medical community dominated the schedule.

"The American public has the right to clean air and clean water," said Delaware County's Robin Mann, Sierra Club national president.

"We must recognize that the effects of harmful air emissions ripple all the way to the most vulnerable members of our society," said Poune Saberi, a family-medicine physician at the University of Pennsylvania.

Coal power is dominant in Pennsylvania, which has more than three dozen plants, and the state ranks high nationally for mercury emissions.

The agency proposed the rule in March. It would limit emissions of mercury. When it falls back to the ground and gets into waterways, it becomes the more toxic methylmercury, which accumulates in fish. People are exposed when they eat fish. The neurotoxin can harm the brains of fetuses and infants.

The rule also would limit emissions of other hazardous pollutants - arsenic, chromium, nickel, acid gases - that can cause serious health effects, including cancer.

The EPA has estimated that, by 2016, the rule would result in up to 17,000 premature deaths avoided. It also would cause tens of thousands fewer heart attacks, cases of chronic bronchitis, asthma events, and more.

EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson has said the rule would create jobs.

James W. Banford Jr., of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, predicted "job losses at utility plants, coal mines, and in the rail sector."

Scott H. Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, an industry group, said that the rule would be "the most expensive in EPA history" - costing about $11 billion a year - and that benefits were overstated.

Some in the industry support the rule.

Bruce Alexander, environmental regulatory strategy director with Exelon Corp., which has invested in clean generation, called the proposed rule "balanced, reasonable, and long overdue."

"Some claim that the power industry is monolithic and that we all think that EPA has run amok," he said. "That is simply not true."

Likewise, Michael Bradley, executive director of the Clean Energy Group, a coalition of electric-power companies, said the proposed standards would provide the "certainty" the industry needed to move forward with capital-investment decisions.

Chris Salmi, assistant director of air quality for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said New Jersey has stricter standards, and he urged the federal agency to tighten regulations even more.

Pennsylvania had proposed mercury regulations, but they failed in a court challenge.

John Hanger, former secretary of the Pennsylvania DEP, said: "The benefits of this rule so far exceed the costs that suggesting otherwise is lunacy."

Gretchen Alfonso, the Philadelphia mother of two children under age 2, said: "It makes me angry that, despite my best efforts at living a healthy lifestyle, my body, and my family's, are being invaded by toxins from all angles."

EPA hears from public on proposed power plant rule

Associated Press

2:15 p.m. CDT, May 24, 2011
CHICAGO— Environmental and medical advocates urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday to adopt strict new rules regulating toxic emissions from the nation's coal-fired power plants, saying it would reduce respiratory illnesses, birth defects and developmental problems in children. But some industry groups said the benefits are exaggerated.

If the proposed rules are adopted, it would be the first time that the EPA regulated toxic air emissions such as mercury, lead, arsenic and acid gas emitted by coal-fired power plants. The facilities emit some 386,000 tons of toxic air pollution annually, by far the largest industrial source of toxic air pollution in the United States.

Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) "The EPA has failed until now to issue a rule to protect public health and the environment," said Steve Frenkel, director of the Midwest office of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "The power sector has escaped regulation of toxic air pollutants and (regulations are) long overdue. Our hope is that the U.S. EPA will stick to their guns and adopt a strong rule ... and not be swayed by fear mongers in industry."

The EPA held public hearings on the proposed rules in Chicago and Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Some industry groups accuse the EPA of inflating the benefits and argue it would cost billions of dollars every year to comply with new pollution-control technology.

Scott Segal, director the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a coalition of power companies, said the new utility rules "would be the most expensive rule in EPA history." He cited a report that estimated they would cost the industry about $300 billion in the next five years and lead to lost jobs and electricity rate increases of 20 percent to 25 percent.

The EPA has said the regulations, introduced in March in response to a court-ordered deadline, would cost nearly $11 billion a year for the industry to comply with the new rules.

But it also estimated that the value of health benefits would be $59 billion to $140 billion by 2016, and save 17,000 lives a year by reducing mercury emissions from power plants by 91 percent and further limiting other pollutants, including microscopic particles that can cause lung and heart problems.

Studies show exposure to mercury increases the risk of birth defects as well as developmental problems in small children. Mercury can become toxic after entering soil and water, and its effects are magnified as it moves up the food chain.

In Illinois, for example, the public is warned to limit consumption of fish from many of the state's lakes and streams because of high mercury levels. Illinois coal-fired power plants emitted 2,681 pounds of mercury in 2009, according to the most recently available EPA data.

