Friday, September 30, 2011

EPA scientists: Yes, Mr. President, smog can kill!

You will recall the EPA was recently bushwacked by the White House on the smog issue.

But the EPA scientists continue to work away on the issue, with plans at this point to make a decision on national smog standards by mid-2014. (Yes, we know the President said 2013, but he was wrong.) That deadline, of course, could slip if politics intervene again.

As part of its ongoing review, EPA today published the “second draft" of its “integrated science assessment” of smog and its impacts.

You can find it here:

The bottom line: smog not only hurts your health – it can kill. It also poisons the environment and is a potent greenhouse gas.

So even though the President was concerned about the economics of smog control (forgetting that pollution cleanup creates jobs), this report is a graphic reminder that smoggy air carries a terrible health and environmental cost. Senior citizens in particular ought to take note! Your life could be getting cut short while this review continues.

In a quick “background” cover note, EPA states:

New material has been included in this draft, but many of the overall conclusions remain generally the same as the last NAAQS review which was completed in 2008. For example, in relation to short-term exposures, new evidence for O3-induced health effects strengthens the body of evidence for associations with respiratory morbidity and mortality. Also, the current ambient O3 concentrations in many areas of the US are sufficient to impair growth of numerous plant species. Within an ecosystem, O3 can alter timber production, water availability in watersheds and carbon sequestration; and, it can affect ecosystem biodiversity. In addition, as was concluded in the last NAAQS review, O3 can affect the climate by acting as a climate-forcing greenhouse gas. In contrast to the last review, there is now evidence suggesting that respiratory morbidity and mortality are associated with O3 long-term exposure.
Some key conclusions:

The clearest evidence for human health effects associated with exposure to O3 is provided by studies of respiratory effects. Collectively, there is a very large amount of evidence spanning several decades in support of a causal association between exposure to O3 and a continuum of respiratory effects. The majority of this evidence is derived from studies investigating short-term O3 exposure (i.e., hours to weeks), although animal toxicological studies and recent epidemiologic evidence demonstrate that long-term exposure (i.e., months to years) may also be detrimental to the respiratory system. Additionally, consistent positive associations between short-term O3 exposure and total (nonaccidental) mortality have helped to resolve previously identified areas of uncertainty in the O3-mortality relationship, indicating that there is likely to be a causal relationship between short-term exposures to O3 and all-cause mortality. Recent evidence is suggestive of a causal relationship between long-term O3 exposures and mortality. The evidence for these health effects indicates that the relationship between concentration and response is linear within concentrations present in the U.S., with no indication of a threshold of O3 concentrations under which no effect would be observed. The populations identified as being most at risk for O3-related health effects are individuals with influenza/infection, individuals with asthma, and older age groups.

There has been over 40 years of research on the effects of O3 exposure on vegetation and ecosystems. The best evidence for effects is from controlled exposure studies. These studies have clearly shown that exposure to O3 is causally linked to visible foliar injury, decreased photosynthesis, changes in reproduction, and decreased growth. Recently, studies at larger spatial scales support the results from controlled studies and indicate that ambient O3 exposures can affect ecosystem productivity, crop yield, water cycling, and ecosystem community composition. And on a global scale, tropospheric O3 is the third most important greenhouse gas, playing an important role in climate change

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Where there's smoke: connecting the dirty-air dots

In case you haven’t seen it, there was an excellent cover story this week in The National Journal which connects the dots between the coal and coal-power lobbies and the Republican-led congressional attack on EPA.

(The story seems to be publicly available now at )

And, as things tend to happen in D.C., the dot-connecting continues.

I want to call to your attention an interesting episode that took place just before the House voting on the dirty-air legislation known as the TRAIN Act.

