Monday, February 28, 2011

What should President Obama do about rising oil prices?

Check out the National Journal's "expert" opinon section at

Friday, February 25, 2011

Solve Climate News on new UN Report on black carbon... and why Obama's proposed budget is off base


EPA 's budget eliminates a $60 million program to curb soot, as UN scientists report that tackling such pollutants is key to fighting climate change

By Elizabeth McGowan
Feb 25, 2011

WASHINGTON—Environmental organizations weren't feeling any love on Valentine's Day when the White House announced that it would slash funding for retrofitting dirty diesel engines in the 2012 budget.

Now they're hopeful an enlightening report about the climatic benefits of curbing soot and ground-level ozone emissions will force President Obama to experience a change of heart.

Remarkably, slicing these pollutants on a worldwide basis by 2030 could halve the projected increase in global temperatures in the first half of the century, according to a report issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) this week.

The study, "Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone," points out that regulators would be wise to focus on soot and ground-level ozone in tandem with reining in carbon dioxide emissions.

Its authors say that reducing black carbon and ground-level ozone, which includes methane, has a more immediate effect on climate because they have short lifetimes. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, lingers in the atmosphere for much longer periods.

more at

Thursday, February 24, 2011

UN study: deal with global warming by limiting black carbon, ozone

This is a very important study. Among its highlights:
Reducing black carbon and tropospheric ozone now will slow the rate of climate change within the first half of this century. Climate benefits from reduced ozone are achieved by reducing emissions of some of its precursors,especially methane which is also a powerful greenhouse gas. These short-lived climate forcers – methane, black carbon and ozone – are fundamentally different from longer-lived greenhouse gases, remaining in the atmosphere for only a relatively short time. Deep and immediate carbon dioxide reductions are required to protect long-term climate,
as this cannot be achieved by addressing short-lived climate forcers.

A small number of emission reduction measures targeting black carbon and
ozone precursors could immediately begin to protect climate, public health,
water and food security, and ecosystems. Measures include the recovery of methane from coal, oil and gas extraction and transport, methane capture in waste management, use of clean-burning stoves for residential cooking, diesel particulate filters for vehicles and the banning of field burning of agricultural waste. Widespread implementation is achievable with existing technology but would require significant strategic investment and institutional arrangements.

More at:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NY Times online with EPA's boiler rule

February 23, 2011
EPA Scales Back Final Air Pollution Rules for Boilers

By GABRIEL NELSON of Greenwire

Bound by a court-ordered deadline and facing intense pressure from Congress, U.S. EPA has overhauled its rules for toxic air pollution from industrial boilers to go easier on businesses.

With a set of final rules released today, EPA claims to have found a more cost-effective way to protect public health by sparing cleaner boilers and small facilities from the strictest limits on chemicals such as mercury, lead and dioxins. Because of those changes, the final rules will cost about $1.8 billion less per year than the rules that were proposed last spring.

The boiler rules have been labeled as an early test of President Obama's executive order to review the effects of new rules on businesses, and today's announcement seems to reflect a desire to show the administration is serious about balancing public health and the economy.

In a letter to stakeholders that was obtained by Greenwire, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the final rule would cut compliance costs in half while greatly reducing exposure to toxic pollution.

"I am proud of the work that the EPA has done to craft protective, sensible standards," Jackson wrote in the letter, which was dated today. "The standards reflect what industry has told the agency about the practical reality of operating these units."

Under the final rules, the roughly 13,800 largest industrial boilers will still need to meet specific limits on toxic emissions. Those limits will force some facilities such as chemical plants and refineries to install new controls, cutting back on air pollution that is linked to asthma, heart attacks and early death.

Based on updated figures, EPA estimates that the rules would prevent 2,500 to 6,500 premature deaths once the rules take effect in 2014, along with 4,000 heart attacks and 41,000 cases of aggravated asthma.

But smaller boilers that release less pollution will only need tuneups to show they are doing as much as possible to limit their emissions, according to the Associated Press. Boilers powered by cleaner-burning fuels such as natural gas will also need to use certain work practices rather than stay under a hard limit on their pollution.

"We continue to believe that this is the appropriate control measure," said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, in a statement. He said the group would keep working with the agency to "ensure that the final rule protects the environment while allowing businesses to create jobs and get Americans back to work."