The court order gave the EPA until November to make the rules official. The EPA said companies would then have three years to comply, and some could be given an extra year.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Polluters rev up new attacks on clean-air protections

An excerpt from Environment and Energy Daily

Panel to vote on bills targeting EPA drilling, power plant rules

In a bid to knock down barriers to offshore drilling and protect coal-fired power plants from costly new requirements, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will vote tomorrow on two bills aimed at U.S. EPA air pollution rules.

The panel's Energy and Power Subcommittee will mark up a bill from Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that would tweak the Clean Air Act to ease the permitting process for offshore drilling. Those air permits would be spared from review by the Environmental Appeals Board and would not need to consider whether a project would cause air quality problems at sea.

The measure comes as a response to the five-year struggle by Royal Dutch Shell PLC to start drilling in federal waters off the northern coast of Alaska...

Also set to be marked up tomorrow is a bill that would form a commission of Cabinet-level officials to study the cumulative economic impact of EPA rules on the power sector. The measure from Reps. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) focuses on several new and proposed rules that would require coal-fired power plants to spend money on new technology to prevent air pollution and water contamination...

Schedule: The markup is tomorrow, May 24, at 10 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gasping for breath in Wyoming

The air is already too dirty there. So why is the federal government encouraging more smog-producing drilling?

See the grim details at http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/article_505d8229-6b4f-59bb-842a-ed07296280a9.html

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Public radio's Living on Earth with an in-depth look at EPA's latest retreat

This is a very thorough piece with excellent insight


EPA Stalls on Cleaning Up Industrial Air Pollution


GELLERMAN: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to delay new rules that would curb industrial air pollution. The decision comes after intense pressure from companies and unrelenting criticism of the EPA from Republicans in Congress.
But supporters say the rules are overdue and the EPA’s delay raises concerns the Obama Administration is putting politics ahead of public health. Living on Earth’s Mitra Taj reports from our Washington bureau.

TAJ: A proposed regulation to curb hazardous air emissions from industrial boilers has been in the works for years. The rule has undergone study, delay, under-funding, and repeated court orders demanding sound regulations based on science. Now the Obama EPA has put the new rule on hold indefinitely.

COEQUYT: The biggest problem with this decision is that it introduced a new way to delay rules.

TAJ: John Coequyt works for the Sierra Club, one of the green groups that sued the EPA over its slow response in the past on this rule. He says the move is disturbing - and not just because of the thousands of premature deaths that could be avoided each year with its enforcement.

COEQUYT: So now, every rule they're going to want an indefinite delay while they reconsider all of the problems that industry is going to identify. And it's going to result in industry now coming up with problems that don't exist, and everyone's going to want it all the time.

TAJ: The EPA says it needs more than the standard 90 days to address the nearly 5,000 comments it got in response to its proposal. But this isn’t the first time the Obama EPA has postponed tough environmental enforcements.

Last month, it decided to put off finalizing new regulations on mountaintop removal coal mining. Last year, it held off on issuing new ozone air quality standards. And more than two years after 130 million tons of coal ash flooded homes and rivers in Tennessee, the EPA still hasn’t decided whether the toxic waste should be regulated as a hazardous waste.

Some suspect the EPA is on a path of concession-making with industry and worn down from repeated attacks since midterm elections by moderate Democrats and Republicans like Congressman Ed Whitfield of Kentucky.

WHITFIELD: If we want America to be competitive, to create jobs, to compete with China, we must stop this out-of-control EPA.

TAJ: Whitfield co-sponsored a bill to keep the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions that passed the Republican-controlled House but failed in the Senate. At the time, he emphasized the legislation would only take away the EPA’s climate authority, leaving the EPA’s ability to restrict traditional pollutants intact.

WHITFIELD: We're not changing the Clean Air Act in any way. Ambient air quality - all of those things will still be enforced.

TAJ: But just hours after the EPA put the industrial boiler rule on hold, Whitfield and two of his Republican colleagues sent a letter pressing the agency to delay another pending rule: air standards that would cut mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants. Frank O’Donnell is with the environmental watchdog group, Clean Air Watch.

ODONNELL: Those power plants would have only three or four years to get their act together. They would either have to clean up or shut down. So it is truly the most significant proposal that the EPA has made.

Headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, where staffers are struggling to handle a backlog of overdue regulations amid criticism from industry. (Photo: thanigaivel)

TAJ: The EPA estimates enforcement of toxic air standards by 2016 would prevent up to 17,000 premature deaths and up to 140 billion dollars in health care expenses. But the Republican lawmakers pushing to give industry more time say the EPA has underestimated compliance costs.