In this episode, 14 Republican members of Congress launched an unusual attack – not directly against EPA or Democrats, but against a series of power companies collectively known as the Clean Energy Group. There letter has been shopped around to the media, but just in case you haven’t seen it, here is a link:

If you take a moment to read it, I am sure you will conclude, as I did, that the letter must have been ghost-written. The finger prints of the coal and coal-power lobbies are all over it. Indeed, the language of the letter appears to have come straight out of the word processors of the American Electric Power Company, with perhaps a tweak or two by Southern Company and the National Mining Association. The legal jargon and the details involving power industry politics clearly point to lobbyists for the coal and coal-power industries such as AEP as the true authors. (In fact, the letter self-servingly includes a defense of the heads of AEP and Southern Co.)

This episode of lobbying, money and energy politics is especially interesting because this letter may have continuing repercussions. The letter is still being shopped around town. If these members of Congress ultimately succeed, the breathing public will suffer.

And I believe the true goal wasn’t so much to affect the House vote on TRAIN – that was already in the bag – but to generate some steam for similar action in the Senate, where AEP has struggled since last April to line up sponsors for a power plant delay bill that it drafted. Note that the home page of AEP’s corporate web site still leads with a call to delay EPA’s rules, citing “reliability” concerns – the core of the argument made in the letter by the 14 members of Congress.

As for connecting the dots, there are clear campaign contribution connections between the authors and AEP and its delay-seeking allies such Southern Company and the National Mining Association/Ohio Coal Association. More on that below.

First, let’s quickly review recent history.

You will probablly recall that AEP has been aggressively lobbying since at least last April for legislation that would delay the EPA power plant cleanup. It was seeking to line up Senators Manchin and Portman to spearhead this effort. The senators kept some distance after the connection was publicized.

AEP then uncorked a claim that EPA standards would lead to major plant shutdowns and related “reliability” concerns.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was among those who directly challenged this assertion.

AEP also was linked to an effort to get utility regulators (NARUC) to go on record raising related “reliability” concerns.

This new letter raises similar concerns, citing the NERA consulting firm as an “independent” expert. Of course, the letter fails to note that AEP and other coal interests pay for NERA’s studies which raise the “reliability” concerns. NERA has done other paid work for AEP.

You might ask yourself the all-important question: why would these particular 14 members of Congress sign a letter that gets so deep into the weeds and jargon of utility politics?

Of course, 9 of the 14 are from Ohio, where AEP is the biggest power producer and has threatened to close plants. And AEP has complained bitterly about not only “reliability” but has also threatened big rate hikes. One is from West Virginia, which AEP also supplies (and has threatened to close plants). Two are from Texas, where the local power company (Luminant/Energy Future Holdings) is so upset at the cross-state rule that it has sued. (AEP also operates in Texas and has threatened to close a plant there.) One is from Oklahoma (yes, AEP ALSO operates there). And one is from Georgia, where the Southern Company affiliate Georgia Power operates. (The letter, as noted above, also defended Southern Company’s boss.)

But real glue is probably the money. Everyone who signed the letter has received campaign contributions from AEP, or other coal interests, including the coal-hauling railroad CSX, which is also lobbying for a delay in the standards.

For a look at some recent and relevant campaign contributions, note

This is meant to be illustrative and not an exhaustive look at all the campaign contributions. But I think the money explains more than anything why these 14 members were on the same page.

The most bizarre argument made in the letter, of course, is that the cleaner power companies are “rent seeking.” In fact, it has been the coal lobby that has profited for decades at the breathing public’s expense.

The pity is that these 14 members of Congress allowed themselves to be used as tools for the dirty-air companies.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Inhofe's kooky climate nitpicking at taxpayer's expense

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is out with a kooky blast this morning
assailing the US EPA's "endangerment" finding that global warming poses a threat to health and the environment.

As you may recall, the EPA finding triggered new greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles and other EPA climate requirements.

Inhofe, the Senate's most infamous climate science skeptic, launched his new attack after receiving a still-unpublished report by EPA's Inspector General -- a report that Inhofe himself asked for. (Taxpayers paid $300,000 for this report, by the way.) The report is supposed to come out later today, but Inhofe has already used it, with some success, as a pr vehicle.

The report purports to challenge the process EPA used to make its finding. EPA, as you may recall, reviewed prior reports by the National Research Council and other experts.