The final rules also create a subcategory for boilers that burn biomass, distinguishing them from coal-fired boilers, and granting a request by the American Forest & Paper Association. The trade group claimed that the rules proposed last year couldn't be achieved by many paper mills that use wood waste to power their operations.

Environmentalists said the rule appears to protect public health despite concessions to industry groups.

Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said he was pleased that the agency didn't allow certain exemptions based on the risk of toxic pollution to public health, which he described as "illegal and inappropriate."

"It appears that EPA has addressed many of the industry complaints while still putting out standards that would bring significant public health benefits," said Frank O'Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. "Let's hope that EPA stands its ground when industries argue for further changes. "

When the agency analyzed the costs and benefits of the proposed rule last year, it found a bigger bang for the buck in reducing pollution from the largest boilers. Controlling the smaller "area source" boilers would produce $900 million to $2.4 billion in benefits per year at an upfront cost of $2.5 billion and an annual cost of $1 billion, but controlling the larger "major source" boilers would yield $17 billion to $41 billion in benefits per year at an upfront cost of $9.5 billion and an annual cost of $2.9 billion.

Concerns from Congress

While today's announcement drew cautious praise from both industry groups and environmentalists, the final rules might still evolve because EPA has signaled that it will work out more kinks in the months ahead.

Over the next two months, businesses and environmental groups with concerns about the rules will be allowed to file petitions with the agency, which has the option to delay the implementation of the new rules for an extra three months as it reviews the arguments.

It also remains unclear how the changes will be received on Capitol Hill, where hundreds of lawmakers have signed letters urging EPA to ensure that the final rules don't impose unnecessary costs on businesses.

Among the critics is Sen. Rob Portman, a freshman Republican from Ohio. Last week, he joined three Republican colleagues and two Democrats in signing a letter that asked whether EPA would welcome a congressional assist in reworking the boiler rules.

Yesterday afternoon, while President Obama was stumping for innovative businesses at Cleveland State University, Portman was 200 miles southwest in Chillicothe, Ohio, visiting a specialty paper plant that would be subject to EPA's new air pollution rules.

Portman told Greenwire he is worried that the boiler rules could hurt the competitiveness of the P.H. Glatfelter Co. plant, which employs about 1,200 workers at an average salary of more than $60,000 per year. The company told him the rules proposed last year couldn't be met with existing technology, and that complying could wipe out a whole year's worth of profits for the U.S. printing industry.

The backlash in Congress reflects that the shock waves from the rule would be felt up and down the supply chain, from the producers of wood fiber to the companies that use the finished paper products, Portman said. So, too, with the public sector, because many schools and hospitals use boilers to provide heat and power.

"I can't believe, with the thousands of comments that they've received, that they wouldn't be rethinking the rule," Portman said yesterday. "This is not workable."

The boiler rule is one of the Obama administration's most closely watched efforts under the Clean Air Act. It was prompted, like a similar upcoming rule for coal-fired boilers at power plants, by a court ruling that decided the pollution rules issued by the George W. Bush administration were illegal.

Both environmentalists and industry sources agree that the rules issued today were a particular challenge because so many facilities use boilers in different ways. When EPA issued its proposal last year, businesses hadn't provided enough information, so it was difficult to "calculate standards that fully reflected operational reality," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson wrote in a letter to members of Congress.

During the public comment period, the agency received a lot of new information, an EPA spokesman said at the time. He said the agency would need to make substantial changes, which is what appears to have happened today.

"The final standards, which are not due until early next year, will reflect all of the relevant new information, and that is exactly how this process is supposed to work," the spokesman said (Greenwire, Sept. 28, 2010).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nonsense from NAM

The folks at the National Association of Manufacturers never disappoint -- if you are looking for snide, reactionary rhetoric. Note some of NAM's latest:

EPA Administrator Jackson is in Ethiopia today, having earlier visited Kenya for multilateral and bilateral meetings. You know what could really help Ethiopia’s economy and people? More industrial boilers.

Here is how one of our friends reacted:

NAM knows about industrial boilers in the developing world - their members are constructing them to take advantage of low wages, no workplace safety or environmental rules and of course lax US trade and tax policy that rewards such off shoring!