Some see the rule, expected in November, as the bigger battle the EPA will have to fight, together with green house gas regulations, later this summer. But O’Donnell says sacrificing some rules to save others isn’t a smart strategy.

O’DONNELL: There's one theory out there that the EPA is saving its political capital for other standards that may carry a bigger bang for the buck. However, by making a concession, the EPA simply invited a further attack - perhaps because these opponents could smell the blood in the water, or in this case, the blood in the air.

TAJ: While members of Congress so far have only asked the EPA to give industry more time, industry itself has readied the legislation to force it to do so. A bill written by American Electric Power, one of the biggest and most coal-dependent utility companies in the country, would push various regulations, including restrictions on mercury back to 2020. Nick Akins, the president of American Electric Power, says his company is already struggling to keep up with existing regulations.

AKINS: We've had a substantial commitment to achieving these projects, and 60 percent of the increases to our customers’ electric bills have been environmental-related. The fact of the matter is, though, it took 105 years to build this system to where it is and you can't change it overnight.

TAJ: How do you address this issue of premature deaths in the meantime? I mean, some of the figures are really striking - children sick from mercury emissions - those are things that must weigh on you.

AKINS: Well, actually, our job in the utility industry is to balance a lot of interests. And there’s arguments that you've heard obviously that thousands of premature deaths will occur. We hear arguments on the other side as well - that there is no credible linkage in support there.

TAJ: It’s unclear whether the industry’s legislation to delay toxic air regulations will go anywhere - no member of Congress has openly embraced it yet. But it does put even more pressure on the EPA to hold back on enforcing another important public health rule. For Living on Earth, I’m Mitra Taj in Washington.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

EPA makes technical adjustments to toxic mercury calculations for power plants

As I am sure you know, the coal-burning electric power industry and its friends on Capitol Hill are pulling out all the stops to derail proposed EPA mercury/toxic pollution standards for coal and oil-burning electric power plants.

Part of the industry onslaught involves claiming that EPA had made “significant” errors in calculating how much mercury pollution would be reduced. Power industry reps have called on EPA to withdraw the rule.

It turns out that EPA does need to make a technical adjustment based on its continuing review of the information. See EPA’s letter on this at http://bit.ly/kK4vNf

This is really much ado about very little. EPA’s cleanup plan is still crucial. Power companies will still need to use state of the air pollution controls. This technical adjustment is no reason to delay these critical public health protections.

In fact, I would argue this episode shows the system works. EPA strives to base its standards on science and the facts. And that’s what it is doing here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

American Lung Assn. to EPA: reject calls to delay vital mercury/toxic standards for power plants


This is a direct counter to the pressure on EPA to delay these crucial standards being brought by Senator Inhofe and Reps. Upton and Whitfield.

Cancer-causing chemicals downstream of tar sands mining

from our friends at Solve Climate News


Increase in Carcinogens Downstream of Oil Sands Linked to Mining
Scientific study shows that levels of PAHs increased 41 percent in the decade from 1999 to 2010, as oil sands mining began booming

By Lisa Song, SolveClimate News
May 17, 2011

The Suncor Millennium Mine near the Athabasca River/Credit: David Dodge, The Pembina Institute, oilsandswatch.org New scientific research has found increased levels of some carcinogenic chemicals linked to oil sands mining in the Athabasca River, refuting long-held industry and government claims that natural sources are responsible for the pollutants.

The chemicals, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals as well as other health problems.

PAH concentrations in Athabasca River sediments located downstream of oil sands projects increased 41 percent between 1999-2009, according to the study, published earlier this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Kevin Timoney, principal investigator at the consulting firm Treeline Ecological Research and lead author of the study, said the rise parallels the growth in oil sands production in the lower Athabasca region, which more than doubled between 1998 and 2009.

Alberta's oil sands deposits represent the second-largest petroleum reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia's. In 2009, Canada exported about 950,000 barrels of oils sands crude a day to the United States, nearly 80 percent of the roughly 1.2 million barrels that are extracted daily from the province. Production is expected to more than double during the next five years.

It takes a lot of energy and water to extract bitumen, the tar-like viscous type of crude oil that is buried in the province's sand and clay. Scientists have been particularly concerned about the effects of harvesting the fuel on the Athabasca River, the largest free-flowing river in Alberta.

The 956-mile waterway flows northeast through most of Alberta's tar sands mines before draining into Lake Athabasca.