Once you cut through all the bs, this is just silly bureaucratic nitpicking. And it's particularly ironic given that Inhofe loves to bash bureaucrats. I guess not when he is using the bureaucracy and taxpayer's dollars for his own pr purposes.

The report notes, by the way, that EPA

EPA fulfilled the statutory requirements for notice and comment rulemakings
mandated in the Administrative Procedure Act and in Section 307 of the CAA [Clean Air Act]

and that the Office of Management and Budget
believes that EPA reasonably interpreted
its requirements.

Friday, September 23, 2011

House of Reps votes to gut the Clean Air Act

The House of Representatives voted this afternoon to gut the Clean Air Act.

It passed the so-called TRAIN Act – the mother of all dirty-air bills. It was mainly a party-line vote.

This legislation would overturn 41 years of the Clean Air Act – as well as a unanimous Supreme Court ruling – to change the process for setting national clean air standards for widespread dangerous pollutants such as smog and soot. This is a change that big polluters have been seeking literally for decades. (As a callow young-ish reporter, I watched a similar attempt fail in the early years of the Ronald Reagan administration.)

The bill would also block plans to clean up deadly pollution from coal-burning power plants. This portion of the bill alone would mean tens of thousands of premature death from dirty air.

We can only hope that this vile polluter wish list ends up in the shredder. As you know, the White House has threatened a veto.

A more pressing concern is that all or part of this legislation could be attached to deficit, spending or other “must-pass” legislation.

As you know, some of the sponsors of this bill erroneously claimed yesterday that Clean Air Watch and other health and environmental groups supported this polluter dream. The bill sponsors have also mischaracterized this legislation as a mere “study” -- as if it were benign. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is a polluter wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Indeed, this has been a bonanza for polluter lobbyists. I am told quite reliably that many of the members had virtually no idea what they were voting on. They were simply following slogans.

To see some examples of the misrepresentations, note that my friend, John Walke, with NRDC outlines some of the other bogus claims made during the debate:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

House Republicans "regret this error" in claiming that environmental groups support the dirty-air TRAIN Act

September 22, 2011
CONTACT: Press Office
(202) 226-4972

Correction: Strong Support for TRAIN Act
Job Creators Urge Passage of H.R. 2401

***An earlier list included some groups that had not sent in letters of support. We regret this error and welcome additional support of H.R. 2401.***

Below is the list of supporters of the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act. Copies of some of the letters can be found here.

Aluminum Association
American Chemistry Council
American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity
American Forest & Paper Association
American Foundry Society
American Iron and Steel Institute
American Petroleum Institute (with 22 Signatories)
American Public Power Association (APPA)
Americans for Tax Reform
Arizona Electric Power Cooperative
Associated Builders and Contractors
Associated General Contractors
Association of American Railroads
Basin Electric Power Cooperative
Brick Industry Association
Coalition for Affordable American Energy
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
Detroit Regional Chamber
Generators for Clean Air
Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA)
Industrial Minerals Association – North America
International Foodservice Distributors Association
Let Freedom Ring
Metalcasters Alliance for Government Affairs
Michigan Chamber of Commerce
Michigan Manufacturers Association
Midwest Power Coalition
National Association of Chemical Distributors
National Association of Manufacturers
National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
National Federation of Independent Businesses
National Industrial Sand Association
National Mining Association
National Oilseed Processors Association
National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA)
National Rural Electric Cooperative Assocation (NRECA)
North American Die Casting Association
OGE Energy
Petroleum Marketers Association of America
Portland Cement Association
Public Service Company of New Mexico
Railway Tie Association
Salt River Project
Small Business Association of Michigan
Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates
The Fertilizer Institute
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc.
Tucson Electric Power Company
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
WEST Associates (public utilities)
Western Business Roundtable



House Republicans Falsely Claim Clean Air Watch, other enviro groups support dirty-air act

from The Hill newspaper:

Republicans circulate false list of TRAIN Act supporters
By Andrew Restuccia and Ben Geman - 09/22/11 07:45 PM ET

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's GOP leadership inaccurately claimed Thursday that a number of green groups support legislation to delay – perhaps indefinitely – a pair of Environmental Protection Agency power plant pollution regulations.