Boilerplate: Senators lean on EPA over contested boiler rule

Dear Administrator Jackson:

We are writing with regard to the January 20, 2011, decision by the U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia that denied the Environmental
Protection Agency's (EPA) request for a 15-month extension to
promulgate Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards to
control the emissions from commercial and industrial boilers (Boiler
MACT). We remain concerned about the vulnerability of small and large
businesses-as well as municipalities, universities and federal facilities-to excessive and expensive regulatory burdens. It is critical that the final rule include standards achievable by boilers in real-world operating
conditions. The rule should protect public health while fostering
economic recovery and sustaining jobs.

While we were encouraged by EPA's statement last month that the
"standards will be significantly different than what we [EPA] proposed in
April 2010," given that the court granted the agency a mere 30 days to
finalize the rule, we have serious concerns about whether or not EPA
will have sufficient time to complete the necessary improvements to the

We stand ready to assist you in finding a reasonable solution, one that
allows EPA to craft new rules that are achievable and protective of
public health without sacrificing economic recovery and manufacturing
jobs. In order to help us find the appropriate solution in a timely
manner, we would appreciate your prompt response.

Signed by:
Susan Collins, R-Maine
Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
James Inhofe, R-Okla.
Ben Nelson, D-Neb.
Robert Portman, R-Ohio
Mark Warner, D-Va.

Monday, February 21, 2011

White House begins review of crucial plan to clean up mercury, other toxics from coal-burning power plants

Later today or tomorrow, the US EPA is expected to announce it has moved forward – under duress – with controversial new toxic air pollution standards for industrial boilers. We anticipate the agency will seek to stay the effective date of these rules and move soon to reconsider them.

But this could be a sideshow to an even more critical regulatory plan – one that seeks to clean up mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

The White House Office of Management and Budget reports (below) that it has begun reviewing EPA’s proposed power plant cleanup plan. The EPA is under a court directive to issue the proposal by next month and to set final standards later this year.

This is probably the single most critical air pollution cleanup standard we will see this year. (At least for the near term. Upcoming national smog standards will also be critical, but over a longer time frame. The much-talked-about greenhouse gas rules will have a far lesser impact.)

As we have pointed out before, the electric power industry has evaded toxic air pollution standards for more than two decades. Coal burning power plants are a huge source of airborne poisons. It is high time that power plants are cleaned up.

We anticipate that the EPA proposal will not only call for a crackdown on toxic mercury – known to poison the brains of babies – but also will limit emissions of such poisons as arsenic and acid gases. Some analysts have projected not only that the EPA rules could continue a trend of shuttering old coal plants in favor of those powered by natural gas or renewable energy, but that these standards will also create jobs.

Needless to say, the coal burning industry and its friends on Capitol Hill would like to sidetrack EPA. As we reported last week, Congressman Ralph Hall offered a budget amendment that would have meddled in the cleanup. It was tossed out on a point of order. But we anticipate industry attacks will intensify because the stakes are so high. Stay tuned.

Pending EO 12866 Regulatory Review
RIN: 2060-AP52
Received Date: 02/19/2011

Title: National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Coal- and Oil-Fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units

Agency/Subagency: EPA / AR
Stage: Proposed Rule

Legal Deadline: Judicial
Economically Significant: Yes

International Impacts: No
Affordable Care Act [PPACA, P.L. 111-148 & 111-152]: No

Dodd-Frank Act [Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, P.L. 111-203]: No

Saturday, February 19, 2011

American Lung Association assails filthy House spending bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Mike Townsend
February 19, 2011 202-715-3450

U.S. Senate Must Reject H.R.1
Bill passed by House of Representatives is an assault on EPA, NIH, CDC and
Affordable Care Act

Statement of Charles D. Connor, President and CEO of the American Lung Association

WASHINGTON –The U.S. House of Representatives failed to protect the public health of all Americans by passing H.R.1. This bill ignores public health and will have dire consequences for all Americans, especially people with lung diseases, including lung cancer, asthma and emphysema. The American Lung Association calls on the Senate to recognize that, as passed by the House, H.R.1 is toxic to public health. The Senate must start from scratch and recognize that tough fiscal choices can be made without jeopardizing public health.