PAHs Already at Harmful Levels

PAHs are found naturally in bitumen, but mining activities can increase exposure of the hydrocarbons to air and water. Processing the bitumen into synthetic crude releases additional PAHs into the environment.

In the lower Athabasca River, PAH concentrations in sediment have already reached a level that's harmful to aquatic life, Timoney told SolveClimate News in an interview.

Government and industry sources have long insisted that the contamination stems from naturally occurring bitumen instead of mining activity.

The official Alberta Environment website states, "There is no doubt that PAHs are in the sediments downstream of the oil sands. This is due to the magnitude of the oily sand along the river banks through which the river has eroded naturally ... The sources in the area are natural."

Timoney said this "misinformation" is what inspired him to test the government's claims. "I decided to sit down with a colleague and pull all of the relevant data together — which has never been done before — and ask, 'What is the situation? Are PAHs changing and why?'"

While the scientists found increasing PAH levels in sediment downstream of the mines, the same trend was not found at control sites upstream of tar sands operations.

Their research joins a growing number of independent, peer-reviewed studies showing the industry's harmful effects on the Athabasca River Basin.

Two years ago, scientists measured increased levels of dissolved PAHs in waters near oil sands upgrading facilities. Last year, a separate study found elevated concentrations of heavy metals — including mercury, copper and lead — downstream of mining. Both studies were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

'Urgent Health Study' Needed

PAHs accumulate in sediment and make their way up the food chain through aquatic life. While some PAHs are known human carcinogens, there is still little research on the toxicology of most PAH compounds found in bitumen, said Timoney.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Greenwire: power plant union backs AEP dirty-air legislation

It is unfortunate that the dirty-air lobbyists at American Electric Power have scared union workers into backing the power company's effort to delay vital clean air requirements. Such a delay would mean thousands of premature deaths and much disease.

It's doubly bad because studies have shown that the EPA cleanup plan would create jobs. See, for example, at http://www.ceres.org/resources/reports/new-jobs-cleaner-air

Here is a brief excerpt from Greenwire:

AIR POLLUTION: Power plant union asks Congress to delay EPA rules

A labor union that is usually a stalwart supporter of the Obama administration is asking Congress to delay U.S. EPA's new rules on toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, saying jobs will be lost if utilities don't get more time.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said today that it is backing American Electric Power Co. Inc. (AEP) as it lobbies Congress to give utilities an extra five or six years to clean up or shut down their oldest coal plants...

Jim Hunter, director of IBEW's utility department, said the union worked closely with AEP on a draft bill that would delay the air toxics rules and several other looming regulations for the power sector.

Industry propaganda about EPA ghg rules: starting to look like bs

Politico Pro notes this morning that

Predictions that the Obama administration’s climate rules would bring the U.S. economy screeching to a halt haven’t come true — at least not yet.

A few more excerpts are below. This well-reported piece confirms another story published in late March by Inside Energy which concluded that "permits belie claims about EPA carbon regulations."

The industry propaganda, paid for at a high price, is running into a basic reality -- It's just a lot of hot air.

Here are a few brief excerpts from Politico Pro. A subscription is required for the full tex:

EPA program off to a slow, but smooth, start

EPA’s backers say the first round of greenhouse gas permits have been a success.


Predictions that the Obama administration’s climate rules would bring the U.S. economy screeching to a halt haven’t come true — at least not yet.
Opponents of the EPA's climate rules have kept up their fiery rhetoric since the regulations officially kicked in on Jan. 2. Congressional critics warn the climate rules will halt construction and hamstring an economic recovery, and they’ve vowed to use every possible legislative avenue to unravel them, including the debt ceiling fight later this summer.

But off the Hill, the EPA and its backers say the agency has gotten off to a smooth — if slow — start to ratcheting down greenhouse gas emissions without imposing undue burdens on industries.

So far this year, state permitting agencies have issued three air pollution permits that account for greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA. Those permits went to a Nucor Corp. iron manufacturing plant in Louisiana, a Calpine natural gas fired power plant in California and to a We Energies biomass power plant in Wisconsin...

Backers of the EPA’s climate rules point to the three completed permits as evidence that the process has been relatively seamless so far. Another nine permitting applications are in the queue for the EPA to review or comment on, and the agency is tracking about 80 additional projects that might be subject to the new rules.