On Thursday evening Republican committee staff a list of more than 100 groups that “have sent letters to Congress supporting passage” of the legislation, known as the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act.

The list includes a number of groups that have strongly opposed the bill, including the Texas chapter of Public Citizen, Clean Air Watch, the Clean Air Task Force and Clean Water Action.

“Depending on how charitably you’re feeling about the people who put the list together, it’s either a lie or a mistake,” Clean Water Action spokesman Jonathan Scott told The Hill.

Clean Air Watch President Frank O’Donnell was shocked when told by The Hill Thursday that his organization was on the list.

“Clean Air Watch unequivocally does not support that legislation. Any inference to the contrary is an obvious error,” Clean Air Watch President Frank O’Donnell said. “Is Lady Gaga on there too?”

O’Donnell’s group is one of the most outspoken critics of Republicans’ push to delay and block various EPA regulations.

“It’s the dirtiest of dirty air acts,” O’Donnell said, referring to the TRAIN Act.

Tom Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, was equally perplexed.

“I don’t think we support the train act. In fact we oppose it,” he said when reached by phone Thursday night.
Stuart Ross, the communications director of the Clean Air Task Force, said his group does not support the bill. Ross said he would seek a retraction and an apology from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton’s (R-Mich.) office.

“There is no way we would sign a letter in support of the TRAIN Act,” he told The Hill. “The TRAIN Act is one of the most aggressive and toxic bills ever introduced on the floor of the House from an environmental and public health standpoint.”
The list does include a number of groups that support the TRAIN Act, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

State and local clean air agencies urge Congress to reject "TRAIN" dirty-air act

It took some real courage for these agencies to stand up to the bullies in Congress and tell the truth about the appalling damage the “TRAIN” act would cause.

Here is a link to the letter, with some highlights below:

Above all, NACAA fears that H.R. 2401 will create potentially indefinite
delays in issuing important U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules
that are designed to prevent thousands of premature deaths and many more cases
of sickness throughout the country each year. H.R. 2401 would prohibit EPA
from taking final action on several critical rulemakings until six months after a
report is issued by a committee formed under the Act. For at least two of these
rules – the “Mercury and Air Toxics Standards” (MATS) for power plants and the
“Cross-State Air Pollution Rule” (CSAPR) – this would mean a postponement of
at least 15 months and 19 months, respectively, in enactment of the crucial public
health protections afforded by these regulations. Furthermore, H.R. 2401 would
eliminate the statutory deadlines for ever issuing these regulations.

The public health consequences of these postponements are staggering: using EPA’s own data, if H.R. 2401 were enacted, the 15- and 19-month delays in the finalization of MATS and CSAPR could result in over 30,000 premature deaths, with an additional 25,000 deaths expected with every further year of delay...

In summary, NACAA is extremely concerned that H.R. 2401, if adopted, will create
regulatory delays that could lead to thousands of premature deaths, remove important regulatory tools upon which states and localities depend, impose additional costs on government as well as small businesses, create regulatory uncertainty, cause job losses and de-fund an important and cost-effective air pollution control program.

White House threatens to veto dirty-air TRAIN act...

It is talking tough now

but what happens if the Republicans and dirty Dems roll some of this into "must-pass" spending and/or deficit legislation?

Will the WH still have the guts to do the right thing? It didn't on the smog decision.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

House of Representatives readies vote on festival of dirty air: some things to look for

Some of you outside the Beltway may not be aware of this (and even some inside the Beltway may not be aware of everything) so here is a quick heads up:

The House of Representatives is readying a vote on a festival of dirty air -- what my friend John Walke of NRDC has termed the “worst air pollution bill ever to reach the House floor.”