Through massive budget cuts and so-called appropriations “riders,” H.R.1 is a severe assault on the health of all Americans. As passed by the House of Representatives, H.R.1 will:
• decimate U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to protect the public health from life-threatening air pollution through appropriations “riders” and by slashing EPA’s budget by approximately one-third;
• hamstring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by reducing its budget by 25 percent, limiting its ability to protect children from tobacco and severely hampering its ability to address diseases like asthma; and
• cut $1 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is working to find cures and treatments for diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema and asthma.

The House of Representatives also adopted amendments that would block implementation of the Clean Air Act and its lifesaving protections. These amendments would prevent EPA from updating and enforcing standards for the cleanup of toxic mercury, carbon dioxide and other air pollutants. These provisions and others adopted by the House of Representatives in H.R.1 would result in millions of Americans—including children, seniors, and people with chronic disease such as asthma—being forced to breathe air that is unhealthy. Breathing air pollution can cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, cancer and shorten lives.

This bill also blocks implementation of the Affordable Care Act, meaning pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid would no longer be guaranteed help in quitting smoking; seniors will once again face the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole”; and children with asthma would again be denied coverage because of their pre-existing condition.

The House’s actions in passing H.R.1 are not consistent with the public’s views. The American Lung Association recently released a bipartisan poll that found 69 percent of likely voters think the EPA should update Clean Air Act standards with stricter limits on air pollution; 68 percent feel that Congress should not stop the EPA from updating Clean Air Act standards; and a bipartisan 69 percent majority believe that EPA scientists, rather than Congress, should set pollution standards.

It is now up to the Senate to succeed where its counterparts in the House failed. The Senate must protect the public health by restoring funding for these critical agencies and eliminating any rider that would hamper EPA from implementing the Clean Air Act, or delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a Charity Navigator Four Star Charity and holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit

House savages EPA as part of new spending bill


WASHINGTON — Jolted to action by deficit-conscious newcomers, the Republican-controlled House passed sweeping legislation early today to cut $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs and shelter coal companies, oil refiners and farmers from new government regulations.

By a 235-189 vote, largely along party lines, the House sent the bill to the Senate, where it faces longer odds, and defied a veto threat from President Barack Obama.

Passage of the legislation was the most striking victory to date for the 87 freshman Republicans elected last fall on a promise to attack the deficit and reduce the reach of government. Three Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure.

"The American people have spoken. They demand that Washington stop its out-of-control spending now, not some time in the future," said freshman Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

The $1.2 trillion bill covers every Cabinet agency through Sept. 30, when the current budget year ends. It imposes severe spending cuts on domestic programs and foreign aid. Targets include schools, nutrition programs, environmental protection, and heating and housing subsidies for the poor.

The measure faces a rough ride in the Democratic-controlled Senate. That was the case even before late GOP amendments pushed the bill further to the right on health care and environmental policy.

Senate Democrats are promising higher spending levels and are poised to defend Obama's health care bill, environmental policies and new efforts to overhaul regulation of the financial services industry.

Changes rammed through the House on Friday and Saturday would shield greenhouse-gas polluters and privately owned colleges from federal regulators; block a plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay; and bar the government from shutting down mountaintop mines it believes will cause too much water pollution.

In almost every case, the measure sides with business groups over environmental activists and federal regulators.

"This is like a Cliff Notes summary of every issue that the Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce, and the (free market) CATO Institute have pushed for 30 years," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. "And they're just going to run them through here."

The differences are wide and won't be resolved soon. That confronts lawmakers with the need for a temporary spending bill when the current one expires March 4.

Senate Democrats and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, are maneuvering for political advantage in anticipation of talks on a short-term extension.

Democrats say Boehner's insistence that any measure carry spending cuts amounts to an ultimatum that could threaten a government shutdown. Such an impasse played to the advantage of Democratic President Bill Clinton in his battles with Republicans in 1995-1996.

The Obama administration upped the ante on Friday, warning that workers who distribute Social Security benefits might face furloughs if the GOP cuts go through.

Across four long days of freewheeling debate, Republicans left their conservative stamp in other ways.

They took several swipes at Obama's year-old health care law, including a vote to ban federal dollars for putting it into effect. At the behest of anti-abortion lawmakers, they called for an end to federal money for Planned Parenthood.