“We see absolutely no evidence of any kind of construction moratorium or even delay as a result of this rule,” said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, a coalition of state and local air regulators.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Medical and health groups to the Prez: direct EPA to set a strong ozone standard

American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation ● American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ● American College of Preventive Medicine● American Heart Association ● American Lung Association ● American Public Health Association ● American Thoracic
Society ● Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ● National Association for Medical Direction of Respiratory Care ● National Association of County and City Health Officials ● National Association of Local Boards of Health ● Physicians for Social Responsibility ● Trust for America’s Health

May 13, 2011
The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As leading medical, public health, disease and patient advocacy organizations, we welcomed the decision that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson made in January 2010 to reconsider the 2008 decision on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone air pollution. Over a year has passed since this announcement and we write today to ask that you direct the EPA to issue a strong standard to protect public health.

When announcing the reconsideration of the ozone health standard, Administrator Jackson stated
“Using the best science to strengthen these standards is a long overdue action that will help millions of Americans breathe easier and live healthier.”

We wholeheartedly agree and are concerned about what continued delay means for public health.

The ozone health standard must protect those who are most vulnerable from the negative health impacts of ozone, including children, older adults, and those with chronic diseases. To safeguard the health of the American people, help to save lives, and reduce health care spending, we
support the most protective standard under consideration: 60 parts per billion (ppb) averaged over eight hours.

Just over one month ago, the panel of independent, expert scientists who advise EPA on the national standards reiterated their strong support for a new, stronger ozone standard. In a letter to Administrator Jackson the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee used unequivocal language to urge her to set more protective standards:

“Here we reaffirm that the evidence from controlled human and epidemiological studies strongly supports the selection of a new primary ozone standard within the 60 – 70 ppb range for an 8-hour averaging time. As enumerated in the 2006 Criteria Document and other companion assessments, the evidence provides firm and sufficiently certain support
for this recommended range for the standard.”1
1 Letter from Dr. Jonathan M. Samet, Chair, Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, to Lisa P. Jackson,
Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, March 30, 2011.

These advisors had previously recommended the same more protective range in three letters (October 24, 2006, March 26, 2007 and April 7, 2008) to former Administrator Stephen L.Johnson. Using just the evidence available during the review, the scientists evaluated the evidence from over 1,700 studies of the health impacts of ozone. Again, they recommended
unanimously that the ozone standard should be set between 60‐70 ppb to protect human health. We recommend that EPA set the most protective standard which would be the bottom end of that range.

Ozone or smog can cause asthma attacks, coughing and wheezing, and shortness of breath. Breathing unhealthy levels of smog sends people to the hospital and emergency rooms and creates serious health risks. Multiple studies show that ozone actually can kill people. In fact,
based on EPA’s own estimates, measures to reduce ozone pollution will save as many as 12,000 lives each year.

Reducing ozone levels is an important component of a larger national strategy to prevent disease and promote health. Beyond the direct health effects, efforts to encourage the public to pursue more active, healthier lifestyles are hampered by poor air quality and the environmental health
risks associated with exposure to ozone. Reducing ozone levels is as much about disease prevention and health promotion as it is about pollution control.

Millions live in areas that are already polluted with too much smog. They are our primary reason for urging the EPA to set the national air standard for ozone at the most protective level recommended ‐‐ 60 ppb.

Setting a health-based ozone standard based on the science is long overdue. We urge you to act now and set a new ozone standard to protect public health.


American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation
American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
American College of Preventive Medicine
American Heart Association
American Lung Association
American Public Health Association
American Thoracic Society
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
National Association for Medical Direction of Respiratory Care
National Association of County and City Health Officials
National Association of Local Boards of Health
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Trust for America’s Health
cc: Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Nancy Sutley, Chair, Council on Environmental Quality

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sen. Carper seeks to cut deadly diesel pollution from transportation construction sites

hot off the presses:

FOR RELEASE: May 12, 2011
CONTACT: Emily Spain (202) 224-2441

Sen. Carper Introduces Bill to Clean Air and Curb Diesel Emissions from Transportation Construction Sites

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced a bill that would significantly reduce diesel emissions at transportation construction sites in Delaware and across the country, in an effort to improve the air quality in communities that struggle with chronic air pollution. The Clean Construction Act of 2011 would provide existing federal transportation funding to retrofit, repower and upgrade construction equipment to provide the maximum achievable reduction of diesel soot emissions.

Construction equipment produces 25 percent of all mobile diesel emissions. Diesel soot from these emissions kills an estimated 21,000 Americans every year. Exposure to diesel soot is a cause of premature death, heart disease, cancer, asthma, emphysema, and infant mortality. Nationwide, there are over two million pieces of construction equipment and most lack modern diesel soot controls.