The so-called TRAIN act is expected to come up for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives this Friday. As a preliminary matter, the House Rules Committee will examine the legislation – and perhaps add some dirty-air amendments – this afternoon.

This legislation started out as a “study” (obviously written by the coal lobby and perhaps some coal-burning power companies) aimed at delaying critical EPA standards to reduce deadly pollution from coal-burning power plants.

But this legislation has gotten even worse as it makes its way through the system. As John notes, it was already changed by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) in such a way that it could permanently block needed power plant cleanup.

And even more trouble looms this afternoon as the Rules Committee examines possible amendments that could make the legislation even worse.

For example, this amendment suggested by Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Charles Gonzalez (D-TX) would block the EPA from moving ahead with much-needed standards to reduce the sulfur content of gasoline – permitting cleaner and more advanced motor vehicles and reducing the smog-forming pollution from every car on the road today.

Do I need to point out that the Kinzinger-Gonzalez plan was ghost-written by the oil industry, which opposes the fuel cleanup?

And an even more dangerous amendment has been put into the proverbial hopper by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH)

This amendment is a direct attack on the heart of the Clean Air Act. It would overturn a Supreme Court decision and mandate that the EPA consider “feasibility and cost” when writing national air quality standards.

EPA today is supposed to set national clean-air standards based on science alone so we can know if the air is actually clean or dirty. And, yes, this amendment unfortunately may have been given some impetus by the recent cowardly and deceitful decision by the Obama White House to block EPA from setting new national standards for ozone. The White House has already floated the threat of a veto against the base “TRAIN” legislation. It will be interesting to see if the White House has enough guts to oppose the Latta amendment this afternoon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

EPA under attack again yet tomorrow... but what about the dirty air?

Stabbed in the back by the White House on the smog issue, the EPA has become everyone’s favorite political whipping post. (One of the most painful bits of demagoguery came from Rep. Greg Waldren, R-OR, who accused the agency of being “on a jihad against jobs.”)

We saw it again today when a House Energy and Commerce panel voted to interfere with EPA plans to clean up deadly toxic emissions from industrial boilers and cement plants.

And tomorrow morning, the panel will be at it again. The target this time: pending and proposed standards to clean up electric power plants.

Based on the background information released by the subcommittee , we expect the focus will be to allege that EPA is trying to promote electricity blackouts.

There has already been plenty out there to refute this bogus charge (this study, for instance, and this one

But we still expect most of the witnesses will attack EPA. We know, for example, that the Texas witness on the second panel will basically espouse the Rick Perry view (on EPA, presumably not about Merck or Social Security).

But we also anticipate some mud-slinging from other witnesses for the prosecution, including the public service commissioners from Georgia, Missouri and West Virginia.

We thought it might make sense to put any such charges in context by taking a snapshot of this summer’s smog in those three states. The information, which we compiled as part of our Smog Watch survey tracks the episodes of smog across America this year.

It turns out that Georgia has already had 39 days of “Code Orange” dirty air this year, through August. Missouri has had 27 days of “Code Orange” or “Code Red,” while West Virginia has had six days or “Code Orange” smog. (West Virginia’s air has improved significantly in the past 15 years because of limits on summer smog-forming emissions from power plants.) See below.

These statistics, of course, understate the true extent of the smog problem because they are based on the scientifically deficient Bush smog standards.

The bottom line here is that the leaders of this congressional panel are neglecting the consequences of dirty air in their quest to score political points.

2011 Ozone “Code Orange” and “Code Red” days in Missouri, West Virginia and Georgia
These are days in which at least one air pollution monitor in the state found unhealthful ozone readings based on the 2008 ozone standards set by the Bush administration of 75 parts per billion. All are “Code Orange” (ozone between 76 and 95 ppb) except where noted as “Code Red” (above 95 ppb).