Republicans awarded the Pentagon an increase of less than 2 percent increase, but domestic agencies would endure cuts of about 12 percent. Such reductions would feel almost twice as deep since they would be spread over the final seven months of the budget year.

Republicans back away from some of the most politically difficult cuts to grants to local police and fire departments, special education and economic development. Amtrak supporters repelled an attempt to slash its budget.

About the only victory scored by Obama was on a vote to cancel $450 million for a costly alternative engine for the Pentagon's next-generation F-35 warplane. It was a priority of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and passed with the votes of many GOP conservatives who opposed the $3 billion program.

The Environmental Protection Agency took hits from Republicans eager to defend business and industry from agency rules they say threaten job creation and the economy. The EPA's budget was slashed by almost one-third, and then its regulatory powers were handcuffed in a series of votes.

The measure would block proposed federal regulations on emission of greenhouse gases, which are blamed for climate change. It also would stop a proposed regulation on mercury emissions from cement. Additionally, the bill calls for a halt to proposed regulations affecting Internet service providers and privately-owned colleges.

The 359-page bill was shaped beginning to end by the first-term Republicans, many of them elected with tea party backing.

They rejected an initial draft advanced by the leadership and produced by Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the Appropriations Committee, saying it did not cut deeply enough.

The revised bill added more reductions and cut $100 billion from Obama's request for the current year, the amount Republicans had cited in their campaign-season Pledge to America.

But a tea party-backed amendment to cut $22 billion on top of the $60-billion-plus worth of steep cuts already made by the measure failed by almost 2-to-1.

The heavily subsidized ethanol industry absorbed a pair of defeats. One blocks the agency approving boosting the amount of ethanol in most gasoline to 15 percent.

EPA foes prevailed in halting the agency from using its powers to try to curb greenhouse gases. The EPA has taken steps to regulate global warming pollution from vehicles and the largest factories and industrial plants and is expected to soon roll out rules that target refineries and power plants.

The move to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse-gas polluters came from Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who said his congressional district is home to more oil refineries than any other.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

House votes for dirty air; would block EPA from limiting toxic pollution from cement kilns

In a shocking vote only moments ago, the House of Representatives voted to prohibit the US EPA from limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from cement kilns – the third largest source of mercury emissions in the nation.

This vote is a terrible precedent – it is literally a vote in favor of dirty air. Promoted by the big-polluting cement lobby, the House substituted its judgment for that of the EPA.

This is an irresponsible vote – one that we hope and trust the Senate will reject. It is a classic vote to support special interests instead of the public interest.

The vote came on an amendment to the Continuing Resolution to continue finding the federal government. The amendment was offered by Rep. John Carter (R-TX) who has also filed a Congressional Review Act challenge to the rule.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what the EPA said about the rules last August:

EPA Sets First National Limits to Reduce Mercury and Other Toxic Emissions from Cement Plants
Release date: 08/09/2010

Contact Information: Enesta Jones,, 202-564-7873, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing final rules that will protect Americans’ health by cutting emissions of mercury, particle pollution and other harmful pollutants from Portland cement manufacturing, the third-largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States. The rules are expected to yield $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs. Mercury can damage children’s developing brains, and particle pollution is linked to a wide variety of serious health effects, including aggravated asthma, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart and lung disease.

"Americans throughout the country are suffering from the effects of pollutants in our air, especially our children who are more vulnerable to these chemicals," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. "This administration is committed to reducing pollution that is hurting the health of our communities. With this historic step, we are going a long way in accomplishing that goal. By reducing harmful pollutants in the air we breathe, we cut the risk of asthma attacks and save lives."

This action sets the nation’s first limits on mercury air emissions from existing cement kilns, strengthens the limits for new kilns, and sets emission limits that will reduce acid gases. This final action also limits particle pollution from new and existing kilns, and sets new-kiln limits for particle and smog-forming nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.