Most at risk are commuters, people living or working in proximity to truck traffic, construction workers, agricultural and other heavy equipment operators. For example, heavy equipment operators exposed to diesel exhaust have a 47 percent increased risk of death due to heart attacks and counties with higher levels of particulate matter have increased prevalence of diabetes.

"Federal transportation projects are essential to our nation's economic recovery and ability to 'win the future,'" said Sen. Carper. "Unfortunately, the bulldozers, diggers, and backhoes that build our nation's infrastructure produce harmful diesel emissions. At risk are children who live near construction sites, commuters stuck in traffic, and workers who operate construction machinery. My bill's common-sense approach is simple: in areas of poor air quality, federal transportation projects should reduce, not increase, harmful diesel emissions."

"On behalf of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) and the Clean Air Task Force (CATF), we thank Senator Carper for his strong leadership, commitment and vision in ensuring that the air we breathe and the projects we build are simultaneously strong and healthy for the communities in which they are built," said Conrad Schneider, Advocacy Director of the Clean Air Task Force. "This legislation provides a targeted approach to reducing emissions from construction machines that will be used in the areas of the country that are struggling to meet federal air quality standards. We are thrilled to be standing side-by-side with the contractors in support of the Clean Construction Act of 2011," concluded Schneider.

"Utilizing cleaner diesel engines in transportation projects is a winning proposition," continued Schneider.

The Clean Construction Act of 2011 incorporates the use of cleaner construction equipment – such as front-end loaders, diggers, and earth movers - on federally-funded transportation projects in particulate matter non-attainment areas. To maintain strict cost controls, the bill requires that states and public transportation agencies allocate no more than 1 percent of a transportation project cost to upgrade dirty construction equipment and restricts the use of these funds solely to particulate matter nonattainment areas.

The Clean Construction Act of 2011 is endorsed by the Clean Air Task Force and the Associated General Contractors of America.


Outdoor groups to EPA: set a strong ozone standard now so people can enjoy the outdoors without fear


The Honorable Lisa Jackson, Administrator
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460 May 5, 2011

Dear Administrator Jackson,

The undersigned recreation and conservation organizations are very concerned about air pollution, particularly ozone, a respiratory irritant that is especially damaging to the lungs of children and those who work and recreate outside. We applaud the EPA for moving ahead with
a process for re-consideration of the 2008 Ozone NAAQS, in recognition that the previous Administration did not heed the science in making their decision. We believe that the science to strengthen the ozone health standard to an 8-hour 60 ppm level and to instate a strong secondary
standard of 7 ppm-hr, protective of sensitive plants and ecosystems, is clear, and we urge you to act now.

Our organizations are comprised of members that prioritize getting outdoors as individuals and with our families. Considering the state of our nation’s health, outdoor recreation and preservation of healthy landscapes must play a key role in restoring the wellbeing of America’s
future generations, a reality recognized by this Administration through efforts like America’s Great Outdoors. At odds with these worthy efforts are poor air quality days, high childhood asthma rates, and ecological degradation from air pollutants.

We know that even healthy individuals can have declines in lung function at ozone levels well below the current 8-hour standard, as observed in a study of day hikers visiting rural Mount Washington, NH. So, while many of our members seek refuge from urban smog in the mountains, expecting to enjoy the outdoors on a healthy hike, the transport of ozone can result in
even these remote landscapes to be laden with unhealthy air. By reducing the NAAQS levels you can clean up our urban parks and our national parks, ensuring that the health benefits of getting outside to recreate, exercise, and connect with nature are not compromised by poor air

The economic benefits of cleaner air are clear. Our nation’s health and its ability to appreciate the outdoors are at stake. We implore you to carry out this pivotal opportunity to reduce ozone pollution to levels that protect the public health and welfare.

Cc: Robert Persiasepe
Regina McCarthy

Appalachian Mountain Club
Access Fund
Adirondack Mountain Club
American Canoe Association
American Hiking Society
American Whitewater
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Colorado Mountain Club
Friends of Acadia
International Mountain Bike Association
National Parks Conservation Association
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference
Outdoor Alliance
Winter Wildlands Alliance

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Will Capitol Hill opponents of EPA cement standards stand down?

Now that EPA has rejected industry calls to block the rules, but will consider
potential minor changes that would further clarify and simplify the rules. As EPA considers these minor changes, EPA will seek opportunities for further clarification, simplification, or flexibility without sacrificing important health protection from emissions of mercury, soot and other harmful air pollutants.