Missouri – 27 days
April 13
June 1
June 2
June 7
June 9
June 30
July 1
July 5
July 10
July 15
July 16
July 18
July 22
July 25 [CodeRed]
July 26
July 28
July 29
July 31
August 1
August 2
August 5
August 6
August 18 [Code Red]
August 19
August 24
August 29
August 31

West Virginia – 6 days
June 6
July 1
July 2
July 6
July 21
August 1

Georgia –39 days
May 9
May 12
May 20
May 21
May 28
May 31
June 2
June 3
June 4
June 6
June 7
June 8
June 9
June 10
June 11
June 12
June 13
June 14
June 15
June 17
July 1
July 2
July 5
July 7
July 13
July 18
August 1
August 3
August 5
August 10
August 12
August 16
August 17
August 19
August 24
August 25
August 26
August 28
August 29
August 30

Monday, September 12, 2011

State and local air pollution authorities oppose House plan to block needed cleanup of toxic boilers and cement plants

These are honest people. The anti-EPA zealots in the House should listen to their advice

Smog Watch Survey Finds Widespread Smog Problems

(though August 31)

States with “Code Orange” or “Code Red” smog problems in 2011 (smog levels worse than the weak standards set by the Bush administration in 2008) through August 31:
(39 plus DC)
District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey*
New Mexico*
New York*
North Carolina*
Rhode Island
South Carolina*
West Virginia*
*=problems in August
Total “Code Orange” or “Code Red” smog days: 4,275 (1277 in August)

Compared to 2010 through August 31:


2010 (40)

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

Total smog days 3,123 [912 in August 2010]

Monday, September 05, 2011

Great editorial in Newark Star Ledger on Obama's smog blunder

President Obama caved on safer smog standards
Published: Sunday, September 04, 2011

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board

Tens of thousands of people are dying prematurely each year from breathing dirty air. Many more fall ill with asthma, bronchitis or heart attacks. But major polluters don’t want to talk about the smog that’s killing them.

They’d rather spin this into an economic threat. Dirty industries know they can exploit unemployment anxiety by howling that stronger standards under the Clean Air Act would lead to job losses.

And sadly, their Republican friends in Congress now have President Obama running scared. On Friday, he caved in to business lobbyists, abandoning his plan to tighten clean air rules to meet the standard set by scientists. Instead, he accepted the weaker rules set by President George W. Bush, who had simply ignored the counsel of his own scientists.

Putting off safer standards until after the 2012 election may be politically convenient, but it’s a huge loss to public heath. This policy isn’t based on solid arguments, or even public support. Nearly every industry, from food makers to airlines, must incur costs to make sure their products are safe. It’s just a part of doing business.

Americans know that. A national poll of likely voters from all parties, taken in June, found that 75 percent support stronger smog standards, and 66 percent believe scientists — not Congress — should establish clean air standards, according to the American Lung Association.

Safer smog standards would have saved as many as 4,300 lives and avoided as many as 2,200 heart attacks every year, advocates say. Cleaner air cuts down on missed work days, emergency room visits and hospital stays, saving billions in public health costs.

And despite all the alarmist talk from lobbyists about today’s fragile economy, the compliance costs wouldn’t have kicked in for several years, at the earliest.

Don’t forget the Clean Air Act also creates jobs.

Pollution control products are a multibillion-dollar industry. Scrubbers that clean smokestacks, diesel filters that trap smoke from trucks and catalytic converters that filter out harmful auto exhaust are all made by workers right here in the United States.

So let the EPA do its job and set standards based on science. The public deserves the truth about the quality of its air, not political games.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Mail to Clean Air Watch: reader would like to "beat some sense into you"

Periodically we like to acknowledge some of the email we receive at Clean Air Watch. The item below was sent yesterday regarding our view of the cowardly and possibly illegal (see at )
Obama decision to prevent the EPA from protecting people's health from smog.


I see in the weekly Standard that you called the decision to shelve the latest EPA regulation “political cowardice”.
Apparently you "progressives" have no problem with destroying jobs and businesses to further your Marxist agenda.

You are aware that the air in this country is cleaner than any time in our history, aren't you? You are nothing more that a enviro-terrorist
hell bent on destroying the country. I would love to meet you face to face so I could beat some sense into you. Moron.

John Dendy