When fully implemented in 2013, EPA estimates the annual emissions will be reduced:

· Mercury – 16,600 pounds or 92 percent
· Total hydrocarbons – 10,600 tons or 83 percent
· Particulate Matter – 11,500 tons or 92 percent
· Acid gases – (measured as hydrochloric acid): 5,800 tons or 97 percent
· Sulfur dioxide (SO2)– 110,000 tons or 78 percent
· Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – 6,600 tons or 5 percent

Mercury in the air eventually deposits into water, where it changes into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish. People are primarily exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish. Because the developing fetus is the most sensitive to the toxic effects of methylmercury, women of childbearing age and children are regarded as the populations of greatest concern.

EPA estimates that the rules will yield $6.7 billion to $18 billion in health and environmental benefits, with costs estimated at $926 million to $950 million annually in 2013. Another EPA analysis estimates emission reductions and costs will be lower, with costs projected to be $350 million annually.

More information:

Ralph Hall's duplicitious dirty-air amendment is shot down on a point of order

from the Congressional Record:

Mr. HALL. Mr. Chairman, I rise
today in support of my amendment directing
the United States Environmental
Protection Agency to enter
into an agreement with the National
Academy of Sciences to perform a comprehensive
review of non-mercury hazardous
air pollutants emitted by electric
generating units and industrial
boilers, recognizing the boiler maximum
achievable control technology,
called MACT, is moving toward the end
of the rulemaking process while the
utility MACT will debut soon.
My amendment requires that the review
provide for health and economic
data, including impacts on job creation,
energy price, supply and reliability
associated with the potential
regulation of non-mercury hazardous
air pollutants.
The Clean Air Act regulates two
kinds of air emissions: criteria pollutants,
which are high in volume; and
hazardous air pollutants, which are low
in volume but can be toxic.
Folks are familiar with the most
noteworthy of the hazardous air pollutants
for utilities and industrial boilers,
mercury. Let me be clear, my amendment
does nothing to affect mercury
controls. The amendment focuses only
on those hazardous air pollutants other
than mercury. EPA simply fails to do
all the necessary homework when it
comes to potential regulation of hazardous
air pollutants other than mercury.
This amendment asks the National
Academy of Sciences to assist EPA in
doing its homework and encourages
EPA to listen and encourages EPA to
learn. This will assist EPA in establishing
a clear and direct administrative
record for non-mercury hazardous
air pollutants; and without adequate
study, regulations in this area could
place jobs and economic output at risk,
while threatening household budgets.
The power sector faces an avalanche
of regulations from EPA, and it’s important
to get each of them right and
correct. A recent executive order laid
out a new review process for regulations
and asked that the agencies consider
costs and how best to reduce burdens
for American businesses and consumers.
The amendment echoes the need for
responsible regulations that protect
health and environment but also provide
for reasonable rates and dates. The EPA maximum achievable control
technology rule for industrial commercial
and institutional boilers and process
heaters could impose tens of billions
of dollars in capital costs at thousands
of facilities across the country.
I, along with a large number of my
colleagues, sent a letter to EPA Administrator
Lisa Jackson expressing
our concerns with the proposed rule.
It’s my understanding that although
the boiler MACT rule will come out
later this week, upon reconsideration
of the rule, the information gathered
by the review required under this
amendment may be useful.
I remain concerned as EPA moves toward
a utility MACT rule. Logically, I
bring this amendment to the floor
today to protect a simple way of thinking.
The government should not regulate
without sound science to back it
up. Let’s remind EPA to slow down and
allow for reasoning along with regulation.
Mr. SIMPSON. Mr. Chairman, I understand
the concern of the gentleman
from Texas, and we pledge to work
with him as the EPA comes before our
committee to address this issue, but I
must insist on my point of order.
I make a point of order against the
amendment because it proposes to
change existing law and constitutes
legislation in an appropriation bill and,
therefore, violates clause 2 of rule XXI.
The rule states in pertinent part: an
amendment to a general appropriation
bill shall not be in order if it changes
existing law. This amendment gives affirmative
action in effect.
I ask for a ruling by the Chair.
The Acting CHAIR. Does any other
Member wish to be heard on the point
of order? Seeing none, the Chair finds
that this amendment includes language
imparting direction. The amendment,
therefore, constitutes legislation in
violation of clause 2 of rule XXI.
The point of order is sustained and
the amendment is not in order.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lung Association poll: big majority says Congress should let EPA do its job and protect the air

The results are overwhelmingly favorable towards the position of defending EPA’s authority to protect public health.