The cement lobby has gotten supporters in Congress to try blocking these important health standards. Don't bet the farm that they'll give up.

More information on the August 2010 cement standards:

More information on the Reconsideration:

Monday, May 09, 2011

Lots of luck if ethanol messes up your engine

A fascinating piece from our friends with Environmental Working Group.


Romney and pollution deja vu

From Politico's Morning Energy:

LET'S GET PRESIDENTIAL - The mating dance has begun as top Republican presidential candidates try to snare seasoned energy experts for their campaign. Mitt Romney is off to a strong start, rubbing elbows with Mike Leavitt - a former Utah governor who led the EPA during the Bush administration - and seeking counsel from Jeff Holmstead, a fellow Mormon and former top Bush EPA air pollution chief who now works on K Street with Bracewell & Giuliani.

A few notes: Leavitt was incredibly canny while at EPA. He took credit for a diesel cleanup program created by career staffers. And he bailed out before the agency made one of its most disgraceful decisions during the Bush era -- setting illegally weak standards for mercury and other toxics from coal-fired power plants. Here's what we said about it at the time, courtesy PBS' News Hour. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/environment/jan-june05/epa_3-15.html

The mercury rule was thrown out by the courts, and the Obama EPA is still mopping up.

Holmstead was the architect of most of the Bush EPA air pollution efforts (other than the diesel cleanup). Most of his big ideas were either rejected by Congress or tossed out by the courts as being illegal. Now he spends much of his time blasting his successors for trying to clean up the air!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Guest posting: wood smoke -- deadlier than tobacco smoke!

As the federal government appears to be promoting use of wood and wood waste as a fuel (you will recall the EPA gave wood-chip and other biomass burners a three-year exemption from greenhouse gas requirements http://www.climatestrategies.us/articles/view/32 ),
we were struck by the provocative contents of the guest posting below by Julie Mellum, founder of Take Back the Air.

Wood smoke is deadlier than tobacco smoke

We’re snuffing secondhand tobacco smoke in this country, while wood smoke, far more toxic and concentrated, has risen like the phoenix in its place. In most metro areas and neighborhoods where people live and breathe, wood burning has been condoned and promoted as fun, family-friendly, healthy to cook with, and good for the environment. Restaurant wood grills and back yard campfires churn out black carbon soot like it’s the best thing since sliced bread. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Everything we know about tobacco smoke is true of wood smoke.

Wood smoke is comprised of miniscule particulates that are bundled with legions of the same hormone disrupting and cancer causing toxicants that are in tobacco smoke. They include lead, arsenic, mercury, formaldehyde, benzene, and dioxins, some of the most insidious chemicals known to man. They are also “bioaccumulative”, building up in the environment and human lungs over time, where they increasingly ravage our health and that of future generations.

A terrible public health hazard. While back yard campfires rage across America and the biomass industry pours trillions of daily pollutants into our air, more and more people are becoming chronically ill from wood smoke entering their lungs on a continuous basis. Wood smoke is a well- documented trigger for asthma attacks and premature death in people of all ages, as cited by the EPA and US Centers for Disease Control. Children, the elderly, and anyone with asthma, other lung diseases and heart disease are most at risk. Wood smoke is also implicated in cancer, reproductive birth defects, neurological diseases such as autism, and compromised immune systems, paving the way for other disorders.

Most states have inadequate regulations to help those who are chronically ill from wood smoke inhalation. There is nowhere people can go for help, although private lawsuits are on the rise.

Property rights, wood smoke and the ADA. The perils of wood smoke are not limited to health effects. Wood smoke violates most nuisance ordinances and the property rights of others to use and enjoy their property smoke free. Cities claim they cannot afford to enforce such ordinances, but it is time they pony up to their accessibility requirements, for one. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires cities to provide “access” to public spaces such as parks, streets and sidewalks to those with disabilities such as asthma. Public spaces should be free of severe respiratory irritants like wood smoke in order to accommodate this skyrocketing segment of the population. In a precedent-setting ADA case, an Iowa district court ordered the town of Mallard to ban outdoor wood burning, because the smoke prevented a child with severe asthma from accessing public spaces.

How to get involved. If you agree that wood smoke is the scourge of our cities and needs regulation, email info@takebacktheair.com or s.brandie@sympatico.ca and request to receive the monthly online Wood Smoke Activist Network newsletter for the US and Canada. We facilitate connections among people in various states for a larger “voice” toward wood smoke solutions in our local and national governments.

By Julie Mellum
Founder, Take Back the Air www.takebacktheair.com
Member, Clean Air Revival, www.burningissues.org
Co-Editor, The Wood Smoke Activist Network Newsletter s.brandie@sympatico.ca

Author’s “Bio”: Julie is a wood smoke activist in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with connections to others nation-wide who are also concerned with this emerging topic. A Realtor by trade, Julie has also researched wood smoke issues extensively for the past 10 years and founded Take Back the Air to help enlighten the public about the top most hazardous, yet vastly under-recogized air toxics in residential communities, starting in our own back yards.

What's the cost of pollution on the health of kids?

More than $76 billion in health damage every year, according to a new study published in Health Affairs.

Please note link here: http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2011/05/04/environmental-illness-in-children-costs-76-6-billion-annually/

This new study is a strong argument in favor of new EPA standards to reduce toxic mercury and particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants. It is strong evidence that Congress should reject delaying tactics – such as the pro-coal pollution legislation drafted by American Electric Power and the polluter-sponsored legislation being massaged by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY). It is also a reminder that polluter payoffs to politicians can harm kids.

The new study compares pollution-related impacts on children in 2008 and 1997.

The scientists “found that diminished exposure [in recent years] to lead and reductions in costs for asthma care were offset by diseases newly identified as environmentally induced, including attention deficit disorder, and the added burden of mercury exposure. This toxic metal, from contaminated fish and coal-fired power plants, can harm the developing brain and is associated with intellectual disability.
Key findings from the study:
• Lead poisoning cost $50.9 billion.
• Autism cost $7.9 billion.
• Intellectual disability cost $5.4 billion.
• Exposure to mercury (methyl mercury) cost $5.1 billion.
• Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder cost $5.0 billion.
• Asthma cost $2.2 billion.
• Childhood cancer cost $95.0 million.
[Scientists] Trasande and Liu call for further reductions in lead-based paint hazards to protect children from lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development, and tighter air quality standards to curb mercury emissions and reduce particulates that can trigger asthma.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Former Inhofe attack dog becomes Boehner attack dog?

Politico is reporting that House Speaker John Boehner "has poached" top Inhofe energy aide Mike Catanzaro "to advise him on energy issues.

The news recalls an earlier blog posting we did on Catanzaro and other Bush administration appointees:


At the very least, we don't expect Boehner's rhetoric on energy to go flaccid.

Here is from Politico Morning Energy, with a link to the by-subscription-only Politico Pro story:

MAKING MOVES - John Boehner has poached top Inhofe energy aide Mike Catanzaro to advise him on energy issues, and industry lobbyists say the speaker has snagged a power player. Scott Segal, an energy lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani, called Catanzaro "nimble" and "intellectually curious" and said he'll bring "tremendous firepower" to Boehner's office.

Catanzaro replaces Jay Cranford, who announced last month he was headed to K Street firm Clark, Lytle & Geduldig. Mike McKenna, a GOP strategist, told POLITICO that while he doesn't expect Catanzaro to depart from Cranford's policy course, Catanzaro might be more vocal than his predecessor. Bravender has more on Boehner's big hire: http://politico.pro/jzusDT

NOT FANS - Don't expect greens to share the industry enthusiasm. When Catanzaro took a job at EPA in 2006, Clean Air Watch President Frank O'Donnell wrote a blog post calling Catanzaro a "former Inhofe attack dog" who was "being used as a conduit by the mining industry in its efforts to evade clean air restrictions."

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Senator Portman offers garbled response when caught playing footsie with AEP on dirty-air bill

from the Columbus Dispatch


Claim of 'pro-coal' billfrom senators denied

Environmentalists warned last week that Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., were working on a bill that had been influenced by American Electric Power, one that environmentalists said would make it more difficult for the government to regulate emissions from coal-fired utility plants.

Frank O'Donnell, president of Washington-based Clean Air Watch, assailed the possible bill as "a wholesale attack on the Clean Air Act" and the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In an email made available to The Dispatch, one industrial lobbyist referred to the bill as the "Manchin-Portman bill, which is also being called the AEP bill."

Christine Mangi, a Portman spokeswoman, said Portman "is concerned about the impact that many of EPA's proposed regulations will have on energy-intensive industries and the potential effect on jobs in Ohio and nationally." But Mangi insisted that "Portman and Sen. Manchin do not have a proposed EPA-related bill."

Melissa McHenry, an AEP spokeswoman, said there was no "Portman-Manchin bill that I am aware of." But she acknowledged that AEP provided lawmakers with "some ideas on a legislative approaching to dealing with the EPA regulations that are pending."