Key highlights include:

· 69 percent think the EPA should update Clean Air Act standards with stricter limits on air pollution;

· 68 percent feel that Congress should not stop the EPA from updating Clean Air Act standards;

· And a bipartisan 69 percent majority believe that EPA scientists, rather than Congress, should set pollution standards.

more at

Monday, February 14, 2011

Obama would zero out budget money to clean up dirty diesel engines

from Politico:

POLITICO Pro: EPA’s winners, losers with $1.3B cut
By Robin Bravender

2/14/11 Great Lakes restoration, clean water infrastructure and a program to slash diesel emissions were among the casualties of the Obama administration’s budget released Monday.

The White House fiscal 2012 spending plan cuts the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by $1.3 billion – a 13 percent cut from 2010 enacted levels. That includes major reductions for several EPA programs, although the administration says it maintained funding for its “core priorities.”

Obama’s budget cuts the inter-agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by $125 million to $350 million. The program – championed by Great Lakes lawmakers – is aimed at fighting invasive species and reducing pollution in the lakes.

Clean water infrastructure funding also took a major hit – the White House budget cuts state revolving funds for clean water and drinking water projects by $950 million, which would leave EPA with $2.5 billion to fund state and tribal infrastructure projects.

The administration also seeks to terminate the $80 million program to cut diesel emissions, a reduction that immediately drew criticism from clean air advocates.

Frank O’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, called the president’s plan a “deplorable recommendation – penny wise, but tons of pollution foolish.” The diesel cleanup program has “not only reduced pollution, but has put people to work and helped with the economic recovery,” he added.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dirty doings: BP, other big oil companies pull out the stops against tougher national smog standards

As you may know, EPA’s science advisers will meet next Friday afternoon to discuss EPA’s proposed new national air standards for ozone, commonly referred to as smog.

You may recall that, in the face of intense polluter and some congressional opposition, the EPA has repeatedly delayed making a final decision. It bucked the issue back to its science advisers, who already told the EPA that it should set tougher new standards to keep people from getting sick and dying.

And so the new battleground will involve various scientific hired guns, bought and paid for by polluters, who are pulling out all the stops to try to influence the science advisers.

Already the docket has been flooded by big companies, led by the oil industry, which seek to block action, bolster their (mainly Republican) friends in Congress and to lay the groundwork for an inevitable court challenge.

The comments by the various interest groups can be found here:

It’s a rogues’ gallery of some of our nation’s most notorious polluters.

Among those raising questions is the infamous BP, which argues that there is too much “background” pollution in our western national parks and that setting new standards won’t realty make any difference. (They are at least correct about there being too much pollution.)

Others attempting to derail tougher new standards include Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

This is only one chapter in this smoggy saga.

Remember what this is all really about: the big companies do not want to be told they have to spend more money cleaning up their pollution. They spend money on lobbyists, lawyers, and scientific hired guns instead.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Guest posting: car scrapping, cleaner air and charitable giving

This is a guest posting from Giveacar Ltd. in the UK.

Car scrapping and charitable giving: how US-inspired green initiatives are helping to clear the air across the pond

With traffic pollution now the major threat to clean air - according to the UK Air Quality Archive - older vehicles are among the worst culprits when it comes to clogging up our lungs with dirty air, and we need to get them off the road pronto.

Over in the UK, and inspired by the thousands of car donation schemes in the US (such as the Kidney Car Foundation), new fundraising organization Giveacar
( determined to lessen the environmental impact of older vehicles in Britain.

Of the 1 million vehicles that come off the roads in the UK every year, only half are handled in an environmentally safe way. A large proportion of the remaining million vehicles are brought back onto the roads after being supposedly disposed of by unauthorized, ‘cowboy’ scrappers. This unregulated re-commissioning of vehicles - what UK car salvage specialist Bluecycle calls the “Lazarus effect” – clearly poses serious air pollution (not to mention safety) hazards.

So, the founder, 24-year-old Tom Chance, had to find a way to encourage people to give up their end-of-life cars, and keep them off the roads for good. Using the model of as a springboard, he provides a free service that arranges for the collection and safe recycling of end-of-life vehicles; he then donates the majority of the proceeds to a charity of the owner’s choice on their behalf. It’s a simple service that provides multiple benefits – to the people who need to get rid of their cars, to the charities in need of donations, and to the environment.

In cases where a donated vehicle is still of value and in working order - and in recognition of the environmental cost of manufacturing a new car - Giveacar instead opts to salvage it through auction, thereby increasing the revenue raised for charity.

Since it began in January 2010, Giveacar has managed to raise over $300,000 for over 250 charities, and campaigns to highlight the importance of scrapping cars in an environmentally responsible manner.
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Chicken Little Comes to Washington

Having witnessed the ebb and flow of environmental policy for more years than I prefer to remember, I must say that even I am shocked by the outlandish hyperbole being trotted out these days by polluters visiting Capitol Hill.

I will give you two current examples.

This morning, the lead witness at the hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was the National Association of Manufacturers, which declared that tougher new national smog standards would be a “trillion dollar mistake.”

Yes, the hearing should have been named Chicken Little Comes to Washington.

NAM has a long history of making dire predictions that don’t pan out. In 1997 this business lobby and groups it funded made the absurd claims that then-pending EPA standards for smog and soot would lead to such things as forced car pooling and bans on gasoline lawn mowers and barbeque grills – even hair spray!!

NAM was dead wrong then and is dead wrong today. (The world is still safe for Aquanet and Paul Mitchell hair products.) Just so it’s clear, virtually the entire nation -- with the exception of California -- now meets those smog standards and NAM has been proven wrong. I hate to think that Clean Air Watch is the only organization with a memory.

The EPA should move ahead with tougher smog standards, unanimously endorsed by the agency’s science advisers, because science now shows that people can get sick and die early at currently permissible smog levels. This should be a no brainer. Those in Congress who seek to interfere with EPA should busy themselves with what they do best – collecting money from the polluting lobby. Let EPA do its job.

And speaking of gross polluter hyperbole, the coal lobby is shopping around Capitol Hill a presentation which predicts “disaster” for the Midwest if the EPA moves forward with plans to clean up mercury and other dangerous pollution from coal-fired power plants. This scare-mongering presentation goes so far as to predict that clean-air controls could drive unemployment to “depression-era levels” as well as bankrupt cities and interfere with President Obama’s trade goals.

Now something makes me suspect this crowd doesn’t really want to promote the President’s policies, but it does want to intimidate him in six key states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania) that will be battlegrounds in the next election.

I hope the White House will be smart enough to take heed of other studies, such as the one released this week by CERES, which note properly that cleaning up dirty coal-fired power plants will actually be a plus for job creation.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Science update: why babies exposed to smog may have life-long problems with respiratory disease

While we are witnessing the daily attacks by key members of the new Congress on health and environmental safeguards, I thought it might be worthwhile to remind folks one of the reasons why we try to clean up dirty air.

New research, published in the American Journal of Physiology, tries to answer the question of why babies exposed to high levels of smog often end up with a life-long susceptibility to respiratory disease.

The researchers discovered that exposure to ozone, or smog, can cause changes in the inside of the nose – changes that can impair normal functions that ward off disease.

The abstract is here:

Now, before anyone says “Now wait a minute, Frank, these were tests done with infant monkeys,” I will note that, not being residents of ancient Sparta, we do not expose human infants to things like pollution that could hurt them. As my friend, American Lung Association consultant Debbie Shprentz, reminds me, “Animal studies presage human health impacts.”

Why are studies like this relevant?

As you may recall, the Obama administration got cold feet after the elections and postponed a critical EPA decision about how tough national smog standards should be. A final decision is due in late July, and this issue has become one of the flashpoints for attacks by industry and EPA critics (mostly Republican) in the Congress.

EPA has bucked the issue to its science advisory panel. I believe one of the authors of this new study, Edward Postlethwait, of the University of Alabama was part of that panel, which previously urged EPA to set a tougher national smog standard. (I am sure he’d love to discuss this new study, if you are interested.)

This new research will not be part of the evidence officially reviewed by EPA or the science panel, though it is confirmation that dirty air hurts babies – and can leave them with a life-long problem.

EPA has set a teleconference Friday Feb. 18 from 1-5 pm Eastern time for the science advisers to discuss the issue yet